Mrs Joyce Lewes
This lady was the wife of Mr. T. Lewes, of Manchester. She had received
the Romish religion as true, till the burning of that pious martyr, the
Rev. Mr. Saunders, at Coventry. Understanding that his death arose from
a refusal to receive the mass, she began to inquire into the ground of
his refusal, and her conscience, as it began to be enlightened, became
restless and alarmed. In this inquietude, she resorted to Mr. John
Glover, who lived near, and requested that he would unfold those rich
sources of gospel knowledge he possessed, particularly upon the subject
of transubstantiation. He easily succeeded in convincing her that the
mummery of popery and the mass were at variance with God's most holy
word, and honestly reproved her for following too much the vanities of a
wicked world. It was to her indeed a word in season, for she soon become
weary of her former sinful life, and resolved to abandon the mass and
idolatrous worship. Though compelled by her husband's violence to go to
church, her contempt of the holy water and other ceremonies were so
manifest, that she was accused before the bishop for despising the
A citation, addressed to her, immediately followed, which was given to
Mr. Lewes, who, in a fit of passion, held a dagger to the throat of the
officer, and made him eat it, after which he caused him to drink it
down, and then sent him away. But for this the bishop summoned Mr. Lewes
before him as well as his wife; the former readily submitted, but the
latter resolutely affirmed, that, in refusing holy water, she neither
offended God, nor any part of his laws. She was sent home for a month,
her husband being bound for her appearance, during which time Mr. Glover
impressed upon her the necessity of doing what she did, not from
self-vanity, but for the honour and glory of God.
Mr. Glover and others earnestly exhorted Lewes to forfeit the money he
was bound in, rather than subject his wife to certain death; but he was
deaf to the voice of humanity, and delivered her over to the bishop, who
soon found a sufficient cause to consign her to a loathsome prison,
whence she was several times brought for examination. At the last time
the bishop reasoned with her upon the fitness of her coming to mass, and
receiving as sacred the sacrament and sacramentals of the Holy Ghost.
"If these things were in the word of God," said Mrs. Lewes, "I would
with all my heart receive, believe, and esteem them." The bishop, with
the most ignorant and impious effrontery, replied, "If thou wilt believe
no more than what is warranted by scripture, thou art in a state of
damnation!" Astonished at such a declaration, this worthy sufferer ably
rejoined, "that his words were as impure, as they were profane."
After condemnation, she lay a twelvemonth in prison, the sheriff not
being willing to put her to death in his time, though he had been but
just chosen. When her death warrant came from London, she sent for some
friends, whom she consulted in what manner her death might be more
glorious to the name of God, and injurious to the cause of God's
enemies. Smilingly, she said, "As for death, I think but lightly of.
When I know that I shall behold the amiable countenance of Christ my
dear Saviour, the ugly face of death does not much trouble me." The
evening before she suffered, two priests were anxious to visit her, but
she refused both their confession and absolution, when she could hold a
better communication with the High Priest of souls. About three o'clock
in the morning, Satan began to shoot his fiery darts, by putting into
her mind to doubt whether she was chosen to eternal life, and Christ
died for her. Her friends readily pointed out to her those consolatory
passages of Scripture which comfort the fainting heart, and treat of the
Redeemer who taketh away the sins of the world.
About eight o'clock the sheriff announced to her that she had but an
hour to live; she was at first cast down, but this soon passed away, and
she thanked God that her life was about to be devoted to his service.
The sheriff granted permission for two friends to accompany her to the
stake--an indulgence for which he was afterward severely handled. Mr.
Reniger and Mr. Bernher led her to the place of execution; in going to
which, from its distance, her great weakness, and the press of the
people, she had nearly fainted. Three times she prayed fervently that
God would deliver the land from popery and the idolatrous mass; and the
people for the most part, as well as the sheriff, said Amen.
When she had prayed, she took the cup, (which had been filled with water
to refresh her,) and said, I drink to all them that unfeignedly love the
gospel of Christ, and wish for the abolition of popery. Her friends, and
a great many women of the place, drank with her, for which most of them
afterward were enjoined penance.
When chained to the stake, her countenance was cheerful, and the roses
of her cheeks were not abated. Her hands were extended towards heaven
till the fire rendered them powerless, when her soul was received into
the arms of the Creator. The duration of her agony was but short, as the
under-sheriff, at the request of her friends, had prepared such
excellent fuel that she was in a few minutes overwhelmed with smoke and
flame. The case of this lady drew a tear of pity from every one who had
a heart not callous to humanity.