Larger font
Smaller font

The Two Republics, or Rome and the United States of America

 - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font


    Although the Reformation was begun in England by Tyndale about the same time that it was commenced by Luther in Germany, it attracted no public notice until 1521, when Henry VIII, as the doughty champion of the papacy, promptly took up the enforcement of the pope’s bull; and Luther’s writings were publicly burnt in London, May 21. Cardinal Wolsey was master of ceremonies. “Before, a priest of a stately figure carried a rod, surmounted by a crucifix; behind him another, no less stately, carried the archiepiscopal cross of York; a nobleman, walking at his side, carried his cardinal’s hat. He was attended by nobles, prelates, embassadors of the pope and the emperor, and these were followed by a long train of mules, carrying trunks with the richest and most splendid coverings. At London, amidst this magnificent procession, the writings of the poor monk of Wittemberg were carried to the flames.TTR 578.2

    On arriving at the cathedral, the proud priest made even his cardinal’s hat be placed upon the altar. The virtuous bishop of Rochester took his station at the foot of the cross, and there, in animated tone, inveighed against heresy. The impious writings of the heresiarch were then brought forward, and devoutly burned in presence of an immense crowd. Such was the first news which England received of the Reformation.”—D’Aubigné. 10[Page 579] Id., book ix, chap. x, par. 9.TTR 579.1

    But Henry was not content with this; nor even with opposing the Reformation in his own dominions. He wrote to the Archduke Palatine of Germany, in the following words:—TTR 579.2

    “This fire, which has been kindled by Luther, and fanned by the arts of the devil, is raging everywhere. If Luther does not repent, deliver him and his audacious treatises to the flames. I offer you my royal co-operation, and even, if necessary, my life.” 11[Page 579] Id., book. xviii, chap. v, par. 5.TTR 579.3

    Nor did he stop here. He entered the lists as a theologian, and wrote against Luther a book entitled the “Defense of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther, by the Most Invincible King of England, France, and Ireland, Henry, Eighth of the Name.” In the book he set himself forth as a sacrifice for the preservation of the church, and also proclaimed the papal principles, in the following words:—TTR 579.4

    “I will throw myself before the church, I will receive in my breast the poisoned darts of the enemy who is assailing her. To this the present state of affairs calls me. Every servant of Jesus Christ, whatever be his age, rank, or sex, must bestir himself against the common enemy of Christendom.TTR 579.5

    “Let us arm ourselves with double armor—with heavenly weapons, that by the arms of truth we may vanquish him who combats with the arms of error. But let us also arm ourselves with terrestrial armor, in order that, if he proves obstinate in his wickedness, the hand of the executioner may constrain him to silence; and he may thus, for once at least, be useful to the world by his exemplary punishment.” 12[Page 579] Id., book ix, chap. x. par. 12.TTR 579.6

    He denounced Luther as “an infernal wolf, a venomous viper, a limb of the devil,” and other such handsome things. By his partisans and flatterers, Henry’s book was extolled to the skies. It was declared “the most learned work that ever the sun saw,” and, appropriately enough indeed, it was compared with the works of St. Augustine. Henry himself they pronounced a Constantine, a Charlemagne, and even a second Solomon. Henry was no less pleased in fact with his performance, than the others pretended to be. He had his embassador at Rome deliver to the pope in person a copy of the book; and the embassador, in presenting it to the pope, who received him in full consistory, said: “The king, my master, assures you that, after refuting the errors of Luther with his pen, he is ready to combat his adherents with the sword.” 13[Page 580] Id., par. 17.TTR 580.1

    The grateful pope, as was to be expected, struck even yet a higher note of praise to Henry. Leo X replied that the book of the king of England could only have been composed with the aid of the Holy Spirit, and in return gave the embassador both his foot and his cheek to be kissed, saying, “I will do for your master’s book as much as the church has done for St. Jerome and St. Augustine.” To his cardinals Leo said, “We must honor those noble champions who show themselves prepared to cut off with the sword the rotten members of Jesus Christ. What title shall we give to the virtuous king of England?” One suggested, “Protector of the Roman Church,” another, “Apostolic King;” as the final result, a bull was issued by the pope, proclaiming Henry VIII “Defender of the Faith,” and granting ten years’ indulgence to all who would read the king’s book.TTR 580.2

    The bull was promptly sent by a messenger to Henry, who of course was overjoyed when he received it. A moment after Henry received the bull, the king’s fool entered the room. Henry’s joy was so marked that the fool asked him the cause of it. The king replied, “The pope has just made me ‘Defender of the Faith.’” The fool being the only wise man in the whole transaction, replied, “Ho! ho! good Harry, let you and me defend one another; but take my word for it, let the faith alone to defend itself.” Henry decided that the new dignity thus bestowed upon him should be publicly proclaimed. “Seated upon an elevated throne, with the cardinal at his right hand, he caused the pope’s letter to be read in public. The trumpets sounded; Wolsey said mass; the king and his court took their seats around a sumptuous table, and the heralds-at-arms proclaimed, “Henricus Dei gratia Rex Angliae et Franciae, Defensor Fidei et Dominus Hiberniae!”—“Henry, by the grace of God king of England and France, defender of the faith, and lord of Ireland.” 14[Page 581] Id., book xviii chap. v, par. 10-12TTR 580.3

    Thus was acquired by the sovereign of England, the title and dignity of “Defender of the Faith,” which has been worn by all the successors of Henry, and is held to-day by Queen Victoria.TTR 581.1

    Luther was not the man to keep silence, not even when kings spoke. He had faced the emperor; he had defied the pope; and now he both contemns and defies Henry, and all the rest of the papal brood together. Besides meeting and overthrowing the king’s arguments in detail, his ringing words of defiance of the papacy, and his faith in the word of God only and its power, were a call to all Europe to take refuge under the standard of the Reformation, and are worthy forever to be held in remembrance. The opening and the closing of his reply to Henry is as follows:—TTR 581.2

    “I will not deal mildly with the king of England; it is in vain (I know it is) to humble myself, to yield, beseech, and try the ways of peace. I will at length show myself more terrible than the ferocious beasts who are constantly butting me with their horns. I will let them feel mine: I will preach and irritate Satan until he wears himself out, and falls down exhausted. ‘If this heretic retracts not,’ says the new Thomas, Henry VIII, ‘he must be burnt.’ Such are the weapons now employed against me; first, the fury of stupid asses and Thomastical swine, and then the fire. Very well! Let these swine come forward, if they dare, and burn me! Here I am, waiting for them. My wish is, that my ashes, thrown, after my death, into a thousand seas, may arise, pursue, and engulf this abominable crew. Living, I will be the enemy of the papacy; burnt, I will be its destruction. Go, swine of St. Thomas; do what seemeth to you good. You shall ever find Luther as a bear in your way, and a lion in your path. He will thunder upon you from all quarters, and leave you no peace until he has brayed your brains of iron, and ground to powder your foreheads of brass. For me, I cease not to cry, ‘The gospel! the gospel! Christ! Christ!’ while my opponents cease not to reply, ‘Customs! customs! ordinances! ordinances! Fathers! Fathers!’ ‘Let your faith,’ says St. Paul, ‘stand not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God,’ And the apostle, by this thunderbolt from heaven, overthrows and scatters, like the dust before the wind, all the silly crotchets of this Henry. To all the sayings of Fathers, men, angels, devils, I oppose not the antiquity of custom, not the multitude, but the word of the Eternal Majesty, the gospel, which they themselves are constrained to approve. By it I hold; on it I rest; in it I glory, triumph, and exult over papists, Thomists, Henrys, and all the hellish sty. The King of heaven is with me, and therefore I fear nothing, even should a thousand Augustines, a thousand Cyprians, and a thousand churches, of which Henry is defender, rise up against me. It is a small matter for me to despise and lash an earthly king, who himself has not feared, in his writing, to blaspheme the King of heaven, and profane his holiness by the most audacious falsehood.TTR 581.3

    Papists! Will you not desist from your vain pursuits? Do as you please, the result, however, must be, that before the gospel which I, Martin Luther, have preached, popes, bishops, priests, monks, princes, devils, death, sin, and whatever is not Jesus Christ or in Jesus Christ, shall fall and perish.” 15[Page 582] Id., book ix, chap. x, par. 20-24TTR 582.1

    Soon, however, Henry wanted a divorce from his wife, Catherine, that he might marry Anne Boleyn. The pope, Clement VII, proposed to grant him his wish, and actually signed a “decretal by which he himself annulled the marriage between Henry and Catherine.” He also “signed a valid engagement by which he declared beforehand that all retractation of these acts should be null and void.”—D’Aubigné. 16[Page 582] Id., book xix, last chap., last par. but one. Both these documents were committed to the legate, Compeggio, whom he was sending to England professedly to conduct the proceedings and accomplish the fact of the divorce; but at the same time gave him positive command that he must never let the decretal go out of his hands. Compeggio departed for England; the political winds suddenly veered, messengers were sent with all speed after him, directing him to delay both his journey, and all the proceedings as much as possible; and especially commanding him not to use the decretal, nor take any other step favorable to the divorce, without a new and express order from the pope himself. The outcome of it all was that the pope, finding it impracticable under the circumstances to offend the emperor, who was Catherine’s nephew, played so long his lingering game with Henry, with the hope of holding both sovereigns, that Henry grew impatient, and divorced both Catherine and the pope. This being accomplished, he proceeded at once, A. D. 1533, to put Anne Boleyn in the place of Catherine, as queen; and himself in the place of the pope, as head of the church in England. It was in the fullest sense of the word that Henry put himself in the place of the pope in the realm of England.TTR 582.2

    In 1534 the “Act of Supremacy” was passed by Parliament, by which “authority in all matters ecclesiastical was vested solely in the crown. The courts spiritual became as thoroughly the king’s courts as the temporal courts at Westminster. The statute ordered that the king ‘shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head on earth of the Church of England, and shall have and enjoy, annexed and united to the imperial crown of this realm, as well the title and state thereof as all the honors, jurisdictions, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity belonging, and with full power to visit, repress, redress, reform, and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, contempts, and enormities which by any manner of spiritual authority or jurisdiction might or may lawfully be reformed.’”—Green. 17[Page 583] “Larger History of the English People, “book v, chap. iv, par. 16.TTR 583.1

    The very pattern of the Inquisition was established in England. At the close of 1534 a statute was made which declared to be treason “the denial of any of the king’s titles,” and as the king in 1535 assumed the title, “On earth supreme head of the Church of England,” any denial of his headship of the church was therefore treason; and Thomas Cromwell pushed this principle to the utmost limit. “Spies were scattered broadcast over the land, secret denunciations poured into the open ear of the minister. The air was thick with tales of plots and conspiracies.... The confessional had no secrets from Cromwell. Men’s talk with their closest friends found its way to his ear. Words idly spoken, the murmurs of a petulant abbot, the ravings of a moonstruck nun, were, as the nobles cried passionately at his fall, tortured into treason. The only chance of safety lay in silence. But even the refuge of silence was closed by a law more infamous than any that has ever blotted the statute-book of England. Not only was thought made treason, but men were forced to reveal their thoughts on pain of their very silence being punished with the penalties of treason. All trust in the older bulwarks of liberty was destroyed by a policy as daring as it was unscrupulous. The noblest institutions were degraded into instruments of terror.”—Green. 18[Page 584] Id., par. 21, 22.TTR 583.2

    That which was now the Church of England was simply that which before was the Catholic Church in England. “In form nothing had been changed. The outer Constitution of the church remained entirely unaltered.” In faith, likewise, nothing had been changed in fact, except in the mere change of the personages who assumed the prerogative of dispensers of it. Henry, as both king and pope, was now the supreme head of the church. “From the primate to the meanest deacon, every minister of it derived from him sole right to exercise spiritual powers. The voice of its preachers was the echo of his will. He alone could define orthodoxy or declare heresy. The forms of its worship and belief were changed and rechanged at the royal caprice.” For as early as 1532, Henry had laid down the proposition that “the king’s majesty hath as well the care of the souls of his subjects as their bodies; and may by the law of God by his Parliament make laws touching and concerning as well the one as the other.”—Green. 19[Page 585] Id., book vi, chap. 1, par. 5, 1 and book v, chap. iv, par. 13.TTR 584.1

    Such was the “Reformation” accomplished by “Henry, Eighth of the Name,” so far as in him and his intention lay. But to be divorced from the pope of Rome was a great thing for England. And as Henry had set the example of revolt from papal rule when exercised from the papal throne, the English people were not slow in following the example thus set, and revolting from the same rule when exercised from the English throne. It began even in Henry’s reign, in the face of all the terrors of a rule “which may be best described by saying that it was despotism itself personified.”—Macaulay. 20[Page 585] Essays, “Hallam,” par. 27. During the regency of Edward VI and under the guidance of Cranmer and Ridley, advance steps were taken even by the Church of England itself—the use of images, of the crucifix, of incense, tapers, and holy water; the sacrifice of the mass, the worship of saints, auricular confession, the service in Latin, and the celibacy of the clergy, were abolished. During the Catholic reaction under Mary, the spirit of revolt was confirmed; and under Elizabeth, when the polity of the Church of England became fixed, and thenceforward, it constantly, and at times almost universally, prevailed.TTR 585.1

    In short, the example set by Henry has been so well and so persistently followed through the ages that have since passed, that, although the Church of England still subsists, and, although the sovereign of England still remains the head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith, both the office and the title are of so flexible a character that they easily adapt themselves to the headship and defense of the faith of Episcopalianism in England and of Presbyterianism in Scotland. And yet even more and far better than this, the present sovereign of England, Queen Victoria, has distinctly renounced the claim of right to rule in matters of faith. In 1859 Her Majesty issued a royal proclamation to her subjects in India, in which she said these words:—TTR 585.2

    “Firmly relying, ourselves, on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the right and the desire to impose our convictions on any of our subjects. We declare it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be in any wise favored, none molested or disquieted, by reason of their religious faith or observances, but that all shall alike enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law; and we do strictly charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under us that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief or worship of any of our subjects, on pain of our highest displeasure.TTR 586.1

    “And it is our further will that, so far as may be, our subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to offices in our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability, and integrity to discharge.”TTR 586.2

    Larger font
    Smaller font