Page images




For JULY, 1802.


JOHN V. 35.


TESTANT ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY. THI HIS great prelate was born at Allacton 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, Esq. and after no extraordinary education, was sent by his mother to Cambridge, at the age of fourteen, according to the custom of those times. He took the ufual degrees, and was chosen fellow of Jesus College: and emerging from the fubtle 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 Jesus: a favour fo gratefully acknowledged by him, that he chose to decline an offer of a much more valuable fellowship in Cardinal Wolsey's new seminary at Oxford, rather than relinquith friends who had thewn such regard to him.

In 1523, he commenced Doctor in Divinity: and being in great esteem for theological learning, he was chosen divinity-lecturer in his own college: and appointed by the university one of the examiners in that science. In which office he principally inculcated the study 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 some 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 subject of discourse in those days came upon the carpet: when Cranmer advising an application to our own and to the foreign universities for their opinion in the case, and giving these gentlemen much satisfaction; 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 subject; made him his chaplain, and admitted him into that favour and esteem, which he never afterwards forfeited.

In 1530, he was sent by the king, with a folemn embally, to dispute on Vol. III. Churchm. Mag. July 1802.



the subject 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 justify it in a public difputation; but after various promises and appointments none appeared to oppose him: while in private conferences be forced them to confess that the marriage was contrary to the law of God. The Pope conftituted him Penitentiary General of England, and dismissed him. In Germany he gave full satisfaction to many learned men, who were before of a contrary persuafion: and prevailed on the famous Osiander to declare the king's marriage unlawful. Before he left Germany he married Ofiander's niece.

While he was absent, the great Archbishop Warham died. Henry, convinced of Cranmer's merit, determined that he should succeed him: and commanded him to return for that purpose. He fufpected the cause, and delayed; desirous by all means to decline this high station : for he had a true and primitive sense of the office. But this only ftimulated the king's resolution, and the more reluctance Cranmer shewed, the greater resolution Henry exerted. He was consecrated March 30, 1533, to the office: and though he received the usual bulls from the Pope, he protested at his consecration against the oath of allegiance, &c. to him. For he had conversed freely with the reformed in Germany, had read Luther's books, and was zealously attached to the reformation.

He was disagreeably employed, as the first service he did the king, was in pronouncing the sentence of his divorce from Queen Catharine: and next in joining his hands with Anna Boleyn; the consequence of which marriage was the birth of the glorious Elizabeth, to whom he stood godfather. And as the queen was greatly interested in the reformation, the friends to that good work began to conceive high hopes : and indeed it went on with desirable success. But the fickle disposition 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 supremacy was universally exploded; monafteries, &c. destroyed, upon the fullest detection of the most abominable vices: that valuable book The Erudition of a Christian Man was set forth by our great archbishop, and the sacred Scriptures, at length, to the infinite joy of Cranmer, were not only translated, but introduced into every parish. . And “ the translation was received with inexpreffible joy: every one, that was able, purchased it, and the poor flocked greedily to hear it read: fome persons in years learned to read on purpose, that they might peruse 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 saw 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 thining proof was soon after given of his disinterested conftancy by his noble opposition to what are commonly called King Henry's six bloody articles*. However he weathered the storm; and

* By these none were allowed to speak against transubstantiation on pain of being burnt as heretics, and forfeiting their goods and chattels as in case of treason. It was also thereby made felony and forfeiture of lands and goods to detend the communion in both kinds, or marriage of the clergy, or of thote who had vowed celibacy: or to speak against private malles and auricular confeflion,


published (with an incomparable preface) by himself the larger Bible; fix of which, even Bonner, the newly consecrated Bithop of London, caused to be fixed, for the perusal of the people, in his Cathedral of St. Paul's.

The enemies of the reformation however were restless; and Henry, alas! was no protestant, in his heart. Cromwell fell a sacrifice to them; and they aimed every poflible ihaft at Cranmer : Gardiner in particular was indefatigable; he caused him to be accused in parliament: and several 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 bim acquainted with the acculation of herefy, faction, &c. which were laid against him; and spoke of his oppofition, to the fix articles ;-the archbishop modestly replied, that he could not but acknowledge himself to be of the same opinion, with respect to them; but was not conscious of having offended against them. Then the king putting on an air of pleasantry, asked him, if his bed chamber could stand the test of these articles? The archbishop confefled, that he was married in Germany, before his promotion; but aflured the king, that on the passing that Act, he had parted with his wife, and sent her abroad to her friends. His majesty was fo charmed with his openness and integrity, that he discovered 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 summoned him soon after, to the council, suffered him to wait in the lobby, amongit the footmen; treated him on his admission with haughty contempt; and would have tent him to the Tower. But he produced the ring; and gained his enemies a fevere reprimand from Henry, and himself the highest degree of security and favour. *

Upon this occasion he thewed that lenity which always so much distinguished him : never persecuted 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 futfragan of Dover, and Dr. Barber, who though entertained in his family, and intrusted with his secrets, and indebted to him for many favours, had ungratefully conspired with Gardiner to take away his life. When he first discovered their treachery, he took them afide into his study, and telling them, that he had been barely and falsely accused by fome, in whom he had always reposed the greatest confidence, defired them to advise him, how he should behave himself towards them? They, not fufpecting themselves to be concerned in the question, replied, that fuch villains ought to be prosecuted with the greatest rigour, nay, deserve to die without mercy. At this the archbishop lifting up his hands to heaven, cried out, “ Merciful God whom may a man trust?” And then pulling out of his bofom the letters by which he had discovered their treachery atked them, if they knew those papers ? When they faw their own letters produced againit them, they were in the utmost confusion, and falling down on their knees, humbly fued for forgiveness. The archbithop told them, that he forgave them and would pray for them: but that they must not expect him ever to trust them for the future.” And now we are upon the subject of the archbishop's readiness to forgive injuries, we may relate a pleasant * Shakspeare has finely represented this circumstance in his play of Henry VIII.

A 2


[ocr errors]

instance of it, which happened some time before this. The archbishop's first wife, whom he married at Cambridge, was kinswoman to the hostess 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 asserted in an alehouse which he used to frequent; railing at the archbishop, and saying, that he had no more learning than a goose. Some of the parith informed Lord Cromwell of this; and the priest was committed to the Fleet prison. When he had been there nine or ten weeks, he sent a relation of his to the archbishop to beg his pardon, and to fue for a ditcharge. The archbithop instantly sent for him, and, after a gentle reproof, alked the priest, whether he knew bim? to which he answering, no; the archbishop expoftulated with him, why he should then make so 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 scholar he was, he should have liberty to oppose him in whatever science he pleased. The priest humbly alked his pardon, and confeffed himself to be very ignorant, and to understand nothing but his mother tonguet.

"No doubt then, said Cranmer, you are well versed in the English Bible; and can answer any questions out of that; pray tell me, who was David's father?” The priest stood still a while to consider; 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 skill in genealogies, and could not tell. The archbishop then advising him to frequent alehouses less, and his study more, and admonithing him not to accuse others for want of learning, till he was master. of some himself, sent him home to his cure. These may serve as instances of his clement temper. Indeed he was much blamed by many for his too great lenity; which, it was thought, encouraged the Popish faction to make fresh attempts against him; but he was happy in giving a shining example of that great Christian virtue which he diligently taught. The king, who was a good discerner of men, remarking the implacable hatred of his enemies towards him, changed his coat of arms from tliree cranes to three pelicans, feeding their young with their own blood: and told his grace, is that these birds should fignify to him, that he ought to be ready like the pelican, to shed his blood for his young ones, brought up in the faith of Chrift; for, said the king, you are like to be tried, if you will itand 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 godson to Cranmer, and had imbibed all the spirit of a reformer. This excellent young prince, influenced no less 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 composed by the archbishop, and a Catechism: Erasmus's notes on the New Testament

* This ignorance in the priests of those times is not to be marvelled at: the two instances given by Dr. Derham of mumpfmus, and paveant illi-fully thew it; as we! I as that mentioned by Dr. Jortin in his life of Erasmus, whom the clergy of Scotland were for excommunicating, as being the author of an heretical book, called the New Teftament. And nothing news more strikingly the error of those who are for admitting any ignorant persons into the ministry provided they have but grace.


translated, 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 cause: and with him the archbishop drew up the forty-two articles of religion, which were revised by other bishops and divines; as through him he had perfectly conquered all his fcruples relpecting the doctrine of the corporeal presence, and published a much esteemed treatise, intitled, A Defence of the true and catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But this happy scene of prosperity was not to continue: God was pleased to deprive the nation of King Edward in 1553, designing, 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 success of the reformation, and wrought upon by the artifices of the Duke of Northumberland, Edward had been persuaded to exclude his sisters, and to bequeath the crown to that duke's amiable daughter the Lady Jane Grey. The archbishop did his utmost to oppose this alteration in this succeflion; but the king was over-ruled: the will was made, and subscribed by the council and the judges. The archbishop was sent for last of all, and required to subscribe; but he answered, that he could not do it without perjury, having sworn to the entail of the crown on the two princefles Mary and Elizabeth. To this the king replied, that the judges, who being best skilled in the constitution, ought to be regarded in this point, had aflured him, that notwithstanding that entail, he might lawfully bequeath the crown to Lady Jane. The archbishop desired to discourse with them himself about it; and they all agreeing, that he might lawfully subscribe the king's will, he was at last prevailed with to resign his private scruples to their authority, and set his hand to it.

Having done this he thought himself obliged in conscience to join the Lady Jane; but her short-lived power foon expired; wben Mary and persecution mounted the throne, and Cranmer could expect nothing less than what ensued; attainder, imprisonment, deprivation, and death. He was condemned for treason and pardoned; but to gratify Gardiner's malice, and her own implacable resentment against him for her mother's divorce, Mary gave orders to proceed against him

for Herely. His friends, who forefaw the storm, had advised him to consult his fafety by retiring beyond sea; but he chose rather to continue steady in the cause, which he had so nobly supported; and preferred the fealing his testimony with his blood, to diihonourable flight.

The Tower was crowded with prisoners; insomuch that Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Bradford, were all put into one chamber; which they were so far from thinking an inconvenience, that on the contrary they blessed God, for the opportunity of conversing together, reading and comparing the Scriptures, confirming themselves in the true faith, and mutually exhorting each other to constancy in professing it, and patience in suffering for it!

In April 1554 the archbishop, with Bishop Ridley and Latimer, was removed from the Tower to Windsor, and from thence to Oxford, to dispute with some select persons of both universities! but, alas, what farces are disputations, where the fate of men is fixed, and every word is misconstrued! and such was the case here: for on April the 20th Cranmer


« PreviousContinue »