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stance of his story is, that Taylor, Barnes, and Cranmer, the chief instruments in bringing him to the stake, were all three burned a few years afterwards for the very same doctrine, for which they were, moreover, then strongly, and perhaps not unjustly, suspected of having a predilection.
In fairness to the men of this age of persecution, it should be borne in mind that intolerance was then, and for more than a century after, the common law of Christendom. Toleration was a term scarcely heard of in theory, and wholly unknown in practice. The magistrate of the sixteenth century doubted as little the justice of consigning a heretic to the flames, as the magistrate of our own more enlightened times of sentencing the impugner of established opinions to gaol or transportation, or the utterer of a forged note to the gallows. The pretext--the prevention of crime by terror of its consequences, and the preservation of the integrity of the body corporate, by (to use the favourite metaphor of the times) "the amputation of the diseased member-" was the same in both cases, excepting indeed that the zeal of the former was incited by an additional motive derived from his religion. The conduct of men is mainly determined by the circumstances in which they are placed; among which circumstances, the opinion of contemporaries is, perhaps, the most influential. Public opinion was not outraged by the dreadful punishments inflicted on those from whom the odious charge of heresy repelled the current of public sympathy. Uniformity of theological doctrines was a phrase then synonymous with the very existence of religion itself; and those doctrines and that uniformity it was considered to be the solemn duty of the government to maintain with unrelenting vigilance. Where any relaxa. tion of this stern discipline occurred, it was owing to temperament and animal feeling, rather than to a judicious estimate of the value of religious liberty. At all times and in every class of society are to be found individuals so constitutionally humane, so nervously apprehensive of pain in themselves, so tremblingly sympathetic with the appearance of suffering in others, that not even religious fanaticism can make them unrelentingly cruel. Whenever power is vested in the hands of such persons, a negative toleration, that is, a diminution of, or a refraining from, persecution will prevail; for the actions of individuals, it will be almost invariably found, receive their tone and colouring much more from the general temper or feelings of the heart, than from the decisions of the understanding. Philip Melancthon was a man of this class, and Reginald Pole and Tonstal, and so probably were sir Thomas More and Cranmer: not so Luther, Calvin, Knox, and the other leading reformers on the one hand, nor the Gardiners or Bonners on the other. One fact should be received in palliation of all the great truth, so pregnant with charity towards our fellow-men, that belief is independent on the will, was not in those times dreamt of, and
even at present is not so constantly borne in mind as the interests of humanity would dictate. Mistaking the expression of belief for the act itself, the members of each sect or party endeavoured to force the reception of what their own sincerity, by a very natural illusion, convinced them nothing but malignant obstinacy could prevent from being at once eagerly adopted; and thus intolerance was masked, even to its zealots, under the title of checking and punishing wilful error, and of advancing the cause of truth. Before, therefore, we condemn the actors in those dramas of persecution which stain the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, let us consider whether there may not possibly be some of our own laws and asages of so intolerant and sanguinary a character as to require hereafter the lenient interpretation of a more enlightened and thence more humane posterity. While we reprobate the barbarous and unchristian practices of our fathers, it might be as well for us to examine whether there is any leaven of them still lurking among ourselves. Let us, in a word, take care, while we are indignantly pointing out the beams which blinded the vision of those who have preceded us in the career of human improvement, that some motes of prejudice and uncharitableness may not obstruct our own. The fires of Smithfield are certainly extinguished for ever; but is the spirit of intolerance that kindled them altogether allayed?
The abolition of the papal supremacy necessarily placed the tenure of the hierarchy on a new footing. As yet no prelate had been consecrated without the pope's bull, which bound him to recognise the see of Rome as the canonical head of the church. But this recognition had been lately declared treason; and there was no precedent for the dependency of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction on the will of the civil magistrate. Henry was much puzzled as to the course he should follow in this entirely new order of things. The arbitrariness of his temper led him to push his newlyassumed prerogative to its utmost limits; but in doing so he would be acting in the very teeth of those principles which he had vehemently maintained in his controversy with Luther. From this embarrassment he was relieved by the address and boldness of his vicar-general Cromwell, and by the pliant example of Cranmer. The body of the clergy maintained that the church had inherited from her divine founder a power underived from, and uncontrollable by, the civil authority, to preach and administer the sacraments, and enforce her own discipline by her own weapons and influence. Cranmer, on the other hand, contended, somewhat strangely, when we recollect that he was then Archbishop of Canterbury, that the king alone, having the need of spiritual as well as civil officers, had the right to appoint them. In the time of the apostles, he added, the people appointed, "because they had no Christian king;" but occasionally accepted such as might be recommended by
the apostles "of their own voluntary will, and not for any superiority that the apostles had over them :" in the appointment of bishops and priests, as in that of civil officers, some ceremonies are to be used, "not of necessity, but for good order and seemly fashion :" nevertheless, "he who is appointed bishop or priest needeth no cons by the scripture, for the election or appointment thereto is sufficient."—"This," he says, with his usual caution, "is mine opinion and sentence at this present; which, nevertheless, I do not temerariously define, but refer the judgment thereof to your majesty."
But Cromwell, in whom as vicar-general the king's ecclesiastical jurisdiction was vested, was not content with the silent or rather implied submission of the clergy which the archbishop's influence had induced. At the suggestion of two of his creatures, he adopted an expedient, by which the obedience of the church dignitaries would be pushed to the quick. In the plenitude of his authority, as the king's ecclesiastical minister, he suspended the power of all the prelates and ordinaries in the realm, on the ground of a general visitation about to be made by the "supreme head of the church." Those bishops and priests who had claimed an authority by divine right would thus be compelled to produce their proofs; or, if they did not resign their offices, to acknowledge the crown to be the sole origin of spiritual jurisdiction, by petitioning it for the restoration of their usual authority. As might be expected from his Erastian tenets, Cranmer led the way, and submitted with becoming humility. This example was followed by the clergy, to whom he had addressed, as metropolitan, a circular letter on the subject; and, after a month's suspension, each bishop received a separate commission from the king "to do whatever belonged to the office of bishop" during the royal pleasure. The reason assigned for granting the indulgence added to its degradation. It was stated in the commission restoring the episcopal power, not that the government of bishops was necessary for the church, but that the king's vicar-general, on account of the multiplicity of business with which he was loaded, could not properly attend to every thing in person (in sua persona expediendum non sufficiet*), and therefore should be provided with as
sistance, to guard against the inconveniences of delay and interruption."
* The commission may be seen in Burnet's records to the first volume of his History of the Reformation, under the title, "Licentia Regia concessa Domino episcopo ad exercendam jurisdictionem episcopalem." The passage referred to in the text runs thus:"Quia tamen ipse Thomas Cromwell nostris et hujus regni Angliæ tot et tam arduis negotiis adeo præpeditus existit, quod ad omnem jurisdictionem nobis, uti Supreme Capite hujusmodi competentem, ubique; locorum infra hoc regnum nostruin præfatum, in his quæ moram commode non patiuntur, aut sine nostrorum subditorum injuria differri non possunt, in sua persona expediendum, non sufficiet. Nos tuis in hac parte supplicationibus humilibus inclinati, et nostrorum subditorum commodis consulere cupientes. Tibi vice nostras," &c.
But Cranmer well knew that the mere assuming of the ecclesiastical supremacy by the crown would little advantage the cause of pure religion so long as those strong holds of the Romish superstition, the monasteries and priories, continued in existence. He accordingly with zeal seconded the counsels of Cromwell for their suppression. The proposal was greedily snatched at by Henry, to whom it opened the prospect of inexhaustible wealth, as well as an ample field for the exercise of power. His courtiers, ministers, and the lords of his council eagerly joined in the chase; for the spoils of the clergy promised a rich harvest to their rapacity, having been held out as the probable reward of their zeal by the artful policy of the vicar-general. Spoliation and plunder thus became the order of the day: the monasteries were suppressed; their corruptions and crimes exposed to public odium: and their funds and lands applied to transforming the hungry minions that spanieled a tyrant's heels into the founders of still flourishing, wealthy, and noble families. But such an application, though in the end, perhaps, one of the most prudent that could have been adopted, was very different from that contemplated by Cranmer. That prelate saw with pain and dismay Henry contenting himself with the slaughter of the carcass, which he left as booty, to his followers to fatten upon. He knew that those spoliators were perfectly indifferent to every thing but their own aggrandisement; and that for them the principles of the reformation would have no charms, unless their profession were accompanied by an increase of wealth and worldly distinction. Never yet did the world witness a crew more despicably rapacious than the courtiers of Henry VIII. It was, therefore, with deep regret that Cranmer beheld the alienation of the church property in a manner so different from that which he had recommended, and which Henry had promised to act upon. He proposed that on the new endowments a certain number of cathedrals should be erected, and that in every cathedral there should be provision made for readers of divinity, Greek, and Hebrew; and for "a great number of students to be both exercised in the daily worship of God, and trained up in study and devotion, whom the bishop might transplant out of this nursery into all parts of his diocess." We cannot but lament with the archbishop, that his excellent design had been abandoned for such an unworthy use as gorging the reptiles of a palace; though we are well aware of the benefits which have emerged from a beginning of so little promise.
The measure to the effecting of which the influence of the archbishop was next directed was ong of still greater importance to our religion. To the
The bishop erroneously insinuates that Benner only received this humiliatingly couched licence :it was the general form.
immortal honour of Cranmer be it stated that he was the first to place the Bible in the hands of the laity of England; an act which will atone for a thousand instances of his pusillanimity, and which will ever, recommend his name to our gratitude. Henry had promised on the suppression of Tyndal's version of the Old and New Testament in 1530, that he would provide a new translation by the "joint labour of great, learned, and catholic persons." Cranmer, during his residence in Germany, had witnessed the extraordinary success which the reformers derived from the diffusion of the sacred volume, and had resolved upon its introduction into his native country. Scarcely was he installed, therefore, in the see of Canterbury in 1533, than he reminded the king of his promise; and by his repeated importunity in person, and by inducing the convocation to petition and Cromwell to support the prayer, he at length obtained the royal injunction to have the Bible (Mathew's edition) placed in all parish churches, with the liberty to every man to read it at pleasure, “provided he did not disturb the preacher in his sermon, nor the officiating clergyman during service." In two years after (in 1539) the indulgence was extended from the church to private houses under some restrictions: care being at the same time taken, with the characteristic jealousy of the Tudors, to inform the people that the liberty which they enjoyed was not a right to which they possessed any claim, but a favour granted "of the royal liberality and goodness."
Thus was the way cleared for the reformation in England. By abolishing the papal supremacy and making the crown the source of all ecclesiastical authority, the clergy were stripped of the power of resisting the further innovations of the sovereign, and made wholly dependent on his will. By the suppression of the monasteries they were, moreover, deprived of the means of appealing to the prejudices of the people, unless in the dangerous character of rebels. By distributing the church possessions among his courtiers and gentry, Henry bound them to the new order of things by the ties of property, hope, fear, and gratitude; and by disseminating the Bible among the middle classes, he prepared them for the reception of gospel truth, by enabling them, of themselves, to distinguish between it and papal error. The favour of the working classes and lower orders was not yet directly appealed to.
While these important proceedings were in progress, two events occurred productive of much uneasiness to Cranmer,-the fall and execution of Cromwell, on a charge of treason, and the beheading of Queen Catherine Howard for incontinency. With the vicar-general Cranmer had been in habits of the closest confidence and friendship, and had, as we have seen, used his influence in aid of the protestant doctrines. Cromwell was not at heart a friend of the reformation; but, being hated and despised by the adherents to the old worship, he
was thrown, by a spirit of revenge, among the leaders of the new learning. During his official career, Cranmer's councils were, by his support, made paramount in the cabinet, and the religious tenets of the court approximated more and more to those of the Lutheran reformers. But after this fall, as the archbishop had foreseen, the opinions of Henry, acted upon by Gardiner and the other Romanist ministers, retrograded to the doctrines of the treatise by which he had won the title of "Defender of the Faith." It was, therefore, with dismay that Cranmer heard of his friend's arrest and impeachment; for he had a true presentiment of its consequences to religion, which augmented the anguish of personal sorrow. He wrote to the king on the subject, and dwelt much on the fallen minister's zeal and diligence in his service," and in discovering all plots as soon as they were made: that he had always loved the king above all things, and served him with great fidelity and success: that he thought no king of England ever had such a servant: upon that account he had loved him, as one that loved the king above all others. But," he adds, with his usual timidity and caution, "if he was a traitor, he was glad it was discovered. But he prayed God earnestly to send the king such a counsellor in his stead, who could and would serve him as he had done." Knowing the danger as well as inutility of attempting to arrest the hand of Henry once raised in vengeance, he prudently avoided all allusion to the particular charge on which Cromwell had been arrested, and confined himself to a recapitulation of his former services. Having thus indulged his better feelings, he went along with the stream, and voted for the second and the third reading of the bill of attainder without trial, of which atrocious instrument of despotism by a kind of retributive justice, Cromwell was the first victim, as he had been the first inventor. Though there was much base ingratitude and cruelty on the part of his master in the fate of Cromwell, it was with justice but little lamented by the nation at large; for even his ignominious death could not allay the recollection that he had been at all times the artful counsellor and willing instrument of that master's tyranny against others. The king was on one of his progresses, accompanied by his young queen, Catherine Howard, when one Lascelles waited on Cranmer, and acquainted him with facts, on the authority of his sister, a servant in the Norfolk family, which tainted the honour of the royal bed. The information could only excite regret and terror. It is painful to a humane mind to be the instrument of another's disgrace or misery; and yet the archbish
"This letter," says Burnet, "shows both the firmness of Cranmer's friendship, and that he had a great soul, not turned by the change of men's fortunes to like or dislike them as they stood or declined from their greatness."-The letter, the reader will probably think, far less shows Cranmer's firmness or greatness of soul than the bishop's remarks evince the wish to invest him with them.
op felt that his loyalty as well as his safety would be compromised, and might be endangered, by his keeping the secret to his own bosom. He communicated the matter to the chancellor and others of the council; and they agreed with him, that though it might be equally dangerous to conceal as to discover it to the king, the latter course would, under all circumstances, be the most prudent. As the subject was one of great delicacy, Cranmer broke it to the unsuspecting husband in a long letter, in which the manner in which the information was obtained is stated with anxious minuteness, lest it should be inferred that he was a seeker of scandal or a spy upon the proceedings of the palace. An enquiry was the result of this painful intelligence: incontinency before marriage was proved against the Lady Catherine, and criminality after inferred. The opportunity of shedding blood was too tempting and feasible to be resisted: on the 13th February, 1542, she was beheaded on Tower hill, asserting her conjugal fidelity, while she confessed her maiden delinquencies.
It would be needless to enquire what share Cranmer had in framing and sanctioning the "Institution" and the "Erudition" of "a Christian Man," or whether the "bloody" law of the six articles was wholly owing to the intrigues of Gardiner and the Romanist party. During Henry's reign, the royal standard of orthodoxy would have been received by the clergy of the new learning, even though it were still more popish in its doctrine; and by the clergy of the old learning, even though it had issued from the protestant league of Smalcald. He was infallible in his own estimation, and, what was more, possessed the will and the power to prove himself so in that of others. The "Institution," and the "Erudition," which was known by the name of the king's book, are chiefly remarkable for the ultra-catholicism of their theology, and for the earnestness with which they inculcate the doctrine of passive obedience.* They were the standard of orthodoxy till the accession of Edward VI., when the reformation party became possessed of the management of affairs, and all persons were compelled to subscribe to them.
The statute of the six articles was, however, still more trying to the feeling and conscience of the friends of pure religion,particularly to Cranmer, who employed all his address, and a degree of boldness that was unusual to him, to have it softened down, if not defeated. One of those articles, indeed, touched him to the quick : it declared the marriages of priests to be invalid, and compelled such per
sons in orders as might have been living with their wives to repudiate them, making subsequent cohabitation felony. The reader is aware, that during his residence in Germany, Cranmer had married a kinswoman of Osiander, a Lutheran divine. He never publicly avowed his marriage, as the canon which imposed celibacy on the priesthood had not been abrogated, and the king was well known to be averse from his clergy entering into a state of wedlock. His wife, however, lived with him in private, and bore him several children. His first opposition to the atrocious statute, which he knew would bear on him with such terrible severity, was made in the committee of spiritual peers, whose labours terminated in the framing of the sixarticles. That committee he divided for eleven days on every article, till Henry grew so impatient, that he came down in person, and awed the prelates (excepting the bishop of Salisbury, who "continueth a lewd fool,") by his "goodlie learning" into unanimity. As the danger came nearer, Cranmer's efforts and ingenuity to avert it were doubled; and at last he ventured to submit his reasons in writing to the "superior judgment of the king's grace," against the obnoxious articles, particularly that which insisted on the celibacy of the clergy. On this sore point he suggested the expediency of a royal declaration, that would be equivalent to a suspension of that part of the statute, till the lawfulness of the marriage of priests should be debated in the universities, on the hazardous condition, that, if judgment were given against his opinion, its advocates should suffer death; if in its favour, that the canonical prohibition, and the article founded on it, should be no longer enforced, and that the matter should be left in future to every man's own conscience.* Henry bore patiently with this unusual contradiction to his will, but remained inexorable. Cranmer next induced Melancthon to write the king a long letter, for the purpose of subduing his obstinacy; but also without avail. Henry was rooted to his
A sermon of Cranmer is quoted by Strype, in which it is inculcated," that though the magistrates be evil and very tyrants against the commonwealth, and enemies to Christ's religion, yet ye subjects must obey in all worldly things as the Christians do under the truth, and ought so to do, as long as he commandeth them not to do against God." The same doctrine was preached by the Romanist party, as may be seen in Gardiner's De Vera Obedientia.
*The delivery of the MS. treatise, containing the archbishop's objections to the six articles, was accompanied by a ludicrous accident, illustrative of the customs of the times. The bearer of it, Cranmer's secretary, "must needs go to the Southwark side of the river, in a wherry, to look on a bear-baiting that was near the river, where the king was in person. They that were in the boat leaped out, and left the poor secretary alone there. But the bear got into the boat, with the dogs about her, and sunk it." The secretary and the treatise were, however, saved from drowning.
Our modern notions are startled by the fact of the king's joining a rabble rout at a bear-bait: but even the court ladies took part in those cruel "amusements." Bear-baiting was the Virgin Queen's favourite pastime with it she treated her most distinguished visiters; and it was an important ingredient in the fare which she received in return, on her progresses. There were not less than twelve bears killed for her amusement at Kenilworth, at her now immortal visit there. When Shakspeare became a proprietor of the Globe theatre in Southwark, the performances were forbidden on those days in which the game of bear-baiting, and like pastimes, which are maintained for her majesty's pleasure." was practised.
purpose; and the archbishop saw with dismay, that his marriage was rendered void in law, and that death might be the penalty of his continuing to harbour his wife and children. Having despatched them in haste to their friends in Germany, and written a dutiful apology to the king for his presumption in for a moment differing in opinion from him, Cranmer artfully revived a design of a conference between the English and continental divines, that had been agitated for the last few years in the council. After what had passed, to persist in calling in question any of the articles might have cost him his head; but he wisely con. ceived that foreigners might with safety impugn them under the appearance of advocating their own doctrines; and that the king might thus be induced to relax from his obstinacy. The conference was accordingly held; but Henry was not diverted a tittle from his opinions; and till his death Cranmer was obliged to keep his wife and children on the Continent, without daring to avow the validity of his marriage.
The slippery footing on which the law of celibacy placed Cranmer with respect to his further efforts for the advancement of the reformation, made him confine himself very much to the immediate business of his see during the remainder of this reign. The court, as usual, was divided by the overt intrigues of the two great religious parties who struggled for the king's favour, and who looked up to Gardiner, and the Duke of Norfolk, and the archbishop and the Seymours, as their leaders. As the question at issue was now mixed up with polemics, it need scarcely be added, that each antagonist regarded the other with intense and implacable hatred. Many attempts were made to deprive Cranmer of the loyal countenance; but Henry had too much confidence in his loyalty, and too grateful a recollection of his many delicate ser. vices, to be affected either by the insinuations or complaints of those whom he knew to be the archbishop's personal enemies. The prebendaries of Canterbury brought a charge against him, but were themselves arraigned, some imprisoned, and all obliged to beg the accused prelate's pardon. The member for Bedfordshire had the boldness, in the house of commons, to accuse Cranmer of heresy; but the king sent the "varlet" a peremptory message, that if he did not immediately acknowledge his error, he should be made an example to his fellows. On another occasion, Henry had consented to the committal of the archbishop; but, on reflection, changed his mind, and sent him a ring as a testimony of his unaltered friendship. The readers of Shakspeare are aware of the subsequent incidents: Cranmer was bidden to the council, at the door of which "the primate of all England was kept waiting an hour among the footmen and servants," according to the testimony of an eye-witness: the king unexpectedly appeared among them: Cranmer produced the ring, and there followed "a wonderful con202
fusion." The king commanded them to be reconciled to the archbishop, whom "he protested by the faith he owed to God,-laying his hand on his breast,—that if a prince could be obliged by his subjects, he was by the primate; and that he took him to be the most faithful subject he had, and a person to whom he was most beholden." With this striking proof of the sovereign's affec tion for the archbishop, the overt malice of his enemies ceased till the reign of Mary.
Cranmer attended his royal patron in his last moments. Being asked if he wished to confer with any clergyman, now that he was on the approach of death, Henry answered, "Only with Cranmer, and not with him as yet. I will first repose myself a little (he could not bear the thought of dying), and as I find myself I will determine." When the archbishop arrived, he found him speechless, but not altogether insensible. He asked him to give him some intimation of his reliance on the merits of his Redemer. The king grasped his hand strongly, bowed his head, and expired. By his will Cranmer was appointed one of the council of regency during the minority of the young Edward.
The usual consequences of a despotic reign manifested themselves immediately on the death of Henry. So long as he lived, the firm pressure of his iron hand had, as we have seen, enforced a level monotony of obedience. That removed, a recoil took place in the public mind that was felt at once in our civil and ecclesiastical institutions. Scarcely had his remains been consigned to the tomb, when his more sanguinary laws were abrogated, his anomalous treason and felonies effaced from the statute book, and his proclamations stripped of their legislative validity. The king's book, "The Erudition of a Christian Man," ceased to be the standard of religious orthodoxy; for the young prince and his two uncles, and Cranmer, his most influential counsellors, were strongly imbued with the spirit of Protestantism, and had determined on separating still further the Church of England from the Catholic worship. But these beneficial changes were but the bright morning of a cloudy day: the public mind was in a state of high excitement, and restless ambition renewed its outrages against law and reason. An oligarchy, with its factious concomitants, succeeded to a despotism: one successful monopolist of the power which Henry, by his will, had equally devolved upon a council of regency, of not less than sixteen persons, followed another to the scaffold; to-day the protector signed the death-warrant of his own brother, to-morrow he shares that brother's fate; a no
*It has been truly observed by Clarendon, that, except in the matter of the papal supremacy, Henry lived and died a sturdy catholic. Besides receiving the sacrament according to the rites and interpretation of the Roman Catholic church, he willed a sum of money for masses for his soul, perhaps thinking it prudent to be on the safe side on the purgatory doctrine.