« AnteriorContinuar »
tion was impossible so long as the Pope was recognised as the "head of the church” in England.
A closed Bible, and a crafty priesthood, presuppose a deluded and degraded people. The Archbishop was painfully aware of this; and therefore determined, if it were possible, to give the people the Holy Scriptures in their own language, with the proper liberty to read them. By the judicious use of his influence, Convocation was induced to peti. tion the King to appoint a Commission of " learned men ” to furnish the required translation. To preclude objection on the ground of incapacity in the translators, Cranmerdivided the New Testment into parts, and assigned a part to each of a few chosen from the most competent men of the time. The Acts of the Apostles was intrusted to Stokesley, the Bishop of London, who positively refused to perform the task allotted to him. His reply to the Archbishop's inquiry on the subject is strik. ingly illustrative of Popish hatred of the word of God. We shall insert it for the instruction of the reader, with the reminder that Popery boasts of its semper eadem : “I marvel what my lord of Canterbury meaneth, that thus abuseth the people in giving them liberty to read the Scriptures, which doth nothing else but infect them with heresy. I have bestowed never an hour on my portion, nor never will. And, therefore, my lord shall have his book again ; for I will never be guilty of bringing the simple people into error.” That the reading of the Word of God, by the people generally,“ doth nothing but infect them with heresy,” is an unchanging dogma of Popery.
Cranmer's position had now become one of extreme difficulty. The question of the succession to the throne produced new complications. Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More refused to take the required oath, which also included the question of the Pope's supremacy. More was a man of too high mark to be treated with indifference; and every available means was employed by the Archbishop to induce him to subscribe, but without success, as he persistently refused to accept the preamble to the Act which referred to the points in dispute with Rome. Cranmer nest proceeded to intercede in their behalf, giving it as his judgment that it would be well to be satisfied with their willingness to support the succession. His reasons were clearly and forcibly stated. He had a salutary dread of the shedding of blood; and he anxiously endeavoured to avert so great a calamity. But the King was inexorable, declaring he would not be satisfied with this swearing by halves;" and More and Fisher became the victims of his ferocity. These men were among Cranmer's most able opponents, yet he exerted all his influence to save them. Though the argument (based on the royal prerogative) which he employed with More was utterly fallacious, and opposed to the first principle of true Protestantism, it was one to which he submitted himself, probably on the ground that he must submit either to the will of the Pope, or to that of his own Sovereign. To do the former precluded the possibility of reformation; but it was not impossible in case of his doing the latter. It is not very surprising, therefore, that he should endeavour to induce all others to adopt a similar course. The revival of provincial visitations by the metropolitan had reference to the same object. His purpose was well understood by his enemies, and met with the decided opposition of Stokesley and Gardiner, who envied his success. Gardiner was a skil. ful polemic, a bold intriguer, and an unscrupulous foe. He never ceascd, by every possible means, to embarrass the movements of the Archbishop. Wolsey had died in degradation, with the words of reproach and admonition on his lips. It was hoped that a similar fate might be brought down upon the man who was now in the ascendant with the King. It is true that Henry did not hesitate to sacrifice any person who became really obnoxious to him. But Cranmer was a different man from Wolsey; and the difference was fully appreciated by Henry. An open and unselfish character was his security with his politic and selfish master. Under other circumstances, Gardiner had the diabolical satisfaction of being a principal instrument of bis destruction; the guilt of which he would never have lived to incur, if Cranmer had been a man of a similar spirit to himself.
In the course of the same year (1535) the greedy eye of Henry was turned to the rich monasteries with which the country abounded; and he determined to make them his prey. A royal mandate for their inspection was issued. Crapmer would undoubtedly support the movement: he well knew that their vast revenues were worse than wasted upon indolence and licentiousness. What a means of usefulness (he would reflect) would be obtained, if only a part of these resources was diverted into a proper channel! The monasteries were nurseries of vice, and a principal support of Popery in the land. To reform them was hope. less. Their dissolution was the only alternative. The visitation was intrusted to Cromwell, whom Henry had constituted his lay representative in all church matters. A fatal list of charges against the doomed fraternities was soon presented to Parliament. The vicious and unbridled character of the monks was fully exposed. Their revenues were enormous; and the insatiable Monarch exulted over their acquisition. But the Archbishop had to be satisfied with the demolition of those nests of iniqnity.
In this same year, Cranmer effected the first great step " in the reformation of doctrine and worship” by obtaining the Royal assent to a series of Articles of Religion, and also their acceptance by Convoca. tion. These Articles were confused and contradictory in their character. Baptismal “ remission of sins," and the doctrine of penance, were retained by them; and the “real presence,” in the Popish sense, was avowed in the most positive form. The last Article was directly opposed to these errors. It declared that justification “signifies remission of sins, and our acceptance and reconciliation into the grace and favour of God; that sinners attain this justification through contrition and faith, joined with charity; that the mercy and grace of the Father, promised freely for Christ's sake, and the merit of His blood and passion, be the only sufficient and worthy causes thereof." Well does the annalist say, “ The sun of truth was now but rising, and breaking through the thick mists of that idolatry, superstition, and ignorance that had so long prevailed in this nation and the rest of the world, and was not yet advanced to his meridian brightness." There was, however, the promise of day. Clearly defined Articles of Faith are Bow strongly opposed by many, as inconsistent with the advancing light of the age, and the views of personal liberty which are being entertained. This objection wears an exceedingly suspicious aspect, and seems designed to cover any and every form of unbelief in which men may be pleased to indulge. We have only to be reminded that truth is unchangeable. If the great doctrines of Christianity are true and binding, they are so for all time. Every corporate body has the perfect right to ordain its own terms of fellowship. If men accept a position on certain recognised conditions, they are under a moral obligation to comply with those conditions, or to retire from that position. Were there but one corporate body, and all men were required to be members of it, the terms of fellowship might properly be less stringent on all points, saving those which might be regarded as essential. But where association is voluntary, as in the churches of this country, the terms of it may be distinctly defined, and positively maintained, on every principle of truth and justice. The opinions of men may change; but they should ever be prepared to accept the conBequences of such change. It is a violation of all our ideas of right that men should desire to retain, and to employ, a position, in order to destroy the very principles on which they originally accepted it. If men feel the bondage of a doctrinal creed, emancipation is always within their power. Let them retire, and sacrifice their emoluments in support of their newly-adopted opinions. If, in the case of a State-endowed church, this latitude of belief or unbelief were allowed, such a church mast inevitably degenerate into a mere institution for the maintenance of good manners; and would very ineffectually accomplish that minor object. But if the State endow a church for the preservation of a pure Christianity in the land, it has a perfect right to demand that those who accept its endowments shall seek to accomplish its object; or, in the case of refusal, quit its pale.
Cranmer's Articles had reference also to the worship of the church. The superstitious observances of Popery were seen by him to be subversive of all true Christian worship, and to involve the people in gross idolatry. But the customs of ages are obstinately held by a blind and degraded people; and an interested priesthood will defend them with the utmost tenacity and resolution. It was exceedingly difficult to make an inroad upon the demoralizing ritual of the old religion. The use of images, and prayers to saints, were continued. A more successful attempt was afterwards made, when a Commission was obtained to inquire into the whole order of worship; and to furnish a popular exposition “of the Commandments, the Lord's prayer, the Creed, and the grounds of religion.” The politie Winchester, without committing himself to a positive opposition to the work, debated every point with his usual skill and resolution. The removal of abuses was slowly and painfully accomplished. The heart of honest Latimer was sickened by the obstacles which were encountered. “As for myself,” he says, “I can nothing else but pray God, that when it is done, it may be well and sufficiently done, so that we shall not need to have any more such doings; for verily, for my part, I had lever be poor parson of poor Kynton again, than to continue thus Bishop of Worcester; not
YOL XIV.-FIFTH SERIES.
for anything that I have had to do therein, or can do; but yet, forsooth, it is a troublous thing to agree upon a doctrine, in things of such controversy, with judgments of such diversity.” The book was “ established by Act of Parliament; " and was afterwards enlarged, corrected, and re-published, under the title of, “A necessary Doctrine and Erudition of any Christian Man." The cleansing of the Christian sanctuary was an arduous undertaking; and was only accomplished by years of patient labour.
It is now attempted, by an influential party in the church of Cranmer, to revive those superstitious observances which he laboured so long, and so hard, to remove. The object of these persons is evidently, by the introduction of a symbolic ritual, to restore the doctrines of Popery. This is clearly avowed in the statement of their writers, that “Ritualism without doctrine is mere formalism, and worse than valueless." By gradually habituating the thoughtless, and the superficially sentimental, to Popish forms of worship, they aim at the revival of doctrines which have been repudiated as false and destructive. If the Protestantism of the Established Church is to be preserved, the movement of these parties must be resisted by every legitimate means. Their course of action is dishonourable in the extreme. They boldly employ their position in a church which the nation maintains as a bulwark against Popery, for the re-introduction of its superstitions, and its priestly rule over the consciences of the people. Popery is the unyielding antagonist of all true freedom and national advancement. These lovers of a “histrionic ” worship would carry us back to the spiritual darkness of the "middle ages,”
We are told that the Old Testament religion was marked by an elaborate ritual. It is quite true that the ritual of Moses was elaborate and imposing; but it was Divinely specified and appointed. The reason for it is very obvious: the surrounding heathen nations had their religions and their ceremonials. In order to preserve His own chosen people from the evils consequent upon their adoption of any of these religions, God supplied them with the only true one by a special revelation; and their whole condition required that they should be instructed in this religion through the medium of type, symbol, and ceremony. They were incapable of receiving and appropriating the fuller and more spiritual revelation of the plan of redemption, which their rites and ceremonies were intended to pre-figure. They were, therefore, taught by God in the only manner which was suited to their condition. Christianity is the completed revelation of the redeeming scheme. It is pre-eminently the dispensation of the Spirit. The symbols and ceremonies of the old dispensation, having accomplished their object, were abolished. The writings of St. Paul present these facts in the clearest light. We have the
right to affirm that, as God gave a ceremonial for the former dispensation, He would certainly have given one for the latter alsu, if it had been His intention that it should be accompanied by any such outward order.
But neither the Divine Redeemer, nor any of His apostles, has furnished us with anything of the kind. We read the Acts of the Apostles, and the apostolic letters, in vain in our search for the slightest intimation that they appointed, or practised, a form of worship such as these pretended lovers of Scripture order are seeking to revive. History speaks with no uncertain sound on this vital subject. We are told that the Greek and Armenian churches practise these puerilities. Is it meant that we are to accept them as our guides in the matter of our worship? We must rather be guided by the apostles, and the immediately postapostolic church. Was the worship which St. Paul conducted any approximation to the gorgeous performances of the apostate Church of Rome, or of its Anglican imitators ? Justin Martyr informs us of the beautiful simplicity which marked the services of the church in his time; and that simplicity in the form was accompanied by rich and deep spirituality. These freely harmonized; and the church rejoiced in the presence and power of God.
These innovations on the time-honoured practices of our Protestant Establishment are distinctly opposed to the spirit and objects of Christianity, and must degenerate into the idolatry of form, or be employed as a symbolism of the worst errors of Popery. The least evil that can arise from the course pursued, will be the conversion of the spiritual worship of God into a mere sensuous entertainment. But we are warranted in believing that the deliberate intention is, to reintroduce all that makes Popery a system of soul-destroying error and of priestly ascendency. May we not justly inquire, what legal right there is for the employment of these novel forms in the Church established by law? The present law of the Established Church on ritual is the one contained in the Act of Uniformity passed in the memorable year 1662. It is there declared : “Here it is to be noted, that such ornaments of the church and of the ministers thereof, at all times of their ministering, shall be retained and be in use, as were in this Church of England by authority of Parliament * in the second year of the reign of Edward VI.” The second year of Edward VI. terminated on the 28th of January, 1549. The Act for appointing the Book of Common Prayer was passed on the 21st of the same month, and, therefore, falls within the second year. The interpretation of this statute for which we contend is, that it was designed to prescribe the future order of worship in the Church, and that, by necessity, what it did not appoint it forbade. Its directions were those which every minister in the Church was required to follow in the various services conducted by him, Whatever was not appointed was alien to the intention of those who framed the statute. With reference to it, the King made a note in his diary to the effect, that “a Parliament was called, where a uniform order of prayer was institute." In opposition to this view of the law, we are told that it was intended to admit the continuance of such practices as were not actually forbidden by it. In other words, what it did not proscribe it prescribed. We are here asked to believe that when a law was made for the purpose of regulating the offices of the Church, it was really intended to render lawful whatever it did not forbid. Is it surprising that certain parties are charged with Jesuitism? It is an affront to our common sense to suppose that we can accept this as a “natural