Few professors of Christ possessed more activity and zeal than this
excellent person. He not only labored to preserve his friends from the
contagion of popery, but to guard them against the terrors of
persecution. He was deacon of the little congregation over which Mr.
Rough presided as minister.
Mr. Symson has written an account of his own sufferings, which we cannot
detail better than in his own words:<
"On the 13th of December, 1557, I was committed by the council to the
tower of London. On the following Thursday, I was called into the
ware-room, before the constable of the tower, and the recorder of
London, Mr. Cholmly, who commanded me to inform them of the names of
those who came to the English service. I answered, that I would declare
nothing; in consequence of my refusal, I was set upon a rack of iron, as
I judge for the space of three hours!
"They then asked me if I would confess: I answered as before. After
being unbound, I was carried back to my lodging. The Sunday after I was
brought to the same place again, before the lieutenant and recorder of
London, and they examined me. As I had answered before, so I answered
now. Then the lieutenant swore by God I should tell; after which my two
fore-fingers were bound together, and a small arrow placed between them,
they drew it through so fast that the blood followed, and the arrow
"After enduring the rack twice again, I was retaken to my lodging, and
ten days after the lieutenant asked me if I would not now confess that
which they had before asked of me. I answered, that I had already said
as much as I would. Three weeks after I was sent to the priest, where I
was greatly assaulted, and at whose hand I received the pope's curse,
for bearing witness of the resurrection of Christ. And thus I commend
you to God, and to the word of his grace, with all those who unfeignedly
call upon the name of Jesus; desiring God of his endless mercy, through
the merits of his dear Son Jesus Christ, to bring us all to his
everlasting kingdom, Amen. I praise God for his great mercy shown upon
us. Sing Hosanna to the Highest with me, Cuthbert Symson. God forgive my
sins! I ask forgiveness of all the world, and I forgive all the world,
and thus I leave the world, in the hope of a joyful resurrection!"
If this account be duly considered, what a picture of repeated tortures
does it present! But, even the cruelty of the narration is exceeded by
the patient meekness with which it was endured. Here are no expressions
of malice, no invocations even of God's retributive justice, not a
complaint of suffering wrongfully! On the contrary, praise to God,
forgiveness of sin, and a forgiving all the world, concludes this
unaffected interesting narrative.
Bonner's admiration was excited by the steadfast coolness of this
martyr. Speaking of Mr. Symson in the consistory, he said, "You see what
a personable man he is, and then of his patience, I affirm, that, if he
were not a heretic, he is a man of the greatest patience that ever came
before me. Thrice in one day has he been racked in the tower: in my
house also he has felt sorrow, and yet never have I seen his patience
The day before this pious deacon was to be condemned, while in the
stocks in the bishop's coal-house, he had the vision of a glorified
form, which much encouraged him. This he certainly attested to his wife,
Mr. Austen, and others, before his death; but Mr. Fox, in reciting this
article, leaves it to the reader's judgment, to consider it either as a
natural or supernatural circumstance.
With this ornament of the Christian reformation were apprehended Mr.
Hugh Foxe and John Devinish; the three were brought before Bonner, March
19, 1558, and the papistical articles tendered. They rejected them, and
were all condemned. As they worshipped together in the same society, at
Islington, so they suffered together in Smithfield, March 28; in whose
death the God of Grace was glorified, and true believers confirmed!
Wm. Nichol, of Haverfordwest, Wales, was taken up for reprobating the
practice of the worshippers of antichrist, and April 9, 1558, bore
testimony to the truth at Haverfordwest, in Wales, by enduring the fire.