Peter Bergier leads Jean Pierre Chambon to Christ in Prison (1562)

A prison in Lyon by Philiphotos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1562 Jean Pierre Chambon found himself in solitary confinement in a dungeon in Lyon, France, for robbery and murder. Chained, hungry, tormented by vermin, he spent his days cursing his existence and the God and the parents who had brought him into being.

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That was a year of severe persecution against Huguenots (Protestant Calvinists). The prison overflowed and Peter Bergier, a Protestant merchant, was placed in Chambon‘s cell. Appaled at Chambon’s continual cursing, he pleaded with him to stop, warning him that curses could not possibly help him, but would heap up more wrath for him when he faced God‘s judgment. Chambon replied that it was true that curses did not bring him any aid, but Bergier’s prayers would bring no help either.

Chambon continued to make prayer as difficult for Bergier as possible, but Bergier, who, unlike his fellow-captive was not chained, responded with kindness, doing for Chambon whatever he could and sharing the food that friends sent him [Bergier] from the city.

As a result, Chambon stopped disturbing Bergier’s prayers and began to listen when Bergier spoke to him of the Word of God and the Savior’s love. The Gospel penetrated his heart and he was transformed. Eventually, Bergier was burned at the stake and Chambon had his arms and legs broken with a heavy wagon wheel. Below is a nineteenth-century account of his conversion, condensed and modernized.

“An Incident in a Prison.” The Christian Treasury, (Edinburgh: Johnstone, Hunter, and co., 1863) 65.

Bergier pointed out to him the mercy of God, who ”wills not the death of the sinner, but that he should turn to him and live.”

“What! Even a murderer?” asked Chambon, with averted face.

“Yes!” replied Bergier, “for thus speaks the Lord by his prophet to those whose hands were full of blood, ‘Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well; and though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’”

“But what good can I do now,” asked Chambon, “bound and fettered, and appointed to death as I well know myself to be?”

“You can believe God’s declaration,” replied Bergier, “and look to him for the forgiveness of your sins. It was a criminal like you, one nailed hand and foot to the cross, appointed to death, and disabled from living a life of obedience, who said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom;’ and to him the Savior gave the comforting assurance, ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’ Take that for your example and your justification for asking forgiveness.”

“And do you really believe,” cried Chambon, on whose mind a ray of hope began faintly to dawn, “that I can be saved?”

“Only believe, and you will be saved,” said Bergier, with solemn earnestness; and immediately kneeling down, he began to pray aloud that Jesus Christ would have compassion on the repentant sinner, and give him assurance of his grace. Chambon had fallen on his knees likewise, and with folded hands and trembling voice joined in Bergier’s prayer with the petition, “Lord Jesus! dear Savior, have mercy on me!”

And now, as it was the first time in his life that he had really prayed, so he learned also now for the first time that prayer can help us. Even while he prayed the ray of hope grew brighter in his heart, and the Holy Spirit, who had, by means of the word, had begun the good work in his soul, carried it on by the same instrumentality to the day of redemption.

From that hour Chambon commenced, as he himself afterwards expressed it, a new walk. Openly confessing himself the chief of sinners, bewailing his shameful life and horrid acts, he continued active in prayer to God for mercy and pardon. At the same time he drank in the Scriptures, which Bergier repeated to him, as the thirsty earth drinks in the rain from heaven, until he at length attained to the firm assurance that he, too, all unworthy as he was in himself, had obtained, through the Lord Jesus Christ, “redemption in his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

The lips that had blasphemed now overflowed with thanksgiving and praise for the mercy that had been granted to him.

Southwell (c.1561–1595) Was Tortured for Priestly Actions

Robert Southwell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Robert Southwell, a young Jesuit priest, asked to be sent to England, although, because of Catholic plots against Queen Elizabeth’s life, it was illegal for any Catholic priest to remain in the island more than forty days. He arrived in 1586. For the next three years he ministered to Catholics, moving from house to house to offer the sacraments. In 1589 he became chaplain to Ann Howard.

During those years he wrote many religious tracts, some poems ("Mary Magdalen’s Funeral Tears" was published in 1591) and an appeal to Queen Elizabeth.

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Ultimately a Catholic girl revealed Southwell’s movements when she was raped and interrogated by one of Elizabeth’s top torturers. Southwell was arrested and tortured for a month, and cast into such filth that he was covered with vermin when brought out for examination. Despite his torments, Southwell refused to betray fellow-priests.

His father petitioned Elizabeth for more humane treatment. Nonetheless, Southwell was tortured ten times over his three years. He was, however, placed in the tower, and allowed clean clothes. Finally he was condemned to die the death of treason by being hanged, drawn, and quartered. When he was hung, friends pulled on his legs to strangle him quickly so that he would be dead when disemboweled and pulled apart by the horses.

To the end of his life, Southwell insisted truthfully he was never guilty of any plot against Elizabeth, but only of performing the duties of a priest. His concern for souls was evident even in prison where his writings were religious in nature.

Southwell’s St. Peter’s Complaint was published with other poems in 1595, the year of his execution. Probably these poems were written in prison. “The Burning Babe” is one of his most famous pieces. It is an excerpt from St. Peter’s Complaint.

“The Burning Babe” from Robert Southwell’s St. Peter’s Complaint.

As I in hoary winter’s night
  stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat
  which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye
  to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright
  did in the air appear;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat,
  such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames
  which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born
  in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts
  or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is,
  the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke,
  the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel justice layeth on,
  and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
  are men’s defilëd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am
  to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath
  to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight
  and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callèd unto mind
  that it was Christmas day.

Henry Barrowe (c. 1550–1593) Is Bullied at His “Arraignment”

Henry Barrow depicted in a stained glass windows at Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, England (UK), photo by Ian A. Wood (Flickr account Ian A. Wood + email sent to OTRS-NL) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1586 John Greenwood lay in Clink Prison, London, because he believed that a company of believers in Christ had the right to covenant together to worship God, and thus to form a Christian church. He was about thirty years old, a graduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and had been a clergyman of the Church of England. His friend Henry Barrowe, who accepted Greenwood’s ideas without reservation, called on him on the Lord’s Day, November 19, but the keeper having gotten him inside the prison would not let him out, but arrested him without a warrant, and he became a fellow prisoner with Greenwood. Barrowe, too, was a Cambridge scholar, some years the senior of his friend. He had been a courtier, living a rather dissolute life, as was common among those who dwelt at court. But one day he had heard an earnest preacher, stepped inside to listen, and found his life changed. He adopted the principles of the Separatists, and soon became a leader among them.

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His detention brought great satisfaction to Archbishop Whitgift, who examined him that very Sunday and recommitted him without bail.

After six months in prison Barrowe and Greenwood were released on bail, and worshiped with like-minded believers, sometimes in private houses, sometimes in fields or woods or other retired places. But they were soon apprehended at one of these meetings and again imprisoned. This time they remained confined for more than five years. Here, under great inconvenience, suffering and difficulties, they wrote tracts and books defending their faith and rejecting the Church of England. Friends smuggled sheets of paper to them one or two at a time, and smuggled them back out when filled. They took these to Holland where their contents were printed and secretly brought back to England. Thus the prisoners spread abroad their doctrines, and the number of believers in the “primitive faith” multiplied.

Barrowe and Greenwood were hanged at Tyburn in 1593.

This introduction has been based on an account that appeared in Albert Elijah Dunning’s Congregationalists in America.
What follows is an account of Barrowe’s examinations before Whitgift. It is typical of the bullying tactics which prevailed at the time, such as requiring a prisoner to enter his plea before even knowing the charges against him.

Excerpt adapted from Samuel Hopkins’ The Puritans and Queen Elizabeth.

“Is your name Barrow?” inquired the Archbishop.

“Yes.”

“It is told me that you refuse to receive or obey our letter. Do you realize what you are doing? It is from the high commissioners, and this man is a junior officer at arms.”

“I did refuse to receive or obey that letter.”

“Why?”

“Because I was under arrest and imprisoned without warrant and against law. Therefore it was too late to bring the letter.”

“What! Can’t a councillor commit someone to prison by his bare command?”

“That is not the question; but whether this man, the keeper of the Clink, may do so without warrant, by the law of the land.”

“Do you know the law of the land?”

“Very little. Yet I was at Gray’s Inn some years.” At this they all made fun of his scant knowledge of law.

“I ask you,” said Mr. Barrow, when their merriment had subsided, “why have you imprisoned me, and sent for me in this way?”

“You shall know that after you swear your oath,” said the Archbishop. “Will you swear?”

A long dialogue ensued about taking the oath; but Mr. Barrow declared that he would take no oath to accuse himself.

“Well,” said his Grace, “can you find sufficient surety for your good behavior?”

“Yes, as sufficient as you can take.”

“But know you what bond you should enter? You are bound by this to attend our churches.”

“I understand you, of my good behavior.”

“And this is contained in it.”

“Well; now that I know your mind, I will enter no such bond.”

“Will you enter bond to appear on Tuesday next at our court, and so on Thursday, if you are not called; and be bound not to depart until you be dismissed by order of our Court?”

“No.”

“Then I will send you to prison.”

Mr. Barrow was then delivered to the junior officer, and taken to the gate-house, without being informed of the cause of his imprisonment.

Eight days later, he was again called before the commissioners; at which time the Archbishop again demanded whether he would now swear.

“I must first know to what.”

“You shall be told afterwards.”

“I will not swear, unless I know beforehand.”

“Well, I will satisfy your humor this far…”

A paper was then read, by which, for the first time, Mr. Barrow was made acquainted with the charges against him. The substance was, “that he held the Church of England to be not a true church.” This opinion, the paper alleged, he sustained by the following reasons: “That the worship of the English Church is idolatry; that its ministry is antichristian; that its preachers are hirelings, and have no scriptural calling; and that unsanctified persons are admitted to its communion.”

After the paper was read, the Archbishop resumed. “Now you know what you shall swear to. How say you, will you swear or not?”

“An oath requires great consideration. But I will give you a true answer. Much of the matter of this bill is true, but the form is false.”

“Go to, sirrah! Answer directly; will you swear?”

“There is more reason to swear my accuser than me. I will not swear.”

“Where is his keeper? You shall not prattle here. Away with him. Clap him up close—close. Let no man come near him. I will make him tell another tale before I have done with him.”

John of the Cross (1542–1591) Paraphrases Solomon in His Dungeon

stained glass window depicts John of the Cross in the Saint Catharine of Siena Church (Columbus, Ohio) By Nheyob (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

John of the Cross was an associate of Teresa of Avilla. Infighting among Spanish churchmen resulted in opponents seizing John of the Cross one night and imprisoning him in a Toledo dungeon. He later made a daring escape. While in prison, he wrote a number of poems. Other prisoners have done as much, but seldom have they garnered as much fame for their verses as John did for his.

Teresa pf Avilla , one of the most colorful mystics of the Medieval Period, was a Carmelite nun who struggled in prayer for nearly twenty years before she experienced a profound conversion. Reflecting a remarkable determination in her quest to know God, Teresa of Avila speaks across the centuries to those yearning for transcendence amid the distractions of life.

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A kind jailer, ignoring restrictions, provided him with paper to record these creations. Among his lines were the first 31 stanzas of his Spiritual Canticle, a work loosely based on the Song of Solomon, which he had memorized.

Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom

I
THE BRIDE
Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.

II
O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill,
If you shall see Him
Whom I love the most,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.

III
In search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.

IV
O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved;
O verdant meads
Enameled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?

V
ANSWER OF THE CREATURES
A thousand graces diffusing
He passed through the groves in haste,
And merely regarding them
As He passed
Clothed them with His beauty.

VI
THE BRIDE
Oh! who can heal me?
Give me at once Yourself,
Send me no more
A messenger
Who cannot tell me what I wish.

VII
All they who serve are telling me
Of Your unnumbered graces;
And all wound me more and more,
And something leaves me dying,
I know not what, of which they are darkly speaking.

VIII
But how you persevere, O life,
Not living where you live;
The arrows bring death
Which you receive
From your conceptions of the Beloved.

IX
Why, after wounding
This heart, have You not healed it?
And why, after stealing it,
Have You thus abandoned it,
And not carried away the stolen prey?

X
Quench my troubles,
For no one else can soothe them;
And let my eyes behold You,
For You are their light,
And I will keep them for You alone.

XI
Reveal Your presence,
And let the vision and Your beauty kill me,
Behold the malady
Of love is incurable
Except in Your presence and before Your face.

XII
O crystal well!
Oh that on Your silvered surface
You would mirror forth at once
Those eyes desired
Which are outlined in my heart!

XIII
Turn them away, O my Beloved!
I am on the wing.

THE BRIDEGROOM
Return, My Dove!
The wounded hart
Looms on the hill
In the air of your flight and is refreshed.

XIV
My Beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;

XV
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The silent music,
The murmuring solitude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.

XVI
Catch us the foxes,
For our vineyard has flourished;
While of roses
We make a nosegay,
And let no one appear on the hill.

XVII
O killing north wind, cease!
Come, south wind, that awakens love!
Blow through my garden,
And let its odors flow,
And the Beloved shall feed among the flowers.

XVIII
O nymphs of Judea!
While amid the flowers and the rose-trees
The amber sends forth its perfume,
Tarry in the suburbs,
And touch not our thresholds.

XIX
Hide yourself, O my Beloved!
Turn Your face to the mountains,
Do not speak,
But regard the companions
Of her who is traveling amidst strange islands.

XX
THE BRIDEGROOM
Light-winged birds,
Lions, fawns, bounding does,
Mountains, valleys, strands,
Waters, winds, heat,
And the terrors that keep watch by night;

XXI
By the soft lyres
And the siren strains, I adjure you,
Let your fury cease,
And touch not the wall,
That the bride may sleep in greater security.

Edmund Campion (1540–1581) Defends His Mission at His Arraignment

Edmund Campion by J.M. Lerch; Antwerp (British Library) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The verdict against Campion was a foregone conclusion at his arraignment and no trial was going to change the outcome.

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Queen Elizabeth I had delighted in Edmund Campion, a man of wit, and offered him employment which he refused because it would have required him to embrace the Church of England. A Roman Catholic, he left England, joined the Jesuits, and found himself in Prague. His superiors soon ordered him to England.

In his native land, he traveled from place to place in disguise and under an assumed name to conduct secret masses for Catholics. This secrecy was needed because Pope Paul V had excommunicated Elizabeth and called on true Catholics to overthrow her. Tension ran high, not least because Catholic Spain sought to conquer England (seven years later, the failed Spanish Armada would be part of the attempt). Because of the pope’s position, Catholic priests were assumed to be agitators, bent of implementing the will of the pope upon England.

Through the treachery of a Catholic maid, Campion was betrayed to the authorities and, after two days’ search, was discovered hiding in a priest hole behind a false wall at the head of a stairs.

Brought to trial with a number of other Catholics, he seems to have taken the lead in responding for all of the defendents. At his arraignment he urged that each should be tried separately and denied he had ever been a traitor. Instead he had only traveled about to administer religious rites and give religious instruction. The accusations against him were based on circumstantial evidence and hearsay, he said.

After several exchanges, in which Campion answered for himself and the seven men charged with him, the Queen’s Counsel advanced the heart of the case. Campion was committed to serving the pope and the pope was committed to destroying Elizabeth, therefore Campion also must be committed to bringing down the Queen.

Campion denied the accusation and explained what he had meant by some mysterious remarks he had made.

Excerpt from Campion’s Arraignment

Queen’s Counsel. What an army and host of men, the pope by the aid of the King of Spain and the Duke of Florence had levied for the overthrow of this realm, the destruction of her majesty, and the placing of the Scottish queen as governess in England, could not any ways have escaped your knowledge; for being sent from Prague, where your abode was, to Rome, and then by the Pope charged presently toward England, what other drift could this, such a sudden embassage, portend, than the practicing and execution of such a conspiracy? Whereof you are also the more to be suspected, for as much as in your coming from Rome towards England, you entered into a certain privy conference with Dr. Allen [Allen, who used strong words against the Reformation, had founded a school for Catholics and was preparing a Catholic translation of the Bible into English] to break these matters to the English Papists to withdraw the people from their due allegiance and to prepare them to receive these foreign powers.

Campion. When I was received into the order of the Jesuits, I vowed three things incident to my calling, chastity, poverty and obedience. Chastity in abstaining from all fleshly appetites and concupiscences. Poverty in despising all worldly wealth lying upon the devotion of others. Obedience in dutifully executing the commandment of my superiors. In respect of which vow, inveighing obedience, I came, being sent for from Prague to Rome, having not so much as the smallest inkling of these supposed armies, nor the least inclination to put any such thing into practice, but there rested for eight days, attending the pleasure of my provost, who at last, according to my vow (which by the grace of God, I will in no case violate) appointed me to undertake this journey into England, which, accordingly, I enterprised, being commanded thereunto not as a traitor to conspire the subversion of my country, but as a priest to minister the sacraments, to hear confessions; the which embassage I protest before God I would as gladly have executed and was as ready and willing to discharge, had I been sent to the Indians or the uttermost regions in the world, as I was being sent into my native country. In the which voyage I cannot deny but that I dined with Dr. Allen at Rheims, with whom also after dinner I walked in his garden, spending our time in speeches which referred to our old familiarity and acquaintance; during the whole course thereof (I take God to witness) not one iota of our talk glanced to the crown or state of England; neither had I the least notice of any letters sent to Sanders, nor the smallest glimmering of these objected platforms—Then as for being procurator from the pope and Dr. Allen, I must needs say there could no one thing have been inferred more contrary, for as concerning the one, he flatly with charge and commandment excused me from matters of state and regiment; with the other sought no such duty and obedience as to execute matters repugnant to my charge. But admitting (as I protest he did not) that Dr. Allen had communicated such affairs unto me, yet for that he was not my superior it had been full apostacy in me to obey him. Dr. Allen for his learning and good religion I reverence, but neither was I his subject or inferior, nor he the man at whose commanment I rested.

Queen’s Counsel. Were it not that your dealing afterwards had fully betrayed you, your present speech perhaps had been more credible; but all afterclaps make those excuses but shadows, and your deeds and actions prove your words but forged; for what meaning had that changing of your name, whereto belonged your disguising in apparel, can these alterations be wrought without suspicion? Your name being Campion, why were you called Hastings? You a priest and dead to the world, what pleasure had you to royst that? A velvet hat and a feather, a buff leather jerkin, velvet venetians, are they weeds for dead men? Can that beseem a professed man of religion which hardly becometh a layman of gravity? No; there was a further matter intended; your lurking and lying hid in secret places, concludeth with the rest, a mischievous meaning: had you come hither for love of your country, you would never have wrought in—or had your intent been to have done well, you would never have hated the light, and therefore this beginning decyphereth your treason.

Campion. At what time the primitive church was persecuted and that Paul labored in the propagation and increase of the Gospel, it is not unknown, to what straits and pinches he and his fellows were diversely driven, wherein though in purpose he were already resolved rather to yield himself to martyrdom, than to shrink an inch from the truth he preached; yet if any hope or means appeared to escape, and if living he might benefit the church more than dying, we read of sundry shifts whereto he betook him, to increase God’s number and to shun persecution; but especially the changing of his name was very oft and familiar, whereby as opportunity and occasion was ministered, he termed himself now Paul now Saul; neither was he of opinion always to be known, but sometime thought it expedient to be hidden, lest being discovered persecution should ensue, and thereby the Gospel greatly forestalled. Such was his meaning, so was his purpose, which being in penance for points of religion he secretly stole out of prison in a basket. If these shifts were then approved, why are they now reproved in me? he an Apostle, I a Jesuit. Were they commended in him, are they condemned in me, the same cause was common to both, and shall the effect be peculiar to the one? I wished earnestly the planting of the gospel. I knew a contrary religion professed. I saw if I were known I should be apprehended. I changed, my name: I kept secretly. I imitated Paul. Was I therein a traitor? But the wearing of a buffjerkin, a velvet hat, and such like is much forced against me, as though the wearing of any apparel were treason, or that I in so doing were ever the more a traitor. I am not indicted upon the statute of Apparel, neither is it any part of this present arraignment. Indeed, I acknowledge an offence to God for so doing, and thereof it did grievously repent, me and therefore do now penance as you see me.

He was newly shaven, in a rug gown, and a great blacking strap covering half his face, etc.

The Clerk of the Crown read a Letter sent from Campion unto one Pound, a Catholic, part of the contents whereof was this, “It grieveth me much to have offended the Catholic cause so highly, as to confess the names of some gentlemen and friends in whose houses I had been entertained: yet in this I greatly cherish and comfort myself, that I never discovered any secrets there declared, and that I will not, come rack, come rope.”

Queens Counsel. What can sound more suspiciously or nearer unto treason, than this letter? It grieveth him to have betrayed his favorers the Catholics, and therein he thinketh to have wrought prejudice to religion. What then, may we think of that he concealeth? It must needs he some grievous matter and very precious, that neither the rack nor the rope can wring from him. For his conscience being not called in question nor sifted in any point of religion, no doubt, if there had not been further devices and affairs of the state and commonwealth attempted, we should as well have discovered the matter as the person; wherefore, it were well these hidden secrets were revealed, and then would appear the very face of these treasons.

Campion. As I am by profession and calling a priest so have I singly vowed all conditions and covenants to such a charge and vocation belonging, whereby I sustain an office and duty of priesthood that consisteth in sharing aud hearing confessions, in respect whereof at my first conservation (as all other priests so accepted must do) I solemnly took and vowed to God never to disclose any secrets confessed. The force and effect of which vow is such whereby every priest is bound, under danger of perpetual curse and damnation, never to disclose any offence opened nor infirmity whatsoever committed to his hearing. By virtue of this profession and due execution of my priesthood, I was accustomed to be privy to divers men’s secrets, and those not such as concerned State or Commonwealth, whereunto my authority was not extended, but such as so charged the grieved soul and conscience whereof I had power to pray for absolution. These were the hidden matters, these were the secrets in concerning of which I so greatly rejoiced, to the revealing whereof I cannot, nor will not be brought, come rack, come rope.

Thereupon the Clerk of the Crown read certain Papers containing in them Oaths to be ministered to the people for the renouncing their obedience to her majesty and the swearing of allegiance to the pope, acknowledging him for their supreme head and governor, the which papers were found in divers houses where Campion had lurked, and for religion been entertained.

Queen’s Counsel. What can be more apparent than this? These Oaths, if we went no further, are of themselves sufficient to convince you of treason; for what may be imagined more traitorous than to alien the hearts of the subjects from her majesty, renouncing their obedience to her, and swearing their subjection to the pope? And therefore these papers thus found in houses were you where, do clearly prove that for ministering such oaths, you are a traitor.

Campion. Neither is there, neither can there be any thing imagined more directly contrary or repugnant to my calling, as upon any occasion to minister an oath: neither had I any power or authority so to do: neither would I commit an offence so thwart [contrary] to my profession, for all the substance and treasure in the world. But admit I were authorized, what necessity importeth that reason, that neither being set down by my handwriting nor otherwise derived by any proof from myself, but only found in places where I resorted, therefore I should be he by whom they were ministered. This is but a naked presumption (who seeth it not?) and nothing vehement nor of force against me.

Guido de Brès (1522–1567) Comforts His Family from Death Row

Artist’s conception of Guido de Bres and Peregrin de la Grange in prison [Public domain] image source not recorded.

The author of the Belgic Confession spent six weeks incarcerated in sewage in the lowest section of the prison of Brunain at Valenciennes. Like many other reformers, Guido de Brès was imprisoned by Roman Catholic authorities because of his Protestant beliefs. Condemned to die, he wrote letters of comfort to his mother and his wife.

History of Christianity is a six part survey designed to stimulate your curiosity by providing glimpses of pivotal events and persons in the spread of the church.

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His sentence was death by hanging, and he went joyfully to his execution, telling fellow prisoners just before the event “My brothers, I am condemned to death today for the doctrine of the Son of God, praise be to Him. I would never have thought that God would have given me such an honor. I feel the grace of God flowing in me more and more. It strengthens me from moment to moment, and my heart leaps within me for joy.”

At the foot of the scaffold he wished to pray, but was not allowed to do so. As he waited to die, he encouraged the crowd. At the moment when he was hung, the troops seemed to go crazy. For no apparent reason they began shooting bystanders and each other. Looting broke out. Some contemporaries took this as a judgment from God. Here are excerpts from de Brès’ last letter to his wife.

Last Letter to His Wife.

The grace and mercy of our good God and heavenly Father, and the love of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, be with you, my dearly beloved.

Catherine Ramon, my dear and beloved wife and sister in our Lord Jesus Christ: your anguish and sadness disturbs my joy and the happiness of my heart a little, so I am writing this for both our consolations, and especially yours, since you have always loved me with an ardent affection, and because it pleases the Lord to separate us from each other. I feel your sorrow over this separation more keenly than mine. I pray you not to be troubled too much over this, for fear of offending God. You knew when you married me that you were taking a mortal husband, who was uncertain of life, and yet it has pleased God to permit us to live together for seven years, giving us five children. If the Lord had wished us to live together longer, he would have made a way. But it did not please him to do so and may his will be done. Now remember that I did not fall into the hands of my enemies by mere chance, but through the providence of God who controls and governs all things, the least as well as the greatest. This is shown by the words of Christ, “Be not afraid. Your very hairs are numbered. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without the will of your Father. Then fear nothing. You are of more worth than many sparrows.” These words of divine wisdom show that God knows the number of my hairs. How then can harm come to me without His command and providence? It could not happen, unless one should say that God is no longer God.

…[He encourages her in Christ, shows Satan’s stratagems, and reminds her that he is honored to die a martyr]

Since such things have happened, my dear sister and faithful wife, I implore you to find comfort from the Lord in your afflictions and to place your troubles with him. He is the husband of believing widows and the father of poor orphans. He will never leave you — of that I can assure you. Conduct yourself as a Christian woman, faithful in the fear of God, as you always have been, honouring by your good life and conversation the doctrine of the Son of God, which your husband has preached. As you have always loved me with great affection, I pray that you will continue this love toward our little children, instructing them in the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ. Be their father and their mother, and take care that they use honestly the little that God has given you. If God does you the favor to permit you to live in widowhood with our children after my death, that will be well. If you cannot, and the means are lacking, then go to some good man, faithful and fearing God. And when I can, I shall write to our friends to watch over you. I think that they will not let you want for anything…

Giovan Paschale (died 1560) Hopes for Eternal Satisfaction

Waldensian Gospel peddlers from J.A. Wylie’s History of the Waldenses (Washington, DC: Review and Herald).

The Waldenses arose as a reform movement in the thirteenth century. They based their practices on a French translation of the Bible and were cruelly persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church. Despite persecution, they survived to greet and sometimes join the Protestant Reformation, often finding refuge in the Alps. Their merchants spread the gospel into other regions of Europe.

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In 1560 several of their number were imprisoned in the Italian region of Calabria. Here is a letter written by their pastor, Giovan Paschale. He was hanged in Rome that same year.

Excerpt from Giovan Paschale’s Letter to the Brethren of San Sisto

… we are 80 to 100 persons held in this dark place, and although we may escape being devoured by the lice, we are at the same time near to death by hunger. Who will doubt that all of us would willingly forego all that we possess in this world rather than to be condemned forever to this misery? …

Some will say that they do not sense in themselves the strength to die for Jesus Christ. I reply to them that those who fear to be overcome ought at least to struggle and to achieve a fleeting victory. For to flee is permissable, but to bow the knee before Baal is forbidden under the penalty of eternal punishment. …

I can testify that with a little bread and water the body can be satisfied, whereas the soul will never find satisfaction until it finds food which nourishes the hope of eternal life. And what is that if it is not the preaching of the Holy Gospel, of which you may be deprived? If, therefore you desire satisfaction, prepare yourselves to go to the place where your soul is peaceful. Thus you will quieten your conscience, you will find rest, you will confess Jesus Christ, you will edify the Church, and you will confound your enemies.

Your brother in Jesus Christ,
Giovan Luigi Paschale

Anne Askew (1521–1546) Holds Her Own Against the Men Who Torture Her

Anne Askew and others at the stake, from Thomas Armitage’s A History of the Baptists (New York: Bryan, Taylor and Co., 1893), colorized.

Her saga began with a forced marriage, her father having compelled her to take the place of an older sister as bride to Thomas Kyme (the older sister had died). Anne and Kyme never hit it off. In part their difficulties were because he was Catholic, she Protestant.

She left home and was public enough about her religious views— which disagreed with those of king and church— that she was arrested and returned to her husband, who was charged to keep her in check.

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One suspects that Anne’s tart tongue made her tough to live with. Although Kyme called her the most devout woman he had ever known, he threw her out of the house. Soon afterward, she was again arrested and this time examined under torture about her associates, whom she did not betray. Published accounts of her hearings appeared in the writings of John Bale and in Foxe’s Actes and Monuments (Book of Martyrs).

Eventually her views took her to the stake. Given one last chance to recant and escape the fire, she replied, “I came not here to deny my Lord and Savior.”

The following excerpt has been revised a little to make it more readable to modern audiences.

The effect of my examination and handling, since my departure from Newgate.

On Tuesday I was sent from Newgate to the Sign of the Crown, where Master Rich and the Bishop of London with all their power and flattering words, went about to persuade me from God. But I did not esteem their glossing pretences.

Then Nicolas Shaxton came to me, and counseled me to recant as he had done. Then I said to him, that it had been good for him, never to have been born with many other like words.

Then master Rich sent me to the tower, where I remained til 3 o’clock. Then came Rich and one of the council, charging me upon my obedience, to show unto them, if I knew man or woman of my sect. My answer was, that I knew none. Then they asked me of my Lady of Suffolk, my Lady Sussex, my Lady of Hertford, my Lady Denny and my Lady Fizwilliams. I said, if I should pronounce any thing against them, that I was not able to prove it.

Then said they unto me, that the king was informed, that I could name, if I would, a great number of my sect. Then I answered, that the king was as well deceived in that behalf, as dissembled within other matters. Then they commanded me to show how I was maintained in the counter, and who willed me to stick by my opinion. I said that there was no creature that did strengthen me therein. And as for the help that I had in the counter, it was by the means of my maid. For as she went abroad in the streets, she made moan to the apprentices, and they by her did send me money. But who they were I never knew.

Then they said, that there were various gentlewomen who gave me money. But I knew not their names. Then they said that there were various ladies, who had sent me money.

I answered, that there was a man in a blue coat, who delivered me ten shillings, and [who] said that my Lady of Hertford sent it me. And another in a violet coat did geve me eight shillings, and said that my Lady Denny sent it me. Whether it were true or no, I cannot tell. For I am not sure who sent it me, but as the maid did say.

Then they said, there were [members] of the council that did maintain me. And I said, no.

Then they did put me on the rack, because I confessed no ladies or gentlewomen to be of my opinion, and they kept me on it a long time. And because I lay still and did not cry, my Lord Chancellor and Master Rich, took pains to rack me with their own hands, till I was almost dead. Then the lieutenant caused me to be loosed from the rack. Incontinently I swooned, and then they revived me again.

After that I sat two long hours upon the bare floor, reasoning with my Lord Chancellor, whereas he with many flattering words, urged me to leave my opinion. But my Lord God (I thank his everlasting goodness) gave me grace to persevere and will do (I hope) to the very end. Then was I brought to a house, and laid in a bed with as weary and painful bones, as ever had patient Job. I thank my Lord God for it. Then my Lord Chancellor sent me word if I would leave my opinion, I should want nothing. If I would not, I should [be sent] forth to Newgate, and so be burned.

I sent him again word, that I would rather die, than to break my faith. [Through this may] the Lord open the eyes of their blind hearts, that the truth may take place.

Farewell dear friend, and pray pray, pray.

John Knox (1510–1572) Pulls an Oar as a Galley Slave

Venetian galley. Knox rowed as a prisoner in a similar vessel. [Public domain], Encyclopedia Britannica via Wikimedia Commons

John Knox was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was in St. Andrews castle when it fell to the French. He had gone inside the walls to continue the work he was paid for—tutoring. His employers were among those involved in the assassination of Cardinal Beaton, the brutal archbishop of Scotland who had burned Knox’s mentor, George Wishart, alive.

John Knox founded the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. His successors became martyrs for their faith. These two DVDs document their story. Celtic Cry: The Heart of a Martyr and The Scottish Covenanters. The Scots fought long and hard for the prerogatives of Christ as head of their Church.

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While in the castle, the nobles involved in the assassination put great pressure on Knox to become their chaplain. He wrestled with the idea but concluded it was a call from God. Consequently, although he had no part in the murder of Beaton, he was made a galley slave.

Thomas M’Crie’s 1811 account of John Knox in the Galleys.

In the end of June, 1547, a French fleet, with a considerable body of land forces, under the command of Leo Strozzi, appeared before St. Andrews to assist the governor in the reduction of the castle. It was invested both by sea and land; and, being disappointed of the expected aid from England, the besieged, after a brave and vigorous resistance, were under the necessity of capitulating to the French commander on the last day of July. The terms which they obtained were honorable; the lives of all in the castle were to be spared; they were to be transported to France, and if they did not choose to enter into the service of the French king, were to be conveyed to any country which they might prefer, except Scotland.

John Rough had left them previous to the commencement of the siege, and retired to England. Knox, although he did not expect that the garrison would be able to hold out, could not prevail upon himself to desert his charge [the chaplaincy], and resolved to share with his brethren in the hazard of the siege. He was conveyed along with them on board the fleet, which, in a few days, set sail for France, arrived at Fecamp, and, going up the Seine, anchored before Rouen. The capitulation was violated, and they were all detained prisoners of war at the solicitation of the pope and Scottish clergy. The principal gentlemen were incarcerated in Rouen, Cherburg, Brest, and Mont St. Michel. Knox, with a few others, was confined on board the galleys; and in addition to the rigours of ordinary captivity, was loaded with chains, and exposed to all the indignities with which Papists were accustomed to treat those whom they regarded as heretics.

From Rouen they sailed to Nantes, and lay upon the Loire during the following winter. Solicitations, threatenings, and violence were all employed to induce the prisoners to change their religion, or at least to countenance the popish worship. But so great was their abhorrence of that system, that not a single individual of the whole company, on land or water, could be induced to symbolize in the smallest degree with idolaters. While the prison ships lay on the Loire, mass was frequently said, and salve regina sung on board, or on the shore within their hearing. On these occasions, they were brought out and threatened with the torture, if they did not give the usual signs of reverence; but instead of complying, they covered their heads as soon as the service began.

Knox has preserved in his history a humorous incident which took place on one of these occasions; and although he has not said so, it is highly probable that he himself was the person concerned in the affair. One day a fine painted image of the Virgin was brought into one of the galleys, and a Scotch prisoner was desired to give it the kiss of adoration. He refused, saying, that such idols were accursed, and he would not touch it. “But you shall,” replied one of the officers roughly, at the same time forcing it towards his mouth. Upon this the prisoner seized the image, and throwing it into the river, said, “Let our Lady now save herself; she is light enough, let her learn to swim.” The officers with difficulty saved their goddess from the waves: and the prisoners were relieved for the future from such troublesome importunities!

In summer 1548, as nearly as I can collect, the galleys in which they were confined returned to Scotland, and continued for a considerable time on the east coast, watching for English vessels. Knox’s health was now greatly impaired by the severity of his confinement, and he was seized with a fever, during which his life was despaired of by all in the ship. But even in this state his fortitude of mind remained unsubdued, and he comforted his fellow-prisoners with hopes of release.

To their anxious desponding inquiries (natural to men in their situation), “if he thought they would ever obtain their liberty,” his uniform answer was, “God will deliver us to his glory, even in this life.” While they lay on the coast between Dundee and St. Andrews, Mr. (afterwards Sir) James Balfour, who was confined in the same ship with him, pointed to the spires of St. Andrews, and asked him if he knew the place.

“Yes,” replied the sickly and emaciated captive, “I know it well; for I see the steeple of that place where God first opened my mouth in public to his glory; and I am fully persuaded, how weak soever I now appear, that I shall not depart this life, till that my tongue shall glorify his godly name in the same place.” This striking reply Sir James repeated in the presence of a number of witnesses many years before Knox returned to Scotland, and when there was very little prospect of his words being verified. We must not, however, think that he possessed this tranquillity and elevation of mind during the whole period of his imprisonment. When first thrown into fetters, insulted by his enemies, and deprived of all prospect of release, he was not a stranger to the anguish of despondency, so pathetically described by the royal psalmist of Israel. He felt that conflict in his spirit, with which all good men are acquainted, and which becomes peculiarly sharp when aggravated by corporal affliction; but having had recourse to prayer, the never-failing refuge of the oppressed, he was relieved from all his fears, and reposing upon the promise and the providence of the God whom he served, he attained to “the confidence and rejoicing of hope.” Those who wish for a more particular account of the state of his mind at this time, will find it in the notes, extracted from a rare work which he composed on prayer, and the chief materials of which were suggested by his own experience.

When free from fever, he relieved the tedious hours of captivity, by committing to writing a confession of his faith, containing the substance of what he had taught at St. Andrews, with a particular account of the disputation which he had maintained in St. Leonard’s Yards. This he found means to convey to his religious acquaintances in Scotland, accompanied with an earnest exhortation to persevere in the faith which they had professed, whatever persecutions they might suffer for its sake. To this confession I find him referring in the defence which he afterwards made before the Bishop of Durham. “Let no man think, that because I am in the realm of England, therefore so boldly I speak. No : God hath taken that suspicion from me. For the body lying in most painful bands, in the midst of cruel tyrants, his mercy and goodness provided that the hand should write and bear witness to the confession of the heart, more abundantly than ever yet the tongue spake.”

Notwithstanding the rigor of their confinement, the prisoners who were separated found opportunities of occasionally corresponding with one another. Henry Balnaves of Halhill had composed, in his prison, a treatise on Justification, and the Works and Conversation of a Justified Man. This having been conveyed to Knox, probably after his return from the coast of Scotland, he was so much pleased with the work, that he divided it into chapters, and added some marginal notes, and a concise epitome of its contents; to the whole he prefixed a recommendatory dedication, intending that it should be published for the use of his brethren in Scotland, as soon as an opportunity offered. The reader will not, I am persuaded, be displeased to have some extracts from this dedication, which represent, more forcibly than any description of mine can do, the pious and heroic spirit which animated the Reformer, when “his feet lay in irons;” and I shall quote more freely, as the book is rare.

It is thus inscribed: “John Knox, the bound servant of Jesus Christ, unto his best beloved brethren of the congregation of the castle of St. Andrews, and to all professors of Christ’s true evangel, desireth grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, with perpetual consolation of the Holy Spirit.” After mentioning a number of instances in which the name of God had been magnified, and the interests of religion advanced, by the exile of those who were driven from their native countries by tyranny, as in the examples of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and the primitive Christians, he goes on thus: “Which thing shall openly declare this godly work subsequent. The counsel of Satan in the persecution of us, first, was to stop the wholesome wind of Christ’s evangel to blow upon the parts where we converse and dwell; and, secondly, so to oppress ourselves by corporal affliction and worldly calamities, that no place should we find to godly study. But by the great mercy and infinite goodness of God our Father, shall these his counsels be frustrate and vain. For, in despite of him and all his wicked members, shall yet that same word (O Lord, this I speak, confiding in thy holy promise) openly be proclaimed in that same country. And how that our merciful Father, amongst these tempestuous storms, byt all men’s expectation, hath provided some rest for us, this present work shall testify, which was sent to me in Roane, lying in irons, and sore troubled by corporal infirmity, in a galley named Nostre Dame, by an honorable brother, Mr. Henry Balnaves of Halhill, for the present held as prisoner (though unjustly) in the old palace of Roane, which work after I had once and again read, to the great comfort and consolation of my spirit, by counsel and advice of the foresaid noble and faithful man, author of the said work, I thought expedient it should be digested in chapters, &c. Which thing I have done as imbecility of ingine and incommodity of place would permit; not so much to illustrate the work (which in the self is godly and perfect) as, together with the foresaid noble man and faithful brother, to give my confession of the article of justification therein contained.

And I beseech you, beloved brethren, earnestly to consider, if we deny any thing presently (or yet conceal and hide) which any time before we professed in that article. And now we have not the castle of St. Andrews to be our defence, as some of our enemies falsely accused us, saying, If we wanted our walls, we would not speak so boldly. But blessed be that Lord whose infinite goodness and wisdom hath taken from us the occasion of that slander, and hath shown unto us, that the serpent hath power only to sting the heel, that is, to molest and trouble the flesh, but not to move the spirit from constant adftering to Christ Jesus, nor public professing of his true word. O blessed be Thou, Eternal Father! which, by thy only mercy, hast preserved ut to this day, and provided that the confession of our faith (which ever we desired all men to have known) should, by this treatise, come plainly to light. Continue, 0 Lord! and grant unto us, that, as now with pen and ink, so shortly we may confess with voice and tongue the same before thy congregation; upon whom, look, O Lord God! with the eyes of thy mercy, and suffer no more darkness to prevail. I pray you, pardon me, beloved brethren, that on this manner I digress: vehemency of spirit (the Lord knoweth I lie not) compelleth me thereto.”

The prisoners in Mont St. Michel consulted Knox as to the lawfulness of attempting to escape by breaking their prison, which was opposed by some of them, lest their escape should subject their brethren who remained in confinement to more severe treatment. He returned for answer, that such fears were not a sufficient reason for relinquishing the design, and that they might, with a safe conscience, effect their escape, provided it could be done “without the blood of any shed or spilt; but to shed any man’s blood for their freedom, he would never consent.” The attempt was accordingly made by them, and successfully executed, “without harm done to the person of any, and without touching any thing that appertained to the king, the captain, or the house.”

At length, after enduring a tedious and severe imprisonment of nineteen months, Knox obtained his liberty. This happened in the month of February 1549, according to the modern computation. By what means his liberation was procured I cannot certainly determine. One account says, that the galley in which he was confined was taken in the Channel by the English. According to another account, he was liberated by order of the King of France, because it appeared, on examination, that he was not concerned in the murder of Cardinal Beaton, nor accessory to other crimes committed by those who held the castle of St. Andrews. In the opinion of others, his liberty was purchased by his acquaintances, who fondly cherished the hope that he was destined to accomplish some great achievements, and were anxious, by their interposition in his behalf, to be instrumental in promoting the designs of Providence. It is more probable, however, that he owed his deliverance to the comparative indifference with which he and his brethren were now regarded by the French court, who, having procured the consent of the Parliament of Scotland to the marriage of Queen Mary to the dauphin, and obtained possession of her person, felt no longer any inclination to revenge the quarrels of the Scottish clergy.

Philip of Moscow (1507–1569) Assassinated in Prison for Rebuking Ivan the Terrible

Philip II, Metropolitan of Moscow and Malyuta Skuratov by Nikolaj Wassiljewitsch Newrew [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Philip of Moscow did not appear to be prison material.

Early in the reign of Ivan the Fourth of Russia, a nobleman named Fedor Kolicheff landed from a boat at the Convent of Solovetsk. He came to pray; but after resting in the island for a little while, he took vows and became a monk. A man of great abilities, he became prior of the monastery. He engaged his monks in all sorts of worthwhile projects, such as erecting buildings, cutting channels between lakes, and extracting salt from local sources. Much of what is best in the convent dates from his reign as prior.

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He had been a friend of young Ivan, soon to be known as Ivan the Terrible. Ivan sometimes called him to the Kremlin to give him advice. On these occasions, Philip was aghast at the change in the Tsar; who, from being a paladin of the cross, had settled down in his middle age into a mixture of the gloomy monk and the savage Khan, engaging in orgies and sodomy, and delighting in torture. The change came on him with the death of his wife and the conquest of Kazan; after which events in his life he married two women, dressed himself in Tartar clothes, and adopted Asiatic ways. Like a chief of the Golden Horde, he went about the streets of Moscow, ordering this man to be beaten, that man to be killed. The square in front of the Holy Gate was red with blood; and every house in the city was dewed with tears.

Then Ivan summoned Philip from his cell near the frozen sea to occupy a loftier and more perilous throne: Metropolitan of Moscow. He had driven out two aged prelates who rebuked his crimes, and thought Philip would shed a luster on his reign without disturbing him by personal reproof. Philip tried to escape this unwelcome assignment; but the Tsar insisted on his obedience; and with heavy heart he sailed from his asylum in the islands, conscious of going to meet his martyr’s crown.

Ivan had misjudged Philip, who was not one to speak smooth words to princes. For instance, in traveling from Solovetsk to Moscow, he passed through Novgorod; a city disliked by Ivan on account of its wealth, freedom, and laws. A crowd of burghers poured from the gates, falling on their knees before him, and imploring him, as a pastor of the poor, to plead their cause before the Tsar, who threatened to ravage their district and destroy their town. On reaching Moscow, Philip spoke to Ivan as to a son; beseeching him to dismiss his guards, to put off his disgusting habits, to live a holy life, and to rule his people in the spirit of their ancient dukes.

Ivan was furious; he wanted a priest to bless him, and not to warn. The tyrant grew more violent in his moods; but the new Metropolite held out in patient and unyielding meekness for the ancient ways. This led to many confrontations between them, and with such a tyrant, the end was predictable.

The Assassination of Philip, adapted from Free Russia by William Hepworth Dixon

As every man in trouble went to the Metropolite for counsel, the boyars accused him of inciting the people against their prince. When Ivan married his fourth wife, a thing unlawful, the Metropolite refused to admit the marriage, and bade the Tsar absent himself from mass. Rushing from his palace into the Cathedral of the Annunciation, Ivan took his seat and scowled. Instead of pausing to bless him, Philip went on with the service, until one of the favorites strode up to the altar, looked him boldly in the face, and said, in a saucy voice, “The Tsar demands your blessing, priest!”

Paying no heed to the courtier, Philip turned round to Ivan on his throne. “Pious Tsar!” he sighed; “why are you here? In this place we offer a bloodless sacrifice to God.” Ivan threatened him, by gesture and by word.

“I am a stranger and a pilgrim on earth,” said Philip; “I am ready to suffer for the truth.”

He was made to suffer—and soon. Dragged from his altar, stripped of his robe, arrayed in rags, he was beaten with brooms, tossed into a sledge, driven through the streets, mocked and hooted by armed men, and thrown into a dungeon in one of the obscurest convents of the town. Poor people knelt as the sledge drove past them, every eye being wet with tears, and every throat being choked with sobs. Philip blessed them as he went, saying, “Do not grieve; it is the will of God; pray, pray!” The more patiently he bore his cross, the more these people sobbed and cried.

Locked in his jail and laden with chains, not only round his ankles but round his neck, he was left for seven days and nights without food and drink, in the hope that he would die. A courtier who came to see him was surprised to find him engaged in prayer. His friends and kinsmen were arrested, judged, and put to death for no offence except that of sharing his name and blood.

“Sorcerer! Do you know this head?” was one laconic message sent to Philip from the Tsar.

“Yes!” murmured the prisoner, sadly; “it is that of my nephew Ivan.” Day and night a crowd of people gathered round his convent-door, until the Tsar, who feared a rising in his favor, caused him to be secretly moved to a stronger prison in the town of Tver.

One year after the removal of Philip from Moscow, Ivan, setting out for Novgorod, called to mind the speech once made by Philip in favor of that city and sent a ruffian to kill him. “Give me your blessing!” said the murderer, coming into his cell.