Sayfadaki görseller


« work withall; and, for that cause, he was con“ strained to sit idle ; therefore, he made it his

request to them to grant him one of their small

saplings, within the wood, to make him an handle. “ But now, becoming a complete axe, he fell so to “ work, within the same wood, that, in process of

time, there were neither great, nor small trees to “ be found in the place, where the wood stood. “ And so, my lords, if you grant the king these “ smaller monasteries, you do but make him an

handle, whereby, at his own pleasure, he may cut “ down all the cedars of the Lebanons."

VII. 4.

The acts of parliament declaring Henry the eighth Head

of the Church of England.

At length, the final blow was struck. In the twenty-sixth year of his reign the statute was passed, which declared Henry head of the church of England. After reciting, that “ the king's majesty ' justly, and rightfully, was, and ought to be,

supreme head of the church of England ; and so “ had been recognised by the clergy of the king“ dom in their convocation,” it was enacted, that “ the king should be reputed the only supreme

head, on earth, of the church of England ; and “ should have, and enjoy, annexed to the imperial “ crown of the realm, as well the style, and title, “ thereof, as all honours, dignities, pre-eminences,

• Dr. Baylev's Life of Bishop Fisher, p. 108.

jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, “ profits, and commodities, to the said dignity of

supreme head of the church appertaining ; and “ should have full power, and authority, to reform, " and correct, all manner of errors, heresies, and « offences, which might be reformed, and corrected,

by any manner of spiritual authority, or jurisdic“ tion.”-On the thirteenth of the following January, the king assumed, with great solemnity, his title of “ supreme head on earth of the church of


In a future part of this work, some observations will be offered on the nature of the supremacy conferred on Henry by this act. At present, it only remains to add, that, immediately after the act, establishing his supremacy, was passed, the king issued a proclamation, commanding it to be preached in the most frequented auditories; and taught to little children ; enjoining farther, that the pope's name should be erased out of all books ;-and that he should be treated no otherwise than as an ordinary bishop. « We have seen,

say the writers of the parliamentary history *, “ several books, printed before this time, wherein the word,

pope,' is entirely obliterated ; particularly one “ in our collection,- Fabian's Chronicle,-in which “ the name of 'pope' is blotted out by a pen, “ throughout the volume. It is probable, the book“ sellers durst not sell them, without this alter« ation."

* Vol. iii. p. 113.





WE have mentioned each of these statutes,(25th and 26th of Henry the eighth). The oath, prescribed by the former, was generally taken; the title, conferred by the latter, wasgenerally admittedI. But the oath respecting the supremacy was refused by cardinal Fisher:-II. Sir Thomas More; III. and some others. For their refusals they were capitally condemned, and executed.

VIII. 1.

Bishop Fisher.

THE most memorable of these victims were Fisher, bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More. Fisher suffered first. In his praise, both Englishmen and foreigners ; both the friends and the enemies, of the Reformation are united. Erasmus represents him, as a man of consummate integrity; profound learning; incredible sweetness of temper, and grandeur of soul : “all,” say the authors of the Biographia Britannica, “ acknowledge, that he was

a sober man ; pious, temperate, and charitable;

“ learned, and an encourager of learning." By his persuasion, the countess of Richmond founded the noble colleges of Christ, and St. John in Cambridge, and the Lady Margaret Professorships in Cambridge and Oxford. He contributed to the expense of building St. John's College, and founded in it two fellowships, a lectureship of Hebrew, a lectureship of Greek, four examining readers, and four under-readers, to relieve the principal. He augmented the commons, and presented the college with his library. He was elected chancellor of the University. At first, he was greatly favoured by Henry, who called him, “the honour of his na“ tion,” and asked cardinal Pole, on his return from the continent, “whether he had found, in all “his travels, a person, either in virtue, or learning, comparable with the bishop of Rochester.” The monarch raised him to that see ; and afterwards offered to promote him to the wealthier sees of Lincoln and Ely. But, in conformity to the language and spirit of the canons, Fisher declined the promotion.

He was unluckily implicated in the practices of Elizabeth Barton, commonly called, "the Maid of “ Kent." By an appearance of sanctity, and pretended revelations, as well as by the co-operation of some weak, and some designing men, she imposed upon many, and even obtained the esteem of several respectable persons. Among these, were Warham, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Fisher. She declaimed against the king's divorce, and supremacy; and prophesied, that his sins would speedily be visited by the judgment of Heaven. The king caused her and her principal accomplices, to be arrested. They were brought before the starchamber; confessed their guilt; and suffered for it. An act of attainder was passed against Fisher, and some others, for being acquainted with her practices, and not making them known to the king. To exculpate himself, Fisher addressed a letter to the house of lords, in which, he admitted his having been told by her, that it had been revealed to her by God, that, if Henry persevered in his irreligious measures, he would not, in seven months, be any longer king of England. Fisher seems to acknowledge that he thought favourably of her, and of her revelations; and excuses himself for not having apprised the king of them, in consequence of her assurance, that she herself had already done ŠO ; and because he understood, that the event, whatsoever it might be, was to be produced, not by any human means, but by the immediate intervention of the Almighty.

Sir Thomas More had casually conversed with her : But he appears to have listened to her with distrust. He wrote her a letter of advice : It

was, however, so little favourable to the supposition of her extraordinary sanctity, that, when her advocates endeavoured, during the reign of queen Mary, to sanctify the memory of the maid, they thought it advisable to suppress it. On this account, but, not without some difficulty, Sir Thomas More was left out of the bill of attainder ; and suffered to remain at large.

« ÖncekiDevam »