[graphic][merged small][subsumed][subsumed]



WILLIAM WARHAM. (1503-1532.)

HE history of the Archbishops of Canterbury is an important. item in the history of the Church of England. This is at least the case from the year 596 A.D., when Augustine left Rome to convert the Saxons.

Ethelbert was the Saxon king who, for the sake of his gentle Christian wife, Bertha, welcomed Augustine and his monks with kindAs Canterbury was the chief city of Ethelbert's kingdom, so Canterbury became the seat of England's chief Bishop.


Augustine sowed much good seed, but tares grew up among the wheat, and the Church languished for lack of a master-mind who could give it unity. Such a man at length appeared, a native of Tarsus, called Theodore.

Though strongly attached to everything Roman, Theodore was of great service, arranging dioceses and parishes, and doing many other useful things, for which we ought ever to cherish his memory gratefully.

There was, in those days, a free use of God's Word allowed, and the Church enjoyed, from various causes, much liberty.

The faith at Rome became more and more corrupt as time wore on. That city, as being in some sense the religious capital of the world, attracted many pilgrims. At the close of the seventh century a journey from England to Rome was a common affair, and they who went and returned brought back much to injure their Church at home. And so we soon read of legends, relics, and visions, in the Anglo-Saxon branch of Christ's Church; of saints with uncouth names, held to be powerful both in Heaven and earth, who could cure every disease and unfold the secrets of the grave.

The power of the Pope grew rapidly, and, thanks to the early Norman kings, he soon obtained great influence here. William the Conqueror asked him to remodel the Church of England, and the same king separated the civil and ecclesiastical courts; which act weakened the clergy, and hindered them much in maintaining the independence of the National Church. In course of time a papal officer, called a Legate, appeared; one who was ever on the watch for his master. This interference on the part of the Bishop of Rome in great matters led to continual struggles between him and the King; while his meddling in smaller matters caused much discontent among the people. People could not make their wills, and frequently they could not marry, without vexatious delay; time and money were continually lost; and these grievances partly paved the way for the Reformation. But greater evils were at work. The clergy had been long divided into seculars and regulars, and they did not love each other.


Some Archbishops of Canterbury.

seculars were those who lived in the world, as the English clergy live now; the regulars were under a rule or regula, i.e. monks.

For many a long year almost all the Abbots and Bishops were chosen from the monks of Winchester, Abingdon, or Glastonbury. This and other things made the secular clergy jealous, and each threw stones at the other, when the houses of both were made of glass.

The monks, too, would not allow the Bishop of the diocese to visit their monasteries. They set him at defiance: and what followed? The religious houses became places of evil report, and the monks fell rapidly in the esteem of good men.

In the twelfth century the friars came to their help, as restorers of decayed discipline. These men renounced the world, and lived on alms. If they could not preach inside a church, they would set up their pulpit in the street, and rail against the resident clergyman. In fact, the friars did their best to injure the parish priests and the cathedrals. They swarmed at the Universities; they made themselves popular by giving theatrical representations of sacred history. But they quarrelled among themselves, and grew worldly and greedy; and in the time of Luther their picture might be seen at any pothouse, as a fox preaching, with the neck of a stolen goose peeping out of a hood behind: as a wolf giving absolution, with a sheep muffled up in its cloak; or as an ape sitting by a sick man's bed, with a crucifix in one hand and the other in the sufferer's pocket.

In the fourteenth century more than one third of all the English benefices were in the possession of the monks. By the time of the Reformation another third was thus appropriated. The monks received the revenues, and paid a vicar or curate for doing the duty. The poor clergy who served the churches were generally ignorant, and taken from the lowest class. They were sometimes unable to recite the Ten Commandments. As for preaching, one sermon a quarter was thought a good allowance. To preach often was to seem a heretic.

Our limits forbid our enlarging further on the need of reformation in the Church at the time when Archbishop Warham lived.

Reformers had long existed, but as yet they had been only sowing the seed. The harvest was to come. Of these, some dwelt in the valleys of the Alps, and were called Vallenses, or men of the valleys. Being persecuted, certain of them migrated to Bohemia, and thence to England, giving, perhaps, Wycliffe his first bias towards the Reformation. Wycliffe's disciples were called Lollards, froin a Latin word meaning 'tares.' These men hated the friars, and were determined opponents of the Pope. After Wycliffe's death they continued to suffer and to increase, an active, intrepid, and earnest brotherhood.


Two years after Warham had become Archbishop of Canterbury, Luther, the Saxon miner's son, visited Rome, and was astonished at what he saw there. Having been a most mad Papist,' he became the most terrible enemy the Pope had ever yet encountered. He drew his sword and threw away the scabbard, denouncing the Bishop of Rome as Antichrist, and writing books against him. The Pope, in turn, delivered Luther to the devil, and ordered his books to be burnt. But the time of the Pope's strange authority was passing away. people hailed Luther with cheers, and the printing-press carried his bold deeds and words everywhere.


Some Archbishops of Canterbury.

William Warham, the subject of our present memoir, was elevated to the see of Canterbury by Henry VII. He was not a man of the first order of ability-not a man like Wolsey, for example, who wore the mitre of York at the same time; but Warham was high in the ranks of able men, a good scholar, and, better still, the possessor of a meek and quiet spirit. He was very rich, and extremely hospitable; the generous patron, also, of learned men, as became a Chancellor of Oxford University.

As he had earnestly opposed the marriage of Henry VIII. with Katherine, his brother's widow, he was no favourite at Court. In fact, for many years he was eclipsed by Wolsey, who long enjoyed the sunshine of his royal master's favour. But Warham lived to see Wolsey disgraced and ruined, and the meek Archbishop died in peace, whilst the once splendid Cardinal breathed his last at Leicester Abbey, on his melancholy journey, exclaiming, 'If I had served my God as I have served my king, He would not have forsaken me thus !' For a long time, moreover, Warham, though the first in office, allowed Wolsey to stand over his head as the Pope's Legate. This was done in order to carry out reformations which the Primate felt unable to accomplish. It was partly the desire of seeing these changes brought about by Wolsey, as the Pope's Legate, and partly the love of quietness and retirement, which enabled Warham to see without envy the aspiring butcher's son placed above his head, and to bear patiently the rudeness and insolence of that talented upstart.

Warham, then, may be regarded as a reformer, although a timid one, and on a small scale. As it has been said, he admitted the King's supremacy, but was like a child, who, having fired a gun, is alarmed by the report. The Archbishop was a persecutor of the Lollards, but not a ruthless one, and we must not judge him—or, indeed, any public man of those times by the present standard. Even Sir T. More, placid and gentle as he was, and averse to persecution in general for matters of opinion, hardened his heart against Bilney and Bainham. He had the latter scourged at a tree in his own garden at Chelsea, and heard without pity his groans when he was being racked in the Tower. We need not, therefore, conceive of Warham as necessarily a cruel man because he and Fisher caused John Brown of Ashford to be burnt. It was something like the judge now putting on his black cap, and condemning a man to be hanged for murder. Heresy, as it was called, was held to be a sin worthy of death, and the Archbishop was only doing what was then supposed to be his duty in consigning Lollards to prison or the flames. One of the towers at Lambeth is still called the Lollards' Tower. We can afford to pity the Archbishop, while we cry shame on the cruel laws he had to administer.

Warham was a great friend and patron of a very famous scholar named Erasmus. The voice of this man was the voice of genius speaking aloud the pent-up feelings of Christendom. Not only his Greek Testament, which was a work so severe as to destroy his constitution, but his Colloquies and his Praise of Folly, the sale of which was enormous, hastened the Reformation. In fact, it has been said of him that Erasmus laid the egg and Luther hatched it.' Erasmus, however, was no Luther. He shrank from showing any open proof of his attachment to the reformed doctrines, either from timidity or indecision,

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed]
« VorigeDoorgaan »