Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

• On Friday, the 12th of June, he was again carried to the King'sBench bar. His indictment being again read, and the jury present, the judge asked him, (Mr. Morgan,) what can you say for yourself? He modestly replied, that the proceeding against him ought to be deferred; for, first, said he, I doubt whether you, my lord, have any just power derived from his majesty to try me, or no. Secondly, his majesty's flag flying in a civil war, all trials of life and death cease. He was permitted to say no more, but conveyed by two tipstaffs to a bye seat, whilst the jury sat upon him, and then was called again to the bar, to hear their verdict, who brought him in guilty ; so he was sent back to the King's-bench prison.

• Tuesday, the 16th of June, he was called again to the bar; he desired the favour to speak, which being granted, he pleaded that Henry VIII. made a statute of qualification of all statutes ; and that the reason of queen Elizabeth's statute against priests, was her fears and jealousies of the queen of Scots, and the Spaniards ; and that it was conceived at that time, that all the priests in England had a relation to them both; but that now the case was altered; that the king's person was absent, and no plot could be executed by him upon it, so that both the person and the cause being taken away, this latter statute might receive the benefit of mitigation, which point was long argued by him and the judge, in presence of many lawyers, for it was term-time. He added, that according to the letter of queen Elizabeth's statute, he was not guilty, not being taken in England, but on the sea. But all would not do. So judgment was pronounced by judge Bacon ; upon which the holy man, with a cheerful countenance and pleasant voice, lifting up his hands and eyes towards heaven, said, Deo Gratias, thanks be to God, adding, I have not here room, by reason of the throng, to give God thanks on my knees; but I most humbly thank him on the knee of my heart. Then he made an offering of himself, in a loud voice, to his Saviour Jesus Christ, praying, that the shedding of his innocent blood might not increase God's wrath upon this kingdom, but rather be a means to appease it. Then he prayed for the king, queen, and their posterity; for the judge, jury, and all who were any way guilty of his death. The judge said, you do us wrong; you have received judgment, and cannot plead your innocent blood. The blessed man replied, My lord, I have said ; I will not offend. The judge bid him make choice of what day he would die. He answered, with a pleasant and modest aspect, as always, My lord, consider, it is not an easy matter, or a thing so compassed, to be provided to die well. We have all of us much to answer for, and myself have not the least share; therefore, my lord, consider what time your lordship would allot to yourself, and appoint that to me. Yet the judge made him the same proffer a second and a third time; to which he lastly replied, he would by no means be an allotter of his own death, or be any way guilty of it; but would leave it to his lordship's discretion. So, being promised he should have a competent notice, he was sent back to his lodgings in the prison.

• It was admirable to see how pleasant, how affable and liberal he was towards all ; in a word, his comportment was such, that his fellowprisoners, of their own accord, drew up a certificate of his innocent and virtuous behaviour, signed by twenty-nine gentlemen, all protestants, excepting six, whom he had reconciled in prison, (viz: captain Bromfield, Mr. Martin, Mr. Dutton, Mr. Hierome, Mr. Richabie, &c.) This gentleman last named had a most wicked custom of swearing; the blessed man once hearing him swear, whilst he was drinking amongst his companions, (after his reconciliation,) goes to him, calls him out, pays his shot, and so severely reprehends him, that to this day the man was never heard to swear an oath, as his fellow-prisoners can testify.'

In the common side of the prison, where he was now lodged, the holy man was placed in a little low earthen ward, in which there were eleven lodgings; and bore with patience all the nastiness and miseries of the place. His office, it seems, was to sweep the ward, which he did with great delight. One whom he had reconciled, desiring to do that office for him, he refused the courtesy, and gave God thanks, that he had this opportunity of serving the poor and prisoners.

It was also very observable in this blessed man, that he daily increased in pleasantness and cheerfulness, as he grew nearer and nearer to heaven, even to his last hour, as many can witness, (says my author and myself can, being with him daily. On the 28th of June, being Sunday, near eight in the evening, an officer came from the judges, to advertise him that Tuesday morning next following, was appointed for his death ; beginning first with an apology, how unhappy he was to be the messenger of such sad tidings ; at which the holy man, imagining what it was, joyfully said, Welcome, whatever comes ; God's name be praised! The manner and cordiality of his speech so daunted the officer, that he could not read his charge, but the blessed man looking over his shoulder, prompted him; then, after giving him many thanks, called for a glass of sack and drank to him, (saying, as it is in another manuscript, O what am I, that God thus honours me, and will have me die for his sake! which words drew tears from the eyes of a protestant that was standing by,) after which he withdrew to praise and give thanks to God. Many such like things were daily observed in his comportment.

The last of June, (the commemoration of the martyrdom of St. Paul,) being come, our confessor having first spent the precedent night with his confessarius, except two hours in which he reposed, har. ing finished his confession and private devotions, celebrated the divine mysteries with tears trickling down his cheeks. Then, “ being called for," he went with great cheerfulness to the hurdle, on which he was drawn from the common jail of the King's-bench, to Tyburn. In the way some presented him with wine, and he taking the glass in his hand, asked leave of the sheriff to drink to his coachman, meaning the carter, that drove the horses. When he was come to the place of execution, arising from the hurdle, he knelt down upon his bare knees under the gallows, and there for some time prayed in silence ; then rising, he stepped up into the cart, and making the sign of the cross upon himself, saying with a loud voice, in nomine patris, &c., he began to speak upon the text, spectaculum facti sumus, &c. We are made a spectacle to God, to angels, and to men. All you, said he, that are come to behold me, may think you are come to a sad spectacle, but

to me it is not so. It is the happiest day, and greatest joy, that ever befel me ; so that I may say with the prophet, hæc dies quam fecit Dominus, &.c. This is the day which God hath made ; a day wherein I may truly rejoice in my soul: for I am brought hither, a condemned man, to execution : for no other cause or reason alledged against me, than that I am a Roman catholic priest, and a monk of the order of St. Bennet. And this I freely confessed myself. This confession and cause only bringeth me hither to execution. I give God thanks, that he has honoured me with the dignity of a priest, and I glory that I am a monk of this holy order, which first converted this kingdom from being heathens and infidels, to Christianity, and the knowledge of God; St. Augustin, being their leader, sent by St. Gregory the great, pope of Rome, with forty other monks.

• Here the sheriff interrupted him, and bid him tell none of his old stories and tales, and ordered the hangman to do his office, who immediately tied up the holy man to the gallows. What he spoke afterwards, was to express himself, how freely he forgave all who were accessory to his death ; and to pray for the king, queen, prince and royal progeny ; and for a happy peace for the nation and the true knowledge of God; desiring all catholics to pray for him. Then he knelt on the side of the cart, (for being tied up he could not kneel down,) and made his prayer to himself; which being ended, lifting his eyes to heaven, and giving the appointed sign, he received absolution,' “ from one of his brethren in the crowd, probably the same from whom we have copied the greatest part of this narration.” Then giving some money to the hangman, and pulling his cap down over his eyes, he waited in silent prayer, for the cart being drawn away about a quarter of an hour; for the carter, whose office it was, having a horror of concurring to the death of so holy and innocent a man, withdrew himself into the thick of the throng, and would not drive the eart away ; but another was found to do the job, and the man of God was suffered to hang till he expired. His dead body was cut down, bowelled, and quartered; but his head and quarters were not set up, as usual, on the gates and bridge, but buried in the old churchyard in Moorfields ; and this by petition of the common-council of London to the parliament, hoping, as it is supposed, by this means sooner to obliterate his memory, and the impression which his comportment had made upon the people. His clothes and shirt, dyed with his blood, were redeemed of the hangman for 41. by father Robert And-, a Benedictine. He suffered June 30, 1646, ætatis 53, relig. 33, missionis 26.

One of his fellow-prisoners expressed his esteem for him, by the following lines :

[ocr errors]

"He was of princely race, of British blood,
Nor yet the iwentieth part so great as good,
Sufficient, and so qualified withal,
That he did seem to be without a gall.
Mild, patient, stout: his hand to every poor
Most open, till they blush'd to ask him more.
Most temperate, and most constant to his Christ, &c.

One of the Douay manuscripts adds the following remarkable circumstance to the narration of his martyrdom, viz: that in the way whilst he was drawn from Southwark to Tyburn, it happened, that a collier met them on Cornhill, driving six strong horses with a load of coals ; who being obliged to stop, and make way for the hurdle and crowd that attended it, fumed and raged at the holy man, complaining aloud, that he should be stopped in his way for that traitor, as he called him: but mark what follows ; the hurdle was scarce passed, when one of the collier's horses, without any previous sign of hurt or illness, falls down dead in the street, and obliges his master to make a much longer stay, than that which so much offended him before. The same manuscript also takes notice, that the jailor was so much taken with the comportment of the man of God, that he accompanied him to the place of execution, and always spoke of him with the highest esteem.

EDWARD BAMBER, ALIAS, REDING, PRIEST.*

EDWARD BAMBER, commonly known upon the mission by the name of Reding, was son of Mr. Richard Bamber, and born at the place called the Moor, the ancient mansion-house of the family, lying not far from Paulton, in that part of Lancashire, called the Fylde. Having made a good progress in his grammar studies at home, he was sent abroad into Spain, to the English college at Valladolid, where he learnt his philosophy and divinity, and was ordained priest. • But in what year this happened, says Mr. Knaresborough, or when he was sent upon the mission, my short memoirs do not tell us ; and they leave us as much in the dark, as to many other passages and particulars relating to the life and labours of this good priest, as well as to the history of his trial, of which we have a very imperfect account. But then, short as they are, they are very expressive of his zeal and indefatigable labours in gaining souls to God; his unwearied diligence in instructing the catholics committed to his charge ; disputing with protestants; and going about to do good every where, in times and places of the greatest danger, with a courage and firmness of mind, much spoken of and admired at that time, and mentioned by one of his contemporary labourers and fellowprisoners, “in a short manuscript relation, as something that was wonderfully surprising, and, as he expresses it, above the power and strength of man.

• When, how, or where he was apprehended, I have not found, but only this, that he had lain three whole years a close prisoner in Lancaster castle before he was brought to the bar.' " But now the judges going out of their several circuits, which for some time before they could not do by reason of the civil wars, and coming to Lancaster, Mr. Bamber and two other priests his companions were brought upon their trial.” Here, his conduct was discreet and cautious, so as to

* From Mr. Knaresborough's manuscript collections.

give the judge no unnecessary provocation ; but at the same time his comportment was remarkably courageous and brave, in a degree that was astonishing to the whole court; where he stood with such an air of fortitude and resolution of suffering in defence of truth, as might not have ill become even one of the most forward and zealous confessors of the Cyprianic age. Two fallen catholics, Malden and Osbaldeston, appeared against him as witnesses : these wretches made oath that they had seen him administer baptism, and perform the ceremonies of marriage : and upon these slender proofs of his priesthood, the jury, by the judge's direction, found him guilty of the indictment, who thereupon had sentence in the usual form, to be hanged, cut down alive, &c., as in cases of high treason. All which Mr. Bamber heard with a composed countenance, and without manifesting the least sign of trouble or concern.

• It was on the 7th of August, when he and his two fellow priests and confessors were drawn on sledges to the place of execution, and at the same time a poor wretch, one Croft, condemned for felony, was brought to die with them. Mr. Bamber applied his discourse in a most affectionate manner to this poor man; beseeching him to take compassion on his soul, and provide for its eternal welfare, by true repentance of his sins, and embracing the true religion ; telling him for his encouragement, that it was never too late to make his peace with God, who showed mercy to the penitent thief at the hour of death ; and he will also pardon thee, said he, if, like him, thou wilt be converted to him, and truly repent of thy sins. Take courage, my dear friend, and boldly declare thyself a catholic, and withal confess some of thy more public sins, and be truly contrite and sorry for all ; and I, a priest and minister of Jesus Christ, will instantly, in his name and by his authority, absolve thee. The officers of justice, and the ministers, began here to storm and threaten, but Mr. Bamber stood his ground and carried his point. The prisoner fairly declaring his fixed resolution of dying in the faith and communion of the catholic church ; and having confessed aloud some of his public and scandalous crimes, and begged pardon for them, and at the same time signifying his sincere repentance for his sins in general, Mr. Bamber, according to promise, publicly absolved him, in the sight and hearing of the crowd, and to the intolerable mortification and confusion of the protestant ministers. But they were resolved, it seems, he should do no more mischief; and therefore bid him walk up the ladder, and prepare for death. The confessor obeyed their orders, having first taken leave of some friends, and sent a small token to some others, enjoining the messenger to tell them, from him, not to grieve at his death, for, says he, I hope to pray for them in heaven. Here mounting up some steps he halted, and taking a handful of money he threw it among the people, saying with a smiling countenance, that God loved a cheerful giver. Then, after some time spent in private devotions, he turned towards his fellow confessors, exhorting them to constancy and perseverance, having his eyes more particularly upon Mr. Whitaker, who by his looks appeared not a little terrified at the approaches of death, which gave occasion to the protestants to be very busy in tempting him with the hopes of life, if he

Vol. II.

22

« AnteriorContinua »