« AnteriorContinuar »
aw, and count it their duty to uphold the law of the land, when public safety is threatened by secret conspiracy and by criminal violence. When so grave an exigency occurs that a partial suspension of British law becomes necessary for common safety; when military and naval forces have to be employed to protect our cities ; when the police is itself often subjected to violence; and when combinations of artisans, perhaps well meant at first, are at length betrayed into deeds of darkness, the church of God inust surely have some duty to perform. Humanly speaking, Nero may be thought to have deserved no man's prayer; but even humanly speaking, our Sovereign and her responsible advisers do certainly deserve ours. Lawlessness and infidelity may go hand in hand, but the Christian church is able to oppose an effectual check to them. Methodism-whose Founder declared in a time of national trial, that he loved King George no less than his own fatherdoubtless now has in its classes and congregations not a few praying people, whose direct approaches to the mercy-seat, and whose daily influence in the heart of English society, cannot but exert a salutary power; and as the revival of religion in the last century was the saving of England, so may Methodism again fulfil its original mission, and by a faithful use of all means within its power win over multitudes to Christ, whose love alone can soften the obdurate crowd.”
CRANMER, AND THE REFORMATION IN ENGLAND. The Reformation in England was based on the word of God, though it must be admitted that political elements exerted a marked influence in connexion with it. Henry VIII. would gladly have been relieved, even by severe means of repression, from the difficulties which the agitation caused him; but his quarrel with the Pope kept him in a state of the greatest uncertainty as to the course which he should adopt. Neither the intrigues, nor the power, of the magnificent Wolsey could arrest the diffusion of the Scriptures and the writings of the German Reformers. The new movement was greatly aided by Cromwell, a man of remarkable versatility of talent; and who, as the friend of Cranmer and the Reformation, exerted great influence in the reign of Henry, though he ultimately met the fate of so many of the favourites of that capricious monarch. Tyndale and Frith may be regarded as the representatives of the earlier stage; while Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer were the leaders during the formative period of the great work.
The position of Cranmer distinctly points him out as the first man in the English Reformation. Latimer was much more a man of the people; and Ridley might possibly excel him in quickness of apprehension, while he also presents a beautiful character of Christian purity and elevated consistency. He was “wise of counsel, deep of wit, and benevolent in spirit.” The history of Cranmer does not abound with grand and startling incidents, which thrill our hearts and command our admiration. He possessed neither the lion spirit of Luther, nor the heroism of Zwingli, nor the master-mind and will of Calvin. His
sphere of action was widely different from theirs; and it is not improbable that the attributes which they so conspicuously displayed would have wrecked the delicate enterprise which he had to conduct. Cranmer's simplicity and conscientiousness, in his relations with the brusque Henry, remind us of the serenity and painful scruples of John Howe in his relations with the Protector, though it must be freely allowed that he was destitute of the princely mental gifts which distinguished the great Puritan. The political and personal complications under which the Reformation in England was unfolded, deprire it of much of the grandeur which accompanied the work on the continent of Europe. The part which was performed by any of its leading men was long overshadowed by the presence and power of the sovereign; and the less rigid and yielding character of Cranmer was possibly the best adapted to the peculiar exigencies of the undertaking.
The subject of our paper descended from a family which dated its history from the times of the Norman conquest. His father was a gentleman in easy circumstances in the county of Nottingham, who desired to have his son well trained in all manly exercises, but was also wishful that he should become a scholar. With this object he was placed under the care of a parish priest, who, it appears, was much better qualified to chastise and subdue his pupil than to instruct him in the rudiments of a liberal education. To what extent the hesitating and pliant disposition of Cranmer, in after years, may be attributed to the severe treatment of this barsh pedagogue, is a question for the philosophers. We are disposed to think there was a very intimate connexion between the two. The freer and nobler instincts of our nature are not unfrequently crushed by the undue severity of parents and incapable instructors, who seek to hide their incapacity under the alleged stolidity of their pupil, which must be driven away by the frequent use of the rod. Such discipline more frequently drives away inde. pendence and generosity from the heart.
He was born at Aslacton on the 2d of July, 1489. Having lost his father early, he was sent by his mother, at the age of fourteen, to study at Cambridge, where " barbarism still prevailed.” His earlier years Fere occupied in the study of the schoolmen and the sophists ; but his impartial and inquiring mind was utterly dissatisfied with their dry and profitless disquisitions. He was thus prepared to receive the more practical and valuable productions of Erasmus, Lefevre, and Lather. His open and generous bearing won for him the esteem of his college, and his superior attainments were rewarded, in his twenty-second year, with the honours and emoluments of a fellowship. His further advancement was seriously endangered by an imprudent marriage, which, no doubt, was the result of mutual and honourable affection. The removal of his wife by death, a few months after their marriage, again opened his way to preferment, and honours rapidly Howed in upon him. He was an earnest and careful student, devoting his time to the best authors within his reach. He now began to apprehend the truth, that the religious questions which were being so earnestly discussed in the University could only be settled by the verdict of
Scripture; and, with characteristic caution, before committing himselt to any particular party, he applied himself for three successive years to the conscientious study of the Sacred Volume, and thus broadly laid the foundation of his future knowledge of divinity. Having declined a flattering offer of an important position in the college which Wolsey was desiring to found at Oxford, he was ade successively Doctor and Professor in Divinity, and University Preacher and Examiner. In this latter capacity he soon became a terror to those who were ignorant of the contents of their Bible. Christ sendeth His hearers to the Scriptures, and not to the church,” he was used to say; and he was bold enough to do the same, to the great mortification of many, though Dr. Barrett was afterwards generous enough to acknowledge his obligations to him for his enlightened fidelity : “For,” he said, “ I found the knowledge of God in the Holy Book which he compelled me to study."
The current of Cranmer's history was changed by the judgment which he ventured to express on the great and perplexing difficulty of Henry's marriage with the widow of his deceased brother,-a union of selfishness and policy. In consequence of his absence from Cambridge, he took no part in the Commission which was appointed to investigate the question, though he was included amongst its members. But, in one of his progresses, the King remained at Waltham; and Fox and Gardiner were entertained at the house of Cranmer's relative, to whom he was on a visit at the time. The all-absorbing topic—the King's contemplated divorce-was introduced; and Cranmer's opinion on the subject was earnestly solicited. He frankly declared that he considered the King's advisers were entirely wrong in the course they were pursuing. By referring the case to the Pope they exposed themselves to endless delays and vexations; whereas the real question was, "What says the Word of God? If God has made a marriage of this sort bad, the Pope cannot make it good.” To the inquiry, “How shall we know what God has spoken ?” he replied, “ Consult the Universities; they will discern more surely than Rome.” This new judgment on the case was immediately reported to Henry, who hailed it as affording a hope of deliverance. " Where is Dr. Cranmer?” he exclaimed. “Send and fetch him immediately. If this had only been suggested to me two years ago, what expense and trouble I should have been spared.” Cranmer was now to pass from the quiet of uni. versity life to the intrigues and dangers of an unscrupulous court, where he was to perform a part of the greatest delicacy and importance, and to exert an influence, the results of which it was impossible to calculate. He shrunk from a position so unsuited to his inclinations; but the command of Henry was imperative. His appearance and bearing greatly pleased the King; who, in his own style of address, said, “I see you have found the breach through which we must storm the fortress." He was directed to devote himself to a scriptural investigation of the whole subject; and thus bring the difficult cause to a satisfactory conclusion. The requisite leisure was found during his residence in the house of Sir Thomas Boleyn, where he formed the acquaintance of Sir Thomas and his daughter Anne, the results of which were apparent in the influence which that unfortunate
woman ever sought to exert in support of the great work of the Reformer's life.
Cranmer's deliverarce was a fuller development of the opinion which he had first given. The King was delighted with the book; and equally so with the person of its author, for whom he thus early conceived a strong attachment. He had indeed the rare fortune to be personally admired and loved by Henry, which accounts for the manner in which he invariably protected him from the designs and intrigues of his enemies. With all his faults, (and they were many and great,) Henry possessed a shrewd and vigorous mind, with a clear appreciation of the motives of those around him. He well knew that personal interest was the ruling power with most of them, while of Cranmer's transparency, and devotion to himself, he was fully assured. As many of the leading divines held to the Pope's dispensing power, a Commission, with Cranmer at its head, was appointed to discuss the question in the Universities. The arguments of Cranmer were emi. Dently successful. Many divines were induced to determine “ the King's cause against the Pope's dispensation.” A method of solution to this otherwise endless difficulty was now opened, to the great relief of the uneasy Monarch’s mind; and he was not slow in recognising the services of the man to whom he regarded himself as so greatly indebted. Substantial rewards were immediately bestowed upon him. He was also deputed by Henry, in connexion with several others, to represent his cause at the courts of the Pope and the Emperor. He failed to induce the Pope to sanction Henry's contemplated divorce, though he succeeded in convincing some of the Papal divines that the marriage was unlawful. The Pope forbade the discussion of the principal point, declaring that “friars should never discuss his power.” The close relationship of the Emperor to Catherine, and the political complications of the time, almost precluded the possibility of success in that direction. Henry, however, was more than satisfied with the manner in which Cranmer discharged the duties of his embassy. It was at this time that he was privately married to the niece of Osiander, the learned Protestant divine. He thus practically declared that he was not a believer in the celibacy of the clergy. His wife did not join him in England till the year 1534; and owing to the severe measures which were enacted in 1539, she privately retired to Germany.
During Cranmer's absence, the death of Archbishop Warham fur. nished Henry with the occasion of promoting him to the vacant seat of dignity and danger. He instinctively shrunk from the elevation which was designed for him. He also objected to the Pope's supremacy, which, according to usual custom, he must acknowledge upon his consecration. In his opinion, the King was the sole head, and fountain of all authority, in both Church and State. He, therefore, declared that it was impossible for him to take the customary oath of allegiance to the Pope,-a declaration which no doubt would be highly gratifying to Henry. The King's legal advisers decided that Cranmer might take the oath under protest, which he ultimately consented to do. Accordingly at his consecration he protested, " that he did not admit the Pope's authority any farther than it agreed with express teaching of the word of God; and that it might at all times be lawful for him to speak against him, and to impugn his errors when there should be occasion.” In every stage of the proceedings, he repeated his declaration ; and thus acquired the imperishable honour of being the first Protestant Archbishop of England, vindicating at the same time the paramount authority of the Word of God. The first service which Cranmer rendered to Henry was the public proclamation of bis divorce from Catherine. This solemn act was performed on the 230 of May, 1533; and five days afterwards he as solemnly confirmed Henry's recent marriage with Anne Boleyn. The coronation of Anne was the act of Cranmer in Westminster, the splendours of which are described by himself. These proceedings incurred the deep hate of the Pope, and of the ex-Queen's relations. Her daughter Mary nursed her wrath, and took her full revenge upon him in the day of her power.
Though Cranmer may be thought to have been too subservient in using his ecclesiastical authority for the support of the questionable measures of Henry, the interests of the church invariably held the first place in his heart. Being fully installed in his office, he directed his attention to the state of his diocese, which was thrown into great confusion by the violent opposition of the clergy to the recent acts of the King. The pulpit was employed to excite disloyalty and hatred to the person of Henry. The Archbishop " forbade all preaching throughout his diocese, and warned all bishops throughout the kingdom to do the same." The sacred office was degraded by the rude, vicious, and incapable men who intruded into it. Under their influence, a fanatical woman pretended to have received revelations from God concerning the principal events and persons of the time. She denounced the King's marriage; and declared that signal judg. ments would overtake him in the course of a few months. The general superstition and ignorance greatly aided the deception; and many believed in her frantic predictions. Inquiry into the whole case became imperative; and the wretched impostor confessed that she had been the instrument of certain designing monks. With four of these malignant instigators, she suffered the extreme penalty of the law, on the charge of treason and heresy. The thunders of the Vatican were also heard, threatening the King " with excommunication, unless he would revoke all that he had done.” These warnings were to be sustained by the more substantial action of war, the Pope having “ vaunted that he would set all Christendom against the King." The Emperor seemed disposed to enter into the conflict, as he had “averred that, by the means of Scotland, he would avenge his aunt's quarrel.” Cranmer was to be included in the papal ban. Having fortified their position by an appeal "to the next General Council lawfully called,” the Archbishop and his friends confidently awaited the result. They determined also to carry the charge into the camp of their enemies. By the arguments of Cranmer, based“ on the Word of God, and the consent of the primitive church,” the Parliament was induced to pass a measure abolishing the supremacy of the Pope, to which also was obtained the subscription of a large number of the clergy. This was an act of the highest importance, and was fraught with great results. Reforma