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the injured prelate, who, if he desired revenge, must have felt that he had it riehly in the mortifying position to which they were reduced. It was indeed a proud moment in the life of that unpretending man, “ against whom," the annalist says, “never more durst any man spurn during King Henry's life.”
It is obvious that Henry was deeply interested in the religious condition of the country; and from a motive of selfishness, if from no higher principle, was strongly inclined to the side of the Reformation. He was jealous of foreign influence in his realm; and was disposed to favour those views of religion which tended to establish the supremacy of the Monarch, though he was unable to free his mind from the corrupt doctrines of the Papacy. He desired the people to be instructed in the truth of God's word, from the conviction that such a course was best calculated to promote loyalty and good order. But he was greatly embarrassed by the political difficulties of the time, in which he required the services of the leading men in the Popish party; and was in consequence induced to yield much to them in the general matters of religion. The Canon Law remained precisely as it was before the abolition of the Pope's supremacy. The anomaly of this was fully appreciated by Henry, who was well aware that such a priestly and tyrannical code was a powerful engine in the hands of the Papacy. An attempt to form an ecclesiastical code in harmony with the altered circumstances was defeated by Gardiner, who was then at the French cuurt, negotiating conditions of peace. He declared that the proposed alterations would incense the French monarch, and prevent the favourable issue of his mission. The intended revision was suspended, and Henry observed, "My Lord of Canterbury must take patience herein, and forbear till we may espie a more apt and convenient time for that purpose.” Resolute as he undoubtedly was, he was much too politic to carry forward measures which might increase the difficulties of his position. His inclination was in advance of what was actually accomplished by him in the reformation of religion. The freedom of Cranmer's intercourse with him, and their frequent discussions on all the agitated questions, tended greatly to the correction of his views. In this, the last year of his life, he was evidently disposed to introduce a radical change in that central source of evil, the mass; and to supersede it by the scriptural celebration of the Lord's Supper. This appears from the report of a conversation which took place at Hampton Court, between Henry, the French ambassador, and Cranmer, on this important point. But the contemplated change was prevented by Henry's death at Hampton, on the 28th of January, 1547.
The opinions and real feelings of men are generally made apparent when the solemn hour of mortality overtakes them. When Henry found his end approaching, Cranmer was the person whose ministrations he desired. Gentle and faithful to the end, the Archbishop sought to direct the mind of his Sovereign to the true source of salvation and comfort. When the power of speech failed, Cranmer desired him to give him some token that he put his trust in God through Jesus Christ, according as he had desired; and thereat the King presently wrong hard the Archbishop's hand, and soon after departed.” A record of the thoughts which arose in the mind of Cranmer, as he gazed upon the lifeless form of the deceased Monarch, would have constituted a deeply interesting chapter in the history of the time. The conviction of his loyalty and patriotism would sustain him in the review of the past. Amidst traitorous Papists, and self-seeking lords, he had ever been true and upright; and in the great changes which he had laboured to effect, he had conscientiously desired to promote the good of the nation, and the glory of God. In the contingencies of the future he would see reason to be apprehensive for his own safety, and to tremble for the ark of God. He could not foresee the direction which the easy principles of a mutually jealous nobility might take: on the preservation of a comparatively delicate child the future history of the nation, humanly speaking, seemed to depend. A depraved and ignorant priesthood was ready, at the first opportunity, to rush back into the iron grasp of the Pope. But, confident of the soundness of his principles, and the high importance of his work, and full of courage in the assurance of God's presence and blessing, he determined to proceed with his arduous undertaking, trustfully leaving the grand issues, both personal and national, in the hands of the God of truth.
On some points of the deceased Monarch's character there can be little difference of opinion. He was changeful, despotic, unscrupulous, relentless, and cruel even to ferocity. A strange admixture of elements existed in him. Wishful to promote the elevation of his kingdom, and the good of his people, he was sufficiently enlightened to know that the rule of the Papacy was fatal to both; and with a vigorous hand he cast away the yoke. But his principles were too weak to sustain him in the presence of difficulty, and he turned the opposing parties to his own account. His mind was vigorous, and his judgment was clear and strong; but his general action was regulated by personal considerations. He was apt in the appreciation of character, and his knowledge of men was accurate and extensive. With all his sins (and they were great) he was not altogether unsusceptible of noble sentiments and true friendship. Had he lived in a more enlightened and advanced age, in all probability he would have been not only an energetic, but a praiseworthy ruler.
With the death of Henry, the position of Cranmer was greatly altered. Provision had been made by the deceased King for the government of the country during the minority of his son, whom all parties agreed to accept as their Sovereign. The Duke of Somerset, the young King's uncle, was appointed his guardian, and governor of the kingdom in his name. Between the Duke and the Archbishop there was a distinct understanding that the interests of the Reformation should be steadily advanced, as the difficulties of their situation would admit. Supreme power appeared to be in their hands; but was held in check by a very formidable opposition, which was now relieved from apprehension of the Sovereign's personal displeasure, such as had been feared in the days of Henry. It was possible to regard the measures of Somerset and Cranmer as entirely their own, and in no real sense those of the youthful Edward. This fact greatly embarrassed the two in the course wbich their sense of duty called upon them to pursue; and their oppo. nents employed it with considerable effect. A high degree of wisdom was required in these critical circumstances. The slightest precipi. tancy would have raised a loud outcry against them; and would have exposed them to the specious charge of taking undue advantage of Edward's inexperience. The people might have been excited to violent measures of resistance, and the State involved in the horrors of civil strife. Rarely have men had a more delicate part to perform. Cranmer displayed the wisdom, moderation, virtue, and fortitude, which his high station demanded. It is scarcely possible to speak of his co-adjutor with equal commendation. The Duke was loyal in bis principles and intentions ; but was destitute of the commanding talents, and force of character, requisite to enable him to rule the jealous and turbulent nobles of the Privy Council, who did not hesitate to oppose him in every available form. The fall of Somerset did not seem to them very improbable, though his power was great, and in the hands of some men would have been irresistible. But to hesitate in their work would be to incur certain overthrow. The aim of Cranmer appears to have been to carry forward the nation to such a state of religious enlightenment and freedom, that, by the time the King personally assumed the reins of government, he might have a substantially Protestant people to govern. Though Edward was so youthful, he had a much better understanding of the questions in dispute than youths of his years ordinarily have. They were constantly discussed in his presence, and occupied his time in the private cabinet as well as in the council-chamber. Cranmer had been appointed his tutor, which equally indicated the mind of the father, and guaranteed the thorough instruction of the son. The boy appears to have inherited much of his father's mental capacity, and his strong preference for the study of religious questions, along with his mother's decidedly anti-Popish and Protestant tendencies. A prosperous era seemed to open before the nation, upon which the principal actors of the time were prepared to enter, though with a keen conviction of their responsibility and danger.
The coronation of Edward was performed at the earliest possible date. But in anticipation of this, Cranmer had sought and obtained the young King's confirmation of his appointment as Archbishop. It was important that Edward's supremacy should be fully recognised : Cranmer hastened to recognise it in connexion with his own office, that the same might be required of every other bishop. The power of dealing with recusant ecclesiastics was thus obtained. Letters patent were issued for a general visitation of the country "for the better reformation of religion;" and the powers of this commission were large. The character of the priesthood, of all orders, and the services in their churches, were more keenly scrutinized than on any former occasion. Many were found guilty of the grossest impurities in con. Texion with the use of the confessional. Their incapacity to instruct the people was found to be extreme; and a "Book of Homilies” was provided for their use. They were also directed to employ the paraphrase of Erasmus. The pertinacious opposition of Gardiner to these measures resulted in his being placed under some restraint. By the action of Parliament, which was now sitting, many substantial changes
were effected. The obnoxious "Six Articles” were repealed; various superstitious observances were condemned; and the administration of the communion in both kinds, with “ one perfect and uniform order," was appointed.
Times of change are invariably times of danger. Enthusiastic, but weak minds are incapable of wisely employing a new-born liberty. Occasions of strife arose among the people; unauthorized appropriation of church ornaments was made by persons of influence; and doctrinal errors of the wildest kind were openly propounded. Means were employed to arrest these evils; and under instruction many renounced their errors. There was unhappily at least one exception; which was that of a fanatical woman who persisted in her denial of the Saviour's proper humanity. In order to avoid extreme measures, repeated efforts were made by Cranmer and Ridley, conjointly, to induce her to renounce the error. These were unavailing; and we regret to find it on record that this person was actually burnt as an obstinate heretic. We have only words of condemnation for this untoward transaction. Cranmer has been charged with being a principal actor in the dark
This imputation has been perpetuated by Dean Stanley, in his Lectures on the Eastern Church, in which he says, in reference to this event, “ A young Sovereign was more tender-hearted than a gentle bishop.” In answer to a correspondent,” the “ Church Times” has also recently said, “Cranmer was not only an apostate, traitor, perjurer, robber, and persecutor; but he was a coward and timeserver also.” If this is a true indictment, the Archbishop was certainly a monster of impiety. But this charge, it must be remembered, was brought forward by avowed enemies of the Reformation, of which Cranmer was a principal instrument. His character is in itself strong presumptive evidence against it. The greatest leniency towards those who opposed him is repeatedly manifested in the course of his life. Under circumstances of extreme provocation, he evinced a mildness of disposition which disinclines us to believe him guilty of the grave fault, which certain writers determine to keep before us. It seems to rest wholly upon a passage in Foxe, who gives no authority for the statement which he makes. For anything that appears to the contrary, he is merely recording a report to which currency had been given. As Edward was accustomed to keep a carefully written diary, it is exceedingly improbable that he should have made no allusion to it, if such a discussion had occurred between himself and Cranmer as the one on which this charge is founded. He records the simple facts of the case, but says not a word of any persuasions or arguments used by Cranmer to induce him to sign the warrant for Joan Becher's execution.
The accusation appears to us to have arisen from a mistaken view of the order in which the business of the Privy Council was conducted. It is important to remember that, under the will of Henry, the Council exercised the powers of the Government during the minority of Edward; and from the minutes of its proceedings, it appears that a warrant was issued to the sheriff of London for this insane woman's execution, which was actually carried into effect on the authority of that governing body. The writer of a valuable note in the edition of
"Strype's Memorials,” issued by the Ecclesiastical History Society, says, " It would have been contrary to constitutional custom for the King to bave signed any such document; it is quite clear from the entry that he did not sign it; and the narrative, which the worthy martyrologist was misled into inserting, and Cranmer's difficulty to cause the King 'to put to his hand,' and the tears, by which subsequent writers have declared that his submission to the stern pleading of his spiritual father was accompanied, all vanish.” We are, therefore, disposed to conclude that this grave imputation is utterly destitute of any just foundation. There is no authoritative evidence that Cranmer eren concurred in the execution; but it is very certain that, while he might not have power to change the decision of the Council, he earnestly sought to avert its fatal results by his endeavours to convince the infatuated woman of her error.
The first Book of Common Prayer, having been completed, received the sanction of Parliament in the early part of the year 1549. With the introduction of this book the mass was abolished, and the right use of the Lord's Supper was set forth. The way had been prepared for this great change in the services of the Church by a manual of prayers for pri. vate use, and by the Catechism, which was designated "Cranmer's Catechism.” But a dark cloud now gathered over the cause of the Reformation. A conspiracy was formed against the Protector, Somerset, and by order of the Council he was committed to the Tower. It was hoped by some that the old form of worship would be restored. But Cranmer succeeded in obtaining an order for the preservation of the Dew book, which also directed the removal from the churches of "all other books of service.” An accession of strength was also gained by the introduction of several eminent men from the Continent, who here found a refuge from the power of their persecutors. Among the most distinguished of these men were Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr. Bucer was appointed Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, where he laboured efficiently for some time. Martyr was an Italian, and formerly a monk of the Order of St. Augustine. At Cranmer's request he hastened to England, and received an appointment to a professorship at Oxford, where he lectured with great effect against the doctrine of transubstantiation. Martyr and Bucer may be regarded as representing the schools of Calvin and Zwingli, respectively, on the sacramental question. Martyr maintained the presence of Christ in the sacrament in a spiritual sense, and declared that He was to be received into the heart by faith; while Bucer inclined to the view that the bread and wine were
, as he said, merely “ signs exhibitive,” and that the presence of Christ was only " the attaining and perceiving of the commodities we have by Christ, both God and man, dwelling and living in us."
In the face of much opposition Cranmer's design steadily advanced. The diffusion of evangelical writings commanded his special attention. He wrote and published his able work on the Lord's Supper. He came to see that the errors of the Papacy on this subject were a principal barrier to a thorough reformation of the Church. Speaking of the production referred to, Archbishop Parker says, “ that no one contro