Изображения страниц




ought not to forbear, to hate cruelty and oppression in whatever form they present themselves.

The wickedness of the Marian persecution, regarding it with every allowance for the errors of those engaged in it, can only be exceeded by its folly. If the martyrdoms had been confined to the great leaders and teachers of the Reformation,-to those who exulted in its principles, and welcomed suffering and death as the crowning glory of their labours,—we may understand how the spirit of revenge might have obliterated the quality of mercy. Bonner said to Hawkes, "We will show such mercy unto you as ye showed unto us; for my benefice or bishopric was taken away from me, so that I had not one penny to live upon." We see the vulgarity and meanness of Bonner's mind in this avowal; and his ferocity is therefore intelligible when he has to deal with Ridley, who supplanted him in his bishopric. So of Gardiner, when he has to influence the fate of his old opponent Cranmer. But that a government, knowing well that the elements of public hatred were surrounding it on every side-that a thousand martyrdoms could not change the secret opinions which had been the growth of nearly two centuries, that a government politically and religiously obnoxious to many, should have chosen to hunt out the heretics from the most obscure recesses, is an example of that judicial blindness which precedes destruction. When we read in the sad history of these times, that the humblest of the people were called into the ecclesiastical courts, and, being required to make answers to certain questions, were condemned if judged heretical, we may ask what possible feeling could have been produced, other than the most intense hatred and disgust by such sacrifices of artificers and labourers and fishermen—when even the lowly housewife was dragged out of her cottage, upon the information of some spiteful neighbour? Those who would extenuate the practices of these times, as the fashion now is, would do well to study the public acts of the government of Mary, rather than prove that she was kind to her dependants; that she loved her husband; that she was conscientiously pious and charitable; that she had a sincerer nature than her sister Elizabeth. It is as a queen that she must be judged; and as a queen she went further to degrade and enslave England than any sovereign who ever sate upon England's throne. There is such a document in existence as 'An Order prescribed by the King and Queen to the Justices of the Peace," dated March 26th, 1555, in which, after enjoining that "they must lay special weight upon those which be preachers and teachers of heresy, or procurers of secret meetings for that purpose," we have this memorable direction: "They shall procure to have in every parish, or part of the shire, as near as may be, some one or more honest men secretly instructed, to give information of the behaviour of the inhabitants amongst or about them.” * The justices of the peace, in some districts, were ready enough to bring such as do lean to erroneous and heretical opinions" before the Ordinaries. But, as we learn by a royal letter dated the 24th of May, the bishops either refused to receive such persons, or dealt with them mercifully. Then the pious king and queen wrote to each bishop to admonish him that "when any such offenders shall be by the said justices of the peace brought unto you, ye do use your good

* Burnet, "Records," No. 19.

[ocr errors]




[1555. wisdom and discretion, in procuring to remove them from their errors, if it may be, or else in proceeding against them, if they shall continue obstinate, according to the order of the laws."* Honour be to those justices and bishops in whose districts the old English spirit of honesty and freedom made the attempts to introduce the spy-system into every household recoil with hatred and contempt upon their originators. Many dioceses, especially the large ones of Lincoln, York, and Durham, were almost wholly exempt from these disgraces. The merciful and, we may say, politic dispositions of many bishops stood between those who read their English bibles in secret, and the bigotry that would have dragged them to sign articles against their consciences, or to burn. One more expedient was tried, to remedy the supineness of justices and ordinaries. In 1557 a commission was issued to the bishops of London and Ely, with other ecclesiastics and many laymen, by which any three were empowered to search after all heresies, and the sellers and readers of heretical books; to examine and punish all misbehaviour and negligences in church or chapel; to try all priests that did not preach of the sacrament of the altar, and all persons that did not hear mass, or did not go in procession, or did not take holy bread or holy water. They were to call before them what witnesses they pleased, and compel them to swear, so as to discover the heresies and offences thus to be hunted out.t "So now,' says Burnet, "all was done that could be devised for the extirpation of heresy, except Courts of Inquisition had been set up; to which, whether this was not a previous step to dispose the nation to it, the reader may judge."

[ocr errors]

We have endeavoured, without dwelling too minutely upon the horrors of this frightful time, to lead the reader to understand how that temper was roused in the English nation, which produced an abhorrence to the Roman Catholic religion, " to be derived down from father to son "-"an aversion so deeply rooted, and raised upon such grounds, as does upon every new provocation or jealousy of returning to it, break out in most violent and convulsive symptoms." So wrote Burnet in the time of Charles II. So may we still write, when the "jealousy of returning to it" is excited by indiscretions which proceed from a singular ignorance of the character of the English nation. Let us conclude this painful narrative with a brief view of the final triumphs of the three most eminent of the sufferers.

From the 28th of April, 1554, when Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, had been condemned as obstinate heretics, they had remained in prison in Oxford. In September, 1555, a court was held under the papal authority at Oxford, for what was called their trial. Ridley and Latimer were brought before the commissioners, the bishops of Lincoln, Gloucester, and Bristol, to answer to certain articles. The next day, a solemn session was held at St. Mary's church -solemn as far as thrones and cloth of tissue could impart solemnity to a proceeding which was a mockery of justice, in refusing to hear the accused. They had only to hear the sentence pronounced; to be degraded; to be burnt. The place of their execution is now distinguished by what is called "the Martyrs' Memorial." No monument is necessary to commemorate an event which will be remembered, through the power of a few thrilling words, as long as

Burnet, "Records," No. 20.

"History of the Reformation," part ii. book ii. p. 347.

Ibid., No. 32.




the English language shall endure. Stripped of his prison dress, the aged Latimer-the bent old man,"stood bolt upright, as comely a father as one might lightly behold." He stands, bolt upright, in his shroud. Ridley and he "stand coupled for a common flight;" and he says, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man! We

shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as shall never be put out."



When Cranmer came before the commissioners, he was cited to appear at Rome within eighty days, there to answer the charges against him. This was one of the mockeries of the papal rule in England. There were prisonwalls between the archbishop and Rome, and at the end of the time he was declared contumacious. Bonner and Thirlby were appointed to degrade. him. Bonner was brutal; Thirlby wept. The courage of Cranmer was never very strong. He had made too many compromises in life not to be tempted into one more compliance with firmer wills, when a hope was offered to him that he might quietly descend into the grave, at the natural expiration of his allotted years. He signed papers of recantation, under these false promises. The hateful betrayers thought by this cruel policy, to make the great leader of the Reformation die a cowardly apostate. They were deceived. A better spirit—an inspiration-came over the fallen man-to make his final glory even greater from his temporary abasement. There can be no question of the authenticity of the narrative of his last end, for it was drawn up by a Romanist; and the original document is amongst the Harleian Manuscripts, headed, " Archbishop Cranmer's death, related by a by-stander." On the 21st of March, the morning being rainy, the sermon, which was appointed to be preached at the stake, was preached in St. Mary's church. Cranmer having heard the sermon, in which he was reminded of his wretched estate-" of a counsellor to be a caitiff," knelt down and prayed-the men of the university praying with him; "for they that hated him before, now loved him for his conversion." After that he prayed aloud; and then addressed an exhortation, to care not over much for the world; to obey the king and queen; to love one another; to be good to the poor. He then declared that he believed in God; in every article of the Catholic faith; and every word and sentence taught by our Saviour, his apostles, and prophets, in the Old and New Testament. The conclusion of his exhortation was a startling one:

"And now I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that ever I said or did in my life: and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth. Which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand, contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life, if it



[1556. might be and that is, all such bills which I have written or signed with mine own hand, since my degradation: wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished therefore: for if I may come to the fire, it shall be first burned. And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine."

"And here being admonished of his recantation and dissembling, he said, 'Alas, my lord, I have been a man that all my life loved plainness, and never dissembled till now against the truth; which I am most sorry for.' He added

[graphic][merged small]

hereunto, that, for the sacrament, he believed as he had taught in his book against the bishop of Winchester. And here he was suffered to speak no more."

"He so far deceived all men's expectations, that, at the hearing thereat they were much amazed." He was led away, "great numbers exhorting him, while time was, to remember himself." He did remember himself; and thus vindicated his character, for the love and pity of all after-time:

"Coming to the stake with a cheerful countenance and willing mind, he put off his garments with haste, and stood upright in his shirt: and a bachelor of divinity, named Elye, of Brazennose College, laboured to convert him to his former recantation, with the two Spanish friars. And when the friars saw




his constancy, they said in Latin one to another, Let us go from him; we ought not to be nigh him, for the devil is with him. But the bachelor in divinity was more earnest with him; unto whom he answered, that, as concerning his recantation, he repented it right sore, because he knew it was against the truth; with other words more. Whereby the lord Williams cried, 'Make short, make short.' Then the bishop took certain of his friends by the hand. But the bachelor of divinity refused to take him by the hand, and blamed all others that so did, and said, he was sorry that ever he came in his company. And yet, again, he required him to agree to his former recantation. And the bishop answered, showing his hand, 'This was the hand that wrote it, and therefore shall it suffer first punishment.'

"Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right hand, and thrust it into the flame, and held it there a good space, before the fire came to any other part of his body; where his hand was seen of every man sensibly burning, crying with a loud voice, 'This hand hath offended.' As soon as the fire got up, he was very soon dead, never stirring or crying all the while."

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »