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down to us, with gradual accretions, from the seventeenth century as no way connected directly with the religious movement which threw aside the Pope's authority in England, it is perfectly evident that the retention of that authority would have hindered and even stifled any development of those principles on which our present mode of government is founded. And if, in the Providence of God, England was to offer to the world the spectacle of a mighty and enduring empire founded and built up in infinitely more Christian and humane principles of civil order than any empire hitherto known, it was an absolute necessity that she should first be perfectly set free from the embarrassing connection she had long been forced to maintain with a power which inherited the principles as well as the name of as tyrannical an empire as the ages of the world had seen.?
It seems almost too childish a folly for any one, in these days, to deny that our country had a perfect right to the possession of this entire independence. And yet persons have been heard to argue, even in our own generation, that the Reformation was a thoroughly unjustifiable step on the part of England. The fact is, that it has been too much the habit to take a mere surface view of that great event: and in justifiable regrets for the loss of unity attributed to the Reformation, in indignation at the miserable conduct of Henry VIII., and in somewhat unfair comparisons between the condition of our own Church before and since that time, the real principles which underlie the Reformation itself have been lost sight of, and such language used respecting it as assumes that it was a wilful and wanton rebellion against lawful authority. This mistake has been fostered by the ordinary superficialness of Protestant and popular writers on the subject. To them the foam and scum that floats on the surface of the stream is not merely a sign showing the strength of the current flowing beneath, it is the very substance of the stream. The coarse and flippant declamation of popular preachers like Latimer, the noisy pamphlets in which his literary compeers decried all Catholic principles as much as they assailed the “Enormyties of the Byshoppe of Rome,” the Puritan fables of Foxe's Martyrology, and many such like effusions for which Churchmen hold themselves not at all or very
1 We have said nothing above of some other galling results of the Papal authority in England, which were almost enough in themselves to have brought about its expulsion as soon as the country came to its senses after the Wars of the Roses. There was, for example, the drain of money from the kingdom for purposes which contributed neither to its spiritual nor its secular advantage. A large proportion of the monastic income so basely alienated by Henry VIII. was really the income of the Pope, in the shape of taxes levied by him upon those who submitted to make themselves, só far, his subjects. Wycliffe used to say that a hill of gold would soon be worn away by the payments required for the Pope, and the hyperbole of the sturdy demagogue is very much corroborated by the more formal complaints existing in documentary evidence, which show that the patience of the whole land, clergy and laity alike, was overstrained by these extortions.
slightly responsible :- these were the seum brought to the surface by a deep and strong stream coming into contact with opposing obstacles over and through which it rolls with irresistible power. They hardly made their appearance till the work was done; certainly the doing of it was not theirs. And while it must be acknowledged that these frothy writers have formed the traditions of the Reformation as they are held by the large bulk of Protestants in later days, it ought to be clearly seen by the student of history that what they originated and gave force to was not the Reformation, but the Puritan licence to which the Reformation had to present as firm a front as it did to the older traditions of the Papal system.
The false tradition of the Reformation thus handed down has formed a floating and impalpable atmosphere around even those who would be unlikely to be influenced directly by any one of the writers with whom it has originated: and a work that is much wanted is such a one as we before referred to—a work tbat will not only show the wrongs which justified Englishmen in the repudiation of the Papal system, but also justify the Reformers by a detailed reference to their authentic and official acts in the several stages of their labours. It would then be seen that, amidst all the embarrassments arising from the novelty of that work, from the interference and forced co-operation of men whose objects were either altogether illegitimate, or else very different from those sought in the Reformation, they went on steadily in a straightforward course, setting a certain object before them, and feeling their way gradually towards it. All the difficulty involved in the careful reconstruction of the Ecclesiastical system of England, entirely free from the foreign and denationalizing elements which had been interwoven with it, and yet retaining as much as possible of what was Catholic, was surmounted by them with a wisdom and courage so great that they must command our respect. Let us shortly notice some of the official acts by which the Reformation was really consummated ;' for it is these documents alone that can decide the questions at issue on the subject.
The first thing to be noticed in such a review is the mode in which the Papal supremacy was abolished. This abolition was by no means a basty or an ill-considered measure. All parties seemed to feel that the question was an intricate one, and that it was only safe to approach it with measured steps, and a deliberate knowledge both of the grounds on which action was to be taken, and also of the consequences which would result. For centuries there had been a struggling under-current of discontent with the Pope's authority, and occasionally this under-current had worked its way up to the surface, as in the matter of Investitures, and the Legates; but there had never hitherto been any strong personal motive urging the Sovereign as well as the Commons of England to oppose in toto the exercise of that authority. Such a motive, in Henry VIII.'s case, seems to have been the means by which the opposing instinct of the nation was brought to a focus. But whatever the King's personal motives and intentions were,—the former being connected with the divorce, and the latter looking forward to a transference of the Pope's authority to himself,—no impartial reader of history can fail to see how gradually and justly all the measures were taken, so far as the Church and nation were concerned, for bringing about the abolition of the Pope's jurisdiction over England.
1 The dissolution of the monasteries cannot fairly be regarded as a part of the Reformation. Indeed the work had begun more than two centuries before, in the confiscation of the property of the Knight-Templars. There can be little doubt that it originated in the necessities of Henry's Exchequer ; and that, however much it assisted in establishing the Reformation on a firmer basis than it might otherwise have possessed, none of those concerned in the dissolution had the least real sympathy with the objects sought for and ultimately obtained by the Reformers.
The respective stages by which the official renunciation and expulsion of this jurisdiction was accomplished in Henry's reign occupied about four years and a half. The first decided attempt made at limiting the power of the Pope during that reign was in 1530, when, in an Act of Parliament against pluralities, (21 Hen. VIII. c. 13,) a clause was inserted forbidding the application of any person to Rome for dispensation from the operation of the law. The serving out such a dispensation was to be met by a penalty of £70, beside the loss of all profits pretended to be secured by its
A dispensation from Rome for non-residence was also declared void and of none effect, and subject to a penalty of £20. These two clauses aimed at two glaring practical abuses of the Papal power, by which the higher clergy, and especially foreigners, were permitted to hold a number of benefices together, perhaps without serving any; and it was a real reformation in the Church for such a wretched system to be abolished. The marvel is that an abuse of this kind could ever have sprung up in the land, and that it had not been put an end to many years before the personal enmity between Pope and King suggested such an attack on the strong outworks of the Papal jurisdiction.
In the following year, in the Parliament of 1531—2, another step was taken, or rather preparations made for its being taken at a future day. Large sums of money were annually sent out of England for the purchase of privileges from Rome, and in the form of direct taxes. Among these were the "annates," or firstfruits of Bishoprics; sums of money paid by every Bishop on first coming to his see, for obtaining leave from the Pope to occupy it. Although Bishops do not die every day, the sum received by the Pope on this account alone amounted to an average of £3,500 per annum for the twenty-three sees of England and Wales, or £160,000 from the beginning of Henry VII.'s reign up to this date in that of his son. That the Parliament of the country should endeavour to stop the export of so large an amount of treasure from
the country was both natural and just; and the manner in which they carried out their intentions is remarkable for its fairness and honourable good feeling. Although it was maintained that the whole tax was an abuse, arising out of one levied for a very different object, the maintaining of forces against the Infidels, yet they offered to compromise the matter with the Pope, rather than proceed to "extremities,” sending to him a request that he would moderate these exactions, and come to an agreement as to some equitable fees, at the rate of five per cent. on the value of the see, or some similar valuation, in return for the bulls by which he gave his assent to the appointment of the Bishops. For the quiet settlement of Cranmer in the see of Canterbury, no fewer than eleven of these Papal bulls were required, so that it really seems as if they were multiplied for no other object but to increase the amount of tax to be levied. The justice and reasonableness of such a measure seems so plain to us at this day, that one marvels at the want of courtesy and good policy shown by the Pope in taking no notice of the proposal made. The consequence was, of course, in the then state of things, that judgment went by default; and the time left open for compromise having expired, the Act abolishing the payment of annates to the Pope was ratified and confirmed about April or May, two years after it had been passed, that is, in 1534. Surely nothing could be more justifiable than this act: nor could it have been passed in a less offensive manner. Next
year, 1533, another Act of Parliament was passed against appeals to Rome from the Church Courts of England. No doubt this was a personal matter as far as the King was concerned, and probably brought about through his influence; but the absolute justice of the Act is strikingly illustrated by the very terms in which it is drawn up. After affirming that England is an independent state, having courts of justice competent both in authority and learning to decide all causes without application to foreign powers,
it goes on to state that this is especially the case with " that part of the said body politic called the spirituality, or the English Church," which has always been found upon trial to be possessed of sufficient learning and integrity to determine all doubts that might arise, and to administer such offices and duties as belong to courts of the kind aimed at. “Several appeals,” the Act goes say,
“ have been made to the see of Rome, in causes testamentary and matrimonial, in divorces, rights of tithes, oblations and obventions, to the delay of justice and the great vexation and charge of the King's Highness and his subjects. And forasmuch as the distance from Rome is such, that proof and evidence relating to a cause cannot be brought thither without great inconvenience, for which reason many persons are forced to suffer in their rights, and sit down without remedy,” it is finally decreed that all causes shall be determined in Courts of the King's own jurisdiction; and persons making appeals to Rome, or procuring censures from Rome on account of decisions in the King's Courts, are to be liable to the penalty of præmunire. In these days, when we habitually look up to our Sovereign as the supreme fountain of earthly justice for every one of her subjects, is it not with as much indignation as surprise that we contemplate the state of vassalage to a foreign power—nominally a spiritual one only—which is thus indicated as the practical condition of England before the much maligned Reformation ? We are not Protestants, as the name goes ; but if protesting against such abuses as these had been the cause of the cognomen being first assumed, we should not care to disclaim it.
The divorce cause of Henry VIII. was so much a personal matter in respect to the technical processes concerned, that, although questions and events of permanent national importance arose of it, we might be justified in passing it over without regarding it as any portion of the official Reformation. There
are, however, some points worth notice in connection with the view we are taking of those eventful days. Without discussing the merits of the question, it is worth observing, for instance, that there was a most evident desire on the part of Henry to have the whole process conducted in the most strictly legal manner. From this motive alone it was that he allowed six years to pass away in illustrating the inconvenience of appeals to an authority so distant and so difficult of legal access. And up to the very last moment, instead of openly breaking with the Pope, he endeavoured by a great concession to obtain his decision in the cause. As is well known, Henry sent terms to Rome, or rather the ratification of terms previously agreed upon and approved there, by which the whole question was practically put into the hands of the Pope. The bearer of these terms, being delayed in his journey by the snow, did not arrive at Rome until two days after the time agreed upon had expired; and so great was the impatience of the Pope to consummate the quarrel, that, against the earnest remonstrance of the Archbishop of Paris, who was acting as mediator, he passed the final sentence, decreeing the excommunication of the King and interdict of the kingdom to follow within three months; when all subjects were to be released from their allegiance, and the Emperor of Germany was to carry out the Pope's sentence by invading. England. Was anything but the total abolition of the Pope's jurisdiction in England possible after such an indignity? No wonder that Henry had fortified himself, by anticipation, behind an appeal to a General Council, when such measures as these were anticipated. Such an appeal preserved him at least the position of a Christian monarch, until the Council confirmed the sentence passed op him; and enabled him to maintain his authority over his subjects, ecclesiastics and laymen, without outraging their religious feelings.1
1 Cranmer also appealed to a General Council : and the reiteration of such appeals goes far, by itself alone, to put the Pope in the wrong, as' regards the Church of England.