THE DUTY OF ALL CHRISTIANS
For one thing, I advise you to resist manfully the efforts now being made to un-Protestantize England, and to bring her once more into subjection to Popery. Let us not go back to ignorance, superstition. priestcraft, and irrunorality. Our forefathers tried Popery long ago, and threw it off with disgust and indignation.
Let us have no peace with Rome till Rome abjures her errors and is at peace with Christ. When Rome does that, and not till then, it will be time to talk of re-union with her. But till then the vaunted movement for a “Reunion of Western Churches” is an insult to Christianity. Read your Bibles and be armed with Scriptural arguments. A Bible-reading laity is a nation’s surest defense against error.
Read history, and see what Rome did in days gone by. Read how she trampled on your country’s liberties, plundered your forefather’s pockets, and kept the whole nation ignorant and immoral.
JESUS CHRIST - THE WAY OF SALVATION
“Come unto Me”, says the Savior, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” - “He that believed' on the Son shall not perish, but have eternal life” - “He that believed' on Him is not condemned.” - “He that corned' unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man, and He mites you to come to Him personally for Salvation.
To be saved, is to be delivered in this present life from the guilt of sin, by faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior. It is to be pardoned, justified, and freed from every. charge of sin, by faith in Christ’s blood and mediation. Whosoever with his heart believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is a saved soul. He shall not perish.
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH’S TEACHING
ABOUT THE WAY OF SALVATION
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that no one can be Saved outside the Roman Catholic Church. Between the sinner who is seeking Salvation, and the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, the Roman Catholic Church has put Mary-worship, saint-worship, image-worship, relic-worship, confessions, pilgrimages, almsgivings, baptism, ceremonialism, processions, penances, absolutions, masses, blind obedience to the priests, and the fires of purgatory Let us proclaim to Roman Catholics everywhere the Good News that the GIFT OF GOD is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
BISHOP J.0 RYLE.
WHY WERE OUR REFORMERS BURNED?
It is fashionable in some quarters to deny that there is any such thing as certainty about religious truth. or any opinions for which it is worth while to be burned. Yet, 300 years ago, there were men who were certain they had found out truth, and were content to die for their opinions. - It is fashionable in other quarters to leave out all the unpleasant things in history, and to paint every-thing with a rose-colored hue A very popular history of our English Queens hardly mentions the martyrdoms of Queen Mary’s days! Yet Mary was not called “Bloody Mary” without reason, and scores of Protestants were burned in her reign. - Last, but not least, it is thought very bad taste in many quarters to say anything which throws discredit on the Church of Rome Yet it is as certain that the Romish Church burned our English Reformers as it is that William the Conqueror won the battle of Hastings.
The broad facts of the martyrdom of our Reformers are a story. well known and soon told. But it may be useful to give a brief outline of these facts, in order to supply a framework to our subject.
Edward VI, “that incomparable young prince,” as Bishop Burnet justly calls him, died on the 6th July., 1553. Never, perhaps, did any, royal personage in this land die more truly lamented, or leave behind him a fairer reputation. Never, perhaps, to man’s poor fallible judgment, did the cause of God’s truth in England receive a heavier blow. His last prayer before death ought not to be forgotten, - “0 Lord God, defend this realm from Papistry., and maintain Thy true religion.” It was a prayer, I believe, not offered in vain.
After a foolish and deplorable effort to obtain the crown for Lady Jane Grey, Edward was succeeded by his eldest sister, Mary, daughter of Henry. VIII and his first Queen, Catherine of Aragon, and best known in English history. by. the ill-omened name of Bloody Mary." Mary had been brought up from her infancy as a rigid adherent of the Romish Church. She was, in fact, a ver) Papist of Papists, conscientious, zealous, bigoted. and narrow-minded in the extreme. She began at once to pull down her brother’s work in every possible way, and to restore Popery in its worst and most offensive forms. Step by step she and her councillors marched back to Rome, trampling down one by one every obstacle, and as thorough as Lord Strafford in going straight forward to their mark. The Mass was restored; the English service was taken away; the works of Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, Tyndale, Bucer, Latimer, Hooper, and Cranmer were proscribed. Cardinal Pole was invited to England. The foreign Protestants resident in England were banished.
RETURN TO ROME OR BURN
The leading divines of the Protestant Church of England were deprived of their offices, and, while some escaped to the Continent, many were put in prison. ‘The old statutes against heresy were once more brought forward, primed and loaded. And thus by the beginning of 1555 the stage was cleared, and that bloody tragedy, in which Bishops Bonner and Gardiner played so prominent a part was ready to begin. For, unhappily for the credit of human nature, Mary’s advisers were not content with depriving and imprisoning the leading English Reformers. It was resolved to make them adjure their principles, or to put them to death. One by one they were called before special Commissions, examined about their religious opinions, and called upon to recant, on pain of death if they refused, No third course, or alternative was left to them.
They were either to give up Protestantism and receive Popery or else they were to be burned alive. Refusing to recant, they were one by one handed over to the secular power, publicly brought out and chained to stakes, publicly surrounded with faggots, and publicly sent out of the world that most cruel and painful of deaths, - death by. fire All these are broad facts which all the apologists of Rome can never gainsay or deny.
It is a broad fact that during the four last years of Queen Mary’s reign no less than 288 persons were burnt at the stake for their adhesion to the Protestant faith. Indeed, the faggots never ceased to blaze whilst Mary was alive, and five martyrs were burnt in Canterbury only a week before her death. Out of these 288 sufferers, be it remembered, one was an archbishop, four were bishops, twenty-one were clergymen, fifty-five were women, and four were children.
It is a broad fact that these 288 sufferers were not put to death for any offense against property or person. They were not rebels against the Queen’s authority, caught red-handed in arms. They were not thieves, or murderers, or drunlcards, or unbelievers, or men and women of immoral lives. On the contrary, they were, some of the holiest, purest, and best Christians in England, and several of them the most learned men of their day.
THE CHURCH OF ROME RESPONSIBLE
For one thing, I ask my readers never to forget that for the burning of our Reformers the Church of Rome is wholly and entirely responsible. For another thing, I wish my readers to remember that the burning of the Marian martyrs is an act that the Church of Rome has never repudiated, apologized for, or repented of, down to the present day. There stands the huge blot in her escutcheon; and there stands the huge fact side by side, that she has never made any attempt to wipe it away. Never has she repented of her treatment of the Vaudois and the Albigenses: - never has she repented of the wholesale murders of the Spanish Inquisition. never has she repented of the massacre of St Bartholomew; - never has she repented of the burning of the English Reformers.
We should make a note of that fact, and let it sink down into our minds. Rome never changes. Rome will never admit that she has made mistakes. She burned our English Reformers 300 years ago. She tried hard to stamp out by violence the Protestantism which she could not prevent spreading by. arguments. If Rome had only. the power, I am not sure that she would not attempt to play the whole game over again. The question may now arise in our minds, Who were the leading English Reformers that were burned? What were their names, and what were the circumstances attending their deaths? These are questions which may very properly be asked. and questions to which I proceed at once to give an answer.
JOHN ROGERS BURNED
The first leading English Reformer who broke the ice and crossed the river, as a martyr in Mary’s reign, was John Rogers, a London Minister, Vicar of St. Sepulchre’s and Prebendary and Reader of Divinity at St. Paul’s. He was burned in Smithfield on Monday, the 4th February, 1555. Rogers was born at Deritend, in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham.
He was a man who, in one respect, had done more for the cause of Protestantism than any of his fellow-sufferers. In saying this I refer to the fact that he had assisted Tyndale and Coverdale in bringing out a most important version of the English Bible, a version commonly known as Matthews’ Bible Indeed, he was condemned as “Rogers, alias Matthews.” This circumstance, in all human probability, made him a marked man, and was one cause why he was the first who was brought to the stake.
On the morning of his martyrdom he was roused hastily in his cell in Newgate, and hardly allowed time to dress himself. He was then led forth to Smithfield on foot, within sight of the Church of St. Sepulchre, where he had preached, and through the streets of the parish where he had done the work of a pastor.
By the wayside stood his wife and ten children (one a baby) whom the diabolical cruelty of Bishop Bonnor had flatly refused him leave to see in prison. He just saw them, but was hardly allowed to stop, and then walked on calmly to the stake, repeating the 51st Psalm. An immense crowd lined the street, and filled every available spot in Smithfield.
Up to that day men could not tell how English Reformers would behave in the face of death, and could hardly believe that Prebendaries and Dignitaries would actually give their bodies to be burned for their religion. But when they saw John Rogers, the first martyr, walking steadily, and unflinchingly into a fiery grave, the enthusiasm of the crowd lcnew no bounds. They rent the air with thunders of applause. Even Noailles, the French Ambassador, wrote home a description of the scene, and said that Rogers went to death “as if he was walking to his wedding.” By God’s great mercy he died with comparative ease. And so the first Marian martyr passed away.
BISHOP HOOPER, BURNED
The second leading Reformer who died for Christ’s truth in Mary’s reign was John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester. He was burned at Gloucester on Friday, the 9th February, 1555.
Hooper was a Somersetshire man by birth. In many respects he was, perhaps, the noblest martyr of them all. Of all Edward the Sixth’s bishops, none has left behind him a higher reputation for personal holiness, and diligent preaching and working in his diocese. A man like Hooper, firm, stern, not naturally genial, unbending and unsparing in his denunciation of sin, was sure to have many enemies. He was one of the first marked for destruction as soon as Popery was restored. He was summoned to London at a very,' early stage of the Marian persecution, and, after lingering eighteen months in prison, and going through the form of examination by Bonner, Gardiner, Tunstall, and Day., was degraded from his office, and sentenced to be burned as a heretic.
At first it was fully. expected that he would suffer in Smithfield with Rogers. This plan, for some unknown reason, was given up, and to his great satisfaction Hooper was sent down to Gloucester, and burnt in his own diocese, and in sight of his Mil cathedral. On his arrival there, he was received with every. sign of sorrow and respect by. a vast multitude, who went out on the Cirencester Road to meet him.
THE BISHOP’S DYING AGONIES
On the morning of his martyrdom he was led forth, walking, to the place of execution, where an immense crowd awaited him. It was market day, and it was reckoned that nearly 7,000 people were present. The stake was planted directly. in front of the western gate of the Cathedral-close, and within 100 yards of the deanery and the east front of the Cathedral. The exact spot is marked now by a beautiful memorial at the east end of the churchyard of St. Mary-de-Lode. The window over the gate, where Popish friars watched the Bishop’s dying agonies, stands unaltered to this day.
When Hooper arrived at this spot, he was allowed to pray., though strictly, forbidden to speak to the people. And there he knelt down, and prayed a prayer which has been preserved and recorded by Fox, arid is of exquisitely touching character. Even then a box was put before him containing a full pardon, if he would only recant. His onl) answer was “Away with it; if you love my soul, away with it!- He was then fastened to the stake by an iron round his waist, and fought his last fight with the king of terrors.
Of all the martyrs, none perhaps, except Ridley, suffered more than Hooper did. Three times the faggots had to be lighted, because they would not burn properly) Three quarters of an hour the noble sufferer endured the mortal agony, as Fox says, “neither moving backward, forward, nor to any side,” but only praying, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me; Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;” and beating his breast with one hand till it was burned to a stump And so the good Bishop of Gloucester passed away.
ROWLAND TAYLOR BURNED
‘The third leading Reformer who suffered in Mary’s reign was Rowland Taylor, Rector of Hadleigh, in Suffolk. He was burned on Aldham Common, close to his own parish, the same day that Hooper died at Gloucester, on Friday, the 9th February, 1555.
Striking was the reply which he made to his friends at Hadleigh, who urged him to flee, as he might have done, when he was first summoned to appear in London before Gardiner: - “What will ye have me to do? I am old, and have already lived too long to see these terrible and most wicked days. Fly you, and do as your conscience leaded, you. I am fully determined, with God’s grace, to go to this Bishop, and tell him to his beard that he doth naught. I believe before God that I shall never be able to do for my God such good service as I may do now.”
Fox’s “Acts and Monuments,” vol. III. p. 138.
Striking were the replies which he made to Gardiner and his other examiners. None spoke more pithily, weightily, and powerfully than did this Suffolk incumbent.
When he was stripped to his shirt and ready for the stake, he said, with a loud voice, - -Good people. I have taught you nothing but God’s Holy Word, and those lessons that I have taken out of the Bible; and I am come hither to seal it with my blood.” He would probably have said more. but, like all the other martyrs, he was strictly forbidden to speak, and even now was stuck violently on the head for saying these few words.
He then knelt down and prayed, a poor woman of the parish insisting, in spite of every effort to prevent her, in kneeling down with him. After this, he was chained to the stake, and repeating the 51st Psalm, and crying to God, “Merciful Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, receive my soul into Thy hands,” stood quietly amidst the flames without crying or moving, till one of the guards dashed out his brains with a halberd. And so this good old Suffolk incumbent passed away.
OTHER MARTYRS BURNED
The fourth leading Reformer who suffered in Mary’s reign was Robert Ferrar, Bishop of St. David’s in Wales. He was burned at Carmarthen on Friday, the 30th March, 1555.
The fifth leading Reformer who suffered in Mary’s reign was John Bradford, Prebendary of St. Paul’s and Chaplain to Bishop Ridley. He was burned in Smithfield on Monday, July the 1st, 1555, at the early. age of thirty-five.
The sixth and seventh leading Reformers who suffered in Mary’s reign were two whose names are familiar to even Englishman, - Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, and Hugh Latimer, once Bishop of Worcester. The) were both burned at Oxford, back to back, at one stake, on the 16th of October, 1555.
Ridley’s last words before the fire was lighted were these, “Heavenly Father, I give Thee most hearty thanks that Thou hast called me to a profession of Thee even unto death. I beseech Thee, Lord God, have mercy on this realm of England, and deliver the same from all her enemies.” Latimer’s last words were like the blast of a trumpet, which rings even to this day, - -Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man, we shall this day., by. God’s grace, light such a candle in England as I trust never be put out."
The eighth leading English Reformer who suffered in Mary’s reign was John Philpot, Archdeacon of Winchester. He was burned in Smithfield on Wednesday, December the 18th, 1555.
The ninth and last leading Reformer who suffered in Mary’s reign was Thomas Crawler, Archbishop of Canterbury. He was burned at Oxford, on the 21st of March, 1556. Cranmer was born at Aslacton, in Nottinghamshire. There is no name among the English martyrs so well known in history as his. There is none certainly in the list of our Reformers to whom the Church of England, on the whole, is so much indebted.
WHY WERE THEY BURNED
But I pass on to a point which I hold to be one of cardinal importance in the present day.. The point I refer to is the special reason why our Reformers were burned. The principal reason why they were burned was because they refused one of the peculiar doctrines of the Romish Church. On that doctrine, in almost every case, hinged their life or death. If they admitted it, they might live; if they refused it, they must die.
The question was the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper Did they, or did they, not believe that the body and blood of Christ were really, that is corporally., literally, locally, and materially, present under the forms of bread and wine after the words of consecration were pronounced? Did they or did they not believe that the real body of Christ, which was born of the virgin Mary, was present on the so-called altar so soon as the mystical words had passed the lips of the priest? Did they or did they not? That was the simple question. If they did not believe and admit it, they were bumed.
Hear what Rogers said:- “I was asked whether I believed in the sacrament to be the very body and blood of our Savior Christ that was born of the Virgin Mary, and hanged on the cross, really and substantially? I answered think it to be false. I cannot understand really and substantially to signify’ otherwise than corporally. But corporally Christ is only. in heaven, and so Christ cannot be corporally in your sacrament.'” - Fox in loco, vol p.101, edition, 1684. And therefore he was condemned and burned.
Hear what Rowland Taylor said:- “The second cause why I was condemned as a heretic was that I denied transubstantiation, and concomitation, two juggling words whereby the Papists believe that Christ’s natural body is made of bread, and the Godhead by and by to be joined thereto, so that immediately after the words of consecration, there is no more bread and wine in the sacrament, but the substance only of the body. and blood of Christ.”
“Because I denied the aforesaid Papistical doctrine (yea, rattier plain, wicked idolatry, blasphemy, and heresy) I am judged a heretic.”
Fox in loco, vol p.141. And therefore he was condemned and burned.
OBSCURING THE GOSPEL
Whatever men please to think or say , the Romish doctrine of the real presence, if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the Gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ’s truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice, and not a sacrament grant that every time the words of consecration are used the natural body. and blood of Christ are present on the Communion Table under the forms of bread and wine - grant that every one who eats that consecrated bread and drinks that consecrated wine does really,' eat and odrink the natural body. and blood of Christ.
Grant for a moment these things, and then see what momentous consequences result from the premises. You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ’s finished work when He died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeater! is not a perfect and complete thing. - You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice to God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory. - You spoil the Scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry You exalt sinful men into the position of mediators between God and man. - You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honor and veneration they were never meant to receive, and produce an idolatry to be abhorred of faithful Christians.
WHAT WE OWE TO THE REFORMATION
The Reformation delivered England from gross religious ignorance and spiritual darlaiess. No doubt there was a professing Church of Christ in the land when Henry. VIII ascended the throne, a Church abounding in wealth, and garrisoned by a whole army of Bishops, Abbots Friars, Priests, Monks and Nuns. But money and clergymen do not make a Church of Christ, any more than “men with muskets” make up an army. For any useful and soul-saving purposes the English Church was practically dead. and if St. Paul had come out of his grave and visited it, I doubt if he would have called it a Church at all.
The plain truth is, that it was a Church without a Bible; and such a Church is as useless as a lighthouse without a light - a candlestick without a candle - or a steam-engine without a fire. Except a few scattered copies of Wycliffe’s translation of the Vulgate, there were no English Bibles in the land, and the natural consequence was, that priests and people knew scarcely anything about God’s truth, and the way to be saved.
The immense majority of the clergy, did little more than say masses and offer up pretended sacrifices - repeat Latin prayers and chant Latin hymns, which of course the people could not understand - hear confessions, grant absolutions, give extreme unction, and talce money. to get dead people out of Purgatory. Preaching was utterly at a discount. As Bishop Latimer truly remarked, “When the devil gets influence in a church, up go candles and down goes preaching.”
Quarterly sermons were indeed prescribed to the Clergy, but not insisted on. Latimer says that while mass was never left unsaid for a single Sunday., sermons might be omitted for twenty Sundays in succession, and nobody was blamed. After all, when sermons were preached they were utterly unprofitable; and latterly., to preach much was to incur the suspicion of being a heretic.
A RELIGION WITHOUT THE BIBLE
To cap all, the return that Bishop Hooper got from the rich diocese of Gloucester, no barbarous and uncivilized corner of England, when he was first appointed Bishop in 1551, will give a pretty clear idea of the ignorance of the pre-Reformation times. He found that out of 311 clergy in his diocese, 168 were unable to repeat the Ten Commandments-, 31 of the 168 could not say in what part of the Scripture they were to be found; 40 could not tell where the Lord’s prayer was written, and 31 of the 40 did not know who was the author of the Lord’s Prayer.
To sum up all in a few words, the religion of our English forefathers before the Reformation was a religion without knowledge, without faith, and without lively hope - a religion without justification, regeneration, and sanctification - a religion without any clear views of Christ and the Holy. Ghost.
Except in rare instances it was little better than an organized system of Mary-worship, saint-worship, image-worship, relic-worship, pilgrimages, alms-givings, formalism, ceremonial-ism, processions, penances, absolutions, masses and blind obedience to priests. It was a huge higgledy-piggledy of ignorance and idolatry, and serving an unknown God by deputy.
The only practical result was that the priests took the people’s money, and undertook to secure their salvation, and the people flattered themselves that the more they gave to the priests, the more sure they were to go to heaven. As to the grand cardinal question “What must I do to be saved?” probably not one Englishman in fifty could have given you half as good an answer as an ordinary Sunday School child would give in our own day. Such was the IGNORANCE which was scattered to the winds by the English Reformation.
THE WORSHIP OF RELICS
For another thing, the Reformation delivered England from the most grovelling, childish and superstitious practices in religion. I allude especially to the worship of relics. Destitute of the slightest Scriptural ‘knowledge, our forefathers were taught by the priests to seek spiritual benefit from the so-called relics of dead saints, and to treat them with divine honor. The accounts which those trustworthy old historians, Strype, and Fuller, and Burnet, have handed down to us about these wretched relics, up to Henry VIII’s reign are extraordinary.
At Reading Abbey, in Berkshire, the following things among many others were exhibited by. the monks on great occasions, and most religiously honored by. the people An angel with one wing - the spear-head which pierced our Savior’s side - two pieces of the Holy Cross - St. James’ hand - St. Philip’s stole - a bone of Mary Magdalene, and a bone of Salome.
At bury St. Edmund’s in Suffolk, the priests exhibited the coals that roasted St. Laurence, the parings of St. Edmund’s toe-nails, Thomas a Becket’s penknife and boots, and as many pieces of our Savior’s cross as would have made, if joined together, one large whole cross. They had also relics whose help was invoked at times when there was an excessive growth of weeds, or heavy falls of rain!
At Maiden Bradley Priory, in Somersetshire, the worshipers were privileged to see the Virgin Mary’s smock, a piece of the stone upon which our Lord was born at Bethlehem, and a part of the bread used I)) Christ and the Apostles at the first Lord’s Supper.
Records like these are so amazingly silly, as well as painful, that one hardly knows whether to laugh or to cry over them. But it is positively necessary to bring them forward, in order that men may know what was the religion of our forefathers, in the days when Rome ruled the land, before the Reformation. Wonderful as these things may seem, we must never forget that Englishmen at that time had no Bibles and knew no better. A famishing man in sieges and blockades has been known to eat rats and mice, and all manner of garbage, rather than die of hunger. A conscience-stricken soul, famishing for lack of God’s Word, must not be judged too hardly., if it struggles to find comfort in the most debasing superstition . Only let us never forget that this was the SUPERSTITION which was shattered to pieces by the Reformation.
THE TYRANNY OF THE PRIESTS
For another thing, the Reformation delivered England from the degrading tyranny and swindling impostures of the Roman priesthood. In the last days of the Pope’s supremacy in this land, the laity were thoroughly “sat upon” by the clergy, and could hardly call their souls their own. The power of the priests was practically. despotic, and was used for every purpose except the advancement of true religion. Like the frogs in the plague of Egypt, they made their way everywhere, both in the palace and the cottage, met you at every turn of life, and had a finger in every. transaction. They interfered by the confessional between husbands and wives - between parents and children - between masters and servants - between land-lords and tenants - between subjects and sovereigns - between souls and God. Obey them and you might do anything. Resist, and you had no safety either for property or life.
One great object, which they. steadily kept in view, was to enrich the Church and fill the pockets of their own order. To accomplish this end they employed many devices. Sometimes they persuaded tender-hearted affectionate persons to give money. to get the souls of their relatives out of purgatory by procuring masses to be said for them. Sometimes they advised weak people go give huge stuns to the shrine of some favorite saint, such as ‘Thomas a Becket at Canterbury, in order to merit Heaven by good works.
Sometimes they induced dying sinners to give vast tracts of land to abbeys and monasteries, in order to atone for their bad lives. In one way or another they were continually. drawing money’ out of the laity, and accumulating property. in their own hands. “In fact,” says Burnet, “if some laws had not restrained them, the greater part of all estates in England had been given to religious houses.”
THE BLOOD OF A DUCK
As to the gross and ridiculous impostures which the priests practiced on our ignorant forefathers before the Reformation, the catalog would fill a volume. At the Abbey. of Hales, in Gloucestershire, a vial was shown by the priests on great occasions to those who offered alms, which was said to contain the blood of Christ. This notable vial was examined by the Royal Commissioners in Henry VII’s time, and was found to contain the blood of a duck, renewed every week.
In the city of Worcester there was an image of the Virgin Mary in one of the churches, which was held in special reverence. This was also examined by. the same Royal Commissioners, in order to ascertain what it really was. But when it was stripped of certain veils which covered it, it turned out to be no image of the Virgin, but of some old Bishop.
At Boxley, in Kent, a great crucifix was exhibited, which received peculiar honor and large offerings, because of a continual miracle which was said to attend its exhibition. When the worshipers before it offered copper coin, the face of the figure on the cross looked grave; when they offered silver it relaxed its severity; when they offered gold it openly smiled. In Henry, VIII’s time this famous crucifix was also examined, and wires were found within it, by which the attendant priests could move the face of the image, and make it assume any expression they pleased.
He that desires to pursue this disgraceful subject any further will find it truly handled in Calvin’s Inventory of Relics and Hobart Seymour’s Pilgrimage of Rome. He will learn there, that all over Europe things were shown as holy relics, so manifestly false and fictitious, that the priests who showed them can only be regarded as cheats and rogues, who in this day would be sent to the treadmill or obliged to pick oalcum.
Wood of the true cross, enough to load a ship though we know that one person alone could carry it - thorns professing to be part of the Saviour’s crown of thorns, enough to make a large faggot - at least fourteen nails, said to have been used at the crucifixion, though we know four must have been sufficient - four spearheads, said to be points of the spear which pierced our Lord’s side - though of course it had only one - at least three seamless coats of Christ for which the soldiers cast lots, though there could only have been one - all these are only select specimens of the profane and vile inventions with which Romish priests imposed on people before the Reformation. They must have known that they were telling lies, and yet they persisted in telling them, and required the ignorant laity to believe them. I remind you that for deliverance from this miserable system of PRIESTLY TYRANNY AND PRIESTLY IMPOSITION we are indebted to the Reformation.
THE BLACKEST SPOT
The Reformation delivered England from the worst plague that can afflict a nation, I mean the plague of unholiness and immorality among the clergy. The lives of the clergy, as a general rule, were simply scandalous, and the moral tone of the laity was naturally at the lowest ebb. Of course, grapes will never grow on thorns, nor figs on thistles. To expect the huge roots of ignorance and superstition which filled our land to bear any but corrupt fruit would be unreasonable and absurd. But a more thoroughly corrupt set than the English clergy. were in the palm) days of undisturbed Romanism, with a few brilliant exceptions, it would be impossible to imagine.
But the blackest spot on the character of our pre-Reformation clergy in England is one of which it is painful to speak. I mean the impurity of their lives and their horrible contempt of the Seventh Commandment. The results of auricular confession, carried on by men bound by their vow never to marry, were such that I dare not enter into them. The consequences of shutting up herds of men and women in the prime of life, in monasteries and nunneries, were such that I will not defile my paper by dwelling upon them. The details will be found in Strype, Burnet, and Fuller, by those who care to look them up.
Suffice it to say, that the discoveries made by Henry \ill’s Commissioners, of the goings-on in many of the so-called religious houses, were such as it is impossible to describe. It is a shame even to speak of them. Anything less “holy” than the practice of many of the “holy” men and women in the professedly. “holy” retreats from sin and the world the imagination cannot conceive. If ever there was a plausible theory weighed in the balance and found utterly wanting, it is the favorite theory that celibacy and monasticism promote holiness. I make no apology for dwelling on these things. Painful and humbling as the picture is, it is one that in these times ought to be carefully looked at, and not thrown aside I do not want men to pass severe judgment on our poor ancestors, and say they were all lost. We are not their Judge. To whom little light has been given, of them little will be required. But I do want modern Churchmen to understand from what the Reformation delivered us Before we make up our minds to give up Protestantism and receive back Monasticism and the “Catholic system,” let us thoroughly understand what the state of England was when Popery had its own way unchecked and uncontrolled. My own belief is, that there never was a change so imperatively needed as the Reformation, and that no Englishmen ever did such good service to their country as the Reformers.
THE REFORMATION CONFERRED POSITIVE BLESSINGS
UPON THIS COUNTRY
First and foremost we owe to the Reformation an English Bible, and liberty' for every. man, woman and child in the land to read it. With an English Bible came in the right and duty of private judgment, and the assertion of the great principle of our VIth Article, that “Holy Scripture contains all things needful to salvation,” and the only rule of faith and practice. Of all the agencies which brought about the overthrow of Popery in this country, the translation of the Bible was the earliest and most powerful. It struck a blow at the root of the whole Romish system. Before a free Bible, and fair play for all who used it, the Pope’s champions could not long stand. The huge fabric of Popery cracked, shivered, and came to the ground like a pack of cards. With a Bible in every- parish church, every. thoughtful man soon saw that the religion of the priests had no warrant of Holy Scripture.
It is a striking and instructive fact, that of all the agencies which combined to win the English Reformation, hardly any called forth such bitter opposition as the translation and circulation of the Scriptures. Even in 1519, long before Cramer began his good work, Fox records that six men and a woman were burned at Coventry, for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. And the charge against the accused persons was, not the possession of a Bible, but of an English Bible, or “book of the new law in England.”
Afterwords, when the Reformation fairly began, nothing seems to have alarmed and enraged the Romish priesthood so much as the spread of English Bibles. It was this which cost the martyred Reformer Tyndale his life. He was burned because he would translate and circulate the Scriptures The relentless enmity with which he was persecuted and finally hunted to death, by Sir Thomas More and others, tells a tale which he who runs may read.
For another thing, we owe to the Reformation an open road to the throne of grace and the great fountain of peace with God. That blessed road had been long blocked up and made impassable by heaps of rubbish of man’s invention. Under pretense of mending and improving the road, the divines of Rome had spoiled it altogether. He who desired to obtain forgiveness had to seek it through a jungle of priests, saints, Mary-worship, masses, penances, confession, absolution, and the like, so that there might as well have been no Throne of Grace at all.
THE WAY TO GOD OPENED
The huge mass of rubbish was shoveled out of the way by the Reformers. The doctrine of our glorious XIth Article was everywhere preached, published, and proclaimed. People were taught that justification was by faith without the deeds of the law, and that every heavy-laden sinner on earth had a fight to go straight to the Lord Jesus Christ for remission of sins, without waiting for Pope or priest, confession or absolution, masses or extreme unction. From that time the backbone of English Popery was broken. You that are walking by faith and enjoying peace with God, by simple trust in the precious blood of Atonement, never forget that you owe this priceless privilege to the Reformation.
For ever let us thank God for the Reformation. It lighted a candle which ought never to be extinguished or allowed to grow dim. And for ever let us remember that the Reformation was won for us by the blood of the martyrs, quite as much as by their preaching and praying, and writing and legislation. It was forged in the fires of Oxford, and Smithfield. It cost the lives of one Archbishop, four Bishops, and 280 other men and women, who died rather than give place to Popery.
Shall we in this century talk lightly. of the great work which they did? Shall we entertain for a moment the idea of forsaking Reformation principles and going back to Rome? Once more I say, God forbid! The man who counsels such base apostasy and suicidal folly must be judicially blind. The iron collar has been broken; let us not put it on again. The prison has been thrown open; let us not resume the yoke and return to our chains.
by JOHN CHARLES (J. C.) RYLE (1816-1900)
Bishop of Liverpool. Born at Macclefield and educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, the son of a wealthy banker, he was destined for a career in politics. A fine athlete, he rowed and played cricket for Oxford and also took a first class degree in Modern Greats, but declined offers of a college fellowship. He was spiritually awakened in 1838 on hearing Ephesians 2 read in church, and was ordained by Bishop Sumner at Winchester in 1842. He pastored lesser known churches, until at the age of sixty-four he was appointed in 1880 at Disraeli’s recommendation as first bishop of Liverpool.
Bishop Ryle wrote more than one hundred tracts and pamphlets on doctrinal and practical subjects which enjoyed a wide circulation in English and foreign languages. He was thoroughly evangelical in doctrine and one of the most prominent ministers in the denomination. As a churchman, he had no doubts about the essentiality of the Protestant Reformation for the people of Great Britain for their freedom to worship and to preach the ‘faith once delivered to the saints.’ In his article “Why Were Our Reformers Burned?” Bishop Ryle squarely lays the responsibility for the martyrdom of the English Reformers at the door of the Church of Rome.