Page images

Montpellier. The schism existed for many years, but was at last brought to a close in the year 1232, by the energetic intelligence and benevolent zeal of another great Rabbi, David Kimchi. The party at Montpellier relented, and caused the epitaph to be restored which they had so unkindly effaced.

The chief, and indeed the only cause of the condemnation of those books by the Rabbis of Montpellier, was the free and manly tone of discussion which, after centuries of intellectual bondage, they had dared to introduce. In treating of the legal precepts and ceremonies, Maimonides had assigned their final cause, on the ceasing of wbich, the ceremonial law must needs come to an end ; and he had spoken of the First Cause, and the mode of His operation on things without, in a manner similar to that of Christian theologians. The freedom and liberality of sentiment were, in fact, deemed too favourable to Christianity.

But both Jews and Christians are now unanimously of opinion that Rabbi Moses bar Maimon was one of the greatest men of the Hebrew nation. “I do not value that book only,” says Julius Scaliger, speaking of the Moreh Nebuchim, “but also all the works of that Rabbi, to such an extent, that I am disposed to say, that he alone, among the Jews, has desisted from trifling." And Isaac Casaubon speaks much to the same effect: “Moses Maimonides," says he," was a man of solid and immense learning, of whom I think I may truly say, what Pliny formerly said of Diodorus Siculus, that he is the first among his countrymen that has ceased to be a trifler.” And if the first, he certainly is not the last; for the merits of this great Rabbi are now appreciated by the general mind of Israel. Their affirmation is, that, “ from Moses to Moses, there has not arisen one like Moses ;” that is, from Moses the man of God, until Moses the son of Maimon, there has been no one who in learning and acquirements is to be compared to Moses the Hebrew lawgiver. By a play upon the initial letters of his name, he is styled Râm Běmazal, that is, “ one high among the stars," or "born under a happy constellation. And he is called Mörēh Zědék, “ the doctor of righteousness ;” and Or Hågālāh, “ the light of the captivity."*


(Concluded from page 38.) In 1536 an occurrence took place which has covered the character of Henry with infamy, and which has tended to place Cranmer himself in a very uncertain and dubious light. The wife whom Henry had made such long and desperate efforts to obtain, bad already become distasteful to him; and he had determined to be relieved of her. Her commit. tal to the Tower caused great surprise and anxiety to Cranmer. It was impossible for him to remain silent. He made a pathetic, but submissive, appeal in her behalf; and Henry shrunk from an interview with him on the subject. He forbade him to appear at court. The

*“British and Foreign Evangelical Review.”

charge, real or pretended, against the unfortunate Queen was investi. gated by a Commission, at the head of which the Archbishop allowed bimself to be placed. We are quite sure that the process would be conducted with the utmost tenderness. It seems she acknowledged that "certain, true, and lawful impediments” to the marriage did exist; but she was not pressed to “ mention what they were.” The marriage was declared " utterly void, and of none effect,” by an act of the legislature; and Cranmer had to undergo the deep humiliation of pronouncing the divorce “ by due order and process of law.”

The position of Cranmer was at this time delicate in the extreme. Whether rightly or wrongly, he conceived that this extreme submission to the will of the King was the only method by which he could hope to carry forward the reformation of the Church. The confidence which Henry reposed in him was the ground of his success. Measııres were adopted to suppress the superstitious use of images; and to diminish the number of "holy-days,” the multitude of which seriously interfered with the industrial occupations of the people, and gave occasion to much evil. The ground was to be cleared, preparatory to the scattering the seed of life among the people in the form of an English translation of the Bible, which he had the hope of obtain. ing. Such a translation, printed at Hamburg, was forwarded to Cranmer for his inspection and approval. He received it with joy. The labours of the enduring exile and martyr, Tyndale, were “not in vain." Miles Coverdale, afterwards Bishop of Exeter, had assisted in this great work; and the corrections and explanatory notes were supplied by John Rogers, the proto-martyr in the reign of the gloomy and vin. dictive Mary. As a matter of policy, the revised translation was denominated “ Thomas Matthewe's Bible.” The precious treasure obtained, Cranmer's anxiety now was to secure the royal warrant for its circulation, which he happily did through the influence of Cromwell; and, in the year 1538, “the Holy Bible was exposed to common sale, and appointed to be had in every parish church.” It was received with the greatest enthusiasm. “Everybody that could, bought the book, or basily read it, or got others to read it for them; and divers more elderly people learned to read on purpose.” This general liberty to use the Scriptures was afterwards limited by the strategy of Gardiner. But the Word of God had gone forth, and carried with it the pledge of suc. cess to the Archbishop in the great work of his life: the Reformation in England was virtually accomplished.

The part which Cranmer took in the condemnation of Lambert, was the sad result of his clinging to the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation. The unfortunate man had ventured to allege a number of reasons against this false notion ; and, through the interference of Gar. diner, the King determined to dispute with the" heretic” himself. It is no matter of surprise if Henry and his bishops thought they had conclu. sively answered the objections of their humble opponent. This poor man was “ adjudged to the flames," and died a martyr to the truth. It is possible to offer the apology of a mistaken conscientiousness for the share which the Archbishop had in this cruel business. We may also be allowed to think that he would be opposed to the fatal conclusion, while it is highly probable that he would not have influence sufficient to avert it. His opposition to Henry's appropriation of the revenues of the monasteries irritated the capricious Monarch; and the occasion was eagerly employed by the crafty Gardiner to Cranmer's great embarrassment. The notorious and threatening “Six Articles” were passed and enforced at this juncture. By these “ Articles,” the principal errors of Popery were declared to be" agreeable to God's law;” and it was also declared that all persons who should write or dispute against them “were to be adjudged heretics, and to be burnt,” or to suffer death as common felons. As a married priest, Cranmer was in danger. The debate on the measure in the House of Lords was long and earnest. The bishops were the principal disputants. Cranmer modestly, but manfully, headed the opposition; and, for three days in succession, reasoned against the Bill with so much learning and power, as to convince the judgment, and to command the sympathy, of a large portion of the House. Henry, however, was åetermined to carry the measure; and the lay lords were silent. He desired Cranmer to leave the House ; but the Archbishop insisted that the cause was God's, and not his; and he remained to the close of the debate, delivering his solemn protest against the measure when it was finally passed. It might be supposed that Henry was greatly incensed by this opposition. But he was a good judge of men and their principles; and, where his own immediate interests were not concerned, he could even sympathize with the enlightened sincerity of Cranmer. A few days afterwards, he actually sent a deputation of noblemen to condole with him, in his name, on the disappointment and pain which he suffered. The “ Articles” were soon modified, and allowed to stand in abeyance.

The fall of Cromwell was a serious blow and loss to Cranmer. He seemed now to stand, almost alone, in a critical position. His enemies were emboldened to make a direct attempt upon his safety. The King was induced to cause an inquiry to be made, by a select number of bishops, “into the matters of religion, and” for the purpose " of explaining some of the chief doctrines of it.” The Popish bishops were in a large majority; and they skilfully chose for discussion those doctrines on which it was well known that Cranmer and Henry differed. The inquiry was conducted with great warmth. Several articles were drawn up in harmony with the views of the King, who prided himself in his fancied knowledge of theology. The Archbishop resolutely refused to endorse them. This was precisely what his enemies intended and desired : they had placed him in direct opposition to Henry. The danger seemed imminent. The Bishops of Rochester and Hereford-Cranmer's princi. pal friends among those who were in the Commission-shrunk from the conflict, and left him without support in the danger. They privately entreated him to consent; and urged the will of the King as a reason for submission. He rose in moral power with the difficulties of the occasion, and calmly accepted the responsibility of his isolated oppo. sition. His enemies were delighted. Speculation ran high as to what the issue would be. Cranmer proceeded directly to the King, and placed the whole question before him. By the force of his represen. tations he won him over to his opinions, at least for the time; and he cure forth from the struggle with honour and advantage. The ques. tions were re-opened before a much larger body of bishops and divines, who were instructed to compare the rites and tenets of the Church ** with the Scriptures, and the most ancient writers; and to see how far the Scriptures and good authority allowed them." The recognition of the Word of God as the highest authority in all points of doctrine and church order was a signal gain for Cranmer. On this ground victory was certain. The favourable moment was embraced for informing the King that his instructions, for the removal from the churches of the numerous shrines of pretended saints, which gave occasion to much superstitious and idolatrous observance, were to a large extent evaded. Fresh injunctions were issued; and the shrine of Thomas à Becket disappeared from the cathedral church of Canterbury, while its vast Tealth enriched the exchequer of Henry. The work of reformation tras making steady, though slow, advancement. Humanly speaking, it depended upon the prudent skill of Cranmer, by which, at this junc. tare, he defeated an attempt to place the circulation of the Scriptures in permanent abeyance. A new translation had been ordered; and the Popish party aimed to get the work into their own hands, and thus indefinitely postpone its execution. Cranmer exposed their design to Henry, and procured an order that the new translation should be intrusted to the Universities. The announcement in Convocation of this mandate took his enemies by surprise ; and greatly embittered their feelings against him. They clearly saw that, notwithstanding their temporary ascendency with Henry, the only mode of arresting the work which Cranmer prosecuted was to procure his removal from the scene of action.

This was seriously contemplated by them: and a series of attempts were made to accomplish it, in which some of those who owed their preferinent to him, and were members of his own household, took a prominent part. The most formidable, and the last of these, may here properly be given, as it throws light on the characters of Henry and Cramer, and on the peculiar relation which existed between them. The Duke of Norfolk appears to have taken the lead in this movement, though Gardiner was, as usual, its evil genius. The party was com. posed of members of the Privy Council. Against the Archbishop it was alleged, that he had so “infected the realm with his unsavoury doctrine, that three parts of the land had become abominable heretics; and that it might prove dangerous to the King, being like to produce such commotions as were sprung up in Germany." On this ground of danger to himself, they desired the King to commit Cranmer to the Tower, that he might be tried on the charge in due form. Henry zeemed to enter into their purpose, and gave them leave to cite the accused before them; when, should they conclude that it was necessary, they might commit him. Elated with this apparent success, they proceeded to arrange their plan of operations. At midnight, however, Hcnry despatched a messenger to Cranmer, with an order commanding him to appear at Whitehall immediately. The Archbishop had retired to his own room, but arose at once, and obeyed the order. What his thoughts were, The have to direct means of knowing; though it is highly probable he



would apprehend some new danger. He must, at this time, have felt his life to be most insecure. Could his persecutors discredit him with the King, his death would be the immediate result. Henry was awaiting his arrival, and in a few words informed him of the accusation brought against him, and also that he had given permission to the Council to commit him to the Tower. He humbly thanked His Majesty for giving him timely warning; and declared his readiness to go to the Tower, on the condition that he might be impartially heard. It is evident that Henry was experimenting upon the character of Cranmer, who bore the test admirably. The dignity of bis bearing surpassed the King's expectation; and with astonishment he exclaimed, “What fond simplicity have you, 80 to permit yourself to be imprisoned, that every enemy of yours may take advantage against you! Not so, my lord. I have better regard unto you than to permit your enemies so to overthrow you.” He instructed him to demand that his accusers should be brought before him; and, placing his ring in Cranmer's hand, further said, " If they refuse your request, deliver this ring to them, and say, yon appeal from them to the King.”

At an early hour in the morning a summons was delivered, requiring the Archbishop to appear before the Council. When he arrived, he was not permitted to enter the council.chamber, but was treated with indignity, being compelled to stand without, among the servants who were in attendance. There he remained in uncomplaining silence, to the astonishment of all who observed him. When informed of this, Henry replied, “ Have they served my lord so? It is well enough. I shall talk with them by-and-by.” At their command, Cranmer entered, and listened to the reading of the charge against him. He claimed the right, as a member of the Council, to have his accusers before him. It was vain to reason against their determination. They informed him that “be must needs depart to the Tower.” Delivering the King's ring to them, he said, “I appeal from you to the King's majesty, who by this token hath resumed this matter into his own hand.” A photograph of the company, taken at that moment, would furnish a fine study. The innocent man, calm in the consciousness of right, and confident in the protection of his Sovereign, would be a strong contrast to the looks of his baffled antagonists. It is not difficult to conceive of their feelings, as they proceeded to the King's apartment. He received them with bitter irony, exclaiming, " Ah, my lords, I thought I had a discreet and wisc Council; but now I perceive that I am deceived. How have you handled here iny Lord of Canterbury? What make you of him? A slave ?- shutting him out of the council-chamber among serving-men. I would that you should well understand that I account my Lord of Canterbury as faithful a man towards me as ever was prelate in this realm, and one to whom I am many ways beholden. And, therefore, who loveth me will upon that account regard him.” They attempted to excuse themselves by declaring their intention to be that " after his trial the Archbishop might be set at liberty, to his greater glory.” It is needless to inquire whether Henry believed this assertion. His sig. nificant reply was, "I pray you use not my friends so." We are entertaired with the sight of these contemptible men giving their hand to

« PreviousContinue »