Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Historical Account of the Progress of the Reformation in the Reign of King Henry VII.
The reader will, doubtless, attend to the transactions recorded in this reign with peculiar interest. It was at this period that God, through the instrumentality of the king, liberated our happy country from the papal yoke, when England became an independent as well as protestant kingdom, and the ascendance of the papal power over this island was preparing to be scattered to the four winds, never more to be able to recover its settlement in a region so adverse to its character and claims.
The wars between the houses of York and Lancaster had produced such fatal revolutions, and cast England into such frequent convulsions, that the nation with great joy hailed the accession of Henry VII. to the throne, who being himself descended from the house of Lancaster, by his marriage with the heiress of the house of York, freed them from the fear of any more wars by new pretenders. But the covetousness of his temper, the severity of his ministers, his ill conduct in the matter of Britagne, and his jealousy of the house York, made him so generally odious to his people, that his life was little respected, and his death as little lamented. Henry VIII. succeeded, with all the advantages he could have desired. His disgracing Empson and Dudley, the cruel ministers of his father's designs for filling his coffers, his appointing restitution to be made of the sums that had been unjustly exacted of the people under covert of the king's prerogative, made the nation conclude they should hereafter live secure, under the protection of such a prince, and that the violent remedies of parliamentary judgments should be no more necessary, except as in this case, to confirm what had been done before in the ordinary courts of justice.
Either from the magnificence of his own temper, or the observation he had made of the ill effects of his father's parsimony, the new king distributed his rewards and largesses with an unmeasured bounty; so that he quickly exhausted the two millions which his father had treasured up, and emptied a coffer which he had left the fullest in christendom: but till the ill effects of this appeared, it raised in his court and subjects the greatest hopes possible of a prince, whose first actions shewed an equal mixture of justice and generosity.
The king had been educated with more than ordinary care: learning being then in its dawning, after a night of long and gross ignorance, his father had given orders that both his elder brother and he should be well instructed; not with any design to make him archbishop of Canterbury, for he had made small progress in theological and ecclesiastical lore, when his brother prince Arthur died, being then but eleven years old. The learning then most in credit among clergy was the scholastic divinity, which, by a shew of subtlety, recommended itself to curious persons; and being very suitable to a vain and contentious temper, agreed best with Henry's disposition. Further, being likely to draw the most flattery, it became the chief subject of his studies, in which he grew not only to be eminent for a prince, but he might really have passed for a learned man had his quality been never so mean. He delighted in the purity of the Latin tongue, understood philosophy, and was so great a master in music that he composed better than many professors of the art. He was a bountiful patron to all learned men, more particularly to Erasmus and Polydore Virgil, and delighted much in those returns which hungry scholars make to liberal princes; for he loved flattery our of measure, and he had enough of it to have surfeited a man of any modesty; for all the world, both at home and abroad, contended who should exceed most indecently in setting out his praises. The clergy carried it; for as he had merited most at their hands, both by espousing the interests of the papacy, and by his entering the lists with Luther, so those that hoped to be advanced by these arts, were as little ashamed in magnifying him out of measure, as he was in receiving their gross commendations.
One of the most conspicuous men of this, or perhaps of any other age, was Cardinal Wolsey. He was of mean extraction, but possessed great parts, and had a wonderful dexterity in insinuating himself into men's favours. He had but a little time been introduced to the king before he obtained an entire ascendancy over him, and the direction of all his affairs, and for fifteen years continued to be the most absolute favourite ever known in England. He saw the king was much set on his pleasures, and had a great aversion to business, and the other counsellors being unwilling to bear the load of affairs, were unwelcome to him, by pressing the king to govern by his own counsels; but he knew the methods of favourites better, and so was not only easy, but assistant to the king in his pleasures, and undertook to free him from the trouble of government, and to give him leisure to follow his appetites. This was the chief cause of that unbounded influence which Wolsey so soon acquired over a sovereign quite as ambitious as himself. The accidental circumstance of another and baser passion predominating in the king's heart over pure ambition, gave the crafty Wolsey an opening, which he did not for a moment neglect, of entering on a career which in different directions gratified equally both minister and monarch.
Wolsey soon became master of all the offices at home and treaties abroad, so that all affairs went as he directed them. He it seems became soon obnoxious to parliaments, and therefore tried but one during his ministry, where the supply was granted so scantily, that afterwards he chose rather to raise money by loans and benevolences, than by the free gift of the people in parliament. He in time became so scandalous for his ill life, that he grew to be a disgrace to his profession; for he not only served the king, but also shared with him in his pleasures, and became a prey to distempers of a sensual life. He was first made bishop of Tournay in Flanders, then of Lincoln, after that he was promoted to the see of York, and had both the abbey of St. Albans and the bishopric of Bath and Wells in commendam; the last he afterwards exchanged for Durham, and upon Fox's death, he quitted Durham that he might take Winchester; and besides all this, the king by a special grant, gave him power to dispose of all the ecclesiastical preferments in England; so that in effect he was the pope of this reforming country, as was said anciently of an archbishop of Canterbury, and no doubt but he copied skillfully enough those patterns that were set him at Rome. Being made a cardinal, and setting up a legatine court, he found it fit for his ambition to have the great seal likewise, that there might be no clashing between those two jurisdictions. He had, in one word, all the qualities necessary for a great minister, and all the vices common to a great favourite.
The manner of promotion to bishoprics and abbeys was then the same that had taken place ever since the investitures by the ring and staff were taken out of the hands of princes. Upon a vacancy the king seized on all the temporalities, and granted a licence for an election, with a special recommendation of the person; which being returned, the royal assent was given, and it was sent to Rome, that bulls might be issued, and then the bishop elect was consecrated: after that he came to the king and renounced every clause in the bulls that was contrary to the king's prerogative, or to the law, and swore fealty; and then were the temporalities restored. Nor could bulls be sued out at Rome without a licence under the great seal; so that the kings of England had reserved the power to themselves of promoting to ecclesiastical benefices, notwithstanding all the invasions the popes had made on their temporal authority.
The immunity of churchmen for crimes committed by them, till they were first degraded by the spirituality, occasioned the only contest that occurred in the beginning of this reign between the secular and ecclesiastical courts. Henry VII. had passed a law, that convicted clerks should be burnt in the hand. A temporary law was also made in the beginning of his reign, that murderers and robbers, not being bishops, priests, nor deacons, should be denied the benefit of the clergy: but this was to last only to the next parliament, and so being not continued by it, the act determined. The abbot of Winchelsea preached severely against it, as being contrary to the laws of God, and the liberties of the holy church, and said that all who assented to it had fallen under ecclesiastical censure. Afterwards he published a book to prove that all clerks, even of the lower orders, were sacred, and could not be judged by the temporal courts. This being done in parliament, the temporal lords and the commons addressed the king, desiring him to repress the insolence of the clergy. Accordingly a public hearing was appointed before his majesty and all the judges. Dr. Standish, a Franciscan, argued against the immunity, and proved that the judging clerks had in all times been practised in England; and that it was necessary for the peace and safety of mankind that all criminals should be punished. The abbot argued on the other side and said, it was contrary to a decree of the church, and was a sin in itself. Standish answered, that all decrees were not observed: for notwithstanding the decree for residence, bishops did not reside at their cathedrals. And since no decree was binding till it was received, this concerning immunity, which was never received in England, did not bind. After they had fully argued the matter, the laity were of opinion that the friar had the best of the argument; and therefore moved the king that the bishops might be ordered to make him preach a recantation sermon. But they refused to do it, and said they were bound by their oaths to maintain his opinion. Standish was upon this much hated by the clergy, but the matter was allowed to fall; yet the clergy carried the point, for the law was not continued.
Not long after this, an accident occurred that drew great consequences after it. Richard Hunne, a merchant in London, was sued by his parish priest for a mortuary in the legate's court; on this, his friends advised him to sue the priest in the temporal court for a premunire for bringing the king's subjects before a foreign and illegal bar. This incensed the clergy so much that they contrived his destruction. Accordingly, hearing that he had Wickliffe's Bible in his house, he was upon that put into the bishop's prison for heresy; but being examined upon sundry articles, he confessed some things, and submitted himself to mercy. On this they ought, according to the law, to have enjoined him penance and discharged him, it being his first crime: but he could not be prevailed on to let his suit fall in the temporal court; so one night his neck was broken with an iron chain, and he was wounded in other parts of his body, and then knit up in his own girdle, and it was given out that he had hanged himself; but the coroner's inquest by examining the body, and by several other evidences, particularly by the confession of the sumner, gave their verdict, that he was murdered by the bishop's chancellor, Dr. Horsey, the sumner, and the bell-ringer. The spiritual court proceeded against the dead body, and charged Hunne with all the heresy in Wickliffe's preface to the Bible, because that was found in his possession: thus he was condemned as a heretic, and his body was burnt.
The indignation of the people was raised to the highest pitch against this action, in which they implicated the whole body of the clergy, whom they esteemed no longer their pastors, but barbarous murderers. The rage went so high that the bishop of London complained he was not safe in his own house. The bishops, the chancellor, and the sumner were indicted as principals in the murder. In parliament an act passed restoring Hunne's children; but the commons sent up a bill concerning his murder, which, however, was laid aside by the lords, where the clergy were the majority. The clergy looked on the opposition that Standish had made in the point of their immunities, as that which gave the rise to Hunne's first suit; and the convocation cited him to answer for his conduct; but he claimed the king's protection, since he had done nothing, but only pleaded in the king's name. The clergy pretended they did not prosecute him for his pleading, but for some of his divinity lectures, contrary to the liberty of the church, which the king was bound to maintain by his coronation oath: but the temporal lords, the judges, and commons, prayed the king also to maintain the laws according to his coronation oath, and to give Standish his protection. The king upon this being in great perplexity, required Veysy, afterwards of bishop of Exeter, to declare upon his conscience and allegiance the truth in that matter. His opinion was against the immunity; so another public hearing being appointed, Standish was accused for teaching--that the inferior orders were not sacred; that their exemption was not founded on a divine right, but that the laity might punish them; that the canons of the church did not bind till they were received; and that the study of the canon law was useless. Of these opinions he denied some, and justified others. Veysy being required to give his opinion, alleged--that the laws of the church did only oblige where they were received; as the law of the celibate of the clergy, received in the West, did not bind the Greek churches that never received it, so the exemption of the clerks not being received did not bind in England. The judges gave their opinion next, which was--that those who prosecuted Standish were all in a praemunire. So the court broke up. But in another hearing, in the presence of the greatest part of both houses of parliament, the cardinal said in the name of the clergy--that though they intended to do nothing against the king's prerogative, yet the trying of clerks seemed to be contrary to the liberty of the church, which they were bound by their oaths to maintain. So they prayed that the matter might be referred to the pope.
The king said, that he thought Standish had answered them fully: the bishop of Winchester replied he would not stand to his opinion at his peril. Standish upon that asked, "What can one poor friar do against all the clergy of England?" The archbishop of Canterbury answered, "Some of the fathers of the church have suffered martyrdom upon that account;" but the chief-justice replied, "Many holy kings have maintained that law, and many holy bishops have obeyed it." In conclusion, the king declared, that he would maintain his rights, and would not submit them to the decrees of the church, otherwise than as his ancestors had done. Horsey was appointed to be brought to his trial for Hunne's murder, and upon his pleading not guilty, no evidence was to be brought, and so he was to be discharged. The discontent of the people greatly increased at this, and very much disposed them to all that was done afterwards, for pulling down the ecclesiastical tyranny in this country, and dissolving the establishment by which it was chiefly sustained.
This was the first disturbance in this king's reign, till the suit for his divorce commenced. In all other points he was constantly in the pope's interests, who sent him the common compliments of roses, and such other trifles, by which that see had treated princes so long as children. But no compliment wrought so much on the king's vanity, as the title of "Defender of the Faith," sent him by pope Leo upon the book which he wrote against Luther concerning the sacraments.
It will now be proper to consider the rapid progress of the doctrines of the reformation among the people. From the days of Wickliffe there were many that differed from the national faith. He wrote many books that gave great offence to the clergy, yet being powerfully supported by the duke of Lancaster, they could not have their revenge during his life; but as we have seen, he was after his death condemned, and his body was raised and burnt. The Bible which he translated into English, with the preface which he set before it, produced the greatest effects. In these he reflected on the ill lives of the clergy, and condemned the worship of saints and images, and the corporeal presence of Christ in the sacrament; but the most criminal part in the eyes of the papists was, exhorting all people to read the Scriptures.
Perhaps there cannot be a stronger proof of the depravity of the Roman catholic religion, or its perversion of truth, than denying to the laity the use of the sacred volume.--"To the law and to the testimony," saith the prophet; "if they speak not according to this, it is because there is no light in them." "Search the Scriptures," saith the Lord. "These were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so," remarks the writer of the Acts of the Apostles.
The following article respecting Wickliffe and his followers, appeared in the 16th volume of the Monthly Magazine, and may be appropriately introduced in this place.
Wickliffe, the celebrated priest and reformer in the end of Edward III.'s reign, was not educated at Cambridge, but at Oxford; in which university, being a man of distinguished learning, he possessed considerable authority and influence: but his doctrines soon made their way among all ranks of people; and Cambridge, as may be supposed, was not behindhand in giving them a hearing; many of its members were foremost among Wickliffe's advocates, but as the Lollards, his followers, did not form themselves into societies or churches, they were obliged to maintain their opinions privately, and in the hearing only of their particular confidants; for besides the decree passed in the fourth council of Lateran, that all heretics should be delivered over to the civil magistrate to be burned, there were particular laws made in Richard II. and Henry IV.'s reign, which put them from under the king's protection, and left them at the mercy of the spiritual courts. We are not therefore to expect, under these circumstances, that Wickliffe's doctrines should be much agitated publicly at Cambridge. This, however, we collect, that about the year 1401, archbishop Arundel, with his commissioners, visited Cambridge; the archbishop personally, the collective body of the university in congregation, his commissioners every private college. One article of their inquiries was, whether there were any members suspected of Lollardism, or any other heretical pravity? and ten years after, Peter Hartford was, according to Dr. Fuller in his history of Cambridge, ordered to abjure Wickliffe's opinions in full congregation; and about twenty years after this, several Lollards of Chesterton were obliged to abjure. One of the opinions of the latter heretics will appear very singular, which was that priests were incarnate devils. They had, no doubt, poor creatures, been too painfully scorched with church discipline, and were too likely to become fuel for some future flame of their kindling.
The testimonies of this great man against those corruptions were such, that there was no way to deal with them but if possible to silence him. His followers were not men of letters, but being wrought on by the easy conviction of plain common sense, were quite determined in their persuasions. They did not form themselves into a body, but were contented to hold their opinions secretly, and did not spread them, but to their particular confidants. The clergy sought them out every where, and delivered them after conviction to the secular arm, that is, to the flames of martyrdom, the odium of which, by this fiction, they sought to avoid.
The canons of the council of the Lateran being received in England, the proceedings against heretics grew to be a part of the common law, and a writ for burning them was issued upon their conviction without reserve.
In the beginning of this reign, there were several persons brought into the bishop's courts for heresy, before Warham. Forty-eight were accused: but of these, forty-three abjured, twenty-seven men, and sixteen women, most of them inhabitants of Tenterden. Five of them, four men and one woman, were condemned; some as obstinate heretics, and others as relapses: and against the common ties of nature, the woman's husband, and her two sons, were suborned witnesses against her. Upon their conviction, a certificate was made by the archbishop to the chancery: upon which, since there is no pardon upon record, the writs for burning them must have gone out in course, and the execution of them is little to be doubted. The articles objected to them were, that they believed that in the eucharist there was nothing but material bread; that the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, confession, matrimony, and extreme unction, were neither necessary nor profitable; that priests had no more power than laymen; that pilgrimages were not meritorious; that the money and labour they required were spent in vain; that images ought not to be worshipped; that they were only stocks and stones; that prayers ought not to be made to saints, but only to God; that there was no virtue in holy water or holy bread. By this it will appear, that many in this nation were prepared to receive those doctrines, which were afterwards preached by the reformers, even before Luther commenced his more determined and successful career.
The rise and progress of the reformation under him are well known: the scandalous extolling of indulgences gave the first occasion to all that followed between him and the church of Rome; in which, had not the corruptions and cruelties of the clergy been so visible and scandalous, so small a matter could never have produced such a revolution. Even he himself did not expect so great a matter to be immediately kindled by this little fire.
The bishops were grossly ignorant; they seldom resided in their dioceses, except it was to riot at high festivals; and all the effect their residence could have was to corrupt others by their ill example. They followed the courts of princes, and aspired to the greatest offices. The abbots and monks were almost wholly given up to luxury and idleness; and their unmarried state gave infinite scandal to the world; for it appeared that restraining them from having wives of their own, made them conclude that they had a right to all other men's. The inferior clergy were no better; and not having places of retreat to conceal their vices, as the monks had, they became more public and shameless. In short, all ranks of churchmen were so generally despised and hated, that the world was very apt to be possessed with prejudice against their doctrines, for the sake of the men; and the worship of God was so defiled with gross superstition, that the people were easily convinced the church stood in great need of reformation. This was much increased when the books of the fathers began to be read, in which the difference between the former and latter ages of the church very evidently appeared. They found that a blind superstition came first in the room of true piety; and when by its means the wealth and interest of the clergy were highly advanced, the popes had upon that established their tyranny; under which, not only meaner people, but even crowned heads had long groaned. All these things concurred to make way for the advancement of the reformation: while the books of the Germans being brought into England and translated, many were prevailed on by them. Upon this, a hot persecution was vigorously set on foot, to such a degree that six men and women were burnt at Coventry in passion-week, only for teaching their children the creed, the Lord's prayer, and the ten commandments in English. Great numbers were every where brought into the bishops' courts; of whom some were burnt, while the greater part fearfully abjured.
The king laid hold of this occasion to become the champion of the church, and wrote against Luther in the manner already described. His book, besides the title of "Defender of the Faith," drew upon him all that flattery could invent to extol it; whilst Luther, not daunted with such an antagonist, answered it, and treated Henry as much below the respect due to a king, as his flatterers had raised him above it. Tindal's translation of the New Testament, with some notes added to it, drew a severe condemnation from the clergy; there being nothing in which they were more concerned than to keep the people unacquainted with that book. Thus much may serve to shew the condition of affairs in England both in church and state, when the process of the king's divorce was first set on foot. This incident, so replete with consequences the most important to the reformation, shall now be laid before the reader with somewhat of particular detail.
Henry VII. had entered into a firm alliance with Ferdinand of Spain, and agreed to a match between his eldest son prince Arthur, and Katharine the Infanta of Spain. She came into England and was married in November; but on the second of the following April the prince died, leaving the throne as well as the lady open to his brother. Arthur and Katharine had lodged and even slept together, to carry on the farce of marriage; but such was their youth, and the feebleness of the young prince, that beyond this farce no effect detrimental to Henry's hopes, or of service to the nation, could be expected. The king, being unwilling to restore so great a portion as two hundred thousand ducats, which the princess brought as her dowery, proposed a second match for her with his younger son Henry. Warham objected to it as unlawful; but Fox, bishop of Winchester, was for it, and the opinion of the pope's authority was then so well established, that it was thought a dispensation from Rome was sufficient to remove all objections. Accordingly one was obtained, grounded upon a desire of the two young persons to marry together for preserving peace between the crowns of England and Spain.
The pope was then at war with Lewis XII. of France, and would refuse nothing to the king of England, being perhaps not unwilling that princes should contract such marriages, since the lawfulness of their issue depending on the pope's dispensation, they would be thereby obliged in interest to support that authority. Upon this a marriage followed, the prince being yet under age; but the same day in which he came to be of age, he did, by his father's orders, make a protestation that he retracted and annulled the contract. His father, at his death, charged his son to break it off entirely, being perhaps apprehensive of such a return of confusion upon a controverted succession to the crown, as had occurred during the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster; but the son being then eighteen years of age, married her and she bore him two children who died soon after they were born; and another, Mary, afterwards queen of England. After this Katharine contracted some diseases that made her unacceptable to the king; who, at the same time beginning or pretending to have some scruples of conscience with regard to the lawfulness of his marriage, determined to have the affair investigated.
He seemed to lay the greatest weight on the prohibition in the Levitical law of marrying the brother's wife, and being conversant in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, he found that he and the other schoolmen looked on those laws as moral, and for ever binding; and consequently the pope's dispensation was of no force, since his authority went not so far as to dispense with the laws of God. All the bishops of England, Fisher of Rochester only excepted, declared under their hands and seals that they judged the marriage unlawful. The ill consequences of wars that might follow upon a doubtful title to the crown, were also much considered. It is not certain that the king's affections for any other gave rise to all this. It is possible that, conceiving himself on the point of being freed of his former marriage, he gave a free scope to his affections, which settled on Anne Boleyn.
This lady was born in the year 1507, and at seven years of age was sent to France, where she remained twelve years, and then returned to England. She was much admired in both courts, was more beautiful than graceful, and more cheerful than discreet. She wanted none of the charms of wit or person, and must have had extraordinary attractions, since she could so long manage such a king's affection; for it is evident that in the long course of seven years' courtship she kept him at a due distance.
Knight, then secretary of state, was sent to Rome to prepare the pope to grant a dispensation from the former marriage. He made application to the pope in the most secret manner he could, and had a very favourable answer: for the pope promised frankly to dissolve the marriage; but another promise being exacted of him in the emperor's name, not to proceed in that affair, he was reduced to great straits, being then at the emperor's mercy, while he had no mind to lose the king of England; he therefore studied to gain time, and promised that if the latter would have a little patience, he should not only have that which he asked, but every thing that was in his power to grant. The chief cardinal, indeed, made some scruples concerning the bull that was demanded, till he had raised his price, and got a great present; then the pope signed both a commission for Wolsey to try the cause, and judge in it, and also a dispensation, and put them into Knight's hands; but with tears prayed him that there might be no proceedings upon them, till the emperor was incapable of executing his revenge upon him; and whenever that was done he would own this act of justice which he did in the king's favour.
The pope was at this time displeased with Cardinal Wolsey; for he understood that during his captivity, he had been in an intrigue to get himself chosen vicar of the papacy, and was to have sat at Avignon, which might have produced a new schism. Staphileus, dean of the Rota, being then in England, was wrought on by the promise of a bishopric, and a recommendation to a cardinal's hat, to promote the king's affair. By him the cardinal wrote to the pope, in a most earnest strain, for a dispatch of this business; and he desired, that an indifferent and tractable cardinal might be sent over, with a full commission to join with him, and to judge the matter; proposing to the king's ambassadors Campegio as the fittest man. Wolsey, in several letters to Cassali, who was in great favour with the pontiff, offered to take the blame on his own soul, if the pope would grant this bull; and with an earnestness, as hearty and warm and can be expressed in words, he pressed the thing, and added, that if the pope continued inexorable, he perceived the king would proceed another way.
These entreaties had such effect that Campegio was declared legate, and ordered to go to England, and join in commission with Wolsey for judging this matter. He accordingly set out from Rome, and carried with him a decretal bull for annulling the marriage, which he was authorized to shew to the king and Wolsey; but was required not to give it out of his hands to either of them. In fact the divorce was trusted to his authority. In October he arrived in England, and after the usual compliments were over, he first advised the king to give up the prosecution of his suit; and then counselled the queen, in the pope's name to enter into a religious life, and make vows: but both were in vain; and he, by affecting an impartiality, almost lost his ground on either side. But he in great measure pacified the king when he shewed him the bull he had brought over for annulling the marriage; yet he would not part with it either to the king or the cardinal; upon which, great instances were made at Rome, that Campegio might be ordered to shew it to some of the king's counsellors, and to go on and end the business, otherwise Wolsey would be ruined, and England lost. All this however did not prevail on the pope, who knew it was intended to get the bull out of the Campegio's hands, and then the king would leave him to the emperor's indignation: but though he positively refused to grant that, yet he said he left the legates in England free to judge as they saw cause, and promised that he would confirm their sentence.
The affair proceeding very slowly, ambassadors were dispatched to Rome with new propositions for a speedy termination. On this, the pope gave new assurances, that though he would not grant a bull, by which the divorce should be immediately his own act, yet he would confirm the legate's sentence. Just after he granted this boon, the pope was taken suddenly ill, upon which the Imperialists began to prepare for a conclave; but Farnese, and the cardinal of Mantua, opposed them, and seemed to favour Wolsey; whom, as his correspondents wrote to him, they reverenced as a Deity. Upon this he dispatched a courier to Gardener, then on his way to Rome, with large directions how to manage the election. It was reckoned, that the king of France, joining heartily with the king of England, the matter might be set at rest. There were only six cardinals wanting to make the election sure; and besides sums of money, and other rewards, which were to be distributed among them, he was to give them assurance that the cardinals' preferments should be equally divided. These were the secret methods of attaining the chair: and indeed it would puzzle a man of an ordinary degree of credulity, to think that one chosen by such means could presume to be Christ's vicar, and the infallible judge of controversies. The recovery, however, of the pope put an end to these intrigues.
At length the legates began the process, when the queen protested against them as incompetent judges. They, however, proceeded according to the forms of law, although the queen had appealed from them to the pope, and objected both to the place, to the judges, and her lawyers; when they pronounced her contumacious, and went on to examine witnesses, chiefly to the particulars of the consummation of her marriage with prince Arthur. But now since the process was thus going on, the emperor's agents pressed the pope vehemently for an avocation; and all possible endeavours were used by the king's agents to hinder it. They spared nothing that would work on the pope, either in the way of persuasion or threatening: it was told him there was a treaty set on foot between the king and the Lutheran princes of Germany; and that upon declaring himself so partial as to grant the avocation, he would certainly embark in the same interests with them. The pope however thought the king so far engaged in honour on points of religion, that he would not be prevailed upon to unite with Luther's followers; he did not imagine that the effects of his granting the avocation would be so fatal as the cardinal's agents represented them. In conclusion, therefore, after the emperor had engaged to restore his family to the government of Florence, he resolved to publish his treaty with him, and told the English ambassadors that he was forced to it; both because all the lawyers said it could not be denied, and that he could not resist the emperor's forces, which surrounded him on all hands. Their endeavours to gain a little time by delay were as fruitless as other artifices, for on the 15th of July, the pope signed the avocation, and on the 19th sent it by an express messenger to England.
The legates, Campegio in particular, drew out the matter with all the delay they could contrive, and gained much time. At last, it being brought to the point that sentence was to be pronounced, Campegio, instead of doing it, adjourned the court till October, and said, that as they were members of the consistory they must observe their times of vacation. This gave the king and his court great offence, when they saw what was like to be the issue of a process on which his majesty was so much bent, and in which he was so far engaged both in honour and interest. The king governed himself upon the occasion with more temper than was expected: he dismissed Campegio civilly, only his officers searched his coffers when he went beyond sea, with evident design to see if the decretal bull could be found. Wolsey was now upon the point of being disgraced, though the king seemed to treat him with all his former confidence.
At this period, Dr. Cranmer, a fellow of Jesus College in Cambridge, meeting accidentally with Gardener and Fox at Waltham, and entering into discourse upon the royal marriage, suggested that the king should engage the chief universities and divines of Europe, to examine the lawfulness of his marriage; and if they gave their resolutions against it, then it being certain that the pope's dispensation could not derogate from the law of God, the marriage must be declared null. This novel and reasonable scheme they proposed to the king, who was much pleased with it, and said, "He had the sow by the right ear." He saw this way was both better in itself and would mortify the pope. Cranmer was accordingly sent for, and on conversing with him, the king conceived a high opinion both of his learning and prudence, as well as of his probity and sincerity, which took such root in the king's mind, that no artifices nor calumnies were ever able to remove it. From this moment and these circumstances began the rise of Cranmer and the decline of Wolsey. The great seal was taken from the latter and given to Sir Thomas More; and he was sued in a praemunire, for having held the legatine courts by a foreign authority, to the laws of England. Wolsey confessed the indictment, pleaded ignorance, and submitted himself to the king's mercy: so judgment passed on him; when his rich palace and furniture were seized for the royal use. Yet the king received him again into his protection, and restored to him the temporalities of the sees of York and Winchester, and above 6000l. in plate and other goods; at which he was so transported, that it is said he fell down on his knees in a kennel before the messenger who brought him the news. Articles were put in against him in the house of lords for a bill of attainder, where he had but few friends: in the house of commons, Cromwell, who had been his secretary, so managed the matter, that it came to nothing. This failing, his enemies procured an order to be sent to him to go into Yorkshire: thither he went in great state, with one hundred and sixty horses in his train, and seventy-two carts following him, and there he lived some time. But the king being informed, that he was practising with the pope and the emperor, he sent the earl of Northumberland to arrest him of high treason, and bring him up to London. On the way he sickened and died at Leicester, making great protestations of his constant fidelity to the king, particularly in the matter of his divorce; and wishing he had served God as faithfully as he had done the king; for then he would not have cast him off in his grey hairs, as the king had done: words that declining favourites are apt to reflect on in adversity; but they seldom remember them in the height of their fortune.
The king intending to proceed in the method proposed by Cranmer, sent to Oxford and Cambridge to procure their conclusions. At Oxford it was referred by the major part of the convocation to thirty-three doctors and bachelors of divinity, whom that faculty was to name: they were empowered to determine the question, and put the seal of the university to their conclusion. They gave their opinions, that the marriage of the brother's wife was contrary both to the laws of God and nature. At Cambridge the convocation referred the question to twenty-nine; of which number, two-thirds agreeing, they were empowered to put the seal of the university to their determination. These agreed in opinion with those of Oxford. The jealousy of Cranmer's favouring Lutheranism caused the fierce popish party to oppose every thing in which he was engaged. They were also afraid of Anne Boleyn's advancement, who was believed to be tinctured with the reformed opinions. Crook, a learned man in the Greek tongue, was employed in Italy, to procure the resolution of divines there; in which he was so successful, that besides the great discoveries he made in searching the manuscripts of the Greek fathers concerning their opinions in this point, he engaged several persons to write for the king's cause. He also got the Jews to give their opinions of the laws in Leviticus, that they were moral and obligatory--that when a brother died without issue, his brother might marry his widow within Judea, for preserving their families and succession; although that might not be done out of Judea. The state of Venice would not declare themselves, but said they would be neutral; and it was not easy to persuade the divines of the republic to give their opinions, till a brief was obtained of the pope, permitting all divines and canonists to deliver judgment according to their consciences. The pope abhorred this way of proceeding, though he could not decently oppose it; but he said in great scorn, that no friar should set limits to his power. Crook was ordered to give no money, nor make promises to any, till they had freely delivered their opinion; which he faithfully observed. This man sent over to England a hundred various books, and papers, with many subscriptions; all condemning the king's marriage as unlawful in itself. At Paris, the Sorbonne made their determination with great solemnity; after mass of the Holy Ghost, all the doctors took an oath to study the question, and to give their judgment according to their consciences; and after three weeks study, the greater part agreed on this strange and contradictory decree--"that the king's marriage was unlawful, and the pope could not dispense with it." At Orleans, Angiers, and Toulouse, they determined to the same purpose.
Calvin thought the marriage null, and they all agreed that the pope's dispensation was of no force. Osiander was employed to engage the Lutheran divines, but they were afraid of giving the emperor new grounds of displeasure. Melancthon thought the law in Leviticus was dispensable, and that the marriage might be lawful; and that in such matters, states and princes might make what laws they pleased. Though the divines of Leipsic, after much disputing about it, did agree that those laws were moral, yet they could never be brought to justify the divorce, with the subsequent marriage that followed upon it. And the king appeared very inclinable to receive their doctrine, so steadily did they follow their consciences even against their interests: but the pope was more compliant, for he offered to Cassali to grant his amorous petitioner dispensation for having another wife, with which the Imperialists seemed on the whole to be willing to comply.
The king's cause being thus fortified by so many resolutions in his favour, he made certain members of parliament sign a letter to the pope, complaining, that notwithstanding the great merits of their sovereign, the justice of his cause, and the importance of it to the safety of the kingdom, yet the pope made still new delays; they therefore pressed him to dispatch it speedily, otherwise they would be forced to seek other remedies, though they were not willing to drive things to extremities, till it was unavoidable. The letter was signed by the cardinal, the archbishop of Canterbury, four bishops, twenty-two abbots, forty-two peers, and eleven commoners. To this the pope wrote an answer, taking notice of the vehemence of their style, and freeing himself from the imputations of ingratitude and injustice. He acknowledged the king's great merits; and said, he had done all he could in his favour: he had granted a commission, but could not refuse to receive the queen's appeal; all the cardinals with one consent judging that an avocation was necessary. Since that time, the delays were not with him, but with the king; that he was ready to proceed, and would bring it to as speedy an issue as the importance of it would admit of; and as for their threatenings, they were neither proofs of their wisdom, nor of their religion.
The king, now disgusted at his dependence on the pope, issued a proclamation against any that should purchase, bring over, or publish any bull from Rome, contrary to his authority: and after that he made an abstract of all the reasons and authorities of fathers, or modern writers, against his marriage, to be published both in Latin and English. Both sides having produced the strength of their cause, it evidently appeared that, according to the authority given to tradition in the church of Rome, the king had clearly the right on his side. At the same time he was not exempt from opposition, even in England. The friends of Katharine were more numerous than he had all along imagined, and the queen herself, amidst these disputes, continued firm to her resolution leaving the matter in the pope's hands, and would hearken to no propositions that were made to her, for referring it to the arbitration of a number chosen on both sides.
The sovereigns of England claimed the same latitude of power in ecclesiastical matters, as the Roman emperors had exercised before the decline of their authority. Anciently they had divided bishoprics, granted investitures, and made laws relating both to ecclesiastical causes and persons. When the popes began to extend their power beyond the limits assigned them by the canons, great opposition arose to them in England; but they managed the advantages they found, either from the weakness or ill circumstances of princes, so steadily, that at length they subdued the world: and if they had not by their cruel exactions so oppressed the clergy, that they were driven to seek shelter under covert of the temporal authority, men generally were so absorbed by superstition and credulity, that not only the whole spiritual power, but even the temporal authority of the princes, was likely to have fallen under papal tyranny. But the discontented clergy now supported the secular power as much as they had before advanced that of the papal. Boniface VIII. had raised his pretensions to that impudent pitch, that he declared all power, both ecclesiastical and civil, was derived from him; and this he established as an article of faith, necessary to salvation; on which he, and his successors, took upon them, to dispose of all ecclesiastical benefices by their absolute bulls and provisions. To restrain these invasions of the rights of princes, laws were made in England against their authority; but no punishment being declared for transgressors, the courtiers at Rome were not frightened at their publication; so that the abuses still continued: but in the time of Edward III. a more severe act was made, by which all that transgressed were to be imprisoned, to be fined at pleasure, and to forfeit all their benefices.
These long forgotten statutes were now revived, to bring the clergy into a snare: it was designed by the terror of this proceeding to force them to an entire submission, and to oblige them to redeem themselves by the grant of a considerable subsidy. They pleaded ignorance; it was a public error, and they ought not therefore to be punished for it. To this it was answered, that the laws which they had transgressed were still in force and so no ignorance could excuse the violation of them. The convocation of Canterbury made their submission, and in their address to the king he was called the protector and supreme head of the church of England; but some objecting, it was added--"in so far as it is agreeable to the law of Christ." This was signed by nine bishops, fifty abbots and priors, and the greater part of the lower house; and with it they offered the king a subsidy of 100,000l. to procure his favour, and promised for the future not to make nor execute any constitutions without his licence. The convocation of York did not pass this so easily; they objected the word head, as agreeing to none but Christ: whereupon the king wrote them a long expostulatory letter, and told them with what limitations those of Canterbury had passed that title; upon which they all submitted, and offered 18,840l. which was accepted: thus the clergy were again received into the king's protection, and received his precarious pardon for their heavy offences.
After the prorogation of this session of parliament, new applications were made to the queen to persuade her to depart from her appeal; but she remained fixed in her resolution, and said she was the king's lawful wife, and would abide by it till the court at Rome should declare the contrary. Upon that the king desired her to choose any of his houses in the country to live in, and resolved never to see her more. She chose the palace of Ampthill, in Bedfordshire, for her residence, and the monastery of Kimbolton, at no great distance, for her religious resorts. In these she passed the remainder of her life, beloved by all around her, and respected by none more than by the king himself, whose passions rather than judgment and conscience constrained him to prefer the youth and beauty of another.
In January 1532, the pope, on the motion of the Imperialists, wrote to the king, complaining that notwithstanding a suit was depending concerning his marriage, yet he had put away his queen and kept one Anne as his wife, contrary to a prohibition served on him; he therefore exhorted him to live with his queen again, and to put away Anne. Upon this the king sent Dr. Bennet to Rome with a dispatch in which he complained that the pope proceeded in that matter upon the suggestion of others, who were ignorant and rash men: that he had carried himself inconstantly and deceitfully in it, and not as became Christ's vicar: that he had granted a commission, had promised never to recall it, and had sent over a decretal bull defining the cause. Either these were unjustly granted, or unjustly recalled. It was plain that he acted more with regard to his interests, than according to conscience; and that, as the pope had often confessed his own ignorance in these matters, so he was not furnished with learned men to advise him, otherwise he would not defend a marriage which almost all the learned men and universities in England, France, and Italy, had condemned as unlawful. He would not question his authority without he was compelled to it, and would do nothing but reduce it to its first and ancient limits, which was much better than to let it run on headlong, and still do amiss. This high letter made the pope resolve to proceed and end the matter, either by a sentence or a treaty. The king was cited to answer to the queen's appeal at Rome in person, or by proxy: accordingly, Sir Edward Karne was sent thither in the new character of the king's apologist, to excuse the king's appearance, upon such grounds as could be founded on the canon law, and upon the privileges of the crown of England. The Imperialists pressed the pope much to give sentence, but all the wise cardinals, who observed by the proceedings of the parliament that the nation would adhere to the king, if he should be provoked to shake off the pope's yoke, suggested milder counsels.
In conclusion, the pope seemed to favour the king's plea, upon which the Imperialists made great complaints. But this amounted to no more than that the king was not bound to appear in person: therefore the cardinals, who were in his interest, advised the king to send over a proxy for answering the merits of the cause; and both the pope and the college wrote to him to finish the matter next winter. Bonner, at that time in Rome, was also sent to England to assure the king, that the pope was now so much in the French interest, that he might confidently refer this matter to him. On this the king sent for the speaker of the house of commons, and told him he found the prelates were but half subjects; for they swore at their consecration an oath to the pope, inconsistent with their allegiance and oath to him. By their oath to the pope, they swore to be in no council against him, nor to disclose his secrets; but to maintain the papacy, and the regalities of St. Peter against all men, together with the rights and authorities of the church of Rome; and that they should honourably entreat the legates of the apostolic see, and observe all the decrees, sentences, provisions, and commandments of that see; and yearly, either in person, or by proxy, visit the thresholds of the apostles. In their oath to the king, they renounced all clauses in their bulls contrary to his royal dignity, and swore to be faithful to him, and to live and die with him against all others, and to keep his counsel; acknowledging that they held their bishoprics only of him. By these it appeared they could not keep both their oaths, in case a breach should fall out between the king and the pope; a discovery which would have been of serious consequence, had not the plague broke off the consultations of parliament at this time. Soon after, Sir Thomas More, seeing a rupture with Rome coming on so fast, desired leave to lay down his office, which was upon that conferred on Sir Thomas Audley. More had been satisfied with the king's keeping up the laws formerly made in opposition to the papal encroachments, and had concurred in the suit of the praemunire; but now the matter went farther, and not being able to keep pace with the new order of things, he returned to a private life.
An interview soon followed between the kings of France and England; to which Anne Boleyn, now marchioness of Pembroke, was carried. After the first ceremonies and magnificence were over, Francis promised Henry to second him in his suit: he encouraged him to proceed to a second marriage without delay; and assured him he would stand by him in it: meantime, the pope offered to the king, to send a legate to any indifferent place, out of England, to form the process, reserving only the sentence himself to pronounce; and proposed to him and all princes a general truce, that so he might call a general council. The king answered, that such was the present state of the affairs of Europe, it was not seasonable to call a general council; and that it was contrary to his prerogative to send a proxy to appear at Rome: that by the decrees of general councils, all causes ought to be judged on the spot and by a provincial council; and that it was fitter to judge it in England than any where else: that by his coronation oath, he was bound to maintain the dignities of his crown, and the rights of his subjects, and not to appear before any foreign court. Sir Thomas Elliot was therefore sent over with instructions, to move that the cause might be judged in England. Soon after this, the king married Anne Beleyn; Rowland Lee, afterwards bishop of Coventry and Litchfield, officiated, none being present but the duke of Norfolk, and her father, her mother, her brother, and Cranmer. It was thought that the former marriage being null, the king might proceed to another: and perhaps they hoped, that as the pope had formely proposed this method, so he would now approve of it. But though the pope had joined himself to France, yet he was still so much in fear of the emperor that he resolved to continue resisting Henry's marriage, rather than provoke the imperial wrath. A new citation was therefore issued out, for the king to answer to the queen's complaints; but Henry's agents protested that their master was a sovereign prince, and England a free church, over which the pope had no just authority; and that the king could expect no justice at Rome, where the emperor's power and the pope's authority were paramount to all others.
At this time parliament met again, and passed an act condemning all appeals to Rome. In it they set forth--That the crown was imperial, and that the nation was a complete body, having full power to do justice in all cases, both spiritual and temporal; and that as former kings had maintained the liberties of the kingdom against the usurpations of the see of Rome, so they found the great inconvenience of allowing appeals in matrimonial causes; that they put them to great charges, and occasioned many delays: therefore they enacted, that thereafter those should be judged within the kingdom, and no regard be had to any appeals to Rome, or censures from it; but sentences given in England were to have their full effect; and all who executed any censures from Rome were to incur the pain of praemunire.
The archbishopric of Canterbury was now vacant by the decease of Warham, who died the previous year: he was a great patron of learning, a good canonist, and a wise statesman; but he was a cruel persecutor of heretics, and inclined to believe fanatical legends. Cranmer was in Germany, disputing in the king's cause with some of the emperor's divines, when the king resolved to advance him to that dignity; and sent him word of it, that he might make haste to return. But a promotion so far above his thoughts, had not its common effects on him: he had a true and primitive sense of so great a charge; and instead of aspiring to it, he was afraid of it, and he both returned very slowly to England, and used all his endeavors to be excused from the advancement. Bulls were sent for to Rome in order to his consecration, which the pope granted. On the 13th of March, Cranmer was consecrated by the bishops of Lincoln, Exeter, and St. Asaph. The oath to the pope was of hard digestion to one "almost persuaded" to be a protestant: he therefore made a protestation before he took it, that he conceived himself not bound by it in any thing that was contrary to his duty to God, to his king, or country; and this he repeated when he took it.
The convocation had then two questions before them; the first was concerning the lawfulness of the king's marriage, and the validity of the pope's dispensation; the other was a curious question of fact, whether prince Arthur had consummated the marriage. For the first, the judgments of nineteen universities were read; and after a long debate, there being twenty-three only in the lower house, fourteen were against the marriage, seven for it, and two voted dubiously. In the upper house, Stokesly bishop of London, and Fisher bishop of Rochester, maintained the debate at great length, the one for the affirmative, and the other the negative. At last it was carried nemine contradicente, the few that were of the other side it seems withdrawing, against the marriage, two hundred and sixteen being present. For the other, which concerned matter of fact, it was referred to the canonists; and they all, except five or six, reported that the presumptions were very strong; and these in a matter not capable of plain proof were always received as legally conclusive.
The convocation having thus judged in the matter, the ceremony of pronouncing the divorce judicially was now the only thing wanting. The new queen was reported to be in a promising condition for the future monarchy. On Easter-eve she was declared queen of England: and soon after, Cranmer, with Gardiner, who had succeeded Wolsey as bishop of Winchester, and the bishops of London, Lincoln, Bath and Wells, with many divines and canonists, went to Dunstable; queen Katharine living then near it, at Ampthill. The king and queen were cited; he appeared by proxy, but the queen refused to take any notice of the court: so after three citations, she was declared contumacious, and all the merits of the cause formerly mentioned were examined. At last, on the 23rd of May, sentence was given, declaring the marriage to have been null from the beginning. Among the archbishop's titles in the commencement of the judgment, he is called "Legate of the apostolic see," which perhaps was added to give it the more force in law. Some days after this, he gave another judgment, confirming the king's marriage with queen Anne, and on the first of June she was crowned queen. All people admired queen Anne's conduct, who in a course of so many years managed the spirit of so violent a king in such a manner, as neither to surfeit him with too many favours, nor to provoke him with too much rigour. They that loved the reformation looked for better days under her protection: but many priests and friars, both in sermons and discourses, condemned the king's proceedings. The king sent ambassadors to all courts to justify what he had done: he sent also two to queen Katharine, to charge her to assume no other title but that of princess dowager; but she would not yield; she said she would not take that infamy on herself; and so resolved that none should serve about her who did not treat her as queen.
At Rome the cardinals of the Imperial faction complained much of the attempt made on the pope's power, and urged him to proceed to censures. But there was only sentence given, annulling all that the archbishop of Canterbury had done; and the king was required, under pain of excommunication, to place things again in the state in which they formerly were: this decree was framed at Rome; and brought for publication to Dunkirk. The king sent a great embassy to the French monarch, who was then setting out to Marseilles to meet the pope: their errand was to dissuade him from the journey, unless the pope would promise to give the king satisfaction. Francis said, he was engaged in honour to go on; but assured them, he would mind the king's concerns with as much zeal as if they were his own. In September the queen brought forth a daughter, the renowned Elizabeth; and the king having before declared lady Mary princess of Wales, did now the same for the infant: though since a son might exclude her from it, she could not be heir apparent, but only heir presumptive to the crown. The eventful moment was nigh at hand, when the incident should take place that would cause the separation of England from the church of Rome.
There was a secret agreement between the pope and Francis, that if Henry would refer his cause to the consistory, excepting only to the cardinals of the Imperial faction, as partial, and would in all other things return to his obedience to the see of Rome, the sentence should be given in his favour. When Francis returned to Paris, he sent over the bishop of that city to the king, to tell what he had obtained of the pope in his favour, and the terms on which it was promised. This wrought so much on the king, that he presently consented to them; upon which the bishop of Paris, though it was now in the middle of winter, went to Rome with the welcome tidings. On his arrival there, the matter seemed agreed: for it was promised that upon the king's sending a consent under his hand to place things in their former state, and his ordering a proxy to appear for him, judges should be sent to Cambray for making the process, and then sentence should be given. Upon the notice given of this, and of a day that was prefixed for the return of the courier, the king dispatched him with all possible haste; and now the business seemed at an end. But the courier had a sea and the Alps to pass, and in winter it was not easy to observe a limited day so exactly. The appointed day came, and no courier arrived; upon which, the Imperialists gave out, that the king was abusing the pope's easiness; and pressed him vehemently to proceed to a sentence: the bishop of Paris requesting only a delay of six days. The design of the Imperialists was to hinder a reconciliation: for if the king had been set right with the pope, there would have been so powerful a league formed against the emperor as would have frustrated all his measures; and therefore it was necessary for his politics to embroil them. Seduced by the artifice of this intriguing prince, the pope, without consulting his ordinary prudence, brought in the matter to the consistory; and there the Imperialists being the greater number, it was driven on with so much precipitation, that they did in one day that which, according to form, should have extended at least to three.
They gave the final sentence, declared the king's marriage with queen Katharine good, and required him to live with her as his wife, otherwise they would proceed to censures. Two days after this, the courier came with the king's submission in due form; he also brought earnest letters from Francis in the king's favour. This wrought on all the indifferent cardinals, as well as those of the French faction, so that they prayed the pope to recall what was done. A new consistory was called, but the Imperialists urged with greater vehemence than ever, that they would not give such scandal to the world as to recall a definitive sentence of the validity of a marriage, and give heretics such advantage by their unsteadiness in matters of that nature; it was therefore carried that the former sentence should remain, and the execution of it be committed to the emperor. When this was known in England, it determined the king in his resolutions of shaking off the pope's yoke, in which he had made so great a progress, that the parliament had passed all the acts concerning it before he received the news from Rome; for he judged that the best way to secure his cause was to let Rome see his power, and with what vigour he could make war. All the rest of the world looked on astonished to see the court of Rome throw off England, as if it had been weary of the obedience and profits of so great a kingdom.
In England people of nearly all ranks had been examining the foundations on which the papal authority was built with extraordinary care for some years; and several books were written on that subject. It was demonstrated, that all the apostles were made equal in the powers that Christ gave them; that he often condemned their contests about superiority, but never declared in St. Peter's favour. St. Paul withstood him to his face, and reckoned himself not inferior to him. If the dignity of a person left any authority with the city in which he sat, then Antioch must carry it rather than Rome; and Jerusalem, where Christ suffered, was to be preferred to all the world, for it was truly the mother-church. Christ said to Peter, "Upon this rock will I build my church." The agents understood by the rock either the confession Peter had made, or, which is the same, Christ himself; and though it were to be meant of St. Peter, all the rest of the apostles are also called foundations; and the injunction, "Tell the church," was by many doctors of Rome turned against the pope for a general council. The other privileges ascribed to St. Peter, were either only a precedence of order, or were occasioned by his fall; as that, "Feed my sheep," being a restoration of him to the apostolic functions. St. Peter had also a limited province, the circumcision, as St. Paul had the uncircumcision, which was of far greater extent, and which shewed that Peter was not considered as the universal pastor.
Several sees, as Ravenna, Milan, and Aquilea, pretended exemption from the papal authority. Many English bishops had asserted that the popes had no authority against the canons, and to that day no canon made by the pope was binding till it was received, which shewed the pope's authority was not believed to be founded on divine authority; and the contests that the kings of England had with the popes concerning investitures, bishops doing the king homage, appeals to Rome, and the authority of papal bulls and provisions, shewed that the pope's power was subject to law and custom, and so not derived from Christ and St. Peter; and as laws had given them some power, and princes had been forced in ignorant ages to submit to their usurpations, so they might as they saw cause change those laws, and resume their rights.
The next point enquired into was, the authority that kings had in matters of religion and the church. In the New Testament, Christ was himself subject to the civil powers, and charged his disciples not to affect temporal dominion. The apostles also wrote to the churches to be subject to the higher powers, and to call them supreme; they charged every soul to be subject to them: in scripture the king is called head and supreme, and every soul is said to be under him, which joined with the other parts of their sage argument, brought the wise men of that day to the conclusion, that he is supreme head over all persons. In the primitive church the bishops only made rules or canons, but pretended to no compulsive authority, but what came from the civil magistrate. Upon the whole matter, they concluded that the pope had no power in England, and that the king had an entire dominion over all his subjects which extended even to the regulating of ecclesiastical matters. These questions being fully discussed in many disputes, and published in several books, all the bishops, abbots, and friars of England, Fisher only excepted, were so far satisfied with them, that they resolved to comply with the changes the king was determined to make.
At the next meeting of parliament there were but seven bishops and twelve abbots present, the rest it seems were unwilling to concur in making this change, though they complied with it when it was made. Every Sunday during the session a bishop preached at St. Paul's, and declared that the pope had no authority in England: before this, they had only said that a general council was above him, and that the exactions of that court, and appeals to it, were unlawful; but now they went a strain higher, to prepare the people for receiving the acts then in agitation. On the 9th of March the commons began the bill for taking away the pope's power, and sent it to the lords on the 14th, who passed it on the 20th without any dissent. In it they set forth the exaction of the court of Rome, grounded on the pope's power of dispensation; and that as none could dispense with the laws of God, so the king and parliament only had the authority of dispensing with the laws of the land: therefore such licences as were formerly in use, should be for the future granted by the two archbishops, to be confirmed under the great seal. It was moreover appointed that, thereafter, all commerce with Rome should cease. They also declared that they did not intend to alter any article of the catholic faith of Christendom, or that which was declared in the scripture necessary to salvation. They confirmed all the exemptions granted to monasteries by the popes, but subjected them to the king's visitation, and gave the king and his council power to examine and reform all indulgencies and privileges granted by the pope: the offenders against this law were to be punished according to the statutes of praemunire. This act subjected the monasteries entirely to the king's authority, and put them in no small confusion. Those who loved the reformation rejoiced to see the pope's power rooted out, and to find the scripture made the standard of religion.
After this act another passed both houses in six days' time without any opposition, settling the succession of the crown, confirming the sentence of divorce, and the king's marriage with queen Anne, and declaring all marriages within the degrees prohibited by Moses to be unlawful: all that had married within them were appointed to be divorced, and their issue illegitimatized; and the succession to the crown was settled upon the king's issue by the present queen, or in default of that to the king's right heirs for ever. All were required to swear to maintain the contents of this act; and if any refused the oath, or should say any thing to the slander of the king's marriage, he was to be judged guilty of misprision of treason, and to be punished accordingly.
About this time one Phillips complained to the house of commons of the bishop of London for using him cruelly in prison upon suspicion of heresy: the commons sent up this to the lords, but received no answer; they therefore sent some of their members to the bishop, desiring him to reply to the complaints put in against him: but he acquainted the house of lords with it; and they with one consent voted, that none of their house ought to appear or answer to any complaint at the bar of the house of commons. On this the commons let this case fall, and sent up a bill to which the lords agreed, regulating the proceedings against heretics: that whereas, by the statute made by Henry the Fourth, bishops might commit men upon suspicion of heresy; and heresy was generally defined to be whatever was contrary to the scriptures or canonical sanctions, which was liable to great ambiguity; therefore that statute was repealed, and none were to be committed for heresy but upon a presentment made by two witnesses; none were to be accused for speaking against things that were grounded only upon the pope's canons. Bail was to be taken for heretics, and they were to be brought to their trial in open court; and if upon conviction they did not abjure, or relapsed after abjuration, they were to be burnt; a royal writ being first obtained. This was a great check to the bishops' tyranny, and gave no small encouragement to all that favoured the reformation.
The convocation sent in a submission at the same time, by which they acknowledged that all the convocations ought to be assembled by the king's writ; and promised upon the words of priests, never to make nor execute any canons without the king's assent. They also desired, that since many of the received canons were found to be contrary to the king's prerogative and the laws of the land, there might be a committee named by the king of thirty-two, the one half out of the houses of parliament and the other from the clergy, empowered to abrogate or regulate them as they should see cause. This was confirmed in parliament, and the act against appeal to Rome was renewed; and an appeal was allowed from the archbishop to the king, upon which the lord chancellor was to grant a commission for a court of delegates.
Another act passed for regulating the elections and consecrations of bishops, condemning all bulls from Rome, and appointing that upon a vacancy the king should grant licence for an election, and should by a missive letter signify the person's name whom he would have chosen; and within twelve days after these were delivered, the dean and the chapter, or prior and convent, were required to return an election of the person named by the king under their seals. The bishop elect was upon that to swear fealty, and a writ was to be issued for his consecration in the usual manner; after that he was to do homage to the king, upon which both the temporalities and spiritualities were to be restored, and bishops were to exercise their jurisdictions as they had done before. All who transgressed this act were made guilty of a praemunire. A private act passed depriving cardinal Campegio and Jerome de Gainuccii of the bishoprics of Salisbury and Worcester: the reasons given for it were, because they did not reside in their dioceses, for preaching the laws of God, and keeping hospitality, but lived at the court of Rome, and drew 3,000l. a year out of the kingdom.
The last act of a particular nature, though relating only to private persons, was concerning the nun of Kent and her accomplices. It was the first occasion of shedding blood in these disputes, and it was much cherished by all the superstitious clergy who adhered to the queen's and the pope's interests. The nun, and many of her accomplices, came to the bar of the house of lords and confessed the whole matter. Among the concealers of this treason, Sir Thomas More and Fisher were named; the former of whom wrote a long letter upon the subject to Cromwell giving him a particular account of all the conversations he had with the nun: he acknowledged he had esteemed her highly, not so much out of any regard to her prophecies, but for the opinion he conceived of her holiness and humility. But he added, that he was then convinced that she was the most dissembling hypocrite he had ever known, and guilty of the most detestable hypocrisy and devilish falsehood: he also believed that she had communication with an evil spirit. This justification of More's prevailed so far, that his name was struck out of the bill.
The tale of the nun thus incidentally referred to is worth telling. Her name was Elizabeth Barton; she lived in Kent, and in occasional trances into which she fell, she spake such things as made those about her think she was inspired of God. The parson of her parish, named Master, hoping to draw advantage from this, informed archbishop Warham of it, who ordered him to watch her carefully, and bring him an account of whatever he should observe. But it seems she forgot all that she said in her fits when they were over. The artful priest however would not suffer his hopes thus to pass away, but persuaded her she was inspired, and taught her so to counterfeit those trances, that she became very expert in the trick, and could assume them at her pleasure. The matter was soon noised about, and the priest intended to raise the credit of an image of the blessed virgin, which stood in his church, that so pilgrimages and offerings might be made to it by her means. He accordingly associated to himself one Bocking, a monk of Canterbury, and they taught her to say in her fits, that the blessed virgin appeared to her, and told her she could not be well till she visited that image. She spake many good words against ill life, and also against heresy, and the king's suit of divorce then depending; and by many strange motions of her body she seemed to be inwardly possessed.
Soon after this, a day was appointed for her cure; and before an assemblage of two thousand people, she was carried to that image: and after she had acted over her fits, she seemed suddenly to recover, which was ascribed to the intercession of the virgin, and the virtue of her image. She then took the veil, and Bocking was her confessor: but between this wolf in sheep's clothing and Elizabeth many persons strongly suspected a criminal intercourse to subsist; while the esteem she was held in bore them down. Many thought her a prophetess, and Warham among the rest. A book was written of her revelations, and an epistle was shewed in letters of gold, pretended to be written to her from Heaven by Mary Magdalen. She said, that when the king was last at Calais, she was carried invisibly beyond sea, and brought back again; that an angel gave her the sacrament, and that God revealed to her that if the king went on in his divorce, and married another wife, he should fall from his crown and not live a month longer, but should die a villain's death.
Several monks of the Charter-house, and the observant friars, with many nuns, and bishop Fisher, came to give credit to all this, set a great value on the woman, and grew very insolent upon her visions. Friar Peyto, preaching in the king's chapel at Greenwich, denounced the judgments of God upon him; and said, though others as lying prophets deceived him, yet he, in the name of God told him, that dogs should lick his blood as they had done Ahab's. The king bore this patiently, contenting himself with ordering Dr. Corren to preach the next Sunday, and to answer all that he had said; who railed against Peyto as a dog and a traitor. Peyto had gone to Canterbury; but Elston, a Franciscan of the same house, interrupted him, and called him one of the lying prophets who went about to establish the succession of the crown by adultery, and spoke with such vehemence, that the king himself was forced to command silence. So unwilling was Henry to go to extremities, that all which was done upon so high a provocation was, that the parties were summoned before the council, and rebuked for their insolence. The nun's confederates proceeding to publish her revelations in all parts of the kingdom, she and nine of her accomplices were at length apprehended, when they all, without any rack or torture, discovered the whole conspiracy. Upon this confession they were appointed to go to St. Paul's, where, after a sermon preached upon the occasion by the bishop of Bangor, they repeated their confession in the hearing of the people, and were sent as prisoners to the Tower. It was given out of course by the papal party that all was extorted from them by violence, and messages were sent to the nun, inducing her to deny all that she had confessed. The king, on this, judged it necessary to proceed to further extremities: accordingly she and six of her chief accomplices were attainted of treason, and the bishop of Rochester and five more were attainted of misprision of treason. But at the intercession of queen Anne, as is expressed in the act, all others that had been concerned with her were pardoned.
After this, the nun with her coadjutors were executed at Tyburn. There she voluntary confessed herself to be an impostor, and acknowledged the justice of her sentence, laying the blame on those who suffered with her, by whom she had been seduced into the crime; adding, that they had exalted her for no other cause than for her having been of great profit to them, and they had presumed to say, that all she had done was through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, when they were sensible the whole was human artifice. She then begged pardon of God and the king, and resigned herself to her fate. Thus ended one of the vilest impostures ever known in this country. Had this fallen out in a darker age, in which the world went mad after visions, the king might have lost his crown by it. The discovery of it disposed all to look on older stories of the trances of monastical people, as contrivances to serve base ends, and made way for the ruin of that order of men in England; but all that followed at present upon it was, that the Observants were put out of their houses, and mixed with the other Franciscans and the Austin friars were put in their room.
On the first discovery of the imposture, Cromwell sent Fisher's brother to him to reprove him for his conduct in that business, and to advise him to ask the king's pardon for the encouragement he had given to the nun, which he was confident the king would grant him. But Fisher excused himself, and said he had only tried whether her revelations were true or not. He confessed, that upon the reports he had heard, he was induced to have a high opinion of her, and that he had never discovered any falsehood in her. It is true, she had said some things to him concerning the king's death which he had not revealed; but he thought it was not necessary to do it, because he knew she had told them to the king herself: she had named no person that should kill the king, but had only denounced it as a judgment of God upon him: and he had reason to think that the king would have been offended with him if he had spoken of it to him: he therefore desired to be no more troubled with that matter. On this statement Cromwell wrote him a sharp letter shewing him that he had proceeded rashly in that affair; being so partial in the matter of the king's divorce, that he easily believed every thing that seemed to make against it. Moreover, he told him how necessary it was to use great caution before extraordinary things should be received or spread about as revelations, since otherwise the peace of the world would be in the hands of every bold and crafty impostor; and in conclusion, he advised him again to ask the king's pardon for his rashness, and he assured him that the king was ready to forgive him. But Fisher would make no submission, and was in consequence included within the act; though it was not executed till a new provocation drew him into farther trouble. The secular and regular clergy every where took the oath of succession, which none more zealously promoted than Gardiner, who before the 6th of May got all his clergy to swear it: and the religious orders being apprehensive of the king's jealousies of them, took care to remove them by sending in declarations under the seals of their houses, that in their opinion the king's present marriage was lawful, and that they would always acknowledge him head of the church of England.
A meeting of the council was held at Lambeth, to which many were cited that they might take the oath, among whom were Sir Thomas More and Fisher. More was first summoned to take it: he answered, that he neither blamed those that made the acts, nor those that took the oath; and that he was willing to swear to maintain the succession to the crown, but could not take the oath as it was expressed. Fisher made the same answer, but all the rest that were cited before them took it. More was pressed to give his reasons against it: but he refused, for it might be called a disputing against law: yet he would put them into writing if the king commanded him to do it. Cranmer said, if he did not blame those that took it, it seems he was not persuaded it was a sin, and so was only doubtful of it; but he was sure he ought to obey the law, if it was not sinful: so there was a certainty on one hand, and only a doubt on the other, and therefore the former ought to determine him. This More confessed did shake him a little, but he said he thought in his conscience that it would be a sin in him. In conclusion, both he and Fisher declared that they thought it was in the power of the parliament to settle the succession to the crown, and so were ready to swear to that; but they could not take the oath that was tended to them, for by it they must swear to maintain the king's former marriage as unlawful, to which they could not assent; so they were both committed to the Tower, and denied the use of pen, ink, and paper. The old bishop was also hardly used both in his raiment and diet; he had only rags to cover him, and fire was often denied him; a cruelty not capable of excuse, and as barbarous as it was imprudent.
In winter parliament met again, and the first act that passed declared the king to be supreme head on earth of the church of England, which was ordered to be prefixed to other titles; and it was enacted, that he and his successors should have full authority to reform all heresies and abuses in the spiritual jurisdiction. By another act, parliament confirmed the oath of succession, which had not been specified in the former, though agreed to by the lords. They also gave the king the first-fruits and tenths of ecclesiastical benefices, as being the supreme head of the church; for the king being put in the pope's room, it was thought reasonable to give him the annats which the popes had formerly exacted. Another act passed, declaring some things treason; one of these was the denying the king any of his titles, or calling him heretic, schismatic, or usurper of the crown. By another act, provision was made for setting up twenty-six suffragan bishops over England, for the more speedy administration of the sacraments, and the better service of God. The supreme diocesan was to present two names to the king, and upon the king's declaring his choice, the archbishop was to consecrate the person, and then the bishop was to delegate such parts of his charge to his care as he thought fitting, which was to continue during his pleasure. The great extent of the dioceses in England made it difficult for one bishop to govern them with that exactness that was necessary; these were therefore appointed to assist them in the discharge of the pastoral care.
Fisher and More, by two special acts, were attainted of misprision of treason; five other clerks were in like manner condemned, all for refusing to take the oath of succession. The see of Rochester was declared void; yet it would seem that few were willing to succeed such a man, for it continued vacant two years, and was at last with difficulty filled.
But now a new scene commenced; and before we enter upon it we shall find it necessary to state the progress that the new opinions had made in England during the time of the king's suit of divorce. While Wolsey was a minister, the reformed preachers were gently used; and it is probable the king ordered the bishops to give over their enquiring after them, when the pope began to use him ill; for the progress of heresy was always reckoned at Rome among the mischiefs that would follow upon the pope's rejecting the king's suit. But More coming into favour, he offered new counsels, and thought the king's proceeding severely against heretics would be so meritorious at Rome, that it would work more effectually than all his threatenings had done. Upon this, a severe proclamation was issued both against their books and persons, ordering all the laws against them to be put in execution. Tindal and others at Antwerp were every year either translating or writing books against some of the received errors, and sending them over to England: but his translation of the New Testament gave the greatest wound, and was much complained of by the clergy as full of errors. Tonstal, then bishop of London, being a man of great learning, returning from the treaty of Cambray, to which More and he were sent in the king's name, as he came through Antwerp, dealt with an English merchant who was secretly a friend of Tindal's, to procure him as many of his Testaments as could be had for money.
Tindal gladly received this; for being engaged in a more correct edition, he found he should be better able to proceed if the copies of the old were sold off; he therefore gave the merchant all he had, and Tonstall paying the price of them, got them over to England, and burnt them publicly in Cheapside. This was called a burning of the word of God: and it was said the clergy had reason to revenge themselves on it; for it had done them more mischief than all other books whatsoever. But a year after this, the second edition being finished, great numbers were sent over to England, when Constantine, one of Tindal's partners, happened to be taken: believing that some of the London merchants furnished them with money, he was promised his liberty if he would discover who they were, when he told him the bishop of London did more than all the world beside; for he had bought up the greatest part of a faulty impression. The clergy, on their condemning Tindal's translation, promised a new one; but a year after they said it was unnecessary to publish the Scriptures in English, and that the king did well not to set about it.
About this time a singular book written by one Fish, of Gray's Inn, was published. It was entitled, "The Supplication of the Beggars," and had a vast sale. The beggars complained that the alms of the people were intercepted by the mendicant friars, who were a useless burthen to the government; they also taxed the pope with cruelty for taking no pity on the poor, since none but those who could pay for it were delivered out of purgatory. The king was so pleased with this publication, that he would not suffer any thing to be done against the author. More answered it by another supplication in behalf of the souls in purgatory; setting forth the miseries they were in, and the relief which they received by the masses that were said for them: and therefore called upon their friends to support the religious orders which had now so many enemies.
Fish published a serious answer, in which he shewed that there was no mention made of purgatory in scripture; that it was inconsistent with the merits of Christ, by which upon sincere repentance all sins were pardoned; for if they were pardoned, they could not be punished; and though temporary judgments, either as medicinal corrections or a warning to others, do sometimes fall even on true penitents, yet fiery punishments in another state cannot consist with a free pardon and the remembering of our sins no more. In expounding many passages of the New Testament, he appealed to More's great friend Erasmus, and shewed that the fire spoken of by St. Paul, as that which would consume the wood, hay, and stubble, could only be meant of the fiery trial of persecution. He shewed that the primitive church did not receive the doctrine of purgatory. Ambrose, Jerome, and Austin did not believe it; the last having plainly said that no mention was made of it in scripture. The monks alone brought it in; and by many wonderful stories possessed the world of the belief of it, and had made a very profitable trade in it. This book so provoked the clergy, that they resolved to make the author feel a real fire, for endeavouring to extinguish their imaginary one. More objected poverty and want of learning to the new preachers; but it was answered, the same thing was made use of to disgrace Christ and his apostles; while a plain simplicity of mind, without artificial improvements, was rather thought a good disposition for men that were to bear a cross, and the glory of God appeared more eminent than the instruments seemed contemptible.
But the pen being thought too feeble and gentle a tool, the clergy betook themselves to persecution. Many were vexed with imprisonments for teaching their children the Lord's prayer in English, for harbouring the preachers, and for speaking against the corruptions in the worship, or the vices of the clergy; but these generally abjured and saved themselves from death. Others more faithful were honoured with martyrdom. One Hinton, formerly a curate, who had gone over to Tindal, was seized on his way back with some books he was conveying to England, and was condemned by archbishop Warham. He was kept long in prison; but remaining firm to his cause, he was at length burned at Maidstone.
But the most remarkable martyr of this day was Thomas Bilney, who was brought up at Cambridge from a child, and became a bold and uncompromising reformer. On leaving the university, he went into several places and preached; and in his sermons spoke with great boldness against the pride and insolence of the clergy. This was during the ministry of Wolsey, who hearing of his attacks, caused him to be seized and imprisoned. Overcome with fear, Bilney abjured, was pardoned, and returned to Cambridge in the year 1530. Here he fell into great horror of mind in consequence of his instability and the denial of the truth. He became ashamed of himself, bitterly repented of his sin, and, growing strong in faith, resolved to make some atonement by a public avowal of his apostacy and confession of his sentiments. To prepare himself for his task, he studied the scriptures with deep attention for two years; at the expiration of which he again quitted the university, and went into Norfolk, where he was born, and preached up and down that country against idolatry and superstition; exhorting the people to live well, to give much alms, to believe in Christ, and to offer up their souls and wills to him in the sacrament. He openly confessed his own sin of denying the faith; and using no precaution as he went about, was soon taken by the bishop's officers, condemned as a relapse, and degraded. Sir Thomas More not only sent down the writ to burn him, but in order to make him suffer another way, he affirmed that he had said in print that he had abjured; but no paper signed by him was ever shewn, and little credit was due to the priests that gave it out that he did it by word of mouth. Parker, afterwards archbishop, was an eye-witness of his sufferings. He bore all his hardships with great fortitude and resignation, and continued very cheerful after his sentence. He ate the poor provisions that were brought him heartily, saying, He must keep up a ruinous cottage till it fell. He had these words of Isaiah often in his mouth, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned:" and by burning his finger in the candle, he prepared himself for the fire, and said it would only consume the stubble of his body, while it would purify his soul, and give it a swifter conveyance to the region where Elijah was conveyed by another fiery chariot.
On the 10th of November he was brought to the stake, where he repeated the creed, as a proof that he was a true Christian. He then prayed earnestly, and with the deepest feeling offered this prayer--"Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight no flesh living can be justified." Dr. Warner attended and embraced him, shedding many tears, and wishing he might die in as good a frame of mind as Bilney then was. The friars requested him to inform the people, that they were not instrumental to his death, which he did, so that the last act of his life was full of charity, even to those who put him to death.
The officers then put the reeds and fagots about his body, and set fire to the first, which made a great flame, and disfigured his face: he held up his hands, and often struck his breast, crying sometimes "Jesus!" sometimes "Credo!" but the flame was blown away from him several times, the wind being very high, till at length the wood taking fire, the flame was stronger, and he yielded up his spirit to God who gave it.
As his body shrunk up it leaned down on the chain, till one of the officers with his halberd struck out the staple of the chain behind him, on which it fell down into the bottom of the fire, when they heaped up wood upon it and consumed it. The sufferings, the confession, and the heroic death of this martyr, inspired and animated others with the same fortitude.
Byfield, who had formerly abjured, was taken dispersing Tindal's books; and he, with one Tewkesbury, were condemned by the bishop of London, and burnt. Two men and a woman suffered the same fate at York. Of these proceedings the parliament complained to the king; but this did not check the sanguinary proceedings of the clergy. One Bainham, a counsellor of the Temple, was taken on suspicion of heresy, was whipped in the presence of Sir T. More, and afterwards racked in the Tower; yet he could not be wrought on to accuse any: through fear, however, he abjured himself. After this being discharged, he was in great trouble of mind, and could find no quiet till he went publicly to church, where he openly confessed his sins, and declared the torments he felt in his conscience for what he had done. Upon this he was again seized on, and condemned for having said that Thomas `a Becket was a murderer, and was damned if he had not repented; and that in the sacrament, Christ's body was received by faith, and not eaten with the mouth. Sentence was passed on him by Stokesly, and he was burnt. Soon after this More delivered up the great seal, in consequence of which the preachers had some ease.
The rage of persecution stopped not at the living, but vented itself even on the dead. Lord Tracy made a will by which he left his soul to God, in hope of mercy through Christ, without the help of any saint; and therefore he declared that he would leave nothing for soul-masses. This will being brought into the bishop of London's court to be proved, after his death, gave so much offence, that he was condemned as a heretic, and an order was sent to the Chancellor of Worcester to raise his body; but he proceeded farther and burnt it, which could not be justified, since he was not a relapse. Tracy's heir sued him for it, and he was turned out of his place, and fined 400l. The clergy proclaimed an indulgence of forty days' pardon to any that carried a fagot to the burning of a heretic, that so cruelty might seem the more meritorious. And aged man, Harding, being condemned by Longland, bishop of Lincoln, as he was tied to the stake, a barbarian flung a fagot with such force against him, that it dashed out his brains.
The reformed enjoyed a respite of two years, when the crafty Gardiner represented to the king, that it would give him great advantages against the pope if he would take some occasion to shew his hatred of heresy. Accordingly a young man named Frith was chosen as a sacrifice for this affected zeal for religion. He was distinguished for learning, and was the first who wrote against the corporeal presence in the sacrament in England. He followed Zuinglius's doctrine on these grounds: Christ received in the sacrament gave eternal life, but this was given only to those who believed, from which he inferred that he was received only by faith. St. Paul said, that the fathers before Christ eat the same spiritual food with christians; from which it appears that Christ is now no more corporeally present to us than he was to them; and he argued from the nature of sacraments in general, and the end of the Lord's supper, that it was only a commemoration. Yet, upon these premises, he built no other conclusion but that Christ's presence was no article of faith. His reasons he put in writing, which falling into the hands of Sir Thomas More, were answered by him: but Frith never saw his publication till he was put in prison; and then, though he was loaded with irons, and had no books allowed, he replied. He insisted much on the argument, that the Israelites did eat the same food, and drank of the same rock, and that rock was Christ; and since Christ was only mystically and by faith received by them, he concluded that he was at the present time also received only in the same manner. He shewed that Christ's words, "This is my body," were accommodated to the Jewish phrase of calling the lamb the Lord's passover; and confirmed his opinion with many passages out of the fathers, in which the elements were called signs and figures of Christ's body; and they said, that upon consecration they did not cease to be bread and wine, but remained still in their own proper natures. He also shewed that the fathers were strangers to all the consequences of that opinion, as that a body could be in more places than one at the same time, or could be every where in the manner of a spirit: yet he concluded, that if that opinion were held only as a speculation, so that adoration were not offered to the elements, it might be well tolerated, but that he condemned it as gross idolatry. This was intended by him to prevent such heats in England, as were raised in Germany between the Lutherans and Helvetians, by reason of their different opinions concerning the sacrament.
For these offences he was seized in May, 1533, and brought before Stokesly, Gardiner, and Longland. They charged him with not believing in purgatory and transubstantiation. He gave the reasons that determined him to look on neither of these as articles of faith; but thought that the affirming or denying them ought to be determined positively. The bishops seemed unwilling to proceed to sentence; but he continuing resolute, Stokesly pronounced it, and so delivered him to the secular arm, insisting that his punishment might be moderated, so that the rigour might not be too extreme, nor yet the gentleness of it too much mitigated. This obtestation by the bowels of Christ was thought a mockery, when all the world knew that it was intended that he should be burnt. One Hewitt, an apprentice of London, was also condemned with him on the same account. They were brought to the stake at Smithfield on the 4th of July, 1533. On arriving there, Frith expressed great joy, and hugged the fagots with seeming transport. A priest named Cook, who stood by, called to the people not to pray for them more than they would do for a dog: at this Frith smiled, and prayed God to forgive him after which the fire was kindled, which consumed them both to ashes.
This was the last instance of the cruelty of the clergy at present; for the act already mentioned, regulating their proceedings, followed soon after. Phillips, at whose complaint that bill was begun, was committed upon suspicion of heresy; a copy of Tracy's will was found about him, and butter and cheese were also found in his chamber in Lent; but he being required to abjure, appealed to the king as supreme judge in such matters. Upon that he was set at liberty; but whether he was tried by the king or not, is not upon record.
The act being passed, gave the new preachers and their followers some respite. The king was also empowered to reform all heresies and idolatries: and his affairs now obliged him to unite himself to the princes of Germany, that by their means he might so embroil the emperor's affairs, as not to give him leisure to turn his arms against England; and this produced a slackening of all severities against the reformers at home; for those princes, in the first fervour of the reformation, made it an article in all their treaties, that none should be prosecuted for favouring their doctrine. The queen also openly protected them; she took Latimer and Shaxton to be her chaplains, and promoted them to the bishoprics of Worcester and Salisbury. Cranmer was fully convinced of the necessity of a reformation, and that he might carry it on with true judgment, and justify it by good authorities, he made a careful collection of the opinions of the ancient fathers and later doctors, in all the points of religion, comprising six folio volumes. He was a man of great candour and much patience and industry; and thus was on all accounts well prepared for that work, to which the providence of God now called him: and though he was in some things too much subject to the king's imperious temper, yet in the matter of the six articles, he shewed that he wanted not the courage that became a bishop in the most critical affairs. Cromwell was his great and constant friend; a man of mean birth but of excellent qualities, as appeared in his adhering to his master Wolsey after his fall.
The following incident strongly characterizes the generous temper of this minister:--At the height of his prosperity he happened to see a merchant of Lucca, who had pitied and relieved him when he was in Italy, but did not so much as know him, or pretended to any returns for the small favours he had formerly shewed him, and was then reduced to a low condition. Cromwell, however, made himself known to him, gave him the strongest acknowledgments and the most substantial proofs of his gratitude and liberality.
While these men set themselves to carry on a reformation, another party was formed who as vigorously opposed it. This was headed by the duke of Norfolk and Gardiner; and almost all the clergy joined with them. They persuaded the king that nothing would give the pope or the emperor such advantages, as his making any changes in religion; and it would reflect much on him, if he who had written so learnedly for the faith, should in spite to the pope make any changes in it. Nothing would encourage other princes so much to follow his example, or keep his subjects so faithfully to him, as his continuing steadfast in the ancient religion. These things made a great impression on him. On the other hand, Cranmer represented to him that if he rejected the pope's authority it was very absurd to let such opinions or practices continue in the church which had no other foundation but papal decrees; and therefore he desired that this might be put to the trial; he ought to depend on God, and hope for good success if he proceeded in this matter according to the duty of a christian prince. England was a complete body within itself; and though in the Roman empire, when united under one prince general councils were easily assembled, yet now they were not easily to be converted, and therefore should not be relied on; but every prince ought to reform the church in his dominions by a national synod; and if in the ancient church such synods condemned heresies, and reformed abuses, this might be much more done, when Europe was divided into so many kingdoms. It was visible that though both the emperor and the princes of Germany had for twenty years desired a general council, it could not be obtained of the pope; he had indeed offered one at Mantua, but that was only an illusion.
Upon this the king desired others of his bishops to give their opinions concerning the emperor's power of calling councils; so Cranmer of Canterbury, Tonstal of London, Clark of Bath and Wells, and Goodrick of Ely, made answer, that though ancient councils were called by the Roman emperors, yet that was done by reason of the extent of their monarchy, which had now ceased, and other princes had an entire monarchy within their dominions. At this assembly of prelates Cranmer made a long speech, setting forth the necessity of reformation. He began with the impostures and deceit used by the canonists and other courtiers at Rome. Then he spoke to the authority of a general council; he shewed that it flowed not from the number of the bishops, but from the matter of their decisions, which were received with an universal consent; for there were many more bishops at the council of Arimini, which was condemned, than either at Nice or Constantinople, which was received. Christ had named no head of the whole church, as God had named no head of the world; but that grew up for order's sake, as there were archbishops set over provinces; yet some popes were condemned for heresy, as Liberius and others. If faith must be showed by works, the ill lives of most popes of late shewed that their faith was to be suspected; and all the privileges which princes or synods granted to that see might be recalled. Popes ought to submit themselves to general councils, and were to be tried by them; he showed what were the present corruptions of the pope and his court, which needed reformation. The. pope, according to the decree of the council of Basil, was the church's vicar, and not Christ's; and so was accountable to it. The churches of France declared the council to be above the pope, which had been acknowledged by many popes themselves. The power of councils had also bounds, nor could they judge of the rights of princes, or proceed to a sentence against a king; nor were their canons of any force till princes added their sanctions to them. Councils ought also to proceed moderately, even against those that held errors, and ought not to impose things indifferent too severely. The scriptures, and not men's traditions, ought to be the standard of their definitions. The divines of Paris held, that a council could not make a new article of faith that was not in the scriptures; and all Christ's promises to the church were to be understood with this condition, "if they kept the faith:" therefore there was great reason to doubt concerning the authority of a council; some of them had contradicted others, and many others were never received. The fathers had always appealed to the scriptures, as superior in authority to councils, by which only all controversies ought to be decided: yet, on the other hand, it was dangerous to be wise in one's own conceit, and he thought when the fathers all agreed in the exposition of any place of scripture, that ought to be looked on as flowing from the spirit of God. He showed how little regard was to be had to a council, in which the pope presided, and that if any common error had passed upon the world, when that came to be discovered, every one was at liberty to shake it off, even though they had sworn to maintain that error: this he applied to the pope's authority. This was the state of the court after king Henry had shaken off the pope's power, and assumed a supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs.
The nobility and gentry were generally well satisfied with the change; but the body of the people were more under the power of the priests, who studied to infuse into them great fears of a change in religion. It was said the king now joined himself to heretics; that both the queen, Cranmer, and Cromwell favoured them. It was left free to dispute what were articles of faith, and what were only the decrees of popes; and changes would be made under this pretence, that they only rejected those opinions which were supported by the papal authority. The monks and friars saw themselves left at the king's mercy. Their bulls could be no longer useful to them. The trade of new saints, and indulgences, was now at an end; they had also some intimations that Cromwell was forming a project for suppressing them: so they thought it necessary for their own preservation to embroil the king's affairs as much as was possible; therefore both in confessions and discourses, they were inspiring the people with a dislike of his proceedings. But the practices of the clergy at home, and of cardinal Pole abroad, the libels there were published, and the rebellions that were afterwards raised in England, wrought so much on the king's temper, naturally imperious and boisterous, that he became too apt to commit acts of severity, and to bring his subjects into trouble upon slight grounds; and his new title of head of the church seemed to have increased his former vanity, and made him fancy that all his subjects were bound to regulate their belief by the measures he set them.
The bishops and abbots did what they could to free the king of any jealousies he might have of them; and of their own accord, before any law was made about it, they swore to maintain the king's supremacy. The first act of it was making Cromwell vicar-general, and visitor of all the monasteries and churches of England, with a delegation of the king's supremacy to him; he was also empowered to give commissions subaltern to himself; and all wills, where the estate was in value above 200l. were to be proved in his court. This was afterwards enlarged, and he was made the king's vicegerent in ecclesiastical matters, and had the precedence of all next the royal family; and his authority was in all points the same as the pope's legates. Pains were taken to engage all the clergy to declare for the supremacy. At Oxford a public determination was made, to which every member assented, that the pope had no more authority in England than any other foreign bishop. The Franciscans at Richmond made some opposition; they said that by the rule of St. Francis, they were bound to obey the holy see. The bishop of Litchfield told them that all the bishops in England, all the heads of houses, and the most learned divines, had signed that proposition. St. Francis made his rule in Italy, where the bishop of Rome was metropolitan, but that ought not to extend to England: and it was shewed that the chapter cited by them was not written by him, but added since; yet they continued positive in their refusal to sign it.
It is well known that all the monks and friars, though they appeared to comply, yet hated this new power of the king's; the people were also startled at it: so one Dr. Leighton, who had been in the cardinal's service with Cromwell, proposed a general visitation of all the religious houses in England; and thought that nothing would reconcile the nation so much to the king's supremacy, as to see some good effect flow from it. Others deemed this too bold a step, and feared it would provoke the religious orders too much. Yet it was known that they were guilty of such disorders, as nothing could so effectually check as enquiry. Cranmer led the way to this by a metropolitan visitation, for which he obtained the king's licence: he took care to see that the pope's name was struck out of all the offices of the church, and that the king's supremacy was generally acknowledged.
In October the general visitation of the monasteries commenced; which was divided into several precincts: instructions were given them what things to enquire after, as whether the houses had the full number according to their foundation? if they performed divine worship in the appointed hours? what exemptions they had? what were their statutes? how their heads were chosen? and how their vows were observed? Whether they lived according to the severities of their orders? how the master and other officers did their duties? how their lands and revenues were managed? what hospitality was kept? what care was taken of the novices? what benefices were in their gift, and how they disposed of them? how the inclosures of the nunneries were preserved? whether the nuns went abroad, or if men were admitted to come to them? how they employed their time, and what priests they had for their confessors? They were also ordered to give them some injunctions in the king's name, that they should acknowledge his supremacy, and maintain the act of succession, and declare all to be absolved from rules or oath that bound them to obey the pope; and that all their statutes tending to that bond should be erased out of their books. That the abbots should not have choice dishes, but plain tables, for hospitality; and that the scriptures should be read at meals; that they should have daily lectures of divinity; and maintain some of every house at the university. The abbot was required to instruct the monks in true religion, and to shew them that it did not consist in outward ceremonies, but in clearness of heart, and purity of life, and worship of God in spirit and truth. Rules were given about their revenues, and against admitting any under twenty years of age. Visitors were empowered to punish offenders, or to bring them to answer before the visitor-general.
What the ancient British monks were is not well known; whether they were governed according to the rules of the monks of Egypt or France, is matter of conjecture. They were in all things obedient to their bishops, as all the monks of the primitive times were. But upon the confusions which the Gothic war brought upon Italy, Benedict set up a new order with more artificial rules for its government. Not long after, Gregory the Great raised the credit of that order much, by his dialogues: and Austin the monk being sent by him to convert England, founded a monastery at Canterbury, which bore his name, and which both the king and Austin exempted from the archbishop's jurisdiction. After that many other abbeys were founded and exempted by the kings of England, if credit is due to the records and charters of the monasteries.
In the end of the eighth century, the Danes made several descents upon England; and finding the most wealth and the least resistance in the monasteries, they generally plundered them, insomuch that the monks were forced to quit their seats, and leave them to the secular clergy: so that in King Edgar's time there was scarce a monk left in all England. He was a lewd and cruel prince: and Dunstan and other monks taking advantage from some horrors of conscience into which he fell, persuaded him that restoring the monastic state would be matter of great merit; on which he converted many of the chapters into monasteries. He only exempted them from all payments to the bishops; but others were exempted from episcopal jurisdiction. In some only the precinct was exempted; in others, the exemption was extended to all the lands or churches belonging to them. The latest exemption from episcopal jurisdiction granted by any king, is that of Battel, founded by William the Conqueror. After this the exemptions were granted by the popes, who pretending to an universal jurisdiction, assumed this among other usurpations.
Some abbeys had also the privilege of being sanctuaries to all who fled to them. The foundation of all their wealth, was the belief of purgatory, and of the virtue that was in masses to redeem the souls of men; and that these eased the torments of departed spirits, and at last delivered them. Hence it passed among all for piety to parents, and of care for their own souls and families, to endow those houses with some lands, on condition that they should have masses said for them, as it was agreed on more or less frequently, according to the measure of the gift. This would have drawn the whole wealth of the nation into those houses, if the statute of Mortmain had not put some restraint to the practice. They also persuaded the world that the saints interceded for them, and would take it kindly at their hands, if they made great offerings to their shrines, and would thereupon intercede the more earnestly for them. The credulous vulgar, measuring the court of heaven by those on earth, believed presents might be of great efficacy there, and thought the new favourites would have the most weight in their intercessions: so that upon every new canonization there was a fresh fit of devotion towards the last saint, whilst the elder was almost forgotten. Some images were believed to have an extraordinary virtue in them, and pilgrimages to these were much extolled. There was also great rivalry among the several orders, as well as the different houses of the same orders, every one magnifying their own saints, images, and relics most. The wealth of these houses brought them under great corruptions. They were generally very dissolute, and grossly ignorant. Their privileges were become a public grievance, and their lives gave great scandal to the world. So that, as they had found it easy to bear down the secular clergy, when their own vices were more secret, the begging friars found it easy to carry the esteem of the world from them. These, under the appearance of poverty, and coarse diet and clothing, gained much esteem, and became almost the only preachers and confessors then in the world. They had a general at Rome, from whom they received such directions as the popes sent them; so that they were more useful to the papacy than the monks had been. They had also the school-learning in their hands, on which account they were generally much cherished. But living much in the world they could not conceal their vices so artfully as the monks had done; and though several reformations had been made of their orders, they had all fallen under great scandal and disesteem. The king intended to erect new bishoprics; but to do this it was necessary to make use of some of their revenues, and he thought the best way to bring their wealth into his hands, would be to expose their vices. Cranmer promoted this because the houses were founded on gross abuses, and subsisted by them; which were necessary to be removed if a reformation went on. The extent of many dioceses was also such, that one man could not oversee them; to remedy which, he intended to have more bishoprics founded, and to have houses at every cathedral for the education of those who should be employed in the pastoral charge.
The visitors went over England, and found in many places monstrous disorders. The most unnatural crimes were found in many houses: great factions and barbarous cruelties were in others; and in some there were found tools for coining. The report contained many abominable things, not fit to be mentioned: some of these were printed, but the greater part were suppressed and concealed. The first house that was surrendered to the king was Langdon, in Kent; the abbot was found to live with a woman who went in the habit of a lay brother. To prevent greater evil to himself, he and ten of his monks signed a resignation of their house to the king. Two other monasteries in the same county, Folkstone and Dover, followed their example. And in the following year, four others made the like surrenders.
In the year 1536, queen Katharine died. She had been resolute in maintaining her title and state, saying that when the pope had judged her marriage was good, she would die rather than do any thing to prejudice it. She desired to be buried among the Observant friars, who had most strongly supported and suffered for her cause. She ordered 500 masses to be said for her soul; and that one of her women should go a pilgrimage to our lady of Walsingham, and give two hundred nobles on her way to the poor.
When she found death approaching, she wrote to the emperor, recommending her daughter Mary, who afterwards became queen, to his care. She also wrote to the king, with this inscription, "My dear lord, king, and husband." She forgave him all the injuries he had done her, and wished him to have regard to his soul. She recommended her daughter to his protection, and desired him to be kind to her three maids, and to pay her servants a year's wages. Strange to say, she concluded her letter to the king with this sentence, "Mine eyes desire you above all things." She expired on the eighth of January, at Kimbolton, in the fiftieth year of her age, having been thirty-three years in England. She was devout and exemplary; used to work with her own hands, and kept her women at work with her. Her alms-deeds, joined to her troubles, begat an esteem for her among all ranks of people. The king ordered her to be buried in the abbey of Peterborough, and was, or seemed to be considerably affected at her death.
The same year the parliament confirmed the act which empowered two to revise the ecclesiastical laws; but no time being limited for its completion it had no effect. The chief business of this session was the suppressing of monasteries under 200l. a year. The act set forth the great disorders of those houses, and the many unsuccessful attempts made to reform them. The few truly serious people that were in them were ordered to be placed in the greater houses, where religion was better observed, and the revenues given to the king. The king was also empowered to make new foundations of such of the suppressed houses as he pleased, which were in all three hundred and seventy. This parliament, after six years' continuance, was dissolved rather suddenly, and somewhat against the will of the king. It was more than suspected, by persons interested in the preservation of the remaining monasteries, that they would soon share the fate of their predecessors, and the most strenuous efforts were therefore made to get rid of the parliament in order to keep a few of these obnoxious establishments in the land.
In a convocation which sat at this time, a motion was made for translating the Bible into English, which had been promised when Tindal's translation was condemned, but was afterwards laid aside by the clergy, as neither necessary nor expedient. It was said, that those whose office was to teach people the word of God, did all they could to suppress it. Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, wrote in the vulgar tongue: Christ directed the people to search the scriptures; and as soon as any nation was converted to the christian religion, the Bible was translated into their language; nor was it ever taken out of the hands of the people, till the christian religion was so corrupted, that it was deemed impolitic to trust them with a book which would so manifestly discover those errors: hence the legends, as agreeing better with those abuses, were read instead of the word of God. Cranmer thought, that putting the Bible into the people's hands would be the most effectual means of promoting the reformation; and therefore moved that the king might be prayed to order it. But Gardiner and all the other party opposed this vehemently. They pleaded that all the extravagant opinions then in Germany rose from the indiscreet use of the scriptures. Some of those opinions were at this time disseminated in England, both against the divinity and incarnation of Christ, and the usefulness of the sacraments. It was therefore urged that during these distractions the use of the scriptures would prove a great snare, and proposed that instead of them, there might be some short exposition of the christian religion put in the people's hands, which might keep them in subjection to the king and the church: but it was carried in the convocation for the affirmative. At court men were much divided in this point; some said, if the king gave way to it, he would never be able after that to govern his people, and that they would break into many divisions: on the other hand, it was maintained, that nothing would make the difference between the pope's power and the king's supremacy appear more eminently, than for the one to give the people the free use of the word of God, while the other kept them in darkness, and ruled them by a blind obedience. It would not go far to extinguish the interest that either the pope or the monks had in England. The Bible would teach them, that the world had been long deceived by their impostures, which had no foundation in the scriptures. These reasons, joined with the interest that the queen had in the king, prevailed so far with him, that he gave order for setting about this important affair with all possible haste; and within three years the impression of it was finished.
The popish party saw with disappointment and concern, that the new queen was the great obstacle to their designs. Henry had married Anne chiefly through passionate fondness, and she grew not only in the king's esteem, but in the love of the nation. It was reported that she bestowed above 14,000l. in alms to the poor, and she seemed to delight in doing good. Soon after Katharine's death, she bore a dead son, which was believed to have made some impression on the king's mind unfavourable to her. It was also considered that Katharine being dead, the king might marry another papist, and thus regain the friendship of the pope and the emperor, and that the issue by any other marriage would never be questioned. With these reasons of state the king's affections coincided, for he was now in love with Jane Seymour, whose disposition was tempered between the gravity of Katharine and the gaiety of Anne. The latter used all possible arts to re-inflame a dying affection; but the king was changed, and even determined on her destruction: and her brother's wife being jealous of her husband and her, prejudiced the king with her own extravagant apprehensions, and filled his head with many false reports. Norris, Weston, and Brereton, the king's servants, and Smeton a musician, were said to have been particularly officious about her. Something was pretended to have been sworn by the lady Wingfield at her death that determined the king, but there is little light left to judge of that matter. The king left her, upon which she was confined to her chamber, and the five persons before mentioned were seized and sent to the Tower, and the next day she was sent thither. On the river some privy counsellors came to examine her, but she made deep protestations of her innocence; and on landing at the Tower she fell on her knees and prayed God to assist her, as she was free of the crimes laid to her charge. The others who were imprisoned on her account, denied every thing, except Smeton, who, it is supposed through hopes of favour and acquittal, confessed that he had been criminally connected with her. This, however, he denied when he was brought afterwards to execution, a denial of undoubted proof that she was indeed innocent. She was of a remarkable lively temper, and having resided long in the French court, had imbibed in her behaviour somewhat of the levities of that people. She was also free from pride, and hence, in her exterior, she might have condescended too much to her familiar servants. She even confessed she had once rallied Norris, and told him that he was in love with her, and only waited the king's death to marry her: this was the head and front of her offending.
The whole court however was turned against her, and she had no friend about the king but Cranmer: her enemies therefore procured an order for him not to come to court; yet he put all to hazard, and wrote the king a long letter upon this critical juncture. He acknowledged, that if the things reported of the queen were true, it was the greatest affliction that ever befel the king, and therefore exhorted him to bear it with patience and submission to the will of God: he confessed he never had a better opinion of any woman than of her; and that next to the king he was more bound to her than to all persons living, and therefore he begged his leave to pray that she might be found innocent: he loved her not a little, because of the love which she seemed to bear to God and his gospel; but if she was guilty, all who love the gospel must hate her, as having been the greatest slander possible to the gospel: but he prayed the king not to entertain any prejudice to the gospel on her account, nor give the world to say, that his love to that was founded on the influence she had with him. But the king was inexorable. The indictments were laid in the counties of Kent and Middlesex, the former relating to what was done in Greenwich. Smeton pleaded guilty, as before; the rest pleaded not guilty; but they were all condemned.
On the 15th of May the queen and her brother, who was then a peer, were tried before the duke of Norfolk, as high steward, and a court of twenty-seven peers. The crime charged on her was, that she had procured illicit favours from her brother and four other persons, and had often said to them, that the king never had her heart; and this was to the slander of the issue begotten between the king and her, which was treason by the act which confirmed her marriage, so that this act was now turned to her ruin. They would not now acknowledge her the king's lawful wife, and therefore did not found the treason on the known statute 25th Edw. III. It does not appear what evidence was brought against her; for Smeton being already condemned could not be subpoenaed to attest her guilt; and his never being brought face to face against her, gave just suspicion that he was persuaded to his confession by base practices. The evidence rested only on the declaration of a dead woman; but whether that was forged or real, can never be known till the great day discovers it. The forgery, however, rests on the strongest suspicion.
The earl of Northumberland was one of the judges. He had formerly been in love with the queen, and either from reviving affection, or from some other circumstance, he became suddenly so ill that he could not stay out the trial. Yet all this did not satisfy the king; he resolved to illegitimatize his daughter, the lady Elizabeth, and in order to that to annul his marriage with the queen. It was remembered that the earl of Northumberland had said to cardinal Wolsey, that he had engaged himself so far with her that he could not go back, which was perhaps done by some promise conceived in words of the future tense, but no promise, unless in the words of the present tense, could annul the subsequent marriage. Perhaps the queen did not understand that difference, or probably the fear of a terrible death wrought so much on her, that she confessed the contract; but the earl denied it positively, and took the sacrament upon it, wishing it might turn to his damnation if there was ever either contract or promise of marriage between them. Upon her own confession, however, her marriage with the king was judged null from the beginning, and she was condemned, although nothing could be more contradictory; for if she was never the king's wife, she could not be guilty of adultery, there being no breach of the faith of wedlock. But the king was resolved both to be rid of her, and to declare the daughter she had borne him illegitimate. The day before her death, she sent her last message to the king, asserting her innocence, recommending her daughter to his care, and thanking him for his advancing her first to be a marchioness, then to be a queen, and now, when he could raise her no higher upon earth, for sending her to be a saint in heaven. The day she died the lieutenant of the Tower wrote to Cromwell, that it was not fit to publish the time of her execution, for the fewer that were present it would be the better, since he believed she would declare her innocence at the hour of her death; for that morning she had made great protestations of it when she received the sacrament, and seemed to long for death with great joy and pleasure. On being told that the executioner, who had been sent for expressly from France, was very skilful, she expressed great happiness; for she said, with laughter, she had a very short neck.
A little before noon, she was brought to the place of execution; there were present some of the chief officers and great men of the court. She was it seems prevailed on, out of regard to her daughter, to make no reflections on the cruel treatment she met with, nor to say any thing touching the grounds on which sentence was passed against her. She only desired that all would judge the best; she highly commended the king, and then took her leave of the world. She remained for some time in her private devotions, and concluded, "To Christ I commend my soul;" upon which the executioner struck off her head: and so little respect was paid to her body, that it was with brutal insolence put in a chest of elm-tree, made to send arrows into Ireland, and then buried in the chapel in the Tower. Norris then had his life promised him if he would accuse her; but this faithful and virtuous servant said he knew she was innocent, and would die a thousand times rather than defame her: he and the three others were therefore beheaded, all of them continuing to the last to vindicate her. The day after Anne's death the king married Jane Seymour, who gained more upon him than all his wives before; but she was fortunate that she did not out-live his love to her.
Pope Clement VII. was now dead, and Farnese succeeded him by the name of Paul III., who, after an unsuccessful attempt which he made to reconcile himself with the king, when that was rejected, thundered out a most terrible sentence of deposition against him. Yet now, since the two queens upon whose account the breach was made were out of the way, he thought it a fit time to attempt the recovery of the papal interest, and ordered Cassalli to let the king know that he had been driven, much against his mind, to pass sentence against him, and that now it would be easy for him to recover the favour of the apostolic see. But the king, instead of hearkening to the proposition, caused two acts to be passed, one for utterly extinguishing the pope's authority; in which it was made a praemunire for any one to acknowledge it, or to persuade others to it; and in the other, all bulls and all privileges flowing from them were declared null and void; only marriages or consecrations made by virtue of them were excepted, All who enjoyed privileges by these bulls were required to bring them into the chancery, upon which the archbishop was to make them a new grant of them, which being confirmed under the great seal was to be of full force in law.
The convocation sat at the same time, and was much employed: for the house of lords was often adjourned, because the spiritual lords were busy in the convocation. Latimer preached the Latin sermon; he was the most celebrated preacher of that time; the simplicity of his matter, and his zeal in expressing it, being preferred to more elaborate compositions. They first confirmed the sentence of the divorce of the king's marriage with queen Anne. Then the lower house made an address to the upper house complaining of sixty-seven opinions, which they found were much in the kingdom. These were either the tenets of the old Lollards, or the new Reformers, or of the Anabaptists; but many of them were only indiscreet expressions, which might have flowed from the heat and folly of some rash zealots, who had endeavoured to disgrace both the received doctrines and rites. They also complained of some bishops who were wanting in their duty to suppress such abuses. This was understood as a reflection on Cranmer, Shaxton, and Latimer, the first of whom it was thought was now declining by queen Anne's fall.
But all these projects failed, for Cranmer was now fully established in the king's favour; and Cromwell was sent to them with a message from his majesty, that they should reform the rites and ceremonies of the church according to the rules set down in scripture, which he said ought to be preferred to all glosses or decrees of popes. There was one Alesse, a Scotchman, whom Cromwell entertained in his house, who being appointed to deliver his opinion, largely shewed that there was no sacrament instituted by Christ but baptism and the Lord's supper. Stokesly answered him in a long discourse upon the principles of the school-divinity; upon which Cranmer took occasion to shew the vanity of scholastic learning, and the uncertainty of tradition; and that religion had been so corrupted in the latter ages, that there was no finding out the truth but by resting on the authority of the scriptures. Fox, bishop of Hereford, seconded him, and told them that the world was now awake, and would be no longer imposed on by the niceties and dark terms of the schools; for the laity now not only read the scriptures in the vulgar tongues, but searched the original languages; therefore they must not think to govern them as they had been in the times of ignorance. Among the bishops, Cranmer, Goodrick, Shaxton, Latimer, Fox, Hilsey, and Barlow, pressed the reformation; but Lee, archbishop of York, bishops Stokesly, Tonstall, Gardiner, Longland, and several others opposed it as much. The contest would have been much sharper, had not the king sent certain articles to be considered by them, when the following mixture of truth and error was agreed upon.
These articles were signed by Cromwell, the two archbishops, sixteen bishops, forty abbots and priors, and fifty members of the lower house. The king afterwards added a preface, declaring the pains that he and the clergy had taken for removing the differences in religion which existed in the nation, and that he approved of these articles, and required all his subjects to accept them, and he would be thereby encouraged to take further pains in similar matters for the future. On the publication of these points, the favourers of the reformation, though they did not approve of every particular, yet were well pleased to see things brought under examination; and since some were at this time changed, they did not doubt but more changes would follow. They were glad that the scriptures and ancient creeds were made the standards of the faith, without adding tradition; and that the nature of justification and the gospel-covenant was rightly stated; that the immediate worship of images and saints was condemned, and purgatory left uncertain. The necessity of auricular confession, and the corporeal presence, doing reverence to images, and praying to saints, were of hard digestion to them; yet they rejoiced to see grosser abuses removed, and a reformation once set on foot. The popish party, on the other hand, were sorry to see five sacraments passed over in silence, and the trade created by purgatory put down.
At the same time other things were in consultation, though not finished. Cranmer offered some queries to shew the imposition that had been put on the world; as that priestly absolution without contrition was of more efficacy than contrition without it; and that the people trusted wholly to outward ceremonies, in which the priests encouraged them, because of the gain they made by them. He offered a paper to the king, exhorting him to proceed to further reformation, and that nothing should be determined without clear proofs from scripture, a departure from which occasioned all the errors that had been in the church. Many things were now acknowledged to be erroneous, for denying which some not long before had suffered death. He therefore proposed several points to be discussed, as whether there were a purgatory? whether departed saints ought to be invoked, or tradition believed? whether images ought to be considered mere representations of history? and whether it was lawful for the clergy to marry? He prayed the king not to give judgment in these points till he heard them well examined; but no definitive measures respecting them were at present adopted.
Visitors were now appointed to survey all the lesser monasteries; they were to examine the state of their revenues and goods, form inventories of them, and take their seals into their keeping; they were to try how many of the religious would return to a secular course of life; and these were to be sent to the archbishop of Canterbury, or the lord chancellor for licences, an allowance being granted them for their journey; but those who intended to continue in a religious state were to be removed to some of the great monasteries. A pension was also to be assigned to the abbot, or prior, of each house during life; and they were particularly to examine what leases had been made during the last year. Ten thousand of the religious were by this means driven to seek for their livings, with forty shillings and a gown for each. Their goods and plate were estimated at 100,000l. and the rents of their houses 32,000l. but they were above ten times this value. The churches and cloisters were in most places pulled down, and the materials sold, yielding an incredible amount. These proceedings gave great discontent; and the monks were now as much pitied, as they were formerly hated. The nobility and gentry, who provided for their younger children or friends by putting them in those sanctuaries, were sensible of their loss. The people, who as they travelled over the country found abbeys to be places of reception to strangers, had cause to lament their suppression. But the superstitious, who thought their friends must now lie still in purgatory, without relief from the masses, were out of measure offended and afflicted. But to remove this discontent, Cromwell advised the king to sell those lands at very easy rates to the nobility and gentry, and to oblige them to keep up the wonted hospitality.
This would both be grateful to them, and would engage them to assist the crown in promoting the changes that had been made, since their own interests would be interwoven with that of their sovereign. And upon a clause in the act empowering the king to found anew such houses as he should think fit, there were fifteen monasteries and sixteen nunneries newly founded. These were bound to obey such rules as the king should send them, and to pay him tenths and first fruits. But all this did not pacify the people, for there was still a great outcry. The clergy studied much to inflame the nation, and urged that an heretical prince, deposed by the pope, was no more to be acknowledged; that it was a part of the papal power to depose kings, and give away their dominions; and it had often been put in practice in almost all the parts of Europe, and some who had been abettors of great sedition had been canonized for it.
There were certain injunctions given by Cromwell which increased this discontent. All churchmen were required every Sunday for a quarter of a year, and twice every quarter after that, to preach against the pope's power and to explain the six articles of the convocation. They were forbidden to extol images, relics, or pilgrimages; but to exhort to works of charity. They were also required to teach the Lord's prayer, the creed, and the ten commandments in English, and to explain these carefully, and instruct the children well in them. They were to perform the divine offices reverently, and to have good curates to supply their places when they were absent. They were charged not to go to alehouses, or sit too long at games; but to study the scriptures, and be exemplary in their lives. Those who did not reside in their parishes were to give the fortieth part of their income to the poor; and for every hundred pounds a year, they were to maintain a pupil at some grammar school, or the university. If the parsonage-house was in decay, they were ordered to apply a fifth part of their benefice for the purpose of repairing it.
The people continued quiet till they had got in their harvest; but in the beginning of October, 20,000 rose in Lincolnshire, led by a priest in the disguise of a cobler. They took an oath to be true to God, the king and the commonwealth, and sent a paper of their grievances to the king. They complained of some acts of parliament, of suppressing of many religious houses, of mean and ill counsellors, and bad bishops; and prayed the king to redress their grievances by the advice of the nobility. The king sent the duke of Suffolk to raise forces against them, and gave an answer to their petition. He said it belonged not to the rabble to direct princes what counsellors they should choose. The religious houses were suppressed by law, and the heads of them had under their hands confessed such horrid scandals, that they were a reproach to the nation; and that as they wasted their rents in riotous living, it was much better to apply them to the common good of the nation. He required them to submit to his mercy, and to deliver up two hundred of their leaders into the hands of his lieutenants.
At the same time there was a more formidable rising in Yorkshire, which being in the neighbourhood of Scotland, was likely to draw assistance from that kingdom, though their king was then gone into France to marry Francis' daughter; which inclined Henry to make more haste to settle matters in Lincolnshire. He sent them secret assurances of mercy, which wrought on the greatest part, so that they dispersed themselves, while the most obstinate went over to those in Yorkshire. The leader and some others were taken and executed. The distance of those in the North gave them time to assemble, and form themselves into some regimental order. One Ask was commander in chief, and performed his part with great dexterity: their march was called "the Pilgrimage of Grace;" they had on their banners and sleeves the five wounds of Christ; they took an oath that they would restore the church, suppress heretics, preserve the king and his issue, and drive base born men and ill counsellors from him. They became 40,000 strong in a few days, and forced the archbishop of York and the lord Darcy to swear to their covenant, and to proceed with them. They besieged Skipton, but the earl of Cumberland made it good against them. Sir Ralph Evers held out Scarborough castle, though for twenty days he and his men had no provisions but bread and water.
There was also a rising in the other northern countries, against whom the earl of Shrewsbury made head; and the king sent several of the nobility to his assistance, and within a few days the duke of Norfolk marched with some troops and joined him. They possessed themselves of Doncaster, and resolved to keep that pass till the rest of the forces which the king had ordered should arrive; for they were not in a condition to engage with such numbers of desperate men; and it was very likely that if they met with an accident, the people might have risen about them every where; the duke of Norfolk resolved, therefore, to keep close at Doncaster, and let the provision and rage of the rebels waste away, and then they might probably fall into factions and disperse. They were now reduced to 10,000, but the king's army was not above 5000. The duke of Norfolk proposed a treaty; they were persuaded to send their petitions to the king, who to make them more secure, discharged a rendezvous which he had appointed at Northampton, and sent them a general pardon, excepting six by name, and reserving four to be afterwards named; but this put them all in such apprehension, that it made them more desperate: yet the king, to give his people some content, issued injunctions requiring the clergy to continue the use of all the ceremonies of the church: meanwhile 300 were employed to carry the demands of the rebels to the king. These were, a general pardon, a parliament to be held at York, and that courts of justice should be set up there; some acts of parliament to be repealed, that the princess Mary might be restored to her right of succession, and the pope to his wonted jurisdiction; that the monasteries might be revived; that Audley and Cromwell might be removed from the king; and that some of the visitors might be imprisoned for their bribery and extortion. These proposals being rejected, the rebels took heart again, and finding that with the loss of time they lost heart, resolved to fall upon the royal troops, and drive them into Doncaster; but at two several times in which they had thought to ford the river, such rains fell as made it impassable. The king, at length, sent an answer to their demands: he assured them he would live and die in the defence of the christian faith; but the rabble ought not to prescribe to him and to the convocation in that matter. He answered that which concerned the monasteries as he had done to the men of Lincolnshire. If they had just complaints to make of any about him, he was ready to hear them; but he would not suffer them to direct him what counsellors he ought to employ: nor could they judge of the bishops who had been promoted, whom they knew not. He charged them not to believe lies, nor be governed by incendiaries, but to submit to his mercy. On the 9th of December he signed a proclamation of pardon without any restriction. As soon as the affair was over, the king went on more resolutely in his design of suppressing the monasteries; being now less apprehensive of any new commotion.
A new visitation was appointed to enquire into the conversation of the monks, to examine how they stood affected to the pope, and how they promoted the king's supremacy. It was likewise ordered to examine what impostures might be among them, either in images or relics, by which the superstition of the credulous people was excited. Some few houses of greater value were prevailed with the former year to surrender to the king. Many of the houses which had not been dissolved, though they were within the former act, were now suppressed, and many of the greater abbots were induced to surrender by several motives. Some had been faulty during the rebellion, and to prevent a storm offered a resignation. Others liked the reformation, and did it on that account; some were found guilty of great disorders in their lives, and to prevent a shameful discovery, offered their houses to the king; while others had made such wastes and dilapidations, that having taken care of themselves, they were less concerned for others. At St. Alban's the rents were let so low, that the abbot could not maintain the charge of the abbey. At Battel the whole furniture of the house and chapel was not above 1000l. in value, and the plate was not 300l. In some houses there was scarcely any plate or furniture left. Many abbots and monks were glad to accept of a pension for life, which was proportioned to the value of their house, and to their innocence. The abbots of St. Alban's and Tewkesbury had 400 marks a year: the abbot of St. Edmondsbury was more innocent and more resolute; the visitors wrote that they found no scandals in that house; he was, however, prevailed with by a pension of 500 marks to resign. The inferior governors had some 30, 20, or 10l. pensions, and the monks had generally 6l. or eight marks a piece. By these means one hundred and twenty-one of these houses were this year resigned to the king. In most cases the visitor made the monks sign a confession of their vices and disorders, of which there is only one original extant. They acknowledged in a long narrative, their former idleness, gluttony, and sensuality, for which they said the pit of hell was ready to swallow them up. Others were sensible that the manner of their former religion consisted in dumb ceremonies, by which they were blindly led, having no true knowledge of God's laws; but that they had procured exemption from their diocesans, and had subjected themselves wholly to a foreign power, which took no care to reform their abuses; and therefore since the most perfect way of life was revealed by Christ and his apostles, and that it was fit they should be governed by the king as their supreme head, they freely resigned to him. Some resigned in hopes that the king would found them anew; these favoured the reformation, and intended to convert their houses to better uses, for preaching, study, and prayer; and Latimer pressed Cromwell earnestly, that two or three houses might be reserved for such purposes in every county. But it was resolved to suppress all. The common preamble to most surrenders was, "That upon full deliberation, and of their own proper motion, for just and reasonable causes moving their consciences, they did freely give up their houses to the king." In short, they went on at such a rate, that one hundred and fifty-nine resignations were obtained before the parliament met. Some thought that these resignations could not be valid, since the incumbents had not the property, but only the trust for life. But the parliament afterwards declared them good by an ex post facto law.
Others were more roughly handled. The prior of Wooburn was suspected of a correspondence with the rebels, and of favouring the pope; he was requested to submit to the king, and prevailed on to do it, but he was not easy in it, nor fixed to it; he complained that the new preachers detracted from the honour due to the virgin and saints; he thought the religion was changed, and wondered that the judgments of God on queen Anne had not terrified others from going on to subvert the faith. When the rebellion broke out he joined in it, as did also the abbots of Whaley, Garvaux, and Sawley, and the prior of Burlington; all these were taken, attainted of treason, and executed. The abbots of Glastonbury and Reading had also sent a great quantity of their plate to the rebels; the former, to disguise it the better, had hired a man to break into the house where the plate was kept: thus he was convicted both of burglary and treason, and at his execution he confessed his crime, and begged both God and the king's pardon for it. The abbot of Reading had complied so far, that he was grown into favour with Cromwell. Many of the Carthusians were executed for denying the king's supremacy: others were suspected of favouring them, and of receiving books sent from beyond sea against the king's proceedings, and were shut up in their cells, in which most of them died. The prior was a man of extraordinary charity and good works, as the visitor reported; but he was made to resign, with this preamble, "That many of the houses had offended the king, and deserved that their lives should be taken, and their goods confiscated; and therefore to avoid that, they surrendered their houses." Great complaints were made of the visitors, as if they had used undue practices to make the abbots and monks surrender; and it was said, that they had in many places embezzled much of the plate for their own uses; and in particular, it was complained that Dr. Loudon had corrupted many nuns. The visitors, on the other hand, published many of the vile practices that they found in the houses, so that several books were printed upon this occasion. No story became so public as that of the prior of Crutched-friars in London, who was detected with a strumpet at noon-day: he fell down on his knees, and begged that they who surprised him would not discover his shame. They made him give them 30l. which he protested was all he had; and he promised them as much more: but not keeping his word, a suit followed upon it. Yet these personal blemishes did not much concern the people. They deemed it unreasonable to extinguish noble foundations for the fault of some individuals: therefore another way was taken which had a better effect.
They disclosed to the world many impostures about relics and images, to which pilgrimages had been made. At Reading they had an angel's wing, which, they said, brought over the spear's point that pierced our Saviour's side; and as many pieces of the cross were found, as when joined together would have made a large cross. The rood of Grace at Bexley, in Kent, had been much esteemed, and had attracted many pilgrims to it: it was observed to bow, and roll its eyes, and look at times well pleased or angry; which the credulous multitude imputed to a divine power: but all was now discovered to be a cheat, and it was brought up to St. Paul's cross, where the springs were openly shewed that governed its several motions. At Hales, in Gloucestershire, blood was shewed in a vial which was pretended to be the blood of Christ; and it was believed that none could see it who were in mortal sin. Those who could bestow liberal presents were of course gratified, by being led to believe that they were in a state of grace. This miracle consisted in the blood of a bird or beast, renewed every week, put in a vial very thick on one side, and thin on the other; and either side turned towards the pilgrim, as the priests were satisfied with their oblations. Several other similar impostures were discovered, which contributed much to the undeceiving of the people.
The richest shrine in England was Thomas `a Becket's at Canterbury, whose story is well known. After he had long embroiled England, and shewed that he had a spirit so turned to faction that he could not be at quiet, some servants of Henry II. killed him in the church at Canterbury. He was presently canonized, and held in greater esteem than any other saint whatever; so much more was a martyr for the papacy valued, than any who suffered for the christian religion: and his altar drew far greater oblations than those dedicated to Christ or the blessed Virgin, as appears by the accounts of two years. In the first year 3l. 2s. 6d., and in the second not a penny, was offered at Christ's altar. In the Virgin's, there was in the first year 63l. 5s. 6d., and in the second 4l. 1s. 8d.; while at the shrine of Becket, there was in the first year 832l. 12s. 3d., and in the second 964l. 6s. 3d. offered. The shrine continued to grow in veneration and riches. Lewis VII. of France came over in pilgrimage to visit it, and offered a stone esteemed the richest in Europe. This saint had not only one holy day, the 29th of December, called his martyrdom; but another for his translation, namely, the 7th of July. Besides these, every fiftieth year there was a jubilee, and an indulgence granted to all who came and visited his tomb, which was so great a number, that on these occasions there have been supposed to be assembled not less than 100,000 pilgrims.
The lane leading from the main street of the city to the cathedral gate has one side of it almost occupied with very ancient houses. These were once one entire house of accommodation called the Pilgrim's Inn. The cellars are still in their ancient state, and give us a notion of incredible quantities of wine being then kept in store for those pilgrims who could pay for it. Intemperance among them was then as common almost as superstition. Those of smaller wealth were accommodated in a suburb of the city, called to this day Wincheap--denoting the greater cheapness of the wine there than at the Pilgrim's Inn. It is hard to tell whether hatred to his seditious practices, or the love of his shrine, led king Henry to unsaint Thomas `a Becket. His shrine was broken, and the gold of it was so heavy that it filled two chests, each of which took eight men to carry it out of the church. The skull, which had been so idolized, was proved to be an imposture; for the true one was safe in his coffin: his bones had either been burnt, as it was given out at Rome; or so mixed with others, as our writers say, that it would have been a miracle indeed to have distinguished them.
When these things were known at Rome, all the eloquent pens there were employed to represent king Henry as the most sacrilegious tyrant that ever made war with Christ's vicar on earth, and his saints in heaven. He was compared to the worst of princes; to Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Nero, and Dioclesian; but the parallel with Julian the apostate was most insisted on. It was said, he copied after him in all things, while his manners were worse. The pope proceeded farther; he published all those thunders with which he had threatened him three years before. He pretended that, as God's vicar, he had power to root out, and to destroy; and had authority over all the kings in the world: and therefore, after he had enumerated all the crimes of Henry, he required him to appear within ninety days at Rome, either in person or by proxy, and all his accomplices within sixty days; and that if he and they did not appear, he declared the king to have fallen from his crown, and them from their estates. He put the kingdom under an interdict, and absolved his subjects from their oaths of allegiance: he declared him and his accomplices infamous; and put their children under incapacities. He required all the clergy to go out of England, within five days after the stated time should expire, leaving only so many as might serve for baptizing children or giving the sacrament to such as died in penitence. He charged all subjects to rise in arms against the king, and that none should assist him. He absolved all other princes from their confederacies with him, and conjured them to have no more commerce with him. He required all Christians to make war on him; and to seize on the persons and goods of all his subjects, and make slaves of them; and, in conclusion, he charged all bishops to publish the sentence with due solemnities, and ordained it to be affixed on the churches of Rome, Tournay, and Dunkirk. This was given out on the 30th of August, 1535; but it had been suspended till the suppression of monasteries, and the burning of Becket's bones; at which the pope was so exasperated, that he resolved to forbear extremities no longer. On the 17th of December this year, he therefore published the bull. By this sentence it is certain, that either the pope's infallibility must be confessed to be a vain assumption upon the world, or if any believe it, they must presume that the power of deposing princes is really lodged in that chair; for this was not a sudden fit of passion, but done ex Cathedra, with all the deliberation it could admit of. The sentence was in some particulars without a precedent; but as to the main points of deposing the king, and absolving his subjects from their obedience, there were numerous instances to be brought in the last five hundred years, to shew that this had been always asserted as the right of papacy. The pope wrote to the kings of France and Scotland, to inflame them against Henry; and had this been an age of crusades, no doubt there had been one undertaken against him; but the thunders of the Vatican had already begun to lose their force.
To counteract this violence, the king caused all the bishops, and eminent divines of England, to sign a declaration against all churchmen who pretended to the power of the sword, or to authority over kings; and that all who assumed such powers were subverters of the kingdom of Christ. Many of the bishops also signed another paper, declaring the limits of the regal and ecclesiastical power; that both had their authority from God, for several ends and different natures; and that princes were subject to the word of God, as well as bishops ought to be obedient to their laws. There was also another declaration signed by Cromwell, the two archbishops, eleven bishops, and twenty divines; asserting the distinction between the power of the keys, and that of the power of the sword: the former of which was not absolute, but limited by the scripture. Orders were declared to be a sacrament instituted by Christ, which were conferred by prayer and imposition of hands. It was also decreed that in the New Testament no mention was made of any other ranks but of deacons or ministers and of priests or bishops.
This year the English Bible was finished. The translation was first sent over to Paris to be printed, the workmen in England not being thought able to get through it. Bonner was at that time ambassador at Paris; and he obtained a licence of Francis for printing it; but upon a complaint made by the French clergy, the press was stopped, and many of the copies were seized and burnt. It was therefore brought over to England, where it was undertaken and now finished by Grafton. Cromwell procured a general warrant from the king, allowing all his subjects to read it; for which Cranmer wrote his thanks to Cromwell, saying he rejoiced to see the day of reformation risen in England, since the word of God now shone over all without a cloud. Not long after this, Cromwell gave injunctions requiring the clergy to set up Bibles in their churches, and to encourage all the people to read them. Incumbents were required to instruct and teach them the creed, the Lord's prayer, and the ten commandments, in English; and once every quarter to preach a sermon, to declare the true gospel of Christ; and to exhort the people to works of charity; and not to trust to pilgrimages, or relics, or counting their beads, which tended to superstition. Images, abused by pilgrimages made to them, were ordered to be taken away. And such as had formerly magnified images, or pilgrimages, were required openly to recant, and confess that they had been in error, which covetousness had brought into the church. All incumbents were required to keep registers for christenings and marriages; and to teach the people that it was good to omit the suffrages to the saints in the litany. Thus was a vital stab given to some of the main points of superstition; but the free use of the scriptures gave the deadliest blow of all. Yet, notwithstanding, the clergy submitted to nearly the whole change without murmuring.
This year was celebrated by the birth of prince Edward, an event which blasted the hopes of the popish party, chiefly built on the probability of the lady Mary's succeeding to the crown. Lee, Gardiner, and Stokesly, now seemed to vie with the bishops of the other party, which of them should most zealously execute the injunctions, and thereby insinuate themselves into the king's favour. Gardiner had been some years ambassador in France, but Cromwell had caused Bonner, who seemed to be the most zealous promoter of the reformation then in England, to be sent in his stead. Gardiner afterwards was sent to the emperor's court with sir Henry Knevet, and there he gave occasion to suspect that he was treating on a reconciliation with the pope's legate. But the Italian who managed it, being sent with a message to the ambassador's secretary, mistook Knevet's for Gardener's, and told his business to him. Knevet endeavoured to fathom the mystery, but could not carry it farther; for the Italian was disowned, and put in prison upon it, and Gardiner complained of it as a scheme laid to ruin him. Such were his artifices and flatteries, that he was still preserved in some degree of favour as long as the king lived. Gardiner used one topic which prevailed much with the king, that his zeal against heresy was giving the greatest advantage to his cause over all Europe; and therefore he pressed him to begin with the sacramentarists, such as denied the corporeal presence at the sacrament. Those being condemned by the German princes, he had the less reason to be afraid of embroiling his affairs by his severities against them. This meeting so well with the king's own persuasions concerning the corporeal presence, had a great effect on him; and an occasion quickly offered itself to display his zeal in that matter, and this was in the memorable instance of John Lambert.
John Lambert was born in the county of Norfolk, and educated at the university of Cambridge. Having made himself master of Greek and Latin, he translated several books from those languages into the English. On his conversion, however, by Bilney, he became disgusted at the corruptions of the church; and apprehensive of persecution, he crossed the sea and joined himself to Tindal and Frith, with whom he remained more than a year; and, from his piety and ability, was appointed chaplain and preacher to the English factory at Antwerp. But there the jealousy and persecuting spirit of Sir T. More reached him, and on the accusation of a person named Barlow, he was taken and conveyed to London. There he was brought to examination first at Lambeth, then removed to the bishop's house at Oxford, before Warham, the archbishop of Canterbury, and other adversaries, having five and forty articles brought against him, to which he drew out at considerable length written answers, with a perspicuity and strength excelled by none of his age. These answers were directed and delivered to Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, about the year of our Lord 1532, at which time Lambert was in custody in the bishop's house at Oxford, where he was deprived of the assistance of books. But, so the providence of God wrought for him, that in the following year archbishop Warham died, whereby Lambert for that time was delivered.
Cranmer succeeded to the see of Canterbury. Lambert in the mean time being delivered, partly by the death of the archbishop, partly by the coming in of queen Anne, returned unto London, and there exercised himself in teaching youth the Greek and Latin tongues. As priests in those days could not be permitted to have wives, he resigned his priesthood, and applied himself to teaching, intending shortly after to be married. But God, who disposeth all men's purposes after the good pleasure of his own will, did both intercept his marriage and also take away his freedom. Having continued his profession as teacher with great success, it happened, that in the present year, 1538, he was present at a sermon in St. Peter's church, London, preached by Dr. Taylor, a man in those days not far disagreeing from the gospel, and afterwards, in the time of king Edward, made bishop of Lincoln, of which he was again deprived in the time of queen Mary, and so ended his life among the confessors of Jesus Christ. Dr. Taylor having spoken something upon the corporeal presence which Lambert conceiving to be erroneous, he felt himself urged by duty to argue the subject with him. He, therefore, at the conclusion of the sermon, went to the doctor and began the contest. Taylor, excusing himself at the present for other business, wished him to write his mind and to come again at a more convenient season.
Lambert was contented and departed. When he had written his mind, he came again unto him. The sum of his arguments were ten, approving the truth of the cause, partly by the scriptures, by good reason, and by the doctors. These were written with great force and authority. The first reason was the following, gathered upon Christ's words, where it is said in the gospel, "This cup is the New Testament." "If," he added, "these words do not change the cup nor the wine corporeally into the New Testament, by the same reason it is not agreeable that the words spoken of the bread should turn that corporeally into the body of Christ." He then proceeded thus--
"It is not agreeable to a natural body to be in two places or more at one time: wherefore it must follow of necessity that either Christ had not a natural body or else truly, according to the common nature of a body, it cannot be present in two places at once, and much less in many, that is to say, in heaven and in earth, on the right hand of his Father, and in the sacrament." He added likewise many other positions from the writings of the doctors. Dr. Taylor, willing and desiring, as is supposed from goodness of heart, to satisfy Lambert in these matters, whom he took to council, he conferred with Dr. Barnes, who, although he otherwise favoured the gospel, and was an earnest preacher, seemed not to favour this cause; fearing, possibly, that it would breed some mischief among the people, in prejudice of the gospel which was now in a good state of forwardness. He, therefore, persuaded Taylor to submit the entire question to the superior judgment of Cranmer.
Upon these things Lambert's quarrel began, and was brought to this point, so that from a private talk it came to be a public and common matter. He was sent for by the archbishop, brought into the open court, and forced publicly to defend his cause. The archbishop had not yet favoured the doctrine of the sacrament, although afterwards he was an earnest professor of it. In that point of disputation it is said Lambert appealed from the bishops to the king's majesty.
Gardiner, ever awake to his worldly interest, and to every occasion of checking that cause which in his heart he hated, learning the particulars of the affair, went privately to the king, and with all artifice and subtlety emptied the malice of his own heart into that of the king's, empoisoning the royal ear with his pernicious counsels. He said that the world viewed him with suspicion, and began to charge him with being a favourer of heretics; and that the present affair relating to Lambert would enable him, by proceeding against him, to banish from the hearts of all those unfavourable suspicions and complaints. To this advice, the king, giving ear more willingly than prudently, sent out a general commission, commanding all the nobles and bishops of his realm to come with speed to London, to assist the king against heretics and heresies, upon which the king himself would sit in judgment. These preparations made, a day was appointed for Lambert, where a great assembly of the nobles was gathered from all parts of the country, not without much wonder and expectation in this singular case. All the seats and places round the scaffold were crowded. At length John Lambert was brought from the prison under a guard of armed men, as a lamb to fight with many lions, and placed directly opposite to the king's seat.
Then came the king himself as judge of the controversy, with his body-guard clothed all in white. On his right hand sat the bishops, and behind them the celebrated lawyers, clothed in purple, according to the manner. On the left hand sat the peers of the realm, justices, and other nobles in their order; behind whom were the gentlemen of the king's privy chamber. This manner and form of the judgment was enough of itself to abash innocence; yet the king's look, his cruel countenance, and his brows bent to severity, augmented the terror, plainly declaring a mind full of indignation unworthy such a prince, especially in such a matter, and against a subject so humble, and obedient. Being seated on his throne, he beheld Lambert with a stern countenance, and then turning himself to his counsellors, called forth Day, bishop of Chichester, and commanded him to declare to the people the cause of the present assembly and judgment.
The bishop's oration tended to this purpose: that the king in session would have all states and degrees to be admonished of his will and pleasure, that no man should conceive any sinister opinion of him, that now the authority and name of the bishop of Rome being utterly abolished, he would not extinguish all religion by giving liberty unto heretics to perturb and trouble the churches of England, whereof he was the head, without punishment. Moreover, that they should not think they were assembled at that time to make any disputation upon the heretical doctrine; but only for this purpose, that by the industry of him and other bishops, the heresies of this man here present, and of all like him, should be refuted or openly condemned in the presence of them all.
The oration being concluded, the king rose, and leaning upon a cushion of white cloth of tissue, turned himself toward Lambert with his brow bent and said, "Ho, good fellow, what is thy name?" Then the prisoner kneeling down, said, "My name is John Nicholson, although by many I am called Lambert." "What!" said the king, "have you two names? I would not trust you, having two names, although your were my brother."
Lambert replied--"O most noble prince, your bishops forced me of necessity to change my name." The king then commanded him to go into the matter, and to declare his mind and opinion, what he thought as touching the sacrament of the altar. Then Lambert proceeded, gave God thanks, who had so inclined the heart of the king, that he himself would not disdain to hear and understand the controversies of religion; since it had often happened, through the cruelty of the bishops, that many good and innocent men in many places were privily murdered without the knowledge of their sovereign. But now, as that high and eternal King of kings, in whose hands are the hearts of all princes, had inspired the king's mind, that he himself would be present to understand the causes of his subjects; especially whom God of his divine goodness had so endued with such gifts of judgment and knowledge, he did not doubt but that God would bring some great thing to pass through him to the glory of his name.
Here Henry interrupted him, and with an angry voice, said,--"I came not hither to hear mine own praises thus painted out in my presence; but briefly to go into the matter without any more circumstance." Then Lambert, abashed at the king's angry words, contrary to all men's expectations, stayed awhile, considering whither he might turn himself in these great straits and extremities. Upon which the king, with anger and vehemency, said,--"Why standest thou still? Answer as touching the sacrament of the altar,--whether dost thou say, that it is the body of Christ, or wilt deny it?" With that word the king reverently lifted his turban from his head.
Lambert said--"I answer with St. Augustine--That it is the body of Christ, after a certain manner." Then the king said--"Answer me neither out of St. Augustine, neither by the authority of any other man; but tell me plainly, whether thou sayest it is the body of Christ or no?" Then Lambert meekly replied--"I deny it to be the body of Christ." The king on this said--"Mark well, for now thou shalt be condemned even by Christ's own words: Hoc est corpus meum." He then commanded Cranmer to refute his assertion; who, first making a short preface to the hearers, began his disputation with Lambert, very modestly saying,--"Brother Lambert, let this matter be handled between us indifferently, that if I do convince this your argument to be false by the scriptures, you will willingly refuse the same; but if you shall prove it true by manifest testimonies of the scripture, I do promise willingly to embrace the same."
The argument was this, taken out of that place of the Acts of the Apostles, where Christ appeared to St. Paul by the way; disputing out of that place, that it is not disagreeable to the word of God, that the body of Christ may be in two places at once, which being in heaven, was seen of St. Paul at the same time upon earth; and if it may be in two places, why by the like reason may it not be in many places?
Thus the archbishop began to refute the second argument of Lambert, which had been written and delivered by him to Dr. Taylor the preacher: the king having already disputed against his first reason. Lambert answered to this argument,--"That the minor was not thereby proved, that Christ's body was dispersed in two places, or more, but remained rather still in one place, as touching the manner of his body. For the scripture doth not say, that Christ being upon the earth did speak unto Paul; but that suddenly a light from heaven did shine round about him, and he fell to the ground and heard a voice, saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." This place saith nothing but that Christ, sitting in heaven, might speak to Paul, and be heard upon earth: for they which were with Paul verily heard the voice, but did see no one."
The archbishop, on the contrary part, said, Paul himself doth witness, that Christ did appear unto him in the same vision. Lambert again answered, that Christ did witness in the same place, that he would again appear unto him, and deliver him out of the hands of the Gentiles: notwithstanding we read in no place that Christ did corporeally appear unto him. Thus, when they had contended about the conversion of St. Paul, and Lambert so answering for himself, that the king seemed greatly to be moved therewith, and the bishop himself to be entangled, and all the audience amazed; the bishop of Winchester, fearing lest the argument should be taken out of his mouth, or rather being filled with malice against the poor man, without the king's commandment, observing no order, before the archbishop had made an end, alleged a place out of the twelfth chapter of the Corinthians, where St. Paul saith,--"Have I not seen the Lord Jesus?" And again in the fifteenth chapter: "He appeared unto Cephas; and afterwards unto James, then to all the apostles; but last of all he appeared unto me also as one born out of due time."
To all this Lambert answered, he did not doubt but that Christ was seen, and did appear, but he denied that he was in two places, according to the manner of his body. Then Gardiner again perverting the authority of Paul, repeated the place out of the second epistle to the Corinthians, the fifth chapter,--"And if so be we have known Christ after the flesh, now henceforth know we him no more." Lambert added, that this knowledge is not to be understood according to the sense of the body, and that it so appeared sufficiently by St. Paul, which speaking of his own revelation, saith thus:--"I know one, whether in the body or out of the body, God knoweth, which was caught up into the third heaven; and I know not whether in the body or out of the body, God knoweth." Even by the testimony of St. Paul, a man shall easily gather, that in this revelation he was taken up in spirit into the heavens, and did see those things, rather than that Christ came down corporeally from heaven, to shew them unto him: especially as it was said of the angel, "As he ascended into heaven, so he shall come again." And St. Peter saith, "Whom it behoved to dwell in the heavens." Moreover appointing the measure of time, he added, "Even until that all things be restored." Here again Lambert, being taunted and insulted, could not be suffered to proceed.
When Gardiner had finished, Tonstal took his course, and after a long preface, wherein he spake much of God's omnipotency, at last he came to this point, saying, that if Christ could perform that which he spake, touching the converting his body into bread, without doubt he would speak nothing, but that he would perform. Lambert answered, That there was no place of scripture wherein Christ doth at any time say, that he would change the bread into his body: and moreover, that there is no necessity why he should so do. But this is a figurative speech, every where used in the scripture, when as the name and appellation of the thing signified is attributed unto the sign. By which figure of speech, circumcision is called the Covenant--the lamb the Passover, besides six hundred such instances. With great firmness he then said--"Now it remaineth to be marked, whether we shall judge all these after the words pronounced be straightway changed into another nature." Then began they to rage afresh against Lambert, resolving, if they could not destroy his arguments, at least to drown them with rebukes and taunts.
Next stepped forth the valiant champion Stokesley, bishop of London, who afterwards, lying at the point of death, rejoiced, that in his lifetime he had burned fifty heretics. This man, with a long protestation, promised to prove "that it was not only a miracle of divine work, but also that it did not at all contradict nature. For it is nothing dissonant from nature, the substance of like things to be often changed one into another. So that nevertheless the accidents do remain, albeit the substance itself and the matter be changed." Then he attempted to prove it by the example of water boiling so long upon the fire until all the substance evaporated. "Now," saith he, "it is the doctrine of the philosophers. that a substance cannot be changed but into substance: wherefore we affirm the substance of the water to pass into the substance of the air, notwithstanding the quality of the water, which is moistness, remaineth after the substance is changed; for the air is moist even as the water is."
At this argument the bishops greatly rejoiced, and their countenance changed, as it were assuring themselves of a certain triumph and victory by this philosophical transmutation of elements. The audience now waited in expectation of Lambert's answer, who as soon as he had obtained silence and liberty to speak, first denied the bishop's assumption, that the moisture of the water did remain after the substance was altered. "For although," saith he, "we grant, with the philosophers, the air to be naturally moist, notwithstanding it hath one proper degree of moisture, and the water another; still there is another doctrine amongst the philosophers, as a perpetual rule, that it can by no means be that the qualities and accidents in natural things should remain in their own proper nature, without their proper subject." Upon this the king and bishops raged against Lambert, so much that he was again forced to silence. Then the other bishops, every one in his order, as they were appointed, supplied their place in the disputation. There were ten in number appointed for the performing of this tragedy, for ten arguments, as before we have declared, were delivered unto Taylor the preacher. It were too tedious in this place to repeat the reasons and arguments of every bishop, having little in them worthy either the hearer or the reader.
Lambert in the mean time being encompassed with so many perplexities, vexed on the one side with checks and taunts, and pressed on the other side with the authority and threats of the personages; partly being amazed with the majesty of the place in the presence of the king, and especially being wearied with long standing, which continued no less than five hours, from twelve at noon until five at night, being reduced to despair, that he should not profit in this contest; and seeing no hope from farther argument, chose rather to hold his peace. Consequently the bishops spake what they listed without interruption, save only that Lambert would now and then allege a word or two for the defence of his cause; but for the most part, being overcome with weariness and grief, he held his peace, defending himself rather with silence than with arguments.
At last when the day was passed, and torches began to be lighted, the king desiring to break up this pretended disputation, said to Lambert, "What sayest thou now after all these great labours which thou hast taken upon thee, and all the reasons and instructions of these learned men? Art thou not yet satisfied? Wilt thou live or die? What sayest thou? Thou hast yet free choice." Lambert answered, "I yield and submit myself wholly unto the will of your majesty." "Then," said the king, "commit thyself unto the hand of God, and not unto mine." To which he piously replied--"I commend my soul unto the hands of God, but my body I wholly yield and submit unto your clemency." Then said the king, "If you do commit yourself unto my judgment, you must die, for I will not be a patron unto heretics." Then sternly addressing Cromwell, he commanded to read the sentence of condemnation against him. And we cannot but wonder to see how unfortunately it came to pass, that through the pestiferous and crafty counsel of this bishop of Winchester, Satan, who often raises up one brother to the destruction of another, here performed the condemnation of Lambert by no other ministers than reformers themselves, namely, Taylor, Barnes, Cranmer, and Cromwell, who afterwards in apparent judgment, all suffered the like for the gospel's sake.
Cromwell, at the king's command, taking the schedule of condemnation in hand, read it aloud; wherein was contained the burning of heretics, which either spake or wrote any thing, or had any books by them, repugnant or disagreeing from the papistical church and tradition touching the sacrament of the altar: also a decree that the same should be set upon the church porches, and be read four times every year in every church throughout the realm, whereby the worshipping of the bread should be the more firmly fixed in the hearts of the people. Thus was John Lambert, in this bloody session, by the king, condemned to death; whose judgment now remaineth with the Lord against that day, when both princes and subjects shall stand and appear, not to judge, but to be judged, according as they have done and deserved.
Upon the day appointed for this holy martyr of God to suffer, he was brought out of the prison at eight o'clock in the morning unto the house of the lord Cromwell, and carried into his inner chamber, where, it is reported of many, that Cromwell desired of him forgiveness for what he had done. There at the last, Lambert being admonished that the hour of his death was at hand, he was greatly comforted and cheered; and being brought out of the chamber into the hall, he saluted the gentlemen, and sat down to breakfast with them, shewing no manner of sadness or fear. When breakfast was ended, he was carried straight to the place of execution at Smithfield. The manner of his death was dreadful; for after his legs were nearly consumed and burned, and that the wretched tormentors and enemies of God had withdrawn the fire from him, then two who stood on each side with their halberds, pitched him, from side to side as far as the chain would reach; while he, lifting up such hands as he had, cried unto the people in these words:--"None but Christ, none but Christ!" He was soon after let down again from their halberds, fell into the fire, and there ended his life.
During the time he was in the archbishop's ward at Lambeth, which was a little before his disputation before the king, he wrote an excellent confession, or defence of his cause, to Henry. It commenced with a humble and modest preface, that the pride of majesty might not take offence at the advice of a subject. He declared, that he had a twofold consolation laid up for him. The one in the most high and mighty Prince of princes, God; the other, next unto God, his majesty, who should represent the office and ministry of that most high Prince in governing here upon earth. After thus proceeding in gentle words, he declared the cause which moved him to what he had done. That although he was not ignorant how odious this doctrine would be unto the people, yet notwithstanding, he knew how desirous the king was to search out the truth; he thought no time unfit to perform his duty, especially as he would not utter those things unto the multitude, lest he should occasion offence, but only unto the prince himself, unto whom he might safely declare his mind. After this preface, he confirmed his doctrine touching the sacrament by numerous testimonies of the scripture; by which he proved the body of Christ, whether it riseth, or ascendeth, or sitteth, or be conversant here, to be always in one place. Finally, in a masterly manner he gathered together all the opinions of the ancient fathers, declaring, from them, that Christ was only present in spirit, and that Hoc est corpus meum, meant only--"This signifies my body;" just as--"I am the bread--the vine--the door"--denote that these emblems were significant of himself.
The popish party greatly triumphed in his death, and endeavoured to improve it. They persuaded the king of the good effects it would have on his people, who would in this see his zeal for the faith; and they forgot not to magnify all that he had said, as if it had been uttered by an oracle, which proved him to be both "Defender of the Faith, and Supreme Head of the Church." All this wrought so much on the king, that he resolved to call a parliament, both for suppressing the monasteries and the new opinions. Thus did this haughty and infatuated monarch pull down with one hand what the other was attempting to build up; and thus did his protestant as well as papal advisers "treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath," and by their pusillanimous proceedings and treacherous principles only expose their lives to the fury of one party, and their own names to the derision or execration of the other.
Fox, bishop of Hereford, died at this time: he had been much employed in Germany, and had settled a league between the king and the German princes. Henry was acknowledged the patron of this league; and in support of it, he sent over 100,000 crowns a year. There was also a religious league proposed; but upon the change that followed in the court on queen Anne's death, it fell to the ground; and what their league embraced relating to religion, was, that they should unite against the pope as their common enemy, and set up the true religion according to the gospel. But a treaty upon other points was afterwards set on foot. The king desired Melancthon to come over; and several letters passed between them; but he could not be spared from Germany. The Germans sent over some to treat with the king; the points they insisted most on were, granting the chalice to the people, and putting down private masses, which the institutions seemed to express; having the worship in a known tongue, which both common sense and the authority of St. Paul seemed to justify. The third was, the marriage of the clergy; for they being extremely sensible of the honour of their families, reckoned that it could not be secured unless the priests might marry. Concerning these things, their ambassadors gave a long and learned memorial to the king; to which an answer was made, penned by Tonstal; stating that the things they complained of were justified by the ordinary arguments. Upon Fox's death, Bonner was promoted to Hereford; and Stokesly dying soon after, he was translated to London. Cromwell imagined that he had raised a man who would be a faithful second to Cranmer in his designs of reformation, who needed help, not only to balance the opposition made him by other bishops, but to lessen the prejudices he suffered by the weakness and indiscretion of his own party, who were generally rather clogs than helps to him.
On the 28th of April a parliament was summoned, in which twenty of the abbots sat in person. On the 5th of May a motion was made, that some might be appointed to draw a bill against diversity of opinions in matters of religion; these were Cromwell, Cranmer, the bishops of Durham, Ely, Bath and Wells, Bangor, Carlisle, and Worcester. They were divided in opinion; and though the popish party were five to four, yet the authority that Cromwell and Cranmer were in, turned the balance a little; they continued, however, to meet eleven days without coming to any point. Upon that the duke of Norfolk proposed the six articles: the first was for the corporeal presence; the second for communion in one kind; the third for observing the vows of chastity; the fourth for private masses; the fifth for the celibacy of the clergy; and the sixth for auricular confession: against most of these Cranmer argued several days. It is not likely he opposed the first, because he had given his opinion in Lambert's case: but he had the words of the institution, and the constant practice of the church for twelve ages, to object to the second; and for the third, since the monks were set at liberty to live in the world, it seemed hard to restrain them from marriage; and nothing so effectually cut off their pretensions to their former houses as their being married. For the fourth, if private masses were useful, then the king had done ill to suppress so many places chiefly founded for that end; the sacrament was also by its first institution, and the practice of the primitive church, to be a communion; while all private masses were invented to cheat the world. For the fifth, it touched Cranmer to the quick, for it was believed he was married. Lee, Gardiner, and Tonstal pressed much to have it declared necessary by the law of God. Cranmer argued against this, and said it was only a good and profitable thing. The king came frequently to the house in person, and disputed about these points with all the haughtiness of a monarch, and all the conceit of a pedant: generally he was against Cranmer, but in this particular he joined with him. Tonstal drew up all the quotations brought from ancient authors for it, in a paper which he delivered to the king; this the king answered in a long letter, written with his own hand, in which he shewed that the fathers only advised confession, but did not impose it as necessary; it was therefore concluded in general that it was merely desirable and expedient. At their next meeting, two committees were appointed to draw the bill of religion; Cranmer was the chief of the one, and Lee of the other: both their draughts were carried to the king, and were in many places corrected with his own hand; in some parts he wrote whole periods anew. That which Lee drew was more agreeable to the king's opinion; it was consequently brought into the house. Cranmer argued three days against it; and when it came to the vote, the king, who greatly desired to have it passed, desired him to go out; but he excused himself, thinking he was bound in conscience to vote against it: but the others who opposed it were more compliant, and it passed without any considerable opposition in the house of commons, and was assented to by the king.
The substance of it was, that the king being sensible of the good of union, and of the mischief of discord, in point of religion, had come to the parliament in person, and opened many things of high learning there, and that with the assent of both houses he set forth these articles: That in the sacrament there was no substance of bread and wine; but only the natural body and blood of Christ. That Christ was entirely in each kind, and therefore communion in both was not necessary. That priests by the law of God ought not to marry. That vows of chastity taken after the age of twenty-one ought to be kept. That private masses were lawful and useful. That auricular confession was necessary, and ought to be retained. The several sentences denounced against opposers were also determined. Such as did speak or write against the first were to be burned without the benefit of abjuration: and it was made felony to dispute against the other five; and such as should speak against them were to be in a praemunire for the first offence, the second was made felony. Married priests who did not put away their wives were to be condemned of felony, as those who lived incontinently; the first offence was a praemunire, and the second felony. Women who offended were to be punished as the priests were. Those who contemned confession and the sacrament, and abstained from it at the accustomed times, were for the first offence in a praemunire, the second was felony. Proceedings were to be made in the forms of common law, by presentments and a jury, and all churchmen were charged to read the act in their churches once a quarter.
This act was received with great joy by all the popish party, who reckoned that now heresy would be extirpated, and the king was as much engaged against it as he was when he wrote against Luther: this made the suppression of the monasteries pass much the easier. The poor reformers were now exposed to the rage of their enemies, and had only one consolation left, namely, that they were not delivered up to the cruelty of the ecclesiastical courts, or the trials ex officio, but were to be tried by juries; yet the denying the benefit of abjuration was a severity without a precedent, and was a forcing martyrdom on them.
Upon the passing the act, the German ambassadors desired an audience of the king, and told him of the grief with which their masters would receive the news, and earnestly pressed him to stop the execution of it. The king answered that he found it necessary to have the act made for repressing the insolence of some people, but assured them it should not be put in execution except upon great provocation. When the intelligence reached the princes, they wrote to the king to the same purpose; warned him of many bishops who were about him, who in their hearts loved popery, and all the old abuses, and took this method to force the king to return back to the former yoke, hoping that if they once made him the enemy of all those they called heretics, it would be easy to bring him back to submit to that tyranny which he had shaken off. They therefore proposed a conference between some divines on both sides in order to an agreement of doctrine. But the king being only concerned upon state maxims to keep up their league in opposition to the emperor, paid no regard to their proposal.
After the act of the six articles had passed, that for suppressing the monasteries was brought in; and though there were so many abbots sitting the house, none of them protested against it. By it no monastery was suppressed, but only the resignations made or to be made were confirmed; and the king's right founded either on their surrenders, forfeitures, or attainders of treason, was declared good in law. All persons, except the founders and donors, were to have the same right to the lands belonging to these houses which they had before this act took place; and all the churches belonging to them, and formerly exempted, were put under the jurisdiction of the bishop, or of such should be appointed by the king. A question was raised whether the lands should have reverted to the donors, or been escheated to the crown. The grants being of the nature of covenants, given in consideration of the masses that were to be said for them and their families, it was urged that when the cheat of redeeming souls out of purgatory was discovered, and these houses suppressed, then the lands ought to revert to the heirs of the donors. Upon this account it was thought necessary to exclude them by a special proviso.
Another bill was brought in, empowering the king to erect new bishoprics by his letters patent; it was read three times in one day in the house of lords. The preamble set forth, that the ill lives of those who were called religious, made it necessary to change their houses to better uses, for teaching the word of God, instructing children, educating clerks, relieving old and infirm people, endowing readers for Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, mending highways, and bettering the conditions of parish priests; and for this end the king was empowered to erect new sees, and to assign what limits and divisions, and appoint them what statutes he pleased.
When parliament was prorogued, the king ordered Cranmer to put in writing all the arguments he had used against the six articles, and bring them to him. He also sent Cromwell and the duke of Norfolk to dine with him, and to assure him of the constancy of his kindness. At the table they expressed great esteem for him, and acknowledged that he had opposed the six articles with so much learning and gravity, that those who differed most from him, could not but highly value him for it, and that he needed not fear any thing from his royal master. Cromwell said the king made the difference between him and the rest of his council, that he would not so much as hearken to any complaints made against him, and drew a parallel between him and cardinal Wolsey; the one lost his friends by pride, and the other gained on his enemies by his humility and mildness: the duke of Norfolk remarked that Cromwell could speak best of the cardinal, having been his man so long. This heated Cromwell, who answered that he never liked his manners; and though Wolsey had intended, if he had been chosen pope, to have carried him to Italy, yet he was resolved not to have gone; but he knew the duke intended to have gone with him. Upon this the duke of Norfolk was greatly enraged, swore he lied, and gave him foul language. This put all the company in great disorder: they were partly reconciled, but were never hearty friends after. Cranmer, agreeably to the king's desire, put his reasons against the six articles together, and gave them to his secretary to be written out in a fair hand for him; but crossing the Thames with the book in his bosom, the secretary met with such an adventure on the water as might at another time have sent the author to the fire. There was a bear baited near the river, which breaking loose, ran into it, and happened to overturn the boat in which Cranmer's secretary was. Being in danger of his life, he took no care of the book, which falling from him floated on the river, and was taken up by the bear-ward, and put in the hand of a priest who stood by, to see what it might contain; he presently found it was a confutation of the six articles, and told the bear-ward that the author of it would certainly be hanged. When the secretary came to ask for it, and said it was the archbishop's book, the priest, who was an obstinate papist, refused to deliver it, and reckoned that now Cranmer would be certainly ruined; but the secretary acquainting Cromwell with it, he called for him next day, and chid him severely for presuming to keep a privy counselor's book. and took it out of his hands: thus Cranmer was delivered out of this danger. Shaxton and Latimer not only resigned their bishoprics, but being presented for some words spoken against the six articles, they were imprisoned, and remained so till a recantation discharged the one, and the king's death set the other at liberty. There were about 500 others presented on the same account; but on the intercessions of Cranmer, Cromwell, and others, they were set at liberty, and a stop was put to the further execution of the act till Cromwell fell.
The bishops of the popish party still hoping to gain the ascendancy, used strange methods to insinuate themselves into the king's confidence; they took out commissions, by which they acknowledged that all jurisdiction, civil and ecclesiastical, flowed from the king, and that they exercised it only at his courtesy; and as they received it from his bounty, so they would be ready to deliver it up when he should be pleased to call for it; and therefore the king did empower them in his stead to ordain, and do all the other parts of the episcopal function, which was to last during his pleasure; and a mighty charge was given them to ordain none but persons of great integrity, good life, and well learned; for since the corruption of religion flowed from ill pastors, so the reformation of it was to be expected chiefly from good pastors. Thus they became indeed the king's bishops. In this Bonner set an example to the rest. It does not appear that Cranmer took out any such commission all this reign.
Now came on the total dissolution of the abbeys: fifty-seven surrenders were made this year; of these thirty-seven were monasteries, twenty nunneries, and twelve parliamentary abbeys. The valued rents of the lands, as they were then let, was 132,607l. 6s. 4d, but they were worth above ten times the sum in true value. Henry had now the greatest advantage that ever king of England possessed, both for enriching the crown, and establishing royal foundations. But such was his easiness to his courtiers, and his lavishness, that these vast treasures melted away in a few years, without his accomplishing any pious and useful designs. Out of eighteen bishoprics which he intended to found, he made only six; other great projects also became abortive. In particular one that was designed by Sir Nicholas Bacon, which was a seminary for statesmen: he proposed erecting a house for persons of quality, or of extraordinary endowments, for the study of the civil law, and of the Latin and French tongues; of whom some were to be sent with every ambassador beyond sea, to be improved in the knowledge of foreign affairs, in which they should be employed according to their capacities. Others were to write the history of transactions abroad, and affairs at home. This was to supply one loss that was likely to follow the fall of abbeys, in most of which there had been kept a chronicle of the times. These were written by men more credulous than judicious, and hence they were often more particular in the recital of trifles than of important affairs; and an invincible humour of lying, when it might raise the credit of their house, ran through all their manuscripts. The only ground that Cranmer gained this year, in which so much was lost, was a liberty for all private persons to have bibles in their houses; and truly this was a great and important point in the cause of God. Gardiner opposed it vehemently, and urged that without tradition it was impossible to understand the meaning of the scriptures. One day, before the king, he challenged Cranmer to shew any difference between the scriptures and the apostles' canons. It is not known how Cranmer managed the debate, but the issue of it was that the king judged in his favour, and said he was an old experienced captain, and ought not to be troubled by fresh men and novices.
The king was at this time resolved to marry again. The emperors endeavoured by all possible means to separate him from the princes of the Smalcadic league, and in this he was greatly facilitated by the act of the six articles; for they complained much of the King's severity in those points, which were the principal parts of their doctrine, such as communion in both kinds, private masses, and the marriage of the clergy. Gardiner resolutely strove to animate the king against them; he often told him, it was below his dignity to suffer dull Germans to dictate to him; and suggested, that they who would not acknowledge the emperor's supremacy in the matters of religion, could not be hearty friends to the authority which the king wished them to acknowledge. But what other considerations could not prevail with the king, were likely to be more powerfully carried on by the match with Anne of Cleves, which was now set on foot.
There had been a treaty between her father and the duke of Lorraine, for marrying her to the duke's son; but it had gone no farther than a contract between the fathers. Hans Holbein, the celebrated painter of that age, painted a beautiful and flattering picture of her, which was sent over to Henry. It was said she possessed great charms in her person, but could speak no language but Dutch, which the king knew not: nor had she learned music. The match was at last agreed on, and in the end of December she was brought over. The king being impatient, went incognito to Rochester; but he no sooner saw her than he was struck with disappointment and chagrin. There was an appearance of roughness which did not all please him; he swore they had brought over a Flanders mare to him, and took up an incurable aversion to her. He resolved, if it were possible, to break the match; but his affairs made the friendship of the German princes very necessary to him, so that he did not think it advisable to put any affront on the dukes of Saxe and Cleve, her brother and brother-in-law. The emperor at this time made a hasty journey through France, and Francis and he had an interview. Henry tried if the contract with the duke of Lorraine's son could furnish him with a fair excuse to break the match. The king expressed the great trouble he was in, both to Cromwell and many of his other servants; but nothing could be built on that contract, which was only an agreement between the fathers, their children being under age, and it being afterwards annulled and broken by the parents. When also Cranmer and Tonstal were required to give their opinions as divines, they said, much to his disappointment--there was nothing in it to hinder the king's marrying the lady.
On the 6th of January therefore the king married her; but expressed his dislike for her so visibly that all about him took notice of it. Though he lived five months with her, his aversion to her rather increased than abated. She seemed little concerned at it, and expressed a great readiness to concur in every thing that might disengage him from a marriage so unacceptable to him. Instruments were brought over to shew that the contract between her and the prince of Lorraine was void; but some difficulty arose, because it was not declared whether the contract was in the present or the future tense.
At the next meeting of parliament the lord chancellor disclosed the matters relating to the state for which the king had called them, whereupon the vicegerent spake to them concerning religion. He told them there was nothing which the king desired so much as an entire union among all his subjects; but some incendiaries opposed it as much as he promoted it; and between rashness on the one hand, and inveterate superstition on the other, great dissensions had arisen. These were inflamed by the reproachful names of papist and heretic; and though they had now the word of God in all their hands, yet they studied rather to justify their passions out of it, than to govern their lives by it. In order to this, the king resolved to set forth an exposition of the doctrine of Christ without any corrupt mixtures, and to retain such ceremonies as might be of use: that being done, he was resolved to punish all transgressors of what party soever they might be. For this end he had appointed the two archbishops, and the bishops of London, Durham, Winchester, Rochester, Hereford, and St. David's, and eleven divines, for settling the creed of the nation; and the bishops of Bath and Wells, Ely, Sarum, Chichester, Worcester, and Landaff, for the appointment of ceremonies. These committees sat as often as the affairs of parliament did not interfere with their proceedings.
A bill was at this time brought in for suppressing the knights of St. John of Jerusalem. There was at first only a hospital for entertaining pilgrims that went to visit the holy grave; after which there was instituted an order of knights.and they and the Knight Templars conducted and guarded the pilgrims. It was considered for some ages one of the highest expressions of devotion to Christ, to go and visit the places where he was crucified, buried, and ascended to heaven; and it was looked on as highly meritorious to fight for recovering the Holy Land out of the hands of infidels; so that almost every one who thought he was dying, either vowed to go to the holy war, or left something to such as should go. If they recovered, they bought off their vow by giving some lands for the entertainment of those knights. Great complaints arose against the Templars; but whether it was their wealth that made them a desirable prey, or their guilt that drew ruin down upon them, is not certain. They were, however, condemned in a council, and all of them that could be found were cruelly put to death. But the other order was still continued; and being beaten out of Judea, they settled at Rhodes, from which they were some time after expelled, and are now settled at Malta. They were under a great master, who depended on the pope and the emperor. But since they could not be brought to surrender of their own accord, as others had done, it was necessary to suppress them by act of parliament. Another house which they had in Ireland was also suppressed, and pensions were reserved for the priors and knights.
On the 12th of June a sudden turn took place at court; the duke of Norfolk arrested Cromwell for high treason, and sent him prisoner to the Tower. He had many enemies. The meanness of his birth provoked the nobility to madness in being obliged to admit him one of their order, and salute the son of a blacksmith as earl of Essex. The provocation was increased when a garter was bestowed on him, and he was successively raised to be lord privy seal, lord chamberlain of England, lord vicegerent, and master of the rolls.
All the popish clergy hated him violently. They imputed the suppression of monasteries, and the injunctions that were laid on them, chiefly to his counsels; and it was thought that by his means the king and the emperor continued to be on such ill terms. Henry now understood that there was no agreement likely to be made between the emperor and Francis, and he was sure they would both court his friendship in case of war, which made him less concerned for the favour of the German prince, so that Cromwell's counsels now became unacceptable. With this a secret reason concurred. The king not only hated the queen, but had fallen in love with Catherine Howard, niece to the duke of Norfolk, which both raised his interest and depressed Cromwell, who had made the former match. The king was also too willing to cast upon him all the errors committed of late, and by making him a sacrifice he hoped to regain the affections of his people. The king had also information brought him, that Cromwell secretly encouraged those who opposed the six articles, and discouraged those who went about the execution of them.
Cromwell had not the least apprehension of his fall before the storm broke upon him. He shared the common fate of all disgraced ministers; his friends forsook him, and his enemies insulted over him: Cranmer alone adhered to him, and wrote earnestly to the king in his favour. He said he found that he had always loved the king above all things; and had served him with such fidelity and success that he believed no monarch ever had a more faithful servant: and he wished the king might find such a counsellor, who both could and would serve him as he had done. So great and generous a soul had Cranmer, that he was not moved by changes in his friend's fortune, and would thus venture on the displeasure of so imperious a prince rather than fail in the duties of friendship. But the king was resolved to ruin Cromwell. He had such enemies in the house of lords, that a bill of attainder was dispatched in two days, being read twice in one day. Cranmer being absent, no other would venture to speak for him. But he met with more justice in the commons, for it remained ten days there. In conclusion a new bill was drawn against him, and sent up to the lords, to which they consented, and it had the royal assent.
In it they set forth, that though the king had raised from a base state to great dignities, yet it appeared by many witnesses that he had been the most corrupt traitor ever known; that he had set many at liberty who were condemned or suspected of treason; that he had dispersed many erroneous books, contrary to a true belief of the sacrament, and had said that every man might administer it as well as a priest; that he had licensed many preachers suspected of heresy, and had ordered many to be discharged who were committed on that account, and had released all informers; that he had many heretics about him, and above a year before, he had said the preaching of Barnes and others was good; that he would not turn though the king did, but if the king turned he would fight in person against him, and, drawing out his dagger, he wished that might pierce him to the heart if he should not do it. For these things he was attainted both of high treason and heresy. A proviso was added for securing the church of Wells, of which he had been dean.
The king now proceeded on his divorce. An address was moved and passed by the lords, that he would suffer his marriage to be examined. Cranmer and others were accordingly sent down to desire the concurrence of the commons; and they ordered twenty of their number to accompany the lords, who went in a body to the king. He granted their desire, the matter being concerted before. A commission was then sent to the convocation to discuss it: Gardiner opened it to them; and they appointed a committee for the examination of witnesses. The substance of the whole evidence amounted to these particulars: that the matter of the pre-contract with the prince of Lorraine was not fully cleared--and it did not appear that it was made by the queen, or whether it was in the words of the present time or not; that the king had married her against his will, and had not given an inward and complete consent; and that he had never consummated the marriage, so that they saw he could have no issue by the queen. Upon these grounds the whole convocation, with one consent, annulled the marriage, and declared both parties free. This was the grossest piece of hypocrisy that the king ever received from his clergy in his whole reign.
In the process for the king's first divorce, they had laid it down as a principle that a marriage was complete, though it were never consummated. But the king was resolved to be rid of the queen, and the clergy were resolved not to offend him. The judgment of the convocation was reported to the house of lords and commons, and both houses were satisfied with it. Next day some lords were sent to the queen, who had retired to Richmond. They told her the king was resolved to declare her his adopted sister, and to settle 4000l. a year on her, if she would consent to it, which she cheerfully embraced; and it being left to her choice either to live in England or to return to her brother, she preferred the former. They persuaded her also to write to her brother, that all this matter was done with her good will, that the king used her as a father, and that therefore her brother and his German allies should not take it ill at his hands. When things were thus prepared, the act confirming the judgment of the convocation passed without opposition. An act passed mitigating one clause in the six articles, by which the pain of death for the marriage or incontinence of the clergy was changed into a forfeiture of their goods and benefices. Another act passed, that no pretence of a pre-contract should be made use of to annul a marriage duly solemnized and consummated; and that no degree of kindred, but those enumerated in the law of Moses, might hinder a marriage. This last was added, to enable the king to marry Catherine Howard, who was cousin-german to Anne Boleyn, which was one of the degrees prohibited by the canon law. Several bills of attainder were passed; and in conclusion, the king sent a general pardon, out of which Cromwell and others were excepted. After this the parliament was dissolved.
Cromwell was executed on the 28th of July. He thanked God for bringing him to die in that manner, which was just on the account of his sins against God, and his offences against his prince. He declared that he doubted of no article of the catholic faith, nor of any sacrament of the church. He said he had been seduced, but now he died in the catholic faith, and denied he had supported preachers of ill opinions. He desired all their prayers, prayed very fervently for himself, and ended his days with exemplary resignation.
He rose by the strength of his natural parts, for his education was but humble. He had the New Testament in Latin by heart. He bore his greatness with extraordinary moderation, and fell rather under the weight of popular odium than guilt. At his death he mixed none of the superstitions of the church of Rome with his devotions; it was therefore said, that he used the words "catholic faith" in its true sense, and in opposition to the novelties of that church. Yet his ambiguous mode of expressing himself made the papists declare that he died repenting his heresy. But the protestants said that he left the world in the same reformed faith in which he lived. It was believed that the king lamented his death when it was too late; and the miseries that fell on the new queen, and on the duke of Norfolk and his family, were looked upon as strokes from Heaven for their persecution of this unfortunate minister. With his fall, the progress of the reformation was checked, for Cranmer could never gain much ground after, and indeed many hoped to see him quickly sent after Cromwell; some complained of him in the house of commons, and informations were brought to the king, stating that the chief encouragement which the heretics received came from him.
The ecclesiastical committees employed by the king were now at work, and gave the finishing to a book formerly prepared, but at this time corrected and explained in many particulars. They began with the explanation of faith, which, according to the doctrine of the church of Rome, was thought an implicit believing whatever the church proposed; but the reformers made it their chief object to persuade the people to believe in Christ, and not in the church; and made great use of those places in which it was said that Christians are justified by faith only; though some explained this in such a manner, that it gave their adversaries occasion to charge them with denying the necessity of good works; but they all taught, that though they were not necessary to justification, yet they were necessary to salvation. They differed also in their notion of good works: the church of Rome taught that the honour done to God in his images, or to the saints in their shrines and relics, or to the priests, were the best sort of good works; whereas the reformers urged justice and mercy most, and charged the other with superstition. The merit of good works was too highly raised, so that many thought they purchased heaven by them. This the reformers also corrected, and taught the people to depend upon the death and intercession of Christ, as the only meritorious ground of divine acceptance.
Having therefore settled the notion of faith, they divided it into two sorts: one was a persuasion of the truth of the gospel; but the other carried with it a submission to the will of God.and both hope, love and obedience belonged to it, which was the faith professed in baptism, and so much extolled by St. Paul. It was not to be understood, as if it were an assurance of our salvation, which may be only a presumption, since all God's promises are made to us on conditions; but it was an entire receiving the whole gospel according to our baptismal vow.
And what are the conditions here implied? St. Paul clearly says, "If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED." Now all scripture is given by inspiration of God. It was the Spirit of Truth who thus spoke by the mouth of St. Paul. And can the Holy Spirit lie? We must believe that God hath raised up Jesus from the dead, to be "a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to all who receive him." The Lord himself saith, "He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Again, St. Paul to the Romans observes, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father; the Spirit itself bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God." "I am the resurrection and the life," saith Christ again; "he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die:" that is, eternally. Now if all this is indeed believed, eternal glory is confirmed, since we have the promise of him whose word is truth. But, alas! how has error overwhelmed mankind! for ask all the professors of the day whether they believe? they will answer, yes; but ask them again, whether they are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ? they will tell you that they live in hope--but dare not, cannot say they are. They will tell you it is presumptuous so to say. What! is it presumptuous to believe the word of God? "If thou believest, thou shalt be saved." Do they believe this, "that the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone?" Alas! these are not believers, but doubters: for "he who believeth hath set to his seal that God is true." Their "fear towards God is taught them by the precept of men," and not by the Holy Ghost; for if it were, they would sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. It can be only the "Love of God shed abroad in the heart" that can give a disposition cheerfully to perform the "works of faith and labours of love."
Oh, ye deceivers or deceived, do not any longer reject the plain glorious words of God against yourselves, nor under a feigned humility refuse to rejoice in him whom ye profess to believe. You would be thought to have the Spirit; but when we would look at your fruit, you shew us darkness, despair, and doubt, forgetting that Jesus drank the bitter cup of his Father's wrath, for you, that you, through faith, might drink the cup of joy and salvation. "The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace;" and yours are the reverse. It cannot, therefore, be the work of the Spirit. Cease, cease, frail man, to pervert the ways of the Lord. Take the Bible in your hand, and compare yourself with the glorious host of saints, and see if you be like them. They, as must also all their descendants, mourned for their sins, and suffered from a wicked generation; but amidst all their mournings, they rejoiced that CHRIST was their RIGHTEOUSNESS: amidst all their sufferings, they rejoiced that they had a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. They knew that the promises of God were yea and amen. God can be worshipped only by the faith that works by love; this love alone can lead his people to obedience; because they know that they were "called to glory and virtue." They will, therefore, be holy, because their King is holy; and when they offend, they hate themselves, because they feel that they are ungrateful to him who purchased them with his blood.
O reader! art thou a believer? Hast thou "set to thy seal that God is true?" Is thy faith founded in the evidence of the scripture, not because thy parents, thy country, thy teachers have told thee so--these are only the evidences of men; but because the Spirit of Truth hath by his written word revealed it to thee? If so, "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," for know, that although thou art here perhaps "tossed with tempests and afflicted," yet "all things are thine, and thou art Christ's, and Christ is God's." Thou shalt inherit all things, and he shall be thy GOD, and thou shalt be his SON. Doubts become not thy lips, nor despair thy heart. Sing praises then unto him who washed your robes, and made them white in the pure blood of his own spotless sacrifice. He has said enough to satisfy the most scrupulous mind--"These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye may have peace: in the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Cranmer took great pains to state these matters right; and made a large collection of many places, all written with his own hand, out of the ancient and modern authors, concerning faith, justification, and the merit of good works; and concluded with this, that our justification was to be ascribed only to the merits of Christ, and that those who are justified must have charity as well as faith, but that neither of these was the meritorious cause of justification. After this was stated agreeably to his views, the commissioners made next a large and full explanation of the apostle's creed with great judgment, and many excellent practical inferences. The definition they gave of the catholic church runs thus: "It comprehends all assemblies of men in the whole world that receive the faith of Christ, who ought to hold an unity of love and brotherly agreement together, by which they become members of the catholic church." After this they explained the seven sacraments.
In discussing these things there were great debates; for, as was formerly mentioned, the method used was to open the point in hand by proposing many queries, and every one was to give in his answers with the reasons of it; and then others were appointed to make an abstract of those things, in which all either agreed or differed. The original papers relating to these points are yet preserved, which shew with what great consideration they proceeded. Baptism was explained as had been done formerly. Penance was made to consist in the absolution of the priests, which had been formerly declared only to be desirable where it could be had. In the communion, transubstantiation, private masses, and communion in one kind, were asserted: also the obligation of the Levitical law about the degrees of marriage, and the indissolubleness of that bond. They declared the divine institution of priests and deacons; and that no bishop had authority over another. They made a long dissertation against the pope's pretensions, and for justifying the king's supremacy. They said, confirmation was instituted by the apostles, and was profitable but not necessary to salvation; and they also asserted extreme unction to have been commanded by the apostle James for the health both of soul and body. Then were the ten commandments explained; the second was added to the first, but the introductory words were left out. It was declared that no religious honour was to be done unto images, and that they ought only to be reverenced for their sake whom they represented; therefore the preferring one image to another, and making pilgrimages and offerings to them, were condemned, while kneeling before them was permitted; yet the people were to be taught that this was done only to the honour of God. Invocation of saints, as intercessors, was allowed; but immediate addresses to them for the blessings that were prayed for were condemned. The strict rest from labour on the seventh day was declared to be ceremonial; but it was asserted to be essential to rest from sin and carnal pleasure, and to follow holy duties. The other commandments were explained in a very simple and practical way.
Then was the Lord's Prayer explained, and it was enjoined that the people pray in their vulgar tongues, for exciting their devotion the more. The angel's salutation to the virgin was also paraphrased. They handled free-will, and defined it to be a power by which the will, guided by reason, did without constraint discern and choose good and evil; the former by the help of God's spirit, and the latter of itself. Grace was said to be offered to all men, but was made effectual by a willing application of it; and grace and free-will did consist well together, the one being added for the help of the other. Men were justified freely by the grace of God, but that was applied by faith; and faith is the gift of God, saith the apostle; so that salvation is all of God. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." "No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." In the good works thus divinely produced, both the fear of God, repentance, and amendment of life were included. All curious reasonings about predestination were condemned. Those works were necessary which were not the superstitious inventions of monks and friars; not only moral works done by the power of nature, but works of charity flowing from a pure heart and faith unfeigned. Fasting, and the other fruits of penance, were also good works, but of an inferior nature to justice and the other virtues: these were all in a sense meritorious, yet since they were wrought in men by God's spirit, all boasting was excluded. The commissioners ended with an account of prayers for souls departed, almost the same that was in the articles published before.
The reformers were dissatisfied with many things in the book, yet were they glad to find the morals of religion so well opened; for the purity of soul which that might effect would dispose people to sound opinions: many superstitious practices were also condemned, and the gospel covenant was rightly stated. One article was also asserted in it, which opened the way to a further reformation; for every national church was declared to be a complete body, with power to reform heresies, and do every thing that was necessary for preserving its own purity, or governing its members. The popish party now thought they had recovered much ground, which seemed lost formerly. They knew the reformers would never submit to all things in this book, which would alienate the king from them; but they were safe, being resolved to comply with him in every thing, without which it was dangerous to live in England, for the king's peevishness grew upon him with his age. This party now studied to engage the king in new severities against the reformers; the first instance of which fell on three preachers, Barnes, Garret, and Jerome, who had been early wrought on by the works of Luther. These were worthies in the christian cause, richly deserving the reader's knowledge and admiration.
Dr. Barnes was educated in the university of Louvain, in Brabant. On his return to England he went to Cambridge, where he was made prior of the order of Augustines, and steward of the house in which that order resided. On his entrance, the darkest ignorance pervaded the university, all things being full of rudeness and barbarity, excepting a few persons whose learning was unknown to the rest. Dr. Barnes, zealous to promote knowledge and truth, soon began to instruct the students in classic languages, and, with the assistance of Parnel, his scholar, whom he had brought from Louvain, he soon caused learning to flourish, and the university to bear a very different aspect. These foundations laid, he began to read openly the epistles of St. Paul, and teach in greater purity the doctrine of Christ. He preached and disputed with great warmth against the luxuries of the higher clergy, particularly against cardinal Wolsey, and the lamentable hypocrisy of the times. But still he remained ignorant of the great cause of these evils, namely, the idolatry and superstition of the church; and while he declaimed against the stream, he himself drank at the spring, and kept it running for others to quench their fanatical thirst. At length, happily becoming acquainted with Bilney, he was by that martyr's conversation wholly converted unto Christ.
The first reformed sermon he preached, was on the Sunday before Christmas-day, at St. Edward's church, Trinity Hall, in Cambridge. His theme was the epistle of the day, Gaudete in Domino, and he commented on the whole epistle, following the scripture and Luther's exposition. For that sermon he was immediately accused of heresy by two fellows of the King's Hall. On this the learned in Christ, of Pembroke Hall, St. John's, Peter's House, King and Queen's Colleges, Gunwell Hall, and Benet College, flocked together both in the schools and in more public places, almost daily and hourly conferring together, and many of them disputing about the course it was their duty to pursue.
The house to which they chiefly resorted was the White Horse Inn, which, in contempt, was called Germany. This house especially was chosen, because many of them of St. John's, the King's College, and the Queen's College, were able to enter at the back gate. At this time much trouble began to ensue. The adversaries of Dr. Barnes accused him in the Regent House before the vice-chancellor, whereon his articles were presented and received, he promising to make answer at the next convocation. Then Dr. Nottoris, a bitter enemy to Christ, moved Barnes to recant; but he refused, as appears in his book which he wrote to king Henry in English, confuting the judgment of cardinal Wolsey, and the residue of the popish bishops. They continued in Cambridge, one preaching against another, until within six days of Shrovetide, when suddenly a sergeant at arms was sent down, called Gibson, dwelling in St. Thomas Apostle, in London, to arrest Dr. Barnes openly in the convocation-house, to strike others with fear. It was also privily determined to search for Luther's books.
Dr. Farman, of the Queen's College, learning this, sent word of it privately to the chambers of those who were suspected, which were thirty persons; and they were conveyed away by the time that the sergeant at arms, the vice-chancellor, and the proctors were at their chamber, going directly to the place where the books lay. It was this proceeding which shewed that there were spies with the sergeant, and that night they studied together, and gave Barnes his answer, which answer he carried with him to London the next morning, being the Tuesday before Shrove Sunday. On Wednesday he arrived in London, and lay at Mr. Parnel's house. Next morning he was taken before cardinal Wolsey at Westminster, waiting there all day, and could not speak with him till night, when by reason of Dr. Gardiner, secretary to the cardinal, and of Mr. Fox, master of the wards, he spake with cardinal in his chamber of state, kneeling. "Is this," said Wolsey to them, "Dr. Barnes, who is accused of heresy?" "Yes, and please your grace," replied they; "and we trust you will find him reformable, for he is learned and wise."
"What, Mr. Doctor," said Wolsey, "had you not a sufficient scope in the scriptures to teach the people, but that my golden shoes, my poll-axes, my pillars, my cushions, my crosses, did so offend you, that you must make us ridiculum caput amongst the people, who that day laughed us to scorn? Verily it was a sermon fitter to be preached on a stage than in a pulpit; for at last you said, I wear a pair of red gloves, 'I should say bloody gloves,' quoth you, that I should not be cold in the midst of my ceremonies." To this banter Dr. Barnes answered, "I spake nothing but the truth out of the scriptures, according to my conscience, and according to the ancient doctors." And then he delivered him six sheets of paper written, to confirm and corroborate his sentiments.
The cardinal received them smiling, saying, "We perceive then that you intend to stand to your articles, and to shew your learning." To which Barnes replied, "Yea, that I do by God's grace, with your lordship's favour." The cardinal now became angry and said, "Such as you bear us little favour, and the catholic church less. I will ask you a question; whether you do think it more necessary that I should have all this royalty, because I represent the king's majesty in all the high courts of this realm, to the terror and keeping down of all rebellious traitors, all wicked and corrupt members of this commonwealth, or to be as simple as you would have us, to sell all these things, and to give them to the poor, who shortly will cast them in the dirt, and to pull away this princely dignity, which is a terror to the wicked, and to follow your counsel?"
"I think it necessary," said Barnes, "to be sold and given to the poor. All this is not becoming your calling; nor is the king's majesty maintained by your pomp and poll-axes, but by God, who saith per me reyes regnant, kings and their majesty reign and stand by me." Turning to the attendants, the cardinal then satirically said, "Lo, master doctors, he is the learned and wise man that you told me of." Then they kneeled down and said, "We desire your grace to be good unto him, for he will be reformable." The cardinal appeared softened by their words, and mildly said, "Stand you up; for your sakes and the university we will be good unto him." Turning to Barnes, he added, "How say you, master doctor, do you not know that I am legutus de latere, and that I am able to dispense in all matters concerning religion within this realm, as much as the pope himself?" Barnes meekly said, "I know it be so." The cardinal then asked, "Will you be ruled by us, and we will do all things for your honesty, and for the honesty of the university." Barnes answered, "I thank your grace for your good will; I will adhere to the holy scripture, as to God's book, according to the simple talent that God hath lent me." The cardinal ended the dialogue by saying, "Well, thou shalt have thy learning tried to the uttermost, and thou shalt have the law."
He would then have been sent to the Tower, but Gardiner and Fox standing sureties for him, he returned to Mr. Parnel's again, and devoted the whole night to writing. Next morning he came to Gardiner and Fox, and soon after he was committed to the sergeant at arms, who brought him into the chapter-house, before the bishops, and Islip, the abbot of Westminster. At this time there were five men to be examined for Luther's book and Lollardy; but after they spied Barnes they set these aside, and asked the sergeant at arms what was his errand. He said he had brought Dr. Barnes on a charge of heresy, and then presented both his articles and his accusers. Immediately after a little talk they swore him, and laid his articles to him, on which he answered as he had done the cardinal before, and offered the book of his probations unto them. They took it from him, but said they had no leisure to dispute with him at present, on account of other affairs of the king's majesty which they had to do, and therefore bade him stand aside. They then called the five men again, one by one, and after they were examined, they were all committed to the Fleet. Dr. Barnes was recalled and asked, whether he would subscribe to his articles? he subscribed willingly, when they committed him and young Parnel to the Fleet with the others. There they remained till Saturday morning, and the warden had orders that no man should speak with him.
On the Saturday he was again brought before them into the chapter-house, and there with the men remained till five at night. After long disputations, threatenings, and scornings, they called upon him to know whether he would abjure or burn. He was greatly agitated, and felt inclined rather to burn than abjure. But he was then said again to have the council of Gardiner and Fox, and they persuaded him rather to abjure than to burn, because they pleaded he might in future be silent, urging other reasons to save his life and check his heresy at the same time. Upon that, kneeling down, he consented to abjure, and the abjuration being put into his hand, he abjured as it was there written, and then he subscribed with his own hand; yet they would scarcely receive him into the bosom of the church, as they termed it. Then they put him to an oath, and charged him to execute and fulfil all that they commanded him, which he accordingly promised.
On this they commanded the warden of the Fleet to carry him and his fellows to the place whence he came, and to be kept in close prison, and in the morning to provide five fagots for Dr. Barnes and the four men; the fifth man being ordered to have a taper of five pounds weight to be provided for him, to offer to the rood of Northen in Paul's, and all these things to be ready by eight on the following morning; and that he with all that he could make with bills and glaves, and the knight-marshal with all his tipstaves that he could make, should bring them to Paul's, and conduct them home again. Accordingly, in the morning they were all ready by their appointed hour in St. Paul's church, which was crowded beyond measure. The cardinal had a scaffold made on the top of the stairs for himself, with six and thirty abbots, mitred priors, and bishops, and in his whole pomp mitred sat there enthroned, his chaplains and spiritual doctors in gowns of damask and satin, and he himself in purple. There was also a new pulpit erected on the top of the stairs for the bishop of Rochester to preach against Luther and Barnes; and great baskets full of books standing before them within the rails, which were commanded, after the great fire was made before the rood of Northen, there to be burned, and these heretics after the sermon to go thrice about the fire and to cast in their fagots.
During the sermon, Dr. Barnes and the men were commanded to kneel down and ask forgiveness of God, and the catholic church, and the cardinal's grace; after which he was commanded, at the end of the sermon, to declare that he was used more charitably than he deserved, his heresies being so horrible and detestable: once more he kneeled, desiring of the people forgiveness and to pray for him. This farce being ended, the cardinal departed under a canopy, with all his mitred men with him, till he came to the second gate of Paul's, when he took his mule, and the mitred men came back again. Then the prisoners being commanded to come down from the stage, whereon the sweepers used to stand when they swept the church, the bishops sat them down again, and commanded the knight-marshal and the warden of the Fleet, with their company, to carry them about the fire, and then were they brought to the bishops, and there kneeled down for absolution. The bishop of Rochester standing up, and declaring to the people how many days of pardon and forgiveness of sins they had for being at that sermon, and that Dr. Barnes with the others were received into the church again. This done, the warden of the Fleet and knight-marshal were commanded to take them to the Fleet again, there to remain till the lord cardinal's pleasure was known, and charged that they should have the same liberty as other prisoners, and that their friends might be admitted to them.
Dr. Barnes having remained here half a year, was delivered to be a free prisoner at the Austin friars in London. But here being watched by his enemies, they made new complaints of him to the cardinal, upon which he was removed to the Austin friars of Northampton, there to be burned; of which intention, however, he was perfectly ignorant. At length Mr. Horne, who had brought him up, and who was his particular friend, gaining intelligence of the writ which was shortly to be sent down to burn him, advised him to feign himself to be in a state of despair, and to write a letter to the cardinal and leave it on his table where he lay, with a paper to declare whither he was gone to drown himself, and to leave his clothes in the same place; and another letter to be left to the mayor of the town to search for him in the water, because he had a letter written in parchment about his neck, closed in wax for the cardinal, which should teach all men to beware of him. This scheme he accordingly put in execution, and they were seven days searching for him; but he was conveyed to London in poor man's apparel, and from thence took shipping, and went to Antwerp, where he found Luther. Here he renewed his studies, and wrote a book, which was an answer to all the bishops of the realm, entitled, Acta Romanorum Pontificum, and another with a supplication to king Henry. Immediately it was told the cardinal that he was drowned, he said, "Perit memoria ejus cum sonitu,"--a sentence which lighted upon himself shortly after, when he died wretchedly at Leicester.
Dr. Barnes now became learned in the word of God, and strong in Christ, and was in great esteem with all men whose esteem was honourable, particularly Luther, Melancthon, Pomeran, Justice Jonas, Hegendorphinus, and AEpinus; the duke of Saxony, and the king of Denmark, the last of whom, in the time of More and Stokesly, sent him with the Lubecks as ambassador to king Henry the Eighth. Sir Thomas More, who had now succeeded Wolsey as chancellor, would fain have entrapped him: but the king would not let him, and Cromwell was his great friend. Before he left, the Lubecks and he disputed with the bishops of England in defence of the truth, and he was allowed to depart again without restraint. After going to Wittenberg, to the duke of Saxony and Luther, he remained there to forward his works in print which he had begun, after which he returned again in the beginning of the reign of queen Anne, as others did, and continued a faithful preacher in London, being all her time well entertained and promoted. After that he was sent ambassador by Henry to the duke of Cleves, upon the business of the marriage between the lady Anne of Cleves and the king. He gave great satisfaction in every duty which was entrusted to him, till Gardiner arrived from France, after which neither religion, the queen's majesty, Cromwell, nor the preachers prospered.
Not long after this, Dr. Barnes, with his brethren, were apprehended and carried before the king at Hampton Court, where he was examined. The king being desirous to bring about an agreement between him and Gardiner did, at the request of the latter, grant him leave to go home with the bishop to confer with him. But as it happened, they not agreeing, Gardiner and his co-partners sought by all subtle means how to entangle and entrap Barnes and his friends in furthur danger, which not long after was brought to pass. By certain complaints made to the king of them, they were enjoined to preach three sermons the following Easter at the Spittle; at which sermons, besides other reporters which were sent thither, Gardiner himself was present, sitting with the mayor, either to bear record of their recantation, or else, as the Pharisees came to Christ, to ensnare them in their talk, if they should speak any thing amiss. Barnes preached first; and at the conclusion of his sermon, requested Gardiner, if he thought he had said nothing contradictory to truth, to hold up his hand in the face of all present, upon which Gardiner immediately held up his finger. Notwithstanding this, they were all three, by the means of the reporters, sent for to Hampton Court, whence they were conducted to the Tower, where they remained till they were brought out to death.
Mr. Garret was a London curate. About the year 1526, he came to Oxford, and brought with him sundry books in Latin, treating of the Scriptures, with the first of Unio dissidentium, and Tindal's first translation of the New Testament in English, which books he sold to several scholars in Oxford. After he had disposed of them, news came from London that he was searched for through all that city, to be apprehended as a heretic, and to be imprisoned for selling heretical publications, as they were termed. It was not unknown to cardinal Wolsey, the bishop of London, and others, that Mr. Garret had a great number of those books, and that he was gone to Oxford to sell them to such as he knew to be the lovers of the gospel. Wherefore they determined to make a secret search through all Oxford, to apprehend and imprison him, and to burn all his books, and him too if they could. But happily one of the proctors, Mr. Cole of Magdalen College, being well acquainted with Mr. Garret, gave secret warning to a friend or two of his of the search, and advised that he should, as secretly as possible, depart from Oxford: for if he were taken, he would certainly be forthwith sent to the cardinal, and be committed unto the Tower.
The Christmas before that time, Anthony Dalabar, student of Alban's Hall, paid a visit to his native place, Stalbridge, in Dorsetshire, where he had a brother, a clergyman of the parish, who was very desirous to have a curate from Oxford, and wished him to get one thence if he could. This just occasion offered, and was approved among the brethren, for so they were not only called, but were indeed such one to the other, that Mr. Garret, changing his name, should be sent with letters into Dorsetshire to his brother to serve him there for a time, until he might secretly convey himself somewhere over the sea. Accordingly hereunto he wrote letters in all possible haste to his brother, in favour of Mr. Garret, to be his curate; but not declaring what he was indeed, his brother being a papist, and afterwards the most mortal enemy that ever he had for the gospel's sake.
Things being thus settled, on the Wednesday morning before Shrovetide, Mr. Garret departed for Dorsetshire, with his letters for his new service. How far he went, and by what occasion he soon returned, was not known. But the following Friday night, he came to Radley's house where he lay before,and after midnight, in the privy search which was then made for him, he was taken in bed by the two proctors, and on the Saturday morning was delivered to Dr. Cottisford, master of Lincoln college, then being commissary of the university, who kept him as prisoner in his own chamber. At this there was great joy and rejoicing among all the papists, and especially with Dr. Loudon, warden of the New College and Dr. Higdon, dean of Frideswide, who immediately sent their letters post-haste to the cardinal, to inform him of the apprehension of this notable heretic, for which they were well assured of receiving great thanks. But of all this sudden hurly-burly, Dalabar was utterly ignorant, so that he knew neither of Mr. Garret's sudden return, nor that he was taken, until he came into his chamber, being then in Gloucester college, as a man amazed; and as soon as he saw him he said he was undone, for he was taken. He spake thus unadvisedly in the presence of a young man who came with him. When the young man was departed, Dalabar asked him what he was, and what acquaintance he had with him. He said, he knew him not; but that he had been to seek a monk of his acquaintance in that college, who was not in his chamber, and thereupon desired his servant to conduct him to his brother. He then declared how he was returned and taken in the privy search.
Dalabar then said to him, "Alas! Mr. Garret, by your uncircumspect coming and speaking before this young man, you have disclosed yourself and utterly undone me." He asked him why he went not to his brother with his letters. He answered that after he was gone a day's journey and a half, he was so fearful, that his heart suggested that he must needs return to Oxford; and accordingly he came again on Friday at night, and then was taken. But now, with tears, he prayed Dalabar to help to convey him away, and then cast off his hood and gown wherein he came, and desired a coat with sleeves, saying he would if possible disguise himself, go into Wales, and thence convey himself into Germany. Dalabar then put on him a sleeved coat of his own. He would also have had another kind of cap, but there was no one to be found for him.
Then they both kneeled down together, and lifting up their hearts and hands to God their heavenly Father, desiring him so to conduct and prosper him in his journey, that he might escape the danger of all his enemies, to the glory of his holy name, if his good pleasure so were. They then embraced, and could scarcely bid adieu for sorrow; at length, disguised in his brother's garments he departed. But his escape soon became known, and immediate search was made for him about the college; not being found there, he was pursued and taken at a place called Hinksey, a little beyond Oxford, and being brought back again was committed to ward: that done he was convened before the commissary, Dr. Loudon, and Dr. Higdon, dean of Frideswide, now called Christ's College, in St. Mary's church, where they sat in judgment, convicted him according to their law as a heretic, and afterward compelled him to carry a fagot in open procession from St. Mary's church to the place whence he came. After this, flying from place to place, he escaped their tyranny, until the time that he was again apprehended with Dr. Barnes.
William Jerome was vicar of Stepney, and was convinced of the disgusting errors of the church of Rome, and the consequences that flowed from them, preaching with great zeal, and substituting the pure and simple doctrines of the gospel for the perversions and traditions of men. Thus proceeding, he soon became known to the enemies of truth, who watched him with malignant jealousy. It was not long before, in a sermon he preached at St. Paul's, on the fourth Sunday in Lent, wherein he dwelt upon justification by faith, he so offended the legal preachers of the day, that he was summoned to the presence of the king at Westminster, and there accused of heresy.
It was urged against him that he had insisted, according to St. Paul to his epistle to the Galatians--That the children of Sara, allegorically used for the children of the promise, were all born free, and, independent of baptism or of penance, were through faith made heirs of God. Dr. Wilson argued against him, and strongly opposed this doctrine. But Jerome defended it with all the force of truth, and said that although good works were the means of salvation, yet that they followed as a consequence of faith, whose fruits they were, and which discovered their root, even as good fruit proves a good tree. But in spite of this good confession, so inveterate were his enemies, and so deluded was the king, that Jerome was committed to the Tower, in company with the other two soldiers of Christ, destined with them to suffer for his faith.
Here they remained, while a process was issuing against them by the king's council in parliament, by whom, without hearing or knowledge of their fate, they were attainted of heresy, and sentenced to the flames. On the 30th of the following June they were brought from the Tower to Smithfield, where they were permitted to address the people. Dr. Barnes spoke first, as follows--"I am come hither to be burned as a heretic, and you shall hear my belief, whereby you may perceive what erroneous opinion I hold. God I take to record, I never to my knowledge taught any erroneous doctrine, but only those things which scripture led me into; neither in my sermons have I ever maintained or given occasion for any insurrection; but with all diligence evermore did I study to set forth the glory of God, the obedience to our sovereign lord the king, and the true and sincere religion of Christ: and now hearken to my faith.
"I believe in the holy and blessed Trinity, three persons and one God, who created and made all the world, and that this blessed Trinity sent down the second person, Jesus Christ, into the womb of the most blessed and pure virgin Mary. I believe that he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and took flesh of her; and that he suffered hunger, thirst, cold, and other passions of our body, sin excepted, according to the saying of St. Peter. 'He was made in all things like to his brethren, except sin.' And I believe that this his death and passion was a sufficient ransom for sin. And I believe that through his death he overcame sin, death, and hell, and that there is none other satisfaction unto the Father, but this his death and passion only, and that no work of man does deserve any thing of God, but Christ's passion only as touching our justification, for I know the best work that ever I performed is impure and imperfect." With this, he cast abroad his hands, and desired God to forgive him his trespasses. "For although perchance," said he, "you know nothing by me, yet do I confess that my thoughts and cogitations are innumerable; wherefore I beseech thee, O Lord, not to enter into judgment with me, according to the saying of the prophet David; and in another place, Lord, if thou straitly mark our iniquities, who is able to abide thy judgment? Wherefore, I trust in no good work that ever I did, but only in the death of Christ. I do not doubt but through him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. But imagine not that I speak against good works, for they are to be done, and verily they that do them not shall never come into the kingdom of God. We must do them, because they are commanded us of God, to shew and set forth our profession, not to deserve or merit; for that is only by the death of Christ. I believe that there is a holy church, and a company of all that do profess Christ; and that all who have suffered and confessed his name are saints, and that they praise and laud God in heaven, more than I or any man's tongue can express."
Then there was one that asked his opinion upon praying to saints. "Now of saints," said he, "you shall hear my opinion. I believe they are in heaven with God, and that they are worthy of all the honour that scripture willeth them to have. But I say, throughout scripture we are not commanded to pray to any saints. Therefore I neither can nor will preach to you that saints ought to be prayed unto; for then should I preach unto you a doctrine of mine own head. Notwithstanding, whether they pray for us or no, that I refer to God. And if saints do pray for us, then I trust to pray for you within this half hour, Mr. Sheriff, and for every Christian living in the faith of Christ, and dying in the same as a saint. Wherefore, if the dead may pray for the quick, I will surely pray for you."
The Dr. then appealed more pointedly to the sheriff, and asked--"Have ye any articles against me for which I am condemned?" The sheriff answered, "No." Then said Barnes, "Is there here any man else that knoweth wherefore I die, or that by my preaching hath taken any error? Let him now speak, and I will make him answer." But no man answered. Then said he, "Well, I am condemned by the law to die, and as I understand by an act of parliament, but wherefore I cannot tell; perhaps it is for heresy, for we are likely to suffer under this charge, cruel as it is. But they that have been the occasion of it, I pray God forgive them, as I would be forgiven myself. And Dr. Stephen, bishop of Winchester, if he have sought or wrought this my death, either by word or deed, I pray God to forgive him, as heartily, as freely, as charitably, and as sincerely, as Christ forgave them that put him to death. And if any of the council, or any other, have sought or wrought it through malice or ignorance, I pray God forgive their ignorance, and illuminate their eyes, that they may see and ask mercy for it. I beseech you all to pray for the king's grace, as I have done ever since I was in prison, and do now, that God may give him prosperity, and that he may long reign among you; and after him that godly prince Edward, that he may finish those things that his father hath begun. I have been reported to be a preacher of sedition, and disobedience unto the king; but here I say to you, that you are all bound by the commandment of God to obey your prince with all humility, and with all your heart, and that not only for fear of the sword, but also for conscience sake before God."
After this admirable address, Dr. Barnes desired, if he had said any evil at any time unadvisedly, whereby he had offended any, or given any occasion of evil, that they would pardon him, and amend that evil they took of him, and to bear him witness that he detested and abhorred all evil opinions and doctrines against the word of God, and that he died in the faith of Jesus Christ, by whom he doubted not but to be saved. With these words, he entreated them all to pray for him, and then he turned about, put off his clothes, and prepared himself to suffer. Jerome and Garret made a similar profession of their faith, reciting the several articles of their belief, and declaring their minds upon every article, as the time would allow, whereby the people might understand that there was no error for which they could justly be condemned; protesting, moreover, that they denied nothing that was either in the Old or New Testament, set forth by their sovereign lord the king, whom they prayed the Lord long to continue amongst them, with his son prince Edward.
Jerome then addressed himself as follows: "I say unto you, good brethren, that Christ hath bought us all with no small price, neither with gold nor silver, or other such things of small value, but with his most precious blood. Be not unthankful therefore to him again, but do as much as to christian men belongeth to fulfil his commandments, that is, love your brethren. Love hurteth no man, love fulfilleth all things. If God hath sent thee plenty, help thy neighbour that hath need. Give him good counsel. If he lack, consider if you were in necessity, you would gladly be refreshed. And again, bear your cross with Christ. Consider what reproof, slander, and reproach, he suffered for his enemies, and how patiently he suffered all things. Consider, that all Christ did was of his mere goodness, and not for our deserving. If we could merit our own salvation, Christ would not have died for us. But for Adam's breaking of God's precepts we had been all lost, if Christ had not redeemed us again. And like as Adam broke the precepts, and was driven of Paradise, so we, if we break God's commandments, shall have damnation, if we do not repent and ask mercy. Now, therefore, let all christians put no trust nor confidence in their works, but in the blood of Christ, to whom I commit my soul to guide, beseeching you all to pray to God for me, and for my brethren here present with me, that our souls leaving these wretched bodies, may consistently depart in the true faith of Christ."
After he had concluded, Garret thus spoke: "I also detest and refuse all heresies and errors, and if either by negligence or ignorance I have taught or maintained any, I am sorry for it, and ask God's mercy. Or if I have been so vehement or rash in preaching, whereby any person hath taken any offence, error, or evil opinion, I desire him and all other persons whom I have any way offended, forgiveness. Notwithstanding, to my remembrance, I have never preached willingly any thing against God's holy word, or contrary to the true faith; but have ever endeavoured, with my little learning and wisdom, to set forth the honour of God and right obedience to his laws, and also the king's accordingly: if I could have done better, I would. Wherefore, Lord, if I have taken in hand to do that thing which I could not perfectly perform, I desire thy pardon for my bold presumption. And I pray God to give the king good and godly counsel to his glory, to the king's honour, and the increase of virtue in this realm. And thus do I yield my soul up unto Almighty God, trusting and believing that he, of his infinite mercy, according to his promise made in the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, will take it and pardon all my sins, of which I ask him mercy, and desire you all to pray with and for me, that I may patiently suffer this pain, and die in true faith, hope, and charity." The three martyrs then took each other by the hand, and after embracing, submitted themselves to the tormentors, who, fastening them to the stake, soon lighted the fagots, and terminated their mortal life and care.
Nearly at the same time Thomas Bernard and James Merton suffered. The offence of Bernard was the teaching of the Lord's Prayer in English; that of Merton, his keeping an English translation of the epistle of St. James. They were taken up at the instigation of Longland, bishop of Lincoln, and condemned to the flames.
This summer the king went to York, to meet his nephew the king of Scotland, who promised him an interview there. The Scottish prince was an extraordinary person, a great patron both of learning and justice, but immoderately addicted to his pleasures. The clergy in Scotland were very apprehensive of his seeing his uncle, lest Henry might have persuaded him to follow his example with respect to the church; and they used such persuasions, that seconded by a message from France, they diverted the king from his purpose.
Before we proceed to record the events relative to Scotland, which took place at this period, it will be necessary to give a brief relation of the reformation in that country. The long alliance between Scotland and France had rendered the two nations extremely attached to each other; and Paris was the place where the learned of Scotland had their education. Yet after the year 1412, learning came to have more footing in Scotland, and universities were set up in several episcopal sees. At the same time some of Wickliffe's followers began to creep into the country; and an Englishman, named Resby, was burnt in 1407 for teaching opinions contrary to the pope's authority. A few years after that, Paul Craw, a Bohemian, who had been converted by the ministry of John Huss, was burnt for infusing the opinions of that martyr into some members of the bigoted college of St. Andrew. About the end of that century, the sentiments of the Lollards spread themselves into many parts of the diocese of Glasgow, for which several persons of quality were accused; but they answered the archbishop of that see with such assurance, that he dismissed them, having admonished them to content themselves with the faith of the church, and to beware of new doctrines. The same spirit of ignorance, immorality, and superstition, had overrun the church there, that was so much complained of in other parts of Europe. The total neglect of the pastoral care, and the gross scandals of the clergy, possessed the people with such prejudices against them, that they were easily disposed to hearken to new preachers, the most conspicuous of whom are now to pass before us.
Patrick Hamilton, a noble martyr, was highly descended. He was nephew, on his father's side, to the earl of Arran, and on his mother's, to the duke of Albany. He was bred up with the design of being advanced to clerical dignity, and he hoped to have an abbey given him for prosecuting his studies. He went over to Germany, and studied at the university of Marpurg, where he soon distinguished himself by his zeal, assiduity, and great progress, particularly in the scriptures, which were his grand object, and to which he made every thing else subservient. There he became acquainted with Luther and Melancthon; and being convinced, from his own researches, as well as their ministry and advice, of the truth of their doctrines, he burned to impart the light of the gospel to his own countrymen, and to shew them the errors and corruptions of their church. For this great purpose he returned to Scotland, fearless of any injury that might come upon himself, so that he might be faithful and useful to others.
After preaching some time, and holding up the truth to his deluded countrymen, he was at length invited to St. Andrews to confer upon the points in question. But his enemies could not stand the light, and finding that they were unable to defend themselves by argument, resolved upon violence and revenge. Hamilton was accordingly imprisoned. Articles were exhibited against him, and upon his refusing to abjure them, Beaton, archbishop of St. Andrews, with the archbishop of Glasgow, three bishops, and five abbots, condemned him as an obstinate heretic, delivered him to the secular power, and ordered his execution to take place that very afternoon: for the king had gone in pilgrimage to Ross, and they were afraid, lest, upon his return, Hamilton's friends might intercede effectually for him. When he was tied to the stake, he expressed great joy in his suffering, since by these he was to enter into everlasting life. A train of powder being fired, it did not kindle the fuel, but only burnt his face, which occasioned delay till more powder was brought; and in that time the friars called repeatedly to him to recant, to pray to the Virgin, and to say the Salve Regina. Among the rest, a friar named Campbell, who had been with him in prison, was very officious. Hamilton answered, that he knew he was not a heretic, and had confessed it to him in private, and charged him to answer for that at the throne of Almighty God. By this time the gunpowder was brought, and the fire being kindled, he died, often repeating these words, "Lord Jesus, receive my soul." His relentless persecutor, Campbell, soon after became deranged, and died without recovering his reason.
The views and doctrines of Hamilton were such as cannot fail to excite the highest admiration of every real believer; and they are withal expressed with such brevity, such clearness, and such peculiar vigour and beauty--forming in themselves a complete summary of the gospel--that they cannot but afford instruction to every class of readers who seek to know more of God, and of Jesus our Lord. We shall, therefore, make no apology for giving them at the following length. They were written by Hamilton himself in Latin, and translated into English by John Frith, a man worthy of such a task and such a friend.
--Footnote marker a--BT 4 words "the lists with Luther"
It was for his writing against Luther, in defence of papacy, that the pope bestowed upon him the title of DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, which the British monarchs have, absurdly enough, retained to this day. Nothing can be said against the kingly office being "set for the defence of the gospel;" but to call a man, whatever be his infidelity and immorality, by this name, is indeed a monstrous anomaly.
--Footnote marker b--BT 4 words "the laws of God"
This was one of the firmest, as it was one of the first steps laid for advancing to a glorious reformation on scriptural principles; and was infinitely preferable as an argument to all the reasonings afterwards introduced, and exalted to the rank of infallible axioms, when this, alas! became slighted and forgotten. Hitherto and afterwards, it was assumed that no papal decree could err; but in a happy moment of sudden light it is here seen and confessed that edicts of the pope may run contrary to the law of God, and thus be undoubtedly wrong. Would to heaven that this principle were considered by protestant as well a popish bishops, and carried by all people into their confidence in episcopal measures.
--Footnote marker c--BT 4 words "with an evil spirit"
In the reign of queen Mary, the works of Sir T. More were published. But the letter from which the above extract is taken, although printed among the rest, was suppressed. The reason of which seems to be, that there was a design to canonize the nun at that time, for she was considered as a martyr to the cause of queen Katharine. To justify this extravagance, there were numbers of feigned miracles concerning the nun; therefore a letter so full and clear against her was judged best to be concealed.
--Footnote marker d--BT 4 words "thought her a prophetess"
Amidst the comparative darkness of that age, much allowance may be made for the delusion of the multitude. But in the present day it is unaccountable to see the pervading influence of superstition enveloping the minds of such numbers. We allude to the spreading of Johanna Southcotte's doctrines. But it is as the apostle hath said, "God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie." And why is it? Because their fears towards the Lord is taught by the precepts of men; they are ever learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth; beguiling unstable souls, led away with every wind of doctrine. Not knowing "that many false prophets shall arise, which shall deceive many."
The above note was printed in the edition of 1806: had the editor of that edition lived to become the reviser of this, he might have placed Edward Irving by the side of Johanna Southcotte and Elizabeth Barton. Widely different from these women in intellect and station, his patronage of the unknown tongues had reduced him to a humiliating level with those two vulgar female impostors. Alas for human nature! To what vile uses may mind as well as body come!
--Footnote marker e--BT 4 words "continue during his pleasure"
These were the same as those whom the ancient church called Cherepiscopi, who were at first the bishops of some villages, but were afterwards put under the jurisdiction of the bishop of the next city. They were set up before the council of Nice. and continued in the church for many ages; but the bishops devolving their whole spiritual power upon them they were put down, and a decretal epistle was forged in the name of P. Damascus, condemning them.
--Footnote marker f--BT 4 words "our sins no more"
It is evident that the papists, who hold the doctrine of purgatory, have no correct notions of a future state, and on this primary doctrine of the New Testament are almost in as great darkness and doubt as were the pagans of antiquity, and as are many pious sufferers to this day. Their future world is in fact much worse than this, and many pious sufferers would infinitely prefer remaining here, with all the infirmities that beset them, than go hence to fall into purgatorial fires, even though but a few years duration.
--Footnote marker g--BT 4 words "from the archbishop's jurisdiction"
This requires some explanation, as Austin, or Augustine, was himself archbishop of Canterbury, and could only concur in such a measure by his will.
--Footnote marker h--BT 4 words "Thomas a Becket's at Canterbury"
Thomas a Becket was archbishop of Canterbury; and, seconded by the clergy, he insisted that they should be exempted from the jurisdiction of the temporal courts in criminal cases. His conduct was so galling to the king, and so marked with insolence, that his majesty said hastily, "Have I no friend to rid me of this insolent enemy?" Upon this four of his knights, esteeming it a signal for his death, instantly quitted the royal presence, and hastened to Canterbury, where finding the archbishop before the altar of the church at prayers, they slew him with their daggers. Henry found great difficulty to excuse himself to the pope, and was obligated to do penance. It was this king who, with the French monarch, performed the office of yeoman of the stirrup to pope Alexander. It is worthy of remark that one of the assassins was ancestor of a most respectable and excellent family of quakers now flourishing in this country.
--Footnote marker i--BT 4 words "were exhibited against him"
These were the articles for which he suffered: