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distant day sees Dudley, the successful usurper of the young monarch's prerogatives, atoning with his life for his lawless presumption. All this while, however, it is consoling to observe that the doctrines of the reformation were, under the vigilant care of Cranmer, advancing with a certain, because steady and moderate, progress; and, by the close of the short reign of Edward the Sixth, had become so deeply rooted in the affections o the more enlightened, wealthy, and thence influential classes, that they have to this day continued the inalienable patrimony of the English people. A brief exposition of the principles by which the archbishop and his associates were guided, in effecting this great religious revolution, will, besides being more suitable to our design than a mere chronological narrative of each proceeding in which Cranmer was engaged in the interval between the death of Henry and the accession of Mary, we should hope, impress the reader with a due conviction of their wisdom and moderation. Cranmer's first step was to petition the new king for a licence to continue in the exercise of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction, on the ground that, as his archiepiscopal authority was derived solely from the crown, it necessarily expired with the death of the granting monarch. The example of the metropolitan was, as a matter of course, followed by the other prelates; and their dependence on, and their obedience to, the will of the executive by this means revived and strengthened.
Having thus precluded the evil consequences of refractory colleagues, the archbishop next established a royal visitation, chiefly for the purpose enforcing his Book of Homilies, just then composed, and Erasmus's paraphrase of the New Testament, to be read after mass in every church on Sundays and holidays. The object was to familiarise the people with the language and injunctions of the Gospel delivered in the vernacular tongue, and by that means to make the introduction of more striking changes in the ancient practices and worship, which he was then maturing in his own bosom, less abrupt and repugnant to established prejudices. "The greatest part of the ignorant commons" (we quote Burnet, vol. ii. p. 35.) "seemed to consider their priests as a sort of people who had such a secret trick of saving their souls as mountebanks pretend in the cure of diseases; and that there was nothing to be done but to leave themselves in their hands, and the business could not miscarry. This was the chief basis and support of all that superstition which was so prevalent in the nation. The other extreme was of some corrupt gospeller, who thought if they magnified Christ much, and depended on his merits and intercession, they could not perish, which way soever they led their lives. In the Homilies, therefore, especial care was taken to rectify both these errors." Between these two extremes Cranmer steered with great address and moderation; on the one hand, dwell
Having thus cautiously felt his way, the primate proceeded to lop off, by little and little, the superstitious excrescences that had disfigured for so many ages the purity and simplicity of the Christian worship, and to engraft gradually in their stead those doctrines and ceremonies which are still the boast of the church of England. Orders were issued to all the bishops to abolish, in their respective dioceses, the custom of bearing candles on Candlemas-day, of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, and of carrying palms on Palm Sunday; and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was commanded to be thenceforth administered in both kinds, and in the English language. The masst was, at the same time, celebrated as usual in Latin; and care was taken to guard against offensive comments on the catholic belief of the real presence in the eucharist.
A great progress was thus unobtrusively and unresistingly made in favour of the new doctrines, and Cranmer so far emboldened to proceed with his other projected innovations. Aware of the deep root which the ancient worship had taken in the minds of the large majority of the people, clergy as well as laity, and of the firm hold which the catholic discipline had in the two universities, he encouraged by all means in his power the influx of foreign divines and professors into England. They were assured of a hospitable asylum in his own palace till otherwise provided for; and were only called upon, in return, to aid by their knowledge and eloquence the common cause of the reformation. Among the divines and preachers who, in consequence of this tempting invitation, flocked to the archiepiscopal residence at Lambeth, the most distinguished for their learning, ability, and zeal, were the celebrated John Knox, and Bucer and Peter Martyr, at the time heads of the church and university of Strasburg. Knox was appointed one of the royal chaplains, and was licensed and encouraged to preach every where throughout the kingdom, having had the honesty to refuse a benefice; "because," says Strype, many things were worthy of reformation in England without the reformation, whereof no minister did
*"Among Cranmer's papers I have seen several arguments for a moderate use of images." Burnet, ii. p. 13. f Cranmer celebrated a high mass for the repose of the soul of Francis I., who died a few months after Henry.
or could discharge his conscience before God." |
It may be stated as a general rule, that it is essential to the permanent success of religious, not less than of political, revolutions, that they be effected with rapidity; that is, that the promulgation of the new doctrines be so much in accord with the public aspirations of the time being,however undefined, vague, or indeterminate these may appear, that they may seem to be but their echo. Wycliffism was stifled in its birth by the mephitic exhalations which for centuries had polluted the religious atmosphere of England; in other words, it was not responded to by public sympathy, it was too much in the van of the general intelligence, it breathed no congenial atmosphere. On the other hand, it cannot fail to strike the philosophic observer, that the very fact of theological innovations spreading rapidly among a
* Bucer thought that, for avoiding contention, and for maintaining peace and quietness in the church, somewhat more ambiguous words should be used, that might have a respect to both persuasions concerning the presence. But Martyr was of another judgment, and affected to speak of the Sacrament with all plainness and perspicuity. Strype, ii. 120.
† Burnet, who says the catechism was first made in Latin by another, but revived in translation by Cranmer.
rude people, is a positive proof that reason had little or no share in their reception. The progress of truths, which now appear to be a part of our very being, was for a time slow and gradual. They were first discussed and adopted by a few as valuable accessions to their knowledge. The circle of diffusion becomes in time wider and wider: they are now received by many because they are the opinions of those whom they look up to; by others, from imitation; by some, because long familiarity makes their evidence appear intuitive. Their reception thus in time grows universal, and seems, like the acquired perceptions of vision, to be a primary law of our nature. But this slowness and gradualness is, it is evident, incompatible with the essential rapidity of a great religious revolution, like that which gives such celebrity to the reigns of Henry and his immediate successors. Generations would perish without participating in the benefits of the reformation, if they were not at once made glaringly manifest to the dullest apprehensions of the people, instead of relying on the intrinsic truth of its principles and their consequent general, but too tardy, diffusion. This fact could not escape the sagacity of the friends of the new doctrines. The question then for them was-to facilitate the progress of those doctrines, by presenting them as tangibly as possible to the common sense of the nation; while the errors and absurdities of the old worship were no less forcibly exposed to what may be designated the sensuous understanding of the vulgar. To men so illiterate as our fathers at this time, it would be a vain waste of breath to endeavour to win them to the protestant tenets by controversial sermons on their Gospel purity, or by tracts proving with learned logic the antiscriptural basis of the faith in which they had been bred up. They should be first made to see and feel the truth of the one, and see and feel the corruptions of the other. The Horatian remark, that
Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures;
Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, et quæ
applies universally; and the success which attend-
In the former reign, as we have all read, great exertions were successfully made in exposing to the senses of the multitude the pretended miracles and pious impostures of the clergy. The miraculous crucifix, the "Rood of Grace," as it was called, which had attracted generations of pilgrims to Boxley in Kent, and which had proved one of the most lucrative of the monkish inventions, was taken to pieces at St. Paul's cross, and the several springs and wheels by which the head, mouth, and eyes of the image were made to move miraculously, according to the payment of the votaries, ex
posed to the public gaze, touch, and ridicule. "There was a huge image of our Lady at Worcester that was had in great reverence," it having performed an orthodox number of marvellous cures of both soul and body. It was stripped before the people, and found to be the statue of a bishop, "the which caused huge laughter to the beholders thereon." Another famous imposture was discovered at Hales, in Gloucestershire; a phial containing the blood of Christ, taken from his body at Jerusalem. Its miraculous nature was shown by its becoming invisible to any one in a state of mortal sin, and continuing so till the criminal had expiated his offences by masses and offerings. The sacred blood was discovered to have been the blood of a duck, which was weekly killed in private for the purpose by two monks in the secret of the cheat; and the visibility of the fluid was found to depend on turning the phial, one side of which was transparent, the other opaque. When rich pilgrims arrived, they were sure to be shown the dark side; and, "having drained them of all that they brought with them, then they consoled them by turning the clear side outward, who upon that went home very well satisfied with their journey, and the expense they had been at.”*
By these exposures to the eye and touch of the multitude, the feeling of fraud and corruption in their religious institutions was insensibly reduced, and the public mind prepared for the reception of newer and purer doctrines. To diminish still more the reverence of the people for the ancient worship, plays and farces were frequently performed in the churches, of which the invariable subject was the vices of the clergy, and the absurdities of the established superstitions. The effect of this great engine of ridicule would appear incredible to a modern frequenter of the drama. A semi-malicious relish of all jests at the expense of the great and the reverend is a part of our national character, and was, in this case, the more freely encouraged by the friends of the reformation, because the less ceremonial character of the protestant service exempted it from the caricatures by which the pageants and mummeries of the catholic worship were held up to public laughter. Thus we see the sensuous character of the religion of the church of Rome, by which she bound to herself, during centuries of intellectual darkness, the allegiance of the Christian world, tended ultimately to her degradation and downfall.
Bearing steadily in mind the principle which we have endeavoured to explain, Cranmer proceeded in his great undertaking. He knew that it was essential to the reasonable and unmysterious character of the new religion that its service should be expressed in the mother-tongue of its adherents; and yet he knew—such is the force of superstitious association-that the very fact of the mass being celebrated in an unknown dialect
*Burnet, ii. 1. 313.
impressed the vulgar with a sense of mysterious awe, which, by a natural illusion, was extended to the officiating priesthood. His conduct in this difficulty displayed his good sense and moderation. He framed his new English liturgy out of materials furnished by the Roman ritual. Its elevated piety and simplicity recommended it to the friends of pure religion; while its being but a translation, in the mother-tongue, of the daily service of their altar, could not fail to attract to it the enlightened members of the catholic communion. In either case, the senses were made ministrant to his purpose.
A broad mark of sensible distinction being thus drawn between the new and old worship, without inducing the alarm of a radical difference, Cranmer next enlisted the pride of the multitude on his side, by proclaiming their private judgment to be the ultimate appeal in all scriptural controversy. Not that he ever intended to consult their decisions, for he was too well aware of their incompetency to come to any; but he knew that the permission of every man to freely exercise his “private judgment" in the meaning of the Scriptures, could not fail to alienate him from a religion which denied that indulgence, and to make him, on the other hand, a friend to the system of belief, which granted it as a matter of right. In point of fact, the reformers were at this time to the full as intolerant as the catholics in their interpretations of the sacred volume; but employed different, though much less consistent, means of ensuring a conformity with their own comments and opinions. All, therefore, who fancied they were exercising their private judgment, when they were probably only marshalling one set of prejudices in array against another, favoured the new doctrines.
The Scriptures being now the inheritance of every man, and the right of exercising the private judgment in their interpretation being promulgated as a religious obligation, the next step for the promoters of the reformation naturally was the sweeping away all those ceremonies and dogmas of the Roman worship which were not sanctioned by the letter or the spirit of the inspired writings. The Virgin, consequently, was deprived of her divine honours; most of the saints were cashiered or superannuated; and the terra incognita of purgatory expunged from the map of true religion, as unknown to the prophets, and repugnant to the doctrine of justification. The practice of confession was left to the opinion of each "private judgment" on its efficacy, and very soon fell into disuse.
The sacrament of the Lord's Supper can present itself to the candid mind but under two interpretations, either that of the church of Rome, with all its absurdities; or that of the Zuinglian divines, with its apparent contradictions to the letter of the Gospel. Endless attempts, however, were for nearly a century made to hit off a kind of middle term which might embrace the two op
posing doctrines; and it was not till an ocean of blood and ink had been spilt that the Zuinglian version became a part of the English liturgy.
Though the reformation was now consummated, its great fosterer's labours were not at an end. The statute imposing celibacy on the clergy was yet unrepealed: his wife and children were still exiles. The marriage of ecclesiastics was highly unpalatable to parliament and the nation; so much so, indeed, that had not Cranmer's private feelings been deeply involved in the issue, it is very doubtful whether the liberty of entering into a state of wedlock would be even now enjoyed by the priesthood. It certainly would not have been granted in the reign of Elizabeth, or in that of her successor; and would not have been thought of in the cabinet of Mary.
In the preamble to the first bill which, at the instigation of the archbishop, was brought into parliament to repeal so much of the law of the Six Articles as prohibited the marriage of the clergy, the intended indulgence was spoken of as an "ignominious and tolerated evil ;" and perpetual continence was recommended, as becoming the spiritual character of a ministry which could not be too much relieved from worldly embarrassments in the perfomance of its duties. Cranmer, however, persevered; and, after much opposition, a subsequent bill received the sanction of the legislature, and liberty to marry became the right of protestant churchmen.
It would have been well for Cranmer's reputation had he confined himself exclusively to the duties of his prelacy, and had not lent the weight of his name, as patriarch of the church of England, to the designs of factious ambition. "But even the good men of those days," says a late writer* on them, were strange beings." Where blood and life are or may be involved in the result, the canon law prohibits clergymen from having any share in the transaction; nevertheless, such was the archbishop's unfortunate facility of compliance with the requests of another,-the brother of the criminal,—that he signed the warrant for the admiral Seymour's execution, and influenced Latimer to justify the deed in a sermon before the boy monarch, Seymour no doubt merited his fate; but the minister of a religion of peace and mercy should not have been, in any way, his executioner.
A measure still more questionable, of which Cranmer was the chief agent, was the harsh treatment of those prelates who adhered to the ancient forms of worship. The reader need hardly be re minded of the imprisonment and deprivations of Bonner, then bishop of London, and Gardiner, bishop of Winchester. The unnecessary (to use the mildest phrase) oppression of those vindictive men only created justifying precedents for retali
Turner's Modern History of England, a valuable depository of curious facts and reasonings,
ating in kind when circumstances afterwards possessed them with the power. Without intimidating them, it generated the will and the motive to persecute in return, and taught the benevolent the melancholy truth, that the difference between the prelates of the old and the new church was less one of intolerance of spirit, than of verbal faith and outward worship.
But these were but slight blemishes compared with the flagitious persecutions for heresy which stain the reputation of Cranmer. It might have been fairly expected from men who had taken the lead in asserting the liberty of thinking with an unfettered conscience on religion, and who had boldly opposed the right of private judgment to the authority of ages, that they at least would respect that right, and that liberty, when exercised by others. Above all men, a repugnance to the shedding of blood for points of faith should have been manifested by Cranmer; for he had seen the innocent led to the scaffold, and had in the former reign assisted in consigning to the flames the fearless asserter of doctrines which he now himself heartily espoused. But this, as we have before observed, was an age of religious bigotry, and even the benevolent Cranmer partook of its persecuting spirit. In the third year of Edward's reign, in 1549, a commission was appointed of which the archbishop was head, to “search after all anabaptists, heretics, and condemners of the Common Prayer," and to hand them over to the secular power in the event of their failing previously to reclaim them. Many abjured their errors rather than become martyrs, and carried faggots to St. Paul's cross in the usual manner of penitent heretics. "But," says Burnet (Hist. Reformation, vol. ii. p. 146.), "there was another of these extreme obstinates, Joan Bocher, commonly called Joan of Kent. She denied that Christ was truly incarnate of the Virgin, whose flesh being sinful, he could take none of it; but the Word, by the consent of the inward man in the Virgin, took flesh of her: these were her words. They took much pains about her, and had many conferences with her; but she was so extravagantly conceited in her own notions, that she rejected all they said with scorn. Whereupon she was adjudged an obstinate heretic, and so left to the secular power. This sentence being returned to the council, the good king was moved to sign a warrant for burning her, but could not be prevailed on to do it; he thought it a piece of cruelty, too like that which they had condemned in papists, to burn any for their consciences. And, in a long discourse he had with sir J. Chick, he seemed much confirmed in that opinion. Cranmer was therefore employed to persuade him to sign the warrant." (What an office for an aged prelate to a child!) "He argued from the law of Moses, by which blasphemers were to be stoned: he told the king he made a great difference between errors in other points of divinity and those which were directed against
the apostles' creed; that these were impieties against God, which a prince, as being God's deputy, ought to punish, as the king's deputies were obliged to punish offences against the king's person. These reasons did rather silence than satisfy the young king, who still thought it a hard thing (as in truth it was) to proceed so severely in such cases; so he set his hand to the warrant with tears in his eyes, saying to Cranmer, that if he did wrong, since it was in submission to his authority, he should answer for it to God." This declaration of the young monarch so alarmed the archbishop that he had the woman brought to his house, "to see if he and Ridley could persuade her;" but she only replied with jeers and taunts at their inconsistencies. "It is a goodly matter," said she to Cranmer, as he was on the point of passing sentence on her, "to consider your ignorance. It was not long ago you burned Anne Arken for a piece of bread, and yet came yourself soon after to believe and profess the same doctrine for which you burned her; and now, forsooth, you will needs burn me for a piece of flesh, and in the end you will come to believe this also, when you have read the Scriptures and understand them." This almost irresistible appeal only irritated the prelate: he delivered sentence against her as an obstinate heretic, and she was burned soon after. A few days later Von Parris, a Dutchman, was also consigned to the flames for Arianism.
Such was the conduct, so monstrously inconsistent, of the great patriarchs of the reformation. Blinded by religious zeal, and the intolerant spirit of the age, they could not see that they were furnishing the adherents to the ancient faith with a rich armoury of weapons of persecution. It did not strike them, that if Joan Bocher and Von Parris were guilty in freely exercising their private judgment in interpreting the Scriptures, all their ecclesiastical innovations, and the reformation itself, must à fortiori, be denounced as the most audacious and deliberate criminality. But, it cannot be too often repeated, these were times of unparalleled changes, great excitement, and intolerance. A mighty concussion had shaken society to its foundation, and the moral and intellectual man had not yet reasserted himself in his native equanimity and clearsightedness. should, we again remind the reader, be judged by the standard of their own age alone; as there is no man but in a great degree takes his colouring of conduct from the habits of his contemporaries and immediate predecessors. We are the creatures of circumstance and imitation; and imitation, says Bacon, is a globe of precepts. The progress of truth and improvement is imperceptible in short periods: so that the habits of thought and action, the religious belief, the political predilections and aversions, and opinions of men and books of the passing events, differ but a shade here and there from those of the past generations; and that again runs, like the colours of the rainbow,
| insensibly into the preceding. No one link of the chain of being, therefore, stands out prominently in advance of its neighbouring one in either moral or intellectual improvement; and though individuals may, in the closet, promulgate doctrines that far outstrip the general intelligence, they must wait till that intelligence has grown up to them before these doctrines become principles of action. In the mean while, their conduct in life assimilates itself to that of their fellow men, however theoretically inconsistent with their private speculations
A great moral lesson should be the inference from these remarks-charity towards the holder of opinions different from our own, and a hesitation to condemn too harshly the actions and usages of other times and circumstances. We teach our children to loathe the very name of "bloody queen Mary;" but we forget, at the same time, to inform them, that that princess possessed virtues which, in circumstances more favourable to their growth than those by which she was surrounded from her cradle, would have made her a theme for our warmest eulogies. We teach them to justly reprobate the name of Bonner, without informing them, that if that dark-minded prelate had lived in our days, his zeal would be confined to an intolerant speech from the bench of bishops, or a declamatory pamphlet, or angry charge against his religious opponents; and that it is not improbable, that, if some of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of our own times had been his contemporaries, their conduct would not have been less intolerant. We have all read with indignation of the burning of Servetus we have all seen the ashes of the poet Byron refused a resting place in Westminster Abbey. No doubt the honour of religion was the sole source of the latter ungracious act; but did Calvin only indulge a passion for torturing a fellow-creature? Change the time, the place, the circumstances, and would-or rather say, could--the stern reformer of Geneva in the nineteenth century evince his disapprobation of heterodoxy more pointedly? In a word, then, let us judge charitably of our persecuting fathers; and while reprobating and avoiding their faults, let us bless Providence that we have been permitted to live in a country and an age of civil and religious liberty.
The court of the well-taught clever boy who now held the sceptre had been for some time a scene of contentions between the Dudley and Seymour factions. Cranmer was an adherent to the interest of the protector; for to him was he indebted for the aid of the government in erecting the new system of public worship. There was a something, moreover, of congeniality of disposition in the two men that tinged their official intercourse with the warmth of private friendship. Both were well-intentioned and kind-hearted: Somerset, not less than the archbishop, wanted that firmness and decision of character so necessary in times of danger and trouble to men in high station. It was, therefore, with regret that Cranmer saw his patron