Kerby Speaks to the People in Reply to Dr. Rugham
The next English martyrs upon record are Kerby and Clarke. These men were arrested at Ipswich, and committed to the care of the jailer there, named Bird, a very humane man.
While they were in prison, Kerby was visited by one Robert Wingfield, and a Mr. Bruess. Wingfield said to him, "Remember the fire is hot, take heed of they determination, that thou take no more upon thee than thou shalt be able to bear. The terror is great, the pain will be extreme, and life is sweet. Better hadst thou beg for mercy, while there is yet hope of life, than rashly to begin, and then to shrink."
Kerby answered, "Ah, master Wingfield, come thou to my burning, and thou shalt say, 'There standeth a Christian soldier in the fire:' for I know that fire and water, sword, and all other things, are in the hands of God, and he will suffer no more to be laid upon me than he will give me strength to bear."
"Ah Kerby," replied Wingfield, "if thou be in that mind, I will bid thee farewell; for I promise thee I am not so strong that I am able to burn." And so both the prisoners said they would pray for him; they shook him by the hand, and he left them.
Kerby and Clarke were soon brought up for examination, before lord Wentworth and the other commissioners. The articles of accusation were read to them, and they were asked "Whether they believed, that after the words spoken by a priest, as Christ spake them to his apostles, the bread and wine were the very body and blood of Christ, as he was born of the Virgin Mary, and never bread afterward."
To this question the prisoners firmly answered, "No, we do not so believe, but believe the sacrament which Christ instituted at his last supper with his apostles, was only to put men in remembrance of his precious death and blood-shedding for the remission of sins; and that there was neither flesh nor blood to be eaten, but bread and wine, and yet more than bread and wine, for that it is consecrated to the holy use."
Then many persuasions and threats were used to induce them to change this their belief; but they both continued faithful and constant, choosing rather to die than to live, if life could be had only by professing what they did not believe to be true.
Sentence was then passed upon them: Kerby to be burned at Ipswich on the next Saturday, and Clarke to be burned at Bury on the Monday after. The prisoners were then led away, Kerby to prison at Ipswich, and Clarke to Bury St. Edmunds.
On the following Saturday, at about ten o'clock, Kerby was brought to the market-place, where a stake was ready, with wood and straw. He was then fastened tot he stake with irons; lord Wentworth, with many other noblemen and gentlemen of the neighborhood, being in a gallery, where they might see his execution, and hear what he would say. There was also a great number of people standing round about. In the gallery, was Dr. Rugham, formerly a monk of Bury, wearing a surplice, with a stole about his neck.
Silence being ordered, Dr. Rugham began to speak to the assembly. As often as he quoted the Scriptures in his discourse, and applied them rightly, Kerby told the people that he was right, and bade them believe him. But when he did otherwise, Kerby called out, "You say not true; believe him not, good people!"
After this was done, the under-sheriff asked of Kerby whether he had anything more to say. "Yea, sir," said he, "if you will give ma leave." "Say on, then," said the sheriff.
The Kerby, taking his cap from his head, cast it from him, and lifting up his hands, repeated a hymn, and the apostles' creed, with some prayers in the English tongue. While Kerby was thus speaking, lord Wentworth hid his face behind tone of the posts of the gallery, and wept, as did many others.
"Now," said Kerby, "I have done: you may do your work, good sheriff." After this, fire was set to the wood, and with a loud voice the martyr commended his soul to heaven; striking upon his breast, and holding up his hands so long as strength remained; and thus he ended his life; the people being filled with wonder at such great constance.
On the following Monday, about ten o'clock, Roger Clarke was brought out of prison, and led on foot to the gate, called Southgate, in Bury. On the way he met the procession of the host, but he went on, and would not bow, or kneel, but vehemently rebuked what he called their idolatry and superstition.
On arriving at the place of execution, the stake being ready, and the wood lying near, he kneeled down, and prayed. Then rising up he spoke in a clear voice tot he people, while they were fastening hem tot he stake; after which fire was set to him.
His sufferings were dreadful, for the wood was green, and would not burn, so that he was choked with smoke; and moreover, being set in a pitch-barrel, with some pitch still sticking to its sides, he was in great anguish thereby. But at last a man standing near took a fagot, and striking at the ring of the iron which was about his neck, and then upon his head, he fell down on the one side into the fire, and so ended his pain.
This page and its design are copyright
© 2002 by Kevin W. Michael.
All rights reserved.