Mr. Benbridge was a single gentleman, in the diocese of Winchester. He
might have lived a gentleman's life, in the wealthy possessions of this
world; but he chose rather to enter through the strait gate of
persecution to the heavenly possession of life in the Lord's kingdom,
than to enjoy present pleasure with disquietude of conscience. Manfully
standing against the papists for the defence of the sincere doctrine of
Christ's gospel, he was apprehended as an adversary to the Romish
religion, and led for examination before the bishop of Winchester, where
he underwent several conflicts for the truth against the bishop and his
colleague; for which he was condemned, and some time after brought to
the place of martyrdom by Sir Richard Pecksal, sheriff.
When standing at the stake he began to untie his points, and to prepare
himself; then he gave his gown to the keeper, by way of fee. His jerkin
was trimmed with gold lace, which he gave to Sir Richard Pecksal, the
high sheriff. His cap of velvet he took from his head, and threw away.
Then, lifting his mind to the Lord, he engaged in prayer.
When fastened to the stake, Dr. Seaton begged him to recant, and he
should have his pardon; but when he saw that nothing availed, he told
the people not to pray for him unless he would recant, no more than they
would pray for a dog.
Mr. Benbridge, standing at the stake with his hands together in such a
manner as the priest holds his hands in his Memento, Dr. Seaton came to
him again, and exhorted him to recant, to whom he said, "Away, Babylon,
away!" One that stood by said, Sir, cut his tongue out; another, a
temporal man, railed at him worse than Dr. Seaton had done.
When they saw he would not yield, they bade the tormentors to light the
pile, before he was in any way covered with fagots. The fire first took
away a piece of his beard, at which he did not shrink. Then it came on
the other side and took his legs, and the nether stockings of his hose
being leather, they made the fire pierce the sharper, so that the
intolerable heat made him exclaim, "I recant!" and suddenly he thrust
the fire from him. Two or three of his friends being by, wished to save
him; they stepped to the fire to help remove it, for which kindness they
were sent to jail. The sheriff also of his own authority took him from
the stake, and remitted him to prison, for which he was sent to the
fleet, and lay there sometime. Before, however, he was taken from the
stake, Dr. Seaton wrote articles for him to subscribe to. To these Mr.
Benbridge made so many objections, that Dr. Seaton ordered them to set
fire again to the pile. Then with much pain and grief of heart he
subscribed to them upon a man's back.
This done, his gown was given him again, and he was led to prison. While
there, he wrote a letter to Dr. Seaton, recanting those words he spake
at the stake, and the articles which he had subscribed; for he was
grieved that he had ever signed them. The same day se'night he was again
brought to the stake, where the vile tormentors rather broiled than
burnt him. The Lord give his enemies repentance!
Not long before the sickness of queen Mary, in the beginning of August,
1558, four inoffensive humble martyrs were burnt at St. Edmundsbury with
very little examination. Neglect in attending the popish service at
mass, which in vain they pleaded as a matter of conscience, was the
cause of their untimely sufferings and deaths. Their heroic names were
J. Crooke, sawyer; R. Miles, alias Plummer, sheerman; A. Lane,
wheelright; and J. Ashley, a bachelor.
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