Thursday, 3 December 2015

Facts Illustrative of the times of Elizabeth Queen Of England. Part 11.

Jesuits In Conflict: Or Historic Facts Illustrative of the labours of the English Mission and Province Of The Society Of Jesus. In the times of Queen Elizabeth and her successors. By a member Of The Society Of Jesus.


THOMAS POUNDE, OF BELMONT, S.J. Part VII.

Castle of Wisbeach
The evils of the prisons did not consist so much in their wretched condition, as in the brutal and coarse manners of the gaolers, who were either Protestants or Puritans. However, the Queen's Ministers utterly failed to weaken his courage by the insufferable punishments inflicted upon him, nor could they subdue him by the force of torments and pain : nay, he rather rejoiced in them, gaining thereby additional strength of heart; and frequently the example of his invincible courage would produce good effects even amongst Protestants, who to the shame of their own sect, had far to search ere they could meet with instances of such great virtue; whilst others could not refuse to their own eyes admiration of the virtue of Catholics, and this would soon after lead them to their own salutary repentance. Nor could their theologians, whether Protestant or Puritan, rather gave them so much to do, one while with his answers, another with his questions, that after the first attack, they would return no more to engage with him; and yet he had only gone as far as poetry and rhetoric in the academies, and the study of civil law; but from the excellency of his wit, his long and continuous study of the Holy Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, and the principal articles of controversy between Catholics and Protestants, to which we may add his converse with Priests and learned Catholics in the various prisons in which he was confined, especially in those of Wisbeach and London, with Father William Weston, of whom Pounde says in a letter of the 3rd of June, 1609—"I was then his pupil in the Castle of Wisbeach, and afterwards, as far as I was able, a consoler in that of London." He had thus rendered himself not only impregnable, but terrible to his foes. And to their cost, two Protestant doctors of divinity, Tripp and Crowley, proved this. This was in September, 1580, Thomas being then in the Marshalsea prison, London. These two doctors, then, entered the prison to dispute with Pounde upon points of religion; they commenced, as these men are all accustomed to do with Catholics, with a storm of insult and abuse, most unbecoming towards such a distinguished man as Pounde was. He by his greatness of soul was no more moved than if he had heard the ravings of two madmen; he took hold of a passage of Holy Scripture that one of them had quoted, and was badly interpreted to suit his own caprice. Upon this passage, Thomas raised a fundamental question as a necessary basis of the truth, because otherwise unless there is agreement in the definition, to determine upon it would only be to commence with words and end in smoke; so is it necessary to meet those that differ in the principles from which the conclusions are to be drawn. The point was—"Is Holy Scripture to be understood according to the private opinion of whosoever desires to be its expounder, or rather according to the universal and received understanding and mind of the Fathers of the Church ? " No question more ungrateful could have been asked of the adversaries, because where they cannot make the Word of God speak according to their own will, there is an end of it ; but since one can do it, another can also, and so each one, which is, finally, as much as to say that every man may make for himself a rule of faith; but which rule should be as much one, as the truth is one, and as infallible as the Word of God itself, and which consequently cannot disagree in interpreting the same passage contrary ways. That this happens to those who usurp to themselves this prerogative, it suffices to adduce the syllable Est, one of the words used in the consecration in the Divine Sacrifice, which is understood in a particular and private sense in no less than five different ways, each forming a different heresy. Therefore Luther was obliged to say that he had contended with thirty heresiarchs generated by the same liberty of making their private judgments the exponent of the mind of God; the which liberty he had adopted for himself, late to his grief, because others had appropriated it to themselves, and which was the origin of his going at last to the other extreme, saying—The Bucolic of Virgil could not be understood by any one who had not been for five years a shepherd; the Epistles of Cicero by any one who had not for twenty years governed a republic ; the Holy Scriptures by any one who had not governed the entire Church, attended by Elias, Eliseus, John the Baptist, and the Apostles of the Redeemer, and finished with in part that of the poet Stasius—

Hanc tu divinam ne AEneida tenta, —sed vestigia pronus adora. 1

Now the two assailants of Pounde fared so badly, that at last, the more they had spoken, the less did they understand what they had said, and they thought it good luck to take themselves off with a short statement in writing of six reasons 2 that Pounde had given them in support of the argument sustained by him; to which he begged them for an answer, and for leave to reply should anything else occur to his mind.

But these brave masters of Israel having read what was in the paper, and seeing that their reputation was placed in great jeopardy by having to answer in writing rather than orally, they betook themselves with the document to make a great noise to John Elmer, or Aylmer, the pseudo-bishop. They strove in his presence to make Pounde appear all the more ostentatious, because he not only refused to become Calvinist by their exhortations, but was all the more eager to publish in his own defence against them, treatises and writings of pestilential doctrine, as appeared in that paper which had just then issued from his pen, and which they then and there presented to the bishop.

Nothing further was wanting to put his lordship in a rage; for by his furious nature he was a very firebrand with every one, and his false zeal rendered him terrible as thunder to the Catholics. He remanded Thomas off hand from London to be immured in a prison far away. This was Storford, or Bishops-Stortford Castle, Herts, thirty miles from London, on the confines of Essex and Cambridge; a lonely place and well chosen. He was thrust into a cell a few feet under ground, in which was perpetual night, no ray of the sun nor any gleam of light ever entering there, whereby to distinguish between day and night. No one was allowed to visit him, for wherever this was allowed, he would gain many to the Catholic faith. The bare and dirty ground was his bed; a pair of heavy fetters were put on his legs, and handcuffs on his wrists, and chains. To these many other sufferings were added by his brutal gaoler. 3

As the blacksmith was about to rivet the shackles upon his legs, Thomas endeavoured to kiss them, whereupon the smith inhumanly struck him with them upon his head, and drew blood; but he with a calm countenance said—"Would that blood might here flow from the inmost veins of my heart for the cause for which I suffer." The blacksmith was astonished at his words and patience under so great and so unprovoked an injury. And it pleased God, in reward of the merit of that patience, to give Thomas that soul, causing the smith to demand of him whence he possessed so great a confidence that he was of the true religion, seeing that in England "papist" and "reprobate" were synonymous terms.

Thomas gave the man such strong reasons and convincing proofs, that he was vanquished, and afterwards became a Catholic, and in punishment for it was cast into prison, where he died piously in chains— tanti est constantiam in asperis tueri.

1 Bartoli, Inghil., l. i., p. 127, vol. i.

2 To prevent interruption in this narrative, a copy of the six reasons will be given in the second part. This dispute dates in September, 1580.

3 Bishops-Stortford was then an ancient half ruined castle of the Bishops of London. It was then used as a prison by them. Gorton, Topogr. Diet., title Bishops-Stortford, says it was last used as such "by the execrable Bishop Bonner." Father Tanner, Fathep More, and Father Bartoli, borrowing from each other, are mistaken in treating this conference as taking place after Thomas had been half a year at Bishops-Stortford. Father Tanner says—"After half a year's confinement in the dark cells of Storford Castle, the authorities hoping thereby to have weakened the light of faith in him, remanded him back to London, to endeavour totally to extinguish it." The letters and papers procured from the State Papers in the Public Record Office, which are copied in the second part of this notice, clearly show the disputation to have been before, and in fact the cause of his being remanded to Bishops-Stortford. Those historians had then, probably, no certain data to guide them.