195. THOMAS CROMWELL
The history concerning the life, acts, and death of the famous and worthy councillor, Lord Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex.HOMAS Cromwell although born of a simple parentage, and house obscure, through the singular excellency of wisdom, and dexterity of wit wrought in him by God, coupled with like industry of mind, and deserts of life, rose to high preferment and authority; insomuch that by steps and stairs of office and honour, he ascended at length to that, that not only he was made earl of Essex, but also most secret and dear councillor to King Henry, and vicegerent unto his person; which office hath not commonly been supplied, at least not so fruitfully discharged within this realm.
First, as touching his birth, he was born at Putney or thereabouts, being a smith's son, whose mother married afterwards to a shearman. In the simple estate and rude beginnings of this man, as of divers others before him, we may see and learn, that the excellency of noble virtues and heroical prowesses which advance to fame and honour, stand not only upon birth and blood, as privileges only entailed and appropriate to noble houses; but are disposed indifferently, and proceed of the gift of God, who raiseth up the poor abject many times out of the dunghill, and matcheth him in throne with peers and princes.
As touching the order and manner of his coming up, it would be superfluous to discourse what may be said at large; only, by way of story, it may suffice to give a touch of certain particulars, and so to proceed. Although the humble condition and poverty of this man was at the beginning (as it is to many others) a great let and hinderance for virtue to show herself; yet, such was the activity and forward ripeness of nature in him, so pregnant in wit, and so ready he was, in judgment discreet, in tongue eloquent, in service faithful, in stomach courageous, in his pen active, that being conversant in the sight of men, he could not be long unespied, nor yet unprovided of favour and help of friends to set him forward in place and office; neither was any place or office put unto him, whereunto he was not apt and fit. Nothing was so hard which with wit and industry he could not compass: neither was his capacity so good, but his memory was as great in retaining whatsoever he had attained. This well appeared in canning the text of the whole New Testament of Erasmus' translation without book, in his journey going and coming from Rome, whereof ye shall hear anon.
Thus, in his growing years, as he shot up in age and ripeness, a great delight came in his mind to stray into foreign countries, to see the world abroad, and to learn experience; whereby he learned such tongues and languages as might better serve for his use hereafter.
And thus, passing over his youth, being at Antwerp he was there retained of the English merchants to be their clerk or secretary, or in some such-like condition placed, pertaining to their affairs.
It happened, the same time, that the town of Boston thought good to send up to Rome, for renewing of their two pardons, one called the greater pardon, the other the lesser pardon. Which thing although it should stand them in great expenses of money, (for the pope's merchandise is always dear ware,) yet, notwithstanding, such sweetness they had felt thereof, and such gain to come to their town by that Romish merchandise, (as all superstition is commonly gainful,) that they, like good catholic merchants, and the pope's good customers, thought to spare for no cost, to have their leases again of their pardons renewed, whatsoever they paid for the fine. And yet was all this good religion then, such was the lamentable blindness of that time.
This then being so determined and decreed among my countrymen of Boston, to have their pardons' needs repaired and renewed from Rome, one Geffery Chambers, and another companion, were sent for the messengers, with writings and money no small quantity, well furnished, and with all other things appointed, necessary for so chargeable and costly exploit. Chambers, coming in his journey to Antwerp, and misdoubting himself to be too weak for the compassing of such a weighty piece of work, conferred and persuaded with Thomas Cromwell to associate him in that legacy, and to assist him in the contriving thereof. Cromwell, although perceiving the enterprise to be of no small difficulty, to traverse the pope's court, for the unreasonable expenses amongst those greedy cormorants, yet, having some skill of the Italian tongue, and as yet not grounded in judgment of religion in those his youthful day was at length obtained and content to give the adventure, and so took his journey towards Rome. Cromwell, loth to spend much time, and more loth to spend his money; and again, perceiving that the pope's greedy humour must needs be served with some present or other, (for without rewards there is no doing at Rome,) began to cast with himself, what thing best to devise, wherein he might best serve the pope's devotion.
At length, having knowledge how that the pope's holy tooth greatly delighted in newfangled strange delicates, and dainty dishes, it came into his mind to prepare certain fine dishes of jelly, after the best fashion, made after our country manner here in England; which, to them of Rome, was not known nor seen before.
This done, Cromwell, observing his time accordingly, as the pope was newly come from hunting into his pavilion, he, with his companions, approached with his English presents, brought in with "a three man's song" (as we call it) in the English tongue, and all after the English fashion. The pope, suddenly marvelling at the strangeness of the song, and understanding that they were Englishmen, and that they came not empty-handed, willed them to be called in. Cromwell there, showing his obedience, and offering his jolly junkets, "such as kings and princes only," said he, "in the realm of England use to feed upon," desired the same to be accepted in benevolent part, which he and his companions, as poor suitors unto his Holiness, had there brought and presented, as novelties meet for his recreation, &c.
Pope Julius, seeing the strangeness of the dishes, commanded by and by his cardinal to take the assay; who, in tasting thereof, liked it so well, and so likewise the pope after him, that, knowing of them what their suits were, and requiring them to make known the making of that meat, he, incontinent, without any more ado, stamped both their pardons, as well the greater as the lesser.
And thus were the jolly pardons of the town of Boston obtained, as you have heard, for the maintenance of their decayed port. The copy of these pardons, (which I have in my hands,) briefly comprehended, cometh to this effect:
"That all the brethren and sisters of the Guild of our Lady in St. Botolph's church at Boston, should have free licence to choose for their confessor or ghostly father whom they would, either secular priest or religious person, to assoil them plenarily from all. their sins, except only in cases reserved to the pope.
"Also, should have licence to carry about with them an altar-stone, whereby they might have a priest to say them mass, or other divine service,where they would, without prejudice of any other church or chapel, though it were also before day, yea, and at three o'clock after midnight in the summer time.
"Furthermore, that all such brethren and sisters of the said guild, which should resort to the chapel of our Lady in St. Botolph's church, at the feast of Easter, Whitsuntide, Corpus Christi, the Nativity, or the Assumption of our Lady, or in the octaves of them, the feast of St. Michael, and the first Sunday in Lent, should have pardon no less than if they themselves personally had visited the stations of Rome.
"Provided that every such person, man or woman, entering into the same guild, at his first entrance should give to the finding of seven priests, twelve choristers, and thirteen beadsmen, and to the lights of the same brotherhood and a grammar school, six shillings and eight pence; and for every year after, twelve pence.
"And these premises, being before granted by Pope Innocent and Pope Julius the Second, this Pope Clement also confirmed; granting moreover, that whatsoever brother or sister of the same guild, through poverty, sickness, or any other let, could not resort personally to the said chapel, notwithstanding, he should be dispensed withal, as well for that, as for all other vows, irregularities, censures canonical whatsoever; only the vow of going the stations of Rome, and going to St. James of Compostella, excepted, &c.
"He also granted unto them power to receive full remission, from the penalty and crime, once in their life, or in the hour of death.
"Item, that having their altar-stone, they might have mass said in any place, though it were unhallowed. Also in the time of interdict, to have mass or any sacrament ministered; and also, being departed, that they might be buried in Christian burial, notwithstanding the interdict.
"Extending, moreover, his grant, that all such brethren and sisters, in resorting to the aforesaid chapel of our Lady upon the Nativity, or upon the Assumption of our Lady, giving supportation to the aforesaid chapel, at every such festival day should have full remission of all their sins. Or if they, for any impediment, could not be present at the chapel aforesaid, yet, if they came unto their own parish church, and there said one Pater-noster, and Ave Maria, they should enjoy the same remission above specified; or whosoever came every Friday to the same chapel, should have as much remission, as if he went to the chapel of Our Lady called Scala C?li.
"Furthermore, that whatsoever Christian people, of what estate or condition soever, either spiritual or temporal, would aid and support the chamberlains or substitutes of the aforesaid guild, should have five hundred years of pardon.
"Item, To all brothers and sisters of the same guild was granted free liberty to eat in time of Lent, or other fasting days, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, and also flesh, by the counsel of their ghostly father and physician, without any scruple of conscience.
"Item, That all partakers of the same guild, and being supporters thereof, which, once a quarter, or every Friday or Saturday, either in the said chapel in St. Botolph's church, or any other chapel, of their devotion, shall say a Pater-noster, Ave Maria, and Creed, or shall say, or cause to be said, masses for souls departed in pains of purgatory, shall not only have the full remission due to them which visit the chapel of Scala C?li, or of St. John Lateran, but also, the souls in purgatory shall enjoy full remission, and be released of all their pains.
"Item, That all the souls departed of the brothers and sisters of the said guild, also the souls of their fathers and mothers, shall be partakers of all the prayers, suffrages, almoses, fastings, masses, and matins, pilgrimages, and all other good deeds of all the holy church militant for ever," &c.
These indulgencies, pardons, grants, and relaxations, were given and granted by Pope Nicholas the Fifth, Pope Pius the Second, Pope Sixtus the Fourth, and Pope Julius the Second, of which Pope Julius it seemeth that Cromwell obtained this pardon aforesaid about the year of our Lord 1510: which pardon again afterwards, through the request of King Henry, A.D. 1526, was confirmed by Pope Clement the Seventh. And thus much concerning the pardons of Boston, renewed by means of Thomas Cromwell, of Pope Julius the Second.
All this while it appeareth that Cromwell had yet no sound taste nor judgment of religion, but was wild and youthful, without sense or regard of God and his word, as he himself was wont ofttimes to declare unto Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury; showing what a ruffian he was in his young days, and how he was in the wars of the duke of Bourbon at the siege of Rome; also what a great doer he was with Geffery Chambers in publishing and setting forth the pardons of Boston every where in churches as he went; and so continued, till, at length, by learning without book the text of the New Testament of Erasmus's translation, in his going and coming from Rome, (as is aforesaid,) he began to be touched, and called to better understanding.
In this mean time Thomas Wolsey, cardinal of York, began to bear a great port in England, and almost to rule all under the king, or rather with the king; so that the freshest wits, and of best towardness, most commonly sought unto him; among whom was also Thomas Cromwell to his service advanced, where he continued a certain space of years, growing up in office and authority, till at length he was preferred to be solicitor to the cardinal.
There were also, about the same time, or not much different, in the household of the said cardinal, Thomas More, afterward knight and chancellor of England, and Stephen Gardiner, afterwards bishop of Winchester and of the king's council. All these three were brought up in one household, and all of one standing almost together: whose ages as they were not greatly discrepant, nor their wits much unequal; so neither were their fortune and advancements greatly diverse, albeit their dispositions and studies were most contrary. And though, peradventure, in More and in Gardiner, there was more art of the letters, and skill of learning, yet, notwithstanding, there was in this man a more heavenly light of mind, and more prompt and perfect judgment, eloquence equal, and, as may be supposed in this man, more pregnant, and, finally, in him was wrought a more heroical and princely disposition, born to greater affairs in the commonwealth, and to the singular help of many.
It happened that in this mean season, as Cromwell was placed in this office to be solicitor to the cardinal, the said cardinal had then in hand the building of certain of the colleges, namely, his college in Oxford, called then Frideswide's, now Christ's Church. By reason whereof, certain small monasteries and priors, in divers places of the realm, were, by the said cardinal, suppressed, and the lands seised to the cardinal's hands; the doing whereof was committed to the charge of Thomas Cromwell: in the expedition whereof he showed himself very forward and industrious, in such sort as in the handling thereof he procured to himself much grudge with divers of the superstitious sort, and with some also of noble calling about the king. And thus was Cromwell first set to work by the cardinal, to suppress religious houses: which was about the year of our Lord 1525.
As this passed on, it was not long but the cardinal, who had gotten up so high, began to come down as fast, first from the chancellorship (in which room was placed Sir Thomas More, as is before said); then he fell into a præmunire; so that his household being dissolved, Thomas Cromwell, amongst others, laboured also to be retained into the king's service.
There was at the same time one Sir Christopher Hales, knight, master of the rolls, who, notwithstanding, was then a mighty papist; yet bare he such favour and good liking to Cromwell, that he commended him to the king, as a man most fit for his purpose, having then to do against the pope. But here before is to be understood, that Cromwell had greatly been complained of and defamed, by certain of authority about the king, for his rude manner and homely dealing, in defacing the monks' houses, and in handling of their altars, &c. Wherefore the king, hearing of the name of Cromwell, began to detest the mention of him; neither lacked there some standers-by, who, with reviling words, ceased not to increase and inflame the king's hatred against him: what their names were it shall not need here to recite. Among others, there present at the same hearing, was the Lord Russell, earl of Bedford; whose life Cromwell before had preserved at Bologna, through politic conveyance, at what time the said earl, coming secretly in the king's affairs, was there espied, and therefore being in great danger to be taken, through the means and policy of Cromwell escaped.
This Lord Russell therefore, not forgetting the old benefits past, and with like gratuity willing again to requite what he had received, in a vehement boldness stood forth, to take upon him the defence of Thomas Cromwell, uttering before the king many commendable words in the behalf of him, and declaring withal how, by his singular device and policy, he had done for him at Bologna, being there in the king's affairs in extreme peril. And forasmuch as now his Majesty had to do with the pope, his great enemy, there was (he thought) in all England none so apt for the king's purpose, who could say or do more in that matter, than could Thomas Cromwell: and partly gave the king to understand wherein. The king hearing this, and specially marking the latter end of his talk, was contented and willing to talk with him, to hear and know what he could say.
This was not so privily done, but Cromwell had knowledge, incontinent, that the king would talk with him, and whereupon; and therefore, providing beforehand for the matter, he had in a readiness the copy of the bishops' oath, which they use commonly to make to the pope at their consecration: and so being called for, he was brought to the king in his garden at Westminster; which was about the year of our Lord 1530.
Cromwell, after most loyal obeisance, doing his duty to the king, according as be was demanded, made his declaration in all points; this especially making manifest unto his Highness: how his princely authority was abused within his own realm by the pope and his clergy, who, being sworn unto him, were afterwards dispensed from the same, and sworn anew unto the pope; so that he was but as half a king, and they but half his subjects in his own land: which (said he) was derogatory to his crown, and utterly prejudicial to the common laws of his realm. Declaring, thereupon, how his Majesty might accumulate to himself great riches, as much as all the clergy in his realm were worth, if it so pleased him to take the occasion now offered. The king, giving good ear to this, and liking right well his advice, required if he could avouch that which he spake. All this he could (he said) avouch to be certain so well, as that he had the copy of their own oath to the pope there present to show; and that no less, also, he could manifestly prove, if his Highness would give him leave: and therewith showed the bishops' oath unto the king.
The king, following the vein of his counsel, took his ring off his finger, and first, admitting him into his service, sent him therewith to the convocation-house, among the bishops. Cromwell, coming with the king's signet boldly into the clergy-house, and there placing himself among the bishops, (William Warham being then archbishop,) began to make his oration, declaring unto them the authority of a king, and the office of subjects, and especially the obedience of bishops and churchmen under public laws, necessarily provided for the profit and quiet of the commonwealth. Which laws, notwithstanding, they had all transgressed, and highly offended in derogation of the king's royal estate, falling in the law of præmunire, in that not only they had consented to the power legative of the cardinal; but also, in that they had all sworn to the pope, contrary to the fealty of their sovereign lord the king; and therefore had forfeited to the king all their goods, chattels, lands, possessions, and whatsoever livings they had. The bishops, hearing this, were not a little amazed, and first began to excuse and deny the fact. But after that Cromwell had showed them the very copy of their oath made to the pope at their consecration, and the matter was so plain that they could not deny it, they began to shrink and to fall to entreaty, desiring respite to pause upon the matter. Notwithstanding, the end thereof so fell out, that to be quit of that præmunire by act of parliament, it cost them to the king, for both the provinces, Canterbury and York, no less than one hundred and eighteen thousand eight hundred and forty pounds; which was about the year of our Lord 1530, whereof before you may read more at large.
After this, A.D. 1531, Sir Thomas Cromwell, growing in great favour with the king, was made knight, and master of the king's jewel-house, and shortly after was admitted also into the king's council, which was about the coming in of Queen Anne Bullen. Furthermore, within three years after the same, A.D. 1534, he was made master of the rolls, Dr. Taylor being discharged.
Thus Cromwell, springing up in favour and honour, after this, in the year 1537, a little before the birth of King Edward, was made knight of the garter, and not long after was advanced to the earldom of Essex, and made great chamberlain of England: over and besides all which honours, he was constituted also vicegerent to the king, representing his person; which office, although it standeth well by the law, yet seldom hath there been seen any besides this Cromwell alone, either to have sustained it, or else to have so furnished the same with counsel and wisdom, as Cromwell did. And thus much hitherto, concerning the steps and degrees of the Lord Cromwell, rising up to dignity and high estate.
Now somewhat would be said, likewise, of the noble acts, the memorable examples, and the worthy virtues, not drowned by ease of honour in him, but increased rather, and quickened by advancement of authority and place, to work more abundantly in the commonwealth: among the which his worthy acts and other manifold virtues, in this one chiefly, above all others, riseth his commendation, for his singular zeal and laborious travail bestowed in restoring the true church of Christ, and subverting the synagogue of antichrist: the abbeys, I mean, and religious houses of friars and monks. For so it pleased Almighty God, by means of the said Lord Cromwell, to induce the king to suppress first the chantries, then the friars' houses and small monasteries, till at length, all the abbeys in England, both great and less, were utterly overthrown and plucked up by the roots. This act and enterprise of his, as it may give a precedent of singular zeal to all realms christened, which no prince yet to this day scarce dare follow; so, to this realm of England, it wrought such benefit and commodity, as the fruit thereof yet remaineth, and will remain still in the realm of England, though we seem little to feel it. Rudely and simply I speak what I suppose, without prejudice of others who can infer any better reason. In the mean time my reason is this, that if God had not raised up this Cromwell as he did, to be the instrument of rooting out these abbeys and cells of strange religion, what other men see I know not for my part, I never yet saw in this realm any such Cromwell since Cromwell's time, whose heart and courage might not sooner have been subverted with the money and bribes of abbots, than he to have subverted any abbey in all England.
Of how great laud and praise this man was worthy, and what courage and stoutness was in him, it may hereby evidently appear unto all men, that he alone, through the singular dexterity of his wit and counsel, brought to pass that which, even unto this day, no prince or king, throughout all Europe, dare or can bring to pass. For whereas Britannia alone, of all other nations, is and hath been, of her own proper nature, most superstitious; this Cromwell, being born of a common or base stock, through a divine method or policy of wit and reason received, suffered, deluded, brake off, and repressed, all the policies, trains, malice, and hatred, of friars, monks, religious men, and priests, of which sort there was a great rabble in England. Their houses he subverted throughout all the realm. Afterwards he brought the bishops and archbishops, and the bishop of Winchester himself, although he was the king's chief counsellor, to an order; frustrating and preventing all his enterprises and complaints by a marvellous providence, but, especially, in those things which did tend to the ruin and decay of good men, and such as favoured the gospel; unto whom Cromwell was always as a shield, against the pestiferous enterprises of Winchester.
Briefly, there was continual emulation and mortal dissension between them two, such as Flaccius writeth happened between the wolves and the lambs: for both of them being greatly in the king's favour, the one being much more feared, the other was much better beloved. Either of them excelling in dexterity of wit, howbeit the virtues in the one far exceeded the other; for whereas the bishop of Winchester seemed such a man, to be born for no other purpose but only for the destruction of the good, this man, contrariwise, the Divine Providence had appointed as a remedy to help and preserve many, and to withstand the fury of the bishops; even like as we do see the same ground which bringeth forth most pestiferous poison, the same again also doth bring forth most wholesome and healthful remedies.
It were too long and tedious a declaration here to declare, how many good men, through this man's help and defence, have been relieved and delivered out of danger; of whom a great number after his fall, being deprived of their patron, (as it were,) did shortly after perish: there are many of them, however, yet alive at this present day, who are witnesses of these things which we report, and greater things also than these. In this manner the Omnipotent God hath always accustomed, in all commonwealths, to moderate adversity with prosperity, and things hurtful with others more wholesome and healthful; whereby it happeneth, that as oftentimes good and fortunate planets are joined with the hurtful and noisome, they do either utterly dissipate their mad furies, or at least somewhat keep them back; whereby, if they be not utterly prohibited, yet they do less hurt than otherwise they would: which thing, if it were to be conferred with the histories of our old fathers, Jehu, the sharp punisher of superstitious idolatry in the sacred commonwealth, was not much unlike this man. Likewise, in profane commonwealths, Camillus, and Cicero, who, through his singular prudence, joined with eloquence, withstood and put off the wicked enterprises of Catiline. Albeit that the terror conceived upon the conspiracy of Catiline, was not so noisome unto the commonwealth of Rome, as the bloody and insatiable cruelty and slaughter of these our bishops, conspiracies which do every where vex and trouble the Christian commonwealth: for, albeit that Catiline, through his wicked enterprise, went about the death of all good men, and the destruction of the commonwealth, yet did he rather put it in fear, than wound the commonwealth. But all the life and doings of these men are nothing else but a conspiracy, according to the prophecy of Isaiah; so that they do seem twice worse than any Catiline: for whatsoever he went about, by any privy pretence of his mind, that these men do perform openly: neither was it to be doubted but that he, albeit he were ever so cruel or fierce of nature, yet if he had had the upper hand, he would at once have made an end of murdering and killing. But these men, although they daily, in every place, kill Christ in his holy members, yet they never appoint or ordain any end or measure of their slaughter: which kind of men, (albeit there be nothing in a manner by nature more cruel,) besides their natural cruelty, they are endued with craft and subtlety, which is far worse, not being so hurtful by the one, as detestable for the other: for an open enemy, be he ever so mighty or fierce, yet if he cannot be vanquished, he may be taken heed of. And it happeneth oftentimes that violence, which is foreseen, may easily, or with like violence, be repulsed; or at least the wound that is received by another man's violence, is less grievous than that which cometh by fraud or deceit. But these men do not kill with armour and weapon, but, going a privier way to work, yet do the same: being so much the more to be blamed, forasmuch as they themselves, being the authors of the murder, do so put off the matter from themselves to others, as though they were free from all suspicion of cruelty. But here a man may the more perceive the inveterate subtleties of the old serpent, besides that, the more to provoke cruelty, there are added most plausible and honest titles, whereby the better all mercy and pity might be excluded; and also that they, even in their greatest tyranny, when they have committed or done any thing most cruel or horrible, yet they might deserve praise of the common people, as for a most holy work, done ex officio, as they call it. So, under the name of Christ, they daily persecute Christ, and under the pretence and cloak of peace, they kill more than any murderers; and, while they do take upon them the name and title of the church, they do violently invade the church of Christ.
In foreign wars it happeneth oftentimes that truces are taken; and where towns are yielded, the mercy of the conqueror spareth many; kindred and age hath his respect, and many are set at liberty either by entreaties or ransom. But these do so much exceed all measure of nature, humanity, and reason; they are so addicted to their pleasures, dignity, and ease, that they have no consideration or regard of any life, estate, or condition. The cruel times of Queen Mary, and of the bishops, did of late sufficiently declare the same, when nature would in a manner set forth unto all men in this realm, as it were by a perfect example, what extreme cruelty, joined with superstition, may do in any realm; so that if all empires should be governed or ruled after that example, it were better that there were no society of commonwealths; yea, it were better for men to wander in the wilderness, and to lead a rude and savage life amongst the wild beasts. For upon what wild beast, upon what libard, wolf, or panther, were it not better for a man to fall, than upon such bishops? if at least the bishops of other nations were like unto our Bonner. They boast themselves, upon the name of Christ, to be Christians; neither do I deny them that title. But why, in their manners and living, doth there no spark of his nature appear, whose denomination they bear? In all their titles and profession, they pretend nothing else but peace: and whereupon happen so many complaints, so many suspicions, so great hatred and prodition? so many articles, censures, condemnation, and peremptory sentences, in so quiet and peaceable a people?
They object also often, unto us the catholic church, that they are the true spouse, and the only dove of Christ. I hear them well, but that meek dove of Christ is without any gall, bile, or claws; that is to say, lacketh all kind of wrath, suspicion, prodition, and tyranny. Where, then, is the simplicity of that dove, whereupon hath happened so great bloodshed and slaughter in the meek spouse of the Lord? Who ever heard tell, that a dove did kill or devour either kites or hawks? But, if they think they do Christ so great and acceptable service through this their raging slaughter, surely they must show us another manner of Christ, than him whom the evangelists describe unto us, whom the apostles show forth in their writings.
But they cry out and say, as "They are heretics!" "they are worthy to die!" Let them bring forth one article out of the Apostles' Creed which these heretics do deny. They do, indeed, deny the blessed body of Christ to be in the sacrament naturally; but again, they confess him to be in heaven, and there do reverence and worship him. Why have the apostles, then, left out that article of their creed, if it be so necessary as they teach it to be? Albeit they do not, by and by, take away Christ out of the sacrament, who confess the bread to be in the sacrament. And again, it is no contumely unto Christ, if a man do rather judge him to be worshipped in the heaven, than in the sacrament: for he who denieth the emperor to be at Brussels, doth not derogate any thing from the emperor's authority, as I think, but only contendeth upon the place. What grievous cause or quarrel is this, then, that should move and stir up the peaceable mind of this simple dove, to such rage and fury, that, notwithstanding the great slaughter of Christians which hath been already made, they can yet find no beginning to show favour, or make any end of their murder!
But, go to, let us feign with ourselves (which thing, notwithstanding, I would that all men should think it spoken by me, not to the reproof or contumely of any man: for here I declare no man's name, neither show any man's person; but only set it forth for an example): let us, as I say, freely think and feign, that Satan dwelleth upon earth amongst men, and leadeth a manly life. Thou sayest, "It cannot be by nature;" but yet it may so be supposed. Now I will ask of some of these papists, (but of such a one as is of an equal judgment,) or of the bishop of Rome himself, that he would clearly and distinctly answer me, by what means he doth think that he would rule and order his life: whether he would not, first, direct all his doings, according to his insatiable ambition, violently to get unto himself the dominion of the whole world; placing himself in the highest degree and dignity; distributing all other promotions according to his own will; he himself being subject unto no power, but exalting himself, if he might, even as high as God. Would he not convert all men's goods and substance, by what means soever he may lay hold of it, upon most extreme riot and filthy pleasure? Moreover, would he not foresee to lead a life wholly in idleness, without all sorrow, care, or trouble?
Furthermore, I do not think him so holy, that in this delicate life he would also live chaste; neither yet that he will be troubled with the care or charge of a wife, but rather choose a middle or mean way, which, through wanton lust, hath more delectation, less charge, but no true holiness in it at all. Then, he, who from the beginning hath been a murderer and liar, and the father thereof, retaineth so the same nature still, that he rejoiceth in nothing more than in the continual slaughter and destruction of men: neither is it to be doubted but that, when he cannot be suffered openly to rage, he will, by all crafty means and ways, at last satisfy his cruel mind. And what way would Satan himself, if be were present, gentle reader! (if I may by your licence speak the truth,) find more crafty or subtle than the bishop of Rome hath now found; who, under the person and vicarage of the most meek and gentle Christ, under the beautiful shadow of the church and peace, doth practise his extreme cruelty and madness, mixing and confounding all things with blood? And, albeit that daily, with greater outrage, he exerciseth the same throughout all Christendom, yet the Christian princes and noble counsellors are so blind and void of judgment, that they do not see what difference is between Christ and antichrist, light and darkness, truth and falsehood. They do little regard it, and nothing at all seek to help it: so that either we may seem to be fallen on Isaiah's times, or those days to have come upon us. The just man, saith he, perisheth, and there is no man that taketh any care for him. This great rage and tempest of cruelty, required a public reformation of all good princes. Now, forasmuch as their power and authority do sleep in such necessary and weighty matters, by whom it were convenient the Christian commonwealth should be restored, I may not prognosticate that which my mind doth foreshow unto me. This only I do wish, that God do not bring that to pass by the Turk, which Christian princes ought to have done.
But now, to return to our Christian Camillus, being such a one as if the courts of princes had but a few such counsellors, the Christian commonwealths would, at this day, be in a far better estate. This Cromwell (as I have said) was but of a base stock, but of such virtue as, not without sorrow, we may wish for, even in the most noble families now-a-days. He was first brought up in the cardinal's court, where he did bear several offices, wherein he showed such tokens and likelihood of excellent wit and fidelity, that, in short space, he seemed more meet for the king than for the cardinal.
But here I must of necessity answer the complaint of certain of our countrymen: for so I hear of many, that the subversion of these monasteries is to be reprehended, as evil and wicked. The buildings, say they, might have been converted into schools and houses of learning: the goods and possessions might have been bestowed to much better and more godly use of the poor, and maintaining of hospitality. Neither do I deny but that these things are well and godly spoken of them, and could willingly embrace their opinion with my whole heart, if I did not consider herein a more secret and deeper meaning of God's holy providence, than at the first blush, peradventure, to all men doth appear.
Illustration -- A Cathedral
And first, to omit the wicked and execrable life of these religious orders, full of all fedity, and found out by the king's visitors, and in their registers also recorded, so horrible to be heard, so incredible to be believed, so stinking before the face of God and man, that no marvel it is, if God's vengeance from heaven, provoked, would not suffer any stone or monument of these abominable houses to be unplucked up. But, as I said, letting these things pass under chaste silence, which for very shame will abhor any story to disclose, let us now come to the first institution of these orders and houses of monkery, and consider how, and to what end, they were first instituted and erected here among the Saxons at the first foundation of them, about the year 666.
In the former part of this history, declaration was made, first by whom and at what time these monkish houses here in England among the Saxons (flowing no doubt out of the order of St. Benedict, and brought in by Augustine) began first to be founded: as by Augustine the monk, Furseus, Maidulph, Aldune, Ceadda, King Ulfer, Oswy, Elfrida, King Oswy's daughter, Kineburga, Hilda, Botolph, Edeldrida, King Oswald, Edgar, Erkenwald, bishop of London, Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, Oskitell, archbishop of York, Oswald, bishop of Worcester, Leswine, bishop of Dorchester, Dunstan, and divers others.
The end and final cause why they were builded, appeareth in stories to be, for the remission of sins and redemption of sinners, for the relief of souls, for the love of heaven, for the salvation and repose of the spirits of our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and all our benefactors, and in honour of the glorious Virgin; as may appear in ancient histories, in old charters and donations unto religious houses, and in the chronicle of Ingulphus; as also all other stories be full of the same.
So King Athelstan, for killing his brother Edwin, builded two monasteries, Middleton and Michaelney, for his soul: which doctrine and institution, forasmuch as it tendeth and soundeth directly against the foundation of Christian religion, against the testament of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the freedom of our redemption and free justification by faith, it is then to be condemned as execrable or horrible, as evil worse than the life of the persons; and not only worthy to be suppressed to the foundation, but to be marvelled at rather, that God would suffer it to stand so long. Albeit God's mighty vengeance and scourge hath not ceased from time to time to work against such impious foundations, from the time of their first setting up. For besides the invasions of the Danes, (which may seem to be stirred up of God especially for the subversion of abbeys,) Iet old histories be searched, what monastery almost in all this realm was either left by the Danes, or re-edified again after the Danes, but by some notorious casualty of fire, sent by God's hand, it hath been burned up?
First, the monastery of Canterbury, called the house of St. Gregory, was burned A.D. 1145, and afterwards again burned A.D. 1174..
The abbey of Crowland was also twice burnt. The abbey of Peterborough was twice set on fire, A.D. 1070.
The abbey of St. Mary's in York burned, with the hospital also.
The abbey of Norwich burned.
The abbey of St. Edmund's Bury burned and destroyed.
The abbey of Worcester.
The abbey of Gloucester was also burned. The abbey of Chichester burned.
The abbey of Glastonbury burned.
The abbey of St. Mary in Southwark burned.
The church of the abbey of Beverley burned.
The steeple of the abbey of Evesham burned.
These, with many other monasteries more, God brought down to the ground, so that few or none of all the monistical foundations in all England, either before the conquest, escaped the hands of the Danes and Scots, or else after the conquest, escaped destruction of fire, and that not without just cause deserved; for, as the trade of their lives was too, too wretched and bestial, so the profession of their doctrine was intolerable, fraught with all superstition, full of much idolatry, and utterly contrary to the grace of the gospel and doctrine of Christ.
Furthermore, the more these abbeys multiplied, and the longer they continued, in time the more corruption still they drew unto them. And albeit we read the names of monks to have continued from the old ancient time, yet, notwithstanding, the monks of those days were not like the monks of our time, nor their houses then like to our abbeys now. So we read of the monks of Bangor before the coming of Augustine: but those monks got their living with toil and labour of their hands, and had no other lands or lordships to live upon. Again, neither were they as ministers then, but as laymen, according as Jerome describeth the monks of his time, saying, "A monk's office is not to preach, but to mourn;" and again he saith, "The state of a monk is one thing, and the state of a priest is another;" "Priests feed the flock of Christ;" "I am fed," &c.
Also in the story of Ingulph, abbot of Crowland, thus I find: "Being installed in the abbey of Crowland, A.D. 1076, I found there to the number of sixty-two monks: of which monks, four of them were lay-brethren, besides the monks of other monasteries who were also professed to our chapter," &c.
The like matter also appeareth in the fourth canon of the council of Chalcedon, where it is provided, That monks may not mix themselves up with ecclesiastical affairs; and Leo, epist. 62, forbids monks and laymen, especially if they glory in the name of science, to be admitted to the office of teaching and preaching. Whereof read more before.
Thus it appeareth, about or before the time of Jerome, that monks in the first persecutions of the primitive church were laymen, and companies of Christians associating themselves together, either for fear of persecution, or for eschewing the company of heathen Gentiles. Afterwards, in continuance of time, when the Gentiles began to be called to Christianity, the monks, yet keeping their name, and growing in superstition, would not join with other Christians, but kept still their brotherhoods, dividing themselves from other Christians, and professing a kind of life strange and diverse from the common trade. Upon this diversity of life and profession, followed also like diversity of garments and attire differing from their other brethren. After this, moreover, came in the rule of St. Benedict, enjoining to them a prescribed form of going, of wearing, of watching, sleeping, rising, praying; of silence, sole life, and diet, and all things almost differing from the vulgar sort of common Christians.
Whereby men, seeing their austerity, began to have them in great admiration. And thus, growing up in opinion of holiness, of laymen and labourers they came at length to be clergymen, and greatest doers of all others in Christ's religion; insomuch that at last there was none reputed almost for a religious man or perfect Christian, unless he were a monk: neither almost was any advanced to any dignity of the church, but either he was a monk, or afterwards he put on a monk's weed. According as in the stories of this realm is to be seen, how in the time of Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, of Oswald, bishop of Worcester, and of Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, Pope John the Thirteenth, writing to King Edgar, willed him, in his letters, to see in his cathedral churches none to be promoted to be bishops, but such as were of the monastical religion; and willed him, moreover, to exclude the secular prebendaries at Winchester, and to place in monks; and that none of the secular clerks there should be chosen bishop, but either be taken out of the same covent of that church, or of some other abbey.
So was also King Henry the Second commanded to do in the house of Waltham, where the secular canons were removed out, and regular canons intruded. The same did Bishop Oswald with the church of Worcester; likewise in their sees did Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, Oskitell, archbishop of York, Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, (who in stories is reported to be multorum fundator monasteriorum,) Leofwine also, bishop of Dorchester; with other bishops more, about the time and reign of King Edgar. Odo, archbishop of Canterbury before Dunstan, after his election, A.D. 941, refused to take that dignity upon him, before he had received the habit of a monk in the abbey of Fleury in France, "because," as the story telleth, (if it be true,) "all the archbishops of Canterbury before him had been monks," &c. In like manner Baldwin also, A.D. 1184, after he was elected archbishop of Canterbury, took upon him the Cistercian habit in Ford Abbey: and so Reginald, his next successor after him, also took the habit of a monkish order, &c.
As concerning therefore the origin of monks, ye have heard how first they began of laymen only, leading a straiter life from the society of other persons; who, then following the rule of St. Benedict, were called Regulars, and Votaries; and yet all this while had nothing to do with any ecclesiastical ministry, till the time of Pope Boniface the Fourth, A.D. 607; who then made a decree, that monks might use the office of preaching, of christening, of hearing confessions, and assoiling men of their sins; differing from priests only in this, that they were called Regulares, and priests were called Seculares; the monks were votaries: the priests had free liberty to have wives, till the time of Lanfranc and Anselm, as is before said. Albeit, Athanasius, in his epistle Ad Dracontium, witnesseth .also, that he knew monks in the old time, and bishops, who were married and had children. Furthermore, as ignorance and superstition with time increased, so the number and swarm of monks still more and more multiplied, in such sort as not only they thrust out secular priests from their houses, but also out of them were made popes, cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, to govern churches; of which number began Augustine, the first archbishop of the see of Canterbury, and the most part of all other archbishops after him, until the time of the conquest, and after.
All this while the friars were not yet come: neither the discipline of St. Dominic, nor the testament of St. Francis, nor the order of the Augustine brothers, nor of the Carmelites, was yet heard of; which, last of all, came in with their pageants, and played their part likewise, A.D. 1240, being much more full of hypocrisy, blindness, idolatry, and superstition, than were the monks. So that, what with monks on the one side, and with the friars on the other side, while all things were ruled by the rules of St. Benedict, by the canons of the pope, by the doctrine of St. Dominic, and by the testament of St. Francis, Christ's testament was trodden under foot, the rule of God's word neglected, true Christian religion defaced, faith forgotten, the right way of salvation abolished, sound doctrine oppressed, Christ's servants persecuted, and the people's souls uncomforted; yea, and the true church of Christ almost clean extirpated, had not Almighty God (who cannot forget his promise) provided remedy in time, in raising up this Cromwell his servant, and other like champions, to cut up from the root the houses of them, that, otherwise, would utterly have rooted up the house of the Lord, and had subverted a great part already.
Wherefore, whosoever findeth himself aggrieved with Cromwell's doings, in suppressing these monasteries of monks and friars, let him wisely consider with himself, first, the doctrine, laws, and traditions of these men, which he shall find rebelling to the religion of Christ, pernicious to our salvation, derogatory to Christ's glory, full of much blasphemy and damnable idolatry. Secondly, let him likewise well advise the horrible and execrable lives of these cloisterers, or at least search out the rolls and registers of matters found out by inquisition in King Henry the Eighth's days, against them; which here is not to be spoken of, unless we will speak as Matthew Paris speaketh of the court of Rome, "whose filthy stench," saith he, "did breathe up a most pestiferous fume, even unto the clouds of heaven," &c.
All which things well considered, what marvel is it then, if God, of his just judgment, did set up the aforesaid Lord Cromwell to destroy these sinful houses, whom their own corruptions could suffer no longer to stand? And as touching the dissipation of their lands and possessions te' the hands of such as they were bestowed upon, if it so pleased the king, in bestowing those abbey-lands upon his nobles and gentlemen, either to restore them again unto them from whence they came, or else to gratify his nobility by that means, of policy, not to mislike his doings, what is that to Cromwell?" But they might," say you, "have been much better employed to other more fruitful uses."
Briefly to answer thereunto: what may be done presently in a commonwealth, it is not enough to say; but what may also follow must be considered. If this throwing down of abbeys had happened in such free and reformed cities and countries as are amongst the Germans, where the state, governed and directed by laws, rather than by rulers, remaineth always alike and immutable, who doubteth but such houses there standing still, the possessions might well be transposed to such uses above said, without any fear or peril? But, in such realms and kingdoms as this, where laws and parliaments be not always one, but are subject to the disposition of the prince, neither is it certain always what princes may come; therefore the surest way to send monkery and popery packing out of this realm, is to do with their houses and possessions as King Henry here did, through the motion and counsel of Cromwell. For else, who seeth not in Queen Mary's time, if either the houses of monks had stood, or their lands had been otherwise disposed than into the hands of such as they were, how many of them had been restored and replenished again with monks and friars, in as ample wise as ever they were? And if dukes, barons, and the nobility, scarce were able to retain the lands and possessions of abbeys distributed to them by King Henry, from the devotion of Queen Mary seeking to build again the walls of Jericho, what then should the meaner sort have done, let other men conjecture. Wherefore it is not unlikely but that God's heavenly providence did well foresee and dispose these things before by this man, in working the destruction of these abbeys; whereupon, as often as he sent out any men to suppress any monastery, he used most commonly to send them with this charge: that they should throw down those houses even to the foundation. Which words, although they may seem, percase, to some, to be cruelly spoken by him; yet, contrariwise, do I suppose the doing thereof not to be without God's special providence and secret guiding. Or else we might, peradventure, have had such swarms of friars and monks possessed in their nests again before this day in England, in so great a number, that ten Cromwells, afterwards, scarcely should have sufficed to have unhoused them. Wherefore, if the plantation, which the Lord God never planted, be plucked up by the roots, let God alone with his working, and let the monasteries go.
Furthermore, as touching the godly use of the poor, schools, and stipends of preachers, (for unto these three, diligent respect is to be had in every commonwealth,) there are other means provided, which, as they are alike honest, so are they also much more sure, so that the ancient godliness do not slack in the nobility. And if the nobility, in times past, have been so liberal in bestowing so great costs and charges upon things wherein there is no godliness, how uncomely would it be, for the true gospellers to be more niggardly in preferring true godliness and the study of the gospel!
Now that you have seen what this malleus monachorum hath done in defacing the synagogue of the pope, let us see how the same Cromwell again did travail, in setting up Christ's church and congregation.
After that the bishop of Rome's power and authority were banished out of England, the bishops of his sect never ceased to seek all occasion how, either to restore his head again, being broken and wounded, or at least to keep upright those things which yet remained; wherein although their labours were not altogether frustrated, yet had they brought much more to pass, if Cromwell (as a mighty wall and defence of the church) had not resisted continually their enterprises.
It happened that after the abolishing of the pope, certain tumults began to rise about religion; whereupon it seemed good unto King Henry, to appoint an assembly of learned men and bishops, who should soberly and modestly treat and determine those things which pertained unto religion. Briefly, at the king's pleasure, all the learned men, but especially the bishops, assembled, to whom this matter seemed chiefly to belong. Cromwell thought also to be present himself with the bishops, and, by chance, meeting with Alexander Alesius by the way, a Scottish man, brought him with him to the Convocation-house, where all the bishops were assembled together. This was in the year 1537. The bishops and prelates attending upon the coming of Cromwell, as he was come in, rose up and did obeisance unto him as to their vicar-general, and he again saluted every one in their degree, and sat down in the highest place at the table, according to his degree and office; and, after him, every bishop in his order, and doctors. First, over against him, sat the archbishop of Canterbury; then the archbishop of York, the bishops of London, Lincoln, Salisbury, Bath, Ely, Hereford, Chichester, Norwich, Rochester, and Worcester, &c. There Cromwell, in the name of the king, (whose most dear and secret counsellor at that present he was, and lord privy seal, and vicar-general of the realm,) spake these words in manner following:
"Right reverend fathers in Christ! The king's Majesty giveth you high thanks that ye have so diligently, without any excuse, assembled hither according to his commandment. And ye be not ignorant that ye be called hither to determine certain controversies, which at this time be moved concerning the Christian religion and faith, not only in this realm, but also in all nations through the world. For the king studieth day and night to set a quietness in the church; and he cannot rest until all such controversies be fully debated and ended, through the determination of you, and of his whole parliament. For, although his special desire is to set a stay for the unlearned people, whose consciences are in doubt what they may believe; and he himself, by his excellent learning, knoweth these controversies well enough, yet he will suffer no common alteration, but by the consent of you and his whole parliament: by which thing ye may perceive both his high wisdom, and also his great love toward you. And he desireth you, for Christ's sake, that all malice, obstinacy, and carnal respect set apart, ye will friendly and lovingly dispute among yourselves of the controversies moved in the church; and that you will conclude all things by the word of God, without all brawling or scolding: neither will his Majesty suffer the Scripture to be wrested and defaced by any glosses, any papistical laws, or by any authority of doctors and councils; and much less will he admit any articles or doctrine not contained in the Scripture, but approved only by continuance of time and old custom, and by unwritten verities, as ye were wont to do. Ye know well enough, that ye be bound to show this service to Christ and to his church; and yet, notwithstanding, his Majesty will give you high thanks, if ye will set and conclude a godly and a perfect unity: whereunto this is the only way and mean, if ye will determine all things by the Scripture, as God commandeth you in Deuteronomy; which thing his Majesty exhorteth and desireth you to do."
When Cromwell had ended this his oration, the bishops rose up altogether, giving thanks unto the king's Majesty, not only for his great zeal toward the church of Christ, but also for his most godly exhortation, worthy so Christian a prince.
Immediately they rose up to disputation, where Stokesley, bishop of London, first of all, being the most earnest champion and maintainer of the Romish decrees, (whom Cromwell a little before had checked by name, for defending unwritten verities,) endeavoured himself, with all his labour and industry, out of the old school glosses, to maintain the seven sacraments of the church: the archbishop of York, and the bishops of Lincoln, Bath, Chichester, and) Norwich, also favoured his part and sect. On the contrary part were the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Salisbury, Ely, Hereford, Worcester, with many others.
After much communication had on either part, and when they had long contended about the testimonies of the doctors, which, as it seemed unto them, dissented and disagreed among themselves, the archbishop of Canterbury at last spake, and said thus unto them:
"It beseemeth not men of learning and gravity to make such babbling and brawling about bare words, so that we agree in the very substance and effect of the matter. For to brawl about words, is the property of sophisters, and such as mean deceit and subtlety, who delight in the debate and dissension of the world, and in the miserable state of the church; and not of them that should seek the glory of Christ, and should study for the unity and quietness of the church. There be weighty controversies now moved and put forth, not of ceremonies and light things, but of the true understanding, and of the right difference of the law and of the gospel; of the manner and way how sins be forgiven; of comforting doubtful and wavering consciences, by what means they may be certified that they please God, seeing they feel the strength of the law accusing them of sin; of the true use of the sacraments, whether the outward work of them doth justify man, or whether we receive our justification by faith. Item, which be the good works, and the true service and honour which please God; and whether the choice of meats, the difference of garments, the vows of monks and priests, and other traditions, which have no word of God to confirm them; whether these, I say, be right good works, and such as make a perfect Christian man, or no? Item, whether vain service and false honouring of God, and man's traditions, do bind men's consciences, or no? Finally, whether the ceremony of confirmation, of orders, and of annoiling, and such other, (which cannot be proved to be instituted of Christ, nor have any word in them to certify us of remission of sins,) ought to be called sacraments, and to be compared with baptism and the supper of the Lord, or no?
"These be no light matters, but even the principal points of our Christian religion: wherefore we contend not about words and trifles, but about high and earnest matters. Christ saith, Blessed be the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. And Paul, writing unto Timothy, commanded bishops to avoid brawling and contention about words, which be profitable to nothing, but unto the subversion and destruction of the hearers; and admonisheth him especially, that he should resist with the Scriptures, when any man disputeth with him of the faith: and he addeth a cause, whereas he saith, Doing this thou shalt preserve both thyself, and also them which hear thee. Now, if ye will follow these counsellors, Christ and Paul, all contention and brawling about words must be set apart, and ye must establish a godly and a perfect unity and concord out of the Scripture. Wherefore, in this disputation, we must first agree of the number of the sacraments, and what a sacrament doth signify in the Holy Scripture; and when we call baptism and the supper of the Lord, sacraments of the gospel, what we mean thereby. I know right well that St. Ambrose, and other authors, call the washing of the disciples' feet, and other things, sacraments; which I am sure you yourselves would not suffer to be numbered among the other sacraments."
When he had ended his oration, Cromwell commanded Alesius, which stood by, (whom he perceived to give attentive ear to that which was spoken,) to show his mind and opinion, declaring to the bishops before, that he was the king's scholar; and therefore desired them to be contented to hear him indifferently.
Alesius, after he had first done his duty unto the Lord Cromwell, and to the prelates of the church, said in this wise:
"Right honourable and noble lord, and you most reverend fathers and prelates of the church! although I come unprepared unto this disputation, yet, trusting in the aid of Christ, who promiseth to give both mouth and wisdom unto us when we be required of our faith, I will utter my sentence and judgment of this disputation. And I think that my lord archbishop hath given you a profitable exhortation, that ye should first agree of the signification of a sacrament, whether ye will call a sacrament a ceremony instituted by Christ in the gospel, to signify a special or a singular virtue of the gospel and of godliness, (as Paul nameth remission of sins to be,) or whether ye mean every ceremony generally, which may be a token or a signification of a holy thing, to be a sacrament? For after this latter signification, I will not stick to grant you that there be seven sacraments, and more too, if ye will. But yet Paul seemeth to describe a sacrament after the just signification, where he saith, that circumcision is a token and a seal of the righteousness of faith. This definition of one particular sacrament must be understood to appertain unto all sacraments generally: for the Jews had but one sacrament only, as all the scholastical writers do grant. And he describeth baptism after the same manner, in the Ephesians, where he saith, that Christ doth sanctify the church; that into say, all that be baptized, through the bath of water, in the word of life. For here, also, he addeth the word and promise of God unto the ceremony. And Christ, also, requireth faith where he saith, Whosoever believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.
"And St. Augustine describeth a sacrament thus: 'The word of God, coming unto the element, maketh the sacrament.' And, in another place, he saith, 'A sacrament is a thing wherein the power of God, under the form of visible things, doth work secretly salvation.' And the Master of the Sentences doth describe a sacrament no otherwise: 'A sacrament,' saith he, 'is an invisible grace, and hath a visible form: and by this invisible grace I mean,' saith he, 'remission of sins.' Finally, St. Thomas denieth that any man hath authority to institute a sacrament. Now, if ye agree unto this definition of a sacrament, it is an easy thing to judge of the number of those sacraments which have the manifest word of God, and be instituted by Christ, to signify unto us the remission of our sins.
"St. Augustine saith, that there be but two such sacraments; his words be these, First, I would have thee to understand the sum and effect of this disputation, which is this: That our Lord Jesus Christ (as he himself saith in the gospel) hath laden us but with a light and easy yoke or burden. Wherefore he hath knit together the fellowship of this new people with sacraments, very few in number, very easy to be kept, and very excellent in signification; which be baptism, and the supper of the Lord, and such others, if there be any more commanded in the Holy Scripture; those except, which were burdens for the servitude of the people in the old law, for the hardness of their hearts,' &c. And again, in the third book of The Learning of a Christian Man, he saith, 'The Scripture hath taught us but few signs, as be the sacrament of baptism, and the solemn celebration and remembrance of the body and blood of the Lord.'"
Then the bishop of London, which could scarcely refrain himself all this while, and now could forbear no longer, brake out in this manner: "First of all," saith he, "where you allege that all the sacraments which are in the church, instituted by Christ himself, have either some manifest ground in the Scriptures, or ought to show forth some signification of remission of sins, it is false, and not to be allowed."
Then said Alesius, that he would prove it, not only by manifest authorities of Scripture, but also by evident testimonies of ancient doctors and school-writers.
But the bishop of Hereford, (which was then lately returned out of Germany, where he had been ambassador for the king to the protestants,) being moved with the bishop of London's frowardness, turning himself first to Alexander Alesius, willed him not to contend with the bishop in such manner, by the testimonies of doctors and schoolmen, forasmuch as they do not all agree in like matters, neither are they stedfast among themselves in all points, but do vary, and in many points are utterly repugnant. "Wherefore, if this disputation shall be decided by their minds and verdicts, there shall be nothing established, neither shall appear any way of agreement to follow. Furthermore, we be commanded by the king, that these controversies should be determined only by the rule and judgment of the Scripture." This he spake unto Alesius. Then, turning himself unto the bishops, he likewise admonished them, with a grave and sharp oration, which we thought not good to omit in this place.
"Think ye not that we can by any sophistical subtleties steal out of the world again the light which every man doth see. Christ hath so lightened the world at this time, that the light of the gospel hath put to flight all misty darkness; and it will shortly have the higher hand of all clouds, though we resist in vain ever so much. The lay people do now know the Holy Scripture better than many of us; and the Germans have made the text of the Bible so plain and easy, by the Hebrew and Greek tongues, that now many things may be better understood without any glosses at all, than by all the commentaries of the doctors. And, moreover, they have so opened these controversies by their writings, that women and children may wonder at the blindness and falsehood that have been hitherto. Wherefore ye must consider earnestly what ye will determine of these controversies, that ye make not yourselves to be mocked and laughed to scorn of all the world, and that ye bring them not to have this opinion of you, to think evermore hereafter, that ye have neither one spark of learning, nor yet of godliness in you. And thus shall ye lose all your estimation and authority with them, that before took you for learned men, and profitable members unto the commonwealth of Christendom. For that which you do hope upon, that there was never heresy in the church so great, but that process of time, with the power and authority of the pope, hath quenched it, is nothing to the purpose. But ye must turn your opinion, and think this surely, that there is nothing so feeble and weak, so that it be true, but it shall find place, and be able to stand against a falsehood.
"Truth is the daughter of time, and time is the mother of truth; and whatsoever is besieged of truth, cannot long continue; and upon whose side truth doth stand, that ought not to be thought transitory, or that it will ever fall. All things consist not in painted eloquence, and strength or authority: for the truth is of so great power, strength, and efficacy, that it can neither be defended with words, nor be overcome with any strength, but after she hath hidden herself long, at length she putteth up her head and appeareth, as it is written in Esdras A king is strong; wine is strong; yet women be more strong: but truth excelleth all."
To this effect, in a manner, and much more, did he speak and utter in that convocation, both copiously and discreetly; through whose oration Alesius, being encouraged, proceeded to urge the bishop further with this argument.
The argument in form.
"Sacraments be seals ascertaining us of God's good will.
"Without the word there is no certainty of God's good will.
"Ergo, Without the word there be no sacraments.
"The first part of this reason is St. Paul's own saying, in the fourth to the Romans, where he saith, that circumcision is a token and a seal of the righteousness of faith: ergo, it requireth faith to certify man's heart of the will of God. But the word of God is the foundation of faith, as St. Paul witnesseth, Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing cometh by the word of God: for the mind must be taught and instructed to the will of God by the word, like as the eye is taught and instructed by the outward ceremony. And so Paul, by that saying, confuteth this opinion, that the sacraments should make men righteous and just before God for the very outward work, without faith of them that receive them.
"And after this manner doth Paul speak unto the Ephesians: that Christ doth sanctify his church, through the bath of water, in the word of life. And forasmuch as he joineth the word unto the ceremony, and declareth the virtue and power of the word of God, that it bringeth with it life, he doth manifestly teach that the word of God is a principal thing, and even as it were the very substance and body of the sacrament; and the outward ceremony to be in very deed nothing else but a token of that lively inflammation, which we receive through faith in the word and promise. St. Paul also, in ministering the sacrament of the Lord's supper, doth manifestly add the words of Christ: He took bread, saith he, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take ye this, and eat ye this, for it is my body. Item, Do ye this in my remembrance. Besides this, he teacheth evidently that only Christ, and none but he, had power to institute a sacrament; and that neither have the apostles, nor hath the church, any authority to alter, or to add any thing unto his ordinance, whereas he saith, For I received of the Lord, that which I delivered unto you, &c. To what purpose should he go about to move the people to believe him, and to win their hearts with this protestation, if it had been lawful for him to have made any sacraments, or to have altered the form and manner of ministering the sacrament, as some men both wickedly and shamefully do affirm, that the apostles did alter the form of baptism."
When he had spoken thus much, the bishop of London did interrupt him, and said thus:
"Let us grant that the sacraments may be gathered out of the word of God, yet are ye far deceived if ye think that there is none other word of God, but that which every souter and cobbler doth read in his mother tongue. And if ye think that nothing pertaineth unto the Christian faith, but that only which is written in the Bible, then err ye plainly with the Lutherans: for St. John saith, that Jesus did many things which be not written; and St. Paul commandeth the Thessalonians to observe and keep certain unwritten traditions and ceremonies. Moreover he himself did preach not the Scripture only, but even also the traditions of the elders. Finally, we have received many things of the doctors and councils of by-times, which, although they be not written in the Bible, yet forasmuch as the old doctors of the church do make mention of them, we ought to grant that we received them of the apostles, and that they be of like authority with the Scripture; and, finally, that they may worthily be called, the word of God unwritten."
Now when the right noble Lord Cromwell, the archbishop, with the other bishops, who did defend the pure doctrine of the gospel, heard this, they smiled a little one upon another, forasmuch as they saw him flee, even in the very beginning of the disputation, unto his old rusty sophistry and unwritten verities. Then Alesius would have proceeded further with the bishop, to have confuted this blasphemous lie, but the Lord Cromwell bade him be content, for the time began to go away, and it was twelve o'clock; and thus he made an end with his protestation:
"Right reverend master bishop, you deny that our Christian faith and religion doth lean only upon the word of God, which is written in the Bible: which thing if I can prove and declare, then you will grant me, that there be no sacraments but those that have the anifest word of God to confirm them."
Unto this he d consent, and then immediately that assembly was dissolved for that day. The next day, when the bishops were set again, the archbishop of Canterbury, sending his archdeacon, commanded Alesius to abstain from disputation: whereupon he wrote his mind, and delivered it to Cromwell, who afterward showed the same unto the bishops. Thus, through the industry of Cromwell, the colloquies were brought to this end, that albeit religion could not wholly be reformed, yet at that time there was some reformation had throughout all England.
How desirous and studious this good Cromwell was, in the cause of Christ's religion, examples need not to be brought. His whole life was nothing else but a continual care and travail how to advance and further the right knowledge of the gospel, and reform the house of God: as by so many proclamations above specified, by his means set forth, may well appear, wherein first he caused the people to be instructed in the Lord's Prayer and Creed in English. Then he procured the Scripture also to be read and set forth in the same language, for every Englishman to understand. After that, to rescue the vulgar people from damnable idolatry, he caused certain of the more gross pilgrimages to be destroyed. And further, for the more commodity of the poor sort, who get their living with their daily labour and work of their hands, he provided that divers idle holidays were diminished. Item, He procured for them liberty to eat eggs and white meat in Lent. Furthermore, it was by him also provided, for the better instruction of the people, that beneficed men should be resident in their cures and parishes, there to teach, and to keep hospitality, with many other things else, most fruitfully redressed for the reformation of religion and behoof of Christ's church: as by the proclamations, injunctions, and necessary articles of Christian doctrine above specified, set forth in the king's name, by his means, may more abundantly appear.
Now, to adjoin withal his private benefits, in helping divers good men and women at sundry times out of troubles and great distresses, it would require a long discourse. Briefly, his whole life was full of such examples, being a man to that intent ordained of God (as his deeds well proved) to do many men good, and especially such as were in danger of persecution for religion's sake. Amongst other infinite stories, one or two examples shall suffice for a testimony of his worthy doings; and first, how he helped a poor woman with child, out of great trouble, longing for a piece of meat in time of Lent.N the year of our Lord 1538, Sir William Forman being mayor of the city of London, three weeks before Easter, the wife of one Thomas Frebarn, dwelling in Paternoster Row, being with child, longed after a morsel of a pig, and told her mind unto a maid dwelling in Abchurch Lane, desiring her, if it were possible, to help her unto a piece. The maid, perceiving her earnest desire, showed unto her husband what his wife had said unto her, telling him that it might chance to cost her her life, and the child's too, which she went withal, if she had it not. Upon this, Thomas Frebarn, her husband, spake to a butter-wife which he knew, that dwelled at Hornsey, named goodwife Fisher, to help him to a pig for his wife, for she was with child, and longed sore to eat of a pig: unto whom the said goodwife Fisher promised, that she would bring him one the Friday following; and so she did, being ready dressed and scalded before. But when she had delivered him the pig, she craftily conveyed one of the pig's feet, and carried it unto Dr. Cox's, at that time being dean of Canterbury, dwelling in Ivy Lane, who, at the time of his dinner, before certain guests which he had bidden, showed this pig's foot, declaring who had the body thereof. And after that they had talked their pleasure, and dinner was done, one of his guests, (being landlord unto Frebarn aforesaid, called Master Garter, and by his office, king at arms,) sent his man unto the said Frebarn, demanding if there were nobody sick in his house: unto whom he answered, that they were all in good health, he gave God thanks. Then said he again, It was told his master, that somebody was sick, or else they would not eat flesh in Lent: unto whom Frebarn made answer, that his wife was with child, and longed for a piece of a pig, and if he could get some for her, he would. Then departed his landlord's man home again.
And, shortly after, his landlord sent for him. But before that he had sent for him, he had sent for the bishop of London's sumner, whose name was Holland, and when this Frebarn was come, he demanded of him if he had not a pig in his house; which he denied not. Then commanded Master Garter the said sumner called Holland, to take him, and go home to his house, and to take the pig, and carry both him, and the pig, unto Dr. Stokesley his master, being then bishop of London: and so he did. Then the bishop, being in his chamber withdivers other of the clergy, called this Frebarn before him, and had him in examination for this pig; laying also unto his charge, that he had eaten in his house, that Lent, powdered beef, and calves' heads. Unto whom Frebarn answered, "My Lord, if the heads were eaten in my house, in whose houses were the bodies eaten? also, if there be either man or woman that can prove, that either I, or any in my house, hath done as your Lordship saith, let me suffer death there-for." "You speak," said he, "against pilgrimages, and will not take holy bread, or holy water, nor yet go on procession on Palm Sunday; thou art no Christian man." "My Lord," said Frebarn, "I trust I am a true Christian man, and have done nothing either against God's law or my prince's."
In the time of this his examination, which was during the space of two hours, divers came unto the bishop; some to have their children confirmed, and some for other causes: unto whom as they came, having the pig before him covered, he would lift up the cloth and show it them, saying, "How think you of such a fellow as this is? Is not this good meat, I pray you, to be eaten in this blessed time of Lent; yea, and also powdered beef and calves' heads too, besides this!"
After this, the bishop called his sumner unto him, and commanded him to go and carry this Thomas Frebarn, and the pig, openly through the streets into the Old Bailey, unto Sir Roger Cholmley: for the bishop said, he had nothing to do to punish him, for that belonged unto the civil magistrates. And so was Frebarn carried, with the pig before him, to Sir Roger Cholmley's house in the Old Bailey; and he being not at home at that time, Frebarn was brought likewise back again unto the bishop's place with the pig, and there lay in the porter's lodge till it was nine o'clock at night. Then the bishop sent him unto the Compter in the Poultry, by the sumner and other of his servants.
The next day, being Saturday, he was brought before the mayor of London and his brethren, unto Guildhall; but, before his coming, they had the pig delivered unto them by the bishop's officer. Then the mayor and the bench laid unto his charge, (as they were informed from the bishop,) that he had eaten powdered beef and calves' heads in his house the same Lent: but no man was able to come in that would justify it, neither could any thing be found, save only the pig, which (as is before said) was for the preservation of his wife's life, and that she went withal. Notwithstanding the mayor of London said, that the Monday next following he should stand on the pillory in Cheapside, with the one half of the pig on the one shoulder, and the other half on the other.
Then spake the wife of the said Frebarn unto the mayor and the bench, desiring that she might stand there, and not he; for it was the long of her, and not of him. After this they took a satin list, and tied it fast about the pig's neck, and made Frebarn to carry it, hanging on his shoulder, until he came unto the Compter of the Poultry, from whence he came.
After this was done, the wife of this prisoner took with her an honest woman, the wife of one Michael Lobley, who was well acquainted with divers in the Lord Cromwell's house, unto whom the said woman resorted for some help for this prisoner, desiring them to speak unto their lord and master for his deliverance out of trouble.
It happened that the same time came in Dr. Barnes and Master Barlow, who, understanding the matter by Lobley's wife, went up to the Lord Cromwell, and certified him thereof; who, upon their request, sent for the mayor of the city of London: but what was said unto the lord mayor is unknown, saving that in the afternoon of the same day the wife of the person aforesaid resorted again unto the lord mayor, suing to get her husband delivered out of prison, declaring how that she had two small children, and had nothing to help her and them, but only her husband, who laboured for their livings. Unto whom the mayor answered, "What come ye to me? You are taken up by the king's council. I supposed, that you had come to desire me that your husband should not stand upon the pillory in Cheapside on Monday next, with the one half of the pig on his one shoulder and the other half on the other." Also the mayor said unto her, that he could not deliver him, without the consent of the rest of his brethren the aldermen: wherefore he bade her, the next day following, which was the sabbath day, to resort unto Paul's, to St. Dunstan's chapel, and when he had spoken with his brethren, he would then tell her more. Other answer could she not get at that time; wherefore she went unto Master Wilkinson, then being sheriff of London, desiring him to be good unto her, and that she might have her poor husband out of prison. Unto whom Master Wilkinson answered, "O woman, Christ hath laid a piece of his cross upon thy neck, to prove whether thou wilt help him to bear it or no:" saying, moreover, unto her, that if the lord mayor had sent him to his Compter, as he sent him to his brother's, he should not of tarried there an hour: and so commanded her to come the next day nto him to dinner, and he would do the best for her he could. So the next day came, and this woman resorted again to Master Wilkinson's according as he bade her, who also had bidden divers guests, unto whom he spake in her behalf. But as they were set at dinner, and she also sitting at the table, when she saw the hot fish come in, she fell down in a swoon, so that for the space of two hours they could keep no life in her. Wherefore they sent her home to her house in Paternoster-row, and then they sent for the midwife, supposing that she would have been delivered incontinent of her child that she went with, (but after that she came somewhat again to herself,) where she lay sick, and kept her bed the space of fifteen weeks after; being not able to help herself, but as she was helped of others, during the time of fifteen weeks.
Now, to show further what became of this pig, whereof we have spoken so much, it was carried into Finsbury field by the bishop of London's sumner, at his master's commandment, and there buried. The Monday following, being the fourth day after that this prisoner aforesaid was apprehended, the mayor of London, with the residue of his brethren, being at Guildhall, sent for the prisoner aforenamed, and demanded sureties of him for his forthcoming, whatsoever hereafter should or might be laid unto his charge: but for lack of such sureties as they required, upon his own bond, which was a recognisance of twenty pounds, he was delivered out of their hands. But, shortly after he was delivered out of this his trouble, Master Garter, of whom we have spoken before, being his landlord, warned him out of his house, so that in four years after he could not get another, but was constrained to be with other good folks, to his great hinderance and undoing.
Hard it were, and almost out of number, to rehearse the names and stories of all them that felt the gentle help of this good man in some case or other. Where might be remembered the notable deliverance of one Gray, a smith of Bishop's Stortford, who, being accused for denying the sacrament of the altar to be our Saviour, was sent up for the same to London, and there should have been condemned to be burned, but that, by the means of the Lord Cromwell, he was sent home again and delivered. One other example, though it be somewhat long, with the circumstances and all, I will declare: how he helped the secretary that then was to Dr. Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, which secretary is yet alive, and can bear present record of the same.
How the Lord Cromwell helped Cranmer's secretary.
Mention was made before, how King Henry, in the twenty-first year of his reign, caused the Six Articles to pass, much against the mind, and contrary to the consent, of The archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who had disputed three days against the same, in the parliament-house, with great reasons and authorities. Which articles, after they were granted and passed by the parliament, the king, for the singular favour which he ever bare to Cranmer, and reverence to his learning, being desirous to know what he had said and objected in the parliament against these articles, or what could be alleged by learning against the same, required a note of the archbishop of his doings, what he had said and opposed in the parliament touching that matter. And this word was sent to him from the king by Cromwell and other lords of the parliament, whom the king then sent to dine with him at Lambeth, somewhat to comfort again his grieved mind and troubled spirits, as hath been above recited.
Whereupon, when this dinner was finished, the next day after, the archbishop, collecting both his arguments, authorities of Scripture, and doctors together, caused his secretary to write a fair book thereof for the king, after this order. First, the Scriptures were alleged; then the doctors; thirdly, followed the arguments deduced from those authorities. This book was written in his secretary's chamber; where, in a by-chamber, lay the archbishop's almoner. When this book was fair written, and while the secretary was gone to deliver the same unto the archbishop his master, who was (as it then chanced) ridden to Croydon, returning back to his chamber, he found the door shut, and the key carried away to London by the almoner.
At this season also chanced the father of the said secretary to come to the city, by whose occasion it so fell out, that he must needs go to London. The book he could not lay in his chamber, neither durst he commit it to any other person to keep, being straitly charged, in any condition, by the archbishop his master, to be circumspect thereof; so that he determined to go to his father, and to keep the book about him. And so thrusting the book under his girdle, he went over unto Westminster bridge with a sculler, where he entered into a wherry that went to London, wherein were four of the guard, who meant to land at Paul's wharf, and to pass by the king's Highness, who then was in his barge, with a great number of barges and boats about him, then baiting of bears in the water, over against the bank.
These aforesaid yeoman of the guard, when they came against the king's barge, they durst not pass by towards Paul's wharf, lest they should be espied, and therefore entreated the secretary to go with them to the bear baiting, and they would find the means, being of the guard, to make room, and to see all the pastime. The secretary, perceiving no other remedy, assented thereto. When the wherry came nigh the multitude of the boats, they, with poleaxes, got the wherry so far, that being compassed with many other wherries and boats, there was no refuge if the bear should break loose and come upon them; as in very deed, within one Paternoster, the bear brake loose, and came into the boat where the yeoman of the guard were, and the said secretary. The guard forsook the wherry, and went into another barge, one or two of them leaping short, and so fell into the water. The bear and the dogs so shook the wherry wherein the secretary was, that the boat, being full of water, sunk to the ground; and being also, as it chanced, an ebbing tide, he there sat in the end of the wherry up to the middle in water; to whom came the bear and all the dogs. The bear, seeking as it were aid and succour of him, came back with his hinder parts upon him, and so rushing upon him, the book was loosed from his girdle, and fell into the Thames, out of his reach.
The flying of the people after that the bear was loose, from one boat to another, was so cumberous, that divers persons were thrown into the Thames; the king commanding certain men that could swim to strip themselves naked, and to help to save them that were in danger. This pastime so displeased the king, that he bade "away, away with the bear, and let us all go hence!"
The secretary, perceiving his book to fleet away in the Thames, called to the bearward to take up the book. When the bearward had the book in his custody, being an arrant papist, far from the religion of his mistress, (for he was the Lady Elizabeth's bearward, now the queen's Majesty,) ere the secretary could come to land, he had delivered the book to a priest of his own affinity in religion, standing on the bank, who, reading in the book, and perceiving that it was a manifest refutation of the Six Articles, made much ado, and told the bearward, that whosoever claimed the book should surely be hanged. Anon the secretary came to the bearward for his book. "What," quoth the bearward, "dare you challenge this book? Whose servant are you?" "I am servant to one of the council," said the secretary, "and my lord of Canterbury is my master." "Yea marry," quoth the bearward, "I thought as much: you be like, I trust," quoth the bearward, "to be both hanged for this book." "Well," said he, "it is not so evil as you take it, and, I warrant you, my Lord will avouch the book to the king's Majesty. But I pray you let me have my book, and I will give you a crown to drink." "If you will give me five hundred crowns, you shall not have it," quoth the bearward.
With that the secretary departed from him, and understanding the malicious frowardness of the bearward, he learned that Blage, the grocer in Cheapside, might do much with the bearward, to whom the secretary brake this matter, requiring him to send for the bearward to supper, and he would pay for the whole charge therin; and besides that, rather than he would forego his book after this sort, the bearward should have twenty shillings to drink. The supper was prepared; the bearward was sent for and came. After supper the matter was treated of, and twenty shillings offered for the book. But do what could be done, neither friendship, acquaintance, nor yet reward of money, could obtain the book out of his hands, but that the same should be delivered unto some of the council that would not so slightly look on so weighty a matter, as to have it redeemed for a supper, or a piece of money. The honest man, Master Blage, with many good reasons, would have persuaded him not to be stiff in his own conceit, declaring that in the end he should nothing at all prevail of his purpose, but be laughed to scorn; getting neither penny nor praise for his travail. He, hearing that, rushed suddenly out of the doors from his friend Master Blage, without any manner of thanksgiving for his supper, more like a bearward, than like an honest man. When the secretary saw the matter so extremely to be used against him, be then thought it expedient to fall from any further practising of entreaty with the bearward, as with him that seemed rather to be a bear himself, than the master of the beast; determining the next morning to make the Lord Cromwell privy of the chance that happened.
So, on the next day, as the Lord Cromwell went to the court, the secretary declared the whole matter unto him, and how he had offered him twenty shillings for the finding thereof. "Where is the fellow?" quoth the Lord Cromwell. "I suppose," said the secretary, "that he is now in the court, attending to deliver the book unto some of the council" "Well," said the Lord Cromwell, "it maketh no matter; go with me thither, and I shall get you your book again." When the Lord Cromwell came into the hall of the court, there stood the bearward, with the book in his hand, waiting to have delivered the same unto Sir Anthony Brown, or unto the bishop of Winchester, as it was reported. To whom the Lord Cromwell said, "Come hither, fellow! what book hast thou there in thy hand?" and with that snatched the book out of his hand, and looking in the book, he said, "I know this hand well enough. This is your hand," said he to the secretary. "But where hadst thou this book?" quoth the Lord Cromwell to the bearward. "This gentleman lost it two days ago in the Thames," said the bearward. "Dost thou know whose servant he is?" said the Lord Cromwell. "He saith," quoth the bearward, "that he is my Lord of Canterbury's servant." "Why then didst thou not deliver to him the book, when he required it?" said the Lord Cromwell. "Who made thee so bold, as to detain and withhold any book or writing from a councillor's servant, especially being his secretary? It is more meet for thee to meddle with thy bears, than with such writing; and were it not for thy mistress' sake, I would set thee fast by the feet, to teach such malapert knaves to meddle with councillors' matters. Had not money been well bestowed upon such a good fellow as this is? that knoweth not a councillor's man from a cobbler's man! "And with those words the Lord Cromwell went up into the king's chamber of presence, and the archbishop's secretary with him, where he found, in the chamber, the lord of Canterbury. To whom he said, "My lord! I have found here good stuff for you, (showing to him the paper book that he had in his hand,) ready to bring both you, and this good fellow your man, to the halter; namely, if the knave bearward, now in the hall, might have well compassed it." At these words the archbishop smiled, and said, "He that lost the book is like to have the worst bargain, for besides that he was well washed in the Thames, he must write the book fair again:" and, at these words, the Lord Cromwell cast the book unto the secretary, saying, "I pray thee, Morice! go in hand therewith, by-and-by, with all expedition, for it must serve a turn." "Surely, my Lord, it somewhat rejoiceth me," quoth the Lord Cromwell, "that the varlet might have had of your man twenty shillings for the book, and now I have discharged the matter with never a penny, and shaken him well up for his over-much malapertness. I know the fellow well enough," quoth he, "there is not a ranker papist within this realm than he is, most unworthy to be a servant unto so noble a princess." And so, after humble thanks given to the Lord Cromwell, the said Morice departed with his book, which, when he again had fair written it, was delivered to the king's Majesty by the said Lord Cromwell, within four days after.
The Lord Cromwell not forgetting his old friends and benefactors.T is commonly seen, that men advanced once from base degree to ample dignities, do rise also, with fortune, into such insolency and exaltation of mind, that not only they forget themselves, what they were, and from whence they came, but also cast out of remembrance all their old friends and former acquaintance, which have been to them before beneficial. From which sort of men how far the courteous condition of this Christian earl did differ, by divers examples it may appear; as by a certain poor woman keeping some time a victualling-house about Hounslow, to whom the said Lord Cromwell remained in debt for certain old reckonings, to the sum of forty shillings. It happened that the Lord Cromwell, with Cranmer archbishop of Canterbury, riding through Cheapside towards the court, in turning his eye over the way, and there espying this poor woman, brought now in need and misery, eftsoons caused her to be called unto him; who, being come, after certain questions, asked of her (if she were not such a woman, and dwelling in such a place); at last, he demanded if he were not behind for a certain payment of money between him and her. To whom, with reverent obeisance, she confessed that he owed her money for a certain old reckoning, which was yet unpaid; whereof she stood now in great necessity, but never durst call upon him, nor could come at him, to require her right. Then the Lord Cromwell, sending the poor woman home to his house, and one of his servants withal, that the porter should let her in, after his return from the court not only discharged the debt which he owed, but also gave her a yearly pension of four pounds, and a livery every year while she lived.
The like courtesy the said Lord Cromwell showed also to a certain Italian, who, in the city of Florence, had showed him much kindness in succouring and relieving his necessity, as in this story following may appear; which story, set forth and compiled in the Italian tongue by Bandello, and imprinted at Lucca, by Busdrago, A. D. 1554, I thought here to insert, with the whole order and circumstance thereof, as it is reported.
"Not many years past," saith the author, "there was in Florence a merchant, whose name was Francis, descended from the noble and ancient family of the Frescobalds. This gentleman was naturally endued with a noble and liberal mind, unto whom, also, through prosperous success and fortunate luck in his affairs and doings, much abundance of riches increased, so that he grew in great wealth, having his coffers replenished with many heaps of much treasure. Acording to the custom of merchants, he used his trade into many countries, but chiefly into England, where long time he lived, sojourning in London, keeping house to his great commendation and praise.
"It happened that Francis Frescobald, being in Florence, there appeared before him a poor young man, asking his alms for God's sake. Frescobald, as he earnestly beheld this ragged stripling, who was not so disguised in his tattered attire, but that his countenance gave signification of much towardness and virtue in him, with conformity of manners agreeing to the same, being moved with pity, demanded of what country he was, and where he was born. 'I am, sir,' quoth he, 'of England, and my name is Thomas Cromwell. My father is a poor man, and by his occupation a cloth-shearer. I am strayed from my country, and am now come into Italy, with the camp of Frenchmen that were overthrown at Garigliano, where I was the page to a footman, carrying after him his pike and burganet.' Frescobald, partly considering the present state of this young man, and partly for the love he bare to the English nation, of whom he had received, in times past, sundry pleasures, received him into his house, and with such courtesy entertained his guest, that at his departure, when he was in mind to return to his country, he provided such necessaries as he in any way needed. He gave him both horse and new apparel, and sixteen ducats of gold in his purse, to bring him into his country. Cromwell, rendering his hearty thanks, took leave of his host, and returned into England. This Cromwell was a man of noble courage, and heroical spirit, given to enterprise great matters, very liberal, and a grave councillor, &c. But to our purpose. At what time Cromwell was so highly favoured of his prince, and advanced to such dignity as is aforesaid, Francis Frescobald (as it many times happeneth to merchants) was, by many misfortunes and great losses, cast back, and become very poor. For, according to conscience and equity, he paid whatsoever was due to any others from himself; but such debts as were owing unto him, he could by no means obtain: yet, calling further to remembrance that in England, by certain merchants, there was due to him the sum of fifteen thousand ducats, he so purposed with himself, that if he could recover that money, he would well content himself, and no longer deal in his trade of merchants, but quietly pass over the rest of his days.
"All things prepared for his journey, he, setting forward towards England, at last arrived at London, having utterly forgotten what courtesy long before he had showed to Cromwell; which is the property always of a good nature, for a man to forget what benefits he hath showed to others, but to keep in mind continually what he hath received of others. Frescobald, thus being now arrived at London, and there travelling earnestly about his business, it chanced him, by the way, to meet with this nobleman, as he was riding towards the court; whom, as soon as the said Lord Cromwell had espied, and had earnestly beheld, he bethought with himself that he should be the man of Florence, at whose hands, in times past, he had received so gentle entertainment: and thereupon suddenly alighting, (to the great admiration of those that were with him,) in his arms he gently embraced the stranger, and with a broken voice, scarce able to refrain tears, he demanded if he were not Francis Frescobald the Florentine. 'Yea, sir,' he answered, and your humble servant.' 'My servant?' quoth Cromwell. 'No, as you have not been my servant in times past, so will I not now account you otherwise than my great and especial friend; assuring you that I have just reason to be sorry, That you, knowing what I am, (or, at least, what I should be,) will not let me understand of your arriving in this land; which, known unto me, truly I should have paid part of that debt, which I confess to owe you: but, thanked be God! I have yet time. Well, sir, in conclusion, you are heartily welcome: but, having now weighty affairs in my princes cause, you must hold me excused, that I can no longer tarry with you. Therefore, at this time I take my leave, desiring you, with the faithful mind of a friend, that you forget not this day to come to my house to dinner.' And then, remounting his horse, he passed to the court.
"Frescobald, greatly marvelling with himself who this lord should be, at last, after some pause his remembrance better called home, he knew him to be the same, whom long before (as you have heard) he had relieved in Florence; and thereat he not a little joyed, especially considering how that, by his means, he should the better recover his due.
"The hour of dinner drawing near, he repaired to the house of this honourable councillor, where, walking a while in his base court, he attended his coming. The lord shortly returned from the court, and no sooner dismounted, but he again embraced this gentleman with so friendly a countenance, that both the lord admiral, and all the other noblemen of the court, being then in his company, did not a little marvel thereat. Which thing when the Lord Cromwell perceived, he said, turning towards them, and holding Frescobald fast by the band, 'Do ye not marvel, my Lords,' quoth he, 'that I seem so glad of this man? This is he by whose means I have achieved the degree of this my present calling: and because ye shall not be ignorant of his courtesy when I greatly needed, I shall tell it you.' And so there declared he unto them every thing in order, according as before hath been recited unto you. His tale finished, holding him still by the hand, he entered his house; and coming into the chamber where his dinner was prepared, he sat him down to the table, placing his best-welcomed guest next unto him.
"The dinner ended, and the lords departed, he would know what occasion had brought Frescobald to London. Francis, in few words, opened his cause, truly telling, that from great wealth he was fallen into poverty, and that his only portion to maintain the rest of his life, was fifteen thousand ducats which were owing him in England, and two thousand in Spain. Whereunto the Lord Cromwell, answering again, said, Touching the things, Master Frescobald! that be already past, although it cannot now be undone by man's power, nor by policy called again, which hath happened unto you by the unstable condition and mutability of this world, altering to and fro; yet is not your sorrow so peculiar to yourself alone, but that, by the bond of mutual love, I must also bewail with you this your state and condition: which state and condition of yours, though it may work in you matter of just heaviness, yet, notwithstanding, to the intent you may receive, in this your heavy distress, some consolation for your old courtesy, showed to me in times past, the like courtesy now requireth of me again, that I, likewise, should repay some portion of that debt wherein I stand bound unto you; according as the part of a thankful man bindeth me to do, in requiting your benefits on my part heretofore received. And this further I avouch on the word of a true friend, that during this life and state of mine, I will never fail to do for you, wherein my authority may prevail to supply your lack and necessity: and so let these few words suffice to give you knowledge of my friendly meaning. But let me delay the time no longer.
"Then, taking him by the hand, he led him into his chamber, whence, after that every man by his commandment was departed, he locked fast the door. Then, opening a coffer full heaped with treasure, he first took out sixteen ducats, and, delivering them to Frescobald, he said; Lo here, my friend! is your money which you lent me at my departure from Florence, and here are other ten which you bestowed on my apparel, with ten more that you disbursed for the horse I rode away on. But, considering you are a merchant, it seemeth to me not honest to return your money without some consideration for the long detaining of it. Take you, therefore, these four bags, and in every one of them are four hundred ducats: these you shall receive and enjoy from the hands of your assured friend.'
"Frescobald, although from great wealth he was brought to a low ebb, and almost an utter decay, yet, expressing the virtue of a modest mind, after gentle thanks given to the Lord Cromwell for his exceeding kindness showed, courteously would have refused that which was offered, had not the other enforced him against his will to receive it. This done, he caused Frescobald to give him a note of the names of all his debtors, and the sum that from every one of them was owing him. This schedule he delivered to one of his servants, unto whom he gave charge diligently to search out such men whose names were therein contained, if they were within any part of the. realm; and then straitly to charge them to make payment of those sums within fifteen days, or else to abide the hazard of his displeasure. The servant so well performed his master's commandment, that in very short time they made payment of the whole sum; and if it had liked Frescobald so to have demanded, they should have answered to the uttermost, such commodity as the use of his money in so many years would have given him profit: but he, contented with his principal, would demand no further; by which means he got both hearty love and great estimation, and the more, for that he was so dear to the Lord Cromwell, and so highly esteemed of him.
And during all this time, Frescobald continually lodged in the house of the Lord Cromwell, who ever gave him such entertainment as he had right well deserved, and oftentimes moved him to abide here in England, offering him the loan of threescore thousand ducats for the space of four years, if he would continue, and make his bank in London. But Frescobald, who desiredto return into his country, and there quietly to continue the rest of his life, with the great favour of the Lord Cromwell, after many thanks for his high and noble entertainment, departed towards his desired home, where, richly arriving, he gave himself quietly to live. But this wealth he small time enjoyed, for in the first year of his return he died."
So plentiful was the life of this man in such fruits, full of singular gratitude and courtesy, that to rehearse all it would require too long a tractation. Yet one example amongst many others I may not overpass, whereby we may evidently consider, or rather marvel at, the lowly mind of such a person in so high a state and place of honour. For as he, coming with others of the lords of the council and commissioners, to the house of Shene, about the examination of certain monks, which there denied the king's supremacy, after the examination done was there sitting at dinner, it chanced him to spy afar off a certain poor man, who there served to sweep their cells and cloisters, and to ring the bells: whom when the Lord Cromwell had well advised, he sent for the poor man to come unto him, and, before all the table, most lovingly and friendly called him by his name, took him by the hand, and asked how he did, with many other good words; and turning therewith to the lords, "My lords!" quoth he, "see you this poor man? This man's father hath been a great friend to me in my necessity, and hath given me many a meal's meat." Then said he unto the poor man, "Come unto me, and I will provide for thee, and thou shalt not lack so long as I live." Such as were there present, and saw and heard the same, being alive at the second edition hereof, report it to be true.
In this worthy and noble person, besides divers other eminent virtues, three things especially are to be considered, to wit, flourishing authority, excelling wisdom, and fervent zeal to Christ and to his gospel. First, as touching his fervent zeal in setting forward the sincerity of Christian faith, sufficient is to be seen before by the injunctions, proclamations, and articles above specified, that more cannot almost be wished in a nobleman, and scarce the like hath been seen in any.
Secondly, with his wisdom and policy no less singular, joined with his Christian zeal, he brought great things to pass, as well on this side the sea, as in the other parts beyond. But especially his working was to nourish peace abroad with foreign realms, as may be well, by the king's letters and instructions, sent by this means to his ambassadors resident both with the emperor, the French king, and the king of Scots, and also with the pope, may well appear; in all whose courts, such watch and espial he had, that nothing there was done, nor pretended, whereof he before had not intelligence. Neither was there any spark of mischief kindling ever so little against the king and the realm, which he, by wit and policy, did not quench and keep down; and where policy would not serve to obtain peace, yet by money he bought it out; so that during all the time of Cromwell's prosperity, the king never had war with any foreign nation: notwithstanding, tha both the pope, the emperor, and the kings of France and Scotland, were mightily bent and incensed against him.
Thus, as the prudent policy of this man was ever circumspect abroad, to stay the realm from foreign wars; so his authority was no less occupied in keeping good order and rule at home: first, in hampering the popish prelates, and disappointing their subtle devices; secondly, in bridling and keeping other unruly subjects under subjection and discipline of the laws; whereby as he was a succour and refuge to all godly persons, so was he a terror to the evildoers; so that not the presence of him only, but also the hearing of the coming of Cromwell, brake many frays, and much evil rule, as well appeared by a certain notorious fray or riot, appointed to be fought by a company of ruffians in the street of London called Paternoster Row; where carts were set on both sides, prepared on purpose to enclose them, that none might break in to part them. It happened that as this desperate skirmish should begin, the Lord Cromwell, coming the same time from the court through Paul's Church-yard, and entering into Cheap, had intelligence of the great fray toward, and because of the carts he could not come at them, but was forced to go about the Little Conduit, and so came upon them through Pannier Alley. Thus, as the conflict began to wax hot, and the people were standing by in great expectation to see them fight, suddenly, at the noise of the Lord Cromwell's coming, the camp brake up, and the ruffians fled, neither could the carts keep in those so courageous campers, but well was he that first could be gone. And so ceased this tumultuous outrage, without any other parting; only through the authority of the Lord Cromwell's name.
One example more of the like affinity cometh here in mind, which ought not to be omitted, concerning a certain servingman of the like ruffianly order; who, thinking to dissever himself from the common usage of all other men in strange newfangleness of fashions by himself, (as many there be whom nothing doth please which is daily seen and received,) used to go with his hair hanging about his ears down unto his shoulders, after a strange monstrous manner,. (counterfeiting belike the wild Irishmen, or else Crimisus, the Trojan, whom Virgil speaketh of,) as one weary of his own English fashion; or else as one who, ashamed to be seen like a man, would rather go like a woman; or like to one of the Gorgon sisters; but most of all like to himself; that is, like to a ruffian, that could not tell how to go.
As this ruffian, ruffling thus with his locks, was walking in the streets, as chance was, who shouldmeet him but the Lord Cromwell! who, beholding the deform and unseemly manner of his disguised going, full of much vanity and hurtful example, called the man, to question with him whose servant he was: which being declared, then was it demanded whether his master or any of his fellows so to go with such hair about their shoulders as he did, or no: which when he denied, and was not able to yield any reason for refuge of that his monstrous diguising, at length he fell to this excuse, that he had made a vow. To this the Lord Cromwell answered again, that forasmuch as he had made himself a votary, he would not force him to break his vow, but until his vow should be expired, he should lie the mean time in prison: and so sent him immediately to the Marshalsea, where he endured; till at length this Intonsus Cato, being persuaded by his master to cut his hair, by suit and petition of friends, he was brought again to the Lord Cromwell, with his head polled according to the accustomed sort of his other fellows; and so was dismissed.
Hereunto also pertaineth the example of Friar Bartley, who, wearing still his friar's cowl after the suppression of religious houses, Cromwell, coming through Paul's Church-yard, and espying him in Rheines's shop, "Yea," said he, "will not that cowl of yours he left off yet? And if I hear, by one o'clock, that this apparel be not changed, thou shalt be hanged immediately, for example to all others." And so, putting his cowl away, he durst never wear it after.
If the same Lord Cromwell, who could not abide this servingman so disfigured in his hair, were now in these our days alive, with the same authority which then he had, and saw these new-fangled fashions of attire, used here amongst us both of men and women, I suppose verily, that neither these monstrous ruffs, nor these prodigious hose, and prodigal, or rather hyperbolical, barbarous breeches, (which seem rather like barrels than breeches,) would have any place in England. In which no measurable excess of vesture this I have to marvel: First, how these servingmen, which commonly have nothing else but their wages, and that so slender and bare, can maintain such slops, so huge and so sumptuous, which commonly stand them in more than their three years' wages do come unto. Secondly, I marvel that their masters and lords (who shall yield to God account of their servants' doings) do not search and try out their servants' walks, how they come by these expenses wherewith to uphold this bravery, seeing their stipendiary wages, and all revenues else they have, will not extend thereunto. Thirdly, this most of all is to be marvelled, that magistrates, who have in their hands the ordering and guiding of good laws, do not provide more severely for the needful reformation of these enormities. But here we may well see, and truly this may say, "that England once had a Cromwell."
Long it were to recite what innumerable fits this worthy councillor, by his prudent policy, his grave authority, and perfect zeal, wrought and brought to pass in the public realm, and especially in the church of England; what good orders he established, what wickedness and vices he suppressed, what corruptions he reformed, what abuses he brought to light; what crafty jugglings, what idolatrous deceptions, and superstitious illusions, he detected and abolished out of the church. What posterity will ever think the church of the pope, pretending such religion, to have been so wicked, so long to abuse the people's eyes with an old rotten stock, called the Rood of Grace, wherein a man should stand enclosed, with a hundred wires within the rood, to make the image goggle with the eyes, to nod with his head, to hang the lip, to move and shake his jaws, according as the value was of the gift which was offered? If it were a small piece of silver, the image would hang a frowning lip; if it were a piece of gold, then should his jaws go merrily. Thus miserably were the people of Christ abused, their souls seduced, their senses beguiled, and their purses spoiled, till this idolatrous forgery, at last, by Cromwell's means, was disclosed, and the image, with all his engines, showed openly at Paul's Cross, and there torn in pieces by the people. The like was done by the blood of Hayles, which, in like manner, by Cromwell was brought to Paul's Cross, and there proved to be the blood of a duck. Who would have judged, but that the maid of Kent had been a holy woman, and a prophetess inspired, had not Cromwell and Cranmer tried her at Paul's Cross, to be a strong and lewd impostor. What should I speak of Darvel Gartheren, of the rood of Chester, of Thomas Becket, of our Lady of Walsingham, with an infinite multitude more of the like affinity? all which stocks and blocks of cursed idolatry, Cromwell, stirred up by the providence of God, removed them out of the people's way, that they might walk more safely in the sincere service of Almighty God.
While the Lord Cromwell was thus blessedly occupied in profiting the commonwealth, and in purging the church of Christ, it happened to him, as commonly it doth to all good men, that where any excellency of virtue appeareth, there envy creepeth in; and where true piety seeketh most after Christ, there some persecution followeth withal.
Thus, I say, as he was labouring in the commonwealth, and doing good to the poor afflicted saints, helping them out of trouble, the malice of his enemies so wrought, continually hung for matter against him, that they never ceased, till in the end, false trains and crafty surmises, they brought him out of the king's favour.
The chief and principal enemy against him was Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, who, ever disdaining and envying the state and felicity of the Lord Cromwell, and now taking his occasion by the marriage of Lady Anne of Cleves, being a stranger and foreigner, put in the king's ears what a perfect thing it were for the quiet of the realm, and establishment of the king's succession, to have an English queen, and prince that were mere English; so that, in conclusion, the king's affection, the more it was diminished from the late married Anne of Cleves, the less favour he bare unto Cromwell. Besides this Gardiner, there lacked not other back friends also, and ill-willers in the court about the king, which little made for Cromwell, both for his religion which they maligned, and for other private grudges also, incident by the way.ver and beside which, it is, moreover, supposed, that some part of displeasure might arise against him by reason of a certain talk which happened a little before at Lambeth; at what time the king, after the making of. the Six Articles, sent the said Lord Cromwell his vicegerent, with the two dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, with all the lords of the parliament, to Lambeth, to dine with the archbishop, (who mightily had disputed and alleged in the parliament against the said articles,) to cheer and comfort his daunted spirits again.
There the said Cromwell, with the other noble lords, sitting with the archbishop at his table in talk, as every lord brought forth his sentence in commendation of Cranmer, to signify what good will both the king and they bare unto him; among the rest, one of the company, entering into a comparison between the said Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Wolsey, late cardinal of York, declared that Cranmer, in his judgment, was much to be preferred for his mild and gentle nature, whereas the cardinal was a stubborn and a churlish prelate, and one that could never abide any noble man. "And that," said he "know you well enough, my Lord Cromwell! for he was your master," &c.: At these words the Lord Cromwell, being somewhat touched to hear the cardinal's service so cast in his teeth, inferred again, saying, that he could not deny but he was servant some time to Cardinal Wolsey, neither did repent the same; for he received of him both fee, meat, and drink, and other commodities: but yet he was never so far in love with him, as to have waited upon him to Rome, if he had been chosen pope, as he understood that he would have done, if the case had so fallen out. Which when the other had denied to be true, Cromwell still persisted, affirming the same, and showing, moreover, what number of florins he should have received, to be his admiral, and to have safely conducted him to Rome, in case he had been elected bishop of Rome. The party, not a little moved with these words, told him, he lied. The other again affirmed it to be true. Upon this, great and high words rose between them; which contention, although it was, through entreaty of the archbishop and other nobles, somewhat pacified for the time, yet it might be, that some fitter root of grudge remained behind, which afterwards grew unto him to some displeasure. And this was A. D. 1539, in the month of July.
After this, the next year following, which was 1540, in the month of April, was holden a parliament; which, after divers prorogations, was continued till the month of-July. On the tenth of June in the said year, the Lord Cromwell, being in the council-chamber, was suddenly apprehended, and committed to the Tower of London: whereat as many good men, who knew nothing but truth by him, did lament and prayed heartily for him, so more there were, on the contrary side, that rejoiced, especially of the religious sort, and of the clergy, such as had been in some dignity before in the church, and now, by his means, were put from it. For indeed such was his nature, that in all his doings he could not abide any kind of popery, or of false religion creeping under hypocrisy; and less could he abide the ambitious pride of popish prelacy, which, professing all humility, was so elated in pride, that kings could not rule in their own realms for them. These snuffing prelates as he could never abide, so they again hated him as much, which was the cause of shortening his days, and of bringing him to his end; so that on the seventeenth day of the month aforesaid, he was attainted by parliament.
In that attainder, divers and sundry crimes, surmises, objections, and accusations, were brought against him: but chiefly, and above all others, he was charged and accused of heresy, for that he was a supporter of them whom they recounted for heretics; as Barnes, Clark, and many others, whom, by his authority, and letters written to sheriffs and justices in divers shires, he had rescued, and discharged out prison. Also that he did divulgate and disperse abroad among the king's subjects great numbers of books, containing (as they said) manifest matter of much heresy, diffidence, and misbelief. Item, that he caused to be translated into our English tongue, books comprising matter expressly against the sacrament of the altar; and that after the translation thereof, he commended and maintained the same for good and Christian doctrine. Over and besides all this, they brought in certain witnesses, (what they were, the attainder expresseth not,) which most especially pressed (or rather oppressed) him with heinous words spoken against the king in the church of St. Peter the Poor, in the month of March, in the thirtieth year of the king's reign; which words if they be true, as the attainder doth purport, three things I have here much to marvel at. First, if his adversaries had so sure hold and matter against him, then what should move them to make such hasty speed, in all post haste to have him despatched and rid out of the way, and in no case could abide him to come to his purgation? which if he might have done, it is not otherwise to bethought, but he would easily have cleared himself thereof.
Secondly, this I marvel, that if the words had been so heinous against the king as his enemies did pretend, why then did those witnesses who heard those words in St. Peter's church in the thirtieth year of the king's reign, conceal the said words of such treason so long, the space almost of two years, and now uttered the same in the two-and-thirtieth year of the king's reign, in the month of July.
Thirdly, here is again to be marvelled, if the king had known or believed these words to be true, and that Cromwell had been indeed such a traitor to his person, why then did the king, so shortly after, lament his death, wishing to have his Cromwell alive again? What prince will wish the life of him whom he suspecteth undoubtedly to be a traitor to his life and person? Whereby it may appear what judgment the king had of Cromwell in himself, howsoever the parliament, by sinister information, was otherwise incensed to judge upon him.
Such malicious makebates about princes and parliaments never lacked in commonweals. By such King Athelstan was incensed to kill his brother Edwin. So was King Edward the Second deposed. So likewise, when King Richard the Second was once brought into the Tower, what crimes and accusations were laid against him in the parliament! So was Humphrey, the good duke of Gloucester the king's uncle, by Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, and others, in the parliament holden at Bury, arrested as a traitor, and falsely made away. What great treason was in the words of him, who, dwelling in Cheapside, at the sign of the Crown, said merrily to his son, that if he lived, he would make him heir to the crown? and yet was he therefore attainted and judged for a traitor. In the time of King Henry the Eighth how was that parliament incensed, wherein both Queen Anne was falsely condemned, and Queen Elizabeth her daughter as falsely disherited? To omit here the attainder of the duke of Buckingham, wrought by the cardinal of York; of the Lord Cobham likewise, and Sir Roger Acton: if the cause of the Lord Henry, late earl of Surrey, were well tried out, peradventure no such heinous purpose of any treason should be found therein, as then was made. Who incensed the late duke of Somerset to behead his own brother, but such makebates as these? and afterwards, when the said duke himself was attainted for a traitor, and condemned for a felon, a briber, and extortioner, how was the parliament then incensed? Adam Damlip received of Cardinal Pole at Rome but a silly crown in way of alms, and there-for, by means of Stephen Gardiner, was attainted for a traitor. George Egles did but read sometimes in woods, and by the said Gardiner was also condemned, and suffered as a traitor. Not that I here speak or mean against the high courts of parliaments of this our realm, necessarily assembled for the commonwealth, to whom I always attribute their due reverence and authority. But, as it happeneth sometimes in general councils, which, though they be ever so general, yet notwithstanding sometimes they may and do err in weighty matters of religion; so, likewise, they that say that princes and parliaments may be misinformed sometimes, by some sinister heads, in matters civil and politic, do not therein derogate or impair the high estate of parliaments, but rather give wholesome admonition to princes and parliament men, to be more circumspect and vigilant what counsel they shall admit, and what witnesses they do credit. For private affection, which commonly beareth a great stroke in all societies and doings of men, creepeth sometimes into such general councils, and into prince's courts also, either too much amplifying things that be but small, making mountains of molehills, or else too much extenuating things that be of themselves great and weighty, according as it is truly said by the poet Juvenal, "As a man is friended, so is his matter ended;" and "Where the hedge is low, a man may lightly make large leaps;" or rather, to speak after the French phrase, " He that is disposed tohave his dog killed, first maketh men believe that he is mad." And thus much having declared touching the matter of his accusation, the rest I refer to the high parliament of that Mighty King, who shall one day bring all things to perfect light.
In the mean season, howsoever the cause of the Lord Cromwell standeth true or false, this is certain, that Stephen Gardiner lacked not a head, nor yet assisters, which cunningly could fetch this matter about, and watch their time, when the king, being disposed to marry another wife, which was the Lady Katharine Howard, immediately after the beheading of the Lord Cromwell, did repudiate Lady Anne of Cleves, which otherwise it is to be thought, during the life of Cromwell could not so well be brought to pass.
But these things being now done and past, let us pass them over, and return again from whence we digressed, that is, to the Lord Cromwell, being now attainted and committed to the Tower; who, so long as he went with full sail of fortune, how moderately and how temperately he did ever bear himself in his estate, before hath been declared. So now the said Lord Cromwell, always one man, by the contrary wind of adversity being overblown, received the same with no less constancy and patience of a Christian heart; neither yet was he so unprovided of counsel and forecast, but that he did foresee this tempest long before it fell, and also prepared for the same; for two years before, smelling the conspiracy of his adversaries, and fearing what might happen, he called unto him his servants, and there, showing unto them in what a slippery state he stood, and also perceiving some stormy weather already to gather, required them to look diligently to their order and doings, lest, through their default, any occasion might rise against him. And furthermore, before the time of his apprehension, such order he took for his servants, that many of them, especially the younger brethren, which had little else to take unto, had honestly left for them in their friends' hands to relieve them; whatsoever should him befall.
Briefly, such a loving and kind master he was to his servants, that be provided aforehand almost for them all; insomuch, that he gave to twelve children, which were his musicians, twenty pounds a piece, and so committed them to their friends, of whom some yet remain alive, who both enjoyed the same, and also gave record of this to be true.
Furthermore, being in the Tower a prisoner, how quietly he bare it, how valiantly he behaved himself, how gravely and discreetly be answered and entertained the commissioners sent unto him, it is worthy noting. Whatsoever articles and interregatories they propounded, they could put nothing unto him, either concerning matters ecclesiastical or temporal, wherein he was not more ripened, and more furnished in every condition, than they themselves.
Amongst the rest of those commissioners who came unto him, one there was, whom the Lord Cromwell desired to carry for him a letter to the king; which when he refused, saying that he would carry no letter to the king from a traitor, then the Lord Cromwell desired him at least to do from him a message to the king. To that the other was contented, and granted, so that it were not against his allegiance. Then the Lord Cromwell, taking witness of the other lords, what he had promised, "You shall commend me," said he, "to the king, and tell him, by that he hath so well tried and throughly proved you as I have done, he shall find you as false a man as ever came about him."
Besides this, he wrote also a letter from the Tower to the king, whereof when none durst take the carriage upon him, Sir Ralph Sadler (whom he also had preferred to the king before, being ever trusty and faithful unto him) went unto the king to understand his pleasure, whether he would permit him to bring the letter or not; which when the king had granted, the said Master Sadler, as he was required, presented the letter unto the king, which he commanded thrice to be read unto him, insomuch that the king seemed to be moved therewith.
At last, three years after all this was done, Cromwell being circumvented with the malicious craft and policy of divers, that, by occasion of mention made touching the king's divorce with the Lady Anne of Cleves, he had said these words, "That he wished his dagger in him that had dissolved or broken that marriage;" hereupon it was objected against him by Thomas, duke of Norfolk, and others, that it was spoken against the king, who, at that time being in love with Katharine Howard, was the chief cause and author of that divorce. Whereupon divers of the nobles conspiring against him, some for hatred, and some for religion's sake, he was cast into the Tower of London; where, as it happened, (as it were by a certain fatal destiny,) that whereas he, a little before, had made a law, that whosoever was cast into the Tower, should be put to death without examination, he himself suffered by the same law. It is said, (which also I do easily credit,) that he made this violent law, not so much for any cruelty or tyranny, as only for a certain secret purpose, to have entangled the bishop of Winchester, who, albeit he was, without doubt, the most violent adversary of Christ and his religion, notwithstanding, God, peradventure, would not have his religion set forth by any wicked cruelty, or otherwise than was meet and convenient.
Notwithstanding, by reason of the act of parliament before passed, the worthy and noble Lord Cromwell, oppressed by his enemies, and condemned in the Tower, and not coming to his answer, on the twenty-eighth day of July, A. D. 1540, was brought to the scaffold on Tower-bill, where he said thse words following:
"I am come hither to die, and not to purge myself, as some think, peradventure, that I will: for if I should so do, I were a very wretch and a miser. I am, by the law, condemned to die, and thank my Lord God that hath appointed me this death for mine offence. For since the time that I have had years of discretion, I have lived a sinner, and offended my Lord God; for the which I ask him heartily forgiveness. And it is not unknown to many of you, that I have been a great travailler in this world, and being but of a base degree, was called to high estate; and since the time I came thereunto I have offended my prince, for the which I ask him heartily forgiveness, and beseech you all to pray to God with me, that He will forgive me. O Father, forgive me! O Son, forgive me! O Holy Ghost, forgive me! O three persons in one God, forgive me! And now I pray you that be here, to bear me record, I die in the catholic faith, not doubting in any article of my faith, no, nor doubting in any sacrament of the church. Many have slandered me, and reported that I have been a bearer of such as have maintained evil opinions; which is untrue: but I confess, that like as God, by his Holy Spirit, doth instruct us in the truth, so the devil is ready to seduce us; and I have been seduced. But bear me witness, that I die in the catholic faith of the holy church. And I heartily desire you to pray for the king's Grace, that he may long live with you in health and prosperity; and that after him, his son, Prince Edward, that goodly imp, may long reign over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaineth in this flesh, I waver nothing in my faith."
And so making his prayer, which was long, but not so long as both godly and learned, kneeling on his knees he spake these words, the effect whereof here followeth.
A prayer that the Lord Cromwell said at the hour of his death.
"O Lord Jesu! which art the only health of all men living, and the everlasting life of them which die in thee, I, wretched sinner, do submit myself wholly unto thy most blessed will; and being sure that the thing cannot perish which is committed unto thy mercy, willingly now I leave this frail and wicked flesh, in sure hope that thou wilt, in better wise, restore it to me again at the last day, in the resurrection of the just. I beseech thee, most merciful Lord Jesu Christ! that thou wilt, by thy grace, make strong my soul against all temptations, and defend me with the buckler of thy mercy against all the assaults of the devil. I see and acknowledge that there is in myself no hope of salvation, but all my confidence, hope, and trust, is in, thy most merciful goodness. I have no merits nor good works which I may allege before thee. Of sins and evil works, alas! I see a great heap; but yet, through thy mercy, I trust to be in the number of them to whom thou wilt not impute their sins; but wilt take and accept me for righteous and just, and to be the inheritor of everlasting life. Thou, merciful Lord! wast born for my sake; thou didst suffer both hunger and thirst for my sake; thou didst teach, pray, and fast for my sake; all thy holy actions and works thou wroughtest for my sake; thou sufferedst most grievous pains and torments for my sake: finally, thou gavest thy most precious body and thy blood to be shed on the cross for my sake. Now, most merciful Saviour! let all these things profit me, that thou freely hast done for me, which hast given thyself also for me. Let thy blood cleanse and wash away the spots and foulness of my sins. Let thy righteousness hide and cover my unrighteousness. Let the merits of thy passion and blood-shedding be satisfaction for my sins. Give me, Lord! thy grace, that the faith of my salvation in thy blood waver not in me, but may ever be firm and constant: that the hope of thy mercy and life everlasting never decay in me: that love wax not cold in me; and finally, that the weakness of my flesh be not overcome with the fear of death. Grant me, merciful Saviour! that when death bath shut up the eyes of my body, yet the eyes of my soul may still behold and look upon thee; and when death bath taken away the use of my tongue, yet my heart may cry and say unto thee, Lord! into thy hands I commend my soul; Lord Jesu I receive my spirit. Amen."
And thus his prayer made, after he had godly and lovingly exhorted them that were about him on the scaffold, he quietly committed his soul into the hands of God; and so patiently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and butcherly miser, which very ungoodly performed the office.
This valiant soldier and captain of Christ, the aforesaid Lord Cromwell, as he was most studious of himself in a flagrant zeal to set forward the truth of the gospel, seeking all means and ways to beat down false religion and to advance the true, so he always retained unto him and had about him such as could be found helpers and furtherers of the same; in the number of whom were sundry and divers fresh and quick wits, pertaining to his family; by whose industry and ingenious labours, divers and excellent ballads and books were contrived and set abroad, concerning the suppression of the pope and all popish idolatry. Amongst which, omitting a great sort that we might here bring in, yet this small treatise here following, called The Fantassie of Idolatrie, we thought not to pass over, containing in it, as in a brief sum, the great mass of idolatrous pilgrimages; for the posterity hereafter 'to understan , what then was used in England.
A Booke entitled the Fantassie of Idolatrie.
All Christen people
Beyng under the steple
Of Jesu Christes faith!
Marke and drawe nere,
And ye shall here
What the Holy Scripture sayth.
First, I wyll begyn
Your hartes to wyn
With nother fable nor lye;
But with God's testament,
As is moste expedient,
Wherin we myght se
Sauyng it were to long
For to rehearse,
Nowe, verse by verse,
In this same lytle song.
But I shall shewe,
In wordes fewe,
The summe of the whole effecte,
To them of good mynde,
That be wylling to fynde
The trade of idolatrous sect.
Fyrst, we will gather,
Of our heavenly Father,
Among his commaundmentes, ten;
Written as no fables,
But as in Moyse's tables,
To be kept of all Christen men.
Where that he sayth,
To the chyldren of fayth,
'I am your God and Kyng;
Other gods haue ye none,
But me alone,
To love aboue all thing.'
Idols and images
Haue none in usage,
(Of what mettel so euer they be,)
Graued or carued;
My wyle be obserued,
Or els can ye not loue me.'
'Then I, a jealous God,
Wyll scourge with my rod;
I may not forbeare my hand:
My power who can withstand!'
The prophetes all,
Of idols, as ye may se,
Put us from doubte,
And set them out,
In their colours, as they ought to be.
Saynt Paule also,
With many saintes mo,
Against idols, with al their myght,
Perceiuing suche swarmes,
Did blase their armes,
And brought them out to lyght.
This should suffise
All those that be wyse;
But we, of a stoubourne mynde,
Be so harde harted,
Wyll not be conuerted,
But rather styll be blynde.
Ronnyng hyther and thyther,
We cannot tell whither,
In offryng candels and pence
To stones and stockes,
And to olde rotten blockes,
That came, we know not from whense.
To Walsyngham[See note] a gaddyng,
To Cantorbury a maddyng,
As men distraught of mynde;
With fewe clothes on our backes,
But an image of waxe,
For the lame and for the blynde.
To Hampton, to Ipswyche,
To Harforth, to Shordyche,
With many mo places of pryce;
As, to our Lady of Worcester,
And the weet rode of Chester,
With the blessed Lady of Penryce.
To Leymster, to Kyngstone,
To Yorke, to Donyngton,
To Redying, to the chyld of grace;
To Wynsore, to Waltam,
To Ely, to Caultam,
Bare foted and bare legged apace.
To Saynt Earth, a right,
Where, in the dark nyght
Many juglyng casts hath be done;
To Saynt Augers rotten bones
That ran away for the nones;
To the crosse that groweth at Chaldon.
To the good Holy Ghoste,
That paynted poste,
Abyding at Basyngstoke;
Whiche doth as muche good
As a god made of wood,
And, yet, he beareth a great stroke.
To the holy blond of Hayles,
With your fyngers and nayles,
All that we may scratche and wynne;
Yet it woulde not be seen,
Except you were shryven,
And clene from all deadly synne.
There, were we flocked
Lowted and mocked;
For, nowe, it is knowen to be
But the blond of a ducke,
That long did sucke
The thrifte, from euery degre.
To Pomfret, to Wylsdon,
To Saynt Anne of Bucston,
To Saynt Mighels Mount also;
But, to reken all,
My wyttes be too small,
For, God knoweth, there be many mo!
To Saynt Syth for my purse;
Saynt Loye sane my horse;
For my teth to Saynt Apolyne
To Saynt Job for the poxe;
Saynt Luke save myne oxe;
Saynt Anthony save my swyne!
To Maister John Shorne,
That blessed man borne;
For the ague to hym we apply,
Whiche jugeleth with a bote
I beshrowe his herte rote
That wyle truste him, and it be I!
Suche was our truste,
Suche was our luste,
Upon creature to call and crye;
As men did please,
For every disease,
To haue a god peculiarly.
Blessed Saynt Sauiour,
For his noughty behauiour,
That dwelt not far from the stewes;
For causyng infidelitie,
Hath lost his dignitie
Of him we shall heare more newes.
The swete rode of Rambisbery,
Twenty myle from Maumbysbery,
Was oft times put in feare;
And nowe, at the laste,
He hath a brydling caste,
And is become, I wote not wheare.
Yet, hath it been saide,
His virtue so wayde,
That sixteen oxen and mo,
Were not able to carry
This rode from Rambisbery,
Though he toke seuen horses also:
Whiche is a great lye,
For, the truth to trye
His virtue is not worth a bean;
For one man toke hym downe,
From his churche and towne
Thre men conueyed him cleane.
Thus ran we about
To seke idols out,
Wandryng farre and nere;
Thynkying the power
Of our blessed. Sauiour
In other places more then there.
But now some may ronne,
And, when they haue done,
Their idols they shall not finde;
They haue had such checkes,
That hath broke their neckes:
Holde fast that be left behynde!
For the rode of grace
Hath lost his place,
And is rubbed on the gall;
For false deuotion
Hath lost his promotion,
And is broken in peces small.
He was made to jogle,
His eyes would gogle,
He wold bend his browes and frowne;
With his head he wold nod
Like a proper young god,
His shaftes would go up and downe.
The saying was:
That this rode of grace
And our Lady of Walsyngham,
Should haue bene married,
Sauing they taried
To spie a tyme howe and whan.
For some time in the nyght,
If the peeple say ryght,
As two lovers eche others loue to procure,
They did mete very oft:
Whereby it was thought,
That Lady and he had bene sure.
Now the rode is dead,
And can not her wed,
Death gaue him so sore a stroke,
That it cost him his lyfe,
And lost hym his wyfe,
The rychest of all Northfolke.
But if he hadde lyued,
She had provided,
With suche goodes as she wan,
(Though he neuer had worked
But like an idoll lurked,)
To finde hym lyke an honest man.
And the rode had a gyfte
To make great shyfte,
With his bowget under his cote;
To haue gotten their lyuing,
Ewen with false iugling,
Though she had neuer erned grote.
Also Delver Gathaerne,
As (saieth the Welcheman)
Brought outlawes out of hell,
Is come with spere and shelde,
In harneys to burne in Smythfielde;
For in Wales he may not dwell.
Then Forest the fryer
That obstynate lyer,
That wyllingly is dead;
In his contumacy,
The gospell dyd deny,
And the kyng to be supreme head.
At Saynt Marget Patens,
The rode is gone thens,
And stoele away by nyght;
With his tabernacle and crosse,
With all that there was,
And is gone away quyghte.
Yet haue we thought,
That these idols haue wrought
Myracles, in many a place,
Upon age and youth;
When, in very truth,
They were done by the devils grace.
For the cursed deuyll,
The mayster of euyll,
To get us under his winges,
Hath such a condition,
By God's permission,
To worke right wonderful thinges.
For when they bored holes
In the roodes' back of poles,
Which, as some men saye, dyd speake,
Then lay he still as a stocke,
Receyued there many a knocke,
And did not ones crie 'creake.'
Yet offer what ye wolde,
Were it otes, sylver, or golde
Pyn, poynt, brooche, or rynge,
The churche were as then,
Such charitable men,
That they would refuse nothyng.
But now may we see,
What gods they be,
Euen puppets, maumats and elfes:
Throw them downe thryse,
They can not aryse,
Not onse, to helpe them seines.
Thus were we poore soules
Begyled with idolles,
With fayned myracles and lyes,
By the deuyll and his docters,
The pope and his procters
That, with such, haue blend our eyes.
For they were the souldiers
Of those idols and wonders,
In euery abbey and towne,
Like a syght of false deacons:
Wherefore all men rekyns,
For suche juglyng, 'they shall downe.'
For it was great reuth,
To se age and yeuth
To be blynde after this facion;
But, thanke we our Lorde,
That them hath abhorde,
And had upon us compassion!
Besydes these stockes and stones,
Haue we not had, of late, traytors bones,
Thus their trumpery to maintain?
Whiche is a token, verely,
They go about most earnestly
To bryng in superstition again!
With dyvers other trickes,
Whiche sore in mens' consciences stickes:
But to Christ let us all pray!
To plucke it up, by the hard rote,
(Seeing there is none other bote,)
And utterly to banyshe it away.
And now, to make an end:
Lorde! we beseche Thee to sende
Us, peace and tranquillitie;
And, that of thy mere mercy and grace,
Within short tyme and space,
To illumine us with thy sincere veritie!
Note: "The image of our Lady at Walsingham was so famous in former times that even foreigners came on pilgrimage to visit it. Erasmus has given us a description of the chapel or shrine in which it was contained, and which appears to have been a distinct building from the priory church. Henry the Third went thither in his twenty-sixth year. Edward the First in his ninth and twenty-fifth years. Edward the Second in his ninth year. Edward the Third in his thirty-fifth year. John de Mountford, earl of Bretaigne, came over to visit it in the thirty-fifth of Edward the Third. David Bruce, king of Scotland, in the thirty-eighth year of Edward the Third. Henry the Sixth went there in 1455. Henry the Seventh ordered an image of silver, gilt, to be set up before it, in his will; and Henry the Eighth and his first queen made more than one visit to it. Sir Henry Spelman says, that when he was a youth, the tradition was that Henry the Eighth had walked barefoot from the town of Barsham to the chapel of our Lady, and presented her with a necklace of great value. This famous image, however, upon the change of belief, was taken from Walsingham to Chelsea, near London, and there burnt, the thirtieth year of Henry the
Eighth." See Dugdale, vol. vi. p. 71, Lond. 1825.?FOX'S MARTYRS. SEELEY