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rejection of even the spiritual prerogatives of the Roman Pontiffs.
It is necessary to insist upon this matter if the full meaning of the Reformation movement is to be understood. Here in England, there can be no doubt, on the one hand, that no nation more fully and freely bowed to the spiritual supremacy of the Holy See; on the other, that there was a dislike of interference in matters which they regarded, rightly or wrongly, as outside the sphere of the Papal prerogative. The national feeling had grown by leaps and bounds in the early years of the sixteenth century. But it was not until the ardent spirits among the doctrinal reformers had succeeded in weakening the hold of Catholicity in religion on the hearts of the people that this rise of national feeling entered into the ecclesiastical domain, and the love of country could be effectually used to turn them against the Pope, even as Head of the Christian Church. With this distinction clearly before the mind, it is possible to understand the general attitude of the English nation to the Pope and his authority on the eve of the overthrow of his jurisdiction.
To begin with some evidence of popular teaching as to the Pope's position as Head of the Church. It is, of course, evident that in many works the supremacy of the Holy See is assumed and not positively stated. This is exactly what we should expect in a matter which was certainly taken for granted by all. William Bond, a learned priest, and subsequently a monk of Syon, with Richard Whitford, was the author of a book called the Pilgrimage of Perfection, published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1531. It is a work, as the author tells us, " very profitable to all Christian persons to read "; and the third book consists of a long and careful explanation of the Creed. In the section treating about the tenth article is to be found a very complete statement of the teaching of the Christian religion on the Church. After taking the marks of the Church, the author says: "There may be set no other foundation for the Church, but only that which is put, namely, Christ Jesus. It is certain, since it is founded on the Apostles, as our Lord said to Peter, ' I have prayed that thy faith fail not.' And no more it shall; for (as St. Cyprian says) the Church of Rome was never yet the root of heresy. This Church Apostolic is so named the Church of Rome, because St. Peter and St. Paul, who under Christ were heads and princes of this Church, deposited there the tabernacles of their bodies, which God willed should be buried there and rest in Rome, and that should be the chief see in the world; just as commonly in all other places the chief see of the bishop is where the chief saint and bishop of the see is buried. By this you may know how Christ is the Head of the Church, and how our Holy Father the Pope of Rome is Head of the Church. Many, because they know not this mystery of Holy Scripture, have erred and fallen to heresies in denying the excellent dignity of our Holy Father the Pope of Rome."1
In the same way Roger Edgworth, a preacher in the reign of Henry VIII., speaking on the text " Tu vocaberis Cephas," says: "And by this the error and ignorance of certain summalists are confounded, who take this text as one of their strongest reasons for the supremacy of the Pope of Rome. In so doing, such summalists would plainly destroy the text of St. John's Gospel to serve their purpose, which they have no need to do, for there are as well texts of Holy Scripture and passages of ancient writers which abundantly prove the said primacy of the Pope."2
When by 1523 the attacks of Luther and his followers on the position of the Pope had turned men's minds in England to the question, and caused them to examine into the grounds of their belief, several books on the
1 William Bond, The Pilgrymage of Perfeccyon, 1531, f. 223.
subject appeared in England. One in particular, intended to be subsidiary to the volume published by the king himself against Luther, was written by a theologian named Edward Powell, and published by Pynson in London. In his preface, Powell says that before printing his work he had submitted it to the most learned authority at Oxford (eruditissimo Oxoniensium). The first part of the book is devoted to a scientific treatise upon the Pope's supremacy, with all the proofs from Scripture and the Fathers set out in detail. "This then," he concludes, "is the Catholic Church, which, having the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, as its head, offers the means of sanctifying the souls of all its members, and testifies to the truth of all that is to be taught." The high priesthood of Peter "is said to be Roman, not because it cannot be elsewhere, but through a certain congruity which makes Rome the most fitting place. That is, that where the centre of the world's government was, there also should be placed the high priesthood of Christ. Just as of old the Summus Pontifex was in Jerusalem, the metropolis of the Jewish nation, so now it is in Rome, the centre of Christian civilisation."1
We naturally, of course, turn to the works of Sir Thomas More for evidence of the teaching as to the Pope's position at this period; and his testimony is abundant and definite. Thus in the second book of his Dyalogne, written in 1528, arguing that there must be unity in the Church of Christ, he points out that the effect of Lutheranism has been to breed diversity of faith and practice. "Though they began so late," he writes, "yet there are not only as many sects almost as men, but also the masters themselves change their minds and their opinions every day. Bohemia is also in the same case; one faith in the town, another in the field; one in Prague,
1 Edward Powell, Propugnaculum summi sacerdotii, &c., adversus M. tatherum, 1523, fol. 22 and fol. 35.
another in the next town; and yet in Prague itself, one faith in one street, another in the next. And yet all these acknowledge that they cannot have the Sacraments ministered but by such priests as are made by authority derived and conveyed from the Pope who is, under Christ, Vicar and head of our Church."1 It is important to note in this passage how the author takes for granted the Pope's supreme authority over the Christian Church. To this subject he returns, and is more explicit in a later chapter of the same book. The Church, he says, is the "company and congregation of all nations professing the name of Christ." This Church "has begun with Christ, and has had Him for its head and St. Peter His Vicar after Him, and the head under Him; and always since, the successors of him continually. And it has had His holy faith and His blessed Sacraments and His holy Scriptures delivered, kept and conserved therein by God and His Holy Spirit, and albeit some nations fall away, yet just as no matter how many boughs whatever fall from the tree, even though more fall than be left thereon, still there is no doubt which is the very tree, although each of them were planted again in another place and grew to a greater than the stock it first came off, in the same way we see and know well that all the companies and sects of heretics and schismatics, however great they grow, come out of this Church I speak of; and we know that the heretics are they that are severed, and the Church the stock that they all come out of."' Here Sir Thomas More expressly gives communion with the successors of St. Peter as one of the chief tests of the true Church.
Again, in his Confutation of Tyndale's Answer, written in 1532 when he was Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More speaks specially about the absolute necessity of the Church being One and not able to teach error. There is one
1 English works, p. 171. "Ibid., p. 185.
known and recognised Church existing throughout the world, which "is that mystical body be it never so sick." Of this mystical body " Christ is the principal head ;" and it is no part of his concern, he says, for the moment to determine "whether the successor of St. Peter is his vicargeneral and head under him, as all Christian nations have now long taken him."1 Later on he classes himself with "poor popish men,"2 and in the fifth book he discusses the question " whether the Pope and his sect" (as Tyndale called them) "is Christ's Church or no." On this matter More is perfectly clear. "I call the Church of Christ," he says, "the known Catholic Church of all Christian nations, neither gone out nor cut off. And although all these nations do now and have long since recognised and acknowledged the Pope, not as the bishop of Rome but as the successor of St. Peter, to be their chief spiritual governor under God and Christ's Vicar on earth, yet I never put the Pope as part of the definition of the Church, by defining it to be the common known congregation of all Christian nations under one head the Pope."
I avoided this definition purposely, he continues, so as not "to entangle the matter with the two questions at once, for I knew well that the Church being proved this common known Catholic congregation of all Christian nations abiding together in one faith, neither fallen nor cut off; there might, peradventure, be made a second question after that, whether over all this Catholic Church the Pope must needs be head and chief governor and chief spiritual shepherd, or whether, if the unity of the faith was kept among them all, every province might have its own spiritual chief over itself, without any recourse unto the Pope. . . .
"For the avoiding of all such intricacies, I purposely abstained from putting the Pope as part of the definition