John Lambert's Trial Before King
John Lambert, a teacher of languages in London, was brought before the archbishop's court for having written tracts against the Romish church. He appealed tot he king, who, thinking the trial of heretic would afford a good opportunity tot display his learning, resolved to conduct it in person. Henry therefore sent out a call to some of his nobles and bishops to come to London, to assist in the trial of the accused man.
The day being appointed for the hearing, a great number of persons of all ranks assembled to witness the proceedings, and Lambert was brought from his prison by a guard, and placed directly opposite to the king.
Henry was seated on his throne, and surrounded by the peers, bishops, and judges. The king looked on the prisoner with a stern countenance, and then commanded Day, bishop of Chichester, to state, so that all present could hear him, why the distinguished assemblage of the peers of the realm had been called together.
The bishop made a long speech, stating that, although the king had abolished the pope's authority in England, it was not to be supposed that he would give heretics liberty to disturb and trouble the church of which he was the head. He had therefore determined to punish all persons who did not worship God according to the established forms. With this end in view he had assembled together his bishops and counselors tot try the prisoner and to hear his defense.
The oration being ended, the king ordered Lambert to declare his opinion as to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which he did, by denying it to be the actual body of Christ.
The king then commanded Cranmer to prove the falsity of the prisoner's assertion, which he proceeded to do, but his discourse was broken in upon by Gardiner, who loudly interrupted him, and instead of argument, sought by vulgar abuse to intimidate Lambert, who was not allowed to answer to taunts and insults of the bishop.
Tonstal and Stokesly next addressed the court, in much the same manner, and Lambert, attempting to answer them, was silenced by the king. The other bishops then each made a speech in refutation of Lambert's arguments, till all had been answered, or rather railed against; for the prisoner was not permitted to say a word in his own defense, no matter how much he heard himself being misrepresented.
At last, when the evening was come and torches began to be lighted, the king desiring to put an end to the dispute, said to Lambert, "What sayest thou now, after all these great labors which we have taken for thee, and all the reasons and instructions of these learned men? Art thou not yet satisfied? Wilt thou live or die? What sayest thou? Thou hast yet free choice.? Lambert answered, "I yield myself wholly unto the will of your majesty." "Thou hadst better," said the king, "commit thyself unto the hands of God, and not unto mine."
Lambert replied, "I commend my soul unto the hands of God, but my body I wholly yield and submit unto your clemency." To this the king answered, "If you do commit yourself unto my judgment, you must die, for I will not be a patron unto heretics," and turning to Cromwell, he said, "Read the sentence of condemnation against him," which Cromwell accordingly did.
Upon the day appointed for Lambert to suffer, he was brought out of the prison at eight o'clock In the morning to the house of Cromwell, and carried into the inner chamber, where, it is said, Cromwell asked his forgiveness for what he had done. Lambert being at last warned that the hour of his death was at hand, and being brought out of the chamber into the hall, saluted the gentlemen present, and sat down to breakfast with them, showing neither sadness nor fear. When breakfast was ended, he was carried straight tot he place of execution at Smithfield.
It is related that the manner of his death was dreadful; for after his legs were consumed, and but a little fire was left under him, two of the guards pierced him with their halberts, and lifted him up as far as the chain would reach; while he, raising his half-consumed hands, cried out to the people these words: "None but Christ! none but Christ!" and so being let down again from their halberts, fell into the fire, and there ended his life.
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