History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth. Vol. II.
by James Anthony Froude
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The Lollards 16

Presentation to Religious Benefices in the Fourteenth Century 17

Statutes of Provisors 21

Rise of the Lollards 25

John Wycliffe 26

Theory of Property 28

Insurrection of Wat Tyler 29

Wycliffe's Influence declines 30

Death of Wycliffe 31

Insurrection of Oldcastle 34

Close of the Lollard Movement 35

New Birth of Protestantism 37

The Christian Brothers 38

Luther 39

Multiplication of Testaments 40

William Tyndal 41

The Antwerp Printing-Press 42

The Christian Brothers 43

Wolsey's Persecutions 49

Story of Anthony Dalaber 57

Escape of Garret 69

Perplexity of the Authorities 70

The Ports are set for Garret's Capture 71

Garret goes to Bristol, and is taken 72

The Investigation at Oxford 73

Doctor London's Intercession 74

The Bishop of Lincoln 75

Oxford is Purged 76

Temper of the Protestants 77

The Fall of Wolsey brings no Relief 78

Sir Thomas More as Chancellor 79

Contrast between Wolsey and More 88

Martyrdom of Bilney 89

Martyrdom of James Bainham 90

Feelings of the People 92

Pavier the Town Clerk 93

The Worship of Relics 94

Roods and Relics 95

The Rood of Dovercourt 96

The Paladins 97

Early Life of Latimer 98

He goes to Cambridge 100

Latimer's Education 101

His Fame as a Preacher 102

He is appointed Chaplain to the King 103

His Defence of the Protestants 104

He is cited before the Bishops 105

Latimer before the Bishops 106

Thomas Cromwell 109

Will of Thomas Cromwell 116



Mary of Hungary 125

The King is cited to Rome 127

Clement refuses further Delay 128

Isolation of England 129

Henry urgent against the Interview 130

He appeals to a Council 132

Terms of the Appeal 134

Legal Value of the Appeal 136

Cranmer's Sentence known at Rome 137

Measures of the Consistory 138

Henry again calls on Francis 140

He will not surrender his Marriage 141

He will not repeal his Legislation 142

He urges the Rupture of the Interview 143

Recal of the Embassy 144

England and Germany 145

Birth of Elizabeth 149

Clement arrives at Marseilles 150

The Interview 151

Bonner at Marseilles 152

Bonner and the Pope 153

The Pope rejects the Appeal 157

Proposal for a Court to sit at Cambray 158

Francis implores Henry to consent 159

Henry refuses to revoke the Laws against the Papacy 160

State of England 162

The Princess Mary 165

Queen Catherine 168

The Nun of Kent 170

State of Feeling in England 178

Proposed Marriage of the Princess Mary 181

The Nun of Kent 183

Disgrace of Mary 184

The Countess of Salisbury 185

The Nevilles 187

General Superstition 191

Proposals for a Protestant League used as a Menace to Francis 192

The Protestant League 194

The Court of Brussels 196

Meeting of Parliament 197

Perils of the Reformation 198

Cromwell 199

Opening Measures 200

The Conge d'Elire 201

Abolition of Exactions 204

Closing Protest 205

Apology of Sir Thomas More accepted by the King 206

Obstinate Defence of Fisher 208

The Bill proceeds 209

Execution of the Nun 210

Her last Words 211

The Act of Succession 212

The first Oath of Allegiance 216

Clement gives final Sentence against the King 218

Obscurity of the Pope's Conduct 222

Mission of the Duke of Guise 223

The French Fleet watch the Channel 224

The Commission sits to receive the Oath 225

More and Fisher 226

More before the Commission 227

He refuses to Swear 228

Debate in Council 229

The Government are peremptory 230

Concession not possible 231

Royal Proclamation 232

Circular to the Sheriffs 233

Death of Clement VII. 236



State of Ireland 237

The Norman Conquest 238

Absentees 239

The Norman Irish 241

Weakness of the English Rule 248

Distribution of the Irish Clans 249

The Irish Reaction 251

Condition of the People 253

English and Irish Estimates 254

Ireland for the Irish 255

Coyne and Livery 256

The Geraldines of Kildare 257

Deputation of Lord Surrey 261

Return of Kildare 265

Foreign Intrigues 266

Desmond intrigues with the Emperor 267

Geraldine Conspiracy 268

Kildare sent to the Tower 270

The Irish Rise 271

The Duke of Richmond Viceroy 272

Third Deputation to Kildare 273

Ireland in its Ideal State 274

New Aspects of Irish Rebellion 275

Ireland and the Papacy 276

Kildare is sent to the Tower 277

Desmond and the Emperor 278

Corny O'Brien 279

The Holy War of the Geraldines 280

General Rebellion 281

Siege of Dublin 282

Murder of Archbishop Allen 284

Fitzgerald writes to the Pope 285

Dublin saved by the Earl of Ormond 286

A Truce agreed to 287

Delay of the English Deputy 288

Ormond again saves Dublin 289

The Deputy sails from Beaumaris 290

Mismanagement of Skeffington 291

Delay and Incapacity 292

Burning of Trim and Dunboyne 293

Skeffington will not move 294

General Despondency 295

Disorganization of the English Army 296

The Campaign opens 297

Siege of Maynooth 298

Storming of the Castle 299

The Pardon of Maynooth 300

The Rebellion collapses 301

Lord Leonard Grey 302

Fitzgerald surrenders 303

Dilemma of the Government 304

Execution of Fitzgerald 305

End of the Rebellion 306



State of England in 1534 307

Temper of the Clergy 308

Order for Preaching 310

Secret Disaffection among the Clergy 312

The Confessional 313

Treasonable Intrigues 317

Catholic Treasons 318

Persecuting Laws against the Catholics 319

The Act of Supremacy 322

The Oath of Allegiance 326

Election of Paul the Third 328

Anxiety of the Emperor 330

Proposals for a Catholic Coalition 331

Counter-Overtures of Francis to Henry 332

Attitude of Henry 333

Distrust of France 335

England and the Papacy 336

The Penal Laws 337

The Battle of the Faiths 338

The Charterhouse Monks 339

The Anabaptist Martyrs 357

Fisher and More 359

Fisher named Cardinal 364

The Pope condescends to Falsehood 365

Fisher Tried and Sentenced 366

Execution of Fisher 367

Sir Thomas More 368

Effect upon Europe 377

Letter to Cassalis 382

Reply of the Pope 385

Bull of Deposition 386

Intrigues of Francis in Germany 388

England and Germany 390



Visitation of the Monasteries 396

The Abbey of St. Albans 402

Commission of 1535 407

The Visitors at Oxford 409

Progress of the Visitors 413

Visit to Langden Abbey 415

Fountains Abbey 417

The Monks at Fordham 419

The Monks of Pershore 421

Rules to be observed in all Abbeys 423

The Black Book in Parliament 427

Discussion in Parliament 429

Conflicting Opinions 431

Smaller Houses suppressed 433

The Protestant Bishops 435

State of London 437

The Vagrant Act 439

Remission of Firstfruits 440

Dissolution of Parliament 441

The Work accomplished by Parliament 442



Death of Queen Catherine 443

Anne Boleyn 446

Anne Boleyn committed to the Tower 454

The Tower 457

Cranmer's Letter to the King 459

Cranmer's Postscript 461

Preparations for the Trial 468

True Bills found by the Grand Juries 469

The Indictment 470

The Trials 476

The opposite Probabilities 480

Execution of the five Gentlemen 483

The Divorce 484

The Execution 486

The Succession 488

The King's Third Marriage 490

Opinions of Foreign Courts 491

Meeting of Parliament 492

Speech of the Lord Chancellor 493

Second Act of Succession 495



Where changes are about to take place of great and enduring moment, a kind of prologue, on a small scale, sometimes anticipates the true opening of the drama; like the first drops which give notice of the coming storm, or as if the shadows of the reality were projected forwards into the future, and imitated in dumb show the movements of the real actors in the story.

[Sidenote: Prelude to the Reformation in the fourteenth century.]

Such a rehearsal of the English Reformation was witnessed at the close of the fourteenth century, confused, imperfect, disproportioned, to outward appearance barren of results; yet containing a representative of each one of the mixed forces by which that great change was ultimately effected, and foreshadowing even something of the course which it was to run.

[Sidenote: The Lollards forerunners, not fathers, of the Reformation.]

There was a quarrel with the pope upon the extent of the papal privileges; there were disputes between the laity and the clergy,—accompanied, as if involuntarily, by attacks on the sacramental system and the Catholic faith,—while innovation in doctrine was accompanied also with the tendency which characterized the extreme development of the later Protestants—towards political republicanism, the fifth monarchy, and community of goods. Some account of this movement must be given in this place, although it can be but a sketch only. "Lollardry"[1] has a history of its own; but it forms no proper part of the history of the Reformation. It was a separate phenomenon, provoked by the same causes which produced their true fruit at a later period; but it formed no portion of the stem on which those fruits ultimately grew. It was a prelude which was played out, and sank into silence, answering for the time no other end than to make the name of heretic odious in the ears of the English nation. In their recoil from their first failure, the people stamped their hatred of heterodoxy into their language; and in the word miscreant, misbeliever, as the synonym of the worst species of reprobate, they left an indelible record of the popular estimate of the followers of John Wycliffe.

[Sidenote: Changes in the mode of presentation to bishopricks.]

[Sidenote: Right of free election conceded in the great charter to the chapters and the religious houses.]

The Lollard story opens with the disputes between the crown and the see of Rome on the presentation to English benefices. For the hundred and fifty years which succeeded the Conquest, the right of nominating the archbishops, the bishops, and the mitred abbots, had been claimed and exercised by the crown. On the passing of the great charter, the church had recovered its liberties, and the privilege of free election had been conceded by a special clause to the clergy. The practice which then became established was in accordance with the general spirit of the English constitution. On the vacancy of a see, the cathedral chapter applied to the crown for a conge d'elire. The application was a form; the consent was invariable. A bishop was then elected by a majority of suffrages; his name was submitted to the metropolitan, and by him to the pope. If the pope signified his approval, the election was complete; consecration followed; and the bishop having been furnished with his bulls of investiture, was presented to the king, and from him received "the temporalities" of his see. The mode in which the great abbots were chosen was precisely similar; the superiors of the orders to which the abbeys belonged were the channels of communication with the pope, in the place of the archbishops; but the elections in themselves were free, and were conducted in the same manner. The smaller church benefices, the small monasteries or parish churches, were in the hands of private patrons, lay or ecclesiastical; but in the case of each institution a reference was admitted, or was supposed to be admitted, to the court of Rome.

[Sidenote: Privilege of the pope and of the superiors of the religious orders in controlling the elections.]

[Sidenote: A.D. 1306-7.]

There was thus in the pope's hand an authority of an indefinite kind, which it was presumed that his sacred office would forbid him to abuse, but which, however, if he so unfortunately pleased, he might abuse at his discretion. He had absolute power over every nomination to an English benefice; he might refuse his consent till such adequate reasons, material or spiritual, as he considered sufficient to induce him to acquiesce, had been submitted to his consideration. In the case of nominations to the religious houses, the superiors of the various orders residing abroad had equal facilities for obstructiveness; and the consequence of so large a confidence in the purity of the higher orders of the Church became visible in an act of parliament which it was found necessary to pass in 1306-7.[2]

[Sidenote: Act to prevent the superiors resident abroad from laying taxes on the English houses.]

"Of late," says this act, "it has come to the knowledge of the king, by the grievous complaint of the honourable persons, lords, and other noblemen of his realm, that whereas monasteries, priories, and other religious houses were founded to the honour and glory of God, and the advancement of holy church, by the king and his progenitors, and by the said noblemen and their ancestors; and a very great portion of lands and tenements have been given by them to the said monasteries, priories, and religious houses, and the religious men serving God in them; to the intent that clerks and laymen might be admitted in such houses, and that sick and feeble folk might be maintained, hospitality, almsgiving, and other charitable deeds might be done, and prayers be said for the souls of the founders and their heirs; the abbots, priors, and governors of the said houses, and certain aliens their superiors, as the abbots and priors of the Cistercians, the Premonstrants, the orders of Saint Augustine and of Saint Benedict, and many more of other religions and orders have at their own pleasure set divers heavy, unwonted heavy and importable tallages, payments, and impositions upon every of the said monasteries and houses subject unto them, in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, without the privity of the king and his nobility, contrary to the laws and customs of the said realm; and thereby the number of religious persons being oppressed by such tallages, payments, and impositions, the service of God is diminished, alms are not given to the poor, the sick, and the feeble; the healths of the living and the souls of the dead be miserably defrauded; hospitality, almsgiving, and other godly deeds do cease; and so that which in times past was charitably given to godly uses and to the service of God, is now converted to an evil end, by permission whereof there groweth great scandal to the people." To provide against a continuance of these abuses, it was enacted that no "religious" persons should, under any pretence or form, send out of the kingdom any kind of rent, tax, or tallage; and that "priors aliens" should not presume to assess any payment, charge, or other burden whatever upon houses within the realm.[3]

The language of this act was studiously guarded. The pope was not alluded to; the specific methods by which the extortion was practised were not explained; the tax upon presentations to benefices, either having not yet distinguished itself beyond other impositions, or the government trusting that a measure of this general kind might answer the desired end. Lucrative encroachments, however, do not yield so easily to treatment; nearly fifty years after it became necessary to reenact the same statute; and while recapitulating the provisions of it, the parliament found it desirable to point out more specifically the intention with which it was passed.

The popes in the interval had absorbed in their turn from the heads of the religious orders, the privileges which by them had been extorted from the affiliated societies. Each English benefice had become the fountain of a rivulet which flowed into the Roman exchequer, or a property to be distributed as the private patronage of the Roman bishop: and the English parliament for the first time found itself in collision with the Father of Christendom.

[Sidenote: Statute of provisors forbidding the attempts of the popes to present to benefices in England.]

"The pope," says the fourth of the twenty-fifth of Edward III., "accroaching to himself the signories of the benefices within the realm of England, doth give and grant the same to aliens which did never dwell in England, and to cardinals which could not dwell here, and to others as well aliens as denizens, whereby manifold inconveniences have ensued." "Not regarding" the statute of Edward I., he had also continued to present to bishopricks, abbeys, priories, and other valuable preferments: money in large quantities was carried out of the realm from the proceeds of these offices, and it was necessary to insist emphatically that the papal nominations should cease. They were made in violation of the law, and were conducted with simony so flagrant that English benefices were sold in the papal courts to any person who would pay for them, whether an Englishman or a stranger. It was therefore decreed that the elections to bishopricks should be free as in time past, that the rights of patrons should be preserved, and penalties of imprisonment, forfeiture, or outlawry, according to the complexion of the offence, should be attached to all impetration of benefices from Rome by purchase or otherwise.[4]

[Sidenote: The statute fails, and is again enacted in fresh forms.]

If statute law could have touched the evil, these enactments would have been sufficient for the purpose; but the influence of the popes in England was of that subtle kind which was not so readily defeated. The law was still defied, or still evaded; and the struggle continued till the close of the century, the legislature labouring patiently, but ineffectually, to confine with fresh enactments their ingenious adversary.[5]

[Sidenote: The popes threaten the censures of the church.]

[Sidenote: The parliament declares that to bring any such censures into the realm shall be punished with death and forfeiture.]

At length symptoms appeared of an intention on the part of the popes to maintain their claims with spiritual censures, and the nation was obliged to resolve upon the course which, in the event of their resorting to that extremity, it would follow. The lay lords[6] and the House of Commons found no difficulty in arriving at a conclusion. They passed a fresh penal statute with prohibitions even more emphatically stringent, and decided that "if any man brought into this realm any sentence, summons, or excommunication, contrary to the effect of the statute, he should incur pain of life and members, with forfeiture of goods; and if any prelate made execution of such sentence, his temporalities should be taken from him, and should abide in the king's hands till redress was made."[7]

[Sidenote: A "great council" addresses the pope, with a desire for an arrangement.]

[Sidenote: The question is brought to an issue by the excommunication of the bishops.]

So bold a measure threatened nothing less than open rupture. The act, however, seems to have been passed in haste, without determined consideration; and on second thoughts, it was held more prudent to attempt a milder course. The strength of the opposition to the papacy lay with the Commons.[8] When the session of parliament was over, a great council was summoned to reconsider what should be done, and an address was drawn up, and forwarded to Rome, with a request that the then reigning pope would devise some manner by which the difficulty could be arranged.[9] Boniface IX. replied with the same want of judgment which was shown afterwards on an analogous occasion by Clement VII. He disbelieved the danger; and daring the government to persevere, he granted a prebendal stall at Wells to an Italian cardinal, to which a presentation had been made already by the king. Opposing suits were instantly instituted between the claimants in the courts of the two countries. A decision was given in England in favour of the nominee of the king, and the bishops agreeing to support the crown were excommunicated.[10] The court of Rome had resolved to try the issue by a struggle of force, and the government had no alternative but to surrender at discretion, or to persevere at all hazards, and resist the usurpation.

[Sidenote: A.D. 1392-3.]

[Sidenote: The House of Commons declare that they will stand with the Crown to live and die,]

[Sidenote: And desire the king to examine the lords spiritual and temporal how they will stand.]

[Sidenote: The lay lords answer directly, and the spiritual lords indirectly, to the same effect with the Commons.]

The proceedings on this occasion seem to have been unusual, and significant of the importance of the crisis. Parliament either was sitting at the time when the excommunication was issued, or else it was immediately assembled; and the House of Commons drew up, in the form of a petition to the king, a declaration of the circumstances which had occurred. After having stated generally the English law on the presentation to benefices, "Now of late," they added, "divers processes be made by his Holiness the Pope, and censures of excommunication upon certain bishops, because they have made execution of the judgments [given in the king's courts], to the open disherison of the crown; whereby, if remedy be not provided; the crown of England, which hath been so free at all times, that it has been in no earthly subjection, should be submitted to the pope; and the laws and statutes of the realm by him be defeated and avoided at his will, in perpetual destruction of the sovereignty of the king our lord, his crown, his regality, and all his realm." The Commons, therefore, on their part, declared, "That the things so attempted were clearly against the king's crown and his regality; used and approved or in the time of all his progenitors, and therefore they and all the liege commons of the realm would stand with their said lord the king, and his said crown, in the cases aforesaid, to live and die."[11] Whether they made allusion to the act of 1389 does not appear,—a measure passed under protest from one of the estates of the realm was possibly held unequal to meet the emergency,—at all events they would not rely upon it. For after this peremptory assertion of their own opinion, they desired the king, "and required him in the way of justice," to examine severally the lords spiritual and temporal how they thought, and how they would stand.[12] The examination was made, and the result was satisfactory. The lay lords replied without reservation that they would support the crown. The bishops (they were in a difficulty for which all allowance must be made) gave a cautious, but also a manly answer. They would not affirm, they said, that the pope had a right to excommunicate them in such cases, and they would not say that he had not. It was clear, however, that legal or illegal, such excommunication was against the privileges of the English crown, and therefore that, on the whole, they would and ought to be with the crown, loialment, like loyal subjects, as they were bound by their allegiance.[13]

In this unusual and emphatic manner, the three estates agreed that the pope should be resisted; and an act passed "that all persons suing at the court of Rome, and obtaining thence any bulls, instruments, sentences of excommunication which touched the king, or were against him, his regality, or his realm, and they which brought the same within the realm, or received the same, or made thereof notification, or any other execution whatever, within the realm or without, they, their notaries, procurators, maintainers and abettors, fautors and counsellors, should be put out of the king's protection, and their lands and tenements, goods and chattels, be forfeited."

[Sidenote: The pope yields.]

The resolute attitude of the country terminated the struggle. Boniface prudently yielded, and for the moment, and indeed for ever under this especial form, the wave of papal encroachment was rolled back. The temper which had been roused in the contest might perhaps have carried the nation further. The liberties of the crown had been asserted successfully. The analogous liberties of the church might have followed; and other channels, too, might have been cut off, through which the papal exchequer fed itself on English blood. But at this crisis the anti-Roman policy was arrested in its course by another movement, which turned the current of suspicion, and frightened back the nation to conservatism.

[Sidenote: Analogous agitation among the laity against the corruption of the clergy.]

While the crown and the parliament had been engaged with the pope, the undulations of the dispute had penetrated down among the body of the people, and an agitation had been commenced or an analogous kind against the spiritual authorities at home. The parliament had lamented that the duties of the religious houses were left unfulfilled, in consequence of the extortions of their superiors abroad. The people, who were equally convinced of the neglect of duty, adopted an interpretation of the phenomenon less favourable to the clergy, and attributed it to the temptations of worldliness, and the self-indulgence generated by enormous wealth.

[Sidenote: John Wycliffe.]

This form of discontent found its exponent in John Wycliffe, the great forerunner of the Reformation, whose austere figure stands out above the crowd of notables in English history, with an outline not unlike that of another forerunner of a greater change.

[Sidenote: His early career.]

The early life of Wycliffe is obscure. Lewis, on the authority of Leland,[14] says that he was born near Richmond, in Yorkshire. Fuller, though with some hesitation, prefers Durham.[15] He emerges into distinct notice in 1360, ten years subsequent to the passing of the first Statute of Provisors, having then acquired a great Oxford reputation as a lecturer in divinity, and having earned for himself powerful friends and powerful enemies. He had made his name distinguished by attacks upon the clergy for their indolence and profligacy: attacks both written and orally delivered,—those, written, we observe, being written in English, not in Latin.[16] In 1365, Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed him Warden of Canterbury Hall; the appointment, however, was made with some irregularity, and the following year, Archbishop Islip dying, his successor, Langham, deprived Wycliffe, and the sentence was confirmed by the king. It seemed, nevertheless, that no personal reflection was intended by this decision, for Edward III. nominated the ex-warden one of his chaplains immediately after, and employed him on an important mission to Bruges, where a conference on the benefice question was to be held with a papal commission.

Other church preferment was subsequently given to Wycliffe; but Oxford remained the chief scene of his work. He continued to hold his professorship of divinity; and from this office the character of his history took its complexion. At a time when books were rare and difficult to be procured, lecturers who had truth to communicate fresh drawn from the fountain, held an influence which in these days it is as difficult to imagine as, however, it is impossible to overrate. Students from all Europe flocked to the feet of a celebrated professor, who became the leader of a party by the mere fact of his position.

[Sidenote: Simplicity of his life and habits.]

[Sidenote: The poor priests.]

[Sidenote: His doctrines.]

[Sidenote: The translation of the Bible.]

The burden of Wycliffe's teaching was the exposure of the indolent fictions which passed under the name of religion in the established theory of the church. He was a man of most simple life; austere in appearance, with bare feet and russet mantle.[17] As a soldier of Christ, he saw in his Great Master and his Apostles the patterns whom he was bound to imitate. By the contagion of example he gathered about him other men who thought as he did; and gradually, under his captaincy, these "poor priests," as they were called—vowed to poverty because Christ was poor—vowed to accept no benefice, lest they should misspend the property of the poor, and because, as apostles, they were bound to go where their Master called them,[18] spread out over the country as an army of missionaries, to preach the faith which they found in the Bible—to preach, not of relics and of indulgences, but of repentance and of the grace of God. They carried with them copies of the Bible which Wycliffe had translated, leaving here and there, as they travelled, their costly treasures, as shining seed points of light; and they refused to recognise the authority of the bishops, or their right to silence them.

[Sidenote: He is protected by John of Gaunt.]

If this had been all, and perhaps if Edward III. had been succeeded by a prince less miserably incapable than his grandson Richard, Wycliffe might have made good his ground; the movement of the parliament against the pope might have united in a common stream with the spiritual move against the church at home, and the Reformation have been antedated by a century. He was summoned to answer for himself before the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1377. He appeared in court supported by the presence of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the eldest of Edward's surviving sons, and the authorities were unable to strike him behind so powerful a shield.

[Sidenote: Theory that the laity had a right to deprive the clergy of their property.]

But the "poor priests" had other doctrines besides those which they discovered in the Bible, relating to subjects with which, as apostles, they would have done better if they had shrunk from meddling. The inefficiency of the clergy was occasioned, as Wycliffe thought, by their wealth and by their luxury. He desired to save them from a temptation too heavy for them to bear, and he insisted that by neglect of duty their wealth had been forfeited, and that it was the business of the laity to take it from its unworthy possessors. The invectives with which the argument was accompanied produced a widely-spread irritation. The reins of the country fell simultaneously into the weak hands of Richard II., and the consequence was a rapid spread of disorder. In the year which followed Richard's accession, consistory judges were assaulted in their courts, sanctuaries were violated, priests were attacked and ill-treated in church, churchyard, and cathedral, and even while engaged in the mass;[19] the contagion of the growing anarchy seems to have touched even Wycliffe himself, and touched him in a point most deeply dangerous.

[Sidenote: Tendencies to anabaptism.]

[Sidenote: Theory of the tenure of property.]

[Sidenote: Wat Tyler's insurrection.]

[Sidenote: A mischievous comment on Wycliffe's teaching.]

His theory of property, and his study of the character of Christ, had led him to the near confines of Anabaptism. Expanding his views upon the estates of the church into an axiom, he taught that "charters of perpetual inheritance were impossible;" "that God could not give men civil possessions for ever;"[20] "that property was founded in grace, and derived from God;" and "seeing that forfeiture was the punishment of treason, and all sin was treason against God, the sinner must consequently forfeit his right to what he held of God." These propositions were nakedly true, as we shall most of us allow; but God has his own methods of enforcing extreme principles; and human legislation may only meddle with them at its peril. The theory as an abstraction could be represented as applying equally to the laity as to the clergy, and the new teaching received a practical comment in 1381, in the invasion of London by Wat, the tyler of Dartford, and 100,000 men, who were to level all ranks, put down the church, and establish universal liberty.[21] Two priests accompanied the insurgents, not Wycliffe's followers, but the licentious counterfeits of them, who trod inevitably in their footsteps, and were as inevitably countenanced by their doctrines. The insurrection was attended with the bloodshed, destruction, and ferocity natural to such outbreaks. The Archbishop of Canterbury and many gentlemen were murdered; and a great part of London sacked and burnt. It would be absurd to attribute this disaster to Wycliffe, nor was there any desire to hold him responsible for it; but it is equally certain that the doctrines which he had taught were incompatible, at that particular time, with an effective repression of the spirit which had caused the explosion. It is equally certain that he had brought discredit on his nobler efforts by ambiguous language on a subject of the utmost difficulty, and had taught the wiser and better portion of the people to confound heterodoxy of opinion with sedition, anarchy, and disorder.

[Sidenote: Measure for the repression of the poor priests passed in the House of Lords.]

[Sidenote: Rejected by the Commons at Wycliffe's petition.]

So long as Wycliffe lived, his own lofty character was a guarantee for the conduct of his immediate disciples; and although his favour had far declined, a party in the state remained attached to him, with sufficient influence to prevent the adoption of extreme measures against the "poor priests." In the year following the insurrection, an act was passed for their repression in the House of Lords, and was sent down by the king to the Commons. They were spoken of as "evil persons," going from place to place in defiance of the bishops, preaching in the open air to great congregations at markets and fairs, "exciting the people," "engendering discord between the estates of the realm." The ordinaries had no power to silence them, and had therefore desired that commissions should be issued to the sheriffs of the various counties, to arrest all such persons, and confine them, until they would "justify themselves" in the ecclesiastical courts.[22] Wycliffe petitioned against the bill, and it was rejected; not so much perhaps out of tenderness for the reformer, as because the Lower House was excited by the controversy with the pope; and being doubtfully disposed towards the clergy, was reluctant to subject the people to a more stringent spiritual control.

[Sidenote: Wycliffe's position, however, declines. He makes his submission,]

[Sidenote: And dies Dec. 31, 1384.]

But Wycliffe himself meanwhile had received a clear intimation of his own declining position. His opposition to the church authorities, and his efforts at reinvigorating the faith of the country, had led him into doubtful statements on the nature of the eucharist; he had entangled himself in dubious metaphysics on a subject on which no middle course is really possible; and being summoned to answer for his language before a synod in London, he had thrown himself again for protection on the Duke of Lancaster. The duke (not unnaturally under the circumstances) declined to encourage what he could neither approve nor understand;[23] and Wycliffe, by his great patron's advice, submitted. He read a confession of faith before the bishops, which was held satisfactory; he was forbidden, however, to preach again in Oxford, and retired to his living of Lutterworth, in Leicestershire, where two years later he died.

[Sidenote: Wycliffe's followers continue unmolested till the revolution of 1400 when they fall under the ban as disturbers of order.]

With him departed all which was best and purest in the movement which he had commenced. The zeal of his followers was not extinguished, but the wisdom was extinguished which had directed it; and perhaps the being treated as the enemies of order had itself a tendency to make them what they were believed to be. They were left unmolested for the next twenty years, the feebleness of the government, the angry complexion which had been assumed by the dispute with Rome, and the political anarchy in the closing decade of the century, combining to give them temporary shelter; but they availed themselves of their opportunity to travel further on the dangerous road on which they had entered; and on the settlement of the country under Henry IV. they fell under the general ban which struck down all parties who had shared in the late disturbances.

[Sidenote: A.D. 1400-1.]

They had been spared in 1382, only for more sharp denunciation, and a more cruel fate; and Boniface having healed, on his side, the wounds which had been opened, by well-timed concessions, then, was no reason left for leniency. The character of the Lollard teaching was thus described (perhaps in somewhat exaggerated language) in the preamble of the act of 1401.[24]

[Sidenote: Act de Heretico comburendo.]

[Sidenote: Political character of the teaching.]

"Divers false and perverse people," so runs the act De Heretico comburendo, "of a certain new sect, damnably thinking of the faith of the sacraments of the church, and of the authority of the same, against the law of God and of the church, usurping the office of preaching, do perversely and maliciously, in divers places within the realm, preach and teach divers new doctrines, and wicked erroneous opinions, contrary to the faith and determination of Holy Church. And of such sect and wicked doctrines they make unlawful conventicles, they hold and exercise schools, they make and write books, they do wickedly instruct and inform people, and excite and stir them to sedition and insurrection, and make great strife and division among the people, and other enormities horrible to be heard, daily do perpetrate and commit. The diocesans cannot by their jurisdiction spiritual, without aid of the King's Majesty, sufficiently correct these said false and perverse people, nor refrain their malice, because they do go from diocese to diocese, and will not appear before the said diocesans; but the jurisdiction spiritual, the keys of the church, and the censures of the same, do utterly contemn and despise; and so their wicked preachings and doctrines they do from day to day continue and exercise, to the destruction of all order and rule, right and reason."

Something of these violent accusations is perhaps due to the horror with which false doctrine in matters of faith was looked upon in the Catholic church, the grace by which alone an honest life was made possible being held to be dependent upon orthodoxy. But the Lollards had become political revolutionists as well as religious reformers; the revolt against the spiritual authority had encouraged and countenanced a revolt against the secular; and we cannot be surprised, therefore, that these institutions should have sympathized with each other, and have united to repress a danger which was formidable to both.

[Sidenote: Power conferred upon the bishops of arresting ex officio.]

[Sidenote: The stake and the orthodox faith.]

The bishops, by this act, received arbitrary power to arrest and imprison on suspicion, without check or restraint of law, at their will and pleasure. Prisoners who refused to abjure their errors, who persisted in heresy, or relapsed into it after abjuration, were sentenced to be burnt at the stake,—a dreadful punishment, on the wickedness of which the world has long been happily agreed. Yet we must remember that those who condemned teachers of heresy to the flames, considered that heresy itself involved everlasting perdition; that they were but faintly imitating the severity which orthodoxy still ascribes to Almighty God Himself.

[Sidenote: The Commons petition the Crown for a secularization of church property.]

[Sidenote: Accession of Henry V.]

The tide which was thus setting back in favour of the church did not yet, however, flow freely, and without a check. The Commons consented to sacrifice the heretics, but they still cast wistful looks on the lands of the religious houses. On two several occasions, in 1406, and again 1410, spoliation was debated in the Lower House, and representations were made upon the subject to the king.[25] The country, too, continued to be agitated with war and treason; and when Henry V. became king, in 1412, the church was still uneasy, and the Lollards were as dangerous as ever. Whether by prudent conduct they might have secured a repeal of the persecuting act is uncertain; it is more likely, from their conduct, that they had made their existence incompatible with the security of any tolerable government.

[Sidenote: Insurrection of Sir John Oldcastle.]

[Sidenote: Oldcastle tried and executed.]

[Sidenote: Fresh act against heresy.]

A rumour having gone abroad that the king intended to enforce the laws against heresy, notices were found fixed against the doors of the London churches, that if any such measure was attempted, a hundred thousand men would be in arms to oppose it. These papers were traced to Sir John Oldcastle, otherwise called Lord Cobham, a man whose true character is more difficult to distinguish, in the conflict of the evidence which has come down to us about him, than that of almost any noticeable person in history. He was perhaps no worse than a fanatic. He was certainly prepared, if we may trust the words of a royal proclamation (and Henry was personally intimate with Oldcastle, and otherwise was not likely to have exaggerated the charges against him), he was prepared to venture a rebellion, with the prospect of himself becoming the president of some possible Lollard commonwealth.[26] The king, with swift decisiveness, annihilated the incipient treason. Oldcastle was himself arrested. He escaped out of the Tower into Scotland; and while Henry was absent in France he seems to have attempted to organize some kind of Scotch invasion; but he was soon after again taken on the Welsh Border, tried and executed. An act which was passed in 1414 described his proceedings as an "attempt to destroy the king, and all other manner of estates of the realm as well spiritual as temporal, and also all manner of policy, and finally the laws of the land." The sedition was held to have originated in heresy, and for the better repression of such mischiefs in time to come, the lord chancellor, the judges, the justices of the peace, the sheriffs, mayors, bailiffs, and every other officer having government of people, were sworn on entering their office to use their best power and diligence to detect and prosecute all persons suspected of so heinous a crime.[27]

[Sidenote: Final termination of the Lollard movement.]

Thus perished Wycliffe's labour,—not wholly, because his translation of the Bible still remained a rare treasure; a seed of future life, which would spring again under happier circumstances. But the sect which he organized, the special doctrines which he set himself to teach, after a brief blaze of success, sank into darkness; and no trace remained of Lollardry except the black memory of contempt and hatred with which the heretics of the fourteenth century were remembered by the English people, long after the actual Reformation had become the law of the land.[28]

[Sidenote: Causes of Wycliffe's failure,]

[Sidenote: Which is not to be regretted, for the times were not ripe.]

So poor a close to a movement of so fair promise was due partly to the agitated temper of the times; partly, perhaps, to a want of judgment in Wycliffe; but chiefly and essentially because it was an untimely birth. Wycliffe saw the evil; he did not see the remedy; and neither in his mind nor in the mind of the world about him had the problem ripened itself for solution. England would have gained little by the premature overthrow of the church, when the house out of which the evil spirit was cast out could have been but swept and garnished for the occupation of the seven devils of anarchy.

[Sidenote: The reaction.]

[Sidenote: New birth of Protestantism.]

The fire of heresy continued to smoulder, exploding occasionally in insurrection,[29] occasionally blazing up in nobler form, when some poor seeker for the truth, groping for a vision of God in the darkness of the years which followed, found his way into that high presence through the martyr's fire. But substantially, the nation relapsed into obedience,—the church was reprieved for a century. Its fall was delayed till the spirit in which it was attacked was winnowed clean of all doubtful elements—until Protestantism had recommenced its enterprise in a desire, not for a fairer adjustment of the world's good things, but in a desire for some deeper, truer, nobler, holier insight into the will of God. It recommenced not under the auspices of a Wycliffe, not with the partial countenance of a government which was crossing swords with the Father of Catholic Christendom, and menacing the severance of England from the unity of the faith, but under a strong dynasty of undoubted Catholic loyalty, with the entire administrative power, secular as well as spiritual, in the hands of the episcopate. It sprung up spontaneously, unguided, unexcited, by the vital necessity of its nature, among the masses of the nation.

[Sidenote: Association of Christian Brethren enrolled in London.]

[Sidenote: Spirit of the country.]

Leaping over a century, I pass to the year 1525, at which time, or about which time, a society was enrolled in London calling itself "The Association of Christian Brothers."[30] It was composed of poor men, chiefly tradesmen, artisans, a few, a very few of the clergy; but it was carefully organized, it was provided with moderate funds, which were regularly audited; and its paid agents went up and down the country carrying Testaments and tracts with them, and enrolling in the order all persons who dared to risk their lives in such a cause. The harvest had been long ripening. The records of the bishops' courts[31] are filled from the beginning of the century with accounts of prosecutions for heresy—with prosecutions, that is, of men and women to whom the masses, the pilgrimages, the indulgences, the pardons, the effete paraphernalia of the establishment, had become intolerable; who had risen up in blind resistance, and had declared, with passionate anger, that whatever was the truth, all this was falsehood. The bishops had not been idle; they had plied their busy tasks with stake and prison, and victim after victim had been executed with more than necessary cruelty. But it was all in vain: punishment only multiplied offenders, and "the reek" of the martyrs, as was said when Patrick Hamilton was burnt at St. Andrews, "infected all that it did blow upon."[32]

[Sidenote: Absence of definite guidance.]

[Sidenote: Difficulty from the want of books.]

There were no teachers, however, there were no books, no unity of conviction, only a confused refusal to believe in lies. Copies of Wycliffe's Bible remained, which parties here and there, under death penalties if detected, met to read:[33] copies, also, of some of his tracts[34] were extant; but they were unprinted transcripts, most rare and precious, which the watchfulness of the police made it impossible to multiply through the press, and which remained therefore necessarily in the possession of but a few fortunate persons.

The Protestants were thus isolated in single groups or families, without organization, without knowledge of each other, with nothing to give them coherency as a party; and so they might have long continued, except for an impulse from some external circumstances. They were waiting for direction, and men in such a temper are seldom left to wait in vain.

[Sidenote: General condition of the Teutonic nations.]

[Sidenote: The theses on the church-door at Wittenberg,]

[Sidenote: And the kindling of Europe.]

[Sidenote: The gathering under the banner of the Cross.]

[Sidenote: Tyndal's first appearance and character.]

[Sidenote: The translation of the Bible, and the press at Antwerp.]

The state of England did but represent the state of all Northern Europe. Wherever the Teutonic language was spoken, wherever the Teutonic nature was in the people, there was the same weariness of unreality, the same craving for a higher life. England rather lagged behind than was a leader in the race of discontent. In Germany, all classes shared the common feeling; in England it was almost confined to the lowest. But, wherever it existed, it was a free, spontaneous growth in each separate breast, not propagated by agitation, but springing self-sown, the expression of the honest anger of honest men at a system which had passed the limits of toleration, and which could be endured no longer. At such times the minds of men are like a train of gunpowder, the isolated grains of which have no relation to each other, and no effect on each other, while they remain unignited; but let a spark kindle but one of them, and they shoot into instant union in a common explosion. Such a spark was kindled in Germany, at Wittenberg, on the 31st of October, 1517. In the middle of that day Luther's denunciation of Indulgences was fixed against the gate of All Saints church, Wittenberg, and it became, like the brazen serpent in the wilderness, the sign to which the sick spirits throughout the western world looked hopefully and were healed. In all those millions of hearts the words of Luther found an echo, and flew from lip to lip, from ear to ear. The thing which all were longing for was done, and in two years from that day there was scarcely perhaps a village from the Irish Channel to the Danube in which the name of Luther was not familiar as a word of hope and promise. Then rose a common cry for guidance. Books were called for,—above all things, the great book of all, the Bible. Luther's inexhaustible fecundity flowed with a steady stream, and the printing-presses in Germany and in the Free Towns of the Netherlands multiplied Testaments and tracts in hundreds of thousands. Printers published at their own expense as Luther wrote.[35] The continent was covered with disfrocked monks who had become the pedlars of these precious wares;[36] and as the contagion spread, noble young spirits from other countries, eager themselves to fight in God's battle, came to Wittenberg to learn from the champion who had struck the first blow at their great enemy how to use their weapons. "Students from all nations came to Wittenberg," says one, "to hear Luther and Melancthon. As they came in sight of the town they returned thanks to God with clasped hands; for from Wittenberg, as heretofore from Jerusalem, proceeded the light of evangelical truth, to spread thence to the utmost parts of the earth."[37] Thither came young Patrick Hamilton from Edinburgh, whose "reek" was of so much potency, a boy-enthusiast of nature as illustrious as his birth; and thither came also from England, which is here our chief concern, William Tyndal, a man whose history is lost in his work and whose epitaph is the Reformation. Beginning life as a restless Oxford student, he moved thence to Cambridge, thence to Gloucestershire, to be tutor in a knight's family, and there hearing of Luther's doings, and expressing himself with too warm approval to suit his patron's conservatism,[38] he fell into disgrace. From Gloucestershire he removed to London, where Cuthbert Tunstall had lately been made bishop, and from whom he looked for countenance in an intention to translate the New Testament. Tunstall showed little encouragement to this enterprise; but a better friend rose where he was least looked for; and a London alderman, Humfrey Monmouth by name, hearing the young dreamer preach on some occasion at St. Dunstan's, took him to his home for half a year, and kept him there: where "the said Tyndal," as the alderman declared, "lived like a good priest, studying both night and day; he would eat but sodden meat, by his good will, nor drink but small single beer; nor was he ever seen to wear linen about him all the time of his being there."[39] The half year being passed, Monmouth gave him ten pounds, with which provision he went off to Wittenberg; and the alderman, for assisting him in that business, went to the Tower—escaping, however, we are glad to know, without worse consequences than a short imprisonment. Tyndal saw Luther,[40] and under his immediate direction translated the Gospels and Epistles while at Wittenberg. Thence he returned to Antwerp, and settling there under the privileges of the city, he was joined by Joy, who shared his great work with him. Young Frith from Cambridge came to him also, and Barnes, and Lambert, and many others of whom no written record remains, to concert a common scheme of action.

In Antwerp, under the care of these men, was established the printing-press, by which books were supplied, to accomplish for the teaching of England what Luther and Melancthon were accomplishing for Germany. Tyndal's Testament was first printed, then translations of the best German books, reprints of Wycliffe's tracts or original commentaries. Such volumes as the people most required were here multiplied as fast as the press could produce them; and for the dissemination of these precious writings the brave London Protestants dared, at the hazard of their lives, to form themselves into an organized association.

[Sidenote: The London Protestants.]

[Sidenote: The opposing powers.]

[Sidenote: The Protestant armoury.]

It is well to pause and look for a moment at this small band of heroes; for heroes they were, if ever men deserved the name. Unlike the first reformers who had followed Wycliffe, they had no earthly object, emphatically none; and equally unlike them, perhaps, because they had no earthly object, they were all, as I have said, poor men—either students, like Tyndal, or artisans and labourers who worked for their own bread, and in tough contact with reality had learnt better than the great and the educated the difference between truth and lies. Wycliffe had royal dukes and noblemen for his supporters—knights and divines among his disciples—a king and a House of Commons looking upon him, not without favour. The first Protestants of the sixteenth century had for their king the champion of Holy Church, who had broken a lance with Luther; and spiritual rulers over them alike powerful and imbecile, whose highest conception of Christian virtue was the destruction of those who disobeyed their mandates. The masses of the people were indifferent to a cause which promised them no material advantage; and the Commons of Parliament, while contending with the abuses of the spiritual authorities, were laboriously anxious to wash their hands of heterodoxy. "In the crime of heresy, thanked be God," said the bishops in 1529, "there hath no notable person fallen in our time;" no chief priest, chief ruler, or learned Pharisee—not one. "Truth it is that certain apostate friars and monks, lewd priests, bankrupt merchants, vagabonds and lewd idle fellows of corrupt nature, have embraced the abominable and erroneous opinions lately sprung in Germany, and by them have been some seduced in simplicity and ignorance. Against these, if judgment have been exercised according to the laws of the realm, we be without blame. If we have been too remiss or slack, we shall gladly do our duty from henceforth."[41] Such were the first Protestants in the eyes of their superiors. On one side was wealth, rank, dignity, the weight of authority, the majority of numbers, the prestige of centuries; here too were the phantom legions of superstition and cowardice; and here were all the worthier influences so preeminently English, which lead wise men to shrink from change, and to cling to things established, so long as one stone of them remains upon another. This was the army of conservatism. Opposed to it were a little band of enthusiasts, armed only with truth and fearlessness; "weak things of the world," about to do battle in God's name; and it was to be seen whether God or the world was the stronger. They were armed, I say, with the truth. It was that alone which could have given them victory in so unequal a struggle. They had returned to the essential fountain of life; they reasserted the principle which has lain at the root of all religions, whatever their name or outward form, which once burnt with divine lustre in that Catholicism which was now to pass away: the fundamental axiom of all real life, that the service which man owes to God is not the service of words or magic forms, or ceremonies or opinions; but the service of holiness, of purity, of obedience to the everlasting laws of duty.

[Sidenote: The early Protestants did not bring forward any new scheme of doctrine,]

[Sidenote: But protested only against a false superstition, and insisted on the principle of obedience.]

When we look through the writings of Latimer, the apostle of the English Reformation, when we read the depositions against the martyrs, and the lists of their crimes against the established faith, we find no opposite schemes of doctrine, no "plans of salvation;" no positive system of theology which it was held a duty to believe; these things were of later growth, when it became again necessary to clothe the living spirit in a perishable body. We find only an effort to express again the old exhortation of the Wise Man—"Will you hear the beginning and the end of the whole matter? Fear God and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of man."

Had it been possible for mankind to sustain themselves upon this single principle without disguising its simplicity, their history would have been painted in far other colours than those which have so long chequered its surface. This, however, has not been given to us; and perhaps it never will be given. As the soul is clothed in flesh, and only thus is able to perform its functions in this earth, where it is sent to live; as the thought must find a word before it can pass from mind to mind; so every great truth seeks some body, some outward form in which to exhibit its powers. It appears in the world, and men lay hold of it, and represent it to themselves, in histories, in forms of words, in sacramental symbols; and these things which in their proper nature are but illustrations, stiffen into essential fact, and become part of the reality. So arises in era after era an outward and mortal expression of the inward immortal life; and at once the old struggle begins to repeat itself between the flesh and the spirit, the form and the reality. For a while the lower tendencies are held in check; the meaning of the symbolism is remembered and fresh; it is a living language, pregnant and suggestive. By and bye, as the mind passes into other phases, the meaning is forgotten; the language becomes a dead language; and the living robe of life becomes a winding-sheet of corruption. The form is represented as everything, the spirit as nothing; obedience is dispensed with; sin and religion arrange a compromise; and outward observances, or technical inward emotions, are converted into jugglers' tricks, by which men are enabled to enjoy their pleasures and escape the penalties of wrong. Then such religion becomes no religion, but a falsehood; and honourable men turn away from it, and fall back in haste upon the naked elemental life.

[Sidenote: The last form of the corruption of Catholicism.]

This, as I understand it, was the position of the early Protestants. They found the service of God buried in a system where obedience was dissipated into superstition; where sin was expiated by the vicarious virtues of other men; where, instead of leading a holy life, men were taught that their souls might be saved through masses said for them, at a money rate, by priests whose licentiousness disgraced the nation which endured it; a system in which, amidst all the trickery of the pardons, pilgrimages, indulgences,—double-faced as these inventions are, wearing one meaning in the apologies of theologians, and quite another to the multitude who live and suffer under their influence,—one plain fact at least is visible. The people substantially learnt that all evils which could touch either their spirits or their bodies might be escaped by means which resolved themselves, scarcely disguised, into the payment of moneys.

[Sidenote: The Protestants turn to the Bible and to the life of Christ.]

The superstition had lingered long; the time had come when it was to pass away. Those in whom some craving lingered for a Christian life turned to the heart of the matter, to the book which told them who Christ was, and what he was; and finding there that holy example for which they longed, they flung aside in one noble burst of enthusiastic passion the disguise which had concealed it from them. They believed in Christ, not in the bowing rood, or the pretended wood of the cross on which he suffered; and when that saintly figure had once been seen,—the object of all love, the pattern of all imitation,—thenceforward neither form nor ceremony should stand between them and their God.

[Sidenote: The dangers which they had to encounter.]

[Sidenote: Henry VIII. their only and very doubtful friend.]

[Sidenote: Two thousand books out against transubstantiation.]

Under much confusion of words and thoughts, confusion pardonable in all men, and most of all in them, this seems to me to be transparently visible in the aim of these "Christian Brothers"; a thirst for some fresh and noble enunciation of the everlasting truth, the one essential thing for all men to know and believe. And therefore they were strong; and therefore they at last conquered. Yet if we think of it, no common daring was required in those who would stand out at such a time in defence of such a cause. The bishops might seize them on mere suspicion; and the evidence of the most abandoned villains sufficed for their conviction.[42] By the act of Henry V., every officer, from the lord chancellor to the parish constable, was sworn to seek them out and destroy them; and both bishops and officials had shown no reluctance to execute their duty. Hunted like wild beasts from hiding-place to hiding-place, decimated by the stake, with the certainty that however many years they might be reprieved, their own lives would close at last in the same fiery trial; beset by informers, imprisoned, racked, and scourged; worst of all, haunted by their own infirmities, the flesh shrinking before the dread of a death of agony,—thus it was that they struggled on; earning for themselves martyrdom,—for us, the free England in which we live and breathe. Among the great, until Cromwell came to power, they had but one friend, and he but a doubtful one, who long believed the truest kindness was to kill them. Henry VIII. was always attracted towards the persons of the reformers. Their open bearing commanded his respect. Their worst crime in the bishops' eyes—the translating the Bible—was in his eyes not a crime, but a merit; he had himself long desired an authorized English version, and at length compelled the clergy to undertake it; while in the most notorious of the men themselves, in Tyndal and in Frith, he had more than once expressed an anxious interest.[43] But the convictions of his early years were long in yielding. His feeling, though genuine, extended no further than to pity, to a desire to recover estimable heretics out of errors which he would endeavour to pardon. They knew, and all the "brethren" knew, that if they persisted, they must look for the worst from the king and from every earthly power; they knew it, and they made their account with it. An informer deposed to the council, that he had asked one of the society "how the King's Grace did take the matter against the sacrament; which answered, the King's Highness was extreme against their opinions, and would punish them grievously; also that my Lords of Norfolk and Suffolk, my Lord Marquis of Exeter, with divers other great lords, were very extreme against them. Then he (the informer) asked him how he and his fellows would do seeing this, the which answered they had two thousand books out against the Blessed Sacrament, in the commons' hands; and if it were once in the commons' heads, they would have no further care."[44]

[Sidenote: Resolution to persecute systematically.]

Tyndal then being at work at Antwerp, and the society for the dispersion of his books thus preparing itself in England, the authorities were not slow in taking the alarm. The isolated discontent which had prevailed hitherto had been left to the ordinary tribunals; the present danger called for measures of more systematic coercion. This duty naturally devolved on Wolsey, and the office of Grand Inquisitor, which he now assumed, could not have fallen into more competent hands.

[Sidenote: The conduct of the persecution undertaken by Wolsey; who, however, used his powers with unusual leniency.]

[Sidenote: Heretics outlawed by a common consent of the great Powers.]

Wolsey was not cruel. There is no instance, I believe, in which he of his special motion sent a victim to the stake:—it would be well if the same praise could be allowed to Cranmer. There was this difference between the cardinal and other bishops, that while they seemed to desire to punish, Wolsey was contented to silence; while they, in their conduct of trials, made escape as difficult as possible, Wolsey sought rather to make submission easy. He was too wise to suppose that he could cauterize heresy, while the causes of it, in the corruption of the clergy, remained unremoved; and the remedy to which he trusted, was the infusing new vigour into the constitution of the church.[45] Nevertheless, he was determined to repress, as far as outward measures could repress it, the spread of the contagion; and he set himself to accomplish his task with the full energy of his nature, backed by the whole power, spiritual and secular, of the kingdom. The country was covered with his secret police, arresting suspected persons and searching for books. In London the scrutiny was so strict that at one time there was a general flight and panic; suspected butchers, tailors, and carpenters, hiding themselves in the holds of vessels in the river, and escaping across the Channel.[46] Even there they were not safe. Heretics were outlawed by a common consent of the European governments. Special offenders were hunted through France by the English emissaries with the permission and countenance of the court,[47] and there was an attempt to arrest Tyndal at Brussels, from which, for that time, he happily escaped.[48]

[Sidenote: Barnes and Latimer summoned before Wolsey.]

Simultaneously the English universities fell under examination, in consequence of the appearance of dangerous symptoms among the younger students. Dr. Barnes, returning from the continent, had used violent language in a pulpit at Cambridge; and Latimer, then a neophyte in heresy, had grown suspect, and had alarmed the heads of houses. Complaints against both of them were forwarded to Wolsey, and they were summoned to London to answer for themselves.

[Sidenote: Latimer is dismissed.]

[Sidenote: Barnes is committed to the Fleet and abjures.]

Latimer, for some cause, found favour with the cardinal, and was dismissed, with a hope on the part of his judge that his accusers might prove as honest as he appeared to be, and even with a general licence to preach.[49] Barnes was less fortunate; he was far inferior to Latimer; a noisy, unwise man, without reticence or prudence. In addition to his offences in matters of doctrine, he had attacked Wolsey himself with somewhat vulgar personality; and it was thought well to single him out for a public, though not a very terrible admonition. His house had been searched for books, which he was suspected, and justly suspected, of having brought with him from abroad. These, however, through a timely warning of the danger, had been happily secreted,[50] or it might have gone harder with him. As it was, he was committed to the Fleet on the charge of having used heretical language. An abjuration was drawn up by Wolsey, which he signed; and while he remained in prison preparations were made for a ceremony, in which he was to bear a part, in St. Paul's church, by which the Catholic authorities hoped to produce some salutary effect on the disaffected spirits of London.

[Sidenote: Preparation for a ceremony in St. Paul's church.]

Vast quantities of Tyndal's publications had been collected by the police. The bishops, also, had subscribed among themselves[51] to buy up the copies of the New Testament before they left Antwerp;—an unpromising method, like an attempt to extinguish fire by pouring oil upon it; they had been successful, however, in obtaining a large immediate harvest, and a pyramid of offending volumes was ready to be consumed in a solemn auto da fe.

[Sidenote: Procession from the Fleet.]

[Sidenote: Barnes and five Stillyard men taken to St. Paul's.]

In the morning of Shrove Sunday, then, 1527, we are to picture to ourselves a procession moving along London streets from the Fleet prison to St. Paul's Cathedral. The warden of the Fleet was there, and the knight marshal, and the tipstaffs, and "all the company they could make," "with bills and glaives;" and in the midst of these armed officials, six men marching in penitential dresses, one carrying a lighted taper five pounds' weight, the others with symbolic fagots, signifying to the lookers-on the fate which their crimes had earned for them, but which this time, in mercy, was remitted. One of these was Barnes; the other five were "Stillyard men," undistinguishable by any other name, but detected members of the brotherhood.

It was eight o'clock when they arrived at St. Paul's. The people had flocked in crowds before them. The public seats and benches were filled. All London had hurried to the spectacle. A platform was erected in the centre of the nave, on the top of which, enthroned in pomp of purple and gold and splendour, sate the great cardinal, supported on each side with eighteen bishops, mitred abbots, and priors—six-and-thirty in all; his chaplains and "spiritual doctors" sitting also where they could find place, "in gowns of damask and satin." Opposite the platform, over the north door of the cathedral, was a great crucifix—a famous image, in those days called the Rood of Northen; and at the foot of it, inside a rail, a fire was burning, with the sinful books, the Tracts and Testaments, ranged round it in baskets, waiting for the execution of sentence.

[Sidenote: And exposed for a public penance.]

Such was the scene into the midst of which the six prisoners entered. A second platform stood in a conspicuous place in front of the cardinal's throne, where they could be seen and heard by the crowd; and there upon their knees, with their fagots on their shoulders, they begged pardon of God and the Holy Catholic Church for their high crimes and offences. When the confession was finished, Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, preached a sermon: and the sermon over, Barnes turned to the people, declaring that "he was more charitably handled than he deserved, his heresies were so heinous and detestable."

[Sidenote: They are led round a fire, and throw in their fagots. The Bible burning.]

There was no other religious service: mass had perhaps been said previous to the admission into the church of heretics lying under censure; and the knight marshal led the prisoners down from the stage to the fire underneath the crucifix. They were taken within the rails, and three times led round the blazing pile, casting in their fagots as they passed. The contents of the baskets were heaped upon the fagots, and the holocaust was complete. This time, an unbloody sacrifice was deemed sufficient. The church was satisfied with penance, and Fisher pronounced the prisoners absolved, and received back into communion.[52]

So ended this strange exhibition, designed to work great results on the consciences of the spectators. It may be supposed, however, that men whom the tragedies of Smithfield failed to terrify, were not likely to be affected deeply by melodrame and blazing paper.

[Sidenote: Story of Anthony Dalaber.]

A story follows of far deeper human interest, a story in which the persecution is mirrored with its true lights and shadows, unexaggerated by rhetoric; and which, in its minute simplicity, brings us face to face with that old world, where men like ourselves lived, and worked, and suffered, three centuries ago.

[Sidenote: Cardinal's College founded by Wolsey,]

[Sidenote: Who introduces into Oxford a number of Cambridge students of unusual promise, but lying under suspicion of heresy.]

Two years before the time at which we have now arrived, Wolsey, in pursuance of his scheme of converting the endowments of the religious houses to purposes of education, had obtained permission from the pope to suppress a number of the smaller monasteries. He had added largely to the means thus placed at his disposal from his own resources, and had founded the great college at Oxford, which is now called Christ church.[53] Desiring his magnificent institution to be as perfect as art could make it, he had sought his professors in Rome, in the Italian universities, wherever genius or ability could be found; and he had introduced into the foundation several students from Cambridge, who had been reported to him as being of unusual promise. Frith, of whom we have heard, was one of these. Of the rest, John Clark, Sumner, and Taverner are the most noticeable. At the time at which they were invited to Oxford, they were tainted, or some of them were tainted, in the eyes of the Cambridge authorities, with suspicion of heterodoxy;[54] and it is creditable to Wolsey's liberality, that he set aside these unsubstantiated rumours, not allowing them to weigh against ability, industry, and character. The church authorities thought only of crushing what opposed them, especially of crushing talent, because talent was dangerous. Wolsey's noble anxiety was to court talent, and if possible to win it.

[Sidenote: They infect Oxford; and the first Protestant divinity class is formed at Wolsey's college.]

The young Cambridge students, however, ill repaid his confidence (so, at least, it must have appeared to him), and introduced into Oxford the rising epidemic. Clark, as was at last discovered, was in the habit of reading St. Paul's Epistles to young men in his rooms; and a gradually increasing circle of undergraduates, of three or four years' standing,[55] from various colleges, formed themselves into a spiritual freemasonry, some of them passionately insisting on being admitted to the lectures, in spite of warnings from Clark himself, whose wiser foresight knew the risk which they were running, and shrank from allowing weak giddy spirits to thrust themselves into so fearful peril.[56]

[Sidenote: Garret, fellow of Magdalen, and member of the London Society,]

[Sidenote: Introduces into Oxford the forbidden books from Germany.]

This little party had been in the habit of meeting for about six months,[57] when at Easter, 1527, Thomas Garret, a fellow of Magdalen,[58] who had gone out of residence, and was curate at All Hallows church, in London, reappeared in Oxford. Garret was a secret member of the London Society, and had come down at Clark's instigation, to feel his way in the university. So excellent a beginning had already been made, that he had only to improve upon it. He sought out all such young men as were given to Greek, Hebrew, and the polite Latin;[59] and in this visit met with so much encouragement, that the Christmas following he returned again, this time bringing with him treasures of forbidden books, imported by "the Christian Brothers"; New Testaments, tracts and volumes of German divinity, which he sold privately among the initiated.

[Sidenote: Orders for his arrest are sent down from London.]

He lay concealed, with his store, at "the house of one Radley,"[60] the position of which cannot now be identified; and there he remained for several weeks, unsuspected by the university authorities, till orders were sent by Wolsey to the Dean of Christchurch for his arrest. Precise information was furnished at the same time respecting himself, his mission in Oxford, and his place of concealment.[61]

[Sidenote: Tuesday, Feb. 17, 1528. He is warned by a proctor to escape.]

The proctors were put upon the scent, and directed to take him; but one of them, Arthur Cole, of Magdalen, by name, not from any sympathy with Garret's objects, as the sequel proved, but probably from old acquaintance, for they were fellows at the same college, gave him information of his danger, and warned him to escape.

His young friends, more alarmed for their companion than for themselves, held a meeting instantly to decide what should be done; and at this meeting was Anthony Dalaber, an undergraduate of Alban Hall, and one of Clark's pupils, who will now tell the story of what followed.

[Sidenote: Dalaber's narrative.]

"The Christmas before that time, I, Anthony Dalaber, the scholar of Alban Hall, who had books of Master Garret, had been in my country, at Dorsetshire, at Stalbridge, where I had a brother, parson of this parish, who was very desirous to have a curate out of Oxford, and willed me in any wise to get him one there, if I could. This just occasion offered, it was thought good among the brethren (for so we did not only call one another, but were indeed one to another), that Master Garret, changing his name, should be sent forth with my letters into Dorsetshire, to my brother, to serve him there for a time, until he might secretly convey himself from thence some whither over the sea. According hereunto I wrote my letters in all haste possible unto my brother, for Master Garret to be his curate; but not declaring what he was indeed, for my brother was a rank papist, and afterwards was the most mortal enemy that ever I had, for the Gospel's sake.

[Sidenote: Feb. 18. Garret leaves Oxford.]

"So on Wednesday (Feb. 18), in the morning before Shrovetide, Master Garret departed out of Oxford towards Dorsetshire, with my letter, for his new service."

[Sidenote: Anthony Dalaber, of Alban Hall, who has been concerned in the escape, takes measures to avoid suspicion,]

[Sidenote: And moves to Gloucester College.]

The most important person being thus, as was supposed, safe from immediate danger, Dalaber was at leisure to think a little about himself; and supposing, naturally, that the matter would not end there, and that some change of residence might be of advantage for his own security, he moved off from Alban Hall (as undergraduates it seems were then at liberty to do) to Gloucester College,[62] under pretence that he desired to study civil law, for which no facilities existed at the hall. This little matter was effected on the Thursday; and all Friday and Saturday morning he "was so much busied in setting his poor stuff in order, his bed, his books, and such things else as he had," that he had no leisure to go forth anywhere those two days, Friday and Saturday.

[Sidenote: Garret returns to Oxford, Friday, Feb. 20.]

"Having set up my things handsomely," he continues, "that same day, before noon, I determined to spend that whole afternoon, until evensong time, at Frideswide College,[63] at my book in mine own study; and so shut my chamber door unto me, and my study door also, and took into my head to read Francis Lambert upon the Gospel of St. Luke, which book only I had then within there. All my other books written on the Scriptures, of which I had great numbers, I had left in my chamber at Alban's Hall, where I had made a very secret place to keep them safe in, because it was so dangerous to have any such books. And so, as I was diligently reading in the same book of Lambert upon Luke, suddenly one knocked at my chamber door very hard, which made me astonished, and yet I sat still and would not speak; then he knocked again more hard, and yet I held my peace; and straightway he knocked again yet more fiercely; and then I thought this: peradventure it is somebody that hath need of me: and therefore I thought myself bound to do as I would be done unto; and so, laying my book aside, I came to the door and opened it, and there was Master Garret, as a man amazed, whom I thought to have been with my brother, and one with him."

[Sidenote: He is taken, and shut up at Lincoln.]

[Sidenote: From whence he escapes, Saturday, Feb. 21,]

Garret had set out on his expedition into Dorsetshire, but had been frightened, and had stolen back into Oxford on the Friday, to his old hiding-place, where, in the middle of the night, the proctors had taken him. He had been carried to Lincoln, and shut up in a room in the rector's house, where he had been left all day. In the afternoon the rector went to chapel, no one was stirring about the college, and he had taken advantage of the opportunity to slip the bolt of the door and escape. He had a friend at Gloucester College, "a monk who had bought books of him;" and Gloucester lying on the outskirts of the town, he had hurried down there as the readiest place of shelter. The monk was out; and as no time was to be lost, Garret asked the servant on the staircase to show him Dalaber's rooms.

[Sidenote: And goes to Dalaber's rooms.]

As soon as the door was opened, "he said he was undone, for he was taken." "Thus he spake unadvisedly in the presence of the young man, who at once slipped down the stairs," it was to be feared, on no good errand. "Then I said to him," Dalaber goes on, "alas, Master Garret, by this your uncircumspect coming here and speaking so before the young man, you have disclosed yourself and utterly undone me. I asked him why he was not in Dorsetshire. He said he had gone a day's journey and a half; but he was so fearful, his heart would none other but that he must needs return again unto Oxford. With deep sighs and plenty of tears, he prayed me to help to convey him away; and so he cast off his hood and gown wherein he came to me, and desired me to give him a coat with sleeves, if I had any; and he told me that he would go into Wales, and thence convey himself, if he might, into Germany. Then I put on him a sleeved coat of mine. He would also have had another manner of cap of me, but I had none but priestlike, such as his own was.

[Sidenote: Dalaber lends him a disguise, and he again leaves Oxford.]

"Then kneeled we both down together upon our knees, and lifting up our hearts and hands to God our heavenly Father, desired him, with plenty of tears, so to conduct and prosper him in his journey, that he might well escape the danger of all his enemies, to the glory of His Holy Name, if His good pleasure and will so were. And then we embraced and kissed the one the other, the tears so abundantly flowing out from both our eyes, that we all bewet both our faces, and scarcely for sorrow could we speak one to another. And so he departed from me, apparelled in my coat, being committed unto the tuition of our Almighty and merciful Father.

"When he was gone down the stairs from my chamber, I straightways did shut my chamber door, and went into my study; and taking the New Testament in my hands, kneeled down on my knees, and with many a deep sigh and salt tear, I did, with much deliberation, read over the tenth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel,[64] praying that God would endue his tender and lately-born little flock in Oxford with heavenly strength by his Holy Spirit; that quietly to their own salvation, with all godly patience, they might bear Christ's heavy cross, which I now saw was presently to be laid on their young and weak backs, unable to bear so huge a burden without the great help of his Holy Spirit.

[Sidenote: Dalaber goes to Frideswide.]

"This done, I laid aside my book safe, folded up Master Garret's gown and hood, and so, having put on my short gown, and shut my doors, I went towards Frideswide (Christchurch), to speak with that worthy martyr of God, Master Clark. But of purpose I went by St. Mary's church, to go first unto Corpus Christi College, to speak with Diet and Udal, my faithful brethren and fellows in the Lord. By chance I met by the way a brother of ours, one Master Eden, fellow of Magdalen, who, as soon as he saw me, said, we were all undone, for Master Garret was returned, and was in prison. I said it was not so; he said it was. I heard, quoth he, our Proctor, Master Cole, say and declare the same this day. Then I told him what was done; and so made haste to Frideswide, to find Master Clark, for I thought that he and others would be in great sorrow.

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