Luther's Works in England – Consultation of the Bishops – The Bull of Leo X Published in England – Luther's Books Burnt – Letter of Henry VIII – He Undertakes to Write Against Luther – Cry of Alarm – Tradition and Sacramentalism – Prudence of Sir T. More – The Book Presented to the Pope – Defender of the Faith – Exultation of the King
WHILE a plain minister was commencing the Reformation in a tranquil valley in the west of England, powerful reinforcements were landing on the shores of Kent. The writings and actions of Luther excited a lively sensation in Great Britain. His appearance before the diet of Worms was a common subject of conversation. Ships from the harbors of the Low Countries brought his books to London, and the German printers had made answer to the nuncio Aleander, who was prohibiting the Lutheran works in the empire: "Very well! we shall send them to England!" One might almost say that England was destined to be the asylum of truth. And in fact, the Theses of 1517, the Explanation of the Lord's Prayer, the books against Emser, against the papacy of Rome, against the bull of Antichrist, the Epistle to the Galatians, the Appeal to the German nobility, and above all, the Babylonish Captivity of the Church-all crossed the sea, were translated, and circulated throughout the kingdom. The German and English nations, having a common origin and being sufficiently alike at that time in character and civilization, the works intended for one might be read by the other with advantage. The monk in his cell, the country gentleman in his hall, the doctor in his college, the tradesman in his shop, and even the bishop in his palace, studied these extraordinary writings. The laity in particular, who had been prepared by Wickliffe and disgusted by the avarice and disorderly lives of the priests, read with enthusiasm the eloquent pages of the Saxon monk. They strengthened all hearts.
The papacy was not inactive in presence of all these efforts. The times of Gregory VII and of Innocent III, it is true, were past; and weakness and irresolution had succeeded to the former energy and activity of the Roman pontificate. The spiritual power had resigned the dominion of Europe to the secular powers, and it was doubtful whether faith in the papacy could be found in the papacy itself. Yet a German (Dr. Eck) by the most indefatigable exertions had extorted a bull from the profane Leo X, and this bull had just reached England. The pope himself sent it to Henry, calling upon him to extirpate the Lutheran heresy. The king handed it to Wolsey, and the latter transmitted it to the bishops, who, after reading the heretic's books, met together to discuss the matter. There was more Romish faith in London than in the Vatican. "This false friar," exclaimed Wolsey, "attacks submission to the clergy-that fountain of all virtues." The humanist prelates were the most annoyed; the road they had taken ended in an abyss, and they shrank back in alarm. Tonstall, the friend of Erasmus, afterward bishop of London, and who had just returned from his embassy to Germany where Luther had been painted to him in the darkest colors, was particularly violent: "This monk is a Proteus... I mean an atheist. If you allow the heresies to grow up which he is scattering with both hands, they will choke the faith and the church will perish. Had we not enough of the Wickliffites? -here are new legions of the same kind!... Today Luther calls for the abolition of the mass; tomorrow he will ask for the abolition of Jesus Christ. He rejects everything, and puts nothing in its place. 'What! if barbarians plunder our frontiers, we punish them... and shall we bear with heretics who plunder our altars?... No! by the mortal agony that Christ endured, I entreat you... What am I saying? the whole church conjures you to combat against this devouring dragon... to punish this hell-dog, to silence his sinister howlings, and to drive him shamefully back into his den." Thus spoke the eloquent Tonstall; nor was Wolsey far behind him. The only attachment at all respectable in this man was that which he entertained for the church; it may perhaps be called respectable, for it was the only one that did not exclusively regard himself. On the 14th May 1521, this English pope, in imitation of the Italian pope, issued his bull against Luther.
It was read (probably on the first Sunday in June) in all the churches during high mass, when the congregation was most numerous. A priest exclaimed: "For every book of Martin Luther's found in your possession within fifteen days after this injunction, you will incur the greater excommunication." Then a public notary, holding the pope's bull in his hand, with a description of Luther's perverse opinions, proceeded towards the principal door of the church and fastened up the document. The people gathered round it; the most competent person read it aloud, while the rest listened; and the following are some of the sentences which, by the pope's order, resounded in the porches of all the cathedral, conventual, collegiate, and parish churches of every county in England: “11. Sins are not pardoned to any, unless, the priest remitting them, he believe they are remitted to him.
“13. If by reason of some impossibility, the contrite be not confessed, or the priest absolve him, not in earnest, but in jest; yet if he believe that he is absolved, he is most truly absolved.
“14. In the sacrament of penance and the remission of a fault, the pope or bishop doth not more than the lowest priest; yea, where there is not a priest, then any Christian will do; yea, if it were a woman or a child.
“26. The pope, the successor of Peter, is not Christ's vicar.
“28. It is not at all in the hand of the church or the pope to decree articles of faith, no, nor to decree the laws of manners or of good works.”
The cardinal-legate, accompanied by the nuncio, by the ambassador of Charles V, and by several bishops, proceeded in great pomp to St. Paul's, where the bishop of Rochester preached, and Wolsey burnt Luther's books. But they were hardly reduced to ashes before sarcasms and jests were heard in every direction. "Fire is not a theological argument," said one. "The papists, who accuse Martin Luther of slaying and murdering Christians," added another, "are like the pickpocket, who began to cry stop thief as soon as he saw himself in danger of being caught." "The bishop of Rochester," said a third, "concludes that because Luther has thrown the pope's decretals into the fire, he would throw in the pope himself... We may hence deduce another syllogism quite as sound: The popes have burnt the New Testament, therefore, if they could, they would burn Christ himself." These jests were rapidly circulated from mouth to mouth. It was not enough that Luther's writings were in England, they must needs be known, and the priests took upon themselves to advertise them. The Reformation was advancing, and Rome herself pushed behind the car.
The cardinal saw that something more was required than these paper autos-da-ff’, and the activity he displayed may indicate what he would have done in Europe if ever he had reached the pontifical chair. "The spirit of Satan left him no repose," says the papist Sanders. Some action out of the ordinary course is needful, thought Wolsey. Kings have hitherto been the enemies of the popes: a king shall now undertake their defense. Princes are not very anxious about learning, a prince shall publish a book!... "Sire," said he to the king, to get Henry in the vein, "you ought to write to the princes of Germany on the subject of this heresy." He did so. Writing to the Archduke Palatine, he said, "This fire, which has been kindled by Luther, and fanned by the arts of the devil, is raging everywhere, If Luther does not repent, deliver him and his audacious treatises to the flames. I offer you my royal co-operation, and even, if necessary, my life." This was the first time Henry showed that cruel thirst which was in after-days to be quenched in the blood of his wives and friends.
The king having taken the first step, it was not difficult for Wolsey to induce him to take another. To defend the honor of Thomas Aquinas, to stand forward as the champion of the church, and to obtain from the pope a title equivalent to that of Christianissimus, most Christian king, were more than sufficient motives to induce Henry to break a lance with Luther. "I will combat with the pen this Cerberus, sprung from the depths of hell," said he, "and if he refuses to retract, the fire shall consume the heretic and his heresies together."
The king shut himself up in his library: all the scholastic tastes with which his youth had been imbued were revived; he worked as if he were archbishop of Canterbury, and not king of England; with the pope's permission he read Luther's writings; he ransacked Thomas Aquinas; forged, with infinite labor, the arrows with which he hoped to pierce the heretic; called several learned men to his aid, and at last published his book. His first words were a cry of alarm. "Beware of the track of this serpent," said he to his Christian readers; "walk on tiptoe; fear the thickets and caves in which he lies concealed, and whence he will dart his poison on you. If he licks you, be careful! the cunning viper caresses only that he may bite!" After that Henry sounded a charge: "Be of good cheer! Filled with the same valor that you would display against Turks, Saracens, and other infidels, march now against this little friar, -a fellow apparently weak, but more formidable through the spirit that animates him than all infidels, Saracens, and Turks put together." Thus did Henry VIII, the Peter the Hermit of the sixteenth century, preach a crusade against Luther, in order to save the papacy.
He had skillfully chosen the ground on which he gave battle: sacramental-ism and tradition are in fact the two essential features of the papal religion; just as a lively faith and Holy Scripture are of the religion of the gospel. Henry did a service to the Reformation, by pointing out the principles it would mainly have to combat; and by furnishing Luther with an opportunity of establishing the authority of the Bible, he made him take a most important step in the path of reform. "If a teaching is opposed to Scripture," said the Reformer, "whatever be its origin-traditions, custom, kings, Thomists, sophists, Satan, or even an angel from heaven, -all from whom it proceeds must be accursed. Nothing can exist contrary to Scripture, and everything must exist for it.”
Henry's book being terminated by the aid of the bishop of Rochester, the king showed it to Sir Thomas More, who begged him to pronounce less decidedly in favor of the papal supremacy. "I will not change a word," replied the king, full of servile devotion to the popedom. "Besides, I have my reasons," and he whispered them in More's ear.
Doctor Clarke, ambassador from England at the court of Rome, was commissioned to present the pope with a magnificently bound copy of the king's work. "The glory of England," said he, "is to be in the foremost rank among the nations in obedience to the papacy." Happily Britain was erelong to know a glory of a very different kind. The ambassador added, that his master, after having refuted Luther's errors with the pen, was ready to combat his adherents with the sword. The pope, touched with this offer, gave him his foot, and then his cheek to kiss, and said to him: "I will do for your master's book as much as the church has done for the works of St. Jerome and St. Augustine.”
The enfeebled papacy had neither the power of intelligence, nor even of fanaticism. It still maintained its pretensions and its pomp, but it resembled the corpses of the mighty ones of the earth that lie in state, clad in their most magnificent robes: splendor above, death and corruption below. The thunderbolts of a Hildebrand ceasing to produce their effect, Rome gratefully accepted the defense of laymen, such as Henry WII and Sir Thomas More, without disdaining their judicial sentences and their scaffolds. "We must honor those noble champions," said the pope to his cardinals, "who show themselves prepared to cut off with the sword the rotten members of Jesus Christ. What title shall we give to the virtuous king of England?"-Protector of the Roman church, suggested one; Apostolic king, said another; and finally, but not without some opposition, Henry VIII was proclaimed Defender of the Faith. At the same time the pope promised ten years indulgence to all readers of the king's book. This was a lure after the fashion of the middle ages, and which never failed in its effect. The clergy compared its author to the wisest of kings; and the book, of which many thousand copies were printed, filled the Christian world (Cochlaeus tell us) with admiration and delight.
Nothing could equal Henry's joy. "His majesty," said the vicar of Croydon, "would not exchange that name for all London and twenty miles round.” The king's fool, entering the room just as his master had received the bull, asked him the cause of his transports. "The pope has just named me Defender of the faith!"-"He, he! good Harry," replied the fool, "let you and me defend one another; but... take my word for it... let the faith alone to defend itself: ”An entire modern system was found in those words. In the midst of the general intoxication, the fool was the only sensible person. But Henry could listen to nothing. Seated on an elevated throne, with the cardinal at his right hand, he caused the pope's letter to be read in public. The trumpets sounded: Wolsey said mass; the king and his court took their seats around a sumptuous table, and the heralds at arms proclaimed: Henricus Dei gratia Rex Angliae et Franciae, Defensor Fidei et Dominus Hiberniae!
Thus was the king of England more than ever united to the pope: whoever brings the Holy Scriptures into his kingdom shall there encounter that material sword, ferrum et materialem gladium, in which the papacy so much delighted.
Wolsey's Machinations to Obtain the Tiara – He Gains Charles V – Alliance between Henry and Charles – Wolsey Offers to Command the Troops – Treaty of Bruges – Henry Believes Himself King of France – Victories of Francis I – Death of Leo
ONE thing only was wanting to check more surely the progress of the gospel: Wolsey's accession to the pontifical throne. Consumed by the desire of reaching "the summit of sacerdotal unity," he formed, to attain this end, one of the most perfidious schemes ambition ever engendered. He thought with others: "The end justifies the means.”
The cardinal could only attain the popedom through the emperor or the king of France; for then, as now, it was the secular powers that really elected the chief of Catholicity. After carefully weighing the influence of these two princes, Wolsey found that the balance inclined to the side of Charles, and his choice was made. A close intimacy of long standing united him to Francis I, but that mattered little; he must betray his friend to gain his friend's rival.
But this was no easy matter. Henry was dissatisfied with Charles the Fifth. Wolsey was therefore obliged to employ every imaginable delicacy in his maneuvers. First he sent Sir Richard Wingfield to the emperor; then he wrote a flattering letter in Henry's name to the princess-regent of the Low Countries. The difficulty was to get the king to sign it. "Have the goodness to put your name," said Wolsey, "even if it should annoy you Highness... You know very well... that women like to be pleased." This argument prevailed with the king, who still possessed a spirit of gallantry. Lastly, Wolsey being named arbitrator between Charles and Francis, resolved to depart for Calais, apparently to hear the complaints of the two princes; but in reality to betray one of them. Wolsey felt as much pleasure in such practices, as Francis in giving battle.
The king of France rejected his arbitration: he had a sharp eye, and his mother one still sharper. "Your master loves me not," said he to Charles's ambassador, "and I do not love him any more, and am determined to be his enemy." It was impossible to speak more plainly. Far from imitating this frankness, the politic Charles endeavored to gain Wolsey, and Wolsey, who was eager to sell himself, adroitly hinted at what price he might be bought. "If the king of England sides with me," Charles informed the cardinal, "you shall be elected pope at the death of Leo X" Francis, betrayed by Wolsey, abandoned by the pope, and threatened by the emperor, determined at last to accept Henry's mediation.
But Charles was now thinking of very different matters. Instead of a mediation, he demanded of the king of England 4,000 of his famous bowmen. Henry smiled as he read the despatch, and looking at Pace his secretary, and Marney the captain of his guards, he said: "Beati qui audiunt et non intelli gunt!" thus forbidding them to understand, and above all to bruit abroad this strange request. It was agreed to raise the number of archers to 6,000; and the cardinal, having the tiara continually before his eyes, departed to perform at Calais the odious comedy of a hypocritical arbitration. Being detained at Dover by contrary winds, the mediator took advantage of this delay to draw up a list of the 6,000 archers and their captains, not forgetting to insert in it, "certain obstinate deer," as Henry had said, "that must of necessity be hunted down." These were some gentlemen whom the king desired to get rid of.
While the ambassadors of the king of France were received at Calais on the 4th of August with great honors, by the lord high chamberlain of England, the cardinal signed a convention with Charles's ministers that Henry should withdraw his promise of the Princess Mary's hand to the dauphin, and give her to the emperor. At the same time he issued orders to destroy the French navy, and to invade France. And, finally, he procured, by way of compensating England for the pension of 16,000 pounds hitherto received from the court of St. Germains, that the emperor should pay henceforward the annual sum of 40,000 marks. Without ready money the bargain would not have been a good one.
This was not all. While Wolsey was waiting to be elected pope, he conceived the idea of becoming a soldier. A commander was wanted for the 6000 archers Henry was sending against the king of France; and why should he not be the cardinal himself? He immediately intrigued to get the noblemen set aside who had been proposed as generals in chief. "Shrewsbury," he said to the king, "is wanted for Scotland-Worcester by his experience is worthy that... you should keep him near you. As for Dorset... he will be very dear." Then the priest added: "Sire, if during my sojourn on the other side of the sea, you have good reason to send your archers... I hasten to inform you that whenever the emperor takes the command of his soldiers, I am ready, although an ecclesiastic, to put myself at the head of yours." What devotedness! Wolsey would cause his cross of cardinal a latere to be carried before him (he said); and neither Francis nor Bayard would be able to resist him. To command at the same time the state, the church, and the army, while awaiting the tiara, -to surround his head with laurels: such was this man's ambition. Unfortunately for him, they were not of that opinion at court. The king made the earl of Essex commander-in-chief.
As Wolsey could not be general, he turned to diplomacy. He hastened to Bruges; and as he entered at the emperor's side, a voice was heard above the crowd, exclaiming, Salve, Rex regis tui atque regni suai! -a sound most pleasing to his ears. People were very much astonished at Bruges by the intimacy existing between the cardinal and the emperor. "There is some mystery beneath it all," they said. Wolsey desired to place the crown of France on Henry's head, and the tiara on his own. Such was the mystery, which was well worth a few civilities to the mighty Charles V. The alliance was concluded, and the contracting parties agreed "to avenge the insults offered to the throne of Jesus Christ," or in other words, to the popedom.
Wolsey, in order to drag Henry into the intrigues which were to procure him the tiara, had reminded him that he was king of France, and the suggestion had been eagerly caught at. At midnight, on the 7th of August, the king dictated to his secretary a letter for Wolsey containing this strange expression: Si ibitis parare regi locum in regno ejus hereditario, Majestas ejus quum tempus erit opportunum, sequetur.
(If you go to prepare a place for the king in his hereditary kingdom, f his Majesty will follow you at a fitting season.)The theologian who had corrected the famous Latin book of the king's against Luther most certainly had not revised this phrase. According to Henry, France was his hereditary kingdom, and Wolsey was going to prepare the throne for him... The king could not restrain his joy at the mere idea, and already he surpassed in imagination both Edward III and the Black Prince. "I am about to attain a glory superior to that which my ancestors have gained by so many wars and battles." Wolsey traced out for him the road to his palace on the banks of the Seine: "Mezieres is about to fall; afterward there is only Rheims, which is not a strong city; and thus your grace will very easily reach Paris." Henry followed on the map the route he would have to take: "Affairs are going on well," wrote the cardinal, "the Lord be praised." In him this Christian language was a mere official formality.
Wolsey was mistaken: things were going on badly. On the 20th of October 1522, Francis I whom so much perfidy had been unable to deceive, -Francis, ambitious and turbulent, but honest in this matter at least, and confiding in the strength of his arms, had suddenly appeared between Cambray and Valenciennes. The emperor fled to Flanders in alarm, and Wolsey, instead of putting himself at the head of the army, had shielded himself under his arbitrator's cloak. Writing to Henry, who, a fortnight before, had by his advice excited Charles to attack France, he said: "I am confident that your virtuous mediation will greatly increase your reputation and honor throughout Christendom." Francis rejected Wolsey's offers, but the object of the latter was attained. The negotiations had gained time for Charles, and bad weather soon stopped the French army. Wolsey returned satisfied to London about the middle of December. It was true that Henry's triumphant entry into Paris became very difficult; but the cardinal was sure of the emperor's favor, and through it (he imagined) of the tiara. Wolsey had done, therefore, what he desired. He had hardly arrived in England when there came news which raised him to the height of happiness: Leo X was dead. His joy surpassed what Henry had felt at the thought of his hereditary kingdom. Protected by the powerful Charles V, to whom he had sacrificed everything, the English cardinal was at last on the point of receiving that pontifical crown which would permit him to crush heresy, and which was, in his eyes, the just reward of so many infamous transactions.
The Just Men of Lincolnshire – Their Assemblies and Teaching – Agnes and Morden – Itinerant Libraries – Polemical Conversations – Sarcasm – Royal Decree and Terror – Depositions and Condemnations – Four Martyrs – A Conclave – Charles Consoles Wolsey
WOLSEY did not stay until he was pope, before persecuting the disciples of the word of God. Desirous of carrying out the stipulations of the convention at Bruges, he had broken out against "the king's subjects who disturbed the apostolic see." Henry had to vindicate the title conferred on him by the pope; the cardinal had to gain the popedom; and both could satisfy their desires by the erection of a few scaffolds.
In the county of Lincoln on the shores of the North Sea, along the fertile banks of the Humber, Trent, and Witham, and on the slopes of the smiling hills, dwelt many peaceful Christians-laborers, artificers, and shepherds-who spent their days in toil, in keeping their flocks, in doing good, and in reading the Bible. The more the gospel-light increased in England, the greater was the increase in the number of these children of peace. These, 'just men," as they were called, were devoid of human knowledge, but they thirsted for the knowledge of God. Thinking they were alone the true disciples of the Lord, they married only among themselves. They appeared occasionally at church; but instead of repeating their prayers like the rest, they sat, said their enemies, "mum like beasts." On Sundays and holidays, they assembled in each other's houses, and sometimes passed a whole night in reading a portion of Scripture. If there chanced to be few books among them, one of the brethren, who had learned by heart the epistle of St. James, the beginning of St. Luke's gospel, the sermon on the mount, or an epistle of St. Paul's, would recite a few verses in a loud and calm voice; then all would piously converse about the holy truths of the faith, and exhort one another to put them in practice. But if any person joined their meetings, who did not belong to their body, they would all keep silent. Speaking much among each other, they were speechless before those from without: fear of the priests and of the fagot made them dumb. There was no family rejoicing without the Scriptures. At the marriage of a daughter of the aged Durdant, one of their patriarchs, the wedding party met secretly in a barn, and read the whole of one of St. Paul's epistles. Marriages, are rarely celebrated with such pastimes as this!
Although they were dumb before enemies or suspected persons, these poor people did not keep silence in the presence of the humble; a glowing proselytism characterized them all. "Come to my house," said the pious Agnes Ashford to James Morden, "and I will teach you some verses of Scripture." Agnes was an educated woman; she could read; Morden came, and the poor woman's chamber was transformed into a school of theology. Agnes began: "Ye are the salt of the earth," and then recited the following verses. Five times did Morden return to Agnes before he knew that beautiful discourse. "We are spread like salt over the various parts of the kingdom," said this Christian woman to the neophyte, "in order that we may check the progress of superstition by our doctrine and our life. But," added she in alarm, "keep this secret in your heart, as a man would keep a thief in prison."
As books were rare, these pious Christians had established a kind of itinerant library, and one John Scrivener was continually engaged in carrying the precious volumes from one to another. But at times, as he was proceeding along the banks of the river, or through the forest glades, he observed that he was followed. He would quicken his pace and run into some barn, where the friendly peasants promptly hid him beneath the straw, or, like the spies of Israel, under the stalks of flax. The bloodhounds arrived, sought and found nothing; and more than once those who so generously harbored these evangelists cruelly expiated the crime of charity.
The disappointed officers had scarcely retired from the neighborhood when these friends of the word of God came out of their hiding-place, and profited by the moment of liberty to assemble the brethren. The persecutions they suffered irritated them against the priests. They worshipped God, read and sang with a low voice; but when the conversation became general, they gave free course to their indignation. "Would you know the use of the pope's pardons?" said one of them; "they are to blind the eyes and empty the purse."-"True pilgrimages," said the tailor Geoffrey of Uxbridge, "consist in visiting the poor and sick-barefoot, if so it please you-for these are the little ones that are God's true image."-"Money spent in pilgrimages," added a third, "serves only to maintain thieves and harlots." The women were often the most animated in the controversy. "What need is there to go to the feet, "said Agnes Ward, who disbelieved in saints, "when we may go to the head?” "The clergy of the good old times," said the wife of David Lewis, "used to lead the people as a hen leadeth her chickens; but now if our priests lead their flocks anywhere, it is to the devil assuredly.”
Erelong there was a general panic throughout this district. The king's confessor John Longland was bishop of Lincoln. This fanatic priest, Wolsey's creature, took, advantage of his position to petition Henry for a severe persecution: this was the ordinary use in England, France, and elsewhere, of the confessors of princes. It was unfortunate that among these pious disciples of the word men of a cynical turn were now and then met with, whose biting sarcasms went beyond all bounds. Wolsey and Longland knew how to employ these expressions in arousing the king's anger. "As one of these fellows," they said, "was busy beating out his corn in his barn, a man chanced to pass by. 'Good morrow, neighbor,' (said the latter), `you are hard at it!'-`Yes,’ replied the old heretic, thinking of transubstantiation, `I am thrashing the corn out of which the priest make God Almighty.’ Henry hesitated no longer.
On the 20th October 1521, nine days after the bull on the Defender of the Faith had been signed at Rome, the king, who was at Windsor, summoned his secretary, and dictated an order commanding all his subjects to assist the bishop of Lincoln against the heretics. "You will obey it at the peril of your lives," added he. The order was transmitted to Longland, and the bishop immediately issued his warrants, and his officers spread terror far and wide. When they beheld them, these peaceful but timid Christians were troubled. Isabella Bartlet, hearing them approach her cottage, screamed out to her husband: "You are a lost man! and I am a dead woman!" This cry was re-echoed from all the cottages of Lincolnshire. The bishop, on his judgment-seat, skillfully played upon these poor unhappy beings to make them accuse one another. Alas! according to the ancient prophecy: "the brother delivered up the brother to death." Robert Bartlet deposed against his brother Richard and his own wife; Jane Bernard accused her own father, and Tredway his mother. It was not until after the most cruel anguish that these poor creatures were driven to such frightful extremities; but the bishop and death terrified them: a small number alone remained firm. As regards heroism, Wickliffe's Reformation brought but a feeble aid to the Reformation of the sixteenth century; still if it did not furnish many heroes, it prepared the English people to love God's word above all things. Of these humble people, some were condemned to do penance in different monasteries; others to carry a fagot on their shoulders thrice round the market-place, and then to stand some time exposed to the jeers of the populace; others were fastened to a post while the executioner branded them on the check with a red-hot iron. They also had their martyrs. Wickliffe's revival had never been without them. Four of these brethren were chosen to be put to death, and among them the pious evangelical colporteur Scrivener. By burning him to ashes the clergy desired to make sure that he would no longer circulate the word of God; and by a horrible refinement of cruelty his children were compelled to set fire to the pile that was to consume their father. They stretched forth their trembling hands, held in the strong grasp of the executioners. Poor children!... But it is easier to burn the limbs of Christians than to quench the Spirit of Heaven. These cruel fires could not destroy among the Lincolnshire peasantry that love of the Bible, which in all ages has been England's strength, far more than the wisdom of her senators or the bravery of her generals.
Having by these exploits gained indisputable claims to the tiara, Wolsey turned his efforts towards Rome. Leo X, as we have seen, was just dead (1522). The cardinal sent Pace to Rome, instructing him to "represent to the cardinals that by choosing a partisan of Charles or Francis they will incur the enmity of one or the other of these princes, and that if they elect some feeble Italian priest, the apostolica see must become the prey of the strongest. Luther's revolt and the emperor's ambition endanger the papacy. There is only one means of preventing the threatening dangers... It is to choose me... Now, go and exert yourself" The conclave opened at Rome on the 27th December, and Wolsey was proposed; but the cardinals were not generally favorable to his election. "He is too young," said one; "too firm," said another. "He will fix the seat of the papacy in England and not in Rome," urged many. He did not receive twenty votes. "The cardinals," wrote the English ambassador, "snarled and quarreled with each other; and their bad faith and hatred increased every day." On the sixth day, only one dish was sent them; and then in despair they chose Adrian, who had been tutor to the emperor, and the cry was raised: Papam habemus!
During all this time Wolsey was in London, consumed by ambition, and counting the days and hours. At length a despatch from Ghent, dated the 22nd January, reached him with these words: "On the 9th of January, the cardinal of Tortosa was elected!"... Wolsey was almost distracted. To gain Charles, he had sacrificed the alliance of Francis I; there was no stratagem that he had not employed, and yet Charles, in spite of his engagements, had procured the election of his tutor!... The emperor knew what must be the cardinal's anger, and endeavored to appease it: "The new pope," he wrote, "is old and sickly; he cannot hold his office long. Beg the cardinal of York for my sake to take great care of his health.”
Charles did more than this: he visited London in person, under pretense of his betrothal with Mary of England, and, in the treaty then drawn up, he consented to the insertion of an article by virtue of which Henry VIII and the mighty emperor bound themselves, if either should infringe the treaty, to appear before Wolsey and to submit to his decisions. The cardinal, gratified by such condescension, grew calm; and at the same time he was soothed with the most flattering hopes. "Charles's imbecile preceptor," they told him, "has arrived at the Vatican, attended only by his female cook; you shall soon make your entrance there surrounded by all your grandeur." To be certain of his game, Wolsey made secret approaches to Francis I, and then waited for the death of the pope.
Character of Tyndale – He Arrives in London – He Preaches – The Cloth and the Ell – The Bishop of London Gives Audience to Tyndale – He Is Dismissed – A Christian Merchant of London – Spirit of Love in the Reformation – Tyndale in Monmouth's House – Fryth Helps Him to Translate the New Testament – Importunities of the Bishop of Lincoln – Persecution in London – Tyndale's Resolution – He departs – His Indignation Against the Prelates – His Hopes
WHILE the cardinal was intriguing to attain his selfish ends, Tyndale was humbly carrying out the great idea of giving the Scriptures of God to England. After bidding a sad farewell to the manor-house of Sodbury, the learned tutor had departed for London. This occurred about the end of 1522 or the beginning of 1523. He had left the university-he had forsaken the house of his protector; his wandering career was about to commence, but a thick veil hid from him all its sorrows. Tyndale, a man simple in his habits, sober, daring, and generous, fearing neither fatigue nor danger, inflexible in his duty, anointed with the Spirit of God, overflowing with love for his brethren, emancipated from human traditions, the servant of God alone, and loving naught but Jesus Christ, imaginative, quick at repartee, and of touching eloquence-such a man might have shone in the foremost ranks; but he preferred a retired life in some poor corner, provided he could give his countrymen the Scriptures of God. Where could he find this calm retreat? was the question he put to himself as he was making his solitary way to London. The metropolitan see was then filled by Cuthbert Tonstall, who was more of a statesman and a scholar than of a churchman, "the first of English men in Greek and Latin literature," said Erasmus. This eulogy of the learned Dutchman occurred to Tyndale's memory. It was the Greek Testament of Erasmus that led me to Christ, said he to himself; why should not the house of Erasmus's friend offer me a shelter that I may translate it.... At last he reached London, and, a stranger in that crowded city, he wandered along the streets, a prey by turns to hope and fear.
Being recommended by Sir John Walsh to Sir Harry Guildford, the king's comptroller, and by him to several priests, Tyndale began to preach almost immediately, especially at St. Dunstan's, and bore into the heart of the capital the truth which had been banished from the banks of the Severn. The word of God was with him the basis of salvation, and the grace of God its essence. His inventive mind presented the truths he proclaimed in a striking manner. He said on one occasion: "It is the blood of Christ that opens the gates of heaven, and not thy works. I am wrong... Yes, if thou wilt have it so, by thy good works shalt thou be saved. -Yet, understand me well,-not by those which thou hast done, but by those which Christ has done for thee. Christ is in thee and thou in him, knit together inseparably. Thou canst not be damned, except Christ be damned with thee; neither can Christ be saved except thou be saved with him." This lucid view of justification by faith places Tyndale among the reformers. He did not take his seat on a bishop's throne, or wear a silken cope; but he mounted the scaffold, and was clothed with a garment of flames. In the service of a crucified Savior this latter distinction is higher than the former.
Yet the translation was his chief business; he spoke to his acquaintances about it, and some of them opposed his project. "The teachings of the doctors," said some of the city tradesmen, "can alone make us understand Scripture." "That is to say," replied Tyndale, "I must measure the yard by the cloth. Look here," continued he, using a practical argument, "here are in your shop twenty pieces of stuff of different lengths... Do you measure the yard by these pieces, or the pieces by the yard?... The universal standard is Scripture." This comparison was easily fixed in the minds of the petty tradesmen of the capital.
Desirous of carrying out his project, Tyndale aspired to become the bishop's chaplain; his ambition was more modest than Wolsey's. The Hellenist possessed qualities which could not fail to please the most learned of English-men in Greek literature: Tonstall and Tyndale both liked and read the same authors. The ex-tutor determined to plead his cause through the elegant and harmonious disciple of Radicus and Gorgias: "Here is one of Isocrates orations that I have translated into Latin," said he to Sir Harry Guildford; "I should be pleased to become chaplain to his lordship the bishop of London; will you beg him to accept this trifle. Isocrates ought to be an excellent recommendation to a scholar; will you be good enough to add yours." Guildford spoke to the bishop, placed the translation in his hands, and Tonstall replied with that benevolence which he showed to everyone. "Your business is in a fair way," said the comptroller to Tyndale; "write a letter to his lordship, and deliver it yourself."
Tyndale's hopes now began to be realized. He wrote his letter in the best style, and then, commending himself to God, proceeded to the episcopal palace. He fortunately knew one of the bishop's officers, William Hebilthwayte, to whom he gave the letter. Hebilthwaite carried it to his lordship, while Tyndale waited. His heart throbbed with anxiety: shall he find at last the long hoped for asylum? The bishop's answer might decide the whole course of his life. If the door is opened, -if the translator of the Scriptures should be settled in the episcopal palace, why should not his London patron receive the truth like his patron at Sodbury? and, in that case, what a future for the church and for the kingdom!... The Reformation was knocking at the door of the hierarchy of England, and the latter was about to utter its yea or its nay. After a few moments' absence Hebilthwayte returned: "I am going to conduct you to his lordship." Tyndale fancied himself that he had attained his wishes.
The bishop was too kind-hearted to refuse an audience to a man who called upon him with the triple recommendation of Isocrates, of the comptroller, and of the king's old companion in arms. He received Tyndale with kindness, a little tempered however with coldness, as if he were a man whose acquaintanceship might compromise him. Tyndale having made known his wishes, the bishop hastened to reply: "Alas! my house is full; I have now more people than I can employ." Tyndale was discomfited by this answer. The bishop of London was a learned man, but wanting in courage and consistency; he gave his right hand to the friends of letters and of the gospel, and his left hand to the friends of the priests; and then endeavored to walk with both. But when he had to choose between the two parties, clerical interests prevailed. There was no lack of bishops, priests, and laymen about him, who intimidated him by their clamors. After taking a few steps forward, he suddenly recoiled. Still Tyndale ventured to hazard a word; but the prelate was cold as before. The humanists, who laughed at the ignorance of the monks, hesitated to touch an ecclesiastical system which lavished on them such rich sinecures. They accepted the new ideas in theory, but not in practice. They were very willing to discuss them at table, but not to proclaim them from the pulpit; and covering the Greek Testament with applause, they tore it in pieces when rendered into the vulgar tongue. "If you will look well about London," said Tonstall coldly to the poor priest, "you will not fail to meet with some suitable employment." This was all Tyndale could obtain. Hebilthwayte waited on him to the door, and the Hellenist departed sad and desponding.
His expectations were disappointed. Driven from the banks of the Severn, without a home in the capital, what would become of the translation of the Scriptures? "Alas!" he said; "I was deceived...there is nothing to be looked for from the bishops... Christ was smitten on the cheek before the bishop, Paul was buffeted before the bishop and a bishop has just turned me away." His dejection did not last long: there was an elastic principle in his soul. "I hunger for the word of God," said he, "I will translate it, whatever they may say or do. God will not suffer me to perish. He never made a mouth but he made food for it, nor a body, but he made raiment also.
This trustfulness was not misplaced. It was the privilege of a layman to give what the bishop refused. Among Tyndale's hearers at St. Dunstan's was a rich merchant named Humphrey Monmouth, who had visited Rome, and to whom (as well as to his companions) the pope had been so kind as to give certain Roman curiosities, such as indulgences, a culpa et a poena. Ships laden with his manufactures every year quitted London for foreign countries. He had formerly attended Colet's preaching at St. Paul's, and from the year 1515 he had known the word of God. He was one of the gentlest and most obliging men in England; he kept open house for the friends of learning and of the gospel, and his library contained the newest publications. In putting on Jesus Christ, Monmouth had particularly striven to put on his character; he helped generously with his purse both priests and men of letters; he gave forty pounds sterling to the chaplain of the bishop of London, the same to the king's, to the provincial of the Augustines, and to others besides. Latimer, who sometimes dined with him, once related in the pulpit an anecdote characteristic of the friends of the Reformation in England. Among the regular guests at Monmouth's table was one of his poorest neighbors, a zealous Romanist, to whom his generous host often used to lend money. One day when the pious merchant was extolling Scripture and blaming popery, his neighbor turned pale, rose from the table, and left the room. "I will never set foot in his house again," he said to his friends, "and I will never borrow another shilling of him." He next went to the bishop and laid an information against his benefactor. Monmouth forgave him, and tried to bring him back; but the neighbor constantly turned out of his way. Once, however, they met in a street so narrow that he could not escape. "I will pass by without looking at him," said the Romanist turning away his head. But Monmouth went straight to him, took him by the hand, and said affectionately: "Neighbor, what wrong have I done you?" and he continued to speak to him with so much love, that the poor man fell on his knees, burst into tears, and begged his forgiveness. Such was the spirit which, at the very outset, animated the work of the Reformation in England: it was acceptable to God, and found favor with the people.
Monmouth being edified by Tyndale's sermons, inquired into his means of living. "I have none," replied he, "but I hope to enter into the bishop's service." This was before his visit to Tonstall. When Tyndale saw all his hopes frustrated, he went to Monmouth and told him everything. "Come and live with me," said the wealthy merchant, "and there labor." God did to Tyndale according to his faith. Simple, frugal, devoted to work, he studied night and day; and wishing to guard his mind against "being overcharged with surfeiting," he refused the delicacies of his patron's table, and would take nothing but sodden meat and small beer. It would even seem that he carried simplicity in dress almost too far. By his conversation and his works, he shed over the house of his patron the mild light of the Christian virtues, and Monmouth loved him more and more every day.
Tyndale was advancing in his work when John Fryth, the mathematician of King's College, Cambridge, arrived in London. It is probable that Tyndale, feeling the want of an associate, had invited him. United like Luther and Melancthon, the two friends held many precious conversations together. "I will consecrate my life wholly to the church of Jesus Christ," said Fryth. "To be a good man, you must give great part of yourself to your parents, a greater part to your country; but the greatest of all to the church of the Lord." "The people should know the word of God," they said both. "The interpretation of the gospel, without the intervention of councils or popes, is sufficient to create a saving faith in the heart." They shut themselves up in the little room in Monmouth's house, and translated chapter after chapter from the Greek into plain English. The bishop of London knew nothing of the work going on a few yards from him, and everything was succeeding to Tyndale's wishes when it was interrupted by an unforeseen circumstance.
Longland, the persecutor of the Lincolnshire Christians, did not confine his activity within the limits of his diocese; he besieged the king, the cardinal, and the queen with his cruel importunities, using Wolsey's influence with Henry, and Henry's with Wolsey. "His majesty," he wrote to the cardinal, "shows in this holy dispute as much goodness as zeal... yet, be pleased to urge him to overthrow God's enemies." And then turning to the king, the confessor said, to spur him on: "The cardinal is about to fulminate the greater excommunication against all who possess Luther's works or hold his opinions, and to make the booksellers sign a bond before the magistrates, not to sell heretical books." "Wonderful!" replied Henry with a sneer, "they will fear the magisterial bond, I think, more than the clerical excommunication." And yet the consequences of the "clerical" excommunication were to be very positive; whosoever persevered in his offense was to be pursued by the law ad ignem, even to the fire. At last the confessor applied to the queen: "We cannot be sure of restraining the press," he said to her. "These wretched books come to us from Germany, France, and the Low Countries; and are even printed in the very midst of us. Madam, we must train and prepare skillful men, such as are able to discuss the controverted points, so that the laity, struck on the one hand by well developed arguments, and frightened by the fear of punishment on the other, may be kept in obedience." In the bishop's system, "fire" was to be the complement of Roman learning. The essential idea of Jesuitism is already visible in this conception of Henry the Eighth's confessor. That system is the natural development of Romanism.
Tonstall, urged forward by Longland, and desirous of showing himself as holy a churchman as he had once been a skillful statesman and elegant scholar-Tonstall, the friend of Erasmus, began to persecute. He would have feared to shed blood, like Longland; but there are measures which torture the mind and not the body, and which the most moderate men fear not to make use of. John Higgins, Henry Chambers, Thomas Eaglestone, a priest named Edmund Spilman, and some other Christians in London, used to meet and read portions of the Bible in English, and even asserted publicly that "Luther had more learning in his little finger than all the doctors in England." The bishop ordered these rebels to be arrested: he flattered and alarmed them, threatening them with a cruel death (which he would hardly have inflicted on them), and by these skillful practices reduced them to silence.
Tyndale, who witnessed this persecution, feared lest the stake should interrupt his labor. If those who read a few fragments of Scripture are threatened with death, what will he not have to endure who is translating the whole? His friends entreated him to withdraw from the bishop's pursuit. "Alas!" he exclaimed, "is there then no place where I can translate the Bible?... It is not the bishop's house alone that is closed against me, but all England."
He then made a great sacrifice. Since there is no place in his own country where he can translate the word of God, he will go and seek one among the nations of the continent. It is true the people are unknown to him; he is without resources; perhaps persecution and even death await him there.... It matters not! some time must elapse before it is known what he is doing, and perhaps he will have been able to translate the Bible. He turned his eyes towards Germany. "God does not destine us to a quiet life here below," he said. "If he calls us to peace on the part of Jesus Christ, he calls us to war on the part of the world.”
There lay at that moment in the river Thames a vessel loading for Hamburg. Monmouth gave Tyndale ten pounds sterling for his voyage, and other friends contributed a like amount. He left the half of this sum in the hands of his benefactor to provide for his future wants, and prepared to quit London, where he had spent a year. Rejected by his fellow-countrymen, persecuted by the clergy, and carrying with him only his New Testament and his ten pounds, he went on board the ship, shaking off the dust of his feet, according to his Master's precept, and that dust fell back on the priests of England. He was indignant (says the chronicler) against those coarse monks, covetous priests, and pompous prelates, who were waging an impious war against God. "What a trade is that of the priests!" he said in one of his later writings; "they want money for everything: money for baptism, money for churchings, for weddings, for buryings, for images, brotherhoods, penances, soul-masses, bells, organs, chalices, copes, surplices, ewers, censers, and all manner of ornaments. Poor sheep! The parson shears, the vicar shaves, the parish priest polls, the friar scrapes, the indulgence seller pares... all that you want is a butcher to flay you and take away your skin. He will not leave you long. Why are your prelates dressed in red? Because they are ready to shed the blood of whomsoever seeketh the word of God. Scourge of states, devastators of kingdoms, the priests take away not only Holy Scripture, but also prosperity and peace; but of their councils is no layman: reigning over all, they obey nobody; and making all concur to their own greatness, they conspire against every kingdom."
No kingdom was to be more familiar than England with the conspiracies of the papacy of which Tyndale spoke; and yet none was to free itself more irrevocably from the power of Rome.
Yet Tyndale was leaving the shores of his native land, and as he turned his eyes towards the new countries, hope revived in his heart. He was going to be free, and he would use his liberty to deliver the word of God, so long held captive. "The priests," he said one day, "when they had slain Christ, set poleaxes to keep him in his sepulcher, that he should not rise again; even so have our priests buried the Testament of God, and all their study is to keep it down, that it rise not again. But the hour of the Lord is come, and nothing can hinder the word of God, as nothing could hinder Jesus Christ of old from issuing from the tomb." Indeed that poor man, then sailing towards Germany, was to send back, even from the banks of the Elbe, the eternal gospel to his countrymen.