Short Papers on Church History — Chapter 54


From the times of Wycliffe, the great English Reformer, the Lord preserved a remnant in England, who witnessed for the truth, and who testified against the doctrines and superstitions of Rome. We found many of the descendants of the Lollards, or followers of Wycliffe, in the western districts of Scotland, who were prepared to receive the new doctrines of the continental divines. So it was in England. There were many, very many, among the humbler classes, who still held to the doctrines taught by their great chief; but they were compelled to hide themselves among the humbler ranks of the people, and to hold their meetings in secret. "They lived unknown, till persecution dragged them into the light, and chased them up to heaven." The least whisper of dissent from Holy Mother Church was visited with the severest penalties. As an instance of this, six men and a woman were brought to the stake at Coventry, in the year 1519, for teaching their children the Lord's prayer, the ten commandments, and the apostles' creed in the vulgar tongue.

Such were the scenes of daily occurrence in England, shortly before the Reformation. The priests were, as the apostle says, like "grievous wolves, not sparing the flock." Richard Hun, an honest tradesman in London, though still in the Romish communion, was a diligent student of his Bible, and a truly pious man. At the death of one of his children, the priest required of him an exorbitant fee, which Hun refused to pay, and for which he was summoned before the legate's court. Animated by that public spirit which characterizes his countrymen, he felt indignant that an Englishman should be cited before a foreign tribunal, and lodged an accusation against the priest under the act of Praemunire. Such boldness-most extraordinary at that time-exasperated the clergy beyond all bounds. "Such boldness," they said, "must be severely checked, or every layman will dare to resist the priest." Hun was accused of heresy, and thrown into the Lollards' tower of St. Paul's, and left there with an iron collar round his neck, attached to which was a heavy chain which he could scarcely drag across his prison floor.

When brought before his judges, no proof of heresy could be brought against him, and it was observed with astonishment "that he had his beads in prison with him." His persecutors were now in a great dilemma. To set him at liberty would proclaim their own defeat; and who could stop the Reformers, if the priests were to be so easily resisted? Three of their agents undertook to extricate the holy fathers from their difficulties. At midnight those men, one of them the bell-ringer, conducted the others with a light to Hun's cell. They fell upon him, strangled him, and then, putting his own belt round his neck, they suspended the lifeless body by an iron ring in the wall; and thus the turnkey found him in the morning. "The priests have murdered him," was the general cry in London, and demanded an inquest to be held on his body. Marks of violence being found on his person, and traces of blood in his cell, the jury concluded that he had been murdered; besides two of the three criminals were so conscience-stricken that they confessed their guilt. The priests were now in a greater dilemma than ever. What was to be done? This would be a serious blow to them unless they could somehow justify themselves. The house of Hun was searched, a Bible was found in it, and it was Wycliffe's translation. This was enough; He was condemned as a heretic; his body was dug up and burnt in Smithfield. But all this rather exposed than screened their guilt. The case was brought before parliament; Hun's character was vindicated; the priests were charged with the crime of murder, and restitution of his goods had to be made to his family. But through the influence of Wolsey the criminals were not punished.

The Martyrdom of John Brown

Although the clergy had been unfortunate in the affair of Hun, and exposed themselves to shame and reproach, they were by no means discouraged in their cruel course of persecution. There were many sufferers and martyrs about this time, according to our English martyrologist.

In the spring of 1517-the year in which Luther nailed his theses to the church door-John Brown of Ashford, an intelligent Christian, happened to seat himself beside a priest in the Gravesend passage-boat. "Dost thou know who I am?" said the priest, in the most haughty manner. "No, sir," said Brown. "Well then, you must know that I am a priest; you are too near me." "Indeed, sir! are you a parson, or vicar, or lady's chaplain?" "No; I am a soul-priest; I sing mass to save souls." "Do you, sir," rejoined Brown, "that is well done: and can you tell me where you find the soul when you begin the mass?" "I cannot," said the priest. "And where do you leave it, pray, when the mass is ended?" "I do not know," said the priest. "What!" continued Brown, "you do not know where you find the soul or where you leave it, and yet you say that you save it!" "Go thy ways," said the priest angrily; "thou art a heretic, and I will be even with thee."

As soon as the priest landed at Gravesend, he rode off to Canterbury, and denounced Brown to the archbishop. In three days after this conversation, as Brown sat at dinner with his family, the officers of Warham entered, dragged the man from his house, tied him on horseback, and rode off quickly. The heart-rending cries of his wife and children were of no avail. The primate's officers were too well acquainted with such tears and cries to be moved to pity. Brown was thrown into prison, and there he lay forty days, during which time his family knew not where he was, or what had been done to him. At the end of that time he was brought up for trial before the archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishop of Rochester. He was required to retract his "blasphemy." "Christ was once offered," said Brown, "to bear the sins of many, and it is by this sacrifice we are saved, not by the repetitions of the priests." At this reply the archbishop made a sign to the executioners, who immediately took off the shoes and stockings of the pious Christian, and placed his bare feet on a pan of burning coals. This heartless cruelty was in direct violation of the English laws which forbade torture to be inflicted on any subject of the crown, but the clergy thought themselves above the laws. "Confess the efficacy of the mass," cried the two bishops to the sufferer. "If I deny my Lord upon earth," he replied, "He will deny me before his Father in heaven." The flesh was burnt off the soles of his feet even to the bones, and still John Brown remained firm and unshaken. The bishops feeling their utter weakness in the presence of divine strength, ordered him to be burnt alive-the last act of human cruelty.

The martyr was led back to Ashford. The servant of the family happening to be out when he arrived, saw him, and running back, rushed into the house, exclaiming, "I have seen him! I have seen him!" His poor wife hastened to see him, he was so tightly bound in the stocks, that he could hardly move even his head, in speaking to his wife. She sat down beside him: his features were changed by suffering; her tears and distress must remain for ever untold. He thanked the Lord for sustaining him under the torture, and for enabling him to confess his faith in the blessed Lord Jesus; and exhorted his good wife Elizabeth to continue as she had begun-to love the Lord, for He is good, and to bring up the children for Him.

The following morning, being Whitsunday, he was-taken out of the stocks and bound to the stake. His wife, his daughter Alice, and his other children, with some friends, gathered round the faggots to receive his farewell blessing. He sang a hymn while the flames were playing around him but feeling that the fire had nearly done its work, he breathed out the prayer of his Lord and Master; "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit," adding, "Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth." The martyr was now silent; but redoubled cries of anguish rent the air. His wife and daughter seemed as if they would lose their senses. The spectators moved with compassion, deeply sympathized with the distracted family, but scowled with indignation on the executioners. "Come," said Chilton, a brutal officer, "let us cast the heretic's children into the fire, lest they, too, should become heretics. So saying, he rushed towards Alice, but the maiden ran off, screaming with fright, and escaped the ruffian. "*

{*For details, see Foxe's Book of Martyrs, vol. 2, folio ed. pp. 7-14.}

Such were the servants of the archbishop, and such the heart-rending scenes in England, down to the time of Luther and the reign of Henry VIII., to which we must now turn.

Henry VIII

From the rival claims of York and Lancaster the succession to the English throne had been a matter of fierce contention for many years. The struggle of the opposing factions amongst the nobility, known in history by the term, "The Wars of the Roses," broke out about the time when Gutenberg's labours at the printing press began, and greatly hindered the peaceful triumph of the arts and literature. The country was deeply affected in all its interests by these civil wars. Commerce was reduced to its lowest state, ignorance covered the land, and true piety had scarcely any existence except amongst the despised and persecuted Lollards.*

{*Universal History, vol. 6, p. 27.}

Such was the condition of things when Henry VIII. ascended the throne in 1509. Uniting in his person the claims of the rival houses of York and Lancaster, he received the devotion of both. Everything seemed to favour the young monarch, and give hope of a peaceful and popular reign. His father, Henry VII., had successfully founded the Tudor dynasty, left him with a people outwardly quiet, and an exchequer overflowing with what would now amount to ten or twelve millions of gold. He was young-about eighteen- said to be "majestic in port, eminently handsome, and rioting in health and spirits." His manners were frank and open, and being most accomplished in all the manly exercises of the time, he became the idol of the nation. His marriage and coronation were followed by a constant succession of gaieties and amusements on the most expensive plan, which rapidly reduced the treasures accumulated by his parsimonious father.

Henry had also a taste for letters. He delighted in the society of scholars and lavished upon them his patronage. Having been destined by his father for the church, and educated accordingly, his naturally vigorous mind had been greatly improved by education, so that in mental accomplishments he far exceeded the princes of his age. The new study of revived classical literature had for some time been much cultivated in England. This was not the Reformation, but it exposed the ignorance of the clergy, and prepared the public mind for the approaching change. The priests were now as opposed to the scholars as to the heretics. They railed against the invention of printing, the manufacture of paper, and the introduction of such heathenish words as nominatives and adverbs: they were all of Satan, and sources of heresy-but, as the king favoured the most illustrious of the scholars, it was not so easy to have them murdered or burnt as poor Hun and Brown.

But of all the learned men now in England, the one they hated most was Erasmus. He could not endure-as we have already seen in the course of our history-the greed, the gluttony, and the ignorance of the monks. He had often levelled against them his keenest shafts, and his most pungent satire. He had also indulged in some of his witty sarcasms against the bishop of St. Asaph, and, though he was a favorite at court, he must be banished if he cannot be burnt. The bishops set to work accordingly. Erasmus, seeing their intentions, and true to his nature, left the country. This event was overruled by a gracious providence in the most blessed way. He went straight to Basle, and published his Greek and Latin New Testament. Copies were straightway despatched to London, Oxford, and Cambridge, where they were received with great enthusiasm. The priests had thought to maintain the darkness by driving away the master of letters, but his departure was the means of restoring to England the light of eternal truth-the pure gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before Luther had posted up his theses, the holy scriptures were circulated in England. Thus was the Reformation chiefly accomplished by the word of God. There the Person and glory of Christ are revealed as the Saviour of sinners; salvation through faith in His precious blood, and oneness with Him through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.

"The Reformation in England," says D'Aubigné, "perhaps to a greater extent than that of the continent, was effected by the word of God. Those great individualities we met with in Germany, Switzerland, and France-men like Luther, Zwingle, and Calvin-do not appear in England; but holy scripture is widely circulated. What brought light into the British Isles subsequently to the year 1517, and on a more extended scale after the year 1526, was the word-the invisible power-of the living God. The religion of the Anglo-Saxon race-a race called more than any other to circulate the oracles of God throughout the world-is particularly distinguished for its Biblical character."*

{*History of the Reformation, vol. 5, p. 199.}

Thomas Wolsey

Just as everything seemed tending to the rapid advancement of the Reformation, a powerful priest, Thomas Wolsey, appeared on the scene, who, for a time, hindered its progress.

This remarkable man, according to tradition, was the son of a wealthy butcher in Ipswich, and born in the year 1471. He seems to have been designed for the church from an early age, and was trained at Magdalen College, Oxford. About the year 1500 he was appointed chaplain to Henry VII. through the influence of Fox, bishop of Winchester. The diligence and capacity for business which he displayed soon attracted the attention of the old king, who rewarded him with the valuable deanery of Lincoln. He was equally successful in gaining the favour of the son, Henry VIII. Although twenty years older than his new master, he adapted himself to his youth and all its tendencies. He was no ascetic, though a priest; and vice, it is said, never hung her head in his presence. He was so clever, accommodating, and unscrupulous, that he could be gay or grave, as best served the purpose of his ambition. He gradually gained such an influence over the mind of Henry, that he virtually became the ruler of the realm. Wealth, honours, offices-civil and ecclesiastical-flowed in upon him rapidly. He was created bishop of Tournay, and raised to the sees of Lincoln and York in the year 1514, and the following year he received a cardinal's hat, with the office of lord chancellor.

His enormous wealth, gathered from so many sources both at home and abroad, enabled him to maintain his elevated position with more than regal splendour. "Whenever he appeared in public, two priests, the tallest and comeliest that could be found, carried before him huge silver crosses, one to mark his dignity as archbishop, the other as papal legate. Chamberlains, gentlemen, pages, sergeants, chaplains, choristers, clerks, cup-bearers, cooks, and other domestics-to the number of more than five hundred-among whom were nine or ten lords, and the stateliest yeomen of the country-filled his palace. He generally wore a dress of scarlet velvet and silk, with hat and gloves of the same colour as his shoes were embroidered with gold and silver, inlaid with pearls and precious stones." But with all this pomp and grandeur, his capacity for business was great, and seemed to enlarge with the elevation of his rank, and the increase of his offices. He patronized learning sympathized with the literary inclinations of Henry, while in matters of state, he was the most profound counsellor. in the English court, though too often swayed by his absorbing ambition.*

{*D'Aubigné, vol. 5, p. 184; Wylie, vol. 3, p. 355; Universal History, vol. 6, p. 32.}

Thus it was permitted of the Lord, that the church of Rome, the mother of harlots, should be illustrated in the man who ruled in church and state, and was arrayed in all the worldly glory spoken of in Revelation 17. It was a kind of papacy in England: he only wanted the triple crown; and the English people were to witness the kind of glory the papacy ever valued, before it sank and disappeared from the land.

The Reformation Begun

The elevation of such a prince of Rome, who was now to take a share in domestic and foreign politics, even greater than that of Henry himself, could not be favourable to the Reformation. The priests, emboldened by this display of papal power, determined to make a stand against the scholars and the Reformers. But it was too late to effect much, though heresy was still severely punished. The eve of the Reformation had arrived. Men's minds were disturbed; the papacy had lost its traditional hold upon the conscience and affections of the people, and the New Testament which Erasmus had given to England was doing a greater work than all the teachers or doctors in the land. Names so dear to every Christian's heart, and so famous in English history, now come before us.

Thomas Bilney, a student at Trinity college, Cambridge, hearing some friends speak one day of the New Testament of Erasmus, made haste to procure a copy. It was strictly forbidden by the Catholics, but was sold secretly. Bilney opened the book which he had been told was the source of all heresy-his eyes caught these words: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." He laid down his book, and meditated on the astonishing words. "What," he exclaimed, "St. Paul the chief of sinners, and yet St. Paul is sure of being saved!" The Holy Spirit shed a divine light on the sacred page, revealed Christ and His salvation to his soul, so that he at once began to preach Christ to others. He was the blessed instrument in God's hands in bringing many to the knowledge of Christ, among whom was the celebrated Hugh Latimer.

William Tyndale, from the valley of the Severn-who afterwards translated the Bible into English-was at this time a student at Oxford. He had the reputation of being an extremely virtuous young man of spotless character, and fond of sacred literature. He obtained the book which was then attracting so much attention, and God used it to the conversion of his soul. He began almost immediately to give public lectures on the gospel of Christ, and the way of salvation through faith in Him, but this being more than Oxford could yet bear, he left, and joined the dear evangelist Bilney at Cambridge.

John Fryth, from Sevenoaks, was distinguished among the students of King's college for the quickness of his understanding, and the integrity of his life. He was brought to the knowledge of Christ by means of Tyndale; and these three young students, completely emancipated from the yoke of Rome by the word of God alone, were amongst the earliest preachers of the doctrines of the Reformation, and ultimately were honoured of God with the crown of martyrdom. It was especially laid on the heart of Tyndale to translate the holy scriptures into the English tongue; but finding no convenience for this blessed work in England, he retired to the continent, and, settling at Antwerp, he there published a translation of the New Testament about the year 1527.

The Works of Luther Reach England

At the very time when God's Spirit was working so manifestly in the universities, the writings of Luther had entered the kingdom and were being widely circulated among the people. The noble stand which the monk had made at the Diet of Worms was much talked of, and awakened a deep interest in his writings. There was no small stir among the clergy; the bishops held a council to deliberate on what was to be done. The bull of Leo against Luther was sent to England; and Wolsey also issued a bull of his own against him. The bull of Leo which gave a description of Luther's perverse opinions was nailed to the church door, while Wolsey's was read aloud during high mass. The cardinal issued orders at the same time to the bishops to seize all heretical books, and books containing Martin Luther's errors; and to give notice in all the churches, that any person having such books, and failing to deliver them up within fifteen days would incur the pain of excommunication. But this was not all, the cardinal-legate, in great pomp, proceeded to St. Paul's and publicly burnt the arch-heretic's book.

The principal result of these proceedings, as some say, with the publication of Luther's alleged errors on the doors of the cathedrals and churches, was to advertise his works, awaken the slumbering interest of the English people, and prepare them for the more fearless profession of the doctrines of the Reformation. The bishops had taken counsel to arrest the progress of the gospel; but in this, as in many other cases, the efforts of adversaries only accelerated the speed of the great work, and the puny wrath of men was turned to the praise of the Lord.

Henry and Luther

When the writings of Luther were commanding such general attention, the king stood forward as the champion of the church in the character of a polemic. Henry was at this time a bigoted enemy to the principles of the Reformation, and greatly incensed against Luther for treating with contempt his favorite author, Thomas Aquinas. But Luther, nothing daunted by his royal antagonist, and in no wise convinced by his royal logic, soon replied to him in his usual style, plainly showing that, in his defence of the great principles of the Reformation, he was no respecter of persons.*

{*See vol. 2, p. 570.}

The Royal Marriages

It is not difficult to discern, at this moment, the overruling hand of a divine providence in the marvellous changes which were taking place, and how little man at his best estate is to be trusted. The same gallant Henry that showed so much zeal for the Roman See, and was rewarded with the titles, "Most Christian King; Defender of the Faith," etc., in a short time denies the pope's authority, renounces his supremacy, and withdraws his kingdom from the obedience of the pontifical jurisdiction. And the same double policy of the Catholics that turned the mind of Henry, caused the downfall of Wolsey. Rome lost both-Henry and Wolsey-and the Reformation, indirectly, greatly gained. But the events which led to these results have been so minutely related by all our historians, that we may fairly suppose the reader to be acquainted with them.

The quarrel between the king and the pope first arose on the subject of the royal marriages. Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII., was married to Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, and died without issue six months afterwards. The shrewd money-loving father-in-law, that he might preserve the advantages of the Spanish alliance, and retain her dowry of two hundred thousand ducats, proposed her marriage with Henry, his second son, now Prince of Wales. Some of the bishops were opposed to the union, as contrary to the laws of God, others favoured it; but to settle the question, a bull was obtained from Julius II. to sanction it, and the marriage took place soon after Henry's accession to the throne. For seventeen years no question appears to have arisen as to the validity of this union. Of five children- three sons and two daughters-only Mary survived the period of infancy.

One of the many reasons suggested for the king's doubts as to the lawfulness of his marriage was the loss of his children. He began to think that it was the judgment of God for marrying his brother's widow. But it is more generally believed that the origin of his doubts was the passion he had formed for Anne Boleyn. The great question of "the divorce" was first mooted about the year 1527, and it soon became the source of the most important results in both church and state, and to the nation at large. The pope was appealed to for a bull pronouncing the marriage of Henry and Catherine to be unlawful, and a dispensation for king Henry to marry again. The pope was now in a great perplexity. If he declared the marriage of the royal pair to be unlawful, he would thereby affirm to all Christendom that his infallible predecessor, Julius II., had made a mistake in declaring it to be lawful. Still, the artful pope, who was most anxious to oblige the king of England, would have had little difficulty in making that straight, but the armies of the powerful Charles -nephew to Catherine-were then in Italy, and he was indignant at the repudiation of his aunt.

This complication of interests led to the most shameful artifices and intrigues on the part of the papal court in which the double dealing of Wolsey-who had been promised the tiara by Charles if he threw difficulties in the way of the divorce-being discovered by the king, led to his disgrace and his ignominious end. For seven long years the pope, by his diplomatic strategy, kept the impetuous Henry waiting, which shows, on the other side, the immense hold which the word of a pope had upon the mind of an absolute monarch. Driven to extremities, Henry resolved to take the law into his own hands, and entirely abolish the pope's power in England. "In 1534 an act of parliament was passed, with very little opposition, which put an end to the papal authority, as well as to the various payments of whatever kind which had hitherto been made by the laity or clergy to the see of Rome."*

{*Marsden's Dict. of Churches, p. 213; Miss Strickland's Queens of England, vol. 4., Fuller's Church History of Britain, vol. 2.; Universal History, vol. 6, chap. 4; Burnet's History of the Reformation, vol. 1, part 1.}

The Persecution Begins

The king, very prudently, demanded and obtained the sanction of the higher clergy to the great changes he was introducing into the ecclesiastical constitution of England. The bishops were greatly embarrassed. "If we recognize the king as supreme head of the church in England," said they, "we overthrow the pope." But they were obliged to submit to all his enactments, or fall under his displeasure. To atone for their cowardly submission to Henry, and sacrificing the pope, they resolved on kindling afresh the fires of persecution, which had been languishing during the latter years of Wolsey's reign. The evangelical preachers were becoming more numerous, Lutheranism was rapidly gaining ground, the leaders must be burnt.

"Your highness," said the bishops to the king, "one time defended the church with your pen, when you were only a member of it; now that you are its supreme head, your majesty should crush its enemies, and so shall your merits exceed all praise." Before giving Henry's reply to this insidious flattery, it is necessary to state that, although the alterations of the king had done much for the overthrow of the papal power in England, they had done nothing as yet for the deliverance of the persecuted Reformers. Henry had no intention at this time of proceeding further with the Reformation, though the steps which he had taken were overruled by God for the advancement of that great movement. The act which acknowledged the king's supremacy declared that, "they did not hereby intend to vary from Christ's church about the articles of the Catholic faith of Christendom, or in any other things, declared by the scriptures and the word of God to be necessary for their salvation."

As Henry had now broken with the pope, and the fidelity of the clergy was not much to be trusted, he felt the necessity of uniting more closely with them; and as he greatly delighted in his title "Defender of the Faith," he consented to hand over the disciples of the heretic Luther to the priests. Thus an agreement was made between the king and the clergy of the most infamous character that ever darkened the pages of history. The king gave them authority to imprison and burn the Reformers, provided they would assist him in resuming the power usurped by the pope. This was enough; the priests would agree to anything, swear to anything, if only authority were given them to burn the heretics. The bishops immediately began to hunt down the friends of the gospel-the holy men of God.

We regret being unable, from want of space, to give details of the martyrs of this period, but they are to be found in many histories,* and sure we are their record is on high; and if the reader is a believer in the gospel, which was then called heresy, he will meet them on the morning of the first resurrection. This is the sure and certain hope of all true believers. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1 Thess. 4:16-17) Nothing can be plainer than these words of eternal truth. The church, which is His body, is complete, the Lord Himself comes for her; she hears His voice, whether in the caverns of the grave or alive upon the earth, and ascends in her chariot of clouds; He meets her in the air, and conducts her to the house of many mansions-the home of love which He has prepared for the bride of His heart. Brightly, amidst the myriad hosts of heaven, will shine on that day, the noble army of martyrs. But all will be perfect, absolutely perfect, as Christ Himself is perfect, and the joy of one will be the common joy of all; for all will be like Christ, the perfect reflection of His glory.

{*See Foxe's Book of Martyrs, vol. 2, folio ed.; Strype's Memorials of the Reformation; D'Aubigné's Luther, vol. 5; Calvin, vol. 4.}

The prisons, the stakes, the faggots, as well as the tedious sick chamber, will all be forgotten on that day, save to speak of the grace which enabled us in some measure to glorify Him. Neither will it be an indistinguishable mass, for we shall know each other, and the links which had been formed on earth by the Holy Ghost shall remain unbroken for ever. Such is the bright and blessed future for which we wait, we long, we pray; but we know He is too faithful to come before the right time. And this is the future of all who believe in Jesus-the feeblest as well as the strongest. All who come to Jesus now are received: He rejects none. His mournful complaint is, "Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life." . . . "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." (John 5:40; 6:37)

The names of Bilney, Byfield, Tewkesbury, Barnes, Bainham, Fryth, and many others, who suffered martyrdom about this time, have become familiar as the first Reformers in England. But it was difficult for any honest man to escape persecution at this period of our history. The Reformers suffered as heretics, and many of the papists as traitors. Those who refused to take the oath of supremacy were condemned as guilty of high treason. The aged Dr. Fisher, bishop of Rochester, nearly eighty, and Sr. Thomas More, late Lord Chancellor, styled the Erasmus of England, were condemned and executed in 1534, for refusing to acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the church. Neither age, service, learning, nor virtue were respected by the cruel and vindictive tyrant. Just about this time, when scaffolds, blocks, and stakes were rapidly multiplying in the land, one of queen Anne's maids of honour attracted the attention, and excited the guilty passion of the king. But as there was no ground for pleading a divorce in the case of Anne Boleyn, he resolved to clear his way, as one has said, by the axe, to a new marriage with Jane Seymour. Pretending to suspect her fidelity, the monster threw her into the Tower. She was denied even the help of counsel on her trial, and found guilty by judges who were bound to bend before the tyranny of their master. The beautiful, and, as many say, the virtuous, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded on May 19th, 1536, and Henry and Jane Seymour were married on the day following.

The Suppression of Monasteries

Henry had been excommunicated by the pope; his subjects absolved from their allegiance; Charles V. might invade his kingdom, and avenge the cause of his royal aunt, Catherine: and should there be a popish rebellion, the whole fraternity of monks would flock to the standard of revolt. The king was no doubt moved, by such considerations and fears to make an end of the monasteries, and appropriate their wealth before the danger arose. His prime minister, Sir Thomas Cromwell, a favourer of the Reformation, and an energetic man, was authorized by his master to appoint a commission to visit the abbeys, monasteries, nunneries, and universities of the kingdom, and report the condition of these foundations. The result was overwhelming. In place of obedience, poverty, and charity, which these religious houses were established to exemplify, they had raised themselves above the laws of the land, besides rolling in wealth, and, as to their practices, we leave them in the original histories. Bishop Burnet says, "I have seen an extract of a part of this report, concerning one hundred and forty-four houses, that contains abominations in it equal to any that were in Sodom."*

{*History of the Reformation, part 1, book 3, p. 334.}

The king and the parliament, on hearing the report of the commissioners, resolved on their suppression. The lesser and greater monasteries amounted in number to six hundred and forty-five, while their possessions were valued at one-fifty of the kingdom-"at least one-fifty of the soil of England was in the hands of the monks." Besides the enormous wealth which fell to the crown, from the abolition of the religious houses, the king seized the rich shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury, and his name as a saint was ordered to be erased from the calendar. The monks and nuns were turned adrift to shift for themselves, which caused great confusion and distress throughout the land. Cranmer and Latimer pleaded the part of the confiscated property should be devoted to the founding of hospitals for the sick and the poor, and institutions for the cultivation of learning; but the king and his courtiers had little to spare for such purposes. As Tyndale quaintly says, "The counsels were taken not of a pure heart and love of the truth, but to avenge themselves, and to eat the harlot's flesh, and suck the marrow of her bones."

The Six Articles

But, notwithstanding this apparent Reformation, Henry was a thorough Romanist at heart. He maintained the doctrines of Rome, while he abolished the authority of the Roman pontiff in his kingdom. Under the influence of Gardiner and Bonner, two bigoted papists, six articles were enacted by the king and his parliament, usually termed the "Bloody statute." It condemned to death all who opposed the doctrine of transubstantiation, auricular confession, vows of chastity, and private masses; and all who supported the marriage of the clergy, and the giving of the cup to the laity. This creed was thoroughly Roman. Cranmer used all his influence, and even risked the king's displeasure, to prevent its passing, but all in vain. The Romish party was still powerful, and the king's temper became more violent than ever. Latimer, now bishop of Worcester, was thrown into prison, and hundreds soon followed him. The prisons of London were crowded with all sorts of persons suspected of heresy. Papists were hung for denying the supremacy, and men and women were burnt in great numbers for denying transubstantiation. Commissioners were appointed to carry out the act, and who could escape? If a man was an honest papist, he denied the king's supremacy, and if he was an honest Protestant, he denied the real presence. The number that died by the hand of the executioner, during the reign of Henry VIII., could not be credited in our day. Some say seventy-two thousand.*

{*Wylie's History of Protestantism, vol. 3, p. 401.}

The True Source of the Reformation

There are writers, we know, who ascribe the Reformation in England to the enactments of the king; but we think this a great mistake. That mighty movement flowed from a purer source than the murderous heart of Henry. Besides, he was a Romanist to the end of his days; and bequeathed large sums to be spent in saying masses for the repose of his soul. The work throughout was evidently of God, and by means of evangelists and His own holy word.

We have already seen the learned men of England in possession of the New Testament in Greek and Latin; but the common people-unless they had Wycliffe's translation- must receive the knowledge of the truth through preachers -such as Bilney, Latimer, and others. William Tyndale, a man chosen of God, translated the Greek into English at Antwerp, and sent thousands of his New Testaments to England, concealed in vessels coming to our ports. Sometimes they were seized and burned, but many escaped detection, and were widely circulated. The whole Bible in the English of that day, translated by Tyndale, with the assistance of Miles Coverdale, appeared in 1535, dedicated to the king, being the first edition of the scriptures published by royal authority. Probably through the influence of Cranmer, Henry ordered the free sale of the Bible, and a copy in Latin and English to be provided for every parish church in the realm, and chained to a pillar or a desk in the choir, that any man might have access to it, and read it. "I rejoice," wrote Cranmer to Cromwell, "to see this day of Reformation now risen in England, since the light of God's word doth shine over it without a cloud."

England had now thrown off the tyranny of Rome, abolished the whole monastic system, and re-established the authority of scripture. Still, the Reformation made no great progress during the remainder of Henry's life. The fabric of Roman traditions had fallen, and the foundation of a new edifice was laid in restoring the Bible to the people; but much patience, toil, and suffering had to be endured before the building could be completed.

The Reign of Edward VI

On the death of Henry, in 1547, the English Reformation assumed an entirely different aspect. Edward VI., the child of Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, was acknowledged king of England, January 28, 1547, when only nine years old. His coronation took place in February, when the friends of the gospel were released from prison, the statutes of the "six articles" were abolished; many returned from exile, and the ranks of the Reformers were greatly recruited. When the procession was about to move from the abbey of Westminster to the palace, three swords were brought to be carried before the newly crowned king, emblematic of his three kingdoms. Seeing this, the king observed, "There lacks yet one." On his nobles inquiring what it was, he answered, "The Bible;" adding, "that book is the sword of the Spirit, and is to be preferred before those. It ought in all right to govern us; without it we are nothing. He that rules without it is not to be called God's minister, or a king." The Bible was brought, and carried reverently in the procession.

The natural gifts of Edward, it is said, were such as to raise him far above the ordinary conditions of childhood. His father had wisely provided him with pious teachers, who were also friends of the gospel. Numerous letters written by the precocious prince in Latin and French, before he was ten years old, are still extant. Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of his father, said to be a lady of great virtue and intelligence, carefully watched over his training.

During the brief reign of Edward, every encouragement was given to the diffusion of the English Bible. Though his reign extended to little more than seven years, no fewer than eleven editions of the Bible, and six of the New Testament were published. Various improvements were also introduced in the mode of conducting divine service. Images were ordered to be removed from the churches, prayers were no longer to be offered for the dead, auricular confession and transubstantiation were declared to be unscriptural, the clergy were permitted to marry, and the service was ordered to be performed in English in place of Latin. Articles of religion were also agreed upon in convocation; they were forty-two in number. In the reign of Elizabeth, they were reduced to thirty-nine, which continue, as then revised, to be the standard of the English church. The liturgy was revised, and re-revised, chiefly by Cranmer and Ridley-after consulting Bucer and Martyr-known as the "First and Second Book of Edward VI., and was duly ratified by the king and the parliament, and came into use in 1552. It was substantially the Book of Common Prayer now in use.

While these works of Reform were being carried on with great vigour, the pious King Edward died, in his sixteenth year, July 6th, 1553; and with his premature death a night of terrible darkness surrounded the Reformation in England. His last prayer was, "O my Lord God, bless my people, and save Thine inheritance; O Lord God, save Thy chosen people of England; O Lord God, defend this realm from popery, and maintain Thy true religion, that I and my people may praise Thy holy name, for Jesus Christ His sake." During this short reign, we may say, the Reformation was established, and Protestantism had assumed, in all essential points, the form in which we find it today. "When Henry VIII. descended into the tomb in 1547, England was little better than a field of ruins; the colossal fragments of that ancient fabric, which the terrible blows of the king had shivered to pieces, lay all about; and before these obstructions could be removed -time-honoured maxims exploded, inveterate prejudices rooted up, the dense ignorance of all classes dispelled-and the building of the new edifice begun, a generation, it would have been said, must pass away."* Yet in six short years the work proceeded with such rapidity, that the ancient faith, which for a thousand years had stood firm and been held sacred, had passed away for ever.

{*History of Protestantism, vol. 3, p. 418; Faiths of the World, vol. 1, p. 825; Marsden's Churches, p.227.}

The Reign of Mary

The Princess Mary ascended the throne in July, 1553. She inherited from her mother, Catherine of Arragon, a determined hatred of the Protestant religion, and a strong attachment to the Roman Catholic faith. Her first acts were to repeal the laws of her father and brother in favour of Reform and against the pope and popish worship. Gardiner and Bonner were released from the Tower, and the leaders of the Reformation-Cranmer, Hooper, Coverdale, Rogers, and others-were sent to occupy their vacant prisons. Meanwhile cardinal Pole arrived from Italy, with full powers from the pope to receive the kingdom of England into the Roman pale. Persecution commenced, and all men apprehended a terrible storm. "A thousand of the Reformers," says Marsden "including five bishops, many noblemen, fifty dignitaries of the church, and others whose position in society might render them obnoxious, hurried their departure, and fled abroad-chiefly to Geneva, Basle, and Zurich, where the Reformed religion was now established." The year 1555 has been termed the one of burning and blood.

Rogers, vicar of St. Sepulchre's who had been the associate of Tyndale and Coverdale in the translation of the scriptures, was the first to suffer. As he was being led to Smithfield, he saw his wife in the crowd waiting to see him. She had an infant in her arms, and ten children around her. He could only bid them all farewell with a look of faith and love. A pardon was offered him when he reached the faggots if he would recant. "That which I have preached," he said firmly "will I seal with my blood." "Thou art a heretic," said the sheriff. "That shall be known at the last day," responded the martyr. The torch was applied, the flames rose around him, and with hands raised to heaven he bore with perfect calmness the torture until they dropped into the fire. So died John Rogers, the protomartyr of the Marian persecution.

Hooper, late bishop of Gloucester, was burnt alive in front of his own cathedral. It was a market day, and a crowd of not less than seven thousand had assembled to witness the last moments of one so greatly beloved. His enemies, fearing the power of his eloquence, forbade him to speak, and threatened if he did to cut out his tongue. But it is said that the meekness, the more than usual serenity of his countenance, and the courage with which he endured his prolonged and awful sufferings, bore nobler testimony to his cause than any words he could have uttered. He was much in prayer and probably the greater part of the seven thousand were in tears. "To say nothing of his piety," says another historian "and the cause for which he suffered, he was a noble specimen of the true English character; a man of transparent honesty, of dauntless courage, of unshaken constancy, and of warm affections and a loving heart." His last words were, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Within a few days after Hooper's death, Saunders was burnt at Coventry, Dr. Taylor at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, Ferrar, bishop of St. David's, at Carmarthen, Wales. All these were clergymen.

Fires were thus kindled in all parts of England in order to strike a wider terror into the hearts of the people, and deter them by these terrible examples from siding with the Reformers. But they had just the opposite effect. Men could easily contrast the mild treatment of the papists under the reign of Edward, and the cruelties practiced on innocent men under the reign of Mary. Barbarous as the nation then was, and educationally Catholic, it was shocked beyond measure with the severities of the court of Mary, especially when the council issued an order to the sheriffs of the different counties to exact a promise from the martyrs to make no speeches at the stake-otherwise to cut out their tongues. Thus were kindred and friends deprived of the last and sacred words of the dying. Even the most rigid papists pretended to be ashamed of these savage proceedings when they saw their effect upon the nation. Undying hatred of the church which encouraged such atrocities took the place of superstitious reverence. The hearts of the people by thousands and tens of thousands were moved by sympathy to take part with the oppressed. In the summer of this year of horrors, Bradford, prebendary of St. Paul's, was burnt at Smithfield, together with an apprentice, a lad of nineteen; and many others whom we cannot name. But we must briefly notice three familiar and honoured names in the martyrology of England.

Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer

Having been examined by the queen's commissioners at Oxford on the charge of heresy, they were condemned to be burnt as obstinate heretics. They were old, learned, and greatly esteemed as ministers of Christ; Latimer was eighty-four, and had been one of the most eloquent preachers in England. They were sent back to prison, where they were detained nearly twelve months, the sentence of death hanging over them. In October 1555, an order was issued for the execution of Ridley and Latimer. They were led to the city ditch, over against Balliol college. After spending a few moments in prayer, they were fastened to the stake. The torch was first applied to the faggots around Ridley. The dear old Latimer addressed his companion in words still fresh, after three centuries, as on the day on which they were uttered: "BE OF GOOD COMFORT, MASTER RIDLEY, AND PLAY THE MAN, WE SHALL THIS DAY LIGHT SUCH A CANDLE, BY GOD'S GRACE, IN ENGLAND, AS I TRUST SHALL NEVER BE PUT OUT." They both leaned forward as if to embrace the flames-the chariot of fire that was to carry them to heaven-their happy souls soon departed to be for ever with the Lord. Quietly have they been reposing on that heart of eternal love these three hundred years, and there they will rest until the morning of the first resurrection when the sleeping dust of God's redeemed shall be raised and their bodies fashioned like unto Christ's body of glory, "according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself."

Cranmer was still in prison. Having acted so prominent a part under two monarchs, Henry and Edward, and in both church and state, he must be made to drink the bitterest dregs of humiliation; besides he had voted for the divorce the unpardonable sin in Mary's eyes. He was visited by the most accomplished of the Romish party, and treated with courtesy. They professed a sincere desire to prolong his life for future service, and hinted that he might have a quiet sphere in the country. His gentle spirit, his age, his failing courage, caused him to give way, and he fell into a disgraceful dissimulation by the arts of his seducers, and signed the submission required of him. The Catholics gloated over the humiliation of their victim, and hoped thereby to inflict a deadly wound on the Reformation. But Mary and Cardinal Pole had no thought of pardoning him. Instructions were secretly sent down to Oxford to prepare for his execution. On the morning of the 21st of March, 1556, the venerable archbishop, meanly habited, was led in solemn procession to St. Mary's church. Meanwhile grace had wrought deeply in the heart of Cranmer. He was truly penitent, his soul was restored, and fully prepared to make a bold confession of his faith. He was placed on a raised platform in front of the pulpit; Dr. Cole preached a sermon, as usual on such occasions. "He," says Foxe, "that was late archbishop, metropolitan and primate of England, and the king's privy counsellor, being now in a bare and ragged gown, and ill-favouredly clothed, with an old and square cap, exposed to the contempt of all men, did admonish men, not only of his own calamity, but also of their state and fortune. More than twenty several times the tears did gush out abundantly dropping down marvellously from his fatherly face."

Martyrdom of Cranmer

Sermon being ended, Dr. Cole asked him to clear himself of all suspicion of heresy, by making a public confession. "I will do so," said Cranmer, "and that with a good will." He rose up, and addressed the vast concourse, declaring his abhorrence of the Romish doctrines, and expressing his stedfast adherence to the Protestant faith. "And now," he said, "I come to the great thing that is troubling my conscience, more than anything that I ever did or said in my whole life. And forasmuch, as my hand offended, writing contrary to my heart, my hand shall therefore first be punished; for, may I come to the fire, it shall be first burned." Hardly had he uttered the words, when the priests, filled with fury at hearing a confession contrary to what they expected, dragged him tumultuously to the stake. It was already set up on the spot where Latimer and Ridley had suffered. As soon as the flames approached him, holding his right hand in the hottest of the fire, he exclaimed, "That unworthy right hand!" and there he kept it till it was consumed, repeatedly exclaiming, "That unworthy right hand!" His constancy amazed his persecutors. He stood in the midst of the flames unmoved as the stake to which he was bound. His last words were those familiar to so many martyrs, and first uttered by the noblest of all martyrs- "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And in a few moments, his happy soul, released from all its cares and troubles, joined his companions in the paradise of God. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." (2 Cor. 5:8)

Within three years (from 1555 to 1558) according to the historians of the time, two hundred and eighty-four martyrs suffered by fire, while many perished in prison from hunger and ill-usage. "Over all England," says one, "from the eastern counties to Wales on the west, and from the midland shires to the shores of the English Channel, blazed those baleful fires. Both sexes, and all ages and conditions, the boy of eight and the man of eighty, were dragged to the stake and burnt, sometimes singly, at other times in dozens. Just two days before the death of the queen, five martyrs were burnt in one fire at Canterbury." The news of her death filled the country with rejoicings. It is said that bonfires were lighted, that the people setting tables in the street, and bringing forth bread and wine, "did eat, drink, and rejoice." Thus was fulfilled the saying of the wise king, "When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked." (Prov. 11:10-11) The world, notwithstanding the native enmity of the heart, bears its testimony to consistent godliness, both in princes and people; and what a testimony against wickedness when the death of a wicked ruler is matter of national exultation! So it was on the death of Mary; there was the shout of joy throughout the whole land. And such was the joy of Rome on the death of Nero; and of France on the death of Robespierre. And such shall it be at last when God shall judge the harlot, and avenge the blood of His saints at her hand. Then heaven shall rejoice, and shout its loud Alleluia! Alleluia! (Rev. 18:20)

On the same day that Mary breathed her last-November 17th, 1558-died Cardinal Pole, her guilty counsellor. The system of Jezebel, reared at the cost of so much blood, fell with these two, never to be restored. Mary's zeal for Rome had been fired into fanaticism by her marriage with Philip II. of Spain; and her three advisers-the bigoted Gardiner the brutal Bonner, and the sanguinary Pole-led her to believe that in burning her Protestant subjects she was doing the will of God. When mourning the cold-heartedness of Philip, who rarely came to see her, Pole assured her that the estrangement of her husband was God's displeasure for her leniency towards the Amalekites: then a few more were sacrificed to bring over the gloomy bigot; but Philip cared not to come, which, with other things, in the great mercy of God to this afflicted nation, hastened her to the grave in the forty-third year of her age, and in the sixth of her reign.*

{*For minute details of the persecutions, see Foxe's Book of Martyrs; Froude's History of England, Fuller's Church History Burnet's History of the Reformation; Wylie's History of Protestantism.}