Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

stance of his story is, that Taylor, Barnes, and even at present is not so constantly borne in mind Cranmer, the chief instruments in bringing him to as the interests of humanity would dictate. Misthe stake, were all three burned a few years after- taking the expression of belief for the act itself, wards for the very same doctrine, for which they the members of each sect or party endeavoured to were, moreover, then strongly, and perhaps not force the reception of what their own sincerity, by unjustly, suspected of having a predilection. a very natural illusion, convinced them nothing

In fairness to the men of this age of persecu- but malignant obstinacy could prevent from being tion, it should be borne in mind that intolerance at once eagerly adopted ; and thus intolerance was then, and for more than a century after, the was masked, even to its zealots, under the title of common law of Christendom. Toleration was a checking and punishing wilful error, and of adterm scarcely heard of in theory, and wholly un- vancing the cause of truth. Before, therefore, we known in practice. The magistrate of the six- condemn the actors in those dramas of persecuteenth century doubted as little the justice of con- tion which stain the sixteenth and seventeenth signing a heretic to the flames, as the magistrate centuries, let us consider whether there may not of our own more enlightened times of sentencing possibly be some of our own laws and asages of the impugner of established opinions to gaol or so intolerant and sanguinary a character as to retransportation, or the utterer of a forged note to quire hereafter the lenient interpretation of a more the gallows. The pretext—the prevention of crime enlightened and thence more humane posterity. by terror of its consequences, and the preser- While we reprobate the barbarous and unchrisvation of the integrity of the body corporate, by tian practices of our fathers, it might be as well (to use the favourite metaphor of the times) “the for us to examine whether there is any leaven of amputation of the diseased member

was the

them still lurking among ourselves. Let us, in a same in both cases, excepting indeed that the zeal word, take care, while we are indignantly pointing of the former was incited by an additional motive out the beams which blinded the vision of those derived from his religion. The conduct of men is who have preceded us in the career of human mainly determined by the circumstances in which improvement, that some motes of prejudice and they are placed; among which circumstances, the uncharitableness may not obstruct our own.

Tho opinion of contemporaries is, perhaps, the most fires of Smithfield are certainly extinguished for influential. Public opinion was not outraged by ever; but is the spirit of intolerance that kindled the dreadful punishments inflicted on those from them altogether allayed ? whom the odious charge of heresy repelled the The abolition of the papal supremacy necessacurrent of public sympathy. Uniformity of theo- rily placed the tenure of the hierarchy on a new logical doctrines was a phrase then synonymous footing. As yet no prelate had been consecrated with the very existence of religion itself; and those without the pope's bull, which bound him to redoctrines and that uniformity it was considered to cognise the see of Rome as the canonical head of be the solemn duty of the government to maintain the church. But this recognition had been lately with unrelenting vigilance. Where any relaxa. declared treason; and there was no precedent for tion of this stern discipline occurred, it was owing to the dependency of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction temperament and animal feeling, rather than to a on the will of the civil magistrate. Henry was judicious estimate of the value of religious liberty. much puzzled as to the course he should follow in At all times and in every class of society are to this entirely new order of things. The arbitraribe found individuals so constitutionally humane, ness of his temper led him to push his newlyso nervously apprehensive of pain in themselves, assumed prerogative to its utmost limits ; but in so tremblingly sympathetic with the appearance doing so he would be acting in the very teeth of of suffering in others, that not even religious fana- those principles which he had vehemently mainticism can make them unrelentingly cruel. When- tained in his controversy with Luther. From this ever power is vested in the hands of such persons, embarrassment he was relieved by the address a negative toleration, that is, a diminution of, or and boldness of his vicar-general Cromwell, and by a refraining from, persecution will prevail; for the the pliant example of Cranmer. The body of the actions of individuals, it will be almost invariably clergy maintained that the church had inherited found, receive their tone and colouring much more from her divine founder a power underived from, from the general temper or feelings of the heart, and uncontrollable by, the civil authority, to preach than from the decisions of the understanding. and adniinister the sacraments, and enforce her Philip Melancthon was a man of this class, and own discipline by her own weapons and influence. Reginald Pole and Tonstal, and so probably were Cranmer, on the other hand, contended, somewhat sir Thomas More and Cranmer: not so Luther, strangely, when we recollect that he was then Calvin, Knox, and the other leading reformers on Archbishop of Canterbury, that the king alone, the one hand, nor the Gardiners or Bonners on having the need of spiritual as well as civil officers, the other. One fact should be received in pallia- had the right to appoint them. In the time of the tion of all: the great truth, so pregnant with charity apostles, he added, the people appointed, “betowards our fellow-men, that belief is independent cause they had no Christian king;" but occasion. on the will, was not in those times dreamt of, and ally accepted such as might be recommended by


the apostles “ of their own voluntary will, and sistance, to guard against the inconveniences of not for any superiority that the apostles had over delay and interruption.” them :" in the appointment of bishops and priests, But Cranmer well knew that the mere assumas in that of civil officers, some ceremonies are tobe ing of the ecclesiastical supremacy by the crown used," not of necessity, but for good order and would little advantage the cause of pure religion seemly fashion :" nevertheless, “ he who is ap- so long as those strong holds of the Romish supointed bishop or priest needeth no consecration perstition, the monasteries and priories, continued by the scripture, for the election or appointment in existence. He accordingly with zeal seconded thereto is sufficient.”. “ This,” he says, with his the counsels of Cromwell for their suppression. usual caution, “is mine opinion and sentence at The proposal was greedily snatched at by Henry, this present; which, nevertheless, I do not teme- to whom it opened the prospect of inexhaustible rariously define, but refer the judgment thereof to wealth, as well as an ample field for the exercise your majesty."

of power. His courtiers, ministers, and the lords But Cromwell, in whom as vicar-general the of his council eagerly joined in the chase ; for the king's ecclesiastical jurisdiction was vested, was spoils of the clergy promised a rich harvest to not content with the silent or rather implied sub- their rapacity, having been held out as the probamission of the clergy which the archbishop's in- ble reward of their zeal by the artful policy of the fluence had induced. At the suggestion of two ot vicar-general. Spoliation and plunder thus behis creatures, he adopted an expedient, by which came the order of the day : the monasteries were the obedience of the church dignitaries would be suppressed ; their corruptions and crimes exposed pushed to the quick. In the plenitude of his to public odium : and their funds and lands apauthority, as the king's ecclesiastical minister, he plied to transforming the hungry minions that suspended the power of all the prelates and ordi- spanieled a tyrant's heels into the founders of still naries in the realm, on the ground of a general flourishing, wealthy, and noble families. But such visitation about to be made by the “supreme head an application, though in the end, perhaps, one of of the church.” Those bishops and priests who the most prudent that could have been adopted, kad claimed an authority by divine right would was very different from that contemplated by thus be compelled to produce their proofs; or, if Cranmer. That prelate saw with pain and disthey did not resign their offices, to acknowledge may Henry contenting himself with the slaughter the crown to be the sole origin of spiritual juris- of the carcass, which he left as booty, to his foldiction, by petitioning it for the restoration of their

lowers to fatten upon. He knew that those usual authority. As might be expected from his spoliators were perfectly indifferent to every thing Erastian tenets, Cranmer led the way, and sub- but their own aggrandisement ; and that for them mitted with becoming humility. This example the principles of the reformation would have no was followed by the clergy, to whom he had ad- charms, unless their profession were accompanied dressed, as metropolitan, a circular letter on the by an increase of wealth and worldly distinction. subject; and, after a month's suspension, each Never yet did the world witness a crew more desbishop received a separate commission from the

picably rapacious than the courtiers of Henry king “ to do whatever belonged to the office of

VIII. It was, therefore, with deep regret that bishop.” during the royal pleasure. The reason Cranmer beheld the alienation of the church proassigned for granting the indulgence added to its

perty in a manner so different from that which he degradation. It was stated in the commission

had recommended, and which Henry had promisrestoring the episcopal power, not that the govern- ed to act upon. He proposed that on the new ment of bishops was necessary for the church, but endowments a certain number of cathedrals should that the king's vicar-general, on account of the

be erected, and that in every cathedral there should multiplicity of business with which he was load

be provision made for readers of divinity, Greek, ed, could not properly attend to every thing in and Hebrew ; and for“ a great number of stuperson (in sua persona expediendum non suffi- dents to be both exercised in the daily worship of ciel*), and therefore should be provided with as- God, and trained up in study and devotion, whom * The commission may be seen in Burnet's records

the bishop might transplant out of this nursery to the first volume of his History of the Reformation, into all parts of his diocess.” We cannot but launder the title, “ Licentia Regia concessa Domino ment with the archbishop, that his excellent deepiscopo ad exercendam jurisdictionem episcopalem.” The passage referred to in the text runs thus :

sign had been abandoned for such an unworthy “Quia tamen ipse Thomas Cromwell nostris et hujus

use as gorging the reptiles of a palace ; though regni Angliæ tot et tam arduis negotiis adeo præpe- we are well aware of the benefits which hay ditus existit, quod ad omnem jurisdictionem nobis, uti Supreme Capite hujusmodi competentem, ubique;

emerged from a beginning of so little promise. locorum infra hoc regnum nostrum præfatum, in his

The measure to the effecting of which the influquæe moram commode non patiuntur, aut sine nostro- ence of the archbishop was next directed was one rum subditorum injuria differri non possunt, in sua of still greater importance to our religion. To the persona expediendum, non sufficiet. Nos tuis in hac parte supplicationibus humilibus inclinati, et nostro- The bishop erroneously insinuates that Bonner rum subditorum commodis consulere cupientes, Tibi only received this humiliatingly couched licence :vice nostras,” &c.

it was the general form.

immortal honour of Cranmer be it stated that he was thrown, by a spirit of revenge, among the was the first to place the Bible in the hands of the leaders of the new learning. During his official laity of England; an act which will atone for a career, Cranmer's councils were, by his support, thousand instances of his pusillanimity, and which made paramount in the cabinet, and the religious will ever recommend his name to our gratitude. tenets of the court approximated more and more Henry had promised on the suppression of Tyndal's to those of the Lutheran reformers. But after this version of the Old and New Testament in 1530, fall, as the archbishop had foreseen, the opinions that he would provide a new translation by the of Henry, acted upon by Gardiner and the other "joint labour of great, learned, and catholic per- Romanist ministers, retrograded to the doctrines sons." Cranmer, during his residence in Germany, of the treatise by which he had won the title of had witnessed the extraordinary success which “ Defender of the Faith.” It was, therefore, with the reformers derived from the diffusion of the

dismay that Cranmer heard of his friend's arrest sacred volume, and had resolved upon its intro- and impeachment; for he had a true presentiment duction into his native country. Scarcely was he of its consequences to religion, which augmented installed, therefore, in the see of Canterbury in the anguish of personal sorrow. He wrote to the 1533, than he reminded the king of his promise ; king on the subject, and dwelt much on the fallen and by his repeated importunity in person, and by minister's zeal and diligence in his service, " and inducing the convocation to petition and Cromwell in discovering all plots as soon as they were made: to support the prayer, he at length obtained the

that he had always loved the king above all things, royal injunction to have the Bible (Mathew's and served him with great fidelity and success : edition) placed in all parish churches, with the that he thought no king of England ever had such liberty to every man to read it at pleasure, “ pro- a servant: upon that account he had loved him, as vided he did not disturb the preacher in his sermon, one that loved the king above all others. But,” he nor the officiating clergyman during service.” In adds, with his usual timidity and caution, “if he two years after (in 1539) the indulgence was ex- was a traitor, he was glad it was discovered. But tended from the church to private houses under he prayed God earnestly to send the king such a some restrictions : care being at the same time counsellor in his stead, who could and would serve taken, with the characteristic jealousy of the him as he had done."* Knowing the danger as Tudors, to inform the people that the liberty which well as inutility of attempting to arrest the hand they enjoyed was not a right to which they possess- of Henry once raised in vengeance, he prudently ed any claim, but a favour granted “of the royal avoided all allusion to the particular charge on liberality and goodness.”

which Cromwell had been arrested, and confined Thus was the way cleared for the reformation himself to a recapitulation of his former services. in England. By abolishing the papal supremacy Having thus indulged his better feelings, he went and making the crown the source of all ecclesias

along with the stream, and voted for the second tical authority, the clergy were stripped of the and the third reading of the bill of attainder withpower of resisting the further innovations of the

out trial, of which atrocious instrument of despotism sovereign, and made wholly dependent on his by a kind of retributive justice, Cromwell was the will. By the suppression of the monasteries they first victim, as he had been the first inventor. were, moreover, deprived of the means of appeal- | Though there was much base ingratitude and ing to the prejudices of the people, unless in the

cruelty on the part of his master in the fate of dangerous character of rebels. By distributing the

Cromwell, it was with justice but little lamented church possessions among his courtiers and gentry, by the nation at large ; for even his ignominious Henry bound them to the new order of things by death could not allay the recollection that he had the ties of property, hope, fear, and gratitude ; been at all times the artful counsellor and willing and by disseminating the Bible among the middle instrument of that master's tyranny against others. classes, he prepared them for the reception of

The king was on one of his progresses, accomgospel truth, by enabling them, of themselves, to

panied by his young queen, Catherine Howard, distinguish between it and papal error. The favour when one Lascelles waited on Cranmer, and acof the working classes and lower orders was not quainted him with facts, on the authority of his yet directly appealed to.

sister, a servant in the Norfolk family, which taintWhile these important proceedings were in pro- ed the honour of the royal bed. The information gress, two events occurred productive of much

could only excite regret and terror. It is painful uneasiness to Cranmer,—the fall and execution of to a humane mind to be the instrument of anCromwell, on a charge of treason, and the behead

other's disgrace or misery ; and yet the archbishing of Queen Catherine Howard for incontinency. With the vicar-general Cranmer had been in habits

* “ This letter," says Burnet, "shows both the

firmness of Cranmer's friendship, and that he had a of the closest confidence and friendship, and had,

great soul, not turned by the change of men's forlunes 08 we have seen, used his influence in aid of the to like or dislike them as they stood or declined from protestant doctrines. Cromwell was not at heart their greatness."-The letter, the reader will probably a friend of the reformation ; but, being hated and

think, far less shows Cranmer's firmness or greatness

of soul than the bishop's remarks evince the wish to despised by the adherents to the old worship, he 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 matterto 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 six articles. 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, Cronmer'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 i but also without avail. Henry was rooted to his

[ocr errors]

* 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 immora tal visit there. When Shakspeare became a propria etor 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,

* 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.

[ocr errors]

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 bad 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 con

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 affection 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 proclanations 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 fürther 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, fol. lowed 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 doctrino.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »