Bradford, John

, one of the most eminent of the protestant divines who suffered martyrdom in the reign of queen Mary, was born in the former part of Henry Vjii.'s reign in Manchester, where he was educated in grammar, Latin, and accounts, in which last he was reckoned so expert that he was employed as clerk or secretary to sir John Harrington, treasurer and paymaster of the English forces in France; and in this employment he lived many years in great credit. His exchanging so profitable a situation for the clerical profession is rather obscurely accounted for by his biographers, some attributing it to his having imbibed the principles of the reformers, and being encouraged to join their number; others to certain abuses in sir John Harrington’s office, in which he either participated, or at which he connived, and the iniquity of which first struck him on hearing a sermon of bishop Latimer upon the subject of restitution as constituting the only basis of repentance. There is much reason, however, to doubt whether this sermon was not subsequent to the restitution he made of about 500l. which he apprehended the king had lost by some error in his and sir John Harrington’s accounts. The author of his life in the Biog. Brit, dwells with tiresome prolixity on this affair, as a new discorery of greater importance than, upon a perusal of the whole, we have beeri able to attach to it. The fact seems to have been, that Bradford was a man of great tenderness of conscience, and where he imagined he had done an injury, was restless until he had made restitution; and lamented his crime on this occasion with more bitterness than will be thought necessary by many persons who have been, intrusted with, much larger public accounts.

It appears that after he left the army, he studied for some time in the Inner Temple, but is said to have heard more sermons than law-lectures, and at length determined to study divinity. With this view he went to Cambridge about the month of August 1548, and took his degree of master of arts at Katherine-hall, and not Queen’s college, as some authors have reported. Dr. Ridley, bishop of Rochester, and afterwards of London, being then master of Pembroke-hall, invited him and his pious companion | Thomas Horton, to become fellows of that hall, to which he was chosen. When urged by Bucer to take orders, he pleaded his inability, notwithstanding the high reputation for learning which he had established in college; but Bucer reconciled him by saying, “Though thou couldst not feed the flock with fine cakes and white bread, yet should thou satisfy them with barley-bread.” In 1550, when Ridley was translated to the see of London, he sent for him to take upon him deacon’s orders, after which he became one of the most celebrated and popular preachers of his time, and was made one of the king’s chaplains. The bishop afterwards gave him a prebend in St. Paul’s, and lodged him in his house.

For some time after the death of Edward VI. Bradford continued his public services; but a man of such zeal against popery could not be long safe, and the method that was taken to bring him to the stake is one of the most tyrannical measures of Mary’s reign. It is thus related by his biographers: On the 13th of August, in the first year of queen’s Mary’s reign, Gilbert Bourne, then preacher at Paul’s Cross, but not then bishop of Bath as Fox mistakes, he not being elected to that see before the beginning of the next year, made a seditious sermon at the said cross; wherein he so much traduced the late king, and harangued so intolerably in favour of popery, that the auditory were ready to pull him out of the pulpit. Neither could the reverence of the place, nor the presence of the bishop of London, nor the authority of the lord mayor, restrain their rage. Bourne, seeing himself in this peril, and his life particularly aimed at by a drawn dagger that was hurled at him in the pulpit, which narrowly missed him, turned about, and perceiving Bradford behind him, he earnestly begged him to come forwards and pacify the people. Bradford was no sooner in his room, and recommended peace and concord to them, than with a joyful shout at the sight of him, they cried out, ‘ Bradford, Bradford, God save thy life, Bradford!’ and then, with profound attention to his discourse, heard him enlarge upon peaceful and Christian obedience; which when he had finished, the tumultuous people, for the most part, dispersed; but, among the rest who persisted, there was a certain gentleman, with his two servants, who, coming up the pulpitstairs, rushed against the door, demanding entrance upon Bourne; Bradford resisted him, till he had secretly given | Bourne warning, by his servant, to escape; who, flying to the mayor, once again escaped death. Yet conceiving the danger not fully over, Bourne beseeched Bradford not to leave him till he was got to some place of security; in which Bradford again obliged him, and went at his back, shadowing him from the people with his gown, while the mayor and sheriffs, on each side, led him into the nearest house, which was Paul’s school; and so was he a third time delivered from the fury of the populace. It is added that one of the mob, most inveterate against Bourne, exclaimed, ‘ Ah! Bradford, Bradford, dost thou save his life who will not spare thine? Go, I give thee his life; but were it not for thy sake, I would thrust him through with my sword.’ The same Sunday, in the afternoon, Bradford preached at Bow church in Cheapside, and sharply rebuked the people for their outrageous behaviour. Three days after this humane interposition, Aug. 16, he was summoned by the council and bishops to the Tower of London, where the queen then was, and charged with sedition, and preaching heresy; and notwithstanding the defence he made, was committed to prison in the Tower, where he lay for a year and a half. This forbearance is the more remarkable, because, when in the Tower, or other prisons, by his discourses, exhortations, and especially by his letters, he did nearly, if not quite as much service to the protestant cause, as when he was at large. In his letters, he evinced a spirit of inflexible constancy in his principles, a primitive and apostolic zeal for the propagation of truth, and a sincere abhorrence of the delusions of the church of Rome; and strengthened the minds of the adherents of the reformation to such a degree that his enemies at last determined to cut him off. In 1554, he was removed to the court of king’s bench, Southvvark, and on Jan. 22, examined before Gardiner, bishop of Winchester and chancellor, Bonner bishop of London, and others. For this and his other examinations we refer to Fox. After it was over, he was sent back to the same prison under stricter restraint than before, especially as to the exercise of his pen: but the sweetness of his comportment towards his keepers so won upon them, that it defeated the severity of his enemies’ commands in that particular; and his arguments, thus discharged out of prison, did their cause more hurt, than all the terror of their tyrannical treatment did it good. A week after, on the 29th, he was brought before | them in the church of St. Mary Overies to his second examination, and next day to a third, in all which he acknowledged and adhered to his principles with undaunted constancy, and answered every thing offered in the shape of argument with authority from the scriptures, and every reproach with meekness. He was now condemned to die, but he lay after this in the Poultry counter for five months, visited constantly by some of the popish bishops, their chaplains or priests, so desirous were they to gain over a champion of his consequence. We are told that both while he lay in the king’s bench, and in the counter, he preached twice a-day, unless sickness hindered him. The Sacrament was often‘ ministered; and, through his keeper’s indulgence, there was such a resort of pious people to him, that his chamber was usually almost filled with them. He made but one short meal a-day, and allowed himself but four hours rest at night. His gentle nature was ever relenting at the thoughts of his infirmities, and fears of being betrayed into inconstancy; and his behaviour was so affecting to all about him, that it won even many papists to wish for the preservation of his life. His very mien and aspect begat veneration; being tall and spare, or somewhat macerated in his body; of a faint sanguine complexion, with an auburn beard; and his eyes, through the intenseness of his pious contemplations, were often so solemnly settled, that the tears would silently gather in them, till he could not restrain them from overflowing their banks, and creating a sympathy in the eyes of his beholders. The portions of his time he did not spend in prayer or preaching, he allotted to the visitation of his fellow-prisoners; exhorting the sick to patience, and distributing his money to the poor, and to some who had been the most violent opposers of his doctrines; nor did he leave the felons themselves without the best relief they were capable of receiving, under the distresses they had brought upon themselves, which excited them to the most hearty and sincere repentance. On the last day of June 1555, he was carried to Newgate, attended by a vast multitude of people, who, because they had heard he was to suffer by break of day, that the fewer spectators might be witnesses of his death, either stayed in Smithfield all night, or returned in greater numbers thither by four o’clock the next morning, the 1st of July; but Bradford was not brought thither till nine o’clock, and then came under a | stronger guard of halberdeers than was ever known on the like occasion. As he came out of Newgate, he gave his velvet cap and his handkerchief to an old friend, with whom he had a little private talk. Such was the inveteracy of his enemies, that his brother-in-law, Roger Beswick, for only taking leave of him, had his head broke, till the blood ran down his shoulders, by the sheriff Woodrofe. When he came to Smithfield, and in his company a Yorkshire youth, who was an apprentice in London, named John Lyefe, and to be burnt at the same stake with him, for maintaining the like faith in the sacrament, and denying that priests had any authority to exact auricular confession, Bradford went boldly up to the stake, laid him down flat on his face on one side of it, and the said young man, John Lyefe, went and laid himself on the other; where they had not prayed-to themselves above the space of a minute, before the sheriff bid Bradford arise, and make an end; for the press of the people was very great. When they were on their feet, Bradford took up a faggot and kissed it, and did the like to the stake. When he pulled off his clothes, he desired they might be given to his servant; which was granted. Then, at the stake, holding up his hands and his face to Heaven, he said aloud, “O England, England, repent thee of thy sins! Beware of idolatry, beware of antichrists, lest they deceive you.” Here the sheriff ordered his hands to be tied; and one of the fire-rakers told him, if he had no better learning than that, he had best hold his peace. Then Bradford forgiving, and asking forgiveness of, all the world, turned his head about, comforted the stripling at the same stake behind him, and embracing the flaming reeds that were near him, was heard among his last words to say, “Strait is the way, and narrow is the gate,” &c.

Bradford’s writings were very numerous: besides his letters, &c. which are in Fox and other Martyrologies, particularly seventy-two letters in Coverdale’s collection. 1. “Primitiae,” translations, 1548. 2. “A godly treatise of Prayer,” translated from Melancthon, printed by Wight, no date. 3. “Sermon of Repentance,1553,1558, 16ma. 4. “Meditations,1553, 1558, and 1561. 5. Complaint of Verity,“1559, 8vo. 6.” Three examinations before the commissioners, and his private talk with the priests, with the original of his life,“1561, 8vo. 7. The hurt of bearing masse,” written in the Tower, no date, reprinted | 1580 and 15S8. 8. “Two notable sermons,1574, 1581, and 1631, 8vo. 9. “A short and pithie defence of the doctrine of the holy Election and Predestination of God,1562. 10. “Fruitful treatise against the Feare of Death,” no date, printed by Singleton, and by Wolf in 1583. 11. "Godly Meditations upon the Ten Commandments, 1562, and 1567, 8vo. There are some other works ascribed to him on doubtful authority. 1

1 Biog. Brit. Fox’s Acts and Monuments. Fuller’s Abel Rediviyus and Worthies —Strype’s Cranmer, p. 301, 323, 341, 345, 350, 363. —Strype’s Memorials, &c.