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Many concealed Romanists.
greater part of the people were only outward professors; they had taken up the profession for selfish and worldly ends, seeking for gain or patronage; upon such persons, of course, no dependence could be placed. Like Demas of old, (2 Tim. iv. 10,) they loved this present world, and were ready to become Romanists or Protestants, as might best suit their worldly prospects. Such will be found in every church, in all ages. A large proportion of the common people remained in ignorance; and, of course, had a natural preference for the tenets held by their fathers. Cranmer, and his associates, endeavoured to remove this ignorance, but were able to effect but little during the short reign of Edward, as their efforts were counteracted by many of the prelates, and the greater part of the clergy, who still remained Romanists at heart, although outwardly they conformed to the measures from time to time brought forward by authority. A large proportion of them, as already noticed, had formerly been monks or friars, who were preferred to livings, to save a small annual charge to the new possessors of the abbey lands; and, as Burnet observes, "the proceedings in king. Edward's time were so gentle and moderate, flowing from the calm temper of Cranmer, and the policy of others, that it was an easy thing for a concealed papist to weather the difficulties of that reign, retaining all his influence, and having prevented that improvement which might have been expected to result from the conscientious labours of an opposite character."
These circumstances account for the small progress which the Reformation had really made at the death of Edward, and the faint opposition made to the bloody and bigoted proceedings of Mary. But there were higher and more sufficient reasons. Burnet justly observes, that "the sins of England did at this time call down from heaven heavy curses on the land." Ridley, Latimer, Bradford, Knox, and others, had borne a faithful testimony to this effeet. The former, in particular, had long been apprehensive that judgments were to be looked for, as licentiousness, pride, covetousness, and a hatred and scorn of religion, were generally spread among all people, and especially those of the higher ranks. For the duke of Northumberland, and his party, encouraged the Reformation to promote their own ambitious designs, while they
Apprehensions of the reformers.
disliked and opposed the designs of Cranmer and Ridley, for the real and spiritual welfare of the people.
This brief sketch may enable the reader partly to understand the state of England at the death of king Edward the Sixth as to religion. It has been repeatedly noticed by historians; and the words of Burnet, with which he concludes his observations on this subject, are too remarkable to be omitted. He says, that he mentions these things, "that the reader may from hence gather, what we may still expect, if we continue guilty of the same, or worse sins, after all that illumination and knowledge with which we have been so long blessed in these kingdoms." Surely, these words are not less applicable to the state of England at the present day, than they were a century ago! Is it not incumbent on every Christian earnestly to plead for his country with Him, in whose hand are all things; who can either permit the fiery storm of persecution to visit our land, or can say, as of old to the winds and to the waves, PEACE, BE STILL.
On the decease of king Edward the Sixth, his eldest sister, the princess Mary, was entitled to succeed to the throne, according to the order of succession, and the will of their father, Henry the Eighth. She was a bigoted Romanist; and the probability of her obtaining the crown, filled the hearts of all the lovers of the truth with much apprehension. They, however, in general, were prepared to commit this and every event to the will of Him who ordereth all things aright; and we consequently find Cranmer and others willing to submit to her, and resisting the ambitious views of the duke of Northumberland. This nobleman had married one of his sons to lady Jane Grey, the daughter of the duchess of Suffolk, who was grand-daughter to king Henry the Seventh, and stood next in succession to the throne, after the princesses Mary and Elizabeth; and he sought to avail himself of the apprehensions entertained by many, as to the evil consequences likely to arise, if Mary should be queen. King Edward, in particular, was so fearful lest all he had laboured to effect in the cause of truth should be annulled, that he was easily prevailed upon by Northumberland to make a will, leaving the crown to lady Jane Grey, as has been already mentioned.
That ambitious nobleman endeavoured to entrap the
Lady Jane Grey proclaimed queen.
princesses; and Mary was actually within a short distance of London, when she received information of her brother's death; but on learning that event, she instantly retired to Framlingham in Suffolk, that she might be able to escape to the continent, if necessary. The dukes of Northumberland and Suffolk immediately went to lady Jane Grey, and saluted her queen of England! She was quite ignorant of the designs of her relatives, and was much surprised at this intelligence, but refused to accept a crown to which she had no right during the lives of the princesses. At length, she gave way to the authority and persuasions of her relatives, (she was only seventeen years of age,) and was proclaimed queen, July 7, 1553.
Some few of the reformers believed that it might be the will of God that the government should be placed in the hands of so pious and excellent a character as the lady Jane, rather than those of the bigoted Mary. But the greater part of them and the nation in general could not approve of this unlawful method of depriving Mary of her right; while those who favoured popery, were eager to bestir themselves in her cause. The duke of Northumberland's proceedings were as ill-judged as they were illegal; in thirteen days the reign of his daughter-in-law was at an end, and she expressed far greater pleasure in resigning the crown than in assuming it.
Mary was chiefly indebted to the protestants for this easy victory over her enemies. The men of Suffolk were generally favourers of the Reformation, but they could not approve the depriving the rightful heir of her inheritance. They resorted to her in great numbers, and inquired whether she would allow all matters connected with religion to remain as in the days of king Edward. She gave them the fullest assurances, and most positive promises, that she would not make any alteration or change, but would be satisfied if she were allowed privately to follow her own religion. Upon this, the nobility and gentry of that county raised forces, and took such effectual measures, that Mary was proclaimed queen on the 17th of July, and entered London in triumph on the 3d of August.
On her arrival at the Tower, she sent for the lord-mayor and aldermen; and, among other matters, confirmed her declaration already mentioned; by telling them, "that although her own conscience was stayed (or fixed) in
Mary's promises to the Protestants.
matters of religion, yet she meant not to compel or strain other people's consciences, otherwise than God should, as she trusted, put in their hearts a persuasion of the truth."
Thus Mary was placed upon the throne of England, principally in consequence of her promise that she would not alter the Protestant religion, as then established by law! But she broke this promise without offering even an excuse for so doing; thus she practically evidenced, that, in her opinion, Romanists are justified in breaking faith with heretics. This principle was openly maintained by popes and doctors of the church of Rome in former times, and they declared, that “An oath taken against the benefit of the church is not binding." But, of late years, several universities in Roman catholic countries, and the greater part of the modern writers of that church, have denied that this doctrine is now held by Romanists. In point of fact, the question stands thus. The council of Constance, in the year 1414, passed a decree, which declared that the promises made to heretics were not binding, and accordingly committed John Huss to the flames, notwithstanding he had written letters from the emperor Sigismund, pledging his royal word for his safety. The last general council of the Romish church,—the wellknown council of Trent, held since the Reformation, invited protestants to attend, and state why they left the Romish communion. They declined, upon the ground of what had taken place at Constance. So far from alleging that such a principle did not exist, the council of Trent declared, that no authority, particularly that of the council of Constance, should interfere with the safety promised in that instance; of course, admitting that the principle was applicable to others, which might occur. The council of Trent was the last held in the church of Rome, and its decrees are received implicitly by Romanists at the present day.*
* See also the authorities quoted in "A Picture of Popery," page 47. In the profession of faith now to be made by every true Roman catholic, are these words: "I also profess, and undoubtedly receive, all things delivered, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and general councils, and particularly by the holy council of Trent." Then how can we believe that this doctrine is no longer held by the church of Rome? for as it was sanctioned by their last general council, and as such is recognised in the profession of faith now used, surely the opinions of individuals cannot be considered as giving so faithful an
Her obligations to the Protestants.
Certainly, queen Mary's protestant subjects had reason to expect, at least, toleration from her. In addition to their exertions in her behalf, and her positive promise that no changes in religion should be attempted, they had a claim upon her gratitude of still longer standing, for Cranmer interposed in her behalf, and persuaded Henry to lay aside his intention of putting her to death; which had gone so far, that her mother wrote her a letter, still extant, encouraging her to suffer patiently, submitting to the king's commands in all matters, except religion.
This change in the government took place almost without bloodshed. Only a few individuals were put to death at the time, as traitors. In the general histories will be found the particulars of the trial and execution of the duke of Northumberland, who after his condemnation, professed himself a Romanist, declaring he had always been so in his heart; and when on the scaffold, he exhorted the people to return to what he called the catholic faith.
Mary now determined to restore the authority of the pope, and the Romish religion. Her own desire was to do this immediately, and in the fullest manner; for which
interpretation of the real tenets of that church. Although many advocates of the church of Rome state, that they do not hold this doctrine, yet they openly avow the lawfulness (in their opinion) of breaking promises in many cases. In a recent instance, one (see the "Protestant," No. 29) declares he considers this lawful, "When before the promise is fulfilled, the circumstances become so changed, that the person promising, had he foreseen these circumstances, would never have made the promise!!!" Such a doctrine requires no comment. See Psalm xv. 4. The words of the decree of the council of Constance are, "That no safe conduct (assurance of safety) granted by secular princes to heretics, or persons accused of heresy in the hope of reclaiming them, ought to prejudice the catholic faith or ecclesiastical jurisdiction, nor prevent these persons from being examined, judged and punished, as justice shall require, if these heretics refuse to revoke their errors, even although they come to the place where they are judged, only from a reliance upon the faith of the safe conduct, without which they would not have come. And he who has promised that they should be safe, shall not in such a case be obliged to keep his promise by any engagement he may have entered into, because he has done all that depended upon himself" Let Romanists show that their infallible church has repealed or condemned this INFAMOUS decree! To this another was added, especially referring to John Huss, which declares, that according to natural, divine, and human right, (or law,) no promise to the prejudice of the catholic faith ought to be observed! See L'Enfant's "History of the Council of Constance," liv. iv. 31.