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The time was, "and even until now very late," when no man would allow any heresy to be spoken at his table; for this "has been till of late the common Christian zeal towards the Catholic faith." But now (1533) "though, God be thanked, the faith is itself as fast rooted in this realm as ever it was before (except in some very few places, and yet even in those few the very faithful folk are many more than the faithless), even good men are beginning to tolerate the discussion of heretical views, and to take part in 'the evil talk.'"
To understand the Reformation in England, it is important to note the progress of its growth, and to note that the lines upon which it developed were to all intents and purposes those which had been laid down by Luther for the German religious revolution, although, in many ways, England was carried along the path of reformed doctrines, even further than the original leader had been prepared to go. The special points of the traditional faith of the English people, which the reforming party successfully attacked, were precisely those which had been the battleground in Germany, and Sir Thomas More's description of the result there might somewhat later have been written of this country. Tyndale was described by More as "the captain of the English heretics," and the influence of his works no doubt greatly helped to the overthrow of the traditional teaching. The key of the position taken up by the English Reformers, as well as by their German predecessors, was the claim that all belief must be determined by the plain word of Holy Scripture, and by that alone. Tradition they rejected, although Sir Thomas More pointed out forcibly that the Church had always acknowledged the twofold authority of the written and unwritten word.1 Upon this ground Tyndale and his successors rejected all the sacraments but two, attacked popular devotion to sacred images and prayers to our Lady and
the saints, and rejected the old teaching about Purgatory and the help the souls of the departed faithful could derive from the suffrages and penances of the living. Confirmation and the anointing of priests at ordination they contemptuously called "butter smearing," and with their denial of the priesthood quickly came their rejection of the doctrine of the Sacrifice in the Mass, and their teaching that the Holy Eucharist is a "token and sign" rather than the actual Body and Blood of our Lord.
No means were left untried to further the spread of the new views. Books of prayer were drawn up, in which, under the guise of familiar devotions, the poison of the reformed doctrine was unsuspectedly imbibed. Richard Whitford complains that his works, which just on the eve of the Reformation were deservedly popular, had been made use of for the purpose of interpolating tracts against points of Catholic faith, which people were induced to buy under the supposition that they were from the pen of the celebrated monk of Sion. John Waylande, the printer of some Whitford books, in 1537 prefixed the following notice to the new edition of the Werke for Householders. "The said author required me instantly that I should not print nor join any other works with his, especially of uncertain authors. For of late he found a work joined in the same volume with his works, and bought and taken for his work. This was not his, but was put there instead of his work that before was named among the contents of his book, and yet his (real) work was left out, as is complained in this preface here unto the Reader."
In his preface Whitford says that the substituted work was obviously by one of the Reformers, and "not only puts me into infamy and slander, but also puts all readers in jeopardy of conscience to be infected (by heresy) and in danger of the king's laws, for the manifold erroneous opinions that are contained in the same book." He consequently adds a warning to his readers: "By my poor advice," he says, "read not those books that go forth without named authors. For, doubtless, many of them that seem very devout and good works, are full of heresies, and your old English poet says, 'There is no poison so perilous of sharpness as that is that hath of sugar a sweetness.' ",
In a subsequent volume, published in 1541, called Dyvers holy instructions and teachings, Whitford again complains of this device of the teachers of the new doctrines. In the preface he gives the exact titles of the four little tracts which go to make up the volume, in order, as he says, "to give you warning to search well and surely that no other works are put amongst them that might deceive you. For, of a certainty, I found now but very lately a work joined and bound with my poor labours and under the contents of the same volume, and one of my works which was named in the same contents left out. Instead of this, was put this other work that was not mine. For the title of mine was this,' A daily exercise and experience of death,' and the other work has no name of any author. And all such works in this time are ever to be suspected, for so the heretics are used to send forth their poison among the people covered with sugar. For they seem to be good and devout workers, and are in very deed stark heresies."'
Even the smallest points were not deemed too insignificant for the teaching of novel doctrines destructive of the old Catholic spirit. To take an example: John Standish, writing in Mary's reign about the vernacular Scripture, complains of the translation which had been made in the time of Henry VIII. "Who is able," he writes, "to tell at first sight how many hundred faults are even in their best translation (if there is any good). Shall they be suffered still to continue? Shall they still poison more
1 The Werke for Householders. London: John Wayl.mde, 1537.
2 Richard Whitford, Dyvers holy instructions. London: W. Mydylton, 1541.
like as they do in a thousand damnable English books set forth within the last twenty-two years? Lord deliver us from them all, and that with all speed! I take God to record (if I may speak only of one fault in the translation and touch no more) my heart did ever abhor to hear this word Domims . . . translated the Lord, whereas it ought to be translated our Lord, the very Latin phrase so declaring. Is not St. John saying to Peter (John xxi.), Dominus est, 'it is our Lord '? whereas they have falsely translated it as in many other places 'the Lord.' And likewise in the salutation of our Lady, 'Hail, Mary, full of grace, dominus tecum,' does not this word dominus here include noster, and so ought to be translated 'our Lord is with thee?' Would you make the Archangel like a devil call Him the Lord? He is the Lord to every evil spirit, but to us He is our most merciful Lord and ought to be called so. If, perchance, you ask of a husbandman whose ground that is, he will answer, 'the lord's,' who is perhaps no better than a collier. Well, I speak this, not now so much for the translation, seeing that it swarms as full of faults as leaves (I will not say lines) as I do, because I wish that the common speech among people sprung from this fond translation, ' I thank the Lord ;' 'the Lord be praised'; 'the Lord knoweth'; with all such-like phrases might be given up, and that the people might be taught to call Him 'our Lord,' saying,' I thank our Lord'; 'our Lord be praised,'1 &c, &c"
1 Sermons, sig. h. vij.
It is very commonly believed that until the influence of Cranmer had made itself felt, the ecclesiastical authorities continued to maintain the traditionally hostile attitude of the English Church towards the English Bible. In proof of this, writers point to the condemnation of the translations issued by Tyndale, and the wholesale destruction of all copies of this, the first printed edition of the English New Testament. It is consequently of importance to examine into the extent of the supposed clerical hostility to the vernacular Scriptures, and into the reasons assigned by those having the conduct of ecclesiastical affairs at that period for the prohibition of Tyndale's Testament.
It may not be without utility to point out that the existence of any determination on the part of the Church to prevent the circulation of vernacular Bibles in the fifteenth century has been hitherto too hastily assumed. Those who were living during that period may be fairly considered the most fitting interpreters of the prohibition of Archbishop Arundel, which has been so frequently adduced as sufficient evidence of this supposed uncompromising hostility to what is now called "the open Bible." The terms of the archbishop's monition do not, on examination, bear the meaning usually put upon them; and should the language be considered by some obscure, there is absolute evidence of the possession of vernacular Bibles by Catholics of undoubted orthodoxy with, at the