THE principles of the Reformation were spreading more and more, and especially among the London merchants; doubtless because they held more intercourse than other classes with foreigners. These men of business were much better informed than we in our days should suppose. One of them, Richard Hilles, had large business transactions with Strasburg and the rest of Germany; and while engaged in these he paid some attention to theological literature. He not merely read, but formed an opinion of the works which he read, and was thus at the same time merchant and critic.
He read the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, as well as his Preparation and Demonstration; but he was not satisfied with Eusebius. He found in his writings false notions on free will and on the marriage of ministers.
Tertullian, on the other hand, charmed him by his simplicity, his piety, and likewise by the soundness of his judgment on the Eucharist; but he found much fault with his work on Prescriptions against Heretics . f404 Cyprian edified him by the fullness of his piety; but he was shocked by his overmuch severity, and by his opinions on satisfaction, which in his view were derogatory to the righteousness of Christ. Lactantius he loved as the defender of the cause of God; but he sharply criticized his opinions on the virtue of almsgiving, on the necessity of abstinence from flowers and perfumes, illecebroe istoe voluptatum arma, on the method of making up for evil works by good ones, on the millennium, and many other subjects. Origen, Augustine, and Jerome were also included in the cycle of his studious labors. Hilles considered it a great loss, even to a merchant, to pursue no studies. He found in them a remedy against the too strong influences of worldly affairs.
For him, however, the essential matter was the study of the Word of God.
He used frequently to read and expound it in the houses of evangelical Christians in London. Bishop Gardiner, when examining one of Hilles’ neighbors, said to him: ‘Has not Richard Hilles been every day in your house, teaching you and others like you?’ Some ecclesiastics one day called upon him, while making a collection for placing tapers before the crucifix and the sepulchre of Christ in the parish church. He refused to contribute. The priests entreated his kinsmen and friends to urge him not to set himself against a practice which had existed for five centuries. No custom, said he, can prevail against the word of Christ — They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The priests now increased their threatenings, and Hilles left London and went to Strasburg, keeping up at the same time his house of business in London. The reader of Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, and Augustine, on leaving the banks of the Rhine, went to Frankfort and to Nurnberg to sell his cloth? Moreover he made a good use of the money which he received. ‘I send herewith to your piety,’ he wrote to Bullinger, ‘ten Italian crowns, which I desire to be laid out according to your pleasure, as occasion may offer, upon the poor exiles (rich, however, in Christ), and those especially, if such there be, who are in distress among you. f407 The more Henry VIII. felt the loss which he had sustained by the death of Cromwell, the more did he feel drawn to Cranmer and to the cause he advocated. Already, in this same year, 1542, he addressed to Cranmer some letters for the abolition of idolatry, ordering the disuse of images, relics, tapers, reliquaries, tables and monuments of miracles, pilgrimages and other abuses. f408 While laymen thus joined knowledge with faith, and business with teaching, Cranmer was slowly pursuing his task. When parliament met, January 22, 1543, the archbishop introduced a Bill for the advancement of true religion This Act at once prohibited and enjoined the reading of the Bible. Was this intentional or accidental? We are disposed to think it accidental. There were two currents of opinion in England, and both of them reappeared in the laws. Only it is to be noted that the better current was the stronger; it was the good cause which seemed ultimately to gain the ascendency on this Occasion. It was ordered that the Bibles bearing Tyndale’s name should be suppressed; but the printers still issued his translation with hardly any alteration, shielding it under the names of Matthew, Taverner, Cranmer, and even Tonstall and Heath. It was therefore read everywhere. The Act forbade that anyone should read the Bible to others, either in any church or elsewhere, without the sanction of the king or of some bishop. But at the same time the chancellor of England, officers of the army, the king’s judges, the magistrates of any town or borough, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, who were accustomed to take a passage of Scripture as the text of their discourses, were empowered to read it. Further, every person of noble rank, male or female, being head of a family, was permitted to read the Bible or to cause it to be read by one of their domestics, in their own house, their garden or orchard, to their own family. Likewise, every trader or other person being head of a household was allowed to read it in private; but apprentices, workpeople, etc., were to abstain. This enactment, thus interdicting the Bible to the common people, was both impious and absurd; impious in its prohibition, but also absurd, because reading in the family was recommended, and this might be done even by the domestics. The knowledge of the Scriptures might thus reach those to whom they were proscribed. f409a At the same time, on the demand of Cranmer, the Act of Six Articles was somewhat modified. Those who had infringed its clauses were no longer to be punished with death, if they were laymen; and priests were to incur this penalty only after the third offence. This was certainly no great gain, but the primate obtained what he could.
He also endeavored to render as harmless as possible the book A necessary doctrine and erudition for any Christian Man, which was published in 1543, and was called The King’s Book, to distinguish it from The Institution of a Christian Man, which was called The Bishop’s Book. This book of the king held a middle course between the doctrine of the pope and that of the Reformation, leaning, however, towards the latter. The grace and the mercy of God were established as the principle of our justification. Some reforms were introduced with respect to the worship of images and of the saints; the article on purgatory was omitted; large rights were granted to the church of every country; the vulgar tongue was recognized as necessary to meet the religious wants of the people. Still, many obscurities and errors were to be found in this book.
An event was approaching which would draw the king more decisively to the side of the Reformation. Although he had now made five successive marriages, and had experienced, undoubtedly by his own. fault, only a long series of disappointments and vexations, he was once more looking for a wife. A law which had been passed after the discovery of the misconduct of Catherine Howard terrified the maidens of England, even the most innocent among them; they would have been afraid of falling victims to the unjust suspicions of Henry VIII. He now determined to marry a widow.
Catherine Parr, the widow of Lord Latimer, was now at the court. She was a woman of good sense, of virtuous and amiable character, beautiful, and agreeable in manners, and was past the prime of youth. She had, however, one defect which often attaches to noble characters, — a want of prudence. She did not always perceive and practice what was best to be done under certain circumstances. Especially was she wanting in that human prudence, so necessary at the court, and particularly to the wife of Henry VIII.; and hereby she was exposed to great danger. The king was now in a declining state; and his bodily infirmities as well as his irritable temper made it a necessity that some gentle and very considerate wife should take care of him. He married the noble dowager f412 on July 12, 1543; and he found in her the affection and the kind attentions of a virtuous lady. The crown was to Catherine but a poor compensation; but she discharged her duty devotedly, and shed some rays of sunshine over the last years of the king. The queen was favorable to the Reformation, as was likewise her brother, who was created earl of Essex, and her uncle, made Lord Parr of Horton. Cranmer and all those who wished for a real reformation were on the side of the new queen; while Gardiner and his party, now including the new chancellor, Wriothesley, taking alarm at this influence which was opposed to them, became more zealous than ever in the maintenance of the old doctrine. These men felt that the power which they had possessed under Catherine Howard might slip out of their hands; and they resolved to spread terror among the friends of the Reformation, not excepting the queen herself, by attacking Cranmer. It was always this man at whom they aimed and struck their blows, nor was this the last time they did so.
The prebendaries of Canterbury and other priests of the same diocese, strongly attached to the Catholic doctrine, and disquieted and shocked by the reforming principles of the archbishop, came to an understanding with Gardiner, held a great many meetings among themselves, and collected a large number of reports hostile to the archbishop. They accused him of having removed images, and prohibited the partisans of the old doctrines from preaching; and the rumor was soon everywhere current that ‘the bishop of Winchester had bent his bow to shoot at some of the head deer.’
The long list of charges brought against the primate was forwarded to the king. Amongst the accusers were found some members of Cranmer’s church, magistrates whom he had laid under obligation to him, and men who almost daily sat at his table. Henry was pained and irritated; he loved Cranmer, but these numerous accusations disturbed him. Taking the document with him, he went out, as if going to take a walk alone on the banks of the Thames. He entered his bark. ‘To Lambeth,’ he said to his boatmen. Some of the domestics of the archbishop saw the boat approaching they recognized the king, and gave information to their master, who immediately came down to pay his respects to his Majesty.
Henry invited him to enter the bark; and when they were seated together, the boatmen being at a distance, the king began to lament the growth of heresy, and the debates which would inevitably result from it, and declared that he was determined to find out who was the principal promoter of these false doctrines and to make an example of him. ‘What think you of it?’ he added. ‘Sir,’ replied Cranmer, ‘it is a good resolution; but I entreat you to consider well what heresy is, and not to condemn those as heretics who stand for the word of God against inventions.’ After further explanations, the king said to him: ‘You are the man who, as I am informed, is the chief encourager of heresy.’ The king then handed to him the articles of accusations collected by his opponents. Cranmer took the papers and read them. When he had finished, he begged the king to appoint a commission to investigate these grievances, and frankly explained to him his own view of the case. The king, touched by his simplicity and candor, disclosed to him the conspiracy, and promised to nominate a commission; insisting, however, that the primate should be the chief member and that he should proceed against his accusers. Cranmer refused to do this. The commission was nominated. Dr. Lee, dean of York, made diligent inquiry, and found that men to whom Cranmer had rendered great services were in the number of the conspirators. Cranmer bore himself with great meekness towards them. He declined to confound and put them to shame as the king had required him to do; and the result was that, instead of condemning Cranmer, every one of them acknowledged that he was the first to practice the virtues which he preached to others, and thus showed himself to be a true bishop and a worthy reformer. f413 As Gardiner and his colleagues had failed in their attempt to bring down the head deer, they determined to indemnify themselves by attacking lesser game. A society of friends of the Gospel had been formed at Oxford, the members of which were leading lowly and quiet lives, but at the same time were making courageous confession of the truth. Fourteen of them were apprehended by Doctor London, supported by the bishop of Winchester. The persecutors chiefly directed their attack against three of these men. Robert Testwood, famed for his musical attainments and attached as a ‘singing-man’ to the chapel of Windsor College, used to speak .with respect of Luther, ventured to read the Holy Scriptures, and exhorted his acquaintances not to bow down before dumb images, but to worship only the true and living God. Henry Filmer, a churchwarden, could not endure the fooleries which the priests retailed in the pulpit; and the latter, greatly stung by his criticism, accused him of being so thoroughly corrupted by heresy that he alone would suffice to poison the whole nation. Antony Pierson, a priest, preached with so much faith and eloquence, that the people flocked, in crowds to hear him, both at Oxford and in the surrounding country places.
A fourth culprit at length appeared before the council. He was a poor man, simple-minded, and of mean appearance. Some loose sheets of a book lay upon the table in front of the bishop of Winchester. ‘Marbeck,’ said the bishop, ‘dost thou know wherefore thou art sent for?’ ‘No, my lord,’ he replied. The bishop, taking up some of the sheets, said to him: ‘Understandest thou the Latin tongue?’ ‘No, my lord,’ he answered, ‘but simply.’ Gardiner then stated to the council that the book he held in his hand was a Concordance, and that it was translated word for word from the original compiled for the use of preachers. He asserted ‘that if such a book should go forth in English, it would destroy the Latin tongue.’ Two days later Gardiner again sent for Marbeck. ‘ Marbeck,’ said the bishop, ‘what a devil made thee to meddle with the Scriptures? Thy vocation was another way... why the devil didst thou not hold thee there? ….What helpers hadst thou in setting forth thy book?’ ‘Forsooth, my lord,’ answered Marbeck, ’none.’ ‘It is not possible that thou should’st do it without help,’ exclaimed the bishop. Then addressing one of his chaplains: ‘Here is a marvelous thing; this fellow hath taken upon him to act out the Concordance in English, which book, when it was set out in Latin, was not done without the help and diligence of a dozen learned men at least, and yet will he bear me in hand that he hath done it alone.’ Then, addressing Marbeck, he said: ‘Say what thou wilt, except God himself would come down from heaven and tell me so, I will not believe it.’ Marbeck was taken back to prison, and was placed in close confinement, with irons on his hands and feet. He was five times examined; and on the fifth occasion a new charge was brought against him; — he had written out with his own hand a letter of John Calvin.’ This was worse than spending his time over the Bible.
Gardiner exerted himself to the utmost to secure the Condemnation of this man to death, in company with Testwood, Filmer, and Peerson. The queen was now hardly on the throne. These three Christians were burnt alive; and they met death with so much humility, patience, and devotion to Jesus, their only refuge, that some of the bystanders declared that they would willingly have died with them and like them. f416 But the persecutors failed in their attempt with respect to Marbeck. Cranmer was able to convince the king that the making of a Concordance to the Bible ought not to be visited with death. It is well known that Henry VIII. attached much importance to the Holy Scriptures, which he considered the most powerful weapon against the pope. Marbeck, therefore, was spared.
It is, moreover, no wonder that there should still have been martyrs. The queen, indeed, was friendly to their cause; but political circumstances were not favorable. After forty years’ alliance with France, Henry VIII. was about to declare war against that kingdom The pretexts for this course were many. The first was the alliance of the king of France with the Turks, who are daily advancing to destroy and ruin our holy faith and religion, to the great regret of all good Christians,’ said the Council. A second pretext was that the sums of money which France was bound to pay annually to the king had fallen into arrears for nine years; there was also the question of the subsidies granted by France to Scotland during the war between Henry VIII. and the Scots; the reception and protection of English rebels by Francis I.; and the detention in French ports of faithful subjects of the king, merchants and others, with their ships and merchandise. In the despatch which we have just cited, the king also declared that, if within twenty days the grievances set forth were not redressed, he should claim the kingdom of France unjustly held by Francis I. The French ambassador replied in a conciliatory manner. Diplomacy made no reference to other grounds of complaint of a more private character, which perhaps throw light upon those which occasioned the rupture. Francis I. had jested about the way in which Henry VIII. dealt with his wives. Henry had sought the hand of French princesses, and they had no mind for this foreign husband; and lastly, Francis did not fulfil the promise which he had made to separate from Rome. There were many other pretexts besides, more or less reasonable, which determined the king to invade France.
While withdrawing from alliance with Francis I., Henry could not but at the same time enter into closer relation with Charles V. This reconciliation seemed natural, for the king of England was really, in respect to religion, more in harmony with the emperor than with the Protestants of Germany, whose alliance he had for some time desired. But Charles required first of all that the legitimacy and the rights of his cousin, the princess Mary, should be acknowledged; and this Henry refused to do, because it would have involved an acknowledgment of his injustice to Catherine of Aragon, A solution which satisfied the emperor was ultimately devised. It was provided by Act of Parliament that if Prince Edward should die without children, ‘the crown should go to the lady Mary. But in this Act no mention was made of her legitimacy. The result of the concession of this point to Charles V. was to bring on England a five years bloody persecution, and to give her people Philip II. for their king. In default of any issue of Mary, Elizabeth was to succeed to the throne. After the passing of this Act, in March 1543, a treaty of alliance was concluded between England and the Empire.
The war which Henry VIII. ‘king of England, France, and Ireland,’ said the parliament, now carried on against Francis I. Has little to do with the history of the Reformation. The king, having named the queen regent of his kingdom, embarked for France, on July 14, 1544, on a vessel hung with cloth of gold. He was now feeble and corpulent, but his vanity and love of display were always conspicuous, even when setting out for a war. Having arrived on the frontier of France he found himself at the head of 45,000 men, 30,000 of whom were English. The emperor, who had got the start of him, was already within two days’ march of Paris; and the city was in alarm at the approach of the Germans. ‘I cannot prevent my people of Paris from being afraid,’ said Francis, ‘but I will prevent them from suffering injury.’ Charles paid little respect to his engagement with Henry VIII., and now treated separately with Francis at Crespy, near Laon, September 19, and left the king of England to get out of the affair as well as he could. Henry captured Boulogne, but this was all that he had of his kingdom of France. On September 30 he returned to London.
The war, however, continued until 1546. England, abandoned by the emperor, found sympathy in a quarter where it might least have been expected, — in Italy. The Italians, who were conscious of the evils brought on their own land by the papacy, were filled with admiration for the prince and the nation which had cast off its yoke. Edmund Harvel, ambassador of Henry VIII. in Italy, being at this time at Venice, was continually receiving visits from captains of high reputation, who came to offer their services. Among these was Ercole Visconti of Milan, a man of high birth, a great captain, and one who, having extensive connections in Italy, might render great services to the king. The French were now making an attempt to retake Boulogne; but the Italian soldiers who were serving in their army were constantly going over to the English, at the rate of thirty per day. The Italian companies were thus so largely reduced that the captains requested permission to leave the camp for want of soldiers to command; and permission was given them. In this matter the pope was involved in difficulty. He had undertaken to furnish Francis I. with a body of four thousand men; but as the king was afraid that these Roman soldiers would pass over to the English army, he requested Paul III. to substitute for these auxiliaries a monthly subsidy of 16,000 crowns. ‘As the Italian nation,’ added the English ambassador in his letter to Henry VIII, ‘is alienate from the French king, so the same is more and more inclined to your Majesty.’ From this episode it is evident that Italy was at this time favorably disposed towards the Reformation.
But if in Italy there were many supporters of Protestantism, in England its opponents were still more numerous. The fanatical party, had attempted in 1543 to expel Reform from the town of Windsor by means of martyrdom. But the account was not settled; it still remained to purify the castle. It was known that. Testwood, Filmer, Peerson, and Marbeck himself had had patrons in Sir Thomas and Lady Cardine, Sir Philip and Lady Hobby, Dr. Haynes, dean of Exeter, and other persons at the court.
Dr. London, who was always on the look-out for heretics, and a pleader named Simons, sent to Gardiner one Ockam, a secretary, with letters, accusations, and secret documents as to the way in which they intended to proceed. But one of the queen’s servants reached the court before him and gave notice of the scheme. Ockam, on his arrival, was arrested, all the papers were examined, and evidence was discovered in them of an actual conspiracy against many persons at the court. This aroused great indignation in the king’s mind. It is highly probable that these gentlemen and their wives owed their safety to the influence of the queen and of Cranmer. London and Simons, unaware that their letters and documents had fallen into the hands of their judges, denied the plot, and this even upon oath. Their own writings were now produced, it was proved that they were guilty of perjury, and they were condemned to ignominious punishment. London, that great slayer of heretics, and his colleague, were conducted on horseback, facing backwards, with the name of perjurer on their foreheads, through the streets of Windsor, Reading, and Newbury, the king being now at the last named town. They were afterwards set in the pillory and then taken back to prison. London died there of distress caused by this public disgrace. It was well that the wind should change, and that persecutors should be punished instead of the persecuted; but the manners of the time subjected these wretches to shocking sufferings which it would have been better to spare them. f422