[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

IT gives me pleasure to mention, that your account of the suppression of the remaining colleges, and the hospitals and chantries, and of the general destruction of their libraries, and the sacred and secular articles of use and ornament belonging to them, in the reign of Edward vi, is free from objection, and written with equal accuracy and eloquence. A catholic, however, may be permitted to wish, that you had given in it some account of the enormous wickedness of the protector Somerset, and of Dudley earl of Warwick, who supplanted bim. Under the influence of these daring noblemen, Cranmer devised the first sanguinary code that was framed against the English catholics. Now, the bad character of the persecutor is universally considered to be favourable to the persecuted: on this account, it has, you well know, been deemed honourable to christianity, that Nero was its first persecutor; justice, therefore, to the catholics seems to require, that it should be known who the persons were that first persecuted them.

You might also have noticed the opinion of Cranmer, that the exercise of episcopal jurisdiction depends upon the prince; that, in conformity to this principle, he thought his own right to exercise episcopal authority had ended with the life of Henry VIII; that he would not act as arehbishop, until the infant monarch had renewed his commiss sion ; that his example was imitated by other prelates; and that this proceeding was as inconsistent with the doctrine of the church of England, expressed in the thirty-nine articles, as it is with the doctrine and discipline of the roman-catholic church.

You might, too, have mentioned Cranmer's alienation of the better half of the possessions of the see of Canterbury to the king. Read the article in Collier's “ Appendix to the second volume of his “ history,” in which he gives “ an account of the “church lands alienated by the prelates, from their “ sees, in the reign of Henry VIII." You will find in it what Cranmer did, and how his example was imitated by Ridley and other prelates. So great a friend as you profess yourself to the dignity and comfort of the English hierarchy, you may, perhaps, feel a wish, that, on this occasion, Cranmer and his imitators had shown something of the stern and uncompromising spirit of Becket. ?? di

You might too, and, in justice to the roman, catholics you ought; to have noticed their patience during the innovations in the reign of Edward VI, and the miseries which attended them. It is diffi. cult to find, in history, an instance of more general or galling spoliation and oppression than those which the roman.catholics then suffered. You admit, that “ the majority of the nation was, at this *6 time, attached to the old faith ;” the government was distracted, and the mind of the public was generally alienated from it.

Thus the romancatholics, if it had been their principle to propagate their religion, or even to ward off its impending ruin, by violence, might have easily established their ascendancy; but this is neither their doctrine nor their practice,-the roman-catholics, therefore, remained in peace. Such a remark, at the present time *,- if you had made it, -would not have been lost upon us; we should have gratefully received it. With this feeling, we read your candid acknowledgment, that the insurrection, in Edward's reign, was “a conflict, not between the adherents of the old

religion and of the new, but between men who

fought for plunder, and those whose property was “ at stake."

The subject now calls me to return to the charges of “ignorance and corruption” with which you so often, and so contumeliously, upbraid our church. Here, let me request you to consider the proceedings, so highly injurious to sacred and profane learning of every kind, which attended the introduction of the new religion in the reign of Henry VIII, and its progress during that of the infant Edward, whom you so highly celebrate; and to compare them with those which attended the rise and progress of the catholic religion in this country. You recollect the

expression, as just as it is beautiful, of Collier, which I have already cited, -that, on the introduction of catholic faith into England, “every thing seemed

• See the italic words in " the Book of the Church," vol. 1, p. 379.–At this time, the British roman-catholics are peti. tioning for emancipation.

brightened, as if nature had been melted down “ and recoined.” In proportion as the catholic faith advanced, humanity, civilization, the arts and the sciences, advanced with her, and were equally encouraged by the monarch, the pastors, and their flocks. I request you, (always bearing in mind that printing was then unknown), to say, whether, in your opinion, these advances in useful and ornamental knowledge, and this encouragement of them, were not greater than the most sanguine hopes could have expected ? All were extinguished by the Danish invasion; but no sooner was the Norman government settled, than all the useful and ornamental literature revived: the dominions of Henry II. became, if the expression may be allowed, the Athens of the feudal territories; and, notwithstanding the long years of havoc, which urged their way during the contests between the house of York and the house of Lancaster, arts, sciences and literature, were constantly on the : increase. Compare this with the Vandal scenes which began in the reign of Henry VIII, and were consummated in the reign of his son. “I judge it to be true, says the most anti-catholic Bale*, “and I utter it “ with heaviness, that neither the Britons' under of the Romans and. Saxons, nor yet the English .“ people under the Danes and Normans, had ever “such damage of their learned monuments, as we “ have at this our time. Our posterity may well “ curse the wicked fall of our age; this unreason“ able sport of England's most noble antiquities.”

* Declaration upon Leland's Journal, ann. 1549; Fuller's Church History, book vi. 333.

Can it then be honourably said, that the rise and first progress of the new religion in this country, were as edifying or as salutary as the rise and first progress of the catholic religion had been ?

But the catholic religion had superstitions and corruptions :- this is your constant theme. That, during the legal establishment of the catholic religion, there were some superstitions and some corrupt practices, I admit; and I have shown, that this has been admitted by our best roman-catholic writers, though all deny that either superstition or corruption existed in the extent you describe. Admitting, however, for the sake of argument, that both existed in the very extent described by you,I have no fear of closing with you even on this ground.-Permit me to ask you, whom I suppose to be a protestant of the thirty-nine articles, a single question: Which is the greatest obstacle to the rise, the progress, or the revival of religion,-superštition and corruption, or laxity of creed and indifference? I leave you to answer this question, and to draw the inference. The jews repeatedly offended God by their idolatries and superstitions. In the roman-catholic religion, idolatry never has existed, and small, very small, has been the number of its members tainted by superstition. Now, if the idolatries and superstitions of the jews did not prevent their continuing the constituted depositaries of the law, why should a few superstitious

« VorigeDoorgaan »