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"We have had," he writes, "some years of late, plenteous of evil books. For they have grown up so fast and sprung up so thick, full of pestilent errors and pernicious heresies, that they have infected and killed, I fear me, more simple souls than the famine of the dear years have destroyed bodies."1
We are not left in ignorance as to the books here referred to, as some few years previously the bishops of England had issued a list of the prohibited volumes. Thus, in October, 1526, Bishop Tunstall ordered that in London people should be warned not to read the works in question, but that all who possessed them should deliver them over to the bishop's officials in order that they might be destroyed as pernicious literature. The list included several works of Luther, three or four of Tyndale, a couple of Zwingle, and several isolated works, such as the Supplication of Beggars, and the Dyalogue between the Father and the Son*
In 1530 the king by proclamation forbade the reading or possession of some eighty-five works of Wycliffe, Luther, CEcolampadius, Zwingle, Pomeranus, Bucer, Wesselius, and indeed the German divines generally, under the heading of "books of the Lutheran sect or faction conveyed into the city of London." Besides these Latin treatises, the prohibition included many English tracts, such as A book of the old God and the new, the Burying of the Mass, Frith's Disputation concerning Purgatory, and several prayerbooks intended to propagate the new doctrines, such as Godly prayers; Matins and Evensong with the seven Psalms and other heavenly psalms with commendations; the Hortulus Anima in English,8 and the Primer in English.
1 English Works, p. 339. 2 Strype, Eccl. Mem. (ed. 1822), I. i. p. 254. * This book was apparently condemned for reflecting on the king's divorce rather than for its Lutheran tendencies. "The Soul's Garden," as Bishop Tunstall calls it, was printed abroad, and "very many lately
In his proclamation Henry VIII. speaks of the determination of the English nation in times past to be true to the Catholic faith and to defend the country against "wicked sects of heretics and Lollards, who, by perversion of Holy Scripture, do induce erroneous opinions, sow sedition amongst Christian people, and disturb the peace and tranquillity of Christian realms, as lately happened in some parts of Germany, where, by the procurement and sedition of Martin Luther and other heretics, were slain an infinite number of Christian people." To prevent like misfortunes happening in England, he orders prompt measures to be taken to put a stop to the circulation of books in English and other languages, which teach things "intolerable to the clean ears of any good Christian
By the king's command, the convocation of Canterbury catalogue of fifty-three tracts and volumes, there is no mention of any work of Wycliffe, and besides some volumes which had come from the pens of Tyndale, Frith, and Roy, who were acknowledged disciples of Luther, the rest are all the compositions of the German Reformers. The same may be said of a supplementary list of tracts, the authors of which were unknown. All these are condemned as containing false teaching, plainly contrary to the Catholic faith, and the bishops add: "Moreover, following closely in the footsteps of our fathers, we prohibit all from selling, giving, reading, distributing, or publishing any tract, booklet, pamphlet, or book, which translates or interprets the Holy Scripture in the vernacular ... or even know
brought into the realm, chiefly into London and into other haven towns."
heretical books. In the first ingly to keep such volumes without the licence of their diocesan in writing." 1
About the same time a committee of bishops, including Archbishop Warham and Bishop Tunstall, was appointed to draw up a list of some of the principal errors contained in the prohibited works of English heretics beyond the sea. The king had heard that "many books in the English tongue containing many detestable errors and damnable opinions, printed in parts beyond the sea," were being brought into England and spread abroad. He was unwilling that "such evil seed sown amongst his people (should) so take root that it might overgrow the corn of the Catholic doctrine before sprung up in the souls of his subjects," and he consequently ordered this examination. This has been done and the errors noted, "albeit many more there be in those books; which books totally do swarm full of heresies and detestable opinions." The books thus examined and noted were eight in number: The Wicked Mammon; the Obedience of Christian man; the Revelation of Antichrist; the Sum of Scripture; the Book of Beggars; the Kalendar of the Prymer; the Prymer, and an Exposition unto the Seventh Chapter of 1 Corinthians. From these some hundreds of propositions were culled which contradicted the plain teaching of the Church in matters of faith and morality. In this condemnation, as the king states in his directions to preachers to publish the same, the commission were unanimous.2
The attack on the traditional teachings of the Church, moreover, was not confined to unimportant points. From the first, high and fundamental doctrines, as it seemed to men in those days, were put in peril. The works sent forth by the advocates of the change speak for themselves, and, when contrasted with those of Luther, leave no room for doubt that they were founded on them, and inspired by the spirit of the leader of the revolt, although, as was
inevitable in such circumstances, in particulars the disciples proved themselves in advance of their master. Writing in 1546, Dr. Richard Smythe contrasts the old times, when the faith was respected, with the then state of mental unrest in religious matters. "In our days," he writes, "not a few things, nor of small importance, but (alack the more is the pity) even the chiefest and most weighty matters of our religion and faith are called in question, babbled, talked, and jangled upon (reasoned I cannot nor ought not to call it). These matters in time past (when reason had place and virtue with learning was duly regarded, yea, and vice with insolency was generally detested and abhorred) were held in such reverence and honour, in such esteem and dignity, yea, so received and embraced by all estates, that it was not in any wise sufferable that tag and rag, learned and unlearned, old and young, wise and foolish, boys and wenches, master and man, tinkers and tilers, colliers and cobblers, with other such raskabilia, might at their pleasure rail and jest (for what is it else they now do ?) against everything that is good and virtuous, against all things that are expedient and profitable, not sparing any Sacrament of the Church or ordinance of the same, no matter how laudable, decent, or fitting it has been regarded in times past, or how much it be now accepted by good and Catholic men. In this way, both by preaching and teaching (if it so ought to be called), playing, writing, printing, singing, and (Oh, good Lord !) in how many other ways besides, divers of our age, being their own schoolmasters, or rather scholars of the devil, have not forborne or feared to speak and write against the most excellent and most blessed Sacrament of the Altar, affirming that the said Sacrament is nothing more than a bare figure, and that there is not in the same Sacrament the very body and blood of our blessed Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, but only a naked sign, a token, a memorial and a remembrance only of the same, if they take it for so much even and do not call it (as they are wont to do) an idol and very plain idolatry."1
As to the date of the introduction of these heretical views into England, Sir Thomas More entirely agreed with Dr. Smythe, the writer just quoted. He places the growth of these ideas in the circulation of books by Tyndale, Frith, and Barnes, and even as late as 1533, declares that the number of those who had accepted the new teaching was grossly exaggerated. He states his belief that " the realm is not full of heretics, and it has in it but a few, though that few be indeed over many and grown more also by negligence in some part than there has been in some late years past."" It was, indeed, part of the strategy pursued by the innovators in religion to endeavour to make the movement appear more important than it had any claim to be. It is, writes More, the "policy" of "these heretics who call themselves 'evangelical brethren,'" to make their number appear larger than it is. "Some potheaded apostles they have that wander about the realm into sundry shires, for whom every one has a different name in every shire, and some, peradventure, in corners here and there they bring into the brotherhood. But whether they get any or none they do not hesitate to lie when they come home, and say that more than half of every shire is of their own sect. Boast and brag these blessed brethren never so fast, they feel full well themselves that they be too feeble in what country so ever they be strongest. For if they thought themselves able to meet and match the Catholics they would not, I ween, lie still at rest for three days."
"For in all places where heresies have sprung up hitherto so hath it proved yet. And so negligently might these
1 Richard Smythe, D.D., The assertion and defence of the Sacrament of the Altar, 1546, f. 3.
'-' English Works, p. 940.