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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Allowed himself to be tempted into a recantation


At

this moment the revived heresy-laws began to be put into execution. Prosecutions were instituted for statements that under another order of things would have been considered as fully authorised. Still more than to single offences was attention directed to any variations in doctrine. In these proceedings we can remark the points which were then chiefly in question.

The first of the accused, one of the earliest and most influential of the martyrs, John Rogers, was reminded of the article which speaks of the faith in one holy catholic church; he replied that by it was meant the universal church of all lands and times, not the Romish, which on the contrary had deviated in many points from the main foundation of all churches, Holy Scripture. Rowland Taylor, who gloried in a marriage blest with children, which Gardiner would not acknowledge to be a marriage at all, maintained that Christian antiquity had allowed the marriage of priests. Gardiner accused him of ignorance. 'But,' said Taylor, 'I have read the Holy Scripture, the Latin and the Greek fathers;' a canon of the Nicene council, which was cited on the point, he interpreted far more correctly than the bishop. John Hooper was called in question because he held divorce to be permissible on the ground given in Scripture, and because he found that the view of the real presence had no foundation in Scripture.[171] Their offence was the conception of church-communion as resting on the foundation of

Scripture and extending therefore far beyond Romanism: the most telling defence could not save them here, for only the carrying out of old laws was concerned, and these unconditionally condemned such opinions. As the condemned were being taken back by night to their prison, many householders came out of their doors with lights in their hands, to greet them with their prayers and thank them for their steadfastness: a deep and sorrowful sympathy, but one which scarcely dared to utter itself, and thus renounced the attempt to effect anything. Rogers suffered death in London, Hooper at his episcopal see of Gloucester, Taylor (who on the way showed as much good wit as Sir Thomas More had formerly done) in his parish, Saunders at Coventry, Ferrar in the market-place at Caermarthen. Their punishment, in every place where they had taught, was intended to confirm the doctrines they had rejected. There have been more bloody persecutions elsewhere: this was distinguished by the fact that many of the more eminent men of the nation became its victims. Among them, besides those we have named, were Ridley, who was looked on as the most learned scholar in England, the eloquent Latimer, Bradford a man of deep piety, Philpot who united learning and religion. How could Archbishop Cranmer, who had contributed almost more than any one to carry through the Reformation, who had pronounced the divorce of the Queen's mother, possibly find mercy? He persuaded himself of it once; and, yielding as he was, allowed himself to be tempted into a recantation, in despite of which he was condemned to death. But then there awoke in him also the whole consciousness of the truth of his belief. The hand with which he had signed the recantation he held firm, and let it burn in unutterable agony, as an expiation which he imposed on himself, before the flame of the faggots closed over him. The executions extended themselves over the whole country and even over the neighbouring islands; the diaries show that they continued till 1558. Many could have fled, but wished to testify to the firmness of their belief by dying for it, and thus to strengthen in their faith the people from whom they were taken away. Most of them showed a sublime contempt of death, which inflamed others to imitate them. How many would have been prepared to throw themselves with their friends into the flames! And no one could say that here there was any question of tendencies to revolt. The Protestants had on the whole kept themselves far from it: they did not contest the Queen's right to the throne; they died as her obedient subjects.


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