Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 193. KING HENRY'S DECREE AGAINST IMPORTED BOOKS

193. KING HENRY'S DECREE AGAINST IMPORTED BOOKS

In the year last before this, which was A.D. 1537, it was declared how Pope Paul the Third indicted a general council, to be holden at Mantua: whereunto the king of England, amongst other princes, being called, refused either to come or to send at the pope's call, and for defence of himself directed out a public apology or protestation, rendering just and sufficient matter why he neither would, nor was bound to obey, the pope's commandment; which protestation is before to be read. This council, appointed to begin the twenty-third day of May, the year aforesaid, was then stopped by the duke of Mantua, pretending that he would suffer no council there, unless the pope would fortify the city with a sufficient army, &c.; for which cause the pope prorogued the said council, to be celebrated in the month of November following, appointing at the first no certain place. At length he named and determined the city of Vincenza, (lying within the dominion of the Venetians,) to be the place for the council. Whereunto when the king, the year next following, (which is this present year of our Lord 1538,) was requested by the emperor and other states, to resort either himself, or to send, he, again refusing, (as he did before,) sent a protestation, in way of defence and answer for himself, to the emperor or other Christian princes.

As the Lord, of his goodness, had raised up Thomas Cromwell to he a friend and patron to the gospel, so, on the contrary side, Satan (who is adversary and enemy to all good things) had his organ also, which was Stephen Gardiner, by all wiles and subtle means to impeach and put back the same; who, after he had brought his purpose to pass in burning good John Lambert, (as ye have heard,) proceeding still in his crafts and wiles, and thinking, under the names of heresies, sects, Anabaptists, and Sacramentaries, to exterminate all good books and faithful professors of God's word out of England, so wrought with the king, that the next year following, which was A.D. 1539, he gave out these injunctions, the copy and contents whereof I thought here also not to be pretermitted, and are these:

"First, That none, without special licence of the king, transport or bring from outward parts into England, any manner of English books, either yet sell, give, utter, or publish any such, upon pain of forfeiting all their goods and chattels, and their bodies to be imprisoned so long as it shall please the king's Majesty.

"Item, That none shall print, or bring over, any English books with annotations or prologues, unless such books before be examined by the king's privy council, or others appointed by his Highness; and yet not to be put thereto these words, cum privilegio regali, without adding, ad imprimendum solum: neither yet to imprint it, without the king's privilege be printed therewith in the English tongue, that all men may read it. Neither shall they print any translated book, without the plain name of the translator be in it; or else the printer to be made the translator, and to suffer the fine and punishment thereof, at the king's pleasure.

"Item, That none of the occupation of printing shall, within the realm, print, utter, sell, or cause to be published, any English book of Scripture, unless the same be first viewed, examined, and admitted by the king's Highness, or one of his privy council, or one bishop within the realm, whose name shall therein be expressed, upon pain of the king's most high displeasure, the loss of their goods and chattels, and imprisonment so long as it shall please the king.

"Item, Those that be in any errors, as Sacramentaries, Anabaptists, or any others, that sell books having such opinions in them, being once known, both the books and such persons shall be detected and disclosed immediately unto the king's Majesty, or one of his privy council; to the intent to have it punished, without favour, even with the extremity of the law.

"Item, That none of the king's subjects shall reason, dispute, or argue upon the sacrament of the altar, upon pain of losing their lives, goods, and chattels, without all favour, only those excepted that be learned in divinity: they to have their liberty in their schools and appointed places accustomed for such matters.

"Item, That the holy bread and holy water, procession, kneeling and creeping on Good Friday to the cross, and Easter-day, setting up of lights before the Corpus Christi, bearing of candles on Candlemas-day, purification of women delivered of child, offering of chrisms, keeping of the four offering-days, paying their tithes, and such-like ceremonies, must be observed and kept till it shall please the king to change or abrogate any of them."

This article was made for that the people were not quieted and contented (many of them) with the ceremonies then used.

"Finally, All those priests that be married, and openly known to have their wives, or that hereafter do intend to marry, shall be deprived of all spiritual promotion, and from doing any duty of a priest, and shall have no manner of office, dignity, cure, privilege, profit, or commodity in any thing appertaining to the clergy, but from thenceforth shall be taken, had, and reputed as lay persons, to all purposes and intents: and those that shall, after this proclamation, marry, shall run in his Grace's indignation, and suffer punishment and imprisonment at his Grace's will and pleasure.

"Item, He chargeth all archbishops, bishops, archdeacons, deacons, provosts, parsons, vicars, curates, and other ministers, and every of them, in their own persons, within their cures, diligently to preach, teach, open, and set forth to the people, the glory of God and truth of his word; and also, considering the abuses and superstitions that have crept into the hearts and stomachs of many by reason of their fond ceremonies, he chargeth them, upon pain of imprisonment at his Grace's pleasure, not only to preach and teach the word of God accordingly, but also sincerely and purely, declaring the difference between things commanded by God, and the rites and ceremonies in their church then used, lest the people thereby might grow into further superstition.

"Item, Forasmuch as it appeareth now clearly, that Thomas Becket, some time archbishop of Canterbury, stubbornly withstanding the wholesome laws established against the enormities of the clergy, by the king's Highness's noble progenitor, King Henry the Second, for the commonwealth, rest, and tranquillity of this realm, of his froward mind fled the realm into France, and to the bishop of Rome, maintainer of those enormities, to procure the abrogation of the said laws (whereby arose much trouble in this said realm); and that his death, which they untruly called martyrdom, happened upon a rescue by him made; and that (as it is written) he gave opprobrious words to the gentlemen which then counselled him to leave his stubbornness, and to avoid the commotion of the people, risen up for that rescue, and he not only called the one of them 'bawd,' but also took Tracy by the bosom, and violently shook him, and plucked him in such manner that he had almost overthrown him to the pavement of the church, so that upon this fray, one of their company, perceiving the same, struck him, and so in the throng Becket was slain: and further, that his canonization was made only by the bishop of Rome, because he had been both a champion to maintain his usurped authority, and a bearer of the iniquity of the clergy:

"For these, and for other great and urgent causes long to recite, the king's Majesty, by the advice of his council, hath thought expedient to declare to his loving subjects, that notwithstanding the said canonization, there appeareth nothing in his life and exterior conversation whereby he should be called a saint, but rather esteemed to have been a rebel and traitor to his prince.

"Therefore his Grace straitly chargeth and commandeth, that from henceforth the said Thomas Becket shall not be esteemed, named, reputed, and called a saint, but Bishop Becket; and that his images and pictures through the whole realm shall be plucked down, and avoided out of all churches, chapels, and other places; and that from henceforth the days used to be festival in his name, shall not be observed, nor the service, office, antiphons, collects, and prayers in his name read, but rased and put out of all the books; and that all their festival-days, already abrogated, shall be in no wise solemnized, but his Grace's ordinances and injunctions thereupon observed; to the intent his Grace's loving subjects shall be no longer blindly led and abused to commit idolatry, as they have done in times past: upon pain of his Majesty's indignation, and imprisonment at his Grace's pleasure.

"Finally, his Grace straitly chargeth and commandeth, that his subjects do keep and observe all and singular his injunctions made by his Majesty, upon the pain therein contained."

Here followeth how religion began to go backward.

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