Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

distant day sees Dudley, the successful usurper of ing on the boundless merits of Christ's sufferings; the young monarch's prerogatives, atoning with on the other, insisting that, to partake of them, his life for his lawless presumption. All this repentance and purity of heart were indispensably while, however, it is consoling to observe that the necessary. The catholic ceremonies were left doctrines of the reformation were, under the vigi- untouched, and only the more gross superstitions, lant care of Cranmer, advancing with a certain, such as driving out the devil by sprinkling holy because steady and moderate, progress; and, by water and lighting consecrated candles, animadthe close of the short reign of Edward the Sixth, verted upon and forbidden. The use of images had become so deeply rooted in the affections O. was not yet discouraged, their worship alone bethe more enlightened, wealthy, and thence influ- ing prohibited,* as contrary to the mandates of ential classes, that they have to this day continu- Scripture. ed the inalienable patrimony of the English people. Having thus cautiously felt his way, the primate A brief exposition of the principles by which the proceeded to lop off, by little and little, the superarchbishop and his associates were guided, in stitious excrescences that had disfigured for so effecting this great religious revolution, will, be- many ages the purity and simplicity of the Chrissides being more suitable to our design than a tian worship, and to engraft gradually in their mere chronological narrative of each proceeding stead those doctrines and ceremonies which are in which Cranmer was engaged in the interval still the boast of the church of England. Orders between the death of Henry and the accession of were issued to all the bishops to abolish, in their Mary, we should hope, impress the reader with a respective dioceses, the custom of bearing candles due conviction of their wisdom and moderation. on Candlemas-day, of receiving ashes on Ash Cranmer's first step was to petition the new king Wednesday, and of carrying palms on Palm Sunfor a licence to continue in the exercise of his ec- day; and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was clesiastical jurisdiction, on the ground that, as his commanded to be thenceforth administered in both archiepiscopal authority was derived solely from kinds, and in the English language. The masst the crown, it necessarily expired with the death of was, at the same time, celebrated as usual in Latin ; the granting monarch. The example of the me- and care was taken to guard against offensive tropolitan was, as a matter of course, followed by comments on the catholic belief of the real presence the other prelates ; and their dependence on, and in the eucharist. their obedience to, the will of the executive by this A great progress was thus unobtrusively and means revived and strengthened.

unresistingly made in favour of the new doctrines, Having thus precluded the evil consequences of and Cranmer so far emboldened to proceed with refractory colleagues, the archbishop next esta- his other projected innovations. Aware of the blished a royal visitation, chiefly for the purpose of deep root which the ancient worship had taken in enforcing his Book of Homilies, just then compos- the minds of the large majority of the people, clergy ed, and Erasmus's paraphrase of the New Testa- as well as laity, and of the firm hold which the ment, to be read after mass in every church on catholic discipline had in the two universities, he Sundays and holidays. The object was to fami- encouraged by all means in his power the influx liarise the people with the language and injunc- of foreign divines and professors into England. tions of the Gospel delivered in the vernacular They were assured of a hospitable asylum in his tongue, and by that means to make the introduc

own palace till otherwise provided for; and were tion of more striking changes in the ancient

only called upon, in return, to aid by their knowpractices and worship, which he was then ma- ledge and eloquence the common cause of the returing in his own bosom, less abrupt and repug- formation. Among the divines and preachers who, nant to established prejudices. “ The greatest part in consequence of this tempting invitation, flocked of the ignorant commons” (we quote Burnet, to the archiepiscopal residence at Lambeth, the vol. ii. p. 35.) “seemed to consider their priests most distinguished for their learning, ability, and as a sort of people who had such a secret trick zeal, were the celebrated John Knox, and Bucer of saving their souls as mountebanks pretend and Peter Martyr, at the time heads of the church in the cure of diseases; and that there was and university of Strasburg. Knox was appointed nothing to be done but to leave themselves in

one of the royal chaplains, and was licensed and their hands, and the business could not miscarry.

encouraged to preach every where throughout This was the chief basis and support of all that the kingdom, having had the honesty to refuse superstition which was so prevalent in the nation.

a benefice; “because," says Strype, many The other extreme was of some corrupt gospeller, were worthy of reformation in England who thought if they magnified Christ much, and without the reformation, whereof no minister did depended on his merits and intercession, they could not perish, which way soever they led their *" Among Cranmer's papers I have seen several lives. In the Homilies, therefore, especial care arguments for a moderate use of images.” Burnet, was taken to rectify both these errors.” Between

[ocr errors]

f Cranmer celebrated a high mass for the repose these two extremes Cranmer steered with great of the soul of Francis I., who died a few months after address and moderation ; on the one hand, dwell- Henry.

ii. p. 13.

or could discharge his conscience before God.” rude people, is a positive proof that reason had Bucer, who was remarkable among theologians little or no share in their reception. The progress for a sort of metaphysical acuteness, or rather, of truths, which now appear to be a part of our for a scholastic and disingenuous * subtlety,- very being, was for a time slow and gradual. They was appointed to lecture on divinity in Cam- were first discussed and adopted by a few as valubridge; while his friend, Peter Martyr, an honest- able accessions to their knowledge. The circle of er and bolder man, was elected to the theological diffusion becomes in time wider and wider: they chair of the other university. By these able and are now received by many because they are the learned men, the continental doctrines of the

opinions of those whom they look up to; by others, eucharist, free will, and justification were taught from imitation ; by some, because long familiarity to the rising generation of churchmen in England. makes their evidence appear intuitive. Their re

A catechism "for the singular Profit and In- ception thus in time grows universal, and seems, struction of Children and Young People,” was like the acquired perceptions of vision, to be a priCranmer's next measure. In this “easy, but most mary law of our nature. But this slowness and useful work,t” the archbishop strongly leans to gradualness is, it is evident, incompatible with the the ancient doctrines; he teaches the catholic essential rapidity of a great religious revolution, theory of the body and blood of Christ in the eu- like that which gives such celebrity to the reigns charist ; “exhorts much to confessions, and the of Henry and his immediate successors. Generapeople's dealing with their pastors about their con- tions would perish without participating in the bo sciences ;" and, contrary to his precepts in the for- nefits of the reformation, if they were not at once mer reign, maintains the divine institution of priests made glaringly manifest to the dullest apprehenand bishops. A much more important work soon sions of the people, instead of relying on the infollowed—the Book of Common Prayer, compiled trinsic truth of its principles and their consequent chiefly from the Romish ritual, which is in the general, but too tardy, diffusion. This fact could main similar to that in use at the present hour, and not escape the sagacity of the friends of the new which almost immediately received the sanction of doctrines. The question then for them was to Edward and his parliament. The church of Eng- facilitate the progress of those doctrines, by preland having now by law its own liturgy, rites, and senting them as tangibly as possible to the comceremonies, and its separation from the papal com- mon sense of the nation; while the errors and abmunion being thence legislatively consummated, surdities of the old worship were no less forcibly it only remained for Cranmer to win for that liturgy exposed to what may be designated the sensuous the sympathy and support of public opinion. In understanding of the vulgar. To men so illiterate his conduct in this delicate affair, as we have pre- as our fathers at this time, it would be a vain waste mised, we shall find much reason to admire his of breath to endeavour to win them to the protesdiscretion, excellent common sense, and know- tant tenets by controversial sermons on their Gosledge of the springs of human action.

pel purity, or by tracts proving with learned logic It may be stated as a general rule, that it is es- the antiscriptural basis of the faith in which they sential to the permanent success of religious, not had been bred up. They should be first made to less than of political, revolutions, that they be ef- see and feel the truth of the one, and see and feel fected with rapidity ; that is, that the promulga- the corruptions of the other. The Horatian retion of the new doctrines be so much in accord

mark, that with the public aspirations of the time being,— Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures ; however undefined, vague, or indeterminate these Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, et quæ may appear,--that they may seem to be but their Ipse sibi tradit spectator." echo. Wycliffism was stifled in its birth by the applies universally; and the success which attendmephitic exhalations which for centuries had pol. ed the labours of Cranmer and his associates luted the religious atmosphere of England; in proves their having acted upon it. The principle other words, it was not responded to by public thus asserted by the poet pervades all their measympathy, it was too much in the van of the gene- sures, and indeed almost all the proceedings of ral intelligence, it breathed no congenial atmo- the promoters of the English reformation. sphere. On the other hand, it cannot fail to strike In the former reign, as we have all read, great the philosophic observer, that the very fact of theo- exertions were successfully made in exposing to logical innovations spreading rapidly among a the senses of the multitude the pretended miracles

and pious impostures of the clergy. The miracu* Bucer thought that, for avoiding contention, and lous crucifix, the “Rood of Grace," as it was callfor maintaining peace and quietness in the church,

ed, which had attracted generations of pilgrims to somewhat more ambiguous words should be used, that might have a respect to both persuasions concerning

Boxley in Kent, and which had proved one of the the presence. But Martyr was of another judgment, most lucrative of the monkish inventions, was taand affected to speak of the Sacrament with all plain- ken to pieces at St. Paul's cross, and the several ness and perspicuity. Strype, ii. 120.

springs and wheels by which the head, mouth, and | Burnet, who says the catechism was first made in Latin by another, but revived in translation by eyes of the image were made to move miraculousCranmer.

ly, according to the payment of the votaries, ex

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.

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 buth 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

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 in. terpretations, 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 inight embrace the two op

* Burnet, ii. 1. 313.

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 reminded 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

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

* Turner's Modern History of England, a valuable depository of eurious facts and reasonings.

the apostles' creed ; that these were impieties insensibly into the preceding. No one link of the against God, which a prince, as being God's deputy, chain of being, therefore, stands out prominently ought to punish, as the king's deputies were obliged in advance of its neighbouring one in either moral to punish offences against the king's person. These or intellectual improvement; and though indivireasons did rather silence than satisfy the young duals may, in the closet, promulgate doctrines that king, who still thought it a hard thing (as in truth far outstrip the general intelligence, they must it was) to proceed so severely in such cases; so wait till that intelligence has grown up to them he set his hand to the warrant with tears in his before these doctrines become principles of action. eyes, saying to Cranmer, that if he did wrong, In the mean while, their conduct in life assimilates since it was in submission to his authority, he itself to that of their fellow men, however theoreshould answer for it to God.” This declaration tically inconsistent with their private speculations of the young monarch so alarmed the archbishop A great moral lesson should be the inference that he had the woman brought to his house, “to from these remarks-charity towards the holder see if he and Ridley could persuade her;” but she of opinions different from our own, and a hesitaonly replied with jeers and taunts at their incon- tion to condemn too harshly the actions and usages sistencies, “It is a goodly matter," said she of other times and circumstances. We teach our to Cranmer, as he was on the point of passing children to loathe the very name of "bloody queen sentence on her, “to consider your ignorance. It Mary ;" but we forget, at the same time, to inform was not long ago you burned Anne Arken for a them, that that princess possessed virtues which, piece of bread, and yet came yourself soon after to in circumstances more favourable to their growth believe and profess the same doctrine for which than those by which she was surrounded from her you burned her; and now, forsooth, you will needs cradle, would have made her a theme for our burn me for a piece of flesh, and in the end you warmest eulogies. We teach them to justly rewill come to believe this also, when you have probate the name of Bonner, without informing read the Scriptures and understand them.” This them, that if that dark-minded prelate had lived in almost irresistible appeal only irritated the prelate: our days, his zeal would be confined to an intolehe delivered sentence against her as an obstinate rant speech from the bench of bishops, or a declaheretic, and she was burned soon after. A few matory pamphlet, or angry charge against his redays later Von Parris, a Dutchman, was also con- ligious opponents; and that it is not improbable, signed to the flames for Arianism.

that, if some of the ecclesiastical dignitaries of our Such was the conduct, so monstrously inconsis- own times had been his contemporaries, their tent, of the great patriarchs of the reformation. conduct would not have been less intolerant. We Blinded by religious zeal, and the intolerant spirit have all read with indignation of the burning of of the age, they could not see that they were fur- Servetus : we have all seen the ashes of the poet nishing the adherents to the ancient faith with a Byron refused a resting place in Westminster Abrich armoury of weapons of persecution. It did bey. No doubt the honour of religion was the not strike them, that if Joan Bocher and Von Par- sole source of the latter ungracious act; but did ris were guilty in freely exercising their private Calvin only indulge a passion for torturing a feljudgment in interpreting the Scriptures, all low-creature ? Change the time, the place, the their ecclesiastical innovations, and the refor- circumstances, and would—or rather say, couldmation itself, must à fortiori, be denounced as the the stern reformer of Geneva in the nineteenth most audacious and deliberate criminality. But, century evince his disapprobation of heterodoxy it cannot be too often repeated, these were times more pointedly? In a word, then, let us judge of unparalleled changes, great excitement, and in- charitably of our persecuting fathers ; and while tolerance. A mighty concussion had shaken so- reprobating and avoiding their faults, let us bless ciety to its foundation, and the moral and intellec- Providence that we have been permitted to live in tual man had not yet reasserted himself in his a country and an age of civil and religious liberty. native equanimity and clearsightedness. Men The court of the well-taught clever boy who should, we again remind the reader, be judged by now held the sceptre had been for some time a the standard of their own age alone; as there is scene of contentions between the Dudley and no man but in a great degree takes his colouring Seymour factions. Cranmer was an adherent to of conduct from the habits of his contemporaries the interest of the protector ; for to him was he and immediate predecessors. We are the crea- indebted for the aid of the government in erecting tures of circumstance and imitation; and imi- the new system of public worship. There was a tation, says Bacon, is a globe of precepts. The something, moreover, of congeniality of disposition progress of truth and improvement is impercepti- in the two men that tinged their official intercourse ble in short periods : so that the habits of thought with the warmth of private friendship. Both were and action, the religious belief, the political predi- well-intentioned and kind-hearted : Somerset, not lections and aversions, and opinions of men and less than the archbishop, wanted that firmness books of the passing events, differ but a shade here and decision of character sò necessary in times of and there from those of the past generations ; and danger and trouble to men in high station. It was, that again runs, like the colours of the rainbow, therefore, with regret that Cranmer saw his patron

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »