Cardiff Records: Volume 5. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1905.
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History Of Christopher Love, M.A.
By T. H. THOMAS.
CHRISTOPHER LOVE, M.A., was born at Cardiff in the year 1618. He came at an early age under the influence of Erbury, who encouraged him to study at Oxford, where he entered into Orders; but refusing to subscribe to the canons enjoined by Archbishop Laud, he was expelled the congregation of Masters, and went to London, where he eventually became one of the most eminent of Presbyterian Divines of the time. Love was one of the Commissioners for the Parliament at the Treaty at Uxbridge, one of the Assembly of Divines and chosen minister of St. Lawrence Jewry; yet he signed the declaration against the execution of King Charles. His distrust of the action of Cromwell deepened, and his house in London became the resort of many sympathisers with the Scottish Presbyterians even after the battle of Dunbar. He, with others frequenting his house, were tried for high treason before the High Court of Justice in Westminster Hall under certain Acts of Parliament bearing date 29th March, 1650, and other then recent dates. The President of the High Court was Judge Keeble, and Attorney-General Prideaux prosecuted. After a trial of six days, in which he made his own defence until the fifth day, when Mr. Hales was assigned his counsel upon points of law, Love was found guilty of treason in having been cognisant of letters passing between supporters of the Scottish Presbyterians and of Charles Stewart with the view of combining their forces, and other offences. He was sentenced to be beheaded, and the sentence was carried out on Tower Hill August 22nd, 1651.
Owing to the form of his trial, the acuteness and pertinacity of his defence, his high reputation, and the affecting events of his last days, Love was looked upon as a martyr by the whole of the Presbyterian party.
From the voluminous accounts of the trial many facts concerning the life of Love may be extracted which may form a brief autobiography. He speaks as follows in the "speech at his death":—
"Though I am a man of an obscure Family, of mean Parentage, so that my blood is not as the blood of Nobles . . . yet it is innocent blood also."
"I desire this day to magnifie God, the riches of His Glorious Grace, that such an one as I, born in an obscure Country (in Wales), of obscure Parents, that God should . . . single me out from amongst all my kindred . . . that when as the first 14 years of my Life I never heard a Sermon, yet in the 15th year of my life God (through his Grace) did convert me . . . yet it is my glory that I die a despised Minister."
A reference to Erbury occurs in Love's "Cleare and Necessary Vindication," a pamphlet of 43 pages, written 14 days before his death, to clear himself from aspersions upon his personal character.
"It is reported that I neglected Mr. Erbury, who was the means of my conversion and education, that when he was plundered in Wales and came to England in a necessitous condition that I would not relieve him."
"As for Master Erbury, though he is fallen into dangerous opinions, yet, he being my spirituall Father, I do naturally care for him, as Timothy did for Paul, my Heart "cleaves to him in Love, more than to any one man in the World; I speak to the praise of God, he was the instrument to my conversion, near twenty years agoe, and the means of my education also in the University, for which kindness, the half I have in the World, I could readily part with for his reliefe. It is true, about eight or nine years since, he was plundered in Wales and did come to see me at Windsor Castle, but a sonne could not make more of a Father than I made of him . . . when I had not Twelve pounds in all the World, I let Master Erbury have six of it, indeed he afterwards gave me a horse, for which I received not much above forty shillings; yea, I procured him a place in the Army, to be Chaplaine to Major Generall Skippon's Regiment, where he had 8 shillings a day."
As to his sympathy with the cause of the Parliament, he says:— "I was . . . more than many . . . I did not only deem it my duty to preach for the lawfulness of a Defensive War, but, unlesse my Books and wearing apparel, I contributed all that I had in the World, and that was no small sum, considering the meaneness of my condition."
"Touching my sufferings," he continues, "I may say that my whole life hath been a time of affliction, either of body or mind, God sees my Heart to be a tuffe and knotty piece, that it needs so many blows to break it,"
and he recites that he was the first Oxford Scholar to publicly refuse subscription to Archbishop Laud's "Canons." On arrival in London the bishop opposed his obtaining the lectureship to "Ann Aldersgate." Then, in 1640, he was "imprisoned in New Castle for a protest against 'the errors of the service book,' and was removed by habeas corpus to King's Bench, London, where he was acquitted." He was accused of treason for maintaining the lawfulness of a defensive war at Tenterden, but was acquitted, with costs against accuser; was accused by the King's Commissioners for a sermon at Uxbridge, but was discharged by the House of Commons. After the change of government he was cited before the "Committee of Plundered Ministers," but discharged.
"But now last of all this great and last tryal and trouble is come upon me!"
Some time elapsed between the sentence and the execution. Great efforts were made to save Love, and in the pamphlet "Love's Name Lives" petitions presented on his behalf to Parliament by his wife "Mistris Love" are given, together with "Severall letters that "interchangeably passed between them a little before his death."
These open to the reader most affecting circumstances.
"The Humble Petition of Mary, the Distressed Wife of Christopher Love," sheweth:—
"That whereas the High Court of Justice hath lately sentenced to death her dear and tender Husband . . . in the execution of which sentence your poor hand-maid should become an unhappy widow and the Miserable Mother of two young fatherlesse children; and shee being so near her appointed hour, having sorrow upon sorrow, be forced, through unexpressable grief, to bow down in travell, and give up the ghost; and so with one blow, there be destroyed both Father, and Mother, and Babe in one day,"&c., &c.
Upon this, on the 15th July, 1651, the Commons voted a respite of one month, during which Mrs. Love continued to petition, without further effect. Meanwhile a series of letters passed between husband and wife. He writes:—
"More deare to me than ever. . . . I dare not think there is such a Creature as Mary Love in the world; for Kit and Mall I can leave them without trouble, leaving them so good a God and so good a Mother."
"My Heavenly Dear, I call thee so, because God hath put heaven into theee, before he hath taken thee to Heaven.
"O lift up thy Heart with Joy, when thou layest thy dear head on the block . . . that thou art laying thy head to rest in thy Father's bosome . . . Now, My "Dear, I desire willingly and cheerfully to resign my right in thee to thy Father and my Father."
On the day of his execution Love writes:—
"My Most Gracious Beloved" "I am now going from a prison to a Palace. . . . I am going to Heaven, where are two of my Children, and leaving thee on earth where there are three of my Babes; those two above need not my care, but the three below need thine. . . . I know thou art a woman of a sorrowful spirit . . . yet be comforted, though thy sorrow be great for thy Husband's going out of the World; yet thy paines shall be the lesse in bringing thy child into the world; thou shalt be a joyful Mother though thou beest a sad widow," &c.
He closes with eight paragraphs of "practical Councels."
"Mr. Love was brought from the Tower . . . to the scaffold on Tower Hill about two o'clock in the afternoon" accompanied by the Ministers Ash, Calamy and Manton, personal friends. He asked for liberty to speak and pray, which was given. He made a long exculpatory speech which makes seven pages quarto, and prayed.
"When he was preparing to lay his head upon the block Mr. Ashe said to him:—Dear Brother, how dost thou find thy heart? Mr. Love: I bless God, Sir, I am as full of joy and comfort as ever my heart can hold. The last words he was heard to speak were these: 'Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.'
"Then he laid himself down upon the Scaffold with his head over the Block, and when he stretched out his hands, the Executioner severed his head from his body at one blow."
History of one RAWLINS WHITE.
The Historie of one RAWLINS WHITE, Burned at Cardiffe in Wales, about the moneth of March, for the testimonie of Christes Gospel, reported by John Dane being yet aliue, who was almost continually with hym during his trouble, vnto his Death.
The above is the heading of an account, under date March 1555, occupying pages 1474–6 in Foxe's "Actes and Monuments of Christes Martyrs" Editn. 1576. The following is extracted largely from that account.
"This Rawlins was by his calling a fisherman having a continuing in the said trade by the space of twenty years in the towne of Cardiffe, being one of a very good name. . . he began to be a diligent hearer and searcher out of the Truth." Being unlearned, he set his little son to school to learn to read English, and "his father every night after supper Sommer and Winter would have the boy to reade a piece of the Holy Scripture." In time he was able to instruct others, and by means of a singularly retentive memory "in so much that upon the alleging of Scripture very often would cite the booke the leafe, yea and the very sentence." Soon after the accession of Queen Mary, Rawlins White's doings attracted the attention of the Bishop of Llandaff by whom "after divers combates and conflictes with hym and his chaplaynes this good Father was committed to prison in Chepstow . . . but this hys keepyng . . . was not so severe and extreme, but that he might have escaped oftentymes." Upon the Bishop moving from Chepstow (the house at Mathern) White was transferred to Cardiff Castle for a year, when his further trial was decided upon and took place in the chapel at Mathern; it was held "not without a great number of other bydwellers that came to behold the manner of their doings." The account shews that the Bishop used every fair persuasion to induce Rawlins White to recant but without avail for "Rawlins betooke himselfe to prayer . . . . untyl suche tyme as the Priests came to the Sacring . . . when Rawlins heard the Sacring Bell ring he rose out of his place and came to the Quiere door, and there standing a whyle turned himselfe to the People speaking these words:—Good People if there be any brethren amongst you, or at the least if there be one brother amongst you, the same one bear witness at the daye of judgment that I bowe not to this Idoll."
Still the Bishop endeavoured to persuade White to recant without success so definite sentence was pronounced upon him and he was transferred to Cardiff "there to be put into the prison of the towne called Cockmarel, a very dark, lothsome and most vile prison." Here he passed the time in prayer . . . "and chiefly in singing of Psalmes which godly exercises he always used both at Cardiff Castle and at all other places."
He remained in Cockmarell about three weeks when "the Head Officers of the Town that had the charge of his Execution were determined to burne hym . . . having not indeed a writ of execution awarded, as by the law they should have. Whereupon one Henrye Lewes the Recorder of the Towne . . . came to them and told them that if they did burne hym before they had the writ de haereticis comburendis, the Wyfe of the said Rawlins would upon just cause by lawe, call their doinges into question."
A Writ was obtained and Rawlins White knowing his time was come commanded his wife that "she should make ready and send unto hym his wedding garments, meaning a shirt, which afterwards he was burned in, which request . . . his wife with great sorrow and griefe of hart dyd performe which he received most gladly and joyfully." When he suffered he had this long shirt and an old russet coat, and upon his legs an old pair of leather buskins, and he was "garded with a great Companye of Bylles and Gleaves."
"So he came to a place in his waye, whereat his poore wyfe and children stoode weepyng and makyng great lamentation; the suddene sight of whom so pierced his hart, that the very teares trickled down his face." At the place of execution the "stake was ready set up with some wood toward the making of the fire, which when he beheld he set forward himselfe very boldly, but in going toward the stake he fell downe upo his knees and kissed the ground and in rising agayne the earth a little sticking on his nose he said these words:—Earth unto Earth and dust unto dust thou art my Mother and unto thee shall I return."White then set his back to the stake, and said to John Dane "I feele a great fighting betweene the flesh and the spirite, and the flesh would very fain have his swinge, therefore I pray you when you see me anywaye tempted, holde your finger up to me, and I trust I shall remember myself."The Smith now came to chain him, to whom he said "I pray you good friend knocke the chaine fast for it may be that the flesh would strive mightily." Rawlins and the people of whom there were many "because it was market day" were then addressed by a priest with whom White disputed until some cryed out "put fire! set to fire; which being set to, the strawe and reede by and bye cast up both a great and a suddaine flame, in the which flame this good and blessed man bathed his hands so long until such time as the sinews shrouke" . . . whereas before he was wont to go stooping, having a sad countenance . . . nowe he stretched up hymself not only bolt upright, but also bare withal a most pleasant and comfortable countenance . . . that he seemed to be altogether angelical."
Further exact details are given of the torture suffered. The Narrator adds:—
"He was at the tyme of his death of the age of three score years or thereabouts."
For other references to Rawlins White reference should be made to Vol. I., pp. 213, 235, where, under date 1542–3, "half a burgage in tenure of Rawlyn ffysher" is described, showing his residence to have been about the site of the present great warehouses in Westgate Street, next to the County Offices. According to the second reference "Rawlyn White" farmed five "fishery hengis" on the Taff and sea shore.
Tradition gives two sites as the place of the burning, one in the High Street, near the opening of Church Street, the other in St. John's Square, just north of St. John's Church. T.H.T.