Bilney at Cambridge – Conversions – The University Cross-bearer – A Leicestershire Farmer – A Party of Students – Superstitious Practices – An Obstinate Papist – The Sophists – Latimer Attacks Stafford Bilney's Resolution – Latimer hears Bilney's Confession – Confessor Converted – New Life in Latimer – Bilney Preaches Grace – Nature of the Ministry – Latimer's Character and Teaching – Works of Charity – Three Classes of Adversaries – Clark and Dalaber
THIS ship did not bear away all the hopes of England. A society of Christians had been formed at Cambridge, of which Bilney was the center. He now knew no other canon law than Scripture, and had found a new master, "the Holy Spirit of Christ," says an historian. Although he was naturally timid, and often suffered from the exhaustion brought on by his fasts and vigils, there was in his language a life, liberty, and strength, strikingly in contrast with his sickly appearance. He desired to draw to the knowledge of God, all who came nigh him; and by degrees, the rays of the gospel sun, which was then rising in the firmament of Christendom, pierced the ancient windows of the colleges, and illuminated the solitary chambers of certain of the masters and fellows. Master Arthur, Master Thistle of Pembroke Hall, and Master Stafford, were among the first to join Bilney. George Stafford, professor of divinity, was a man of deep learning and holy life, clear and precise in his teaching. He was admired by every one in Cambridge, so that his conversion, like that of his friends, spread alarm among the partisans of the schoolmen. But a conversion still more striking than this was destined to give the English Reformation a champion more illustrious than either Stafford or Bilney.
There was in Cambridge, at that time, a priest notorious for his ardent fanaticism. In the processions, amidst the pomp, prayers, and chanting of the train, none could fail to notice a master-of-arts, about thirty years of age, who, with erect head, carried proudly the university cross. Hugh Latimer, for such was his name, combined a biting humor with an impetuous disposition and indefatigable zeal, and was very quick in ridiculing the faults of his adversaries. There was more wit and raillery in his fanaticism than can often be found in such characters. He followed the friends of the word of God into the colleges and houses where they used to meet, debated with them, and pressed them to abandon their faith. He was a second Saul, and was soon to resemble the apostle of the Gentiles in another respect.
He first saw light in the year 1491, in the county of Leicester. Hugh's father was an honest yeoman; and, accompanied by one of his six sisters, the little boy had often tended in the pastures the five score sheep belonging to the farm, or driven home to his mother the thirty cows it was her business to milk. In 1497, the Cornish rebels, under Lord Audley, having encamped at Blackheath, our farmer had donned his rusty armor, and, mounting his horse, responded to the summons of the crown. Hugh, then only six years old, was present at his departure, and as if he had wished to take his little part in the battle, he had buckled the straps of his father's armor. Fifty-two years afterward he recalled this circumstance to mind in a sermon preached before King Edward. His father's house was always open to the neighbors; and no poor man ever turned away from the door without having received alms. The old man brought up his family in the love of men and in the fear of God, and having remarked with joy the precocious understanding of his son, he had him educated in the country schools, and then sent to Cambridge at the age of fourteen. This was in 1505, just as Luther was entering the Augustine convent.
The son of the Leicestershire yeoman was lively, fond of pleasure, and of cheerful conversation, and mingled frequently in the amusements of his fellow students. One day, as they were dining together, one of the party exclaimed: Nil melius quam laetari et facere bene!-"There is nothing better than to be merry and to do well." -"A vengeance on that bene!" replied a monk of impudent mien; "I wish it were beyond the sea; it mars all the rest." Young Latimer was much surprised at the remark: "I understand it now," said he; "that will be a heavy bene to these monks when they have to render God an account of their lives.”
Latimer having become more serious, threw himself heart and soul into the practices of superstition, and a very bigoted old cousin undertook to instruct him in them. One day, when one of their relations lay dead, she said to him: "Now we must drive out the devil. Take this holy taper, my child, and pass it over the body, first longways and then athwart, so as always to make the sign of the cross.”
But the scholar performing this exorcism very awkwardly, his aged cousin snatched the candle from his hand, exclaiming angrily: "It's a great pity your father spends so much money on your studies: he will never make anything of you.” This prophecy was not fulfilled. He became Fellow of Clare Hall in 1509, and took his master's degree in 1514. His classical studies being ended, he began to study divinity. Duns Scotus, Aquinas, and Hugo de Sancto Victore were his favorite authors. The practical side of things, however, engaged him more than the speculative; and he was more distinguished in Cambridge for his asceticism and enthusiasm than for his learning. He attached importance to the merest trifles. As the missal directs that water should be mingled with the sacramental wine, often while saying mass he would be troubled in his conscience for fear he had not put sufficient water. This remorse never left him a moment's tranquility during the service. In him, as in many others, attachment to puerile ordinances occupied in his heart the place of faith in the great truths. With him, the cause of the church was the cause of God, and he respected Thomas a Becket at least as much as St. Paul. "I was then," said he, "as obstinate a papist as any in England." Luther said the same thing of himself.
The fervent Latimer soon observed that everybody around him was not equally zealous with himself for the ceremonies of the church. He watched with surprise certain young members of the university who, forsaking the doctors of the School, met daily to read and search into the Holy Scriptures. People sneered at them in Cambridge: "It is only the sophists," was the cry; but raillery was not enough for Latimer. One day he entered the room where these sophists were assembled, and begged them to cease studying the Bible. All his entreaties were useless. Can we be astonished at it? said Latimer to himself. Don't we see even the tutors setting an example to these stray sheep? There is Master Stafford, the most illustrious professor in English universities, devoting his time ad Biblia, like Luther at Wittemberg, and explaining the Scriptures according to the Hebrew and Greek texts! and the delighted students celebrate in bad verse the doctor, Qui Paulum explicuit rite et evangelium, (Who has explained to us the true sense of St.Paul and of the gospel?)
That young people should occupy themselves with these new doctrines was conceivable, but that a doctor of divinity should do so-what a disgrace! Latimer therefore determined to attack Stafford. He insulted him; he entreated the youth of Cambridge to abandon the professor and his heretical teaching; he attended the hall in which the doctor taught, made signs of impatience during the lesson, and caviled at it after leaving the school. He even preached in public against the learned doctor. But it seemed to him that Cambridge and England were struck blind: true, the clergy approved of Latimer's proceedings-nay, praised them; and yet they did nothing. To console him, however, he was named cross-bearer to the university, and we have already seen him discharging this duty.
Latimer desired to show himself worthy of such an honor. He had left the students to attack Stafford; and he now left Stafford for a more illustrious adversary. But this attack led him to some one that was stronger than he. At the occasion of receiving the degree of bachelor of divinity he had to deliver a Latin discourse in the presence of the university; Latimer chose for his subject Philip Melancthon and his doctrines. Had not this daring heretic presumed to say quite recently that the fathers of the church have altered the sense of Scripture? Had he not asserted that, like those rocks whose various colors are imparted to the polypus which clings to them, so the doctors of the church give each their own opinion in the passages they explain? And, finally, had he not discovered a new touchstone (it is thus he styles the Holy Scripture) by which we must test the sentences even of St. Thomas?
Latimer's discourse made a great impression. At last (said his hearers) England, nay Cambridge, will furnish a champion for the church that will confront the Wittemberg doctors, and save the vessel of our Lord. But very different was to be the result. There was among the hearers one man almost hidden through his small stature: it was Bilney. For some time he had been watching Latimer's movements, and his zeal interested him, though it was a zeal without knowledge. His energy was not great, but he possessed a delicate tact, a skillful discernment of character which enabled him to distinguish error, and to select the fittest method for combating it. Accordingly, a chronicler styles him "a trier of Satan's subtleties, appointed by God to detect the bad money that the enemy was circulating throughout the church." Bilney easily detected Latimer's sophism, but at the same time loved his person, and conceived the design of winning him to the gospel. But how to manage it? The prejudiced Latimer would not even listen to the evangelical Bilney. The latter reflected, prayed, and at last planned a very candid and very strange plot, which led to one of the most astonishing conversions recorded in history.
He went to the college where Latimer resided. "For the love of God," he said to him, "be pleased to hear my confession." The heretic prayed to make confession to the Catholic: what a singular fact! My discourse against Melancthon has no doubt converted him, said Latimer to himself. Had not Bilney once been among the number of the most pious zealots? His pale face, his wasted frame, and his humble look are clear signs that he ought to belong to the ascetics of Catholicism. If he turns back, all will turn back with him, and the reaction will be complete at Cambridge. The ardent Latimer eagerly yielded to Bilney's request, and the latter, kneeling before the cross-bearer, related to him with touching simplicity the anguish he had once felt in his soul, the efforts he had made to remove it, their unprofitableness so long as he determined to follow the precepts of the church, and, lastly, the peace he had felt when he believed that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. He described to Latimer the spirit of adoption he had received, and the happiness he experienced in being able now to call God his father... Latimer, who expected to receive a confession, listened without mistrust. His heart was opened, and the voice of the pious Bilney penetrated it without obstacle. From time to time the confessor would have chased away the new thoughts which came crowding into his bosom; but the penitent continued. His language, at once so simple and so lively, entered like a two-edged sword. Bilney was not without assistance in his work. A new, a strange witness, -the Holy Ghost, -was speaking in Latimer's soul. He learned from God to know God: he received a new heart. At length grace prevailed: the penitent rose up, but Latimer remained seated, absorbed in thought. The strong cross-bearer contended in vain against the words of the feeble Bilney. Like Saul on the way to Damascus, he was conquered, and his conversion, like the apostle's, was instantaneous. He stammered out a few words; Bilney drew near him with love, and God scattered the darkness which still obscured his mind. He saw Jesus Christ as the only Savior given to man: he contemplated and adored him. "I learned more by this confession," he said afterward, "than by much reading and in many years before... I now tasted the word of God, and forsook the doctors of the school and all their fooleries." It was not the penitent but the confessor who received absolution. Latimer viewed with horror the obstinate war he had waged against God; he wept bitterly; but Bilney consoled him. "Brother," said he, "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." These two young men, then locked in their solitary chamber at Cambridge, were one day to mount the scaffold for that divine Master whose spirit was teaching them. But one of them before going to the stake was first to sit on an episcopal throne.
Latimer was changed. The energy of his character was tempered by a divine unction. Becoming a believer, he had ceased to be superstitious. Instead of persecuting Jesus Christ, he became a zealous seeker after him. Instead of caviling and railing, he showed himself meek and gentle; instead of frequenting company, he sought solitude, studying the Scriptures and advancing in true theology. He threw off the old man and put on the new. He waited upon Stafford, begged forgiveness for the insult he had offered him, and then regularly attended his lectures, being subjugated more by this doctor's angelic conversation than by his learning. But it was Bilney's society Latimer cultivated most. They conversed together daily, took frequent walks together into the country, and occasionally rested at a place, long known as "the heretic's hill."
So striking a conversion gave fresh vigor to the evangelical movement. Hitherto Bilney and Latimer had been the most zealous champions of the two opposite causes; the one despised, the other honored; the weak man had conquered the strong. This action of the Spirit of God was not thrown away upon Cambridge. Latimer's conversion, as of old the miracles of the apostles, struck men's minds; and was it not in truth a miracle? All the youth of the university ran to hear Bilney preach. He proclaimed "Jesus Christ as He who, having tasted death, has delivered his people from the penalty of sin." While the doctors of the school (even the most pious of them) laid most stress upon man's part in the work of redemption, Bilney on the contrary emphasized the other term, namely, God's part. This doctrine of grace, said his adversaries, annuls the sacraments, and contradicts baptismal regeneration. The selfishness which forms the essence of fallen humanity rejected the evangelical doctrine, and felt that to accept it was to be lost. "Many listened with the left ear" to use an expression of Bilney's; "like Malchus, having their right ear cut off;" and they filled the university with their complaints.
But Bilney did not allow himself to be stopped. The idea of eternity had seized on his mind, and perhaps he still retained some feeble relic of the exaggerations of asceticism. He condemned every kind of recreation, even when innocent. Music in the churches seemed to him a mockery of God; and when Thurlby, who was afterward a bishop, and who lived at Cambridge in the room below his, used to begin playing on the recorder, Bilney would fall on his knees and pour out his soul in prayer: to him prayer was the sweetest melody. He prayed that the lively faith of the children of God might in all England be substituted for the vanity and pride of the priests. He believed-he prayed-he waited. His waiting was not to be in vain.
Latimer trod in his footsteps: the transformation of his soul was going on; and the more fanaticism he had shown for the sacerdotal system, which places salvation in the hands of the priests, the more zeal he now showed for the evangelical system, which placed it in the hands of Christ. He saw that if the churches must needs have ministers, it is not because they require a human mediation, but from the necessity of a regular preaching of the gospel and a steady direction of the flock; and accordingly he would have wished to call the servant of the Lord minister (υπηρετης or διαχογος του λογου), and not priest(ιερευς or sacerdos). In his view, it was not the imposition of hands by the bishop that gave grace, but grace which authorized the imposition of hands. He considered activity to be one of the essential features of the gospel ministry. "Would you know," said he, "why the Lord chose fishermen to be his apostles?... See how they watch day and night at their nets to take all such fishes that they can get and come in their way... So all our bishops, and curates, and vicars should be as painful in casting their nets, that is to say, in preaching God's word." He regarded all confidence in human strength as a remnant of paganism. "Let us not do," he said, "as the haughty Ajax, who said to his father as he went to battle: Without the help of God I am able to fight, and I will get the victory with mine own strength."
The Reformation had gained in Latimer a very different man from Bilney. He had not so much discernment and prudence, perhaps, but he had more energy and eloquence. What Tyndale was to be for England by his writings, Latimer was to be by his discourses. The tenderness of his conscience, the warmth of his zeal, and the vivacity of his understanding, were enlisted in the service of Jesus Christ; and if at times he was carried too far by the liveliness of his wit, it only shows that the reformers were not saints, but sanctified men. "He was one of the first," says an historian, "who, in the days of King Henry VIII, set himself to preach the gospel in the truth and simplicity of it." He preached in Latin ad clerum, and in English ad populum. He boldly placed the law with its curses before his hearers, and then conjured them to flee towards the Savior of the world. The same zeal which he had employed in saying mass, he now employed in preaching the true sacrifice of Christ. He said one day: -"If one man had committed all the sins since Adam, you may be sure he should be punished with the same horror of death, in such a sort as all men in the world should have suffered... Such was the pain Christ endured... If our Savior had committed all the sins of the world; all that I for my part have done, all that you for your part have done, and that any man else hath done; if he had done all this himself, his agony that he suffered should have been no greater or grievouser than it was... Believe in Jesus Christ, and you shall overcome death... But, alas!" said he at another time, "the devil, by the help of that Italian bishop, his chaplain, has labored by all means that he might frustrate the death of Christ and the merits of his passion."
Thus began in British Christendom the preaching of the Cross. The Reformation was not the substitution of the Catholicism of the first ages for the popery of the middle ages: it was a revival of the preaching of St. Paul, and thus it was that on hearing Latimer every one exclaimed with rapture: "Of a Saul, God has made him a very Paul."
To the inward power of faith the Cambridge evangelists added the outward power of the life. Saul become Paul, the strong, the ardent Latimer, had need of action; and Bilney, the weak and humble Bilney, in delicate health, observing a severe diet, taking ordinarily but one meal a-day, and never sleeping more than four hours, absorbed in prayer and in the study of the word, displayed at that time all the energy of charity. These two friends devoted themselves not merely to the easy labors of Christian beneficence; but, caring little for that formal Christianity so often met with among the easy classes, they explored the gloomy cells of the madhouse to bear the sweet and subtle voice of the gospel to the infuriate maniacs. They visited the miserable lazar-house without the town, in which several poor lepers were dwelling; they carefully tended them, wrapped them in clean sheets, and wooed them to be converted to Christ. The gates of the jail at Cambridge were opened to them, and they announced to the poor prisoners that word which giveth liberty. Some were converted by it, and longed for the day of their execution. Latimer, afterward bishop of Worcester, was one of the most beautiful types of the Reformation in England.
He was opposed by numerous adversaries. In the front rank were the priests, who spared no endeavors to retain souls. "Beware," said Latimer to the new converts, "lest robbers overtake you, and plunge you into the pope's prison of purgatory." After these came the sons and favorites of the aristocracy, worldly and frivolous students, who felt little disposition to listen to the gospel. "By yeomen's sons the faith of Christ is and hath been chiefly maintained in the church," said Latimer. "Is this realm taught by rich men's sons? No, no; read the chronicles; ye shall find sometime noblemen's sons which have been unpreaching bishops and prelates, but ye shall find none of them learned men." He would have desired a mode of election which placed in the Christian pulpit, not the richest and most fashionable men, but the ablest and most pious. This important reform was reserved for other days. Lastly, the evangelists of Cambridge came into collision with the brutality of many, to use Latimer's own expression. "What need have we of universities and schools?" said the students of this class. The Holy Ghost "will give us always what to say."-"We must trust in the Holy Ghost," replied Latimer, "but not presume on it. If you will not maintain universities, you shall have a brutality." In this manner the Reformation restored to Cambridge gravity and knowledge, along with truth and charity.
Yet Bilney and Latimer often turned their eyes towards Oxford, and wondered how the light would be able to penetrate there. Wolsey provided for that. A Cambridge master-of-arts, John Clark, a conscientious man, of tender heart, great prudence, and unbounded devotion to his duty, had been enlightened by the word of God. Wolsey, who since 1523 had been seeking everywhere for distinguished scholars to adorn his new college, invited Clark among the first. This doctor, desirous of bearing to Oxford the light which God had given Cambridge, immediately began to deliver a course of divinity lectures, to hold conferences, and to preach in his eloquent manner. He taught every day. Among the graduates and students who followed him was Anthony Dalaber, a young man of simple but profound feeling, who while listening to him had experienced in his heart the regenerating power of the gospel. Overflowing with the happiness which the knowledge of Jesus Christ imparted to him, he went to the cardinal's college, knocked at Clark's door, and said: "Father, allow me never to quit you more!" The teacher, beholding the young disciple's enthusiasm, loved him, but thought it his duty to try him: "Anthony," said he, "you know not what you ask. My teaching is now pleasant to you, but the time will come when God will lay the cross of persecution on you; you will be dragged before bishops; your name will be covered with shame in the world, and all who love you will be heartbroken on account of you... Then, my friend, you will regret that you ever knew me.”
Anthony believing himself rejected, and unable to bear the idea of returning to the barren instructions of the priests, fell on his knees, and weeping bitterly, exclaimed: "For the tender mercy of God, turn me not away!" Touched by his sorrow, Clark folded him in his arms, kissed him, and with tears in his eyes exclaimed: "The Lord give thee what thou askest!... Take me for thy father, I take thee for my son." From that hour Anthony, all joy, was like Timothy at the feet of Paul. He united a quick understanding with tender affections. When any of the students had not attended Clark's conferences, the master commissioned his disciple to visit them, to inquire into their doubts, and to impart to them his instructions. "This exercise did me much good," said Dalaber, "and I made great progress in the knowledge of Scripture.”
Thus the kingdom of God, which consists not in forms, but in the power of the Spirit, was set up in Cambridge and Oxford. The alarmed schoolmen, beholding their most pious scholars escaping one after another from their teaching, called the bishops to their aid, and the latter determined to send agents to Cambridge, the focus of the heresy, to apprehend the leaders. This took place in 1523 or the beginning of 1524. The episcopal officers had arrived, and were proceeding to business. The most timid began to feel alarm, but Latimer was full of courage; when suddenly the agents of the clergy were forbidden to go on, and this prohibition, strange to say, originated with Wolsey; "upon what ground I cannot imagine," says Burnet. Certain events were taking place at Rome of a nature to exercise great influence over the priestly councils, and which may perhaps explain what Burnet could not understand.
Wolsey seeks the Tiara – Clement VII is elected – Wolsey's Dissimulation – Charles Offers France to Henry – Pace's Mission on This Subject – Wolsey Reforms the Convents – His Secret Alliances – Treaty Between France and England – Taxation and Insurrection – False Charges Against the Reformers – Latimer's Defense – Tenterden Steeple
ADRIAN VI died on the 14th September 1523, before the end of the second year of his pontificate. Wolsey thought himself pope. At length he would no longer be the favorite only, but the arbiter of the kings of the earth; and his genius, for which England was too narrow, would have Europe and the world for its stage. Already revolving gigantic projects in his mind, the future pope dreamed of the destruction of heresy in the west, and in the east the cessation of the Greek schism, and new crusades to replant the cross on the walls of Constantinople. There is nothing that Wolsey would not have dared undertake when once seated on the throne of Catholicism, and the pontificates of Gregory VII and Innocent III would have been eclipsed by that of the Ipswich butcher's son. The cardinal reminded Henry of his promise, and the very next day the king signed a letter addressed to Charles the Fifth.
Believing himself sure of the emperor, Wolsey turned all his exertions to the side of Rome. "The legate of England," said Henry's ambassadors to the cardinals, "is the very man for the present time. He is the only one thoroughly acquainted with the interests and wants of Christendom, and strong enough to provide for them. He is all kindness, and will share his dignities and wealth among all the prelates who support him.”
But Julio de' Medici himself aspired to the papacy, and as eighteen cardinals were devoted to him, the election could not take place without his support. "Rather than yield," said he in the conclave, "I would die in this prison." A month passed away, and nothing was done. New intrigues were then resorted to: there were cabals for Wolsey, cabals for Medici. The cardinals were besieged: Into their midst, by many a secret path, Creeps sly intrigue.
At length, on the 19th November 1523, the people collected under their windows, shouting: "No foreign pope." After forty-nine days' debating, Julio was elected, and according to his own expression, "bent his head beneath the yoke of apostolic servitude." He took the name of Clement VII.
Wolsey was exasperated. It was in vain that he presented himself before St. Peter's chair at each vacancy: a more active or more fortunate rival always reached it before him. Master of England, and the most influential of European diplomatists, he saw men preferred to him who were his inferiors. This election was an event for the Reformation. Wolsey as pope would, humanly speaking, have tightened the cords which already bound England so closely to Rome; but Wolsey, rejected, could hardly fail to throw himself into tortuous paths which would perhaps contribute to the emancipation of the Church. He became more crafty than ever; declared to Henry that the new election was quite in conformity with his wishes, and hastened to congratulate the new pope. He wrote to his agents at Rome: "This election, I assure you, is as much to the king's and my rejoicing, consolation, and gladness, as possibly may be devised or imagined... ye shall show unto his holiness what joy, comfort, and gladness it is both to the king's highness and me to perceive that once in our lives it hath pleased God of his great goodness to provide such a pastor unto his church, as his grace and I have long inwardly desired; who for his virtue, wisdom, and other high and notable qualities, we have always reputed the most able and worthy person to be called to that dignity." But the pope, divining his competitor's vexation, sent the king a golden rose, and a ring to Wolsey. "I am sorry," he said as he drew it from his finger, "that I cannot present it to his eminence in person." Clement moreover conferred on him the quality of legate for life-an office which had hitherto been temporary only. Thus the popedom and England embraced each other, and nothing appeared more distant than that Christian revolution which was destined very shortly to emancipate Britain from the tutelage of the Vatican.
Wolsey's disappointed ambition made him suspend the proceedings of the clergy at Cambridge. He had revenge in his heart, and cared not to persecute his fellow-countrymen merely to please his rival; and besides, like several popes, he had a certain fondness for learning. To send a few Lollards to prison was a matter of no difficulty; but learned doctors... this required a closer examination. Hence he gave Rome a sign of independence. And yet it was not specially against the pope that he began to entertain sinister designs: Clement had been more fortunate than himself; but that was no reason why he should be angry with him... Charles V was the offender, and Wolsey swore a deadly hatred against him. Resolved to strike, he sought only the place where he could inflict the severest blow. To obtain his end, he resolved to dissemble his passion, and to distil drop by drop into Henry's mind that mortal hatred against Charles, which gave fresh energy to his activity.
Charles discovered the indignation that lay hid under Wolsey's apparent mildness, and wishing to retain Henry's alliance, he made more pressing advances to the king. Having deprived the minister of a tiara, he resolved to offer the king a crown: this was, indeed, a noble compensation! "You are king of France," the emperor said, "and I undertake to win your kingdom for you. Only send an ambassador to Italy to negotiate the matter." Wolsey, who could hardly contain his vexation, was forced to comply, in appearance at least, with the emperor's views. The king, indeed, seemed to think of nothing but his arrival at St. Germain's, and commissioned Pace to visit Italy for this important business. Wolsey hoped that he would be unable to execute his commission; it was impossible to cross the Alps, for the French troops blockaded every passage. But Pace, who was one of those adventurous characters whom nothing can stop, spurred on by the thought that the king himself had sent him, determined to cross the Col di Tenda. On the 27th July, he entered the mountains, traversed precipitous passes, sometimes climbing them on all-fours," and often falling during the descent. In some places he could ride on horseback; "but in the most part thereof I durst not either turn my horse traverse (he wrote to the king) for all the worldly riches, nor in manner look on my left hand, for the pronite and deepness to the valley." After this passage, which lasted six days, Pace arrived in Italy worn out by fatigue. "If the king of England will enter France immediately by way of Normandy," said the constable of Bourbon to him, "I will give him leave to pluck out both my eyes if he is not master of Paris before All-Saints; and when Paris is taken, he will be master of the whole kingdom." But Wolsey, to whom these remarks were transmitted by the ambassador, slighted them, delayed furnishing the subsidies, and required certain conditions which were calculated to thwart the project. Pace, who was ardent and ever imprudent, but plain and straightforward, forgot himself, and in a moment of vexation wrote to Wolsey: "To speak frankly, if you do not attend to these things, I shall impute to your grace the loss of the crown of France." These words ruined Henry's envoy in the cardinal's mind. Was this man, who owed everything to him, trying to supplant him?... Pace in vain assured Wolsey that he should not take seriously what he had said; but the bolt had hit. Pace was associated with Charles in the cruel enmity of the minister, and he was one day to feel its terrible effects. It was not long before Wolsey was able to satisfy himself that the service Charles had desired to render the king of England was beyond the emperor's strength.
No sooner at ease on one side, than Wolsey found himself attacked on another. This man, the most powerful among king's favorites, felt at this time the first breath of disfavor blow over him. On the pontifical throne, he would no doubt have attempted a reform after the manner of Sixtus V; and wishing to rehearse on a smaller stage, and regenerate after his own fashion the Catholic church in England, he submitted the monasteries to a strict inquisition, patronized the instruction of youth, and was the first to set a great example, by suppressing certain religious houses, whose revenues he applied to his college in Oxford. Thomas Cromwell, his solicitor, displayed much skill and industry in this business, and thus, under the orders of a cardinal of the Roman church, made his first campaign in a war of which he was in later days to hold the chief command. Wolsey and Cromwell, by their reforms, drew down the hatred of certain monks, priests, and noblemen, always the very humble servants of the clerical party. The latter accused the cardinal of not having estimated the monasteries at their just value, and having, in certain cases, encroached on the royal jurisdiction. Henry, whom the loss of the crown of France had put in a bad humor, resolved, for the first time, not to spare his minister: "There are loud murmurs throughout this kingdom," he said to him; "it is asserted that your new college at Oxford is only a convenient cloak to hide your malversations.” "God forbid," replied the cardinal, "that this virtuous foundation at Oxford, undertaken for the good of my poor soul, should be raised ex rapinis! But, above all, God forbid that I should ever encroach upon your royal authority." He then cunningly insinuated, that by his will he left all his property to the king. Henry was satisfied: he had a share in the business.
Events of very different importance drew the king's attention to another quarter. The two armies, of the empire and of France, were in presence before Pavia. Wolsey, who openly gave his right hand to Charles V, and secretly his left to Francis, repeated to his master: "If the emperor gains the victory, are you not his ally? and if Francis, am I not in secret communication with him?" "Thus," added the cardinal, "whatever happens, your Highness will have great cause to give thanks to Almighty God.”
On the 24th of February 1525, the battle of Pavia was fought, and the imperialists found in the French king's tent several of Wolsey's letters, and in his military chest and in the pockets of his soldiers the cardinal's corrupting gold.
This alliance had been contrived by Giovanni Gioacchino, a Genoese master of the household to Louisa, regent of France, who passed for a merchant of Bologna, and lived in concealment at Blackfriars. Charles now saw what he had to trust to; but the news of the battle of Pavia had scarcely reached England, when faithful in perfidy, Wolsey gave utterance to a feigned pleasure. The people rejoiced also, but they were in earnest. Bonfires were lighted in the streets of London; the fountains ran wine, and the lord-mayor, attended by the aldermen, passed through the city on horseback to the sound of the trumpet.
The cardinal's joy was not altogether false. He would have been pleased at his enemy's defeat; but his victory was perhaps still more useful to him.
He said to Henry: "The emperor is a liar, observing neither faith nor promise: the Archduchess Margaret is a woman of evil life; Don Ferdinand is a child, and Bourbon a traitor. Sire, you have other things to do with your money than to squander it on these four individuals. Charles is aiming at universal monarchy; Pavia is the first step of this throne, and if England does not oppose him, he will attain it." Joachim having come privily to London, Wolsey prevailed upon Henry to conclude between England and France an "indissoluble peace by land and sea." At last then he was in a position to prove to Charles that it is a dangerous thing to oppose the ambition of a priest.
This was not the only advantage Wolsey derived from the triumph of his enemy. The citizens of London imagined that the king of England would be in a few weeks in Paris; Wolsey, rancorous and grasping, determined to make them pay dearly for their enthusiasm. "You desire to conquer France," said he; "you are right. Give me then for that purpose the sixth part of your property; that is a trifle to gratify so noble an inclination." England did not think so; this illegal demand aroused universal complaint. "We are English and not French, freemen and not slaves," was the universal cry. Henry might tyrannize over his court, but not lay hands on his subjects' property.
The eastern counties rose in insurrection: four thousand men were under arms in a moment; and Henry was guarded in his own palace by only a few servants. It was necessary to break down the bridges to stop the insurgents. The courtiers complained to the king; the king threw the blame on the cardinal; the cardinal laid it on the clergy, who had encouraged him to impose this tax by quoting to him the example of Joseph demanding of the Egyptians the fifth part of their goods; and the clergy in their turn ascribed the insurrection to the gospelers, who (said they) were stirring up a peasant war in England, as they had done in Germany. Reformation produces revolution: this is the favorite text of the followers of the pope. Violent hands must be laid upon the heretics. Non pluit Deus, duc ad christianos. (God sends no rain ... lead us against the christians)
The charge of the priests was absurd; but the people are blind whenever the gospel is concerned, and occasionally the governors are blind also. Serious reasoning was not necessary to confute this invention. "Here, by the way, I will tell you a merry toy," said Latimer one day in the pulpit. "Master More was once sent in commission into Kent to help to tryout, if it might be, what was the cause of Goodwin Sands and the shelf that stopped up Sandwich haven. He calleth the country afore him, such as were thought to be men of experience, and among others came in an old man with a white head, and one that was thought to be little less than one hundred years old. So Master More called the old aged man unto him, and said: Father, tell me, if you can, what is the cause of this great arising of the sands and shelves hereabout, that stop up Sandwich haven? Forsooth, Sir, (quoth he) I am an old man, for I am well-nigh an hundred, and I think that Tenterden steeple is the cause of the Goodwin Sands. For I am an old man, Sir, and I may remember the building of Tenterden steeple, and before that steeple was in building, there was no manner of flats or sands." After relating this anecdote, Latimer slyly added: "Even so, to my purpose, is preaching of God's word the cause of rebellion, as Tenterden steeple was the cause Sandwich haven is decayed."
There was no persecution: there was something else to be done. Wolsey, feeling certain that Charles had obstructed his accession to the popedom, thought only in what manner he might take his revenge. But during this time Tyndale also was pursuing his aim; and the year 1525, memorable for the battle of Pavia, was destined to be no less so in the British isles, by a still more important victory.
Worms and Cambridge – St. Paul Resuscitated – Latimer's Preaching – Never Man Spake Like This Man – Joy and Vexation at Cambridge – Sermon by Prior Buckingham – Irony – Latimer's Reply to Buckingham – The Students Threatened – Latimer Preaches Before the Bishop – He Is Forbidden to Preach – The Most Zealous of Bishops – Barnes the Restorer of Letters – Bilney Undertakes to Convert Him – Barnes Offers
His Pulpit to Latimer – Fryth's Thirst for God – Christmas Eve, 1525 – Storm Against Barnes – Ferment in the Colleges – Germany at Cambridge – Meetings at Oxford – General Expectation
WHILE these works were accomplishing at Cologne and Worms, others were going on at Cambridge and Oxford. On the banks of the Rhine they were preparing the seed; in England they were drawing the furrows to receive it. The gospel produced a great agitation at Cambridge. Bilney, whom we may call the father of the English Reformation, since, being the first converted by the New Testament, he had brought to the knowledge of God the energetic Latimer, and so many other witnesses of the truth, -Bilney did not at that time put himself forward, like many of those who had listened to him: his vocation was prayer. Timid before men, he was full of boldness before God, and day and night called upon him for souls. But while he was kneeling in his closet, others were at work in the world. Among these Stafford was particularly remarkable. "Paul is risen from the dead," said many as they heard him. And in fact Stafford explained with so much life the true meaning of the words of the apostle and of the four evangelists, that these holy men, whose faces had been so long hidden under the dense traditions of the schools, reappeared before the youth of the university such as the apostolic times had beheld them. But it was not only their persons (for that would have been a trifling matter), it was their doctrine which Stafford laid before his hearers. While the schoolmen of Cambridge were declaring to their pupils a reconciliation which was not yet worked out, and telling them that pardon must be purchased by the works prescribed by the church, Stafford taught that redemption was accomplished, that the satisfaction offered by Jesus Christ was perfect; and he added, that popery having revived the kingdom of the law, God, by the Reformation, was now reviving the kingdom of grace. The Cambridge students, charmed by their master's teaching, greeted him with applause, and, indulging a little too far in their enthusiasm, said to one another as they left the lecture-room: "Which is the most indebted to the other? Stafford to Paul, who left him the holy epistles; or Paul to Stafford, who has resuscitated that apostle and his holy doctrines, which the middle ages had obscured?”
Above Bilney and Stafford rose Latimer, who, by the power of the Holy Ghost, transfused into other hearts the learned lessons of his master. Being informed of the work that Tyndale was preparing, he maintained from the Cambridge pulpits that the Bible ought to be read in the vulgar tongue. "The author of Holy Scripture," said he, "is the Mighty One, the Everlasting... God himself... and this Scripture partakes of the might and eternity of its author. There is neither king nor emperor that is not bound to obey it. Let us beware of those bypaths of human tradition, filled of stones, brambles, and uprooted trees. Let us follow the straight road of the word. It does not concern us what the Fathers have done, but what they should have done."
A numerous congregation crowded to Latimer's preaching, and his hearers hung listening to his lips. One in particular attracted attention. He was a Norfolk youth, sixteen years of age, whose features were lighted up with understanding and piety. This poor scholar had received with eagerness the truth announced by the former cross-bearer. He did not miss one of his sermons; with a sheet of paper on his knees, and a pencil in his hand, he took down part of the discourse, trusting the remainder to his memory. This was Thomas Becon, afterward chaplain to Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury. "If I possess the knowledge of God," said he, "I owe it (under God) to Latimer.”
Latimer had hearers of many sorts. By the side of those who gave way to their enthusiasm stood men "swelling, blown full, and puffed up like unto Esop's frog, with envy and malice against him," said Becon; these were the partisans of traditional Catholicism, whom curiosity had attracted, or whom their evangelical friends had dragged to the church. But as Latimer spoke, a marvelous transformation was worked in them; by degrees their angry features relaxed, their fierce looks grew softer; and, if these friends of the priests were asked, after their return home, what they thought of the heretic preacher, they replied, in the exaggeration of their surprise and rapture: "Nunquam sic locutus est homo, sicut hic homo!" (John 7:46)
When he descended from the pulpit, Latimer hastened to practice what he had taught. He visited the narrow chambers of the poor scholars, and the dark rooms of the working classes: "he watered with good deeds whatsoever he had before planted with godly words," said the student who collected his discourses. The disciples conversed together with joy and simplicity of heart; everywhere the breath of a new life was felt; as yet no external reforms had been effected, and yet the spiritual church of the gospel and of the Reformation was already there. And thus the recollection of these happy times was long commemorated in the adage: When Master Stafford read, And Master Latimer preached, Then was Cambridge blessed The priests could not remain inactive: they heard speak of grace and liberty, and would have nothing to do with either. If grace is tolerated, will it not take from the hands of the clergy the manipulation of salvation, indulgences, penance, and all the rubrics of the canon law? If liberty is conceded, will not the hierarchy, with all its degrees, pomps, violence, and scaffolds, be shaken? Rome desires no other liberty than that of free-will, which, exalting the natural strength of fallen man, dries up as regards mankind the springs of divine life, withers Christianity, and changes that heavenly religion into a human moralism and legal observances.
The friends of popery, therefore, collected their forces to oppose the new religion. "Satan, who never sleeps," says the simple chronicler, "called up his familiar spirits, and sent them forth against the reformers." Meetings were held in the convents, but particularly in that belonging to the Greyfriars. They mustered all their forces. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, said they. Latimer extols in his sermons the blessings of Scripture; we must deliver a sermon also to show its dangers. But where was the orator to be found who could cope with him? This was a very embarrassing question to the clerical party. Among the Greyfriars there was a haughty monk, adroit and skillful in little matters, and full at once of ignorance and pride: it was the prior Buckingham. No one had shown more hatred against the evangelical Christians, and no one was in truth a greater stranger to the gospel. This was the man commissioned to set forth the dangers of the word of God. He was by no means familiar with the New Testament; he opened it however, picked out a few passages here and there which seemed to favor his thesis, and then, arrayed in his costliest robes, with head erect and solemn step already sure of victory, he went into the pulpit, combated the heretic, and with pompous voice stormed against the reading of the Bible; it was in his eyes the fountain of all heresies and misfortunes. "If that heresy should prevail," he exclaimed, "there will be an end of everything useful among us. The plowman, reading in the gospel that no man having put his hand to the plow should look back, would soon lay aside his labor... The baker, reading that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, will in future make us nothing but very insipid bread; and the simple man finding himself commanded to pluck out the right eye and cast it from thee, England, after a few years, will be a frightful spectacle; it will be little better than a nation of blind and one-eyed men, sadly begging their bread from door to door."
This discourse moved that part of the audience for which it was intended. "The heretic is silenced," said the monks and clerks; but sensible people smiled, and Latimer was delighted that they had given him such an adversary. Being of a lively disposition and inclined to irony, he resolved to lash the platitudes of the pompous friar. There are some absurdities, he thought, which can only be refuted by showing how foolish they are. Does not even the grave Tertullian speak of things which are only to be laughed at, for fear of giving them importance by a serious refutation? "Next Sunday I will reply to him," said Latimer.
The church was crowded when Buckingham, with the hood of St. Francis on his shoulders and with a vain-glorious air, took his place solemnly in front of the preacher. Latimer began by recapitulating the least weak of his adversary's arguments; then taking them up one by one, he turned them over and over, and pointed out all their absurdity with so much wit that the poor prior was buried in his own nonsense. Then turning towards the listening crowd, he exclaimed with warmth: "This is how your skillful guides abuse your understanding. They look upon you as children that must be forever kept in leading-strings. Now, the hour of your majority has arrived; boldly examine the Scriptures, and you will easily discover the absurdity of the teaching of your doctors." And then desirous, as Solomon has it, of answering a fool according to his folly, he added: "As for the comparisons drawn from the plow, the leaven, and the eye, of which the reverend prior has made so singular a use, is it necessary to justify these passages of Scripture? Must I tell you what plow, what leaven, what eye is here meant? Is not our Lord's teaching distinguished by those expressions which, under a popular form, conceal a spiritual and profound meaning? Do not we know that in all languages and in all speeches, it is not on the image that we must fix our eyes, but on the thing which the image represents?... For instance," he continued, and as he said these words he cast a piercing glance on the prior, "if we see a fox painted preaching in a friar's hood, nobody imagines that a fox is meant, but that craft and hypocrisy are described, which are so often found disguised in that garb." At these words the poor prior, on whom the eyes of all the congregation were turned, rose and left the church hastily, and ran off to his convent to hide his rage and confusion among his brethren. The monks and their creatures uttered loud cries against Latimer. It was unpardonable (they said) to have been thus wanting in respect to the cowl of St. Francis. But his friends replied: "Do we not whip children? and he who treats Scripture worse than a child, does he not deserve to be well flogged?”
The Romish party did not consider themselves beaten. The heads of colleges and the priests held frequent conferences. The professors were desired to watch carefully over their pupils, and to lead them back to the teaching of the church by flattery and by threats. "We are putting our lance in rest," they told the students; "if you become evangelicals, your advancement is at an end." But these open-hearted generous youths loved rather to be poor with Christ, than rich with the priests. Stafford continued to teach, Latimer to preach, and Bilney to visit the poor: the doctrine of Christ ceased not to be spread abroad, and souls to be converted.
One weapon only was left to the schoolmen; this was persecution, the favorite arm of Rome. "Our enterprise has not succeeded," said they; "Buckingham is a fool. The best way of answering these gospelers is to prevent their speaking." Dr. West, bishop of Ely, was ordinary of Cambridge; they called for his intervention, and he ordered one of the doctors to inform him the next time Latimer was to preach; "but," added he, "do not say a word to anyone. I wish to come without being expected.”
One day as Latimer was preaching in Latin ad clerum, the bishop suddenly entered the university church, attended by a number of priests. Latimer stopped, waiting respectfully until West and his train had taken their places. 'A new audience," thought he; "and besides an audience worthy of greater honor calls for a new theme. Leaving, therefore, the subject I had proposed, I will take up one that relates to the episcopal charge, and will preach on these words: Christus existens Pontifexfuturorum bonorum" (Hebrews 9:11). Then describing Jesus Christ, Latimer represented him as the "true and perfect pattern unto all other bishops." There was not a single virtue pointed out in the divine bishop that did not correspond with some defect in the Romish bishops. Latimer's caustic wit had a free course at their expense; but there was so much gravity in his sallies, and so lively a Christianity in his descriptions, that everyone must have felt them to be the cries of a Christian conscience rather than the sarcasms of an ill-natured disposition. Never had bishop been taught by one of his priests like this man. "Alas!" said many, "our bishops are not of that breed: they are descended from Arenas and Caiaphas." West was not more at his ease than Buckingham had been formerly. He stifled his anger, however; and after the sermon, said to Latimer with a gracious accent: "You have excellent talents, and if you would do one thing I should be ready to kiss your feet."... What humility in a bishop!... "Preach in this same church," continued West, "a sermon... against Martin Luther.That is the best way of checking heresy." Latimer understood the prelate's meaning, and replied calmly: "If Luther preaches the word of God, I cannot oppose him. But if he teaches the contrary, I am ready to attack him."-"Well, well, Master Latimer," exclaimed the bishop, "I perceive that you smell somewhat of the pan.... One day or another you will repent of that merchandise.”
West having left Cambridge in great irritation against that rebellious clerk, hastened to convoke his chapter, and forbade Latimer to preach either in the university or in the diocese. "All that will live godly shall suffer persecution," St. Paul had said; Latimer was now experiencing the truth of the saying. It was not enough that the name of heretic had been given him by the priests and their friends, and that the passers-by insulted him in the streets;... the work of God was violently checked. "Behold then," he exclaimed with a bitter sigh, "the use of the episcopal office... to hinder the preaching of Jesus Christ!" Some few years later he sketched, with his usual caustic irony, the portrait of a certain bishop, of whom Luther also used frequently to speak: "Do you know," said Latimer, "who is the most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England?... I see you listening and hearkening that I should name him... I will tell you... It is the devil. He is never out of his diocese; ye shall never find him out of the way; call for him when you will, he's ever at home. He is ever at his plow. Ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you. Where the devil is resident-there away with books and up with candles; away with bibles and up with beads; away with the light of the gospel and up with the light of candles, yea at noondays; down with Christ's cross, up with purgatory pickpurse; away with clothing the naked, the poor, and impotent, up with decking of images and gay garnishing of stocks and stones; down with God's traditions and his most holy word... Oh! that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel!" Truly may it be said, "There was never such a preacher in "England as he is."
The reformer was not satisfied with merely speaking: he acted. "Neither the menacing words of his adversaries nor their cruel imprisonments," says one of his contemporaries, "could hinder him from proclaiming God's truth." Forbidden to preach in the churches, he went about from house to house. He longed for a pulpit, however, and this he obtained. A haughty prelate had in vain interdicted his preaching; Jesus Christ, who is above all bishops, is able, when one door is shut, to open another. Instead of one great preacher there were soon two at Cambridge.
An Augustine monk named Robert Barnes, a native of the county of Norfolk, and a great scholar, had gone to Louvain to prosecute his studies. Here he received the degree of doctor of divinity, and having returned to Cambridge, was nominated prior of his monastery in 1523. It was his fortune to reconcile learning and the gospel in the university; but by leaning too much to learning he diminished the force of the word of God. A great crowd collected every day in the Augustine convent to hear his lectures upon Terence, and in particular upon Cicero. Many of those who were offended by the simple Christianity of Bilney and Latimer, were attracted by this reformer of another kind. Coleman, Coverdale, Field, Cambridge, Barley, and many other young men of the university, gathered round Barnes and proclaimed him "the restorer of letters."
But the classics were only a preparatory teaching. The masterpieces of antiquity having aided Barnes to clear the soil, he opened before his class the epistles of St. Paul. He did not understand their divine depth, like Stafford; he was not, like him, anointed with the Holy Ghost; he differed from him on several of the apostle's doctrines, on justification by faith, and on the new creature; but Barnes was an enlightened and liberal man, not without some degree of piety, and desirous, like Stafford, of substituting the teaching of Scripture for the barren disputations of the school. But they soon came into collision, and Cambridge long remembered that celebrated discussion in which Barnes and Stafford contended with so much renown, employing no other weapons than the word of God, to the great astonishment of the blind doctors, and the great joy of the clear-sighted, says the chronicler.
Barnes was not as yet thoroughly enlightened, and the friends of the gospel were astonished that a man, a stranger to the truth, should deal such heavy blows against error. Bilney, whom we continually meet with when any secret work, a work of irresistible charity, is in hand, -Bilney, who had converted Latimer, undertook to convert Barnes; and Stafford, Arthur, Thistel of Pembroke, and Fooke of Benet's, earnestly prayed God to grant his assistance. The experiment was difficult: Barnes had reached that juste milieu, that "golden mean" of the humanists, that intoxication of learning and glory, which render conversion more difficult. Besides, could a man like Bilney really dare to instruct the restorer of antiquity? But the humble bachelor of arts, so simple in appearance, knew, like David of old, a secret power by which the Goliath of the university might be vanquished. He passed days and nights in prayer; and then urged Barnes openly to manifest his convictions without fearing the reproaches of the world. After many conversations and prayers, Barnes was converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Still, the prior retained something undecided in his character, and only half relinquished that middle state with which he had begun. For instance, he appears to have always believed in the efficacy of sacerdotal consecration to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. His eye was not single, and his mind was often agitated and driven to and fro by contrary thoughts: "Alas!" said this divided character one day, "I confess that my cogitations be innumerable."
Barnes, having come to a knowledge of the truth, immediately displayed a zeal that was somewhat imprudent. Men of the least decided character, and even those who are destined to make a signal fall, are often those who begin their course with the greatest ardor. Barnes seemed prepared at this time to withstand all England. Being now united to Latimer by a tender Christian affection, he was indignant that the powerful voice of his friend should be lost to the church. "The bishop has forbidden you to preach," he said to him, "but my monastery is not under episcopal jurisdiction. You can preach there." Latimer went into the pulpit at the Augustines', and the church could not contain the crowd that flocked to it. At Cambridge, as at Wittemberg, the chapel of the Augustine monks was used for the first struggles of the gospel. It was here that Latimer delivered some of his best sermons.
A very different man from Latimer, and particularly from Barnes, was daily growing in influence among the English reformers: this was Fryth. No one was more humble than he, and on that very account no one was stronger. He was less brilliant than Barnes, but more solid. He might have penetrated into the highest departments of science, but he was drawn away by the deep mysteries of God's word; the call of conscience prevailed over that of the understanding. He did not devote the energy of his soul to difficult questions; he thirsted for God, for his truth, and for his love. Instead of propagating his particular opinions and forming divisions, he clung only to the faith which saves, and advanced the dominion of true unity. This is the mark of the great servants of God. Humble before the Lord, mild before men, and even in appearance somewhat timid, Fryth in the face of danger displayed an intrepid courage. "My learning is small," he said, "but the little I have I am determined to give to Jesus Christ for the building of his temple."
Latimer's sermons, Barnes's ardor, and Fryth's firmness, excited fresh zeal at Cambridge. They knew what was going on in Germany and Switzerland; shall the English, ever in front, now remain in the rear? Shall not Latimer, Bilney, Stafford, Barnes, and Fryth do what the servants of God are doing in other places?
A secret ferment announced an approaching crisis: every one expected some change for better or for worse. The evangelicals, confident in the truth, and thinking themselves sure of victory, resolved to fall upon the enemy simultaneously on several points. The Sunday before Christmas, in the year 1525, was chosen for this great attack. While Latimer should address the crowds that continued to fill the Augustine chapel, and other were preaching in other places, Barnes was to deliver a sermon in one of the churches in the town. But nothing compromises the gospel so much as a disposition turned towards outward things. God, who grants his blessing only to undivided hearts, permitted this general assault, of which Barnes was to be the hero, to be marked by a defeat. The prior, as he went into the pulpit, thought only of Wolsey. As the representative of the popedom in England, the cardinal was the great obstacle to the Reformation. Barnes preached from the epistle for the day: Rejoice in the Lord alway. But instead of announcing Christ and the joy of the Christian, he imprudently declaimed against the luxury, pride, and diversions of the churchmen, and everybody understood that he aimed at the cardinal. He described those magnificent palaces, that brilliant suite, those scarlet robes, and pearls, and gold, and precious stones, and all the prelate's ostentation, so little in keeping (said he) with the stable of Bethlehem. Two fellows of King's College, Robert Ridley and Walter Preston, relations of Tonstall, bishop of London, who were intentionally among the congregation, noted down in their tablets the prior's imprudent expressions.
The sermon was scarcely over when the storm broke out. "These people are not satisfied with propagating monstrous heresies," exclaimed their enemies, "but they must find fault with the powers that be. Today they attack the cardinal, tomorrow they will attack the king!" Ridley and Preston accused Barnes to the vice-chancellor. All Cambridge was in commotion. What! Barnes the Augustine prior, the restorer of letters, accused as a Lollard!... The gospel was threatened with a danger more formidable than a prison or a scaffold. The friends of the priests, knowing Barnes's weakness, and even his vanity, hoped to obtain of him a disavowal that would cover the evangelical party with shame. "What!" said these dangerous counselors to him, "the noblest career was open to you, and would you close it?... Do, pray, explain away your sermon." They alarmed, they flattered him; and the poor prior was near yielding to their solicitations. "Next Sunday you will read this declaration," they said to him. Barnes ran over the paper put into his hands, and saw no great harm in it. However he desired to show it to Bilney and Stafford. "Beware of such weakness," said these faithful men. Barnes then recalled his promise, and for a season the enemies of the gospel were silent.
Its friends worked with increased energy. The fall from which one of their companions had so narrowly escaped inspired them with fresh zeal. The more indecision and weakness Barnes had shown, the more did his brethren flee to God for courage and firmness. It was reported, moreover, that a powerful ally was coming across the sea, and that the Holy Scriptures, translated into the vulgar tongue, were at last to be given to the people. Wherever the word was preached, there the congregation was largest. It was the seed-time of the church: all were busy in the fields to prepare the soil and trace the furrows. Seven colleges at least were in full ferment: Pembroke, St. John's, Queens', King's, Caius, Benet's, and Peterhouse. The gospel was preached at the Augustines', at Saint Mary's (the University church,) and in other places, and when the bells rang to prayers, the streets were alive with students issuing from the colleges, and hastening to the sermon.
There was at Cambridge a house called the White Horse, so situated as to permit the most timid members of King's, Queens', and St. John's Colleges, to enter at the rear without being perceived. In every age Nicodemus has had his followers. Here those persons used to assemble who desired to read the Bible and the works of the German reformers. The priests, looking upon Wittemberg as the focus of the Reformation, named this house Germany: the people will always have their bywords. At first the frequenters of the White Horse were called Sophists; and now, whenever a group of "fellows" was seen walking in that direction, the cry was, "There are the Germans going to Germany."-"We are not Germans," was the reply, "neither are we Romans." The Greek New Testament had made them Christians. The gospel-meetings had never been more fervent. Some attended them to communicate the new life they possessed; others to receive what God had given to the more advanced brethren. The Holy Spirit united them all, and thus, by the fellowship of the saints, were real churches created. To these young Christians the word of God was the source of so much light, that they imagined themselves transported to that heavenly city of which the Scriptures speak, which had no need of the sun, for the glory of God did lighten it. "So oft as I was in the company of these brethren," said a youthful student of St. John's, "me thought I was quietly placed in the new glorious Jerusalem."
Similar things were taking place at Oxford. In 1524 and 1525, Wolsey had successively invited thither several Cambridge fellows, and although only seeking the most able, he found that he had taken some of the most pious. Besides John Clark, there were Richard Cox, John Fryer, Godfrey Harman, W. Betts, Henry Sumner, W. Baily, Michael Drumm, Th. Lawny, and, lastly, the excellent John Fryth. These Christians, associating with Clark, with his faithful Dalaber, and with other evangelicals of Oxford, held meetings, like their Cambridge brethren, at which God manifested his presence. The bishops made war upon the gospel; the king supported them with all his power; but the word had gained the victory; there was no longer any doubt. The church was born again in England.
The great movement of the sixteenth century had begun more particularly among the younger doctors and students at Oxford and Cambridge. From them it was necessary that it should be extended to the people, and for that end the New Testament, hitherto read in Latin and in Greek, must be circulated in English. The voices of these youthful evangelists were heard, indeed, in London and in the provinces, but their exhortations would have been insufficient, if the mighty hand which directs all things had not made this Christian activity coincide with that holy work for which it had set Tyndale apart. While all was agitation in England, the waves of ocean were bearing from the continent to the banks of the Thames those Scriptures of God, which, three centuries later, multiplied by thousands and by millions, and, translated into a hundred and fifty tongues, were to be wafted from the same banks to the ends of the world. If in the fifteenth century, and even in the early years of the sixteenth, the English New Testament had been brought to London, it would only have fallen into the hands of a few Lollards. Now, in every place, in the parsonages, the universities, and the palaces, as well as in the cottages of the husbandmen and the shops of the tradesmen, there was an ardent desire to possess the Holy Scriptures. The fiat lux was about to be uttered over the chaos of the church, and light to be separated from darkness by the word of God.