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Our Youths' Department.
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.—THE REFORMATION (continued).
" To earthly rulers all their dues be paid,
Sole rightful sovereign is the King of kings."
completed -- Monasteries Visited – Revolting Disclosures-An Act for Alo. lishing Diversity of Religious Opinion, &c. - First “ Act of Uniformity" in England-Retirement of Sharton and Latimer-Cronivell BeheadedBarnes, Jerome, and others, Victimized – Cranmer in Danger-Gardiner and Bonner- Á Short Reign of Felicity to the Protestant Cause--Expediency of Persecution still Admitted—“ Book of Common Prayer,” de.-Confornity Enforced - A Sad Passage in Cranmer's History - Origin of
British Nonconformity. Two influential parties at this time prevailed at the Court of Henry VIII.: the one favouring the principles of the Reformation ; the other still adhering to the corrupt doctrines and superstitious customs of the Papacy. “The Reformers," says Bishop Burnet, • received their chief encouragement from the queen, who reigned in the king's heart as absolutely as he did over his subjects. She took Shaxton and Latimer to be her chaplains, and promoted them to the bishoprics of Salisbury and Worcester, and used her most effectual endeavours with the king to promote the Reformation. Next to her, Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was a favourer of it. Above him was Cromwell (now Lord Chancellor), who was made the king's vicegerent in ecclesiastical matters, as the first act of the king's supremacy.” At the head of the other party the Duke of Norfolk, who, though he was the queen's uncle, yet was her mortal enemy. His great friend was Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. He despised Cranmer, and hated all reformation. They had a great party in the Court, and almost all the churchmen were on their side.” The Court clergy flattered the king's prejudices by representing to him that the book he had written against Luther was so complete a refutation of heresy, that it surely must have been written by the special aid of the Holy Spirit, and that any alteration would only favour the German nonconformists. Policy, however,
led the king, at length, to embark with the princes of Germany against the Pope and the Emperor Charles V.; and thus, so far, his influence was secured in favour of the reforms sought after by Cromwell and Cranmer. The influence of these two parties at Court, during the reign of the capricious Henry, kept up, as might be expected, a continual conflict betwixt the truly Protestant portion of the community and those which still clung to the customs and ascendancy of Rome; and although no spirit of inquiry was promoted, which could be said to be in advance of that exhibited on the continent, yet the first steps were taken in a series of changes which brought on important practical results. The whole of Tyndal's English translation of the Bible was now printed—finished by Miles Coverdale, and dedicated to Henry VIII. The king granted his royal warrant, allowing all his loving subjects to read the Scriptures at their own homes. Such was now the demand for the Word of God, that Cromwell (A.D. 1538) obtained letters patent, for five years, to print Bibles.
A commission was also appointed to visit the different monasteries, which, according to Bishop Burnet, “ were all extremely addicted to idolatry and superstition.” The report of this visitation, the bishop tells us, is lost; but the lewdness of the confessors of the nunneries, and the dissoluteness of the abbots, the monks, and friars, are not fit to be spoken of. “I have seen an extract of a report concerning one hundred and forty-four houses,” the bishop states, " that contain abominations equal to any in Sodom." In 1536—as one of the practical results of this visitation-all monasteries in England, having incomes under two hundred pounds a year, were dissolved ; and three years afterwards orders were issued for their final suppression.
Henry's part in the Reformation did not originate in true sympathy with the German and Swiss Reformers. It was to accomplish his own degrading objects, rather than to benefit his people, or to act in accordance with the dictates of an enlightened conscience, that he thus ranged himself on the side of the Reformers. Henry still retained the doctrines and most of the corrupt practices of the Church of Rome, as is obvious from certain articles of religion which he commanded to be drawn up, and “ An Act for Abolishing Diversity of Religious Opinion," &c., which received the royal assent, June 28th, 1539. Among the articles which the king commanded to be drawn up, and which were approved by Parliament, were the following :-“That in the sacrament of the altar, after the consecra.
nces of Germa d thus, so far. : it after by Cro parties at (em up, as might estant portion 1 stoms and are - was promote ced on the cover) f changes whico ole of Tynde : ed-finished ty. he king granted read the Siti d for the Mai
patent, for fire
all extreme this visitatio fessors of the
monks, and extract of a ,” the bishop: codom." In -all monasd pounds a were issued
tion, there remained no substance of bread and wine; but, under these forms, the natural body and blood of Christ were present; " " that the use of private masses might be continued ; " " that auricular confession was expedient and necessary," &c.
Aug man speaking or writing against the first of these articles incured the penalty of being burnt to death. Such was the first ** Act of Uniformity” in England. Commissions were forthwith and to all archbishops and bishops to enforce this bloody statute, as i was called. Shaxton and Latimer could not comply ; they therefare resigned their bishoprics, and were thrown into prison. “Within & very little while,” says Bishop Burnet, “five hundred other perBone were imprisoned for the breach of this statute ; but, on the representations of Cromwell and Cranmer, they were afterwards pardoned."
In a little while, however, such was the influence whic's the Popizi prelates bad obtained over the capricious Henry, that Cromwell lost favour with the king ; was apprehended, professedly on a charge of heresy and treason, and was beheaded, July 28th, 1540. Two days after, Dr. Barnes, Mr. Gerard, and Mr. Jerome-famous preachers of the Reformation—were also accused of heresy, and Were condemned to be burnt; and the learned Cranmer, though he had long enjoyed the favour of the king, and was supported by him against many enemies, was often in no small dangers. On one occasion, prejudiced by the misrepresentations of Popish prelates, he allowed Cranmer to be apprehended on a charge of heresy ; but, on some account, his life was mercifully preserved.
It is distressing to read the accounts which are given of the tragedies performed by those blood-thirsty prelates, Gardiner and Bonner
, whose compliance with the king's caprices left them power to persecute to death those who presumed to advance further in the Fork of reformation than his pleasure allowed. Happily, (1.1). 1547), the death of Henry opened up a more pleasing prospect
. Edward VI., his son and successor, was very young when he came to the throne ; but, as all parties testify, he was a child of a very superior understanding, and, under the tuition of the faithful Craniner
, he drank deeply into the principles of the Reformation. Among the executors of the late king were the Duke of Somerset, lord protector of the young monarch, and Archbishop Cranmer; and theże now, finding that they had very much the government in their own hands, resolved to prosecute the work which the late king
on more thoroughly ecclesiastical grounds. Many
a true symi
accomplisi le, or to ac 7ce, that he
Henry stili cices of the of religion A bolishing pyal assent, commanded
.. were the
evils in the church which had been left unremoved were cleared away, and matters of doctrine were settled on a more Scriptural basis, according to Protestant principles. Bishop Latimer and others, whom Henry had imprisoned for their nonconformity, were released; the "bloody statute” was repealed; and the greatest anxiety was evinced by Cranmer--who had always been regarded as a thorough Protestant at heart—to complete the work of reformation.
Under the reign of the youthful and pious Edward VI., and notwithstanding the Protestant influences by which he was surrounded, strange to say, we still find the principle of persecution admitted as essential to the Church's prosperity. In remodelling the Church of England, a committee of divines was appointed, by royal authority, to draw up a new Liturgy-translated, principally, from the several Popish mass-books then used in England. This new Liturgy, nearly the same as the present “Common Prayer and Forms of Administration of Sacraments," was laid before Parliament (A.D. 1548); and it was then enacted that it should be established as the form of public worship in the Church of England. Offices were also drawn up for the administering of baptism and of confirmation. Priestly surplices, and other vestments offensive to Protestants, after much disputation and controversy, were retained ; and, furthermore, conformity to these various forms and offices was rigidly enforced. In vain was it that eight godly bishops and several peers protested against the act which rendered it binding that “All ministers, in any cathedral or parish churches, or other places within his Majesty's dominions, shall use the matins, celebration of the sacraments, and all other common and open prayer, in such order and form as is mentioned in the said book.” For the first offence, the penalty inflicted was imprisonment for six months; for the second, deprivation of all spiritual promotions; and for the third, imprisonment for life. Thus terrible were the penalties and pains by which conformity to this first Protestant Prayer-book, with its rites and ceremonies, was enforced.
Many godly men and women suffered grievously in consequence of this arbitrary act. Burnet states that, at this time, there were many Anabaptists in several parts of England-generally Germans, whom the revolutions there had scattered. A commission was ordered to examine and search after these ; and if they were convicted of heresy or contemners of the Common Prayer, efforts were to be made to reclaim them, in the first place; but if they remained obstinate, they were to be excommunicated and imprisoned. It is