These severities, being exercised on men, possessed of office and authority, seemed, in that age, a necessary policy, in order to enforce a uniformity in public worship and discipline: But there were other instances of persecution, derived from no origin but the bigotry of theologians; a malady, which seems almost incurable. Though the protestant divines had ventured to renounce opinions, deemed certain during many ages, they regarded, in their turn, the new system as so certain, that they would suffer no contradiction with regard to it; and they were ready to burn in the same flames, from which they themselves had so narrowly escaped, every one that had the assurance to differ from them. A commission by act of council was granted to the primate and some others, to examine and search after all anabaptists, heretics, or contemners of the book of common prayer. The commissioners were injoined to reclaim them, if possible; to impose penance on them; and to give them absolution: Or if these criminals were obstinate, to excommunicate and imprison them, and to deliver them over to the secular arm: And in the execution of this charge, they were not bound to observe the ordinary methods of trial; the forms of law were dispensed with; and if any statutes happened to interfere with the powers in the commission, they were over-ruled and abrogated by the council. Some tradesmen in London were brought before these commissioners, and were accused of maintaining, among other opinions, that a man regenerate could not sin, and that, though the outward man might offend, the inward |was incapable of all guilt. They were prevailed on to abjure, and were dismissed. But there was a woman accused of heretical pravity, called Joan Bocher, or Joan of Kent, who was so pertinacious, that the commissioners could make no impression upon her. Her doctrine was,
That Christ was not truly incarnate of the virgin, whose flesh, being the outward man, was sinfully begotten and born in sin; and consequently, he could take none of it. But the word, by the consent of the inward man of the virgin, was made flesh. This opinion, it would seem, is not orthodox; and there was a necessity for delivering the woman to the flames for maintaining it. But the young king, though in such tender years, had more sense than all his counsellors and preceptors; and he long refused to sign the warrant for her execution. Cranmer was employed to persuade him to compliance; and he said, that there was a great difference between errors in other points of divinity, and those which were in direct contradiction to the Apostles creed: These latter were impieties against God, which the prince, being God's deputy, ought to repress; in like manner, as inferior magistrates were bound to punish offences against the king's person. Edward, overcome by importunity, at last submitted, though with tears in his eyes; and he told Cranmer, that, if any wrong were done, the guilt should lie entirely on his head. The primate, after making a new effort to reclaim the woman from her errors, and finding her obstinate against all his arguments, at last committed her to the flames. Some time after, a Dutchman, called Van Paris, accused of the heresy, which has received the name of Arianism, was condemned to the same punishment. He suffered with so much satisfaction, that he hugged and caressed the faggots, that were consuming him; a species of frenzy, of which there is more than one instance among the martyrs of that age.