64. The Wafer.


Gage is a suspicious writer, because he 114has transcribed part of his book verbatim & literatim, from an old translation of Gomara, without acknowledgement. This is vexatious: there is much in the book which is very curious, and such an act of dishonesty throws a doubt over the whole. The history of his conversion is not improbable; and even if not true, is certainly well imagined.

“Whilst this traffick was at Portobel,” he says, “it happened unto me that which I formerly testified in my Recantation Sermon at Paul’s church, which if by that means it have not come to the knowledge of many, I desire again to record it in this my history, that to all England it may be published; which was, that one day saying the mass in the chief church, after the consecration of the bread, being with my eyes shut, at that prayer which the church of Rome calleth the Memento for their Dead, there came from behind the altar a mouse, which running about, came to the very bread or 115wafer-god of the papists, and taking it in his mouth, ran away with it, not being perceived by any of the people who were at mass, for that the altar was high, by reason of the steps going up to it, and the people far beneath. But as soon as I opened my eyes to go on with my mass, and perceived my god stolen away, I looked about the altar, and saw the mouse running away with it, which on a sudden did so stupifie me that I knew not well what to do or say; and calling my wits together, I thought that if I should take no notice of the mischance, and any body else in the church should, I might justly be questioned by the Inquisition: but if I should call to the people to look for the sacrament, then I might be but chid and rebuked for my carelessness, which of the two I thought would be more easily borne than the rigor of the Inquisition. Whereupon not knowing what the people had seen, I turned myself unto them, and called them unto the altar, and 116told them plainly, that whilst I was in my memento prayers and meditations, a mouse had carried away the sacrament, and that I knew not what to do, unless they would help me to find it out again. The people called a priest who was at hand, who presently brought in more of his coat: and as if their god had by this been eaten up, they presently prepared to find out the thief, as if they would eat up the mouse that had so assaulted and abused their god. They lighted candles and torches to find out the malefactor in his secret and hidden places of the wall; and after much searching and inquiry for the sacrilegious beast, they found at last in a hole of the wall, the sacrament half eaten up, which with great joy they took out, and, as if the ark had been brought again from the Philistines to the Israelites, so they rejoiced for their new-found god, whom, with many people now resorted to the church, with many lights of candles and torches, with joyful and 117solemn musick, they carried about the church in procession. Myself was present upon my knees, shaking and quivering for what might be done unto me, and expecting my doom and judgement. As the sacrament passed me, I observed in it the marks and signs of the teeth of the mouse, as they are to be seen in a piece of cheese gnawn and eaten by it.

“This struck me with such horror that I cared not at that present whether I had been torn in a thousand pieces for denying publicly that mouse-eaten god. I called to my best memory all philosophy concerning substance and accident, and resolved within myself, that what I saw gnawn was not an accident, but some real substance eaten and devoured by that vermin, which certainly was fed and nourished by what it had eaten; and philosophy well teacheth substantia cibi (non accidens) convertitur in substantiam aliti, the substance, not the accident of the food is converted and turned into the 118substance of the thing fed by it and alimented. Now here I knew that this mouse had fed upon some substance, or else how could the marks of the teeth so plainly appear? But no papist will be willing to answer that it fed upon the substance of Christ’s body; ergo, by good consequence it follows that it fed upon the substance of bread, and so transubstantiation here in my judgement was confuted by a mouse; which mean and base creature God chose to convince me of my former errors, and made me now resolve upon what many years before I had doubted, that certainly the point of transubstantiation, taught by the church of Rome, is most damnable and erroneous.

“The event of this accident was not any trouble that fell upon me for it; for, indeed, the Spaniards, attributed it unto the carelessness of him who had care of the altars in the church, and not to any contempt in me to the sacrament. The 119part of the wafer that was left after the mouse had filled her belly, was laid up after the solemn procession about the church, in a tabernacle for that purpose; and because such a high contempt had been offered by a contemptible vermin to their bread-god, it was commanded through Portobel that day, that all the people should humble themselves and mourn, and fast with bread and water only.”

Gage’s Survey of the West Indies, 3d edit. 1677, p. 447.


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