« НазадПродовжити »
farmers of Carnarvonshire had laid a complaint accusing the clergy of systematically seducing their wives and daughters. There were brothels in London for the especial use of priests. As to the abuse of the confessional, read in the original the familiarities to which it opened the door. The bishops gave livings to their children whilst they were still young. The holy Father Prior of Maiden Bradley hath but six children, and but one daughter married yet of the goods of the monastery; trusting shortly to marry the rest. In the convents the monks used to drink after supper till ten or twelve next morning, and came to matins drunk. They played cards or dice. Some came to service in the afternoons, and only then for fear of corporal punishments. The royal “ visitors” found concubines in the secret apartments of the abbots. At the nunnery of Sion, the confessors seduced the nuns and absolved them at the same time. There were convents, Burnet tells us, where all the recluses were found pregnant. About “two-thirds” of the English monks lived in such sort, that “when their enormities were first read in the Parliament House, there was nothing but 'down with them!'” 2 What a spectacle for a nation in whom reason and conscience were awakening! Long before the great outburst, public wrath muttered ominously, and was accumulating for a revolt; priests were yelled at in the streets or “thrown into the kennel;" women would not receive the sacrament from hands which they thought polluted."3 When the apparitor of the ecclesiastical courts came to serve a process, he was driven away with insults. “Go thy way thou stynkyng knave, ye are but knaves and brybours everych one of you.” A mercer broke an apparitor's head with his yard. “A waiter at the sign of the Cock” said “that the sight of a priest did make him sick, and that he would go sixty miles to indict a priest." Bishop Fitz-James wrote to Wolsey, that the juries in London were “so maliciously set in favorem hzretice pravitatis, that they will cast and condemn any clerk, though he here as innocent as Abel.”4 Wolsey himself spoke to the Pope of the “dangerous spirit" which was spread abroad among the people, and planned a Reformation. When Henry VIII. laid
I Hale, Criminal Causes. Suppression of the Monasteries, Camden Soc. Publications. Froude, i. 194-201.
2 Latimer's Sermons. They called them " horsyn prstes," "horsan," or "whorson knaves." Hale, p. 99: quoted by Froude, i. 199.
* Froude, i. 10 (1514).
the axe to the tree, and slowly, with mistrust, struck a blow, then a second lopping off the branches, there were a thousand, nay, a hundred thousand hearts which approved of it, and would themselves have struck the trunk.
Consider the internal state of a diocese, that of Lincoln for instance, at this period, about 1521, and judge by this example of the manner in which the ecclesiastical machinery works throughout the whole of England, multiplying martyrs, hatreds, and conversions. Bishop Longland summons the relatives of the accused, brothers, women and children, and administers the oath; as they have already been prosecuted and have abjured, they must make oath, or they are relapsed, and the fagots await them. Then they denounce their kinsman and themselves. One has taught the other in English the Epistle of Saint James. This man, having forgotten several words of the Pater and Credo in Latin, can only repeat them in English. A woman turned her face from the cross which was carried about on Easter morning. Several at church, especially at the moment of the elevation, would not say their prayers, and remained seated “dumb as beasts." Three men, including a carpenter, passed a night together reading a book of the Scriptures. A pregnant woman went to mass not fasting. A brazier denied the Real Presence. A brickmaker kept the Apocalypse in his possession. A thresher said, as he pointed to his work, that he was going to make God come out of his straw, Others spoke lightly of pilgrimage, or of the Pope, or of relics, or of confession. And then fifty of them were condemned the same year to abjure, to promise to denounce each other, and to do penance all their lives, on pain of being burnt, as relapsed heretics. They were shut up in different“ monasteries;” there they were to be maintained by alms, and to work for their support; they were to appear with a fagot on their shoulders at market, and in the procession on Sunday. Then in a general procession, then at the punishment of a heretic; “ they were to fast on bread and ale only every Friday during their life, and every even of Corpus Christy on bread and water, and carry a visible mark on their cheek.” Beyond that, six were burnt alive, and the children of one, John Scrivener, were obliged themselves to set fire to their father's wood pile.
I Fox, 4cts and Monuments, iv. 221.
Do you think that a man, burnt or shut up was altogether drive with ? He is silenced, I admit, or he is hidden; but lony Dremories and bitter resentments endure under a forced silence. People sawl their companion, relation, brother, bound by an iron chain, with clasped hands, praying amid the smoke, whilst the flame blackened his skin and destroyed his flesh. Such sights are not forgotten ; the last words uttered on the fagot, the last appeals to God and Christ, remain in their hearts all-powerful and ineffaceable. They carry them about with them, and silently ponder over them in the fields, at their labor, when they think themselves alone; and then, darkly, passionately, their brains work. For, beyond this universal sympathy which gathers mankind about the oppressed, there is the working of the religious sentiment. The crisis of conscience has begun which is natural to this race; they meditate on their salvation, they are alarmed at their condition: terrified at the judgments of God, they ask themselves whether, living under imposed obedience and ceremonies, they do not become culpable, and merit damnation. Can this terror be stifled by prisons and torture? Fear against fear, the only question is, which is the strongest! They will soon know it: for the peculiarity of these inward anxieties is that they grow beneath constraint and oppression; as a welling spring which we vainly try to stamp out under stones, they bubble and leap up and swell, until their surplus overflows, disjointing or bursting asunder the regular masonry under which men endeavored to bury them. In the solitude of the fields, or during the long winter nights, men dream; soon they fear, and become gloomy. On Sunday at church, obliged to cross themselves, to kneel before the cross, to receive the host, they shudder, and think it a mortal sin. They cease to talk to their friends, remain for hours with bowed heads, sorrowful; at night their wives hear them sigh; unable to sleep they rise from their beds. Picture such a wan face, full of anguish, nourishing under its sternness and calmness a secret ardor: it is still to be found in England in the poor shabby dissenter, who, Bible in hand, stands up suddenly to preach at a street corner; in those long-faced men who, after the service, not having had enough of prayers,
See, passim, the prints of Fox. All the details which follow are from biographies Sce those of Cromwell, by Carlyle, of Fox the Quaker, of Bunyan, and the trials reported at sength by Fox.
sing a hymn in the street. The sombre imagination has started like a woman in labor, and its conception swells day by day, tearing him who contains it. Through the long muddy winter, the howling of the wind sighing among the ill-fitting rafters, the melancholy of the sky, continually flooded with rain or covered with clouds, add to the gloom of the lugubrious dream. Thenceforth man has made up his mind; he will be saved at all costs. At the peril of his life, he obtains one of the books which teach the way of salvation, Wyclift's IVücket Gate, The Obedience of a Christian, or sometimes Luther's Revelation of Antichrist, but above all some portion of the word of God, which Tyndale had just translated. One man hid his books in a hollow tree; another learned by heart an epistle or a gospel, so as to be able to ponder it to himself even in the presence of his accusers. When sure of his neighbor, he speaks with him in private; and peasant talking to peasant, laborer to laborer—you know what the effect will be. It was the yeomen's sons, as Latimer said, who more than all others maintained the faith of Christ in England;1 and it was with the yeomen's sons that Cromwell afterwards reaped his Puritan victories. When such words are whispered through a nation, all official voices clamor in vain: the nation has found its poem, it stops its ears to the troublesome would-be distractors, and presently sings it out with a full voice and from a full heart.
But the contagion had even reached the men in office, and Henry VIII. at last permitted the English Bible to be published.? England had her book. Every one, says Strype, who could buy this book either read it assiduously, or had it read to him by others, and many well advanced in years learned to read with the same object. On Sunday the poor folk gathered at the bottom of the churches to hear it read. Maldon, a young man, afterwards related that he had clubbed his savings with an apprentice to buy a New Testament, and that for fear of his father they had hidden it in their straw mattress. In vain the king in his proclamation had ordered people not to rest too much upon their own sense, ideas, or opinions; not to reason publicly about it in the public taverns and alehouses, but to have recourse to learned and authorized men; the seed sprouted, and they chose rather to take God's word in the matter than men's. Maldon declared to his mother that he would not kneel to the crucifix any longer, and his father in a rage beat him severely, and was ready to hang him. The preface itself invited men to independent study, saying that “the Bishop of Rome has studied long to keep the Bible from the people, and specially from princes, lest they should find out his tricks and his falsehoods ; knowing well enough, that if the clear sun of God's word came over the heat of the day, it would drive away the foul mist of his devilish doctrines." 1 Even on the admission, then, of official voices, they had there the pure and the whole truth, not merely speculative but moral truth, without which we cannot live worthily or be saved. Tyndale, the translator, says:
I Froude, ii. 33: “The bishops said in 1529, ‘In the crime of heresy, thanked be God. there hath no notable person fallen in our time.'
2 Ja 1536. Strype's Memoriais, appendix. Froude, iii. ch. 12.
“ The right waye (yea and the onely waye) to understand the Scripture unto salvation, is that we ernestlye and above all thynge serche for the pro. fession of our baptisme or covenauntes made betwene God and us. As for an example. Christe sayth, Mat. V., Happy are the mercyfull, for they shall obtayne mercye. Lo, here God hath made a covenaunt wyth us, to be mercyfull unto us, yf we wyll be mercyfull one to another.”
What an expression! and with what ardor men pricked by the ceaseless reproaches of a scrupulous conscience, and the presentiment of the dark future, will devote on these pages the whole attention of eyes and heart !
I have before me one of these great old folios, in black letter, in which the pages, worn by horny fingers, have been patched together, in which an old engraving figures forth to the poor folk the deeds and menaces of the God of Israel, in which the preface and table of contents point out to simple people the moral which is to be drawn from each tragic history, and the application which is to be made of each venerable precept. Hence have sprung much of the English language, and half of the English manners; to this day the country is biblical ;3 it was these big books which had transformed Shakespeare's England. To understand this great change, try to picture these yeomen, these shopkeepers, who in the evening placed this Bible on their table, and bareheaded, with veneration, heard or read one of its chapters. Think that they have no other books, that theirs was a virgin mind, that every impression would make a furrow, that the
1 Coverdale. Froudc, ii. 81.
2 1549. Tyndale's translation. : An expression of Stendhal's; it was his general impression.