From Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
During the Reign of Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) in England – [1553-1558]
Mrs. Prest for some time lived about Cornwall, where she had a husband and children whose bigotry compelled her to frequent the abominations of the Church of Rome. Resolving to act as her conscience dictated, she quitted them and made a living by spinning. After some time, returning home, she was accused by her neighbors and brought to Exeter to be examined before Dr. Troubleville and his chancellor Blackston. As this martyr was accounted of inferior intellect, we shall put her in competition with the bishop and let the reader judge which had the most of that knowledge conducive to everlasting life. The bishop bringing the question to issue respecting the bread and wine being flesh and blood, Mrs. Prest said, “I will demand of you whether you can deny your creed, which says that Christ does perpetually sit at the right hand of His Father, both body and soul, until He comes again; or whether He be there in heaven our Advocate and to make prayer for us unto God His Father? If He be so, He is not here on earth in a piece of bread. If He be not here, and if He do not dwell in temples made with hands but in heaven, why shall we seek Him here? If with one offering He made all perfect, why do you with a false offering make all imperfect? If He is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, why do you worship a piece of bread [the Eucharist]? Alas! I am a poor woman, but rather than to do as you do, I would live no longer. I have said, Sir.”
Some persons present convinced the bishop she was not in her right senses and she was permitted to depart. The keeper of the bishop’s prisons took her into his house where she either spun, worked as a servant, or walked about the city discoursing upon the Sacrament of the altar. Her husband was sent for to take her home, but this she refused while the cause of religion could be served. During the liberty granted her by the bishop, before-mentioned, she went into St. Peter’s Church and there found a skillful Dutchman who was affixing new noses to certain fine images which had been disfigured in King Edward’s time. To him she said, “What a mad man you are to make new noses for those who shall all lose their heads.” The Dutchman accused her and laid it hard to her charge. But she said to him, “You are accursed, and so are your images.” He called her a whore. “No,” said she, “your images are whores and you are a whore-hunter; for doesn’t God say, ‘You go a whoring after strange gods, figures of your own making’? You are one of them.” After this she was ordered to be confined and had no more liberty.
During the time of her imprisonment, many visited her, some sent by the bishop and some of their own will. Among these was one Daniel, a great preacher of the gospel in the days of King Edward, but who, through the grievous persecution he had sustained, had fallen off. Earnestly did she exhort him to repent with Peter and to be more constant in his profession.
Mrs. Walter Rauley, Mr. William, and John Kede, persons of great respectability, bore ample testimony of her godly conversation, declaring, that unless God were with her, it were impossible she could have so ably defended the cause of Christ. Indeed, to sum up the character of this poor woman, she united the serpent and the dove, abounding in the highest wisdom joined to the greatest simplicity. She endured imprisonment, threatenings, taunts, and the vilest epithets, but nothing could induce her to swerve; her heart was fixed; nor could all the wounds of persecution remove her from the rock on which her hopes of felicity were built.
Such was her memory that, without learning, she could tell in what chapter any text of Scripture was contained: on account of this singular property, one Gregory Basset, a rank papist, said she was deranged and talked as a parrot, wild without meaning. At length, having tried every manner without effect to make her nominally a Catholic, they condemned her.
When sentence was read condemning her to the flames, she lifted up her voice and praised God, adding, “This day have I found that which I have long sought.” When they tempted her to recant, she said, “That will I not. God forbid that I should lose the life eternal for this carnal and short life. I will never turn from my heavenly husband to my earthly husband; from the fellowship of angels to mortal children; and if my husband and children be faithful, then am I theirs. God is my father, God is my mother, God is my sister, my brother, my kinsman; God is my friend, most faithful.”
Being delivered to the sheriff, she was led by the officer to the place of execution without the walls of Exeter called Sothenhey, where again the superstitious priests assaulted her. While they were tying her to the stake, she continued earnestly to exclaim “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” Patiently enduring the devouring conflagration, she was consumed to ashes and thus ended a life which in unshaken fidelity to the cause of Christ was not surpassed by that of any preceding martyr. (from the special Lighthouse Trails edition of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs – see this and other books in our Persecuted Church category.)