« PreviousContinue »
the perseverance and learning of Calvin, his opinion triumphed so far as to effect a union between most of the Swiss churches and that of Geneva. With the exception of Zurich and Bern, which remained for a long time constant to their founder's opinion, the remaining churches gradually embraced the tenets of Calvin.
This, then, was the state of opinion among those illustrious men who were the originators and first promoters of our great Reformation. Unhappy it was for the church of Christ that they could not agree in interpreting the great institutions of our Lord in some one general form, so that it had not been necessary for Christians, jointly separating from the errors of the church of Rome, themselves again to separate and subdivide--that while they agreed in repudiating the monstrous doctrines of transubstantiation and the elevation of the host, they could not avoid falling into the endless and useless frivolities of the schoolmen, in consubstantiation, impanation, and the other mystical questions of the day, so unfitted for the sacred simplicity of the gospel.
But difference of opinion is the inseparable attribute of human things, and we must cheerfully consider that, although the evils which arose from their disunion
certainly great, yet still the advantages which accrued
to the human race from that freedom of opinion which produced them are more than a sufficient compensation. Immediately that the dictum of one individual ceased to be the rule of faith by which the whole Christian world was to be guided ; immediately that the word of God was open for the study and interpretation of every church according to their own authority and power, and every man had the natural right of reading and examining the scriptures for himself, and by himself; immediately that these unquestionable blessings descended upon mankind, it was evil which could not by any possibility be averted, that the very same privilege, which was a blessing well used, became an evil when misused by the injudicious or the ignorantwhen it became an exercise of critical skill, or scholastic disputation, the trial of political strength, or the watchword of a party.
Το all these evils, the principle of individual right to study God's word did unquestionably tend—but then what are they in comparison with the evils from which we escaped, in comparison with the ignorance, superstition, and idolatry from which we were delivered, the tyrannical supremacy of monkish intolerance which, under God's grace, Protestant Europe no longer endures?
But it is now time to leave the continental nations of Europe, and to turn to our own
country. We shall perceive how our present opinions on the sacrament of the Eucharist first arose, and have gradually been strengthened in their present form.
At the time that the five great reformers, whose
have already mentioned, were commencing their great efforts against the Pope, our own country, under the reign of Henry VIII., still remained in the spiritual chains of the Roman church. Henry VIII., as is well known, obtained the title of “ Defender of the Faith,” in consequence of his defence of the Roman Catholic church, and particularly the seven sacraments against the opinions of Luther.* This at once shows the
* Henry VIII. is supposed by some not to have been the author of the “ Defence of the Seven Sacraments ;" but whether or no, as it bears his name, it may be assumed as a testimony of the extreme repugnance of the high places in England, in the reign of Henry, towards the novel doctrines of the reformation.
In the oration made by Mr. John Clarke, the king's orator, in presenting a copy of the book to the pope, the vituperation heaped upon Luther is truly extraordinary : " Nor is it amiss to take notice in this place, of this horrid and furious monster (Luther), as also of his stings and poisons, whereby he intends to infect the whole world. But O, immortal God! what bitter language, what so hot and inflamed force of speaking can be invented, sufficient to declare the errors of that most filthy villain ?" and so forth.
To this and such like language, the pope replied by the bull constituting the new title: “We, the true successors of St. Peter, whom Christ before his ascension left as his
natural tendency of that King to preserve the religion of his country in its ancient form, and we also know that, in the year 1511, he advanced still further in its defence. In that year, a treaty was concluded between Henry and Ferdinand of Arragon, to maintain the papal power against the encroachments of France; and it was evident, from a variety of circumstances, that the opinions and policy of Henry, up to this period, were in decided opposition to the new religion. But private interest and the motives of the world frequently bring about, under God's providence, national blessings; and thus it was, when the king became desirous of his marriage with Katharine, and repeated attempts failed to obtain the necessary divorce from the pope, that he then began to give his attention to the Protestant discussion; he became desirous of absolving himself from that spiritual allegiance which it was no longer his personal interest to maintain. The spirit of Protestantism had long betrayed itself in England by various demonstrations. “From the days of Wickliffe,” says Bishop Burnet, “ there were many that disliked most of the received doctrines, in several parts of the nation.
vicar upon earth, and to whom he committed the care of his flock, presiding in this holy see, from which all dignity and titles have their source, we command all Christians that they name your Majesty by this title, and in their writings to your Majesty, after the word King, they immediately add, Defender of the Faith.”-Bull of pope Leo X.
The clergy were at that time very hateful to the people ; for as the pope did exact heavily on them, so they being oppressed, took all means possible to make the people repay what the pope wrested from them. Wickliffe, being much encouraged and supported by the Duke of Lancaster and the Lord Piercy, the bishops would not proceed against him, till the Duke of Lancaster was put from the King, and then he was condemned at Oxford. Many opinions were charged upon him, but whether he held them or not, we know not, but by the testimony of his enemies, who writ of him with so much passion that it discredits all they say
Yet he died in peace, though his body was afterwards burnt. He translated the Bible out of Latin into English, with a long preface before it, in which he reflected severely on the corruptions of the clergy, and condemned the worshipping of saints and images, and denied the corporeal presence of Christ's body in the sacrament, and exhorted all people to the study of the scriptures.” And again,
“ As these did spread much in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, so their books came over into England, where there was much
matter already prepared to be wrought on, not only by the prejudices they had conceived against the cor