Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

louse, Rouen, and Lyons ; so that, in the space of two months, 30,000 Protestants were murdered. For these transactions the public joy at Rome was so great, that the pope consecrated the day as a festival, said to be observed in that city to this present time.

In the civil war that followed, we contemplate an awful retribution on the Papists. In one siege alone, 30,000 of them are said to have perished. The king never afterwards appeared to be himself: after the day of the massacre, he had an altered look in his countenance, slept little, never soundly, and awoke frequently in agonies. He died soon after.

Henry III., his brother, succeeded. The war was carried on with indifferent success on the part of the Papists. In 1575, a peace was concluded ; liberty of conscience and eight cautionary towns were given to the Protestants : they were, however, restricted from preaching within two leagues of Paris, or of any other place where the court might be.

But the Guises formed a confederacy, which they called “ the Catholic league,” and the king was compelled to declare himself its head. Another war commenced, which lasted all his days. The duke of Guise and Henry III. both perished by violent deaths! The king of Navarre, Henry IV., succeeded in 1588; but he had to fight his way to the throne. His final success put an end to these religious wars, as they have been named. He indeed embraced the Roman faith; but by a famous edict, dated at Nantz, April 13, 1598, he re-established in a most solid and effectual manner the rights and privileges of the reformed. He allowed them free admission to all employments of trust, profit, and honour, and established chambers, in which the members of the two religions were equal, and permitted their children to be educated without restraint in any of the universities.

Such, for the present, was the issue of the religious wars, as they are termed, in the kingdom of France.

We have seen, in noting the escape of Peter Martyr, that Italy itself had been affected by the religious convulsions in Germany. But in this country, the light of the reformation was soon extinguished by the activity of the papal tribunals; not however without some difficulty, as the records of martyrdom witness.

At Rome, and in other places, many suffered on account of religion. Faninus, a learned layman, endured more than the double pains of death, by being compeiled, through fear of it, to

deny the faith, and then, by the excruciating agonies of an uneasy conscience, forced to renounce his recantation. But the afflicted soldier of Christ was more than conqueror in his death, through him that loved him. To his guardian care he felt he could leave his distressed wife and children, and discovered a true fellowship in the sufferings of the Redeemer. When it was observed, “ It is strange that you should be cheerful, since the Lord Jesus Christ himself, just before his death, was in an agony, so that his sweat was as great drops of blood falling on the ground,” he replied, “Christ sustained pangs and conflicts with hell and death on our account, and thus by his sufferings freed from the fear of these, them who believe in him.” Encenas, a Spaniard, was burnt at Rome; as were also Galeacius, Mollius, and Pomponius Algerius. At Venice many suffered, among whom were Sega, Ricetti, and the learned Spinola. Galeacius Carracciolus, marquess of Vico, a Neapolitan, deserted all for Christ, and departed for Geneva; and the names of some other martyrs and confessors might be recorded. Italy was however still doomed to be the abode of darkness.

Even in catholic Spain, some shocks of the distant convulsion were felt. The victims of the Inquisition, counted by thousands, bespeak the apprehension of her tyrants, and discover by what means, for her curse, the light of the reformation was suffered to be suppressed. The intercourse of her kings with Germany, the Netherlands, and England, caused the armies of Spain, and even her learned divines, to take the infection of the new doctrines. There are even some grounds for hope that Charles V. himself, in his retirement after he had abdicated his crowns, had been brought to a better knowledge of the faith which he had persecuted. So far is certain, that the divines who accompanied him in his retreat, were, after his death, seized by the Inquisition ; but its dark secrets are not sufficiently explored to ascertain the truth. Cazalla, a chaplain of the emperor, with thirteen others, were burnt at Valladolid ; and afterwards, a nobleman with forty others; and some have even supposed that a suspicion of heresy was the cause of the death of the prince Don Carlos, which took place privately, by order of his father Philip. At Seville, many persons suffered, and some of the clerical order as well as of the nobility. The college of St. Isidore, in that city, supplied many noble martyrs and confessors. Many women, some of them of high quality, also suffered. This is sufficient to shew that no small impression was made, even on Spain itself; but, as in Italy, popery remained triumphant, and has long enjoyed the fruits of the bloody victory.

SECT. V.

THE EFFECTS OF THE REFORMATION IN THE BRITISH

ISLES.

No where were the effects of this convulsion so great and so permanent, as in the kingdoms which now compose the British empire. The shocks were here so violent, that this rich and productive portion of the papal fabric was levelled with the ground. The writings of Luther very soon made their way into England, where they met with many approvers, and were translated into the vernacular tongue for the information of the people. The Lollards, or followers of Wickliff, though not connected by any public bond, were very far from being extinct, as the records of persecution sufficiently discover, and a new impulse was evidently given to that spirit of reform which Wickliff had stirred a hundred and fifty years before. This appears from the quickened jealousy and alarm of the ecclesiastical courts, and papal persecutors. The least whisper of dissent from the doctrines or superstitions of Rome, was visited with the severest penalties ; insomuch that the conviction of having taught their children the Lord's prayer, the ten commandments, and the apostles' creed in the vulgar tongue, was sufficient to establish the charge of heresy, and to bring six men and a woman to the stake, at Coventry, in the year 1519. But these severities were very far from being able to shut out the light which was breaking on the nation from the progress of reformation in Germany, and from the circulation of Luther's writings.

Cardinal Wolsey was now at the height of his favour with the king, and in the character of legate from the Roman see and of prime minister of the king, he united in his person all the authority of church and state, and gave an unusual vigour to the papal authority in England. To oppose the introduction of the Saxon heresy, was an early object of his vigilant government. About the year 1520, being attended by the prelates, and the papal and imperial ambassadors, he proceeded in state to St. Paul's, where Fisher, bishop of Rochester, preached at the cross, and the works of Luther were committed to the flames in the presence of the multitude. But in the present state of men's minds, this pageantry could have had little effect but to awaken still more the spirit of inquiry which was now much abroad.

The new study of humanity, as it was called, or of revived classical literature, had for some time been much cultivated in

England; and, as it exposed the ignorance of the monkish writers, it had prepared the public mind for any innovation of that system which they maintained. Wolsey himself had been a great encourager of learned men, and had even suppressed some of the smaller monasteries, that the revenues of the useless monks might be appropriated to the endowment of schools and colleges. And it is remarkable how many of the scholars patronised by the cardinal for their promising abilities, were afterwards among the most eminent promoters of the reformation. Certainly, this was not what Wolsey intended. As a further antidote against the

pestilent heresy which had spread so rapidly on the continent, and had begun to infect the English nation,” the king himself was brought forward as an antagonist against Luther; and in the year 1521, appeared his book on the Seven Sacraments, as a defence of the Papal superstition. We have already adverted to the reception which the royal treatise met with from Luther; but it is easy to suppose how different would be its estimation in the opinion of the Papists, and at the Court of Rome. The praises of the pope knew no bounds. When he acknowledged the present, and sent to confer the title of Defender of the Faith' on Henry, he termed it “ a certain admirable doctrine, sprinkled with the dew of celestial grace.” “He gave thanks to God, who had vouchsafed to inspire the king's excellent mind, inclined to every good thing, to write such things for the defence of the holy faith, against the new stirrers of damnable heresies,” &c.

Luther soon had reason to reflect upon the impolicy of the coarse and uncourteous answer which he had returned to the king's book, and he attempted an apology. But Henry was sufficiently well informed to know, that the contest was not merely a war of words. He stigmatised, in his reply, the doctrines maintained by Luther, respecting justification and freewill, as“ subversive of all morality, and repugnant to the first principles of religion?.”

Wolsey proceeded, with increased zeal, in his endeavours to prevent the growth of Lutheranism. He issued a commission, dated at his house near Westminster, 14th of May 1521, for a general visitation of the kingdom, wherein he required that the bishops should do their parts, " before those damnable and pestiferous errors and heresies, broached by Luther, took effect in this kingdom, lest they should take root as a noxious briar here; and that by the express will and command of the most potent

1

Strype's Memorials, chap.i. p. 55.

• Lingard.

and illustrious prince whom the holy father had named ' Defender of the Faith.' This commission contained a list of Luther's errors, which was commanded to be fixed on the doors of all the churches throughout the kingdom, that all persons might read and avoid them !” The King also sent, 1523, a solemn embassy to Ferdinand of Austria, the emperor's brother, with the insignia of the Garter, “ highly to commend his zeal against the detestable and damnable heresies of Friar Martin Luther."

About this time, the cardinal was called upon to exercise his authority to correct the manners of the clergy. Complaints were every where made of their extortions, and of their corrupt and loose lives. Fox, the old bishop of Winchester, exhorts him in a letter to this pious work, which is a sufficient proof that these complaints did not arise merely from the censorious zeal of the reformers. He tells the cardinal, that by diligent investigation He had come to know, which he could not so much as have thought before, that all that belonged to the ancient integrity of the clergy, and especially of the monks, was so depraved by licences and corruptions, and by the malignancy and length of time, quite abolished ;” “ that he despaired of seeing in his days ' a perfect and absolute reformation.”

“ That no more good came from this commendable purpose—to reform the ignorance and vices of the priests and monks, may, probably," observes Mr. Strype, “ be attributed to their craft in diverting this reformation from themselves, towards those who favoured Luther and his opinions.”

The principles of the reformation, notwithstanding the cardinal's vigilance, had, by this time, made considerable progress in England. Colchester and the coast of Essex seem very evidently pointed out in the original documents, as the most frequent line of communication. The city of London, and the two Universities, harboured many who favoured the “ new learning," as it was called. These all went at this period by the name of Lutherans, though many of them differed from him on the doctrine of the Eucharist. Among these early reformers began now to be famous, for their abundant labours, William Tindal, John Fryth, and Thomas Bilney.

Tindal has been justly honoured with the title of “ The apostle of England;" and to him, perhaps, more than to any other individual, are these kingdoms indebted, under God, for the first light of the reformation. He was a clergyman who had

Strype.

• Memorials, 74.

« VorigeDoorgaan »