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My father was a yeoman, and had no lands of his
own, only he had a farm of three or four pounds by the year at the utmost, and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen
He had walk for a hundred sheep; and my mother milked thirty kine. He was able, and did find the king a harness, with himself and his horse, whilst he came to the place that he should receive the king's wages. I can remember that I buckled his harness when he went to Blackheath field. He kept me to school, or else I had not been able to have preached before the king's majesty now.
Sermon preached before the King, vol. i. 79.
Here I have occasion to tell you a story which happened at Cambridge. Master Bilney, or rather Saint Bilney, that suffered death for God's word sake, the same Bilney was the instrument whereby God called me to knowledge, for I may thank him, next to God, for that knowledge that I have in the word of God. For I was as obstinate a papist as any was in England, insomuch that when I should be made Bachelor of Divinity, my whole oration went against Philip Melancthon and against his opinions. Bilney heard me at that time and perceived that I was zealous without knowledge ; he came to me afterward in my study and desired me for God's sake to hear his confession: I did so, and, to say the very truth, by his confession I learned more than before in many years ; so from that time forward I began to smell the word of God, and forsook the school-doctors and such fooleries.
Now after I had been acquainted with him, I went with him to visit the prisoners in the tower at Cambridge, for he was ever visiting prisoners and sick folk. So we went together, and exhorted them as well as we were able to do; minding them to patience, and to acknowledge their faults. Among other prisoners, there was a woman which was accused that she had killed her child, which act she plainly and steadfastly denied, and could not be brought to confess the act ; which denying gave us occasion to search for the matter, and so we did, and at length we found that her husband loved her not, and therefore he sought means to make her out of the way. The matter was thus :
A child of hers had been sick by the space of a year, and so decayed as it were in a consumption. At length it died in harvest time; she went to her neighbours and other friends to desire their help to prepare the child for burial; but there was nobody at home, every man was in the field. The woman, in a heaviness and trouble of spirit, went, and being herself alone, prepared the child for burial. Her husband coming home, not having great love towards her, accused her of the murder, and so she was taken and brought to Cambridge. But as far forth as I could learn, through earnest inquisition, I thought in my conscience the woman was not guilty, all the circumstances well considered.
Immediately after this, I was called to preach before the king, which was my first Sermon that I made before his majesty, and it was done at Windsor; where his majesty after the sermon was done did most familiarly talk with me in a gallery. Now when I saw my time, I kneeled down before his majesty, opening the whole matter, and afterwards most humbly desired his majesty to pardon that woman. For I thought in my conscience she was not guilty, or else I would not for all the world sue for a murderer. The king most graciously heard my humble request, insomuch that I had a pardon ready for her at my returning homeward. In the mean season, that woman was delivered of a child in the tower of Cambridge, whose godfather I was, and Mistress Cheek was godmother. But all that time I hid my pardon, and told her nothing of it, only exhorting her to confess the truth. At the length the time came when she looked to suffer; I came as I was wont to do, to instruct her; she made great moan to me. So we travailed with this woman till we brought her to a good opinion; and at length shewed her the king's pardon, and let her go.
This tale I told you by this occasion, that though some women be very unnatural, and forget their children, yet when we hear any body so report, we should not be too hasty in believing the tale, but rather suspend our judgments till we know the · truth.*
CAUSE AND EFFECT.
HERE now I remember an argument of Master More's, which he bringeth in a book that he made against Bilney, and here by the way I will tell you a merry toy. Master More was once sent in commission into Kent, to help to try out, if it might be, what was the cause of Goodwin sands and the shelf that stopped up Sandwich haven. Thither cometh Master More, and calleth the country before him, such as were thought to be men of experience, and men that could of likelihood best certify him of that matter concerning the stopping of Sandwich haven. Among others came in before him an old man with a white head, and one that was thought to be little less than a hundred years old. When master More saw this aged man, he thought it expedient to hear him say his mind in this matter, for, being so old a man, it was likely that he knew most of any man in that presence and company. So Master More called this old aged man unto him, and said, father, tell me,
if ye can, what is the cause of this great rising of the sands and shelves here about this haven, the which stop it up, so that no ships can arrive here? Ye are the eldest man that I can espy in all this company, so that if any man can tell any cause of it, ye of likelihood can say most of it, or at leastwise more than any man here assembled. Yea, forsooth, good Master, quoth this old man, for I am well nigh a hundred years old, and no man here in this company any thing near unto my age. Well then, quoth Master More, how say you in this matter? What think ye to be the cause of these shelves and flats that stop up Sandwich haven? Forsooth, sir, quoth he, I am an old man; I think that Tenderden-steeple is the cause of Goodwin sands; for I am an old man, sir, quoth he, and I may remember the building of Tenderden-steeple, and I may remember when there was no steeple at all there. And before that Tenderdensteeple was in building, there was no manner of speaking of any flats or sands that stopped the haven, and therefore I think that Tenderden-steeple is the cause of the destroying and decay of Sandwich haven. And so to my purpose, preaching of God's word is the cause of rebellion, as Tenderdensteeple was the cause that Sandwich haven is decayed.*
* Serm. xvi. vol. 1, 326, ed. 1758.
* The subject of Cause and Effect, is of so much importance to the regulation of our opinions, and the subject has of late been so much investigated, particularly by Brown, in his excellent work on Cause and Effect, that I venture to subjoin six general positions upon this most interesting part of science. See note III. at the end of the volume.