Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 189. ECCLESIASTICAL MATTERS, A.D. 1538.


It will be judged, that I have lingered, peradventure, too much in these outward affairs of princes and ambassadors: wherefore, leaving these by-matters pertaining to the civil state awhile, I mind (the Lord willing) to put my story in order again, of such occurrents as belong unto the church, first showing such injunctions and articles as were devised and set forth by the king, for the behoof of his subjects. Wherein, first, is to be understood, that the king, when he had taken the title of supremacy from the bishop of Rome, and had translated the same to himself, and was now a full prince in his own realm, although he well perceived, by the wisdom and advice of the Lord Cromwell and other of his council, that the corrupt state of the church had need of reformation in many things; yet because he saw how stubborn and untoward the hearts of many papists were, to be brought from their old persuasions and customs, and what business he had with them only about the matter of the pope's title, he durst not by and by reform all at once, (which notwithstanding had been to be wished,) but leading them fairly and softly, as he might, proceeded by little and little, to bring greater purposes to perfection (which he no doubt would have done, if the Lord Cromwell had lived); and therefore first he began with a little book of articles, (partly above touched;) bearing this title: "Articles devised by the king's Highness, to stable Christian quietness and unity among the people," &c.

Articles devised by the king.

In the contents of which book, first he set forth the articles of our Christian creed, which are necessarily and expressly to be believed by all men. Then, with the king's preface going before, followeth the declaration of three sacraments; to wit, of baptism, of penance, and of the sacrament of the altar; in the tractation whereof, he altereth nothing from the old trade received heretofore from the Church of Rome.

"Further then, proceeding to the order and cause of our justification, he declareth, that the only mercy and grace of the Father, promised freely unto us for his Son's sake Jesus Christ, and the merits of his passion and blood, be the only sufficient and worthy causes of our justification; yet good works, with inward contrition, hope, and charity, and all other spiritual graces and motions, be necessarily required, and must needs concur also in remission of our sins; that is, our justification: and afterwards, we, being justified, must also have good works of charity, and obedience towards God, in the observing and fulfilling outwardly of his laws and commandments, &c.

"As touching images, he willeth all bishops and preachers to teach the people in such sort as they may know how they may use them safely in churches, and not abuse them to idolatry, as thus: that they be representers of virtue and good example, and also, by occasion, may be stirrers of men's minds, and make them to remember themselves, and to lament their sins; and so far he permitteth them to stand in churches. But otherwise, for avoiding of idolatry, he chargeth all bishops and preachers diligently to instruct the people, that they commit no idolatry unto them, in censing of them, in kneeling and offering to them, with other like worshippings, which ought not to be done, but only to God.

"And likewise for honouring of saints, the bishops and preachers be commanded to inform the people, how saints, hence departed, ought to be reverenced and honoured, and how not: that is, that they are to be praised and honoured as the elect servants of Christ, or rather Christ to be praised in them for their excellent virtues planted in them, and for their good example left us, teaching us to live in virtue and in goodness, and not to fear to die for Christ, as they did. And also as advancers of our prayers in that they may; but yet no confidence, nor any such honour to be given unto them, which is only due to God; and so forth: charging the said spiritual persons to teach their flock, that all grace, and remission of sins, and salvation, can no otherwise be obtained but of God only, by the mediation of our Saviour Christ, who only is a sufficient Mediator for our sins: that all grace and remission of sin must proceed only by the mediation of Christ and no other.

"From that he cometh further to speak of rites and ceremonies in Christ's church; as in having vestments used in God's service, sprinkling of holy water, giving of holy bread, bearing of candles on Candlemas-day, taking of ashes, bearing of palms, creeping to the cross, setting up the sepulchre, hallowing of the font, with other like customs, rites,and ceremonies; all which old rites and customs the aforesaid book doth not by and by repeal, but so far admitteth them for good and laudable, as they put men in remembrance of spiritual things: but so that the people withal must be instructed, how the said ceremonies contain in them no such power to remit sin, but that to be referred unto God only, by whom only our sins be forgiven us.

"And so, concluding with purgatory, he maketh an end of those articles, thus saying thereof, that because the book of Maccabees alloweth praying for souls departed, he therefore disproveth not that so laudable a custom, so long continued in the church. But because there is no certain place named, nor kind of pains expressed in Scripture, he therefore thinketh necessary such abuses clearly to be put away, which under the name of purgatory have been advanced; as to make men believe, that by the bishop of Rome's pardons, or by masses said at Scala Cúli, or other where, in any place, or before any image, souls might clearly be delivered out of purgatory, and from the pains thereof, to be sent straight to heaven; and such other like abuses," &c.

And these were the contents of that book of articles, devised and passed, by the king's authority, a little before the stir of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire; wherein, although there were many and great imperfections and untruths not to be permitted in any true reformed church, yet notwithstanding, the king and his council, to bear with the weaklings which were newly weaned from their mother's milk of Rome, thought it might serve somewhat for the time, instead of a little beginning, till better come.

And so consequently, not long after these articles thus set forward, certain other injunctions were also given out about the same year 1536, whereby a number of holy-days were abrogated; and especially such as fell in the harvest time, the keeping of which redounded greatly to the hinderance of gathering in their corn, hay, fruit, and other such-like necessary commodities; the copy and tenor of which injunctions I have also hereunto annexed, as under followeth:

"Forasmuch as the number of holy-days is so excessively grown, and yet daily more and more, by men's devotion, yea, rather superstition, was like further to increase, that the same was, and should be, not only prejudicial to the common weal, by reason that it is occasion as well of much sloth and idleness, the very nurse of thieves, vagabonds, and of divers other unthriftiness and inconvenience, as of decay of good mysteries and arts profitable and necessary for the commonwealth, and loss of man's food, (many times being clean destroyed through the superstitious observance of the said holy-days, in not taking the opportunity of good and serene weather offered upon the same in time of harvest,) but also pernicious to the souls of many men, which being enticed by the licentious vacation and liberty of those holy-days, do upon the same commonly use and practise more excess, riot, and superfluity, than upon any other days. And since the sabbath day was used and ordained but for man's use, and therefore ought to give place to the necessity and behoof of the same, whensoever that shall occur, much rather than any other holy-day instituted by man; it is therefore by the king's Highness's authority, as supreme head in earth of the Church of England, with the common assent and consent of the prelates and clergy of this his realm, in convocation lawfully assembled and congregated, amongst other things, decreed, ordained, and established:

"First, That the feast of dedication of churches shall, in all places throughout this realm, be celebrated and kept on the first Sunday of the month of October, for ever, and upon none other day.

"Item, That the feast of the patron of every church within this realm, called commonly the Church Holy-day, shall not from henceforth be kept and observed as a holy-day, as heretofore hath been used; but that it shall be lawful to all and singular persons . resident or dwelling within this realm, to go to their work, occupation, or mystery; and the same truly to exercise and occupy upon the said feast, as upon any other work-day, except the said feast of Church Holy-day be such as must be else universally observed and kept as a holy-day by this ordinance following.

"Also, that all those feasts or holy-days which shall happen to fall or occur either in the harvest-time, which is to be counted from the first day of July unto the twenty-ninth .day of September, or else in the term time at Westminster, shall not be kept or observed from henceforth as holy-days; but that it may be lawful for every man to go to his work or occupation upon the same, as upon any other work-day, except always the feasts of the Apostles, or of the Blessed Virgin, and of St. George, and also such feasts as wherein the king's Highness's judges at Westminster do not use to sit in judgment; all which shall be kept holy and solemnly of every man, as in time past hath been accustomed. Provided always, that it may be lawful unto all priests and clerks, as well secular as regular, in the aforesaid holy-days now abrogated, to sing or say their accustomed service for those holy-days, in their churches;: so as they do not the same solemnly, nor do ring to the same, after the manner used in highholy-days, nor do command or indict the same to be kept or observed as holy-days.

"Finally, That the feasts of the Nativity of our Lord, of Easter-day, of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and of St. Michael the Archangel, shall be from henceforth counted, accepted, and taken for the four general offering days.

"And for further declaration of the premises, be it known that Easter term beginneth always the eighteenth day after Easter-day, reckoning Easter-day for one, and endeth the Monday next following the Ascension-day.

"Trinity term beginneth always the Wednesday next after the Octaves of Trinity Sunday, and endeth the eleventh or twelfth day of July.

"Michaelmas term beginneth the ninth or tenth day of October, and endeth the twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth day of November.

"Hilary term beginneth the twenty-third or twenty-fourth day of January, and endeth the twelfth or thirteenth day of February.

"In Easter term, upon the Ascension-day; in Trinity term, upon the Nativity of St. John Baptist; in Michaelmas term, upon Allhallows-day; in Hilary term, upon Candlemas-day, the king's judges at Westminster do not use to sit in judgment, nor upon any Sunday."

After these articles and injunctions thus given out by the king and his council, then followed moreover, as time served, other injunctions besides, concerning images, relics, and blind miracles, and for abrogating of pilgrimages, devised by superstition, and maintained for lucre's sake; also for the Pater-noster, Creed, and God's commandments, and the Bible to be had in English, with divers other points more, necessary for religion.

By these articles and injunctions coming forth one after another, for the necessary instruction of the people, it may appear how well the king deserved then the title of his supreme government, given to him over the Church of England; by which title, and authority he did more good for the redressing and advancing of Christ's church and religion here in England in these three years, than the pope, the great vicar of Christ, with all his bishops and prelates, had done the space of three hundred years before. Such a vigilant care was then in the king and in his council, how by all ways and means to redress religion, to reform errors, to correct corrupt customs, to help ignorance, and to reduce the misleading of Christ's flock, drowned in blind popery, superstition, customs, and idolatry, to some better form of more perfect reformation: whereunto he provided not only these articles, precepts, and injunctions above specified, to inform the rude people, but also procured the bishops to help forward, in the same cause of decayed doctrine, with their diligent preaching and teaching of the people; according as ye heard before, how that in the year 1534, during the whole time of parliament, there was appointed every Sunday a bishop to preach at Paul's Cross, against the supremacy of the bishop of Rome.

Amongst which bishops, John Longland, bishop of Lincoln, the king's confessor, and a great persecutor of the poor flock of Christ, (as is before sufficiently recorded,) made a sermon before the king, upon Good Friday, this present year 1538, at Greenwich, seriously and effectuously preaching, on the king's behalf, against the usurped supremacy of the bishop of Rome; the contents of whose sermon wholly to express, were here too long and tedious.

You heard before, by the king's injunctions above expressed, and directed out, A.D. 1538, how all such images and pictures which were abused with pilgrimage or offerings of any idolatry, were abolished; by virtue of which injunctions, divers idols, and especially the most notable stocks of idolatry, were taken down the same year, 1538, as the images of Walsingham, Ipswich, Worcester, the Lady of Wilsdon, Thomas Becket, with many more; having engines to make their eyes to open and roll about, and other parts of their body to stir, and many other false jugglings, as the blood of Hayles, and such like, wherewith the simple people a long time had been deceived: all which were espied out, and destroyed.

Among divers other of these foul idols, there went also, in the same reckoning, a certain old idolatrous image in Wales, named Darvell Gatheren; which, in the month of May, in the year above mentioned, was brought up to London, and burned in Smithfield; with which idol also was burned at the same time, and hanged for treason, Friar Forrest, of whom some mention was partly touched before, in the story of Cardinal Wolsey.

Previous Next