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whole body of his clergy; the two universities; and the great mass of the people, all actuated with one and the same spirit, and all with one voice concurring in the profession of “the faith once delivered to the saints.” And young as Edward then was, and short as the duration of his life proved, yet, while he lived, he shone like a planet of the first order, with his satellites around him. And although this brilliant age of the church suffered an awful eclipse during the succeeding reign of Mary, yet, when through the providence of God this period was passed, the brightness brake out afresh, and continued with undiminished lustre through the whole of the monarchies which followed, of Elizabeth and James, and in a splendour never before known, and never since equalled in this kingdom.
Such a period in the English history forms an epoch the most favourable and proper for drawing the portrait of her bishops. And without all controversy, it must be allowed, that when we behold in the prelates of that age a beautiful correspondence to the apostolic pattern, we behold in them no less the genuine features of christianity exemplified, and brought forth into life. The primitive days of the church of Christ were again realized: and her bishops beheld, reflecting back a greater dignity upon their order, than that order conferred upon themselves.
It may be said indeed, and said with truth, that the portrait of a bishop of the sixteenth century, is, or ought to be, the portrait of every bishop, in every century of the church, from that period to the present; since no alteration whatever hath taken place in her doctrines or discipline, for they are, totidem verbis, the same in every point now as they were then.
All this may and indeed must be allowed, and yet the peculiar propriety of the sixteenth century still contended for, as the period of all other most suited for sketching the character of an English bishop. By looking back to a time so remote we avoid every thing personal. Here, nothing can be said that can justly be deemed invidious; nothing which can reasonably give offence. Living characters can have no right to feel hurt in the commendation of dead saints: they are known to the present generation only by name: and in respect to themselves, they have been too long “ gathered to their fathers and seen corruption,” to be affected either with the good or ill opinion of men: applause or censure, as it concerns them, are words without meaning.
One word more, by way of preface. Though the portrait proposed to be here drawn, is that of a bishop of the sixteenth century, yet let it be understood, that the character is not meant to be limited to any individual of the order in particular. The artist recollects, and with much pleasure in the history of those times, the great names of Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Parker, Ponet, Whitgift, and a long et cæteri of illustrious men, who were the highest ornaments of the age in which they lived. But neither of them, exclusively, is intended in the portrait here drawn. It is not the features of any one in particular which is designed, but of the whole taken together. The object is meant to concentrate, and bring into a focus, the prominent parts of character, such as may justly be supposed to form the tout ensemble.
And should the colouring, like the motto in the title-page, of a bishop of more modern times be thought too vivid, yet still, as a picture, it ought not to offend. For in sketching public characters of any description, the artist is supposed rather to draw the portrait of the order than the person ; rather to shew what the man should be, than what he really is. It was a very elegant and highly finished eulogy of this kind, which Morus, in his oration at Genev., gave of archbishop Usher, when he stiled him, 'Magnum Usserium! Excellentissimum Dei servum! Reverendissimum virum Dei! seculi nostri Athanasium. Maximum Brittanniæ decus ! Usher the great! The most excellent servant of God! The most revered man of God! The Athanasius of our age! Britain's greatest glory!'
AN ENGLISH BISHOP.
In drawing the portrait of any character, in order to sketch the features faithfully, the canvas, on which the picture is to be drawn, must be so formed, that the back ground of the piece, and every thing connected with the subject, may have a proper correspondence with each other. To speak without a figure :—there must be an unity of design through the whole, in filling in the features of any character; and in order to form a right estimate of the man, we must take into account the manners of the age in which he lived.
Every one who knows any thing of the history of the reformed church, cannot but know also, that the glorious era of its commencement, was in the early part of the sixteenth century. Perhaps the first deadly blow given to popery, was the one struck by the nervous arm of Luther, the great reformer in Germany, in the opposition he made to the pope's bull, in the year 1517. But the emancipation of this country from the papists, was not until many years after. *
History cannot furnish an instance of a more intrepid and undaunted mind than Luther manifested upon this occasion. Leo the Xth, at that time the
It is, no doubt, to be dated as early as in the last years of Henry the Eighth, or in the opening of the reign of Edward the Sixth, the day-dawn of this great blessing; but the establishment of the reformed church in this land, somewhat later. However, from the accession of Edward to the throne, unto the close of the reign of James the First, the great truths of God were known, professed, and for the most part, lived up to, by all ranks and orders of the clergy in the kingdom, in a way and manner as had never been equalled since the days of the apostles.
It will be understood, however, that I except in this statement, the five years of the reign of Mary, who succeeded Edward on the throne. These form a parenthesis in the history. (And an awful parenthesis
Roman pontiff, with an intention to raise money, granted exemptions from the pains of purgatory. For this purpose, he issued his bull. And to such an extent were those indulgences intended to operate, that they were exposed for sale, at all public places, even in shops and taverns. Martin Luther, at this period, was a monk of the dominican order. He immediately opposed the pope's authority, by publicly preaching against it. He boldly asserted, that the pontiff possessed no such power of granting those indulgences : and he as firmly declared, that there could be no efficacy in such pretended exemption. This conduct of Luther, as might well be expected, brought upon him the whole thunder of the pope. Leo sent forth his anathema against Luther; and Luther, in return, publicly burnt the pope's bull in the street of Wirtemberg. And thus the torch was lighted up in Germany, which, through the over-ruling providence of God, was to go out no more, until the dark night of popery, which for so many centuries had covered the christian world, was passed away. From thence the light communicated to this land; and, under the Lord's blessing, the whole nation at length emerged into the pure light of the gospel of Christ.
There was, and is, somewhat remarkable in the year 17, in several centuries. John Huss was burnt as an heretic at Bohemia, 1417; and at the stake, he uttered, in a way of prophecy, a threat to the papists, that after an hundred years they should be called to an account for it. And this dying declaration was delivered in so striking a manner, that certain of the Bohemians caused a motto to be stamped upon their coin, with this inscription, post centum annos. In 1517, Martin Luther, as hath been observed, began the revolution by burning the pope's bull. In 1617, to such a fulness had the streams of the sanctuary risen, in the advancing the great truths of God, that this period may be considered as the high water mark, in this kingdom, on this point. In 1717, the tide had turned, and run out to so low an ebb, that, to speak in the words of the prophet, it might have been said, “ truth is fallen in the street.” What the year 1817 hath produced, and in its eventual consequences will produce, time will fully develope.