terça-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2014

History of the Reformation: Of the Sixteenth Century: Jean-Henri Merle D'Aubigné (1794-1872)


Chapter 13

Wolsey in the Court of Chancery – Accused by the Dukes – Refuses to Give Up the Great Seal – His Despair – He Gives Up the Seal – Order to Depart – His Inventory – Alarm – The Scene of Departure Favorable Message from the King – Wolsey's Joy – His Fool – Arrival at Esher
WHILE Cranmer was rising notwithstanding his humility, Wolsey was falling in despite of his stratagems. The cardinal still governed the kingdom, gave instructions to ambassadors, negotiated with princes, and filled his sumptuous palaces with his haughtiness. The king could not make up his mind to turn him off; the force of habit, the need he had of him, the recollection of the services Henry had received from him, pleaded in his favor. Wolsey without the seals appeared almost as inconceivable as the king without his crown. Yet the fall of one of the most powerful favorites recorded in history was inevitably approaching, and we must now describe it.
On the 9th of October, after the Michaelmas vacation, Wolsey, desirous of showing a bold face, went and opened the high court of chancery with his accustomed pomp; but he noticed, with uneasiness, that none of the king's servants walked before him, as they had been accustomed to do. He presided on the bench with an inexpressible depression of spirits, and the various members of the court sat before him with an absent air; there was something gloomy and solemn in this sitting, as if all were taking part in a funeral; it was destined indeed to be the last act of the cardinal's power. Some days before (Foxe says on the 1st of October) the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, with other lords of the privy-council, had gone down to Windsor, and denounced to the king Wolsey's unconstitutional relations with the pope, his usurpations, "his robberies, and the discords sown by his means between Christian princes." Such motives would not have sufficed; but Henry had stronger. Wolsey had not kept any of his promises in the matter of the divorce; it would even appear that he had advised the pope to excommunicate the king, and thus raise his people against him. This enormity was not at that time known by the prince; it is even probable that it did not take place until later. But Henry knew enough, and he gave his attorney-general, Sir Christopher Hales, orders to prosecute Wolsey.
While the heart-broken cardinal was displaying his authority for the last time in the court of chancery, the attorney-general was accusing him in the king's bench for having obtained papal bulls conferring on him a jurisdiction which encroached on the royal power; and calling for the application of the penalties of premunire. The two dukes received orders to demand the seals from Wolsey; and the latter, informed of what had taken place, did not quit his palace on the 10th, expecting every moment the arrival of the messengers of the king's anger; but no one appeared.
The next day the two dukes arrived: "It is the king's good pleasure," said they to the cardinal, who remained seated in his arm-chair, "that you give up the broad seal to us and retire to Esher" (a country-seat near Hampton Court). Wolsey, whose presence of mind never failed him, demanded to see the commission under which they were acting. "We have our orders from his majesty's mouth," said they. -"That may be sufficient for you," replied the cardinal, "but not for me. The great seal of England was delivered to me by the hands of my sovereign; I may not deliver it at the simple word of any lord, unless you can show me your commission." Suffolk broke out into a passion, but Wolsey remained calm, and the two dukes returned to Windsor. This was the cardinal's last triumph.
The rumor of his disgrace created an immense sensation at court, in the city, and among the foreign ambassadors. Du Bellay hastened to York Place (Whitehall) to contemplate this great ruin and console his unhappy friend. He found Wolsey, with dejected countenance and lusterless eyes, "shrunk to half his wonted size," wrote the ambassador to Montmorency, "the greatest example of fortune which was ever beheld." Wolsey desired "to set forth his case" to him; but his thoughts were confused, his language broken, "for heart and tongue both failed him entirely;" he burst into tears. The ambassador regarded him with compassion: "Alas!" thought he, "his enemies cannot but feel pity for him." At last the unhappy cardinal recovered his speech, but only to give way to despair. "I desire no more authority," he exclaimed, "nor the pope's legation, nor the broad seal of England.... I am ready to give up everything, even to my shirt.... I can live in a hermitage, provided the king does not hold me in disgrace." The ambassador "did all he could to comfort him," when Wolsey, catching at the plank thrown out to him, exclaimed: "Would that the king of France and madame might pray the king to moderate his anger against me. But, above all," he added in alarm, "take care the king never knows that I have solicited this of you." Du Bellay wrote indeed to France, that the king and madame alone could "withdraw their affectionate servant from the gates of hell;" and Wolsey being informed of these despatches, his hopes recovered a little. But this bright gleam did not last long.
On Sunday the 17th of October, Norfolk and Suffolk reappeared at Whitehall, accompanied by Fitzwilliam, Taylor, and Gardiner, Wolsey's former dependent. It was six in the evening; they found the cardinal in an upper chamber, near the great gallery, and presented the king's orders to him. Having read them, he said: "I am happy to obey his majesty's commands;" then, having ordered the great seal to be brought him, he took it out of the white leather case in which he kept it, and handed it to the dukes, who placed it in a box, covered with crimson velvet, and ornamented with the arms of England, ordered Gardiner to seal it up with red wax, and gave it to Taylor to convey to the king.
Wolsey was thunderstruck; he was to drink the bitter cup even to the dregs: he was ordered to leave his palace forthwith, taking with him neither clothes, linen, nor plate; the dukes had feared that he would convey away his treasures. Wolsey comprehended the greatness of his misery; he found strength however to say: "Since it is the king's good pleasure to take my house and all it contains, I am content to retire to Esher." The dukes left him.
Wolsey remained alone. This astonishing man, who had risen from a butcher's shop to the summit of earthly greatness-who, for a word that displeased him, sent his master's most faithful servants (Pace for instance) to the Tower, and who had governed England as if he had been its monarch, and even more, for he had governed without a parliament-was driven out, and thrown, as it were, upon a dunghill. A sudden hope flashed like lightning through his mind; perhaps the magnificence of the spoils would appease Henry. Was not Esau pacified by Jacob's present? Wolsey summoned his officers: "Set tables in the great gallery," he said to them, "and place on them all I have intrusted to your care, in order to render me an account." These orders were executed immediately. The tables were covered with an immense quantity of rich stuffs, silks and velvets of all colors, costly furs, rich copes and other ecclesiastical vestures; the walls were hung with cloth of gold and silver, and webs of a valuable stuff named baudy-kin, from the looms of Damascus, and with tapestry, representing scriptural subjects or stories from the old romances of chivalry. The gilt chamber and the council chamber, adjoining the gallery, were both filled with plate, in which the gold and silver were set with pearls and precious stones: these articles of luxury were so abundant that basketfuls of costly plate, which had fallen out of fashion, were stowed away under the tables. On every table was an exact list of the treasures with which it was loaded, for the most perfect order and regularity prevailed in the cardinal's household. Wolsey cast a glance of hope upon this wealth, and ordered his officers to deliver the whole to his majesty.
He then prepared to leave his magnificent palace. That moment, of itself so sad, was made sadder still by an act of affectionate indiscretion. "Ah, my lord," said his treasurer, Sir William Gascoigne, moved even to tears, "your grace will be sent to the Tower." This was too much for Wolsey: to go and join his victims!... He grew angry, and exclaimed: "Is this the best comfort you can give your master in adversity? I would have you and all such blasphemous reporters know that it is untrue.”
It was necessary to depart; he put round his neck a chain of gold, from which hung a pretended relic of the true cross; this was all he took. "Would to God," he exclaimed, as he placed it on, "that I had never had any other." This he said, alluding to the legate's cross which used to be carried before him with so much pomp. He descended the back stairs, followed by his servants, some silent and dejected, others weeping bitterly, and proceeded to the river's brink, where a barge awaited him. But, alas! it was not alone. The Thames was covered with innumerable boats full of men and women. The inhabitants of London, expecting to see the cardinal led to the Tower, desired to be present at his humiliation, and prepared to accompany him. Cries of joy hailing his fall were heard from every side; nor were the cruelest sarcasms wanting. "The butcher's dog will bite no more," said some; "look, how he hangs his head." In truth, the unhappy man, distressed by a sight so new to him, lowered those eyes which were once so proud, but now were filled with bitter tears. This man, who had made all England tremble, was then like a withered leaf carried along the stream. All his servants were moved; even his fool, William Patch, sobbed like the rest. "O, wavering and newfangled multitude," exclaimed Cavendish, his gentleman usher. The hopes of the citizens were disappointed; the barge, instead of descending the river, proceeded upwards in the direction of Hampton Court; gradually the shouts died away, and the flotilla dispersed.
The silence of the river permitted Wolsey to indulge in less bitter thoughts; but it seemed as if invisible furies were pursuing him, now that the people had left him. He left his barge at Putney, and mounting his mule, though with difficulty, proceeded slowly with downcast looks. Shortly after, upon lifting his eyes, he saw a horseman riding rapidly down the hill towards them. "Whom do you think it can be?" he asked of his attendants. "My lord," replied one of them, "I think it is Sir Henry Norris." A flash of joy passed through Wolsey's heart. Was it not Norris, who, of all the king's officers, had shown him the most respect during his visit to Grafton? Norris came up with them, saluted him respectfully, and said: "The king bids me declare that he still entertains the same kindly feelings towards you, and sends you this ring as a token of his confidence." Wolsey received it with a trembling hand: it was that which the king was in the habit of sending on important occasions. The cardinal immediately alighted from his mule, and kneeling down in the road, raised his hands to heaven with an indescribable expression of happiness. The fallen man would have pulled off his velvet under-cap, but unable to undo the strings, he broke them, and threw it on the ground. He remained on his knees bareheaded, praying fervently amidst profound silence. God's forgiveness had never caused Wolsey so much pleasure as Henry's.
Having finished his prayer, the cardinal put on his cap, and remounted his mule. "Gentle Norris," said he to the king's messenger, "if I were lord of a kingdom, the half of it would scarcely be enough to reward you for your happy tidings; but I have nothing left except the clothes on my back." Then taking off his gold chain: "Take this," he said, "it contains a piece of the true cross. In my happier days I would not have parted with it for a thousand pounds." The cardinal and Norris separated: but Wolsey soon stopped, and the whole troop halted on the heath. The thought troubled him greatly that he had nothing to send to the king; he called Norris back, and, looking round him, saw, mounted on a sorry horse, poor William Patch, who had lost all his gaiety since his master's misfortune. "Present this poor jester to the king from me," said Wolsey to Norris; "his buffooneries are a pleasure fit for a prince; he is worth a thousand pounds." Patch, offended at being treated thus, burst into a violent passion; his eyes flashed fire, he foamed at the mouth, he kicked and fought, and bit all who approached him; but the inexorable Wolsey, who looked upon him merely as a toy, ordered six of his tallest yeomen to lay hold of him. They carried off the unfortunate creature, who long continued to utter his piercing cries. At the very moment when his master had had pity on him, Wolsey, like the servant in the parable, had no pity on his poor companion in misfortune.
At last they reached Esher. What a residence compared with Whitehall!... It was little more than four bare walls. The most urgent necessaries were procured from the neighboring houses, but Wolsey could not adapt himself to this cruel contrast. Besides, he knew Henry VIII; he knew that he might send Norris one day with a gold ring, and the executioner the next with a rope. Gloomy and dejected, he remained seated in his lonely apartments. On a sudden he would rise from his seat, walk hurriedly up and down, speak aloud to himself, and then, falling back in his chair, he would weep like a child. This man, who formerly had shaken kingdoms, had been overthrown in the twinkling of an eye, and was now atoning for his perfidies in humiliation and terror, -a striking example of God's judgment.

Chapter 14

Thomas More Elected Chancellor – A Lay Government – One of the Great Facts of the Reformation – Wolsey Accused of Subordinating England to the Pope – He Implores the King's Clemency – His Condemnation – Cromwell at Esher – His Character – He Sets Out for London – Sir Christopher Hales Recommends Him to the King – Cromwell's Interview with Henry in the Park – A New Theory – Cromwell Elected Member of Parliament – Opened by Sir Thomas More – Attack on Ecclesiastical Abuses – Reforms Pronounced by the ConvocationThree Bills – Rochester Attacks Them – Resistance of the House of Commons – Struggles – Henry Sanctions the Three Bills – Alarm of the Clergy and Disturbances
DURING all this time everybody was in commotion at court. Norfolk and Suffolk, at the head of the council, had informed the Star Chamber of the cardinal's disgrace. Henry knew not how to supply his place. Some suggested the archbishop of Canterbury; the king would not hear of him. "Wolsey," says a French writer, "had disgusted the king and all England with those subjects of two masters who, almost always, sold one to the other. They preferred a lay minister." "I verily believe the priests will never more obtain it," wrote Du Bellay. The name of Sir Thomas More was pronounced. He was a layman, and that quality, which a few years before would, perhaps, have excluded him, was now a recommendation. A breath of Protestantism wafted to the summit of honors one of its greatest enemies. Henry thought that More, placed between the pope and his sovereign, would decide in favor of the interests of the throne, and of the independence of England. His choice was made.
More knew that the cardinal had been thrown aside because he was not a sufficiently docile instrument in the matter of the divorce. The work required of him was contrary to his convictions; but the honor conferred on him was almost unprecedented; very seldom indeed had the seals been intrusted to a mere knight. He followed the path of ambition and not of duty; he showed, however, in after-days that his ambition was of no common sort. It is even probable that, foreseeing the dangers which threatened to destroy the papal power in England, More wished to make an effort to save it. Norfolk installed the new chancellor in the Star Chamber. "His majesty," said the duke, "has not cast his eyes upon the nobility of the blood, but on the worth of the person. He desires to show by this choice that there are among the laity and gentlemen of England, men worthy to fill the highest offices in the kingdom, to which, until this hour, bishops and noblemen alone think they have a right." The Reformation, which restored religion to the general body of the church, took away at the same time political power from the clergy. The priests had deprived the people of Christian activity, and the governments of power; the gospel restored to both what the priests had usurped. This result could not but be favorable to the interests of religion; the less cause kings and their subjects have to fear the intrusion of clerical power into the affairs of the world, the more will they yield themselves to the vivifying influence of faith.
More lost no time; never had lord-chancellor displayed such activity. He rapidly cleared off the cases which were in arrear, and having been installed on the 26th of October he called on Wolsey's cause on the 28th or 29th. "The crown of England," said the attorney-general, "has never acknowledged any superior but God. Now, the said Thomas Wolsey, legate a latere, has obtained from the pope certain bulls, by virtue of which he has exercised since the 28th of August 1523 an authority derogatory to his majesty's power, and to the rights of his courts of justice. The crown of England cannot be put under the pope; and we therefore accuse the said legate of having incurred the penalties of premunire.”
There can be no doubt that Henry had other reasons for Wolsey's disgrace than those pointed out by the attorney-general; but England had convictions of a higher nature than her sovereign's. Wolsey was regarded as the pope's accomplice, and this was the cause of the great severity of the public officer and of the people. The cardinal is generally excused by alleging that both king and parliament had ratified the unconstitutional authority with which Rome had invested him; but had not the powers conferred on him by the pope produced unjustifiable results in a constitutional monarchy? Wolsey, as papal legate, had governed England without a parliament; and, as if the nation had gone back to the reign of John, he had substituted de facto, if not in theory, the monstrous system of the famous bull Unam Sanctam for the institution of Magna Charta. The king, and even the lords and commons, had connived in vain at these illegalities; the rights of the constitution of England remained not the less inviolable, and the best of the people had protested against their infringement. And hence it was that Wolsey, conscious of his crime, "put himself wholly to the mercy and grace of the king," and his counsel declared his ignorance of the statutes he was said to have infringed. We cannot here allege, as some have done, the prostration of Wolsey's moral powers; he could, even after his fall, reply with energy to Henry VIII. When, for instance, the king sent to demand for the crown his palace of Whitehall, which belonged to the see of York, the cardinal answered: "Show his majesty from me that I must desire him to call to his most gracious remembrance that there is both a heaven and a hell;" and when other charges besides those of complicity with the papal aggression were brought against him, he defended himself courageously, as will be afterward seen. If, therefore, the cardinal did not attempt to justify himself for infringing the rights of the crown, it was because his conscience bade him be silent. He had committed one of the gravest faults of which a statesman can be guilty. Those who have sought to excuse him have not sufficiently borne in mind that, since the Great Charter, opposition to Romish aggression has always characterized the constitution and government of England. Wolsey perfectly recollected this; and this explanation is more honorable to him than that which ascribes his silence to weakness or to cunning.
The cardinal was pronounced guilty, and the court passed judgment, that by the statute of premunire his property was forfeited, and that he might be taken before the king in council. England, by sacrificing a churchman who had placed himself above kings, gave a memorable example of her inflexible opposition to the encroachments of the papacy. Wolsey was confounded, and his troubled imagination conjured up nothing but perils on every side.
While More was lending himself to the condemnation of his predecessor, whose friend he had been, another layman of still humbler origin was preparing to defend the cardinal, and by that very act to become the appointed instrument to throw down the convents in England, and to shatter the secular bonds which united this country to the Roman pontiff.
On the 1st of November, two days after Wolsey's condemnation, one of his officers, with a prayer-book in his hand, was leaning against the window in the great hall, apparently absorbed in his devotions. "Good-morrow," said Cavendish as he passed him, on his way to the cardinal for his usual morning duties. The person thus addressed raised his head, and the gentleman-usher, seeing that his eyes were filled with tears, asked him: "Master Cromwell, is my lord in any danger?"-"I think not," replied Cromwell, "but it is hard to lose in a moment the labor of a life." In his master's fall Cromwell foreboded his own. Cavendish endeavored to console him. "God willing, this is my resolution," replied Wolsey's ambitious solicitor; "I intend this afternoon, as soon as my lord has dined, to ride to London, and so go to court, where I will either make or mar before I come back again." At this moment Cavendish was summoned, and he entered the cardinal's chamber.
Cromwell, devoured by ambition, had clung to Wolsey's robe in order to attain power; but Wolsey had fallen, and the solicitor, dragged along with him, strove to reach by other means the object of his desires. Cromwell was one of those earnest and vigorous men whom God prepares for critical times. Blessed with a solid judgment and intrepid firmness, he possessed a quality rare in every age, and particularly under Henry VIII, -fidelity in misfortune. The ability by which he was distinguished, was not at all times without reproach: success seems to have been his first thought.
After dinner Cromwell followed Wolsey into his private room: "My lord, permit me to go to London, I will endeavor to save you." A gleam passed over the cardinal's saddened features. -"Leave the room," he said to his attendants. He then had a long private conversation with Cromwell, at the end of which the latter mounted his horse and set out for the capital, riding to the assault of power with the same activity as he had marched to the attack of Rome. He did not hide from himself that it would be difficult to procure access to the king; for certain ecclesiastics, jealous of Wolsey, had spoken against his solicitor at the time of the secularization of the convents, and Henry could not endure him. But Cromwell knew that fortune favors the bold, and, carried away by his ambitious dreams, he galloped on, saying to himself: "One foot in the stirrup, and my fortune is made!”
Sir Christopher Hales, a zealous Roman Catholic, entertained a sincere friendship for him; and to this friend Cromwell applied. Hales proceeded immediately to the palace (2nd November) where he found a numerous company talking about the cardinal's ruin. "There was one of his officers," said Hales, "who would serve your majesty well."-"Who is he?" asked Henry. -"Cromwell."-"Do not speak to me of that man, I hate him," replied the king angrily; and upon that all the courtiers chimed in with his majesty's opinion. This opening was not very encouraging; but Lord Russell, earl of Bedford, advancing to the midst of the group around the king, said boldly: "Permit me, Sir, to defend a man to whom I am indebted for my life. When you sent me privately into Italy, your majesty's enemies, having discovered me at Bologna, would have put me to death, had not Thomas Cromwell saved me. Sir, since you have now to do with the pope, there is no man (I think) in all England who will be fitter for your purpose."-"Indeed!" said the king; and after a little reflection, he said to Hales: "Very well then, let your client meet me in Whitehall gardens." The courtiers and the priests withdrew in great discomfiture.
The interview took place the same day at the appointed spot. "Sir," said Cromwell to his majesty, "the pope refuses your divorce... But why do you ask his consent? Every Englishman is master in his own house, and why should not you be so in England? Ought a foreign prelate to share your power with you? It is true, the bishops make oath to your majesty, but they make another to the pope immediately after, which absolves them from the former. Sir, you are but half a king, and we are but half your subjects. This kingdom is a two-headed monster. Will you bear with such an anomaly any longer? What! are you not living in an age when Frederick the Wise and other German princes have thrown off the yoke of Rome? Do likewise; become once more a king; govern your kingdom in concert with your lords and commons. Henceforward let Englishmen alone have anything to say in England; let not your subjects' money be cast any more into the yawning gulf of the Tiber; instead of imposing new taxes on the nation, convert to the general good those treasures which have hitherto only served to fatten proud priests and lazy friars. Now is the moment for action. Rely upon your parliament; proclaim yourself the head of the church in England. Then shall you see an increase of glory to your name, and of prosperity to your people.”
Never before had such language been addressed to a king of England. It was not only on account of the divorce that it was necessary to break with Rome; it was, in Cromwell's view, on account of the independence, glory, and prosperity of the monarchy. These considerations appeared more important to Henry than those which had hitherto been laid before him; none of the kings of England had been so well placed as he was to understand them. When a Tudor had succeeded to the Saxon, Norman, and Plantagenet kings, a man of the free race of the Celts had taken on the throne of England the place of princes submissive to the Roman pontiffs. The ancient British church, independent of the papacy, was about to rise again with this new dynasty, and the Celtic race, after eleven centuries of humiliation, to recover its ancient heritage. Undoubtedly, Henry had no recollections of this kind; but he worked in conformity with the peculiar character of his race, without being aware of the instinct which compelled him to act. He felt that a sovereign who submits to the pope, becomes, like King John, his vassal; and now, after having been the second in his realm, he desired to be the first.
The king reflected on what Cromwell had said; astonished and surprised, he sought to understand the new position which his bold adviser had made for him. "Your proposal pleases me much," he said; "but can you prove what you assert?" "Certainly," replied this able politician; "I have with me a copy of the oath the bishops make to the Roman pontiff." With these words he drew a paper from his pocket, and placed the oath before the king's eyes. Henry, jealous of his authority even to despotism, was filled with indignation, and felt the necessity of bringing down that foreign authority which dared dispute the power with him, even in his own kingdom. He drew off his ring and gave it to Cromwell, declaring that he took him into his service, and soon after made him a member of his privy council. England, we may say, was now virtually emancipated from the papacy.
Cromwell had laid the first foundations of his greatness. He had remarked the path his master had followed, and which had led to his ruin, -complicity with the pope; and he hoped to succeed by following the contrary course, namely, by opposing the papacy. He had the king's support, but he wanted more. Possessing a clear and easy style of eloquence, he saw what influence a seat in the great council of the nation would give him. It was somewhat late, for the session began on the next day (3rd November), but to Cromwell nothing was impossible. The son of his friend, Sir Thomas Rush, had been returned to parliament; but the young member resigned his seat, and Cromwell was elected in his place.
Parliament had not met for seven years, the kingdom having been governed by a prince of the Roman church. The reformation of the church, whose regenerating influence began to be felt already, was about to restore to the nation those ancient liberties of which a cardinal had robbed it; and Henry being on the point of taking very important resolutions, felt the necessity of drawing nearer to his people. Everything betokened that a good feeling would prevail between the parliament and the crown, and that "the priests would have a terrible fright.”
While Henry was preparing to attack the Roman church in the papal supremacy, the commons were getting ready to war against the numerous abuses with which it had covered England. "Some even thought," says Tyndale, "that this assembly would reform the church, and that the golden age would come again." But it was not from acts of parliament that the Reformation was destined to proceed, but solely from the word of God. And yet the commons, without touching upon doctrine, were going to do their duty manfully in things within their province, and the parliament of 1529 may be regarded (Lord Herbert of Cherbury observes) as the first Protestant parliament of England. "The bishops require excessive fines for the probates of wills," said Tyndale's old friend, Sir Henry Guilford. "As testamentary executor to Sir William Compton I had to pay a thousand marks sterling."-"The spiritual men," said another member, "would rather see the poor orphans die of hunger than give them the lean cow, the only thing their father left them."-"Priests," said another, "have farms, tanneries, and warehouses, all over the country. In short, the clerks take everything from their flocks, and not only give them nothing, but even deny them the word of God.”
The clergy were in utter consternation. The power of the nation seemed to awaken in this parliament for the sole purpose of attacking the power of the priest. It was important to ward off these blows. The convocation of the province of Canterbury, assembling at Westminster on the 5th of November, thought it their duty, in self-defense, to reform the most crying abuses. It was therefore decreed, on the 12th of November, that the priests should no longer keep shops or taverns, play at dice or other forbidden games, pass the night in suspected places, be present at disreputable shows, go about with sporting dogs, or with hawks, falcons, or other birds of prey, on their fist; or, finally, hold suspicious intercourse with women. Penalties were denounced against these various disorders; they were doubled in case of adultery; and still further increased in the case of more abominable impurities. Such were the laws rendered necessary by the manners of the clergy.
These measures did not satisfy the commons. Three bills were introduced having reference to the fees on the probate of wills, mortuaries, pluralities, nonresidence, and the exercise of secular professions. "The destruction of the church is aimed at," exclaimed Bishop Fisher, when these bills were carried to the lords, "and if the church falls, the glory of the kingdom will perish. Lutheranism is making great progress amongst us, and the savage cry that has already echoed in Bohemia, Down with the church, is now uttered by the commons... How does that come about? Solely from want of faith. -My lords, save your country! save the church!" Sir Thomas Audley, the speaker, with a deputation of thirty members, immediately went to Whitehall. "Sir," they said to the king, "we are accused of being without faith, and of being almost as bad as the Turks. We demand an apology for such offensive language." Fisher pretended that he only meant to speak of the Bohemians; and the commons, by no means satisfied, zealously went on with their reforms.
These the king was resolved to concede; but he determined to take advantage of them to present a bill making over to him all the money borrowed of his subjects. John Petit, one of the members for the city, boldly opposed this demand. "I do not know other persons' affairs," he said, "and I cannot give what does not belong to me. But as regards myself personally, I give without reserve all that I have lent the king." The royal bill passed, and the satisfied Henry gave his consent to the bills of the commons. Every dispensation coming from Rome, which might be contrary to the statutes, was strictly forbidden. The bishops exclaimed that the commons were becoming schismatical; disturbances were excited by certain priests; but the clerical agitators were punished, and the people, when they heard of it, were delighted beyond measure.

Chapter 15

The Last Hour – More's Fanaticism – Debates in Convocation – Royal Proclamation – The Bishop of Norwich – Sentences Condemned – Latimer's Opposition – The New Testament Burnt – The Persecution Begins – Hitton – Bayfield – Tonstall and Packington – Bayfield Arrested – The Rector Patmore – Lollards' Tower – Tyndale and Patmore – A Musician – Freese the Painter – Placards and Martyrdom of Bennet – Thomas More and John Petit – Bilney
THE moment when Henry aimed his first blows at Rome was also that in which he began to shed the blood of the disciples of the gospel. Although ready to throw off the authority of the pope, he would not recognize the authority of Christ: obedience to the Scriptures is, however, the very soul of the Reformation.
The king's contest with Rome had filled the friends of Scripture with hope. The artisans and tradesmen, particularly those who lived near the sea, were almost wholly won over to the gospel. "The king is one of us," they used to boast; "he wishes his subjects to read the New Testament. Our faith, which is the true one, will circulate through the kingdom, and by Michaelmas next those who believe as we do will be more numerous than those of a contrary opinion. We are ready, if needs be, to die in the struggle." This was indeed to be the fate of many.
Language such as this aroused the clergy: "The last hour has come," said Stokesley, who had been raised to the see of London after Tonstall's translation to Durham; "if we would not have Luther's heresy pervade the whole of England, we must hasten to throw it in the sea." Henry was fully disposed to do so; but as he was not on very good terms with the clergy, a man was wanted to serve as mediator between him and the bishops. He was soon found.
Sir Thomas More's noble understanding was then passing from ascetic practices to fanaticism, and the humanist turning into an inquisitor. In his opinion, the burning of heretics was just and necessary. He has even been reproached with binding evangelical Christians to a tree in his garden, which he called "the tree of truth," and of having flogged them with his own hand. More has declared that he never gave "stripe nor stroke, nor so much as a fillip on the forehead," to any of his religious adversaries; and we willingly credit his denial. All must be pleased to think that if the author of the Utopia was a severe judge, the hand which held one of the most famous pens of the sixteenth century never discharged the duties of an executioner.
The bishops led the attack. "We must clear the Lord's field of the thorns which choke it," said the archbishop of Canterbury to Convocation on the 29th of November 1529; immediately after which the bishop of Bath read to his colleagues the list of books that he desired to have condemned. There were a number of works by Tyndale, Luther, Melancthon, Zwingle, Oecolampadius, Pomeranus, Brentius, Bucer, Jonas, Francis Lambert, Fryth, and Fish. The Bible in particular was set down. "It is impossible to translate the Scripture into English," said one of the prelates. -"It is not lawful for the laity to read it in their mother tongue," said another. -"If you tolerate the Bible," added a third, "you will make us all heretics."-"By circulating the Scriptures," exclaimed several, "you will raise up the nation against the king." Sir T. More laid the bishops' petition before the king, and some time after, Henry gave orders by proclamation that "no one should preach, or write any book, or keep any school without his bishop's license; -that no one should keep any heretical book in his house;-that the bishops should detain the offenders in prison at their discretion, and then proceed to the execution of the guilty;-and, finally, that the chancellor, the justices of the peace, and other magistrates, should aid and assist the bishops. "Such was the cruel proclamation of Henry VIII, "the father of the English Reformation.”
The clergy were not yet satisfied. The blind and octo-genarian bishop of Norwich, being more ardent than the youngest of his priests, recommenced his complaints. "My diocese is accumbered with such as read the Bible," said he to the archbishop of Canterbury, "and there is not a clerk from Cambridge but savoureth of the frying-pan. If this continues any time, they will undo us all. We must have greater authority to punish them than we have.”
Consequently, on the 24th of May 1530, More, Warham, Tonstall, and Gardiner having been admitted into St. Edward's chamber at Westminster, to make a report to the king concerning heresy, they proposed forbidding, in the most positive manner, the New Testament and certain other books in which the following doctrines were taught: "That Christ has shed his blood for our iniquities, as a sacrifice to the Father. -Faith only doth justify us. -Faith without good works is no little or weak faith, it is no faith.-Laboring in good works to come to heaven, thou dost shame Christ's blood.”
While nearly everyone in the audience-chamber supported the prayer of the petition, there were three or four doctors who kept silence. At last one of them, it was Latimer, opposed the proposition. Bilney's friend was more decided than ever to listen to no other voice than God's. "Christ's sheep hear no man's voice but Christ's," he answered Dr. Redman, who had called upon him to submit to the church: "trouble me no more from the talking with the Lord my God." The church, in Latimer's opinion, presumed to set up its own voice in the place of Christ's, and the Reformation did the contrary; this was his abridgment of the controversy. Being called upon to preach during Christmas tide, he had censured his hearers because they celebrated that festival by playing at cards, like mere worldlings, and then proceeded to lay before their eyes Christ's cards, that is to say, his laws. Being placed on the Cambridge commission to examine into the question of the king's marriage, he had conciliated the esteem of Henry's deputy, Doctor Butts, the court physician who had presented him to his master, by whose orders he preached at Windsor.
Henry felt disposed at first to yield something to Latimer. "Many of my subjects," said he to the prelates assembled in St. Edward's hall, "think that it is my duty to cause the Scriptures to be translated and given to the people." The discussion immediately began between the two parties; and Latimer concluded by asking "that the Bible should be permitted to circulate freely in English." -"But the most part overcame the better," he tells us. Henry declared that the teaching of the priests was sufficient for the people, and was content to add, "that he would give the Bible to his subjects when they renounced the arrogant pretension of interpreting it according to their own fancies."-"Shun these books," cried the priests from the pulpit, "detest them, keep them not in your hands, deliver them up to your superiors." Or if you do not, your prince, who has received from God the sword of justice, will use it to punish you." Rome had every reason to be satisfied with Henry VIII. Tonstall, who still kept under lock and key the Testaments purchased at Antwerp through Packington's assistance, had them carried to St. Paul's churchyard, where they were publicly burnt. The spectators retired shaking the head, and saying: "The teaching of the priests and of Scriptures must be in contradiction to each other, since the priests destroy them." Latimer did more: "You have promised us the word of God," he wrote courageously to the king; "perform your promise now rather than tomorrow! The day is at hand when you shall give an account of your office, and of the blood that hath been shed with your sword." Latimer well knew that by such language he hazarded his life; but that he was ready to sacrifice, as he tells us himself.
Persecution soon came. Just as the sun appeared to be rising on the Reformation, the storm burst forth. "There was not a stone the bishops left unremoved," says the chronicler, "any corner unsearched, for the diligent execution of the king's proclamation; whereupon ensued a grievous persecution and slaughter of the faithful."
Thomas Hitton, a poor and pious minister of Kent, used to go frequently to Antwerp to purchase New Testaments. As he was returning from one of these expeditions, in 1529, the bishop of Rochester caused him to be arrested at Gravesend, and put to the cruelest tortures, to make him deny his faith. But the martyr repeated with holy enthusiasm: "Salvation cometh by faith and not by works, and Christ giveth it to whomsoever he willeth." On the 20th of February 1530, he was tied to the stake and there burnt to death.
Scarcely were Hitton's sufferings ended for bringing the Scriptures into England, when a vessel laden with New Testaments arrived at Colchester. The indefatigable Bayfield, who accompanied these books, sold them in London, went back to the continent, and returned to England in November; but this time the Scriptures fell into the hands of Sir Thomas More. Bayfield, undismayed, again visited the Low Countries, and soon reappeared, bringing with him the New Testament and the works of almost all the Reformers. "How cometh it that there are so many New Testaments from abroad?" asked Tonstall of Packington; "you promised me that you would buy them all."-"They have printed more since," replied the wily merchant; "and it will never be better so long as they have letters and stamps [type and dies.] My lord, you had better buy the stamps too, and so you shall be sure."
Instead of the stamps, the priests sought after Bayfield. The bishop of London could not endure this godly man. Having one day asked Bainham (who afterward suffered martyrdom) whether he knew a single individual who, since the days of the apostles, had lived according to the true faith in Jesus Christ, the latter answered: "Yes, I know Bayfield." Being tracked from place to place, he fled from the house of his pious hostess, and hid himself at his binder's, where he was discovered, and thrown into the Lollard's tower.
As he entered the prison Bayfield noticed a priest named Patmore, pale, weakened by suffering, and ready to sink under the ill treatment of his jailors. Patmore, won over by Bayfield's piety, soon opened his heart to him. When rector of Haddam, he had found the truth in Wickliffe's writings. "They have burnt his bones," he said, "but from his ashes shall burst forth a well-spring of life." Delighting in good works, he used to fill his granaries with wheat, and when the markets were high, he would send his corn to them in such abundance as to bring down the prices. "It is contrary to the law of God to burn heretics," he said; and growing bolder, he added: "I care no more for the pope's curse than for a bundle of hay."
His curate, Simon Smith, unwilling to imitate the disorderly lives of the priests, and finding Joan Bennore, the rector's servant, to be a discreet and pious person, desired to marry her. "God," said Patmore, "has declared marriage lawful for all men; and accordingly it is permitted to the priests in foreign parts.” The rector alluded to Wittemberg, where he had visited Luther. After his marriage Smith and his wife quitted England for a season, and Patmore accompanied them as far as London.
The news of this marriage of a priest-a fact without precedent in England-made Stokesley throw Patmore into the Lollards' tower, and although he was ill, neither fire, light, nor any other comfort was granted him. The bishop and his vicar-general visited him alone in his prison, and endeavored by their threats to make him deny his faith.
It was during these circumstances that Bayfield was thrust into the tower. By his Christian words he revived Patmore's languishing faith, and the latter complained to the king that the bishop of London prevented his feeding the flock which God had committed to his charge. Stokesley, comprehending whence Patmore derived his new courage, removed Bayfield from the Lollards' tower, and shut him up in the coal-house, where he was fastened upright to the wall by the neck, middle, and legs. The unfortunate gospeler of Bury passed his time in continual darkness, never lying down, never seated, but nailed as it were to the wall, and never hearing the sound of human voice. We shall see him hereafter issuing from this horrible prison to die on the scaffold.
Patmore was not the only one in his family who suffered persecution; he had in London a brother named Thomas, a friend of John Tyndale, the younger brother of the celebrated reformer. Thomas had said that the truth of Scripture was at last reappearing in the world, after being hidden for many ages; and John Tyndale had sent five marks to his brother William, and received letters from him. Moreover, the two friends (who were both tradesmen) had distributed a great number of Testaments and other works. But their faith was not deeply rooted, and it was more out of sympathy for their brothers that they had believed; accordingly, Stokesley, so completely entangled them, that they confessed their "crime." More, delighted at the opportunity which offered to cover the name of Tyndale with shame, was not satisfied with condemning the two friends to pay a fine of each; he invented a new disgrace. He sewed on their dress some sheets of the New Testament which they had circulated, placed the two penitents on horseback with their faces towards the tail, and thus paraded them through the streets of London, exposed to the jeers and laughter of the populace. In this, More succeeded better than in his refutation of the reformer's writings.
From that time the persecution became more violent. Husbandmen, artists, tradespeople, and even noblemen, felt the cruel fangs of the clergy and of Sir Thomas More. They sent to jail a pious musician who used to wander from town to town, singing to his harp a hymn in commendation of Martin Luther and of the Reformation. A painter, named Edward Freese, a young man of ready wit, having been engaged to paint some hangings in a house, wrote on the borders certain sentences of the Scripture. For this he was seized and taken to the bishop of London's palace at Fulham, and there imprisoned, where his chief nourishment was bread made out of sawdust. His poor wife, who was pregnant, went down to Fulham to see her husband; but the bishop's porter had orders to admit no one, and the brute gave her so violent a kick, as to kill her unborn infant, and cause the mother's death not long after. The unhappy Freese was removed to the Lollards' tower, where he was put into chains, his hands only being left free. With these he took a piece of coal, and wrote some pious sentences on the wall; upon this he was manacled, but his wrists were so severely pinched, that the flesh grew up higher than the irons. His intellect became disturbed; his hair in wild disorder soon covered his face, through which his eyes glared fierce and haggard. The want of proper food, bad treatment, his wife's death, and his lengthened imprisonment, entirely undermined his reason; when brought to St. Paul's, he was kept three days without meat; and when he appeared before the consistory, the poor prisoner, silent and scarce able to stand, looked around and gazed upon the spectators "like a wild man." The examination was begun, but to every question put to him, Freese made the same answer: "My Lord is a good man." They could get nothing from him but this affecting reply. Alas! the light shone no more upon his understanding, but the love of Jesus was still in his heart. He was sent back to Bearsy Abbey, where he did not remain long; but he never entirely recovered his reason. Henry VIII and his priests inflicted punishments still more cruel even than the stake.
Terror began to spread far and wide. The most active evangelists had been compelled to flee to a foreign land; some of the most godly were in prison; and among those in high station there were many, and perhaps Latimer was one, who seemed willing to shelter themselves under an exaggerated moderation. But just as the persecution in London had succeeded in silencing the most timid, other voices more courageous were raised in the provinces. The city of Exeter was at that time in great agitation; placards had been discovered on the gates of the cathedral containing some of the principles "of the new doctrine." While the mayor and his officers were seeking after the author of these "blasphemies," the bishop and all his doctors, "as hot as coals," says the chronicler, were preaching in the most fiery style. On the following Sunday, during the sermon, two men who had been the busiest of all the city in searching for the author of the bills were struck by the appearance of a person seated near them. "Surely this fellow is the heretic," they said. But their neighbors's devotion, for he did not take his eyes off his book, quite put them out; they did not perceive that he was reading the New Testament in Latin.
This man, Thomas Bennet, was indeed the offender. Being converted at Cambridge by the preaching of Bilney, whose friend he was, he had gone to Torrington for fear of the persecution, and thence to Exeter, and after marrying to avoid unchastity (as he says), he became schoolmaster. Quiet, humble, courteous to everybody, and somewhat timid, Bennet had lived six years in that city without his faith being discovered. At last his conscience being awakened he resolved to fasten by night to the cathedral gates certain evangelical placards. "Everybody will read the writing," he thought, and "nobody will know the writer." He did as he had proposed.
Not long after the Sunday on which he had been so nearly discovered, the priests prepared a great pageant, and made ready to pronounce against the unknown heretic the great curse "with book, bell, and candle." The cathedral was crowded, and Bennet himself was among the spectators. In the middle stood a great cross on which lighted tapers were placed, and around it were gathered all the Franciscans and Dominicans of Exeter. One of the priests having delivered a sermon on the words: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel, the bishop drew near the cross and pronounced the curse against the offender. He took one of the tapers and said: "Let the soul of the unknown heretic, if he be dead already, be quenched this night in the pains of hell-fire, as this candle is now quenched and put out;" and with that he put out the candle. Then taking off a second, he continued: "and let us pray to God, if he be yet alive, that his eyes by put out, and that all the senses of his body may fail him, as now the light of this candle is gone;" extinguishing the second candle. After this, one of the priests went up to the cross and struck it, when the noise it made in falling re-echoing along the roof so frightened the spectators that they uttered a shriek of terror, and held up their hands to heaven, as if to pray that the divine curse might not fall on them. Bennet, a witness of this comedy, could not forbear smiling. "What are you laughing at?" asked his neighbors; "here is the heretic, here is the heretic, hold him fast." This created great confusion among the crowd, some shouting, some clapping their hands, others running to and fro; but, owing to the tumult, Bennet succeeded in making his escape.
The excommunication did but increase his desire to attack the Romish superstitions; and accordingly, before five o'clock the next morning (it was in the month of October 1530), his servant-boy fastened up again by his orders on the cathedral gates some placards similar to those which had been torn down. It chanced that a citizen going to early mass saw the boy, and running up to him, caught hold of him and pulled down the papers; and then dragging the boy with one hand, and with the placards in the other, he went to the mayor of the city. Bennet's servant was recognized; his master was immediately arrested, and put in the stocks, "with as much favor as a dog would find," says Foxe.
Exeter seemed determined to make itself the champion of sacerdotalism in England. For a whole week, not only the bishop, but all the priests and friars of the city, visited Bennet night and day. But they tried in vain to prove to him that the Roman church was the true one. "God has given me grace to be of a better church," he said. -"Do you not know that ours is built upon St. Peter?"-"The church that is built upon a man," he replied, "is the devil's church and not God's." His cell was continually thronged with visitors; and, in default of arguments, the most ignorant of the friars called the prisoner a heretic, and spat upon him. At length they brought to him a learned doctor of theology, who, they supposed, would infallibly convert him. "Our ways are God's ways," said the doctor gravely. But he soon discovered that theologians can do nothing against the word of the Lord. "He only is my way," replied Bennet, "who saith, I am the way, the truth, and the life. In his way will I walk; -his truth will I embrace; -his everlasting life will I seek.”
He was condemned to be burnt; and More having transmitted the order de comburendo with the utmost speed, the priests placed Bennet in the hands of the sheriff on the 15th of January 1531, by whom he was conducted to the Liverydole, a field without the city, where the stake was prepared. When Bennet arrived at the place of execution, he briefly exhorted the people, but with such unction, that the sheriff's clerk, as he heard him, exclaimed: "Truly this is a servant of God." Two persons, however, seemed unmoved: they were Thomas Carew, and John Barnehouse, both holding the station of gentlemen. Going up to the martyr, they exclaimed in a threatening voice: "Say, Precor sanctam Mariam et omnes sanctos Dei."-"I know no other advocate but Jesus Christ," replied Bennet. Barnehouse was so enraged at these words, that he took a furze-bush upon a pike, and setting it on fire, thrust into the martyr's face, exclaiming: "Accursed heretic, pray to our Lady, or I will make you do it."-"Alas!" replied Bennet patiently, "trouble me not;" and then holding up his hands, he prayed: "Father, forgive them!" The executioners immediately set fire to the wood, and the most fanatical of the spectators, both men and women, seized with an indescribable fury, tore up stakes and bushes, and whatever they could lay their hands on, and flung them all into the flames to increase their violence. Bennet, lifting up his eyes to heaven, exclaimed: "Lord, receive my spirit." Thus died, in the sixteenth century, the disciples of the Reformation sacrificed by Henry VIII.
The priests, thanks to the king's sword, began to count on victory; yet schoolmasters, musicians, tradesmen, and even ecclesiastics, were not enough for them. They wanted nobler victims, and these were to be looked for in London. More himself, accompanied by the lieutenant of the Tower, " searched many of the suspected houses. Few citizens were more esteemed in London than John Petit, the same who, in the house of commons, had so nobly resisted the king's demand about the loan. Petit was learned in history and in Latin literature: he spoke with eloquence, and for twenty years had worthily represented the city. Whenever any important affair was debated in parliament, the king feeling uneasy, was in the habit of inquiring, which side he took? This political independence, very rare in Henry's parliaments, gave umbrage to the prince and his ministers. Petit, the friend of Bilney, Fryth, and Tyndale, had been one of the first in England to taste the sweetness of God's word, and had immediately manifested that beautiful characteristic by which the gospel faith makes itself known, namely, charity. He abounded in almsgiving, supported a great number of poor preachers of the gospel in his own country and beyond the seas; and whenever he noted down these generous aids in his books, he wrote merely the words: "Lent unto Christ." He moreover forbade his testamentary executors to call in these debts.
Petit was tranquilly enjoying the sweets of domestic life in his modest home in the society of his wife and two daughters, Blanche and Audrey, when he received an unexpected visit. One day, as he was praying in his closet, a loud knock was heard at the street door. His wife ran to open it, but seeing Lord-chancellor More, she returned hurriedly to her husband, and told him that the lord-chancellor wanted him. More, who followed her, entered the closet, and with inquisitive eye ran over the shelves of the library, but could find nothing suspicious. Presently he made as if he would retire, and Petit accompanied him. The chancellor stopped at the door and said to him: "You assert that you have none of these new books?"-"You have seen my library," replied Petit. -"I am informed, however," replied More, "that you not only read them, but pay for the printing." And then he added in a severe tone: "Follow the lieutenant." In spite of the tears of his wife and daughters this independent member of parliament was conducted to the Tower, and shut up in a damp dungeon, where he had nothing but straw to lie upon. His wife went thither each day in vain, asking with tears permission to see him, or at least to send him a bed; the jailers refused her everything; and it was only when Petit fell dangerously ill that the latter favor was granted him. This took place in 1530, sentence was passed in 1531; we shall see Petit again in his prison. He left it, indeed, but only to sink under the cruel treatment he had there experienced.
Thus were the witnesses to the truth struck down by the priests, by Sir Thomas More, and by Henry VIII. A new victim was to be the cause of many tears. A meek and humble man, one dear to all the friends of the gospel, and whom we may regard as the spiritual father of the Reformation in England, was on the point of mounting the burning pile raised by his persecutors. Some time prior to Petit's appearance before his judges, which took place in 1531, an unusual noise was heard in the cell above him; it was Thomas Bilney, whom they were conducting to the Tower. We left him at the end of 1528 after his fall. Bilney had returned to Cambridge tormented by remorse; his friends in vain crowded round him by night and by day; they could not console him, and even the Scriptures seemed to utter no voice but that of condemnation. Fear made him tremble constantly, and he could scarcely eat or drink. At length a heavenly and unexpected light dawned in the heart of the fallen disciple; a witness whom he had vexed-the Holy Spirit-spoke once more in his heart. Bilney fell at the foot of the cross, shedding floods of tears, and there he found peace. But the more God comforted him, the greater seemed his crime. One only thought possessed him, that of giving his life for the truth. He had shrunk from before the burning pile; its flames must now consume him. Neither the weakness of his body, which his long anguish had much increased, nor the cruelty of his enemies, nor his natural timidity, nothing could stop him: he strove for the martyr's crown. At ten o'clock one night, when every person in Trinity Hall was retiring to rest, Bilney called his friends round him, reminded them of his fall, and added: "You shall see me no more... Do not stay me: my decision is formed, and I shall carry it out. My face is set to go to Jerusalem." Bilney repeated the words used by the Evangelist, when he describes Jesus going up to the city where he was put to death. Having shaken hands with his brethren, this venerable man, the foremost of the evangelists of England in order of time, left Cambridge under cover of the night, and proceeded to Norfolk, to confirm in the faith those who had believed, and to invite the ignorant multitude to the Savior. We shall not follow him in this last and solemn ministry; these facts and others of the same kind belong to a later date. Before the year 1531 closed in, Bilney, Bainham, Bayfield, Tewkesbury, and many others, struck by Henry's sword, sealed by their blood the testimony rendered by them to the perfect grace of Christ.


Chapter 15

The Last Hour – More's Fanaticism – Debates in Convocation – Royal Proclamation – The Bishop of Norwich – Sentences Condemned – Latimer's Opposition – The New Testament Burnt – The Persecution Begins – Hitton – Bayfield – Tonstall and Packington – Bayfield Arrested – The Rector Patmore – Lollards' Tower – Tyndale and Patmore – A Musician – Freese the Painter – Placards and Martyrdom of Bennet – Thomas More and John Petit – Bilney
THE moment when Henry aimed his first blows at Rome was also that in which he began to shed the blood of the disciples of the gospel. Although ready to throw off the authority of the pope, he would not recognize the authority of Christ: obedience to the Scriptures is, however, the very soul of the Reformation.
The king's contest with Rome had filled the friends of Scripture with hope. The artisans and tradesmen, particularly those who lived near the sea, were almost wholly won over to the gospel. "The king is one of us," they used to boast; "he wishes his subjects to read the New Testament. Our faith, which is the true one, will circulate through the kingdom, and by Michaelmas next those who believe as we do will be more numerous than those of a contrary opinion. We are ready, if needs be, to die in the struggle." This was indeed to be the fate of many.
Language such as this aroused the clergy: "The last hour has come," said Stokesley, who had been raised to the see of London after Tonstall's translation to Durham; "if we would not have Luther's heresy pervade the whole of England, we must hasten to throw it in the sea." Henry was fully disposed to do so; but as he was not on very good terms with the clergy, a man was wanted to serve as mediator between him and the bishops. He was soon found.
Sir Thomas More's noble understanding was then passing from ascetic practices to fanaticism, and the humanist turning into an inquisitor. In his opinion, the burning of heretics was just and necessary. He has even been reproached with binding evangelical Christians to a tree in his garden, which he called "the tree of truth," and of having flogged them with his own hand. More has declared that he never gave "stripe nor stroke, nor so much as a fillip on the forehead," to any of his religious adversaries; and we willingly credit his denial. All must be pleased to think that if the author of the Utopia was a severe judge, the hand which held one of the most famous pens of the sixteenth century never discharged the duties of an executioner.
The bishops led the attack. "We must clear the Lord's field of the thorns which choke it," said the archbishop of Canterbury to Convocation on the 29th of November 1529; immediately after which the bishop of Bath read to his colleagues the list of books that he desired to have condemned. There were a number of works by Tyndale, Luther, Melancthon, Zwingle, Oecolampadius, Pomeranus, Brentius, Bucer, Jonas, Francis Lambert, Fryth, and Fish. The Bible in particular was set down. "It is impossible to translate the Scripture into English," said one of the prelates. -"It is not lawful for the laity to read it in their mother tongue," said another. -"If you tolerate the Bible," added a third, "you will make us all heretics."-"By circulating the Scriptures," exclaimed several, "you will raise up the nation against the king." Sir T. More laid the bishops' petition before the king, and some time after, Henry gave orders by proclamation that "no one should preach, or write any book, or keep any school without his bishop's license; -that no one should keep any heretical book in his house;-that the bishops should detain the offenders in prison at their discretion, and then proceed to the execution of the guilty;-and, finally, that the chancellor, the justices of the peace, and other magistrates, should aid and assist the bishops. "Such was the cruel proclamation of Henry VIII, "the father of the English Reformation.”
The clergy were not yet satisfied. The blind and octo-genarian bishop of Norwich, being more ardent than the youngest of his priests, recommenced his complaints. "My diocese is accumbered with such as read the Bible," said he to the archbishop of Canterbury, "and there is not a clerk from Cambridge but savoureth of the frying-pan. If this continues any time, they will undo us all. We must have greater authority to punish them than we have.”
Consequently, on the 24th of May 1530, More, Warham, Tonstall, and Gardiner having been admitted into St. Edward's chamber at Westminster, to make a report to the king concerning heresy, they proposed forbidding, in the most positive manner, the New Testament and certain other books in which the following doctrines were taught: "That Christ has shed his blood for our iniquities, as a sacrifice to the Father. -Faith only doth justify us. -Faith without good works is no little or weak faith, it is no faith.-Laboring in good works to come to heaven, thou dost shame Christ's blood.”
While nearly everyone in the audience-chamber supported the prayer of the petition, there were three or four doctors who kept silence. At last one of them, it was Latimer, opposed the proposition. Bilney's friend was more decided than ever to listen to no other voice than God's. "Christ's sheep hear no man's voice but Christ's," he answered Dr. Redman, who had called upon him to submit to the church: "trouble me no more from the talking with the Lord my God." The church, in Latimer's opinion, presumed to set up its own voice in the place of Christ's, and the Reformation did the contrary; this was his abridgment of the controversy. Being called upon to preach during Christmas tide, he had censured his hearers because they celebrated that festival by playing at cards, like mere worldlings, and then proceeded to lay before their eyes Christ's cards, that is to say, his laws. Being placed on the Cambridge commission to examine into the question of the king's marriage, he had conciliated the esteem of Henry's deputy, Doctor Butts, the court physician who had presented him to his master, by whose orders he preached at Windsor.
Henry felt disposed at first to yield something to Latimer. "Many of my subjects," said he to the prelates assembled in St. Edward's hall, "think that it is my duty to cause the Scriptures to be translated and given to the people." The discussion immediately began between the two parties; and Latimer concluded by asking "that the Bible should be permitted to circulate freely in English." -"But the most part overcame the better," he tells us. Henry declared that the teaching of the priests was sufficient for the people, and was content to add, "that he would give the Bible to his subjects when they renounced the arrogant pretension of interpreting it according to their own fancies."-"Shun these books," cried the priests from the pulpit, "detest them, keep them not in your hands, deliver them up to your superiors." Or if you do not, your prince, who has received from God the sword of justice, will use it to punish you." Rome had every reason to be satisfied with Henry VIII. Tonstall, who still kept under lock and key the Testaments purchased at Antwerp through Packington's assistance, had them carried to St. Paul's churchyard, where they were publicly burnt. The spectators retired shaking the head, and saying: "The teaching of the priests and of Scriptures must be in contradiction to each other, since the priests destroy them." Latimer did more: "You have promised us the word of God," he wrote courageously to the king; "perform your promise now rather than tomorrow! The day is at hand when you shall give an account of your office, and of the blood that hath been shed with your sword." Latimer well knew that by such language he hazarded his life; but that he was ready to sacrifice, as he tells us himself.
Persecution soon came. Just as the sun appeared to be rising on the Reformation, the storm burst forth. "There was not a stone the bishops left unremoved," says the chronicler, "any corner unsearched, for the diligent execution of the king's proclamation; whereupon ensued a grievous persecution and slaughter of the faithful."
Thomas Hitton, a poor and pious minister of Kent, used to go frequently to Antwerp to purchase New Testaments. As he was returning from one of these expeditions, in 1529, the bishop of Rochester caused him to be arrested at Gravesend, and put to the cruelest tortures, to make him deny his faith. But the martyr repeated with holy enthusiasm: "Salvation cometh by faith and not by works, and Christ giveth it to whomsoever he willeth." On the 20th of February 1530, he was tied to the stake and there burnt to death.
Scarcely were Hitton's sufferings ended for bringing the Scriptures into England, when a vessel laden with New Testaments arrived at Colchester. The indefatigable Bayfield, who accompanied these books, sold them in London, went back to the continent, and returned to England in November; but this time the Scriptures fell into the hands of Sir Thomas More. Bayfield, undismayed, again visited the Low Countries, and soon reappeared, bringing with him the New Testament and the works of almost all the Reformers. "How cometh it that there are so many New Testaments from abroad?" asked Tonstall of Packington; "you promised me that you would buy them all."-"They have printed more since," replied the wily merchant; "and it will never be better so long as they have letters and stamps [type and dies.] My lord, you had better buy the stamps too, and so you shall be sure."
Instead of the stamps, the priests sought after Bayfield. The bishop of London could not endure this godly man. Having one day asked Bainham (who afterward suffered martyrdom) whether he knew a single individual who, since the days of the apostles, had lived according to the true faith in Jesus Christ, the latter answered: "Yes, I know Bayfield." Being tracked from place to place, he fled from the house of his pious hostess, and hid himself at his binder's, where he was discovered, and thrown into the Lollard's tower.
As he entered the prison Bayfield noticed a priest named Patmore, pale, weakened by suffering, and ready to sink under the ill treatment of his jailors. Patmore, won over by Bayfield's piety, soon opened his heart to him. When rector of Haddam, he had found the truth in Wickliffe's writings. "They have burnt his bones," he said, "but from his ashes shall burst forth a well-spring of life." Delighting in good works, he used to fill his granaries with wheat, and when the markets were high, he would send his corn to them in such abundance as to bring down the prices. "It is contrary to the law of God to burn heretics," he said; and growing bolder, he added: "I care no more for the pope's curse than for a bundle of hay."
His curate, Simon Smith, unwilling to imitate the disorderly lives of the priests, and finding Joan Bennore, the rector's servant, to be a discreet and pious person, desired to marry her. "God," said Patmore, "has declared marriage lawful for all men; and accordingly it is permitted to the priests in foreign parts.” The rector alluded to Wittemberg, where he had visited Luther. After his marriage Smith and his wife quitted England for a season, and Patmore accompanied them as far as London.
The news of this marriage of a priest-a fact without precedent in England-made Stokesley throw Patmore into the Lollards' tower, and although he was ill, neither fire, light, nor any other comfort was granted him. The bishop and his vicar-general visited him alone in his prison, and endeavored by their threats to make him deny his faith.
It was during these circumstances that Bayfield was thrust into the tower. By his Christian words he revived Patmore's languishing faith, and the latter complained to the king that the bishop of London prevented his feeding the flock which God had committed to his charge. Stokesley, comprehending whence Patmore derived his new courage, removed Bayfield from the Lollards' tower, and shut him up in the coal-house, where he was fastened upright to the wall by the neck, middle, and legs. The unfortunate gospeler of Bury passed his time in continual darkness, never lying down, never seated, but nailed as it were to the wall, and never hearing the sound of human voice. We shall see him hereafter issuing from this horrible prison to die on the scaffold.
Patmore was not the only one in his family who suffered persecution; he had in London a brother named Thomas, a friend of John Tyndale, the younger brother of the celebrated reformer. Thomas had said that the truth of Scripture was at last reappearing in the world, after being hidden for many ages; and John Tyndale had sent five marks to his brother William, and received letters from him. Moreover, the two friends (who were both tradesmen) had distributed a great number of Testaments and other works. But their faith was not deeply rooted, and it was more out of sympathy for their brothers that they had believed; accordingly, Stokesley, so completely entangled them, that they confessed their "crime." More, delighted at the opportunity which offered to cover the name of Tyndale with shame, was not satisfied with condemning the two friends to pay a fine of each; he invented a new disgrace. He sewed on their dress some sheets of the New Testament which they had circulated, placed the two penitents on horseback with their faces towards the tail, and thus paraded them through the streets of London, exposed to the jeers and laughter of the populace. In this, More succeeded better than in his refutation of the reformer's writings.
From that time the persecution became more violent. Husbandmen, artists, tradespeople, and even noblemen, felt the cruel fangs of the clergy and of Sir Thomas More. They sent to jail a pious musician who used to wander from town to town, singing to his harp a hymn in commendation of Martin Luther and of the Reformation. A painter, named Edward Freese, a young man of ready wit, having been engaged to paint some hangings in a house, wrote on the borders certain sentences of the Scripture. For this he was seized and taken to the bishop of London's palace at Fulham, and there imprisoned, where his chief nourishment was bread made out of sawdust. His poor wife, who was pregnant, went down to Fulham to see her husband; but the bishop's porter had orders to admit no one, and the brute gave her so violent a kick, as to kill her unborn infant, and cause the mother's death not long after. The unhappy Freese was removed to the Lollards' tower, where he was put into chains, his hands only being left free. With these he took a piece of coal, and wrote some pious sentences on the wall; upon this he was manacled, but his wrists were so severely pinched, that the flesh grew up higher than the irons. His intellect became disturbed; his hair in wild disorder soon covered his face, through which his eyes glared fierce and haggard. The want of proper food, bad treatment, his wife's death, and his lengthened imprisonment, entirely undermined his reason; when brought to St. Paul's, he was kept three days without meat; and when he appeared before the consistory, the poor prisoner, silent and scarce able to stand, looked around and gazed upon the spectators "like a wild man." The examination was begun, but to every question put to him, Freese made the same answer: "My Lord is a good man." They could get nothing from him but this affecting reply. Alas! the light shone no more upon his understanding, but the love of Jesus was still in his heart. He was sent back to Bearsy Abbey, where he did not remain long; but he never entirely recovered his reason. Henry VIII and his priests inflicted punishments still more cruel even than the stake.
Terror began to spread far and wide. The most active evangelists had been compelled to flee to a foreign land; some of the most godly were in prison; and among those in high station there were many, and perhaps Latimer was one, who seemed willing to shelter themselves under an exaggerated moderation. But just as the persecution in London had succeeded in silencing the most timid, other voices more courageous were raised in the provinces. The city of Exeter was at that time in great agitation; placards had been discovered on the gates of the cathedral containing some of the principles "of the new doctrine." While the mayor and his officers were seeking after the author of these "blasphemies," the bishop and all his doctors, "as hot as coals," says the chronicler, were preaching in the most fiery style. On the following Sunday, during the sermon, two men who had been the busiest of all the city in searching for the author of the bills were struck by the appearance of a person seated near them. "Surely this fellow is the heretic," they said. But their neighbors's devotion, for he did not take his eyes off his book, quite put them out; they did not perceive that he was reading the New Testament in Latin.
This man, Thomas Bennet, was indeed the offender. Being converted at Cambridge by the preaching of Bilney, whose friend he was, he had gone to Torrington for fear of the persecution, and thence to Exeter, and after marrying to avoid unchastity (as he says), he became schoolmaster. Quiet, humble, courteous to everybody, and somewhat timid, Bennet had lived six years in that city without his faith being discovered. At last his conscience being awakened he resolved to fasten by night to the cathedral gates certain evangelical placards. "Everybody will read the writing," he thought, and "nobody will know the writer." He did as he had proposed.
Not long after the Sunday on which he had been so nearly discovered, the priests prepared a great pageant, and made ready to pronounce against the unknown heretic the great curse "with book, bell, and candle." The cathedral was crowded, and Bennet himself was among the spectators. In the middle stood a great cross on which lighted tapers were placed, and around it were gathered all the Franciscans and Dominicans of Exeter. One of the priests having delivered a sermon on the words: There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel, the bishop drew near the cross and pronounced the curse against the offender. He took one of the tapers and said: "Let the soul of the unknown heretic, if he be dead already, be quenched this night in the pains of hell-fire, as this candle is now quenched and put out;" and with that he put out the candle. Then taking off a second, he continued: "and let us pray to God, if he be yet alive, that his eyes by put out, and that all the senses of his body may fail him, as now the light of this candle is gone;" extinguishing the second candle. After this, one of the priests went up to the cross and struck it, when the noise it made in falling re-echoing along the roof so frightened the spectators that they uttered a shriek of terror, and held up their hands to heaven, as if to pray that the divine curse might not fall on them. Bennet, a witness of this comedy, could not forbear smiling. "What are you laughing at?" asked his neighbors; "here is the heretic, here is the heretic, hold him fast." This created great confusion among the crowd, some shouting, some clapping their hands, others running to and fro; but, owing to the tumult, Bennet succeeded in making his escape.
The excommunication did but increase his desire to attack the Romish superstitions; and accordingly, before five o'clock the next morning (it was in the month of October 1530), his servant-boy fastened up again by his orders on the cathedral gates some placards similar to those which had been torn down. It chanced that a citizen going to early mass saw the boy, and running up to him, caught hold of him and pulled down the papers; and then dragging the boy with one hand, and with the placards in the other, he went to the mayor of the city. Bennet's servant was recognized; his master was immediately arrested, and put in the stocks, "with as much favor as a dog would find," says Foxe.
Exeter seemed determined to make itself the champion of sacerdotalism in England. For a whole week, not only the bishop, but all the priests and friars of the city, visited Bennet night and day. But they tried in vain to prove to him that the Roman church was the true one. "God has given me grace to be of a better church," he said. -"Do you not know that ours is built upon St. Peter?"-"The church that is built upon a man," he replied, "is the devil's church and not God's." His cell was continually thronged with visitors; and, in default of arguments, the most ignorant of the friars called the prisoner a heretic, and spat upon him. At length they brought to him a learned doctor of theology, who, they supposed, would infallibly convert him. "Our ways are God's ways," said the doctor gravely. But he soon discovered that theologians can do nothing against the word of the Lord. "He only is my way," replied Bennet, "who saith, I am the way, the truth, and the life. In his way will I walk; -his truth will I embrace; -his everlasting life will I seek.”
He was condemned to be burnt; and More having transmitted the order de comburendo with the utmost speed, the priests placed Bennet in the hands of the sheriff on the 15th of January 1531, by whom he was conducted to the Liverydole, a field without the city, where the stake was prepared. When Bennet arrived at the place of execution, he briefly exhorted the people, but with such unction, that the sheriff's clerk, as he heard him, exclaimed: "Truly this is a servant of God." Two persons, however, seemed unmoved: they were Thomas Carew, and John Barnehouse, both holding the station of gentlemen. Going up to the martyr, they exclaimed in a threatening voice: "Say, Precor sanctam Mariam et omnes sanctos Dei."-"I know no other advocate but Jesus Christ," replied Bennet. Barnehouse was so enraged at these words, that he took a furze-bush upon a pike, and setting it on fire, thrust into the martyr's face, exclaiming: "Accursed heretic, pray to our Lady, or I will make you do it."-"Alas!" replied Bennet patiently, "trouble me not;" and then holding up his hands, he prayed: "Father, forgive them!" The executioners immediately set fire to the wood, and the most fanatical of the spectators, both men and women, seized with an indescribable fury, tore up stakes and bushes, and whatever they could lay their hands on, and flung them all into the flames to increase their violence. Bennet, lifting up his eyes to heaven, exclaimed: "Lord, receive my spirit." Thus died, in the sixteenth century, the disciples of the Reformation sacrificed by Henry VIII.
The priests, thanks to the king's sword, began to count on victory; yet schoolmasters, musicians, tradesmen, and even ecclesiastics, were not enough for them. They wanted nobler victims, and these were to be looked for in London. More himself, accompanied by the lieutenant of the Tower, " searched many of the suspected houses. Few citizens were more esteemed in London than John Petit, the same who, in the house of commons, had so nobly resisted the king's demand about the loan. Petit was learned in history and in Latin literature: he spoke with eloquence, and for twenty years had worthily represented the city. Whenever any important affair was debated in parliament, the king feeling uneasy, was in the habit of inquiring, which side he took? This political independence, very rare in Henry's parliaments, gave umbrage to the prince and his ministers. Petit, the friend of Bilney, Fryth, and Tyndale, had been one of the first in England to taste the sweetness of God's word, and had immediately manifested that beautiful characteristic by which the gospel faith makes itself known, namely, charity. He abounded in almsgiving, supported a great number of poor preachers of the gospel in his own country and beyond the seas; and whenever he noted down these generous aids in his books, he wrote merely the words: "Lent unto Christ." He moreover forbade his testamentary executors to call in these debts.
Petit was tranquilly enjoying the sweets of domestic life in his modest home in the society of his wife and two daughters, Blanche and Audrey, when he received an unexpected visit. One day, as he was praying in his closet, a loud knock was heard at the street door. His wife ran to open it, but seeing Lord-chancellor More, she returned hurriedly to her husband, and told him that the lord-chancellor wanted him. More, who followed her, entered the closet, and with inquisitive eye ran over the shelves of the library, but could find nothing suspicious. Presently he made as if he would retire, and Petit accompanied him. The chancellor stopped at the door and said to him: "You assert that you have none of these new books?"-"You have seen my library," replied Petit. -"I am informed, however," replied More, "that you not only read them, but pay for the printing." And then he added in a severe tone: "Follow the lieutenant." In spite of the tears of his wife and daughters this independent member of parliament was conducted to the Tower, and shut up in a damp dungeon, where he had nothing but straw to lie upon. His wife went thither each day in vain, asking with tears permission to see him, or at least to send him a bed; the jailers refused her everything; and it was only when Petit fell dangerously ill that the latter favor was granted him. This took place in 1530, sentence was passed in 1531; we shall see Petit again in his prison. He left it, indeed, but only to sink under the cruel treatment he had there experienced.
Thus were the witnesses to the truth struck down by the priests, by Sir Thomas More, and by Henry VIII. A new victim was to be the cause of many tears. A meek and humble man, one dear to all the friends of the gospel, and whom we may regard as the spiritual father of the Reformation in England, was on the point of mounting the burning pile raised by his persecutors. Some time prior to Petit's appearance before his judges, which took place in 1531, an unusual noise was heard in the cell above him; it was Thomas Bilney, whom they were conducting to the Tower. We left him at the end of 1528 after his fall. Bilney had returned to Cambridge tormented by remorse; his friends in vain crowded round him by night and by day; they could not console him, and even the Scriptures seemed to utter no voice but that of condemnation. Fear made him tremble constantly, and he could scarcely eat or drink. At length a heavenly and unexpected light dawned in the heart of the fallen disciple; a witness whom he had vexed-the Holy Spirit-spoke once more in his heart. Bilney fell at the foot of the cross, shedding floods of tears, and there he found peace. But the more God comforted him, the greater seemed his crime. One only thought possessed him, that of giving his life for the truth. He had shrunk from before the burning pile; its flames must now consume him. Neither the weakness of his body, which his long anguish had much increased, nor the cruelty of his enemies, nor his natural timidity, nothing could stop him: he strove for the martyr's crown. At ten o'clock one night, when every person in Trinity Hall was retiring to rest, Bilney called his friends round him, reminded them of his fall, and added: "You shall see me no more... Do not stay me: my decision is formed, and I shall carry it out. My face is set to go to Jerusalem." Bilney repeated the words used by the Evangelist, when he describes Jesus going up to the city where he was put to death. Having shaken hands with his brethren, this venerable man, the foremost of the evangelists of England in order of time, left Cambridge under cover of the night, and proceeded to Norfolk, to confirm in the faith those who had believed, and to invite the ignorant multitude to the Savior. We shall not follow him in this last and solemn ministry; these facts and others of the same kind belong to a later date. Before the year 1531 closed in, Bilney, Bainham, Bayfield, Tewkesbury, and many others, struck by Henry's sword, sealed by their blood the testimony rendered by them to the perfect grace of Christ.

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