AFTER queen Anne’s death the two parties were agitated in opposite directions. The friends of the Reformation wished to show that the disgrace of that princess did not carry with it the disgrace of the cause they had at heart, and consequently believed that they ought to accelerate the Reform movement. The friends of Rome and its doctrines, imagining, on their part, that the queen’s death had put their affairs in good train, thought they had but to redouble their activity to gain a complete victory.
The latter seemed indeed to have some reasons for encouragement. If Catherine’s death had reconciled Henry VIII. and the emperor just when the latter was threatening England with invasion, the death of Anne Boleyn appeared as if it would reconcile the king with Paul III., who was ready to issue his terrible bull. Henry’s wives played a great part in his private history, but they had also a certain importance in his relations with the powers of Europe, especially with the pope. As soon as the pontiff had seen Charles V. and Francis I. preparing for war, he had instructed his son to hint to Da Casale, that the court of Rome was very desirous of reviving the ancient friendship which had united it to England. These desires increased rapidly.
On the 20th of May, when the news of the queen’s prosecution arrived in Rome, both pope and cardinals were transported with joy. The frightful calumnies of which that princess was the victim, served the cause of the papacy too well not to be accepted as truths, and all felt persuaded that, if Anne fell from the throne, the acts done at London against the Italian primacy would fall with her. When Da Casale informed the pope that the queen had been sent to prison, Paul exclaimed with delight: ‘I always thought, when I saw Henry endowed with so many virtues, that heaven would not forsake him. If he is willing to unite with me,’ he added, ‘I shall have authority enough to enjoin the emperor and the king of France to make peace; and the king of England, reconciled with the Church, will command the powers of Europe.’ At the same time Paul III. confessed that he had made a mistake in raising Fisher to the cardinalate, and wound up this pontifical effusion in the kindest of terms. Da Casale, much delighted on his part, asked whether he was to repeat these matters to the king. ‘Tell him,’ answered the pope, ‘that his majesty may, without hesitation, expect everything from me.’ Da Casale, therefore, made his report to London, and intimated that, if Henry made the least sign of reconciliation, the pope would immediately send him a nuncio. Thus Paul left not a stone unturned to win over the king of England. He extolled his virtues, promised him the foremost place in Europe, flattered his vanity as an author, and did not fear — he the infallible one — to acknowledge that he had made a mistake. Everybody at the court of Rome felt convinced that England was about to return to the bosom of the Church; cardinal Campeggi even sent his brother to London to resume possession of the bishopric of Salisbury, of which he had been deprived in 1534. Up to the end of June, the pope and the cardinals became kinder and more respectful to the English, and entertained the most flattering expectations regarding the return of England.
Would these expectations be realized? Henry VIII. was not one man, but two: his domestic passions and his public acts formed two departments entirely distinct. Guided as an individual by passion, he was, as a king, sometimes led by just views. He believed that neither pope nor foreign monarch had a right to exercise the smallest jurisdiction in England. He was therefore decided — and this saved Great Britain — to maintain the rupture with Rome. One circumstance might have taught him that in all respects it was the best thing he could do.
Rome has two modes of bringing back princes under her yoke — flattery and abuse. The pope had adopted the first: a person, at that time without influence, Reginald Pole, an Englishman, and also a relative and protege of Henry’s, undertook the second. In 1535 he was in the north of Italy; burning with love for the papacy and hatred for the king, his benefactor, he wrote ab irato a defense of the unity of the Church, addressed to Henry VIII., and overflowing with violence. The wise and pious Contarini, to whom he showed it, begged him to soften a tone that might cause much harm. As Pole refused, Contarini entreated him at least to submit his manuscript to the pope; but the young Englishman, fearing that Paul would require him to suppress the untoward publication, declined acceding to his friend’s request. His object was, not to convert the king, but to stir up the English against their lawful prince, and induce them to fall prostrate again before the Roman pontiff. The treatise, finished in the winter of 1536, before Anne’s trial, reached London the first week in June. Tonstall, bishop of Durham, and Pole’s friend, read the book, which contained a few truths mixed up with great errors, and then communicated it to the king.
Never did haughty monarch receive so rude a lesson. ‘Shall I write to you, O prince,’ said the young Englishman, ‘or shall I not? Observing in you the certain symptoms of the most dangerous malady, and assured as I am that I possess the remedies suitable to cure you, how can I refrain from pronouncing the word which alone can preserve your life? I love you, sire, as son never loved his father, and God perhaps will make my voice to be like that of his own Son, whose voice even the dead hear. O prince, you are dealing the most deadly blow against the Church that it can possibly receive, you rob it of the chief whom it possesses upon earth. Why should a king, who is the supreme head of the State, occupy a similar place in the Church? If we may trust the arguments of your doctors, we must conclude that Nero was the head of the Church. We should laugh, if the laughter were not to be followed by tears. There is as great a distance between the ecclesiastical and the civil power, as there is between Heaven and earth. There are three estates in human society: first, the people; then the king, who is the son of the people; and lastly, the priest, who being the spouse of the people is consequently the father of the king. But you, in imitation of the pride of Lucifer, set yourself above the vicar of Jesus Christ. ‘What! you have rent the Church, as it was never before rent in that island, you have plundered and cruelly tormented it, and you claim, in virtue of such merits, to be called its supreme head. There are two Churches: if you are at the head of one, it is not the Church of Christ; if you are, it is like Satan, who is the prince of the world, which he oppresses under his tyranny... you reign, but after the fashion of the Turks. A simple nod of your head has more power than ancient laws and rights. Sword in hand you decide religious controversies. Is not that thoroughly Turkish and barbarian? ‘O England! if you have not forgotten your ancient liberty, what indignation ought to possess you, when you see your king plunder, condemn, murder, squander all your wealth, and leave you nothing but tears. Beware, for if you let your grievances be heard, you will be afflicted with still deeper wounds. O my country! it is in your power to change your great sorrow into greater joy. Neither Nero nor Domitian, nor — I dare affirm — Luther himself, if he had been king of England, would have wished to avenge himself by putting to death such men as Fisher and Sir Thomas More! ‘What king has ever given more numerous signs of respect to the supreme pontiff than that Francis I. who spoke of you, O Henry, in words received with applause by the whole Christian world: “your friend, — till the altar,” Amicus — usque ad aras. The emperor Charles has just subdued the pirates; but is there any pirate that is worse than you? Have you not plundered the wealth of the Church, thrown the bodies of the saints into prison, and reduced men’s souls to slavery? If I heard that the emperor with all his fleet was sailing for Constantinople, I would fall at his feet, and say were it even in the straits of the Hellespont “O emperor, what are you thinking of? Do you not see that a much greater danger than the Turks threatens the Christian republic? Change your route. What would be the use of expelling the Turks from Europe, when new Turks are hatched among us?” Certainly the English for slighter causes have forced their kings to put off their crowns.’ After the apostrophe addressed to Charles V., Reginald Pole returns to Henry VIII., and imagining himself to be the prophet Elijah before king Ahab, he says with great boldness: ‘O king, the Lord hath commanded me to curse you; but if you will patiently listen to me, he will return you good for evil. Why delay to confess your sin? Do not say that you have done everything according to the rules of Holy Scripture. Does not the Church, which gives it authority, know what is to be received and what rejected?
You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom. Listen to the Church, O prince! and all that you have lost you shall regain with more splendor and glory. ‘But if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and does not heed it, the sword is drawn from the scabbard, the guilty is smitten, and his blood is upon his own head.’
We have hardly given the flower of this long tirade, written in the style of the 16th century, which, divided into four books, fills one hundred and ninety-two folio pages. It reached England at the moment of the condemnation of the innocent Anne, which Pole unconsciously protested against as unjust, more unjust even than the sentences of Fisher and More.
Henry did not at first read his ‘pupil’s’ philippic through. He saw enough, however, to regard it as an insult, a divorce which Italy had sent him. He ordered Pole to return to England; but the latter remembered too well the fate of Fisher and Sir Thomas More to run the risk. Bishop Tonstall, one of the enemies of the Reformation, wrote, however, to Pole, that as Christ was the head of the Church, to separate it from the pope was not to separate from its head. This refutation was short but complete.
The king was resolved to maintain his independence of the pope. Some have ascribed this determination to Pole’s treatise, and others to the influence of Jane Seymour. Both these circumstances may have had some weight in Henry’s mind; but the great cause, we repeat, is that he would not suffer any master but himself in England. Gardiner replied to Pole in a treatise which he entitled: On True Obedience, to which Bonner wrote the preface.
Paul III. was not the only one who descried the signal of triumph in Anne’s death: the princess Mary believed that she would now become heiress-presumptive to the crown. Lady Kingston, having discharged Anne Boleyn’s Christian commission, Catherine’s daughter, but slightly affected by this touching conduct, took advantage of it for her own interest, and charged that lady with a letter addressed to Cromwell, in which she begged him to intercede for her with the king, so that the rank which belonged to her should be restored. Henry consented to receive his daughter into favor, but not without conditions: ‘Madam,’ said Norfolk, who had been sent to her by the king, ‘here are the articles which require your signature.’
The daughter of the proud Catherine of Aragon was to acknowledge four points: the supremacy of the king, the imposture of the pope, the incest of her own mother, and her own illegitimacy. She refused, but as Norfolk was not to be shaken, she signed the two first articles; then laying down the pen, she exclaimed. ‘As for my own shame and my mother’s never!’
Cromwell threatened her, called her obstinate and unnatural, and told her that her father would abandon her: the unhappy princess signed everything. She was restored to favor, and from that time received yearly three thousand pounds sterling; but she was deceived in thinking that the misfortune of her little sister Elizabeth would replace her on the steps of the throne.
Parliament met on the 8th of June, when the chancellor announced to them that the king, notwithstanding his mishaps in matrimony, had yielded to the humble solicitations of the nobility, and formed a new union. The two houses ratified the accomplished facts. No man desired to stir the ashes from which sparks might issue and kindle a great conflagration. At no price would they compromise the most exalted persons in the kingdom, and especially the king. All the allegations, even the most absurd, were admitted: Parliament wanted to have done with the matter. It even went further: the king was thanked for the most excellent goodness which had induced him to marry a lady whose brilliant youth, remarkable beauty, and purity of blood were the sure pledges of the happy issue which a marriage with her could not fail to produce; and his most respectful subjects determined to bury the faults of their prince under flowers, compared him for beauty to Absalom, for strength to Samson, and for wisdom to Solomon. Parliament added, that as the daughters of Catherine and Anne were both illegitimate, the succession had devolved upon the children of Jane Seymour. As, however, it was possible that she might not have any issue, parliament granted him the privilege of naming his successor in his will: an enormous prerogative, conferred upon the most capricious of monarchs. Those who refused to take the oath required by the statute were to be declared guilty of high treason.
Parliament having thus arranged the kings business, set about the business of the country. ‘My lords,’ said ministers on the 4th of July to the upper house, ‘the bishop of Rome, whom some persons call pope, wishing to have the means of satisfying his love of luxury and tyranny, has obscured the Word of God, excluded Jesus Christ from the soul, banished princes from their kingdoms, monopolized the mind, body, and goods of all Christians, and, in particular, extorted great sums of money front England by his dreams and superstitions.’ Parliament decided that the penalties of praemunire should be inflicted on everybody who recognized the authority of the Roman pontiff, and that every student, ecclesiastic, and civil functionary should be bound to renounce the pope in an oath made in the name of God and all his saints. This bill was the cause of great joy in England; the protestant spirit was stirred; there was a great outburst of sarcasms, and one could see that the citizens of the capital naturally were not friends to the papacy. Man is inclined to laugh at what he has respected when he finds that he has been deceived, and then readily classes among human follies what he had once taken for the wisdom of Heaven. A contest of epigrams was begun in London, similar to that which had so often taken place at Rome between Pasquin and Marforio: perhaps, however, the jokes were occasionally a little heavy. ‘Do you see the stole round the priest’s neck?’ said one wit; ‘it is nothing else but the bishop of Rome’s rope.’ — ‘Matins, masses, and evensong are nothing but a roaring, howling, whistling, murmuring, tomring, and juggling.’ — ‘It is as lawful to christen a child in a tub of water at home or in a ditch by the way, as in a font-stone in the church.’
Gradually this jesting spirit made its way to the lower classes of society. ‘Holy water is very useful,’ said one who haunted the London taverns; ‘for as it is already salted, you have only to put an onion in it to make sauce for a gibbet of mutton.’ — What is that you say,’ replied some blacksmith, ‘it is a very good medicine for a horse with a galled back.’ But while frivolity and a desire to show one’s wit, however coarse it might be, gave birth to silly jests merely provocative of laughter, the love of truth inspired the evangelical Christians with serious words which irritated the priests more than the raillery of the jesters. ‘The Church,’ they said, ‘is not the clergy, the Church is the congregation of good men only. All ceremonies accustomed in the Church and not dearly expressed in Scripture ought to be done away. When the sinner is converted, all the sins over which he sheds tears are remitted freely by the Father who is in heaven.’ After the words of the profane and of the pious came the words of the priests. A convocation of the clergy was summoned to meet at St. Paul’s.
The bishops came and took their places, and anyone might count the votes which Rome and the reformation had on the episcopal bench. For the latter there were: archbishop Cranmer; Goodrich, bishop of Ely; Shaxton, bishop of Salisbury; Fox, bishop of Hereford; Latimer, bishop of Worcester; Hilsey, bishop of Rochester; Barlow, bishop of St. David’s; Warton, bishop of St. Asaph; and Sampson, bishop of Chichester — nine votes in all. For Rome there were: Lee, archbishop of York; Stokesley, bishop of London; Tonstall, bishop of Durham; Longland, bishop of Lincoln; Vesey, bishop of Exeter; Clerk, bishop of Bath; Lee, bishop of Lichfield; Salcot, bishop of Bangor; and Rugge, bishop of Norwich — nine against nine. If Gardiner had not been in France there would have been a majority against the Reformation. Forty priors and mitred abbots, members of the upper house, seemed to assure victory to the partisan of tradition. The clergy, who assembled under their respective banners, were divided not by shades but by glaring colors, and people asked, as they looked on this chequered group, which of the colors would carry the day. Cranmer had taken precautions that they should not leave the church without being enlightened on that point.
The bishop of London having sung the mass of the Holy Ghost, Latimer, who had been selected by the primate to edify the assembly, went up into the pulpit. Being a man of bold and independent character, and penetrating, practical mind, which could discover and point out every subterfuge, he wanted a reform more complete even than Cranmer desired.
He took for his text the parable of the unjust steward. ‘Dear brethren,’ he said, ‘you have come here to-day to hear of great and weighty matters.
Ye look, I am assured, to hear of me such things as shall be meet for this assembly.’ Then having introduced his subject, Latimer continued. ‘A faithful steward coineth no new money, but taketh it ready coined of the good man of the house. Now, what crowds of our bishops, abbots, prelates, and curates, despising the money of the Lord as copper and not current, teach that now redemption purchased by money and devised by men is of efficacy, and not redemption purchased by Christ.’
The whole of Latimer’s sermon was in this strain. He did not stop here; in the afternoon he preached again. ‘You know the proverb,’ he said — ‘“An evil crow, an evil egg.” The devil has begotten the world, and the world in its turn has many children. There is my Lady Pride, Dame Gluttony, Mistress Avarice, Lady Lechery, and others, that now hard and scant ye may find any corner, any kind of life, where many of his children be not.
In court, in cowls, in cloisters, yea, where shall ye not find them?
Howbeit, they that be secular are not children of the world, nor they that are called spiritual, of the clergy. No, no; as ye find among the laity many children of light, so among the clergy ye shall find many children of the world. They do execrate and detest the world (being nevertheless their father) in words and outward signs; but in heart and works they coll and kiss him. They show themselves to be as sober as Curious the Roman was, and live every day as if all their life were a shroving time (a carnival). I see many such among the bishops, abbots, priors, archdeacons, deans, and others of that sort, who are met together in this convocation, to take into consideration all that concerns the glory of Christ and the wealth of the people of England. The world has sent us some of its whelps. What have you been doing these seven years and more? Show us what the English have gained by your long and great assemblies. Have they become even a hair’s breadth better? In God’s name, what have you done? so great fathers, so many, so long a season, so oft assembled together — what have you done? Two things: the one, that you have burnt a dead man (William Tracy); the other, that ye went about to burn one being alive. Ye have oft sat in consultation, but what have ye done? Ye have had many things in deliberation, but what one is put forth whereby either Christ is more glorified, or else Christ’s people made more holy? I appeal to your own conscience.’
Here Latimer began, as Luther had done in his Appeal to the German Nobility, to pass in review the abuses and errors of the clergy the Court of Arches, the episcopal consistories, saints’ days, images, vows, pilgrimages, certain vigils which he called ‘bacchanalia,’ marriage, baptism, the mass, and relics.
After this severe catalogue, the bishop exclaimed: ‘Let us go home even as good as we came hither, right-begotten children of the world. Let us beat our fellows, let us eat and drink with drunkards. But God will come, God will come, yea and he will not tarry. He will come upon such a day as we nothing look for him. He will come and cut us in pieces, and let be the end of our tragedy.’ These be the delicate dishes prepared for the world’s well-beloved children. These be the wafers and junkets provided for worldly prelates — wailing and gnashing of teeth. ‘If you will not die eternally, live not worldly. Preach truly the Word of God. Feed ye tenderly the flock of Christ. Love the light.
Walk in the light, and so be the children of light while you are in the world, that you may shine in the world to come bright as the sun, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
An action full of simplicity and warmth had accompanied the firm and courageous words of the Reformer. The reverend members of convocation had found their man, and his sermon appeared to them bitterer than wormwood. They dared not, however, show their anger, for behind Latimer was Cranmer, and they feared lest they should find the king behind Cranmer.
Ere long the clergy received another mortification which they dared not complain of. A rumor got abroad that Cromwell would be the representative of Henry VIII. in the assembly. ‘What!’ they cried out, ‘a layman, a man who has never taken a degree in any university!’ But what was the astonishment of the prelates, when they saw not Cromwell enter, but his secretary, Dr. Petre, one of the convent visitors, whom the primate seated by his side — a delegate of a delegate! On the 21st of June, Cromwell came down, and took his seat above all the prelates. The lay element took, with a bold step, a position from which it had been so long banished.
It was to be expected that the champions of the middle ages would not submit to such affronts, and particularly to such a terrible fire as Latimer’s, without unmasking their batteries in return, and striving to dismantle those of the enemy. They saw that they could not maintain the supremacy of the pope and attack that of the king; but they knew that Henry adhered to transubstantiation and other superstitious doctrines of the dark ages; and accordingly they determined to attack by this breach, not only Latimer, but all the supporters of the Reformation. Romancatholicism did not intend to perish without a struggle; it resolved — in order that it might hold its ground in England — to make a vigorous onslaught. The lower house having chosen for its prolocutor one Richard Gwent, archdeacon of bishop Stokesley and a zealous ultramontanist, the cabal set to work, and the words of Wycliff, of the Lollards, of the Reformers, and even of the jesting citizens having been carefully recorded, Gwent proposed that the lower house should lay before the upper house sixty-seven evil doctrines (mala dogmata ). Nothing was forgotten, not even the horse with the galled back. To no purpose were they reminded that what was blamable in this catalogue were only ‘the indiscreet expressions of illiterate persons;’ and that the rudeness of their imagination alone had caused them to utter these pointed sarcasms. In vain were they reminded that, even in horse races, the riders to be sure of reaching their goal pass beyond it. The emimeration of the mala dogmata was carried, without omitting a single article.
On the 23d of June, the prolocutor appeared with his long list before the upper house of convocation. ‘There are certain errors,’ he said, ‘which cause disturbance in the kingdom,’ and then he read the sixty-seven mala dogmata. ‘They affirm,’ he continued, ‘that no doctrine must be believed unless it be proved by Holy Scripture; that Christ, having shed his blood, has fully redeemed us, so that now we have only to say, O God, I entreat Thy Majesty to blot out my iniquity. They say that the sacrifice of the mass is nothing but a piece of bread; that auricular confession was invented by the priests to learn the secrets of the heart, and to put money in their purse; that purgatory is a cheat; that what is usually called the Church is merely the old synagogue, and that the true Church is the assembly of the just; that prayer is just as effectual in the open air as in a temple; that priests may marry. And these heresies are not only preached, but are printed in books stamped cum privilegio, with privilege, and the ignorant imagine that those words indicate the kings approbation.’ The two armies stood face to face, and the scholastic party had no sooner read their lengthy manifesto than the combat began. ‘Oh, what tugging was here between these opposite sides,’ says honest Fuller. They separated without coming to any decision. Men began to discuss which side they should take: ‘Neither one nor the other,’ said those who fancied themselves the cleverest. ‘When two stout and sturdy travelers meet together and both desire the way, yet neither is willing to fight for it, in their passage they so shove and shoulder one another, that they divide the way between them, and yet neither gets the same. The two parties in convocation ought to do the same: there ought to be neither conquerors nor conquered.’ Thus the Church, the pillar of truth, was required to admit both black and white — to say Yes and No. ‘A medley religion,’ exclaims an historian; ‘to salve (if not the consciences) at least the credits of both sides.’ Cranmer and Cromwell determined to use the opportunity to make the balance incline to the evangelical side. They went down to convocation.
While passing along the street Cromwell noticed a stranger — one Alesius, a Scotchman, who had been compelled to seek refuge in Germany for having professed the pure Gospel, and there he had formed a close intimacy with Melanchthon. Cranmer, as well as Cromwell, desirous of having such an evangelical man in England one who was in perfect harmony with the Protestants of Germany, and whose native tongue was English — had invited him over to London. Melanchthon had given him a letter for the king, along with which he sent a copy of his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Henry was so charmed with the Scotchman, that he gave him the title of ‘Kings Scholar.’ Alesius was living at the archbishop’s palace in Lambeth. Cromwell, observing him so seasonably, called him and invited him to accompany them to Westminster. He thought that a man of such power might be useful to him; and it is even possible that the meeting had been pre-arranged. Together the Englishman and the Scotchman entered the chamber in which the bishops were sitting round a table, with a number of priests standing behind them. When the vicar-general and Alesius, who was unknown to most of them, appeared, they all rose and bowed to the kings representative. Cromwell returned the salutation, and, after seating the exile in the highest place opposite the two archbishops, he addressed them as follows: ‘His majesty will not rest until, in harmony with convocation and parliament, he has put an end to the controversies which have taken place, not only in this kingdom but in every country. Discuss these questions, therefore, with charity, without brawling or scolding, and decide all things by the Word of God. Establish the divine and perfect truth as it is found in Scripture.’
Cromwell wanted the submission of all to the divine revelations: the traditional party answered him by putting forward human doctrines and human authorities. Stokesley, bishop of London, endeavored to prove, by certain glosses and passages, that there were seven sacraments: the archbishop of York and others supported him by their sophistry and their shouts. ‘Such disputes about words, and such cries,’ said Cranmer, ‘are unbecoming serious men. Let us seek Christ’s glory, the peace of the Church, and the means by which sins are forgiven. Let us inquire how we may bring consolation to uneasy souls; how we may give the assurance of God’s love to consciences troubled by the remembrance of their sins. Let us acknowledge that it is not the outward use of the sacraments that justifies a man, and that our justification proceeds solely from faith in the Savior.’ The prelate spoke admirably and in accordance with Scripture: it was necessary to back up this noble confession. Cromwell, who kept his Scotchman in reserve, now introduced him to the clergy, as the ‘kings scholar,’ and asked him what he thought of the discussion. Alesius, speaking in the assembly of bishops, showed that there were only two sacraments — Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and that no ceremony ought to be put in the same rank with them. The bishop of London chafed with anger in his seat. Shall a mere Scotchman, driven from his country and entertained by German protestants, presume to teach the prelates of England? He shouted out indignantly, ‘All that is false!’ Alesius declared himself ready to prove what he had said out of Scripture and the old fathers. Then Fox, bishop of Hereford, who had just returned from Wittemberg, whither he had been sent by the king, and where he had been enlightened by conversing with Luther and Melanchthon, rose up and uttered these noble sentiments: ‘Christ hath so lightened the world at this time,’ he said, ‘that the light of the Gospel hath put to flight all misty darkness; and the world will no longer endure to be led astray by all that fantastic rubbish with which the priests formerly filled their imaginations and their sermons.’ This was pointed at bishop Stokesby and his friends: ‘It is vain to resist the Lord; his hand drives away the clouds. The laity know the Holy Scriptures now better than many of us. The Germans have made the text of the Bible so easy, by the Hebrew and Greek tongue, that even women and children wonder at the blindness and falsehood that hath been hitherto. Consider that you make not yourselves to be laughed to scorn of all the world. If you resist the voice of God, you will give cause for belief that there is not one spark of learning or godliness in you.
All things consist not in painted eloquence and strength of authority. For truth is of so great power, strength, and efficacy, that it can neither be defended with words nor be overcome with any strength; but after she hath hidden herself long, at length she pusheth up her head and appeareth.’
Such was the eloquent and Christian language with which even bishops endeavored to bring about the triumph of that English Reformation which some have been pleased to represent as ‘the product of an amorous caprice.’ Moved by such Christian remarks, Alesius exclaimed, ‘Yes, it is the Word of God that bringeth life; the Word of God is the very substance and body of the Sacrament. It makes us certain and sure of the will of God to save our souls: the outward ceremony is but a token of that lively inflammation which we receive through faith in the Word and promise of the Lord.’ At these words the bishop of London could not contain himself. ‘The Word of God,’ he cried; ‘Yes, granted! But you are far deceived if you think there is no other Word of God but that which every souter and cobbler may read in his mother-tongue.’ Stokesley believed in another Word of God besides the Bible; he thought, as the council of Trent did a little later, ‘That we must receive with similar respect and equal piety the Holy Scriptures and TRADITION.’ As it was noon, Cromwell broke up the meeting.
The debate had been sharp. The sacerdotal, sacramental, ritualist party had been beaten; the evangelicals desired to secure their victory.
Alesius, after his return to Lambeth, began to compose a treatise; Stokesly, on the other hand, prepared to get up a conspiracy against Alesius. Next day the bishops, who arrived first at Westminster, entered into conversation about the last sitting, and were very indignant that a stranger, a Scotchman, should have been allowed to sit and speak among them. Stokesley called upon Cranmer to resist such an irregularity. The archbishop, who was always rather weak, consented, and Cromwell entering shortly after with his protege, an archdeacon went up to the latter and told him that his presence was disagreeable to the bishops. ‘It is better to give way,’ said Cromwell to Alesius; ‘I do not want to expose you to the hatred of the prelates. When once they take a dislike to a man, they never rest until they have got him out of the way. They have already put to death many Christians for whom the king felt great esteem.’ Alesius withdrew and the debate opened. ‘Are there seven sacraments or only two?’ was the question. It was impossible to come to an understanding.
Convocation, an old clerical body, in which were assembled the most resolute partisans of the abuses, superstitions, and doctrines of the middle ages, was the real stronghold of Rome in England. To undertake to introduce the light and life of the Gospel into it was a rash and impracticable enterprise. The divine Head of the Church himself has declared that ‘no man putteth new cloth to an old garment, neither do men put new wine into old bottles. ’ There was but one thing to be done.
Suppress the assembly and form a new one, composed of members and ministers of the Church, who acknowledge no other foundation, no other rule, than the Word of God. ‘New wine must be put into new bottles. ’ Such a step as this would have helped powerfully to reform the Church of England really and completely. But it was not taken.