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1548.] Marriage of Priests declared lawful. 13 these pages to shew how decidedly the English Reformers threw off the corruptions of Popery, and not with any view to discuss or enter upon the subject of the propriety of using a public formulary, respecting which good men have differed in opinion, and doubtless will continue to do so, but without desiring to rule the consciences of each other in this respect.
Peter Martyr, Bucer, and other foreign divines, assisted in this work; and Calvin wrote to the Protector, encouraging him to proceed with the Reformation. A large proportion of the nation, however, was too deeply attached to Romish superstitions to approve of these changes, and much angry discussion arose.
The clergy were still forbidden to preach without license, and were directed to use the Homilies. With the letter of this injunction they complied, but contrived to evade its spirit; for those who were averse to the doctrines of the Gospel, read the Homilies in such a hasty, confused, and irreverent manner, as to be unintelligible to their congregations; thus many hungry sheep still looked
but were not fed. The free use, however, of the Scriptures was allowed to all, and Archbishop Newcome describes no less than thirty-four distinct editions of the whole Bible or New Testament in the English language, printed during this short reign, without including editions of detached parts. Texts of Scripture were also generally painted on the walls of churches and other buildings.
In the next session of Parliament, an Act was passed authorizing the marriage of priests. Thus another abomination of the Church of Rome was done
away, in speaking beatings of thy breast, the contritions of thy heart, this confession, and all
thy other devout confessions, all thy fastings, abstinences, alms-givings, watchings, disciplines, prayers, and pilgrimages, and all the good thou hast done or shalt do, and all the evils thou hast suffered or shalt suffer for God; the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ; the merits of the glorious and blessed Virgin Mary, and of all other Saints, and the suffrages of all the Holy Catholic Church, turn to thce for the remission of these and all other thy sips, the increase of thy merits, and the attainment of everlasting rewards.
Surely, if Priests could thus grant absolution, as well as make a Deity, by pronouncing a few Latin words over a wafer, we cannot wonder that they should be regarded as something more than humax, by an ignorant laity.
Lenity towards the Romanists. of which it is scarcely possible to use language sufficiently strong; and the facts which might be referred to, as fully authorizing such an assertion, cannot be admitted into any work intended for general perusal. But many passages shew that this prohibition is contrary to the express declarations of Scripture, and that it was one of the most powerful means which could have been devised by the great enemy of souls, for extending his kingdom, and promoting the works of darkness. The permission to marry, however, cannot be considered as fully carried into effect till a subsequent Act was enacted, three years afterwards. Another law forbade much of the superstitious fasting which had been customary. Thus the Reformation had made a material progress, yet many blamed the Protector and Cranmer for not proceeding more rapidly; but they were too well acquainted with the very general ignorance which still prevailed to venture on hasty measures. The Papists were more clamorous than they had been under Henry. They felt that they were under a milder government, and took every opportunity to excite disturbances, while the gentleness with which they were treated is shewn by the following anecdote. The Vicar of Stepney, formerly the Abbot of Tower-hill, used to interrupt and disturb the licensed preachers, by all the means he could devise. As he persisted in this, one of his parishioners, named Underhill, belonging to the band of Gentlemen Pensioners, by virtue of his office, arrested and carried him before Archbishop Cranmer, who having examined into the case, earnestly exhorted the Priest to avoid offending in future, and dismissed him with a rebuke. Of this lenity Underhill complained, adding, “ If ever it come to their turn, they will shew you no such favour.” Well,” said the good Archbishop, “ if God so provide, we must abide it.”
In Strype's Annals will be found an interesting account of this Underhill. He was a young man of respectable family, and much patronized by the nobility and court. Once he had been addicted to bad company, and associated with the most notorious gamesters and ruffians of the day; but from reading the Scriptures, and attending the preached Gospel, he was induced to forsake them, so that he became a continual object of hatred and derision to his former comrades. Being a man of an active and courageous disposition,
1549.] Peter Martyr. --Public Disputations. 16 and holding a situation of authority, he was a terror to evil doers of every description, and exceedingly useful in checking vice and profaneness.
This brings us to notice another point of some importance, which, although for the time it might, in some degree, promote the Reformation, was eventually one means of overturning it. We have seen that many joined in that work from self-interest; others did so from an ambitious desire to obtain the favour of the Protector and great men. Strype enumerates some of these, speaking of them as the dicers or gamesters of the day, such as Great Morgan of Salisbury Court; Sir John Palmer, called Buskin Palmer; Sir Miles Partridge; and lusty young Rafe Bagnal; Allen, the Conjuror, &c.; men infamous in King Edward's days, yet court flatterers, and in favour among the magistrates.'
Such men as these only pretended to be religious, to cloak their own knavery; and, after having hurt the cause of truth, while they professed it, they gladly threw off the mask, and turned to the more convenient profession of Romanism, when Mary succeeded to the throne. Let this be a warning to all who are employed in the conduct of the religious institutions of our day, not to enlist as associates, nor engage in their work, men who are actuated by a worldly spirit, however great their influence and activity may be. Can there be occasion to enforce the necessity of declining the aid of such as are, in any respect, known to live contrary to the precepts and doctrines of the Divine word ?
During the year 1549, public disputations were held at Oxford and Cambridge, on the subject of the Sacrament of the Altar. At Oxford, Peter Martyr had commenced a course of Lectures on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. When he came to treat of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, the Romanists attacked him as a heretic and blasphemer. One day they posted up a notice, that on the following morning there would be held a public disputation on the real presence of the body of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. But they did not inform Peter Martyr of their intention, designing to take him unprepared. The next morning, his friends informed him what had passed, and advised him to remain at home. He replied that he could not forsake his post. A letter was then given him from a Romanist,
Joan Bocher burned. challenging him to dispute publicly. Martyr told the assembly that he was come to lecture, and would accept their offer as soon as suitable arrangements could be made : but he refused to dispute till the Royal permission had been obtained, lest he should be accused of exciting a commotion; he also wished that proper persons should be appointed to take down what passed, and to prevent confusion. The Vice Chancellor declared this to be reasonable; and, interposing his authority, dispersed the assembly, ordering that Martyr and his opponent should settle the time, order, and mode to be observed. After some further conferences, a regular disputation was arranged, when Martyr argued publicly with three champions of the Romish doctrines for four days. Also Ridley, and some other English divines, argued at Cambridge, against the Romish doctrines; and as they referred to the Scriptures, and would not listen to the absurd subtilties of the schoolmen, their opponents had but little to say, and were completely refuted. These disputations were conducted in an open and fair manner. They continued a considerable time, and the Romanists were not checked or restrained as to freedom of speech.
Another and more painful subject is now to be noticed. A number of violent men had associated in Germany, who united the most depraved ferocity with the wildest fanaticism. They caused a general revolt in that country, occasioned much bloodshed, and armies were marched against them. The opinions of these people were various, and in several respects blasphemous, as appears from Luther's controversies with them, and from other sources. Some few were mere visionaries, while others were absolute atheists, who, by their acts, shewed that they were not, in any respect, followers of our blessed Lord.
During the former reign, some of these people had been detected and burned; and in April, 1549, it was discovered that several had arrived in England, and were disseminating their errors.
Commissioners were appointed to search for and try them. A number of persons were examined ; some among them were charged with rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Deity of Christ, and with holding numerous other errors and blasphemies; which most of them recanted. A woman,
named Joan Bocher, was also accused before
1550.) Reflections on this painful event.
17 these commissioners, who resolutely maintained opinions, which are variously stated by different historians. She does not appear to have held the horrible and blasphemous tenets just noticed - her errors being speculative, rather than practical ; and she has been improperly ranked among the violent characters already noticed. She had been intimately acquainted with Anne Askew during the reign of Henry the Eighth, and was active in circulating the English New Testament. But the bloody statute for burning heretics still continuing in force, she was condenined to suffer its horrible penalties, so contrary to the word of God. She was excommunicated for the opinions she held relative to the nature of Christ, and her death was resolved upon by the Council, after a deliberation, at which Cranmer does not appear to have been present. The King, however, refused to sign the warrant for her execution. He had not been nurtured in the lap of Popery, and could not but see that such proceedings were contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.* Cranmer was desired by the Council to endeavour to obtain Edward's consent to this measure. It is painful to add, that he undertook this task; his reasonings silenced the King, although they did not satisfy him; and Edward signed the warrant, telling Cranmer, with tears in
" that if it was wrong, he should answer for it to God." This struck the Archbishop very forcibly, and he was unwilling that the woman should be executed. He and Ridley took her to their houses for a considerable time, and used every argnment in their power to induce her to change her opinions. At length, on the 2d of May, 1550, she was burned in Smithfield, but not until nearly a year after she was condemned.
These particulars are correctly stated, without attempting to excuse or exaggerate the conduct referred to. A few observations may be added. The action itself is most
* Protestants never desired the destruction of Romanists, on account of their religious tenets. Roman Catholics, in England, have suffered the penalties they incurred by treasonable practices, but never as heretics. See “ Townsend's Accusations of History against the Church of Rome," for a full refutation of all that Ro. mish writers have advanced on this subject. The reader is not to consider that these observations are intended, in the smallest de. gree, to extenuate the conduct of Cranmer in this affair, which was most indefensible.