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Cuthbert Bainbrigg

Cuthbert Bainbrigg was fellow of Christ's college, Cambridge, and a popular preacher in the university, but was brought into trouble for nonconformity. Having preached at St. Mary's church, January 5, 1589, he was summoned before the vice-chancellor, Dr. Nevil, and heads of colleges, who, for the dangerous doctrines said to be contained in his sermon, immediately sent him to prison. This affair, with a similar one of Mr. Francis Johnson's^ excited the attention of the university for a twelvemonth.

Mr. Bainbrigg's text on this occasion was Luke xii. 49., " I am come to send fire upon earth," &c. Certain articles were collected from the sermon, and he was required to declare upon his oath, what he had delivered relative to those articles.! Both he and Mr. Johnson appeared before their learned inquisitors, January 23d ; and

* Parte of a Register, p. 392, 393.

t The two last articles are published in " A Parte of a Register."—Set p. 412—537.

t The MS. of this learned work, and apparently in Mr. Fenner's own hand, is still preserved in Dr. Williams's library, Redcross-street, London. ^ See Art. F. Johnson. || Strype's Whitgift, p. 296.

refusing to answer upon their oath, they were committed to prison. The reason of their refusal being demanded, they made this three-fold protestation:—1. u That we do from our hearts, reverence your authority set over us by God.— 8. That we refuse not an oath, as if it was unlawful on all occasions.—3. That we are neither afraid, nor unwilling to acknowledge and defend that which we have openly taught, if any person shall impugn it, or charge it to be unlawful."

March 13th, they underwent another examination, when they protested, " That if they had committed any crime, their only objection against taking the oath, was, that by so doing, they might be constrained to bring matter of accusation against themselves, which was contrary both to the word of God, and the laws of the land." And appearing again April 18th, they protested, " That if the oath then offered to them, could be shewn to be warranted by the word of God, and the laws of the land, they were ready to take it."

Their case exciting so much attention, was, at length, sent up to Lord Burleigh, chancellor of the university. Upon this, they further protested, " That if they might be suffered to appear before his lordship, they would clear themselves of the charges brought against them, or willingly suffer any condign punishment.—And that if their accusers Would charge them with those things with which his lordship had been made acquainted, they would themselves, or by witness, disprove the charges, or suffer any kind of punishment they deserved : adding, that they were ready to answer, according to their honourable chancellor's letter, which required simply their answer, without any oath." They further observe, that they preached their sermons at the usual time and place, as they were required; and in the hearing of many hundreds of persons, both of the town and university, who were sufficiently able to satisfy their judges. But for them, merely by their office, to search what they delivered, by extorting it from them upon their oath; in this case, if they were guilty, they would be obliged to accuse themselves. This they looked upon as contrary to the word of God, and the established laws of the realm.*

The vice-chancellor and heads sent the following information to Burleigh the chancellor, containing, it is

said) the cbief points relative to the imprisonment of the two divines:—" That the court would have been hard indeed, in these proceedings, if all good means had not been first used.—That their proceeding is according to the canon law and the law of the realm.—-That it is according to the former precedents of the university.—That the university, without this course, is hardly to be governed.— That by the relation of the physicians, as well as Mr. Bainbrigg himself, he was not sick.—That they have had liberty to attend their recreations in the fields, and their public exercises in the town."

To each of these points the two prisoners gave the following answers:—The vice-chancellor confesseth the offer of the oath to have been hard, but that all gentle means were first used. Let the means, say they, be examined. They were convened upon the delivery of their sermons, when articles were brought against them. They offered to answer these articles, but were refused; and they were required to swear to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They humbly desired that they might not be pressed to swear, because it was impossible for them to deliver every thing uttered in their sermons of an hour and half long. It is very hard to try the conscience of a man, to take the holy name of God in witness of that which he knoweth he cannot perform; and it is contrary to the law of God to offer in his name, to do that which is impossible. • . ;

Their reasons not being admitted, the ministers prayed the vice-chancellor, that they might be informed by the law of God and the realm, that they might and ought thus to swear, protesting their willingness to yield thereto; but, if this could not be done, they desired that they might be spared. They were then committed to prison; and, at the time these answers were given, they had been detained upwards of twenty weeks, without being admitted on bail. Hence it may appear, say they, that no very gentle means have been used. On the contrary; that all gentle means have been refused, is, indeed, too apparent. For about six weeks after their commitment, Sir Henry Knevett and Sir William Bowes, knights, offered bail to the vice-chancellor and Dr. Perne, which was rejected. Sir William Bowes afterwards renewed his application and his offer, but with no better success. He prayed them to be well informed of the issue, about which, he conceived, they were greatly mistaken. He recommended them to take down the fact concerning the prisoners in writing, then for two lawyers of each party to set down the law; and if the law would justify their proceedings, the prisoners should submit: but if it should appear otherwise, let them be enlarged, and they should complain no further. He also observed, that if the lawyers should not agree in any points of law, the cause, with the reasons of this difference, should be laid before the chancellor, and by him finally determined. These generous proposals the vice-chancellor and his colleagues utterly rejected, and would agree to no determination unless it were by two lawyers whom they should themselves appoint, or by the high commission in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Certain eminent persons, heads of colleges in the university, became earnest suitors to have them bailed, but all to no purpose. *

The two prisoners were informed by their learned counsel, that upon the refusal of the oath, tendered them ex mero officio, they ought not to have been detained in prison, without bail, as might be proved by the laws of the land, and by the equity of the statute made 25 Henry VIII. Also, the counsel conceived them greatly mistaken in the whole of their proceedings. For, while they founded these proceedings on the statute of the university, they found therein neither the offer of the oath, which was done ex mero officio, being jurisdiction ecclesiastical; nor imprisonment proceeding from civil power; two different authorities compounded in the present action.

Though the above proceedings were said to be according to the precedents of the university, the vice-chancellor refused to shew, or suffer to be shewn, the register of any such precedent. Neither could it be found that any such precedent had ever occurred, excepting one solitary instance when Dr. Bying was vice-chancellor. At the same time, Dr. Goad, provost of King's college; Dr. Whitaker, master of St. John's college; and Mr. Chadderton, master of Emanuel college, all protested that they would have no hand in these proceedings. Also among the fifteen heads of colleges, only five, and of the six other doctors, only two, would join in these disgraceful oppressions.

Notwithstanding Mr. Bainbrigg was charged with counterfeiting sickness, the physician whom he employed, declared the contrary under his own hand. And the prisoners, so far from being allowed to go out of their prisons, as was represented to the chancellor, only took the liberty once to go to their college on a special occasion, when their keeper was checked by the vice-chancellor. And having made earnest suit for liberty to attend public service at St. Mary's church, with their keeper, on a Lord's day, their request was rejected by the vice-chancellor, saying, " You must pardon me, I neither can nor will. *

Mr. Bainbrigg and Mr. Johnson having suffered numerous and grievous hardships, laid their distresses before Burleigh the chancellor, in the following letter:+

" May it please your good lordship once again to " admit the humble suit of us poor prisoners, now having, " as your lordship understandith, of long time so conu tinned in the university of Cambridge, without bail " or mainprize. And, first, may it please your honour " to understand, that we are not committed for any thing " uttered by us in our sermons, but only because we " did not yield to take a corporal oath, to deliver the *' truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, of u what we spake in our public sermons, and thereby to " accuse ourselves, if in any thing we had offended. " Without oath we have already openly in the consistory u (according to your honour's first letters) answered to " whatsoever we were charged with; notwithstanding " which, we still continue imprisoned, only because we a refuse to take their unlawful oath. We have great cause " to believe, that your honour hath been already a very " good lord unto us, in keeping from us that extremity u which we greatly feared; for which we shall continually w pray the lord to reward sevenfold in your lordship's " bosom. Yet because your lordship's first letters only " (which upon information against us) were imparted to "the rest of the heads of bouses, and read also unto ns; " but the two late letters sent from your honour, private " only to Mr. Vice-chancellor, were not communicated in u the whole to the heads present in the university. We " see no hope of release, except we yield to that hard u condition, which we have before set down to your " lordship, but are likely to be tired with imprisonment; ** although in so good a cause, God witnessing us, we hope " never to give over.

" We are again bold to fly unto your lordship for relief, a desiring your honour to consider of our long imprison

« Baker's MS. Collec, vol. W. p. 83-85. t Ibid. p. 89, 8J.

" ment, only for refusing to take the oath: whereby we " are greatly restrained of that liberty which other scholars " do enjoy; and our bodily health is so endangered as one " of us hath been constrained very inconveniently in the u place to take physic. Our duties, also, to our pupils, " whom their parents have committed unto us, are very " much hindered; besides our common duties as fellows " of our college and scholars of the university, all the " benefits whereof we want, together with the hearing of " the word of God preached, and participation of the " sacrament administered; our private studies in the time " of our preparation for the ministry of the gospel, long " interrupted, and much disappointed; our good name " among our friends abroad and strangers every where, " that hear of our imprisonment, but not of the cause, " greatly impaired; and our exhibition, which should have " been employed to the maintenance of our studies, " exceedingly wasted in the charge of the prison. In all " which considerations we humbly beseech your good lord, " that by your lordship's good favour, we may obtain " at length, some release of that long imprisonment, " which we doubt not your lordship judgeth sufficiently to " have met with our offence.

" We refuse not to answer any matters wherewith we " can be charged, to put in bond or sufficient surety to " appear, either before your lordship, or before our gover" nors here, when we shall be called. Besides, our rellow" ships, the only stay of living that we have, will sufficiently " bind us hereunto. This is the whole sum of our suit, " which we refer wholly to your honour's wisdom and u equity. The Lord Almighty bless your honour with " long life, increase of honour in this life, and everlasting " life in the world to come, amen. From our prison in " Camb. May 22, 1589.

Your honour's most humble supplicants,

Coth. Bainbrigg, Fran. Johnson."

The vice-chancellor and heads of colleges laid the case before the high commission. This was going the sure way to work. The high commissioners denominated the sermons of the two prisoners, factious, slanderous and offensive, and authorized the vice-chancellor and his colleagues to examine and proceed against the preachers, according to their discretion.9 The dangerous doctrines said to nave been

contained in Mr. Bainbrigg's sermon, were collected into certain articles ; to each of which he delivered his answer in writing, as follows:

Art. 1. That some who seek preferment, pay money for it themselves ; and pay their money beforehand.

Ans. I said, that the excellency of a public function in the church or commonwealth, consisted in labour and diligence for the good of the public, rather than in any pomp or outward shew. Jesus Christ came into the world, not to be ministered unto, but to minister unto others. And if the example of Christ were followed, men would, with Moses and Jeremiah, labour for the welfare of their fellow creatures, when they are called so to do, rather than seek preferment with such anxiety, even buying it with money when it cannot be obtained on more easy terms.

2. That there are persons who have a bar standing between them and the fire; that if need be, they may strike the fire out of the hands of those who bring it; and that this bar is your statutes and positive laws.

Ans. That principal word in the article, namely, your, I never used at all. I only said, positive laws and statutes had been abused by men in all ages as a bar, either to keep the fire of the word of God from them, or to strike it out of the hands of those who bring it. I observed, that is not a man of wisdom, fearing God, who does not know and acknowledge, that there must be good order, both in church and commonwealth, and will reverence it with all hit heart, as one of the excellent appointments of God. He will acknowledge the excellency and necessity of wholesome laws, by which the members of society are united, strengthened, and beautified. Yet I said the wise and learned knew and would acknowledge, that though these laws were useful and necessary, they were imperfect rules of man's obedience, and, therefore, no sufficient bar to keep off the word of God, which requires more obedience than any human laws or statutes whatsoever. The laws of men, being imperfect, should always give place to the perfect laws of God.

I also observed, that when men are reproved for their sins, they should not regard so much how they may acquit themselves before men, and by human laws, though in some cases evn this is necessary, as to try all things in the court of conscience, and by the word of God: much less should they strike the fire of the word out of the hands of those who bring it, and require more obedience of man than the laws demand. Offences, indeed, against positive laws must needs be punished, lest others, by too much lenity, be encouraged to do evil; yet with great prudence, especially in the case of a minister, lest the innocent be oppressed and injured. There must be great care, that the church be not deprived of the word, which is so excellent a treasure, and which the Lord hath committed to his ministers.

3. That there is extremity used, especially in the execution of laws.

Ans. I did not say there was extremity in the execution of laws. It seems that they who thus accuse me, wholly misunderstood my meaning when I recommended mutual forbearance; but especially in inferiors towards their superiors.

4. The fire of the word is put out, by stopping the mouths of those who bring it.

Ans. I never used the words, putting out tkejire, nor

5. If you mind, indeed, to awake : As if he meant to reflect upon the sleepiness of the doctors' sermons usually delivered there.

Ans. I said thus, directing myself to the doctors, If you desire, indeed, that they (meaning the townsmen) should awake out of sleep; if you would nave them forsake the works of darkness, and have Jesus Christ heard among them, provide that Jesus Christ may be more frequently preached among them.

6. That eloquence is base.

Ans. I did not speak against good eloquence; because, I said, of all gifts, there were none more excellent in itself, nor more profitable to society. But I spoke against the ridiculous eloquence of some in our days, which consisteth principally in an outward shew, and is disgraceful to the majesty of the word of God.

7. That ceremonies are no sooner spoken of, than they are snatched at.

Ans. I said, I could not help wondering that those men, who, hearing the ceremonies spoken of without distinction, would snatch at the word of God, in order to make a minister a transgressor. Whereas the Lord himself hath spoken against idle and unprofitable ceremonies, both in the Old and the New Testament.*

From the above statement, the reader will be able to

their mouths.

* Strype's Annali, vol. iii. Appen. p. 266,267.

judge with what degree of justice Mr. Bainbrigg's opinions were denominated factious, slanderous, offensive and dangerous. To put an end to these oppressive measures, the chancellor interposed, and wrote to the vice-chancellor and heads, requiring that the two fellows might not be dealt with so rigorously.* A further account of Mr. Johnson is

Siven under that article, to which the reader is referred. !ut Mr. Bainbrigg was still in the hands of his enemies; and they were determined to make him feel their smarting rod. The cruel ecclesiastics, contrary to Burleigh's express order, would not release him, till they had thoroughly humbled him. Therefore, they required him to make the following recantation, publicly, before the congregation where he had delivered his sermon:

" Whereas in a sermon made by me in this place, Jan. " 5th last past, I was taken to charge the ministry of the " church of England, that they were unlike Moses and " Jeremiah, that refused a charge being called ; for that " they do seek for livings, and buy them with their money, " when they do fall. I do acknowledge that howsoever my " words were taken, I think it lawful in a good conscience, " for the good of the church, to desire livings. Neither did " I say, as some did take me, that our statutes of the " university, and positive laws of the realm, are as a bar to " strike the fire of the gospel out of the hands of the " preachers, who be the Lord's messengers; but I think " reverently of good and wholesome laws, such as are " established by the queen's authority, as well in the u university, as in the rest of her dominions.

" And touching preachers, if any of them have by lawful " authority been put to silence, 1 think as charity requireth, ** that the magistrates who have dealt therein, have been " moved thereto by conscience, for the discharge of their ** honest duty in that behalf.

" I acknowledge, also, a godly use of eloquence in this " place, and that the ceremonies of our church established " by authority, being in themselves neither impious nor " unprofitable, are not here to be reproved by any private * man's conceit, but redress to be sought where it may be " had, if it be necessary in regard of any ceremony, whereby u offence may be taken.'V

The above retraction, it is said, was subscribed by Mr. Bainbrigg's own hand, and he was enjoined to declare the

• Strype'a Annals, vol. Hi. Appen. p. 502. + Baker'* MS. Collec. vol. wi. p. 185, 186.

same in the pulpit of St. Mary's church; but whether he performed the latter we have not been able to learn. After this, he was most probably released from prison, and was restored to his fellowship in the college, which he appears to have enjoyed in the year 1590.* The year following he was chosen one of the proctors of the university.t