« PoprzedniaDalej »
THE LIFE OF DR. THOMAS CRANMER, THE FIRST PROTESTANT ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY.
THIS great prelate was born at Aflacton in the county of Nottingham July 2, 1489. His family was ancient, and came in with William the Conqueror. He was early deprived of his father Thomas Cranmer, Efq. and after no extraordinary education, was fent by his mother to Cambridge, at the age of fourteen, according to the custom of those times. He took the ufual degrees, and was chofen fellow of Jefus College: and emerging from the subtle and useless studies of those days, foon became celebrated for his learning and abilities. In 1525 he married: but his wife dying in child-bed, within the year, he was re-elected fellow of Jefus: a favour fo gratefully acknowledged by him, that he chofe to decline an offer of a much more valuable fellowthip in Cardinal Wolfey's new seminary at Oxford, rather than relinquish friends who had fhewn fuch regard to him.
In 1523, he commenced Doctor in Divinity: and being in great esteem for theological learning, he was chofen divinity-lecturer in his own college: and appointed by the univerfity one of the examiners in that fcience. In which office he principally inculcated the ftudy of the holy Scriptures, then greatly neglected, as being of indifpenfible neceflity for the profeffors of that divine knowledge. The plague happening to break out at Cambridge, Cranmer, with fome of his pupils, removed to Waltham-Abbey: where falling into company with Gardiner and Fox, one the secretary, the other almoner of King Henry; that monarch's intended divorce of Catharine his queen, the common fubject of difcourfe in those days came upon the carpet: when Cranmer advifing an application to our own and to the foreign universities for their opinion in the cafe, and giving these gentlemen much fatisfaction; they introduced him to the king, who was much pleased with him; committed him to the care of Sir Thomas Boleyn, ordering him to write his thoughts on the fubject; made him his chaplain, and admitted him into that favour and efteem, which he never afterwards forfeited.
In 1530, he was fent by the king, with a folemn embaffy, to difpute on
the fubject of the divorce at Paris, Rome, and other foreign parts. At Rome he delivered his book which he had written in defence of the divorce to the Pope, and offered to juftify it in a public difputation; but after various promifes and appointments none appeared to oppofe him: while in private conferences he forced them to confefs that the marriage was contrary to the law of God. The Pope conftituted him Penitentiary General of England, and difmiffed him. In Germany he gave full fatisfaction to many learned men, who were before of a contrary perfuafion: and prevailed on the famous Ofiander to declare the king's marriage unlawful. Before he left Germany he married Ofiander's niece.
While he was abfent, the great Archbishop Warham died. Henry, convinced of Cranmer's merit, determined that he fhould fucceed him: and commanded him to return for that purpose. He fufpected the cause, and delayed; defirous by all means to decline this high station: for he had a true and primitive fenfe of the office. But this only ftimulated the king's refolution, and the more reluctance Cranmer fhewed, the greater refolution Henry exerted. He was confecrated March 30, 1533, to the office and though he received the ufual bulls from the Pope, he protested at his confecration against the oath of allegiance, &c. to him. For he had converfed freely with the reformed in Germany, had read Luther's books, and was zealously attached to the reformation.
He was difagreeably employed, as the first service he did the king, was in pronouncing the fentence of his divorce from Queen Catharine: and next in joining his hands with Anna Boleyn; the confequence of which marriage was the birth of the glorious Elizabeth, to whom he ftood godfather. And as the queen was greatly interefted in the reformation, the friends to that good work began to conceive high hopes: and indeed it went on with defirable fuccefs. But the fickle difpofition of the king, and the fatal end of unhappy Anna for a while alarmed their fears: though, by God's providence, without any ill effects. The pope's fupremacy was univerfally exploded; monafteries, &c. destroyed, upon the fulleft detection of the most abominable vices: that valuable book The Erudition of a Christian Man was fet forth by our great archbishop, and the facred Scriptures, at length, to the infinite joy of Cranmer, were not only tranflated, but introduced into every parish. And "the tranflation was received with inexpreffible joy: every one, that was able, purchased it, and the poor flocked greedily to hear it read: fome perfons in years learned to read on purpofe, that they might perufe it: and even little children crowded with eagerness to hear it!"
That he might proceed with true judgment, Cranmer made a collection of their opinions from the works of the ancient fathers and later divines: of which Bishop Burnet faw two volumes in folio; and it appears, by a letter of Lord Burleigh's, that there were then fix volumes of Cranmer's collections in his hands. A fhining proof was foon after given of his difinterested conftancy by his noble oppofition to what are commonly called King Henry's fix bloody articles*. However he weathered the storm; and
* By thefe none were allowed to speak against transubstantiation on pain of being burnt as heretics, and forfeiting their goods and chattels as in cafe of treason. It was also thereby made felony and forfeiture of lands and goods to defend the communion in both kinds, or marriage of the clergy, or of thofe who had vowed celibacy: or to fpeak against private maffes and auricular confeffion,
published (with an fix of which, even caufed to be fixed, Paul's.
incomparable preface) by himself the larger Bible; Bonner, the newly confecrated Bifhop of London, for the perufal of the people, in his Cathedral of St.
The enemies of the reformation however were reftlefs; and Henry, alas! was no proteftant, in his heart. Cromwell fell a facrifice to them; and they aimed every poffible fhaft at Cranmer: Gardiner in particular was indefatigable; he caufed him to be accufed in parliament: and feveral lords of the privy council moved the king to commit the archbishop to the Tower. The king perceived their malice; and one evening, on pretence of diverting himself on the water, ordered his barge to be rowed to Lambeth, The archbishop was informed of it, came down to pay his respects, and was ordered by the king to come into the barge and fit close by him. Henry made him acquainted with the accufation of herefy, faction, &c. which were laid against him; and fpoke of his oppofition, to the fix articles; the archbishop modeftly replied, that he could not but acknowledge himself to be of the fame opinion, with refpect to them; but was not confcious of having offended against them. Then the king putting on an air of pleafantry, afked him, if his bed chamber could ftand the test of thefe articles? The archbishop confeffed, that he was married in Germany, before his promotion; but affured the king, that on the pafling that Act, he had parted with his wife, and fent her abroad to her friends. His majefty was fo charmed with his opennefs and integrity, that he difcovered the whole plot that was laid against him; gave him a ring of great value, to produce upon a future emergency; and determined to counterwork Cranmer's enemies; who fummoned him foon after, to the council, fuffered him to wait in the lobby, amongst the footmen; treated him on his admiflion with haughty contempt; and would have fent him to the Tower. But he produced the ring; and gained his enemies a fevere reprimand from Henry, and himself the highest degree of fecurity and favour.*
Upon this occafion he fhewed that lenity which always fo much diftinguished him: never perfecuted any of his enemies, nay freely forgave even the inveterate Gardiner, on his writing a fupplicatory letter to him for that end. The fame lenity he fhewed towards Dr. Thornton the suffragan of Dover, and Dr. Barber, who though entertained in his family, and intrusted with his fecrets, and indebted to him for many favours, had ungratefully confpired with Gardiner to take away his life. When he first difcovered their treachery, he took them afide into his study, and telling them, that he had been bafely and falfely accufed by fome, in whom he had always repofed the greatest confidence, defired them to advise him, how he fhould behave himself towards them? They, not fufpecting themselves to be concerned in the question, replied, that fuch villains ought to be profecuted with the greatest rigour, nay, deferve to die without mercy. At this the archbishop lifting up his hands to heaven, cried out, "Merciful God whom may a man truft?" And then pulling out of his bofom the letters by which he had discovered their treachery atked them, if they knew thofe papers? When they faw their own letters produced against them, they were in the utmost confufion, and falling down on their knees, humbly fued for forgiveness. The archbishop told them, "that he forgave them and would pray for them: but that they must not expect him ever to truft them for the future." And now we are upon the fubject of the archbishop's readiness to forgive injuries, we may relate a pleasant
* Shakspeare has finely reprefented this circumftance in his play of Henry VIII. A 2 inftance
inftance of it, which happened fome time before this. The archbishop's first wife, whom he married at Cambridge, was kinswoman to the hoftefs at the Dolphin Inn, and boarded there: and he often resorting thither on that account, the Popish party had raised a story, that he was oftler of that inn, and never had the benefit of a learned education. This idle story a Yorkshire priest had with great confidence afferted in an alehouse which he used to frequent; railing at the archbishop, and faying, that he had no more learning than a goose. Some of the parish informed Lord Cromwell of this; and the priest was committed to the Fleet prifon. When he had been there nine or ten weeks, he fent a relation of his to the archbishop to beg his pardon, and to fue for a discharge. The archbishop inftantly fent for him, and, after a gentle reproof, asked the priest, whether he knew him? to which he anfwering, no; the archbishop expoftulated with him, why he should then make fo free with his character? The priest excused himself by his being in drink: but this Cranmer told him was a double fault. And then let him know, that if he were inclined to try, what a fcholar he was, he should have liberty to oppofe him in whatever science he pleased. The priest humbly asked his pardon, and confeffed himself to be very ignorant, and to understand nothing but his mother tongue. "No doubt then, faid Cranmer, you are well verfed in the English Bible; and can answer any questions out of that; pray tell me, who was David's father?" The priest ftood ftill a while to confider; but at last told the archbishop he could not recollect his name. "Tell me then, says Cranmer, who was Solomon's father?" The poor priest replied, that he had no fkill in genealogies, and could not tell. The archbishop then advising him to frequent alehoufes lefs, and his study more, and admonishing him not to accufe others for want of learning, till he was mafter. of fome himself, fent him home to his cure. These may ferve as inftances of his clement temper. Indeed he was much blamed by many for his too great lenity; which, it was thought, encouraged the Popith faction to make fresh attempts against him; but he was happy in giving a fhining example of that great Chriftian virtue which he diligently taught. The king, who was a good difcerner of men, remarking the implacable hatred of his enemies towards him, changed his coat of arms from three cranes to three pelicans, feeding their young with their own blood: and told his grace,
that these birds fhould fignify to him, that he ought to be ready like the pelican, to fhed his blood for his young ones, brought up in the faith of Chrift; for, faid the king, you are like to be tried, if you will stand to your tackling at length.' The event proved the king to be no bad prophet.
In 1546 King Henry died, and left his crown to his only fon Edward, who was godfon to Cranmer, and had imbibed all the fpirit of a reformer. This excellent young prince, influenced no lefs by his own inclinations than by the advice of Cranmer and the other friends of the reformation, was diligent in every endeavour to promote it. Homilies were compofed by the archbishop, and a Catechifm: Erafmus's notes on the New Teftament
*This ignorance in the priests of thofe times is not to be marvelled at: the two inftances given by Dr. Derham of mumpfimus, and paveant illi-fully thew it; as well as that mentioned by Dr. Jortin in his life of Erafmus, whom the clergy of Scotland were for excommunicating, as being the author of an heretical book, called the New Teftament. And nothing fhews more strikingly the error of thofe who are for admitting any ignorant perfons into the miniftry provided they have but grace.
tranflated, and fixed in churches; the Sacrament administered in both kinds; and the Liturgy ufed in the vulgar tongue: Ridley, the archbishop's great friend, and one of the brightest lights of the English reformation, was equally zealous in the good caufe: and with him the archbishop drew up the forty-two articles of religion, which were revised by other bithops and divines; as through him he had perfectly conquered all his fcruples refpecting the doctrine of the corporeal prefence, and published a much efteemed treatife, intitled, A Defence of the true and catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jefus Chrift.
But this happy fcene of profperity was not to continue: God was pleafed to deprive the nation of King Edward in 1553, defigning, in his wife providence, to perfect the Church of England by the blood of Martyrs, as at the beginning he perfected the church in general. Anxious for the fuccefs of the reformation, and wrought upon by the artifices of the Duke of Northumberland, Edward had been perfuaded to exclude his fifters, and to bequeath the crown to that duke's amiable daughter the Lady Jane Grey. The archbishop did his utmoft to oppofe this alteration in this fucceflion; but the king was over-ruled: the will was made, and fubfcribed by the council and the judges. The archbishop was fent for laft of all, and required to fubfcribe; but he anfwered, that he could not do it without perjury, having fworn to the entail of the crown on the two princeffes Mary and Elizabeth. To this the king replied, that the judges, who being beft fkilled in the conftitution, ought to be regarded in this point, had affured him, that notwithstanding that entail, he might lawfully bequeath the crown to Lady Jane. The archbishop defired to difcourfe with them himself about it; and they all agreeing, that he might lawfully fubfcribe the king's will, he was at last prevailed with to refign his private fcruples to their authority, and fet his hand to it.
Having done this he thought himself obliged in confcience to join the Lady Jane: but her fhort-lived power foon expired; when Mary and perfecution mounted the throne, and Cranmer could expect nothing lefs than what enfued; attainder, imprisonment, deprivation, and death. He was condemned for treafon and pardoned; but to gratify Gardiner's malice, and her own implacable refentment against him for her mother's divorce, Mary gave orders to proceed againft him for Herefy. His friends, who forefaw the ftorm, had advised him to confult his fafety by retiring beyond fea; but he chose rather to continue steady in the cause, which he had fo nobly fupported; and preferred the fealing his teftimony with his blood, to dishonourable flight.
The Tower was crowded with prifoners; infomuch that Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Bradford, were all put into one chamber; which they were fo far from thinking an inconvenience, that on the contrary they bleffed God, for the opportunity of converfing together, reading and comparing the Scriptures, confirming themfelves in the true faith, and mutually exhorting each other to conftancy in profeffing it, and patience in fuffering for it!
In April 1554 the archbishop, with Bishop Ridley and Latimer, was removed from the Tower to Windfor, and from thence to Oxford, to dispute with some select perfons of both univerfities! but, alas, what farces are difputations, where the fate of men is fixed, and every word is mifconftrued! and fuch was the cafe here: for on April the 20th Craumer