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question is of a directly opposite tendency, being a long Letter to the Earl of Wiltshire, in which he details, with much commendation the arguments used by Reginald Pole in support of Queen Catharine's marriage, and brings nothing against them on his own side, beyond a brief expression of dissent.
After the part which Cranmer had taken against this Papal Sumarriage as a private individual, he was not likely in his official character to hesitate about pronouncing the sentence of its nullity. This sentence was delivered in 1533, and led almost immediately to the great question of the Papal Supremacy. For all hope of procuring a confirmation of his decision from the Court of Rome soon vanished. The Pope on the contrary, without regarding the appeals of Henry and Cranmer to a General Council, declared the marriage valid, and commanded the King to return to his wife on pain of excommunication. The result of this command was an inquiry into the authority by which it was issued. The right of the Bishop of Rome to exercise jurisdiction in England was openly debated both in the Council and the Parliament; and, according to Strype, "the chief "burden of this weighty cause was laid on the shoulders of "the Archbishop." His Speeches on the subject have not come down to us, but their general tendency may be easily gathered from the public instruments to which he was a
that he was the author as well as the owner of it: nor indeed is such a supposition in any way countenanced by Burnet. See his History of the Reformation, vol. i. P. 195.
A note in the late Oxford editions of Burnet would lead us to apprehend that this document is now lost. "This article," it is there stated, 66 cannot be found. Either the MS. here copied has a wrong "reference, or the article was lost from it in the fire which damaged "the Cotton Library. The MS. is much burnt." Burnet, Reformat. Oxford, 1816, and 1829. vol. i. App. b. ii. no. 36. But there must have been some mistake here. For the manuscript in question may still be seen in the Cotton Library, exactly according to Burnet's reference, in Vespasian, B. v. and is in most excellent condition.
party, from a Collection of Extracts from the Canon Law', formed probably to supply materials for this discussion, and from several of his later writings. Upon the evidence of these documents he may be believed to have maintained, that the papal dominion was incompatible with the royal; and that consequently, a King who acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope, was not sovereign in his own realm. It may be said perhaps, that this line of argument, though well calculated to gratify the arbitrary temper of his master, in no degree affected the real merits of the case. Even if this be granted, it still cannot be inferred, that Cranmer was actuated in his choice of it by a corrupt motive; since he urged it no less strenuously under Mary, when she was occupied in restoring the papal power, than he had done under Henry, when that monarch was meditating its overthrow. But in truth his reasoning was by no means devoid of force. It will scarcely be denied, that the collision of authorities which he pointed out, established at least the necessity of inquiry. If this inquiry had ended in demonstrating, that universal dominion was given to the Pope by the word of God, the inconveniences of such an appointment, however great, must of course have been endured as inevitable. But a very different result was anticipated by the Archbishop. He was confident that the Papal Supremacy would be found to depend on human institutions alone; and then, the same evils which had suggested the examination into its origin, would also show the expediency of its abolition. And the right to abolish it would clearly reside in the party by whom it had been created, namely, the English nation ".
t See vol. ii. p. 1.
" The Protestation made in 1537, by the King, the Council, and the Clergy of England, against the Council of Mantua, states the argument thus: "That which [the Pope] hath usurped against God's law, and ex"torted by violence, we by good right take from him again. But he
The discussion on the Supremacy of the Pope was speedily General followed by another respecting General Councils. This was the tribunal to which both the King and the Archbishop appealed, when a rupture with the Court of Rome became inevitable. But there were many doubts respecting its constitution and its authority. It was very important but far from easy to determine, what constituted a General Council; and supposing this point to have been settled, another question would arise as to the extent of its power. Both these subjects were handled by Cranmer, in a Speech of which an abstract has been preserved by Burnet. He asserted 3, that, strictly speaking, no truly General Council was ever held, but that some had been so called, “because "the Emperor summoned them, and all Christendom did 66 agree to their definitions." And thus "it was not the "number nor authority of the bishops, but the matter of "their decisions," upon which the universal submission to their decrees, and their consequent title of "General" depended. With regard to their jurisdiction, it was his opinion, that "it did not extend to princes' dominions or “secular matters, but only to points of faith ;" and even on these "he had much doubting with himself," and considered it a very "tender point, how much ought to be de"ferred to a Council."..." The word of God was the rule of "faith in all controversies of religion ;" and on this and on "those expositions of it which had been agreed on by the "doctors of the Church," Councils, he thought, "should
" and his will say, we gave them a primacy. We hear them well; we 66 gave it you indeed. If you have authority as long as our consent giveth it you, and you evermore will make your plea upon our con66 sent, then let it have even an end where it began; we consent no 66 longer, your authority must needs be gone." Foxe, Acts und Monuments, vol. ii. p. 375. See also Strype, Memorials, vol. i. App. no. 72; Burnet, Reformat. vol. i. p. 441.
× Vol. ii. p. 11.
Speech in Convocation. 1536.
"found their decisions." If reference be also made to two public instruments y which he subscribed shortly afterwards, and in the composition of which he probably assisted, he will be found to have held moreover, that neither the Pope nor any other individual sovereign, now possessed the privilege of calling General Councils, and that "Christian "Princes ought to foresee and provide, lest the most noble "wholesome institutions of our elders in this behalf, be "perverted to a most contrary and most wicked end and "effect z."
The Speech just described, exists only in an abstract, but another delivered about two years later, on a question of equal if not greater moment, has been preserved entire by Foxe. It was addressed to the Convocation in one of the important debates which preceded the publication of the Articles of 1536. The attention of this assembly had been already directed to the increasing appetite for religious controversy, and the Lower House had presented a formal complaint, divided into sixty-seven heads a, against the new and erroneous doctrines that were "commonly preached, taught, "and spoken," when Crumwell came to the Upper House, as Vicar General, with a message from the King b. His Majesty, he said, "studied day and night to set a quiet"ness in the Church," and he was himself well able "by his "excellent learning" to settle the prevailing disputes, yet he would "suffer no common alteration but by the consent of
y The Judgment of the Convocation concerning General Councils, vol. iv. App. no. v; and The opinion of certain of the Bishops and Clergy touching the General Council, Ibid. no. vIII. See also the Protestations against the Councils of Mantua and Vicenza, in Foxe, Acts and Monuments, vol. ii. pp. 372. 437. In the former of these it is declared, that "they that be wisest do despair of a General Council: wherefore
we think it best, that every prince call a provincial Council, and
every prince to redress his own realm." Foxe, vol. ii. p. 375.
z Judgment of Convocation, vol. iv. App. p. 259.
a Fuller, Church Hist. b. v; Wilkins, Concilia, vol. iii. p. 804.
b Foxe, Acts and Monuments, vol. ii. p. 503.
"them, and of his whole Parliament;" and he therefore required them "friendly and lovingly to dispute among them"selves of the controversies moved in the Church, and to "conclude all things by the word of God." These controversies, as we learn from the Archbishop's Speech, were of "no light matters, but even the principal points of the "Christian religion;" namely, "of the true understanding of "the Law and the Gospel; of the manner and way how "sins be forgiven;" of the means by which doubtful consciences" may be certified that they please God;" "of the "true use of the sacraments, whether the outward work of "them doth justify man, or whether we receive our justifi"cation by faith ;" and also, "which be the good works "which please God," and what were the ceremonies which ought truly to be called sacraments. All these points were proposed for consideration, but the Archbishop recommended that the sacraments should be examined first; and according to his advice, an inquiry into their nature and number formed the business of the present sitting.
It may be collected from Foxe, that Cranmer himself took a leading part in the debate, but the short Speech we possess, does little more than state the question, and lay down the authority, namely, that of the Scriptures, by which it was to be determined. Other addresses however have been reported, which enter more fully into the subject. Alexander Alesse, a Scotch refugee, who was introduced and commanded to speak by Crumwell, laid down a definition of a sacrament very similar to that of our Church Catechism, and argued from thence, that the only ceremonies entitled to the name, were Baptism and the Lord's Supper. And Fox, Bishop of Hereford, on the same side, enlarged on the folly of attempting by sophistical subtleties to steal away from the people, that light which had now broken in on them from the reading of the Scriptures. The chief speaker
c Vol. ii. p. 16.