95. INSUFFERABLE PRIDE AND VAINGLORY OF THE PRELATES
Thus the poor Christians, as ye see, like to the silly Israelites under the tyranny of Pharaoh, were infested and oppressed in every place, but especially here in England; and that so much the more here, because that the king, not like to Winceslaus, went full and whole with the pope and his prelates against the gospellers; by reason whereof the kingdom of the pope and his members here in this realm began to be so strong, that none durst stir or once mute against them. The bishops, having the king so full on their side, armed, moreover, with laws, statutes, punishments, imprisonments, sword, fire, and faggot, reigned and ruled as they listed, as kings and princes within themselves. So strong were they of power, that no human force was able to stand against them; so exalted in pride, and puffed up in glory, that they thought all things to be subject to their reverend majesties. Whatsoever they set forth or decreed, it must of all men be received and obeyed. And such was their superstitious blindness and curious vanity, that whatsoever toy came once in their fantasy, it was straightways determined and established for a law of all men to be observed, were it never so frivolous or superstitious; as well appeareth by Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, and others, who, having now a little leisure from slaying and killing the innocent people, martyrs, and confessors of the Lord, and having now brought their enemies, as they thought, under feet, began to set up themselves, and to invent new customs, as the guise of the pope's church is, ever to intrude into the church of God some ceremony or custom of their own making, whereby the church of Christ hath been hitherto exceedingly pestered. So likewise this Thomas Arundel, thinking the church yet not sufficiently stuffed with ceremonies and vain traditions of men, bringeth in a new-found gaud, commonly called The tolling of Aves, in honour of our Lady, with certain Aves to be said, and days of pardon to be given, for the same; for the ratification whereof, under the pretence of the king's request, he directed his mandate to the bishop of London, well stuffed with words of idolatry, as by the reading thereof may appear, in form of terms as followeth
A mandate of Thomas Arundel, directed to the bishop of London, to warn men to say certain prayers at the tolling of the Ayes, or ringing of the curfew.
"Thomas, &c. To the right reverend our brother, the Lord Robert, by the grace of God bishop of London, greeting, &c. While we lift our eyes round about us, and behold attentively with circumspect consideration, how the most high Word that was in the beginning with God, chose to him a holy and immaculate virgin of the kingly stock, in whose womb he took true flesh by inspiral inspiration, that the merciful goodness of the Son of God, that was uncreate, might abolish the sentence of condemnation, which all the posterity of mankind, that was created, had by sin incurred: amongst other labours in the vine of the Lord of Sabaoth, we sung to God our Saviour with great joy in him, carefully thinking, that though all the people of the Christian religion did extol with voices of praises so worthy a virgin, by whom we received the beginnings of our redemption, by whom the holy day first shined to us, which gave us hope of salvation; and although all the same people were drawn to reverence her, which, being a happy virgin, conceived the Son of God, the King of heaven, the Redeemer and Saviour of all nations, ministering light to the people that were miserably drowned in the darkness of death: we truly, as the servants of her own inheritance, and such as are written of, to be of her peculiar dower, as we are by every man's confession acknowledged to be, we, I say, ought more watchfully than any others to show the endeavours of our devotion in praising her, who being hitherto merciful to us, yea, being even cowards, would that our power, being, as it were, spread abroad every where through all the coasts of the world, should, with a victorious arm, fear all foreign nations; that our power, being on all sides so defended with the buckler of her protection, did subdue unto her victorious standards, and made subject unto us, nations both near at hand and far off.
"Likewise our happy estate, all the time that we have passed since the beginning of our lives, may be well attributed only to the help of her medicine; to whom also we may worthily ascribe now of late in these our times, under the mighty government of our most Christian king, our deliverance from the ravening wolves, and the mouths of cruel beasts, which had prepared against our banquets a mess of meat mingled full of gall, and hated us unjustly, secretly lying in wait for us, in recompence of the good will that we showed to them. Wherefore, that she being on high, sitting before the throne of the heavenly Majesty, the defendress and patroness of us all, being magnified with all men's praises, may more plentifully exhibit to us, the sons of adoption, the teats of her grace, in all those things that we shall have to do: at the request of the special devotion of our lord the king himself, we command your brotherhood, straitly enjoining you, that you command the subjects of your city and diocese, and of all other suffragans, to worship our Lady Mary, the mother of God and our patroness and protectress, evermore in all adversity, with such-like kind of prayer and accustomed manner of ringing, as the devotion of Christ's faithful people is wont to worship her at the ringing of curfew. And when before day in the morning ye shall cause them to ring, that with like manner of prayer and ringing she be every where honoured devoutly by the aforesaid our and your suffragans, and their subjects as well religious as secular, in your and their monasteries and collegiate churches: that we, so humbly calling upon the mercy of the heavenly Father, the right hand of the heavenly Piety, may mercifully come to the help, the protection and defence of the same our Lord the king, who, for the happy remedy of quietness, and for our succour from tempestuous floods, is ready to apply his hands to work, and his eyes, with all his whole desire, to watching. We, therefore, coveting more earnestly to stir up the minds of all faithful people to so devout an exercise of God, &c., we grant by these presents, to all and every man, &c., that shall say the Lord's prayer and the salutation of the angel five times at the morning peal with a devout mind, forty days' pardon by these presents. Given under our seal, in our manor of Lambeth, the tenth day of February."
By this frivolous and barbarous constitution, with many other of like sort heaped into the church by the papists, appeareth the proper natures and condition of this catholic generation; who, being themselves not greatly exercised nor experienced in any serious cogitation of spiritual matter, as seemeth, take upon them to govern the spiritual church of Christ, whereof indeed they have no skill or very little: and, therefore, according to their unskilful handling, they lead and rule the church after such outward sights and ceremonies, seemly perhaps to their own gross affection, but not agreeing, nay rather clean contrary, to the right nature and condition of the spiritual house and kingdom of the Lord: and like as in their inventions they swerve utterly from the right handling of all spiritual government, so, in their manners and form of life likewise, they do resemble little or no part almost of such as are, and ought to be, true pastors and ministers of the mystical body of Christ.
Examples hereof are plenty and plain in these Roman prelates to be noted, whoso, well considering the humble state and lowly spirit which ought to be in pastoral leaders of the church, will compare the same with the usual pomp of these glorious potentates.
As for example: What can be more convenient for a true pastor ecclesiastical, than humility of heart and spirit, according to the example of the head bishop himself? so what greater show of arrogancy and pride could there be, than in this, whom I have oft named before, Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury? who, passing by the high street of London, did not only look and wait for the ringing of the bells, for a triumph of his coming, but took great snuff, and did suspend all such churches in London, (not only with the steeple and bells, but also with the organs,) so many as did not receive his coming with the noise of bells, according as out of his own registers may appear, the words whereof, written to his own somner, I have hereto annexed in his own form, as followeth.
A commission directed to the somner, to suspend certain churches of London, because they rung not their bells at the presence of my lord, the archbishop of Canterbury.
"Thomas, by the permission of God, &c. To our well-beloved Thomas Wilton, our somner sworn, health, grace, and blessing. The comeliness of our holy church of Canterbury, over which we bear rule, deserveth and requireth, that while we pass through the province of the same our church, having our cross carried before us, every parish church in their turns ought, and are bounden, in token of special reverence that they bear to us, to ring their bells: which notwithstanding, yea, on Tuesday last past, when we, betwixt eight and nine of the clock before dinner, passed openly on foot as it were, through the midst of the city of London, with our cross carried before us, divers churches, whose names are here beneath noted, showed towards us willingly, though they certainly knew of our coming, unreverence rather than reverence, and the duty that they owe to our church of Canterbury, ringing not at all at our coming. Wherefore we, being willing to revenge this injury, for the honour of our spouse, as we are bounden, command you, that by our authority you put all those churches under our indictment, suspending God's holy organs and instruments in the same: which we also suspend by the tenor of these presents, till the ministers of the aforesaid churches be able hereafter to attain of us the benefit of more plentiful grace. Given," &c.
What great reason was in this, why this archbishop either should thus look for the ringing of the bells, or why he should be thus displeased with not ringing, I do not see. Belike, his mind, in the mean time, was greatly occupied with some great muse, as feeling of God's fear, with repentance and remembrance of his sins, with zealous care and solicitude for his flock, with the earnest meditation of the passion and life of our Saviour, who in this world was so despised; or else was set upon some grave study, while he so waited for the ringing of the bells, which were wont to be so noisome to all students. And why were not the trumpeters also shent as well, because they did not sound before his person? But though the bells did not clatter in the steeples, and therefore his thunderbolt should have fallen upon the steeples, which had deserved, why should the body of the church therefore be suspended? At least, the poor organs, methinketh, had some part of wrong to be put to silence in the quire, because the bells rang not in the tower.
Of the like matter, also, we read in the said registers, falling between the bishop of Worcester and the priory of the same town, for not ringing at the bishop's coming into the church: whereupon much suit and contention was between them, till at length the archbishop of Canterbury took up the matter, moderating it, as in the said registers, fol. 441, appeareth to be seen as followeth:
"Thomas, &c. Whereas there happened variance lately between our reverend brother the lord bishop of Worcester on the one party, and the religious and discreet men the prior and convent of the same church on the other party, for not ringing of bells at the coming of our said brother to his aforesaid church, at length the parties, considering the great inconvenience that might come thereof, at our instance and request did agree on this manner: that as often as it shall happen our reverend brother to go to his aforesaid church, either to celebrate orders, or to visit his church in the head or in the inferiors, or to make cream and oil in the same church, also in the feast of the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary, which is the chiefest feast in the abbey aforesaid; then the prior and the convent, and their successors for the time being, shall ring solemnly against his coming, or shall cause to be rung solemnly, without all contradiction, or any reclaiming hereafter to be made against the same: which agreement that it may be more firmly kept, we let you all understand by these presents, sealed with our seal. Given at our palace of Canterbury, July 12, the tenth year of our government."
The like stir for bell-ringing and for processions had almost happened between the archbishop of Canterbury, successor to this Thomas Arundel, named Henry Chichesley, on the one party, and the abbey of St. Alban's on the other party, had not the abbot, in time submitting himself to the archbishop, so provided, that the ringing of their bells at his coming might not redound to any derogation of their liberties. Whereunto the archbishop granted by these his letters as followeth:
"Henry, &c., to the religious men, the abbot and convent of the monastery of St. Alban's, in the diocese of Lincoln, health, &c. Whenas of late there happened a matter of variance between us, and you, the abbot and convent, by reason of not giving reverence to us, being due to our province of Canterbury, that is, for not ringing the bells, and meeting us with processions when we passed by divers places of our province, as well due of common custom, as of old use and for the prerogative of the church of Canterbury, as also being due of every one being within the compass of this our said province, when and as often as we shall pass by their places; at length your lord abbot, coming personally to us, did grant both for you and the convent aforesaid, to do and to give of your gentleness all reverence and honour, with such reverence both to us and our church of Canterbury, as often as we pass by your monastery, or the places nigh or adjoining thereto, or shall hereafter go by; so that it might not be prejudicial to your exemption, and nothing be attempted to the violating of your privilege; and that it might not be challenged for duty hereafter. Wherefore we, desiring to keep you from damage, let you understand by these presents, that it is not our intent to derogate your exemptions or privilege whatsoever herein; nor by any means to be prejudicial to you by these your reverences or other duties, whatsoever you have or shall grant to us of your devotion and liberality, both by you, and in places under your dominion. In witness whereof," &c.
To express, moreover, and describe, the glorious pomp of these prince-like prelates, in these blind days of popish religion, reigning then in the church, I thought to adjoin hereunto another example not much unlike, neither differing much in time, concerning certain poor men cited up, and enjoined strait penance by William Courtney, predecessor of the said Thomas Arundel, for bringing litter to his horse, not in wains as they should do, but in privy sacks, in a secret manner under their cloaks or coats: for the which so heinous and horrible trespass, the said archbishop, sitting in his tribunal seat, did call and cite before him the said persons, and, after their submission, enjoined them penance; which penance what it was, and what were the names of the aforesaid parties, here followeth out of the said archbishop's registers, both by his own words, and by picture of the persons in the same registers annexed and painted, in all resemblance, as there standeth, and here is also to be seen.
Illustration -- A peasant carrying a sack of straw as a penance
"Ignorance, the mother of error, so much hath blinded and deceived certain persons, to wit, Hugh Pennie, John Forstall, John Boy, John Wanderton, William Hayward, and John White, tenants of the lord of Wengham, that against the coming of the aforesaid archbishop to his palace of Canterbury on Palm Sunday even, the year of our Lord 1390, where they, being warned by the bailiff to convey and carry hay, straw, and other litter to the aforesaid palace, as they were bound by the tenor of their lands, which they hold of the see of Canterbury; refusing and disdaining to do their service, as they were accustomed, brought their straw and other litter, not in carts and wains openly and sufficiently, but by piece-meal and closely in bags or sacks, in contempt of their lord, and derogation of the right and title of the see of Canterbury. Whereupon they, being cited and presented before the archbishop, sitting in judgment at his manor of State-wood, yielded and submitted themselves to his lordship's pleasure, humbly craving pardon of their trespass. Then the aforesaid archbishop absolved the above-named Hugh Pennie, &c., they swearing to obey the laws and ordinances of holy church, and to do the punishment that should be appointed them for their deserts: that is, that they, going leisurely before the procession, every one of them should carry openly on his shoulder his bag stuffed with hay and straw, so that the said hay and straw should appear hanging out, the mouths of the sacks being open."