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"Although these books cannot either be there printed without great cost, nor here sold without great adventure and peril, yet, with money sent hence, they cease not to print them there, and send them hither by the whole sacks full at once; and in some places, looking for no lucre, cast them abroad at night, so great a pestilent pleasure have some devilish people caught with the labour, travail, cast, charge, peril, harm, and hurt of themselves to seek the destruction of others."1
In his introduction to the Confutation of Tyndale's answer, from which the foregoing extracts are taken, Sir Thomas More gives ample evidence that the teaching of "the New Learning" was founded entirely upon that of the German Reformer Luther, although on certain points his English followers had gone beyond their master. He takes, for example what Hytton, "whom Tyndale has canonised," had been teaching "his holy congregations, in divers corners and luskes lanes." Baptism, he had allowed to be "a sacrament necessary for salvation," though he declared that there was no need for a priest to administer it. Matrimony, he thought a good thing for Christians, but would be sorry to say it was a sacrament. Extreme Unction and Confirmation, together with Holy Orders, he altogether rejected as sacraments, declaring them to be mere ceremonies of man's invention. "The mass," he declared, "should never be said," since to do so was rather an act of sin than virtue. Confession to a priest was unnecessary, and the penance enjoined was "without profit to the soul." Purgatory he denied, " and said further, that neither prayer nor fasting for the souls departed can do them any good." Religious vows were wrong, and those who entered religion "sinned in so doing." He held further, that "no man had any freewill after he had once sinned;" that "all the images of Christ and His saints should be thrown out of the
1 English Works, pp. 341-344.
Church," and that whatsoever laws "the Pope or a General Council might make beyond what is expressly commanded in Scripture" need not be obeyed. "As touching the Sacrament of the Altar, he said that it was a necessary sacrament, but held that after the consecration, there was nothing whatever therein, but only the very substance of material bread and wine."1
Now, it was to defend these points of Catholic faith, as More, in common with the most learned in the land, believed them to be, that he took up his pen against Tyndale and others. I wish, he says, to second " the king's gracious purpose, as being his most unworthy chancellor," since " I know well that the king's highness, for his faithful mind to God, desires nothing more effectually than the maintenance of the true Catholic faith, whereof is his no more honourable than well-deserved title, 'defensor.' He detests nothing more than these pestilent books which Tyndale and others send over into the realm in order to set forth their abominable heresies. For this purpose he has not only by his most erudite famous books, both in English and Latin, declared his most Catholic purpose and intent, but also by his open proclamations divers times renewed, and finally in his own most royal person in the Star Chamber most eloquently by his mouth, in the presence of his lords spiritual and temporal, has given monition and warning to all the justices of peace of every quarter of his realm then assembled before his Highness, to be declared by them to all his people, and did prohibit and forbid under great penalties, the bringing in, reading, and keep of those pernicious poisoned books."2
The other writers of the time, moreover, had no doubt whatever as to the place whence the novel opinions had sprung, and they feared that social disturbances would follow in the wake of the religious teaching of the sectaries as they had done in the country of their birth. Thus
Germen Gardynare, writing to a friend about the execution of John Frith for heresy, says that he was "amongst others m'found busy at Oxford in setting abroad these heresies which lately sprang up in Germany, and by the help of such folk are spread abroad into sundry places of Christendom, tending to nothing else but to the division and rending asunder of Christ's mystical body, His Church; and to the pulling down of all power and the utter subversion of all commonwealths."1
Sir Thomas More, too, saw danger to the ship of State from the storms which threatened the nation in the rise of the religious novelties imported from abroad. As a warning anticipation of what might come to pass in England if the flood was allowed to gain head, he describes what was known of the state of Germany when he wrote in 1528. What helped Luther successfully to spread his poison was, he says, "that liberty which he so highly commended unto the people, inducing them to believe that having faith they needed nothing else. For he taught them to neglect fasting, prayer, and such other things as vain and unfruitful ceremonies, teaching them also that being faithful Christians they were so near cousins to Christ that they were, in a full freedom and liberty, discharged of all governors and all manner of laws spiritual and temporal, except only the Gospel. And though he said that, as a point of special perfection, it would be good to suffer and bear the rule and authority of Popes and princes and other governors, whose rule and authority he calls mere tyranny, yet he says the people are so free by faith that they are no more bound thereto than they are to suffer wrong. And this doctrine Tyndale also teaches as the special matter of his holy book of disobedience. Now, this doctrine was heard so pleasantly in Germany by the common people that it blinded them in looking on the
1 Germen Gardynare, A letter of a yonge gentylman, &c. London: W. Rastell, 1534.
• remnant, and would not allow them to consider and see what end the same would come to. The temporal lords also were glad to hear this talk against the clergy, and the people were as glad to hear it against the clergy and against the lords too, and against all the governors of every good town and city. Finally, it went so far that it began to burst out and fall to open force and violence. For intending to begin at the most feeble, a boisterous company of the unhappy sect gathered together and first rebelled against an abbot, and afterwards against a bishop, wherewith the temporal lords had good game and sport and dissembled the matter, gaping after the lands of the spirituality, till they had almost played as JEsop tells of the dog, which, in order to snatch at the shadow of the cheese in the water, let the cheese he had in his mouth fall, and lost it. For so it was shortly after that those uplandish Lutherans took so great boldness and began to grow so strong that they set also upon the temporal lords. These ... so acquitted themselves that they slew in one summer 70,000 Lutherans and subdued the rest in that part of Germany to a most miserable servitude. . . . And in divers other parts of Germany and Switzerland this ungracious sect is so grown, by the negligence of governors in great cities, that in the end the common people have compelled the rulers to follow them. . . .
"And now it is too piteous a sight to see the ' dispiteous dispyghts' done in many places to God and all good men, with the marvellous change from the face and fashion of Christendom into a very tyrannous persecution, not only of all good Christians living and dead, but also of Christ Himself. For there you will see now goodly monasteries destroyed, the places burnt up, and the religious people put out and sent to seek their living; or, in many cities the places (the buildings) yet standing with more despite to God than if they were burned to ashes. For the religious people, monks, friars, and nuns, are wholly driven or drawn out, except such as would agree to forsake their vows of chastity and be wedded; and places dedicated to cleanliness and chastity, left only to these apostates as brothels to live there in lechery. Now are the parish churches in many places not only defaced, all the ornaments taken away, the holy images pulled down, and either broken or burned, but also the Holy Sacrament cast out. And the abominable beasts (which I abhor to think about) did not abhor in despite to defile the pixes and in many places use the churches continually for a common siege. And that they have done in so despiteful a wise that when a stranger from other places where Christ is worshipped resorts to these cities, some of those unhappy wretched citizens do not fail, as it were, for courtesy and kindness, to accompany them in their walking abroad to show them the pleasures and commodities of the town, and then bring them to the church, only to show them in derision what uses the churches serve for!" Then, after pointing out that "of this sect were the greater part of those ungracious people who lately entered into Rome with the Duke of Bourbon," Sir Thomas More details at considerable length the horrors committed during that sack of the Eternal City; adding, "For this purpose I rehearse to you these their heavy mischievous dealings, that you may perceive by their deeds what good comes of their sect. For as our Saviour says: 'ye shall know the tree by the fruit.' "J
The activity of the teachers of the new doctrine was everywhere remarkable. More only wished that the maintainers of the traditional Catholic faith were half so zealous "as those that are fallen into false heresies and have forsaken the faith." These seem, he says, indeed to "have a hot fire of hell in their hearts that can never suffer them to rest or cease, but forces them night and day to labour and work busily to subvert and destroy the Catholic Christian faith by every means they can devise."2