HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION - THE SIX ARTICLES.
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WHILE the Anglo-Catholic party were recovering their former influence over Henry’s mind, some members of the Roman Catholic party were laboring to re-establish the influence of the pope. They supposed that they had found a clue by means of which the king might be brought back to the obedience of Rome. Henry who, while busy in preparing fires for the martyrs, did not forget the marriage altar, was very desirous of obtaining the hand of Christina, duchess of Milan. Now, it was this princess, a niece of Charles V., of whom it was thought possible to make use for gaining over the king to the pope. She was now at the court of Brussels, with her aunt Queen Mary; and it is related that to the first offer of Henry VIII. she had replied with a smile, — ‘I have but one head; if I had two, one of them should be at the service of his majesty.’ If she did not say this, as some friends of Henry VIII. have maintained, something like it was doubtless said by one of the courtiers. However this may be, the king did not meet with a refusal. Francis I., alarmed at the prospect of an alliance between Henry VIII. and Charles V., sent word to Henry that the emperor was deceiving him. The king did not believe it. The queen regent of the Netherlands endeavored to bring about this union; Spanish commissioners arrived to conduct the negotiation, and Hutton de Wriothesley, the English envoy at Brussels, devoted himself zealously to the business. One of the principal officers of the court, taking supper with the latter, in June 1538, inquired of him for news about the negotiation.
Hutton expressed his surprise ‘that the emperor had been so slack therein.’ His companion remarked that the only difficulty in the matter was that the king his (Hutton’s) master had ‘married the lady Katherine, to whom the duchess is near kinswoman,’ so that the marriage could not be solemnized without a dispensation from the pope. f268 The emperor spoke more clearly still. Wyatt was instructed to tell the king that the hand of the duchess of Milan would be given to him, with a dowry of one hundred thousand crowns, and an annuity of fifteen thousand, secured on the duchy; and that for the gift of this beautiful and accomplished young widow all they required of him was that he should be reconciled with the bishop of Rome. This was fixing a high price on the hand of Christina. The princess, considering perhaps that it was a glorious task to bring back Henry VIII. to the bosom of the papacy, declared her readiness to obey the emperor. The pope, on his part, was willing to grant the necessary dispensation; but the king must first make his submission.
For a prince of such fiery passions this was a great temptation. The chancellor Wriothesley, who was negotiating the affair, was himself undecided about it. At one time he eagerly advocated it, and at another time he wrote (January 21, 1539): ‘If this marriage may not be had with such honor and friendship as is requisite, that his Grace may also fix his most noble stomach in some other place.’ The treaty was finally broken off, the thread snapped, to the great regret of the Roman party.
One circumstance might influence the king’s decision. Before the negotiations had been closed, in December 1838, the pope published the bull of 1535, in which he excommunicated Henry VIII. Had the pontiff no hope of good from the matrimonial intrigue, or did he intend to catch the king by fear?
Henry understood that it was not enough to oppose the king of England to the pope. The Word of God was for him the rival of Rome. During these years, 1538 and 1539, in which so many measures were taken against the evangelical doctrine and its teachers, the Bible, strange to say, was printed and circulated. This publication has one singular characteristic; it was made by the intervention of Henry VIII. and Francis I., the two greatest enemies of the faith of the Holy Scriptures among all the sovereigns of the world.
The emperor and the king of France occasionally coquetted with the king of England, whom each of them was anxious to win over to his own side.
Francis, knowing how sensitive Henry was on the subject of marriage, offered him his son Henry of Orleans for the princess Mary. Cromwell, who was now giving way to the Anglo-Catholic party on many points essential to reform, was all the more desirous of holding by those which his master would really permit. Amongst these was the translation of the Bible. He saw in the offer made by Francis I. an opening of which he might avail himself. An edition of the Bible, extending to 2,500 copies, published the year before by the eminent printer Richard Grafton in conjunction with Whitchurch, was now exhausted. Cromwell determined to issue a new one; and as printing was better executed at Paris than in London, the French paper also being superior, he begged the king to request permission of Francis I. to have the edition printed at Paris. Francis addressed a royal letter to his beloved Grafton and Whitchurch, saying that having received credible testimonies to the effect that his very dear brother, the king of the English, whose subjects they were, had granted full and lawful liberty to print, both in Latin and in English, the Holy Bible, and of importing it into his kingdom, he gave them himself his authorization so to do. Francis comforted himself with the thought that his own subjects spoke neither English nor Latin; and, besides, this book so much dreaded would be immediately exported from France.
Grafton and the pious and learned Coverdale arrived at Paris, at the end of spring 1538, to undertake this new edition of Tyndale’s translation. They lodged in the house of the printer Francis Regnault, who had for some time printed missals for England. As the sale of these had very much fallen off, Regnault changed his course, and determined to print the Bible. The two Englishmen selected a fine type and the best paper to be had in France.
But these were expensive, and as early as June 23 they were obliged to apply to Cromwell to furnish them with the means for carrying on his edition of the Bible. They were moreover beset with other difficulties.
They could not make their appearance out of doors in Paris without being exposed to threats; and they were in daily expectation that their work would be interrupted. Francis I., their reputed protector, was gone to Nice.
By December 13, after six months’ labor, their fears had become so serious that when Bonner, who had succeeded Gardiner as English ambassador in France, was setting out from Paris on his way to London, they begged him to take with him the portion already printed and deliver it to Cromwell.
The hypocritical Bonner, not satisfied with all the benefices he now held, was grasping at the bishopric of Hereford, which he called a great good fortune, and which he succeeded in getting. He was at this time bent on currying favor with Cromwell, on whose influence the election depended, and therefore, hiding his face under a gracious mask, which he was ere long impudently to throw off, he had most eagerly complied with the request. f273 Four days later, December 17, the officers of the Inquisition entered the printing-office and presented a document signed by Le Tellier, summoning Regnault and all whom it concerned to appear and make answer touching the printing of the Bible. He was at the same time enjoined to suspend the work, and forbidden to take away what was already printed. Are we to suppose that the Inquisition did not trouble itself about the royal letters of Francis I., or that the prince had changed his mind? Either of these suppositions might be entertained. In consequence of dispatch of the packet to London, there were but few sheets to be seized, and these were condemned to be burnt in the Place Maubert. But the officer even more greedy of gain than fanatical; and gold being offered him by the Englishmen for the of their property, almost all the sheets were restored to them. His compliance is perhaps partly be explained by the consideration that this was not common case. The proprietors of the sheets seized the lord Cromwell, first secretary of state, and king of England. The matter did not rest here; the bold Cromwell was not to be baffled. Agents sent by him to Paris got possession of the presses, the types, even the printers, and took the whole away with him to London. In two months from the time of arrival the printing was completed. On the last appeared the statement: The whole Bible finished 1539; and the grateful editors added, A Domino factum est istud. The violent proceeding of the Inquisition turned to a great gain for England. Many printers and a large stock of type had been ; and henceforward many and more beautiful editions of the Bible were printed in England. ‘The wicked diggeth a pit and falleth into it.’
Two parties therefore existed in England, and these frequently concerned themselves more with the points on which they differed than with the great facts of their religion. In one pulpit a preacher would call for reformation of the abuses of Rome; in a neighboring church, another preacher would advocate their maintenance at any cost. One monk of York preached against purgatory, while some of his colleagues defended the doctrine. All this gave rise to most exciting discussion amongst the hearers.
In addition to the two chief parties, there were the profane, animated by a spirit of unbelief and without reverence for sacred things. While pious men were peacefully assembled for the reading of the Holy Scriptures, these mockers sat in public-houses over their pots of beer, uttering their sarcasms against everybody, and especially against the priests. If they spoke of those’ who gave only the wafer, and not the wine, they would say: — ‘That is because he has drunk the whole of it; the bottle is empty.’
At times they undertook even to discuss, as in old times was done at Byzantium, the most difficult points in theology, and this was still worse.
The king, anxious to play his part as head of the church, was desirous of bringing about a union of the two chief parties, and had no doubt that the party of the profane would then disappear. His favorite notion, like that of princes in general, was to have but one single religious opinion in his kingdom. Freedom was a restraint to him. He therefore began, as the emperor Constantine had done, by attempting to gain his end by means of a system of indifference and of subjection to his will. In a royal proclamation he required that the party of reformation and the party tradition should ‘draw in one yoke,’ like a pair of good oxen at the plough. He did not omit, however, to read the priests a lesson. He rebuked them for busying themselves far more with the distribution of the consecrated water and with the sprinkling of their flocks with holy water than with teaching them what these acts meant. Indifference, however, was of course unattainable, for it implies that each party should consider unimportant the very doctrines on which it sets the highest value. Henry, nevertheless, boldly made the attempt.
When the parliament met on April 28, 1539, the lord chancellor announced that the king was very anxious to see all his subjects holding one and the same opinion in religion, and required that a committee should be nominated to examine the various opinions, and to draw up articles of agreement to which everyone might give his consent. On May 5 nine commissioners were named, five of whom were Anglo-Catholics, and at their head was Lee, archbishop of York. A project was presented ‘for extirpating heresies among the people.’ A catalogue of heresies was to be drawn up and read at all the services. The commissioners held discussion for one day, but. neither of the two parties would make any concession.
The king was very much dissatisfied with this result. He had been willing to leave the work of conciliation in the hands of the bishops, and now the bishops did not agree. His patience, of which he had no large stock, was exhausted. The Anglo-Catholic party took advantage of his dissatisfaction, and hinted to him that if he really aimed at unity he would have to take the matter into his own hands, and settle the doctrine to which all must assent.
Why should he allow his subjects the liberty of thinking for themselves?
Was he not in England master and ruler of everything?
Another circumstance, of an entirely different kind, acted powerfully, about this time, upon the king’s mind. The pope had just entered into an alliance with the emperor and the king of France. A fact of such importance could not fail to make a great noise in England. ‘Methinks,’ said one of the foreign diplomatists now in England, ‘that if the pope sent an interdict and excommunications, with an injunction that no merchant should trade in any way with the English, the nation would, without further trouble, bestir itself and compel the king. to return to the church.’ Henry; in alarm, adopted two measures of defense against this triple alliance. He gave orders for the fortification of the ports, examination of the condition of various landing-places, and reviewing of the troops; and at the same time, instead of endeavoring after a union of the two parties, he determined to throw himself entirely on the Scholastic and Catholic side.
He hoped thereby to satisfy the majority of his subjects, who still adhered to the Roman church, and perhaps also to appease the powers. ‘The king is determined on grounds of policy,’ it was said, ‘that these articles should pass.’ f277 Six articles were therefore drawn up of a reactionary character, and the duke of Norfolk was selected to bring them forward. He did not pride himself on scriptural knowledge. ‘I have never read the Holy Scriptures and I never will read them,’ he said; ‘all that I want is that everything should be as it was of old.’ But if Norfolk were not a great theologian, he was the most powerful and’ the most Catholic lord of the Privy Council and of the kingdom. On the 16th of May the duke rose in the upper house and spoke to the following effect: — ‘The commission which you had named has done nothing, and this we had clearly foreseen. We come, therefore, to present to you six articles, which, after your examination and approval, are to become binding. They are the following: 1st, if anyone allege that after consecration there remains any other substance in the sacrament of the. altar than the natural body of Christ conceived of the Virgin Mary, he shall be adjudged a heretic and suffer death by burning and shall forfeit to the king all his lands and goods, as in the case of high treason; 2nd, if anyone teach that the sacrament is to be given to laymen under both kinds; or 3rd, that any man who has taken holy orders may nevertheless marry; 4th, that any man or woman who has vowed chastity may marry; 5th, that private masses are not lawful and should not be used; or 6th, that auricular confession is not according to the law of God, any such person shall be adjudged to suffer death, and forfeit lands and goods as a felon.’ f278 Cromwell had been obliged to sanction, and perhaps even to prepare, this document: When once the king energetically announced his will the minister bowed his head, knowing well that if he raised it in opposition he would certainly lose it. Nevertheless, that he might to some extent be justified in his own sight, he had resolved that the weapon should be twoedged, and had added an article purporting that any priest giving himself up to uncleanness should for the first offense be deprived of his benefices, his goods, and his liberty, and for the second should be punished with death like the others.
These articles which have been called the whip with six strings and the bloody statute, were submitted to the parliament. But none of the lords temporal, or of the commons, aware that the king was fully resolved, ventured to assail them. One man, however, rose, and this was Cranmer. ‘Like a constant patron of God’s cause,’ says the chronicler, ‘ he took upon him the earnest defense of the truth, oppressed in the parliament; three days together disputing against those six wicked articles; bringing forth such allegations and authorities as might easily have helped the cause, nisi pars major vicisset, ut soepe olet, meliorem.’ Cranmer spoke temperately, with respect for the sovereign, but also with fidelity and courage. ‘It is not my own cause that I defend,’ he said, ‘it is that of God Almighty.’
The archbishop of Canterbury was not, however, alone. The bishops who belonged to the evangelical party, those of Worcester, Rochester, St. David’s, Ely, and Salisbury, likewise spoke against the articles. But the king insisted, and the act passed. These articles, said Cranmer at a later time, were ‘in some things so enforced by the evil counsel of certain papists against the truth and common judgment both of divines and lawyers, that if the king’s Majesty himself had not come personally into the parliament house, those laws had never passed.’ Cranmer never signed nor consented to the Six Articles. f283 The parliament at the same time conferred on the king unlimited powers A bill was carried purporting that some having by their disobedience shown that they did not well understand what a king can do by virtue of his royal power, it was decreed that every proclamation of his majesty, even when inflicting fines and penalties, should have the same force as an Act of parliament. Truth had already been sacrificed, and liberty was to be the next victim.
Latimer, bishop of Worcester, did more than Cranmer. On July 1, eight days after the close of the session, he resigned his bishopric, and his heart leaped for joy as he laid aside his episcopal vestments. ‘Now I am rid of a heavy burden,’ he said, ‘and never did my shoulders feel so light.’ One of his former colleagues having expressed his surprise, he replied: ‘I am resolved to be guided only by the Book of God, and sooner than depart one jot from that, let me be trampled under the feet of wild horses!’ He now withdrew into the country, intending to lead there a quiet life. He took care of his flowers and gathered his fruit. Having had a fall from a tree, he found it necessary to return to London for the purpose of procuring surgical attendance. When the government was informed of this, orders were given to arrest and commit him to the Tower, and there he remained till the king’s death. Shaxton, bishop of Salisbury, likewise resigned his see, on what grounds we do not know. Under Queen Mary he became a violent persecutor. Many evangelical Christians quitted England, and among them especially to be noted are Hooper, Rogers, and John Butler. Cranmer remained in his archiepiscopal palace at Lambeth; but he sent away his wife and children to his wife’s relations in Germany.
This want of fidelity on Cranmer’s part is only explicable on the ground of the efforts made by Henry VIII. to retain him. On the day of the prorogation of parliament, June 28, 1539, Henry, fearing lest the archbishop, disheartened and distrusted, should offer to him his resignation, sent for him, and, receiving him with all the graciousness of manner which he knew so well how to assume when he wished, said: ‘I have heard with what force and learning you opposed the Six Articles.
Nor was this all that Henry did. Desirous that all men, and particularly the adherents of Anglo-Catholicism, should know the esteem which he felt for the primate, he commanded the leader of this party, the duke of Norfolk, his brother-in-law, the duke of Suffolk, Norfolk’s rival, lord Cromwell, and several other lords to dine the next day with the archbishop at Lambeth.
You will assure him, he said, of my sincere affection, and you will add that although his arguments did not convince the parliament, they displayed much wisdom and learning.
The company, according to the king’s request, arrived at the archbishop’s palace, and Cranmer gave his guests an honorable reception. The latter executed the king’s commission, adding that he must not be disheartened although the parliament had come to a decision contrary to his opinion.
Cranmer replied that he was obliged to his majesty for his good affection, and to the lords for the pains they have .taken.’ Then he added resolutely: ‘I have hope in God that hereafter my allegations and authorities will take place, to the glory of God and commodity of the realm.’ They sat down to table. Every guest apparently did his best to make himself agreeable to the primate. ‘My lord of Canterbury,’ said Cromwell, ‘you are most happy of all men; for you may do and speak what you list, and, say what all men call against you, the king will never believe one word to detriment or hindrance.’ The meal, however, did not pass altogether so smoothly. The king had brought together, in Cromwell and Norfolk, the most heterogeneous elements; and the feast of peace was disturbed by a sudden explosion. Cromwell, continuing his praises, instituted a parallel between cardinal Wolsey and the archbishop of Canterbury. ‘The cardinal,’ he said, ‘lost his friends by his haughtiness and pride; while you gain over your enemies by your kindliness and your meekness.’ ‘You must be well aware of that, my lord Cromwell,’ said the duke of Norfolk, ‘for the cardinal was your master.’ Cromwell, stung by these words, acknowledged the obligations under which he lay to the cardinal, but added: ‘I was never so far in love with him as to have waited upon him to Rome if he had been chosen pope, as I understand, my lord duke, that you would have done.’
Norfolk denied this. But Cromwell persisted in his assertion, and even specified a considerable sum which the duke was to receive for his services as admiral to the new pope, and for conducting him to Rome. The duke, no longer restraining himself, swore with great oaths that Cromwell was a liar.
The two speakers, forgetting that they were attending a feast of peace, became more and more excited and did not spare hard words. Cranmer interposed to pacify them. But from this time these two powerful ministers of the king swore deadly hatred to each other. One or other of them must needs fall. f285 The king’s course with respect to Cranmer is not so strange as it appears.
Without Cranmer, he would have been under the necessity of choosing another primate, and what a task would that have been. Gardiner, indeed, was quite ready to take the post; but the king, although he sometimes listened to him, placed no confidence in him. Not only did it seem to Henry difficult to find any other man than Cranmer; but there was a further difficulty of appointing all archbishop in due form. Could it be done by the aid of the pope? Impossible. Without the pope? This too was very difficult. The priesthood would not concede such a power to the king, nor was it probable that they would accept his choice. The king foresaw troubles and conflicts without end. The best course was to keep the present primate, and this was the course adopted. Herein lay the security of the archbishop in the midst of the misfortunes and scenes of blood around him. He had made a declaration of his faith, and he did not withdraw from it. He hoped for better things, according to the advances which were made him. He believed that by keeping his post he might prevent many calamities. The Six Articles were a storm which must be allowed to blow over; and, in accordance with his character, he bowed his head while the wind blew in that direction.
The bloody statute was the cause of profound sorrow among the evangelical Christians. Some of more hasty than others, making use of the language of the time, asserted that the Six Articles had been written, not with Gardiner’s ink, as people said, ‘but with the blood of a dragon, or rather the claws of the Devil’ They have been of, even by Roman Catholics of our own age, ‘the enactment’s of this severe and barbarous statute.’ But the Catholics of that age rejoiced in them, and believed that it was all over with the Reformation. Commissioners were immediately named to execute this cruel law, and there was always a bishop among them. These commissioners, who sat in London, in Mercer’s Chapel, formerly a dwelling house and the place of Becket’s birth, even exaggerated the harshness of the Six Articles. Fifteen days had not elapsed before five hundred persons were imprisoned, some for having read the Bible, others for their posture at church. The greatest zeal was displayed by Norfolk among the lords temporal, and by Stokesley, Gardiner, and Tonstall among the lords spiritual. Their aim was to get a Book of Ceremonies, a strange farrago of Romish superstitions, adopted as the rule of worship.
Bucer on one side, and several refugees arriving at Hamburg on the other, had made known this barbarous statute to the reformers, and had entreated the Protestants of Germany to interpose with Henry in behalf of their fellow-religionists, Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, and Pomeranus met together, and were unanimous in their indignation ‘The king,’ they said, ‘knows perfectly well that our doctrine concerning the sacrament, the marriage of priests, and other analogous subjects, is true. How many books he has read on the subject! How many reports have been made to him by the most competent judges! He has even had a book translated, in which the whole matter is explained, and he makes use of this book every day in his prayers. Has he not heard and approved Latimer, Cranmer, and other pious divines? He has even censured the king of France for condemning this doctrine. And now he condemns it himself more harshly than the king or the pope. He makes laws like Nebuchadnezzar, and declares that he will put to death anyone who does not observe them.
Great sovereigns of our day are taking it into their heads to fashion for themselves religions which may turn to their own advantage, like Antiochus Epiphanes of old. I have says the king of England, to require that any of my courtiers shall not marry so long as he intends to remain at court; for the same reason I have also power to forbid the marriage of priests. We are now entreated to address remonstrances to this prince. The Scriptures certainly teach us to endeavor to bring back the weak; but it requires that the proud who compound with their conscience should be left to go in their own way. It is clear that the king of England makes terms with conscience. He has already been warned, and has paid no attention; there is, therefore, no hope that he will listen to reason if he be warned anew. Consider, besides, what kind of men those are in whose hands he places himself. Look at Gardiner, who while exposing before all the nation his scandalous connections (liaisons ) dares to assert that it is contrary to the law of God for a minister of God to have a lawful wife.’ f289 Thus did the theologians of Wittenberg talk of the matter. Calvin thought with them, and he wrote, almost on the same day, that the king of England had distinctly shown his disposition by the impious edict which he had published. The doctors of Wittenberg referred to the Elector; and the latter, to whom Henry VIII. had communicated the Six Articles, requested them to make one more attempt to influence the king. Melanchthon therefore wrote to him; and after an exordium in which he endeavored to prepare the mind of Henry, he said, ‘What affects and afflicts me is not only the danger of those who hold the faith as we do; but it is to see you making the instrument of the impiety and cruelty of others; that the doctrine of Christ is set aside in your kingdom, superstitious rites perpetuated, and debauchery sanctioned; in a word, to see that the Roman anti-christ is rejoicing in his heart because you take up arms on his side and against us, and is hoping; means of your bishops, easily to recover what wise counsel has been taken from him.’ Melanchthon then combats the several articles and refutes sophisms of the Catholic party on the ‘Illustrious king,’ he continued, ‘I am grieved heart that you, while condemning the tyranny of the bishop of Rome, should undertake the define, institutions which are the very sinews of his power. You are threatening the members of Jesus Christ with the most atrocious punishments, and you are out the light of evangelical truth which was beginning to shine in your churches. Sire, this is not way to put away antichrist, this is establishing him...is confirmation of his idolatry, his errors, his cruelty, and his debaucheries ‘I implore you, therefore, to alter the decree of your bishops. Let the prayers offered up to God by pious souls throughout the world, for the reformation of the Church, for the suppression of impious rites, and for the propagation of the Gospel, move you.
Do justice to those pious men who are in prison for the lord’s sake. If you do this, your great clemency will be praised by posterity as learning exists. Behold how Jesus Christ wandered about from place to place. He was hungry, he was thirsty, naked and bound; he complained of the raging of the priests, of the unjust cruelty of kings; he commands that the members of his body should not be torn in pieces, and that his Gospel should honored.
It is the duty of a pious king to receive this gospel and to watch over it. By doing so, you be rendering to God acceptable worship.’ f291 Had these eloquent exhortations any influence on Henry VIII.? On a former occasion he had shown himself rather provoked than pleased by letters of the reformer. However, after the loud peal of thunder which had alarmed evangelical Christians in every part of Europe, the horizon cleared a little, and future looked less threatening.
There was one point on which Henry did incline rather to Cranmer’s side; this was auricular confession. Perhaps he dreaded it on political grounds.
Now the bishops were urgent for its universal adoption; and Tonstall wrote to the king on the subject. Henry rejected his demand and called him a self-willed man. He seemed thus to draw towards reconciliation with his primate. Nor was this all. A bill had passed, withdrawing heretics from the jurisdiction of the bishops, and subjecting them to the secular courts. The chancellor, supported by Cranmer, Cromwell, and Suffolk, and with the sanction of the king, set at liberty the five hundred persons who had been committed to prison. The thunderbolt had indeed trenched the seas, but nobody was hurt — at least for the moment. f293 Henry resorted to other means for the purpose reassuring those who imagined that the pope was already re-established in England. He exhibited the citizens of London the spectacle of one of those’ sea-fights, on which the ancient Romans used lavish such enormous sums. Two galleys, one them decorated with the royal ensigns, the other the papal arms, appeared on the Thames, and a naval combat began. The two crews attacked each other the struggle was sharp and obstinate; at length soldiers of the king boarded the enemy and into the water midst the shouts of the people effigy of the pope and images of several cardinals The pontifical phantom, seized by bold hands, was dragged through the streets; it was hung, drowned and burnt. It would have been better for the king to let alone such puerile and vulgar sports, pleased none but the mob, and to give more serious proofs of his attachment to the Gospel.