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§ 76. The English Reformation.


I. Works on the Thirty-nine Articles.

(a) Historical.

Charles Hardwick (B.D., Archdeacon of Ely, and Christian Advocate in the University of Cambridge, d. 1859): A History of the Articles of Religion; to which is added a Series of Documents from A.D. 1536 to A.D. 1615, together with Illustrations from Contemporary Sources. Cambridge, 1851 (reprinted in Philadelphia, 1852); second edition, thoroughly revised, Cambridge, 1859 (pp. 399).

(b) Commentaries.

Thomas R. Jones: An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles by the Reformers; being Extracts from the Works of Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer, Hooper, Jewell, Philpot, Pilkington, Coverdale, Becon, Bradford, Sandys, Grindal, Whitgift, etc. London, 1849.

Thomas Rogers (Chaplain to Archbishop Bancroft): The Catholic Doctrine of the Church of England, an Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles. London, 1579, 1585, 1607, and other editions (under various titles). Newly edited by J. J. S. Perowne, for 'The Parker Society,' Cambridge, 1854. This is the oldest commentary, and was countenanced by Bancroft, to whom it was dedicated.


Gilbert Burnet (Bishop of Salisbury; b. 1643, d. 1715): An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. Oxford, 1814 (Clarendon Press), and other editions. Revised, with notes, by James R. Page.

Richard Laurence, L.L.D. (formerly Reg. Prof. of Hebrew in Oxford): An Attempt to illustrate those Articles of the Church of England which the Calvinists improperly consider as Calvinistical. In eight sermons (Bampton Lectures for 1834). Oxford, third edition, 1838.

Edward Harold Browne (b. 1811, Bishop of Winchester since 1873, formerly of Ely): An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, Historical and Doctrinal. London, 1850–53, in two vols.; since often republished in one vol. (ninth edition, 1871); Amer. edition, with notes by Bishop Williams of Connecticut, New York, 1865.

A. P. Forbes (Bishop of Brechin): An Explanation of the Thirty-nine Articles, with an Epistle dedicatory to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D. Oxford and London, 1867. (High Church.)

E. W. Jelf (Canon of Christ Church, Oxford): The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England explained in a Series of Lectures. Edited by J. R. King. London, 1873.

II. History of the Reformation in England.

(a) Documents and Contemporary Sources.

Works of the English Reformers, published by 'The Parker Society,' Cambridge, 1841–54, fifty-four vols. Contains the writings of Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Hooper, Sandys, Coverdale, Jewell, Grindal, Whitgift, the Zurich Letters, etc.

The State Calendars, now being published under the direction of the Master of the Rolls.

John Foxe (one of the Marian exiles, d. 1587): Acts and Monuments of the Church, or Book of Martyrs. London, 1563, and often in three or more volumes. Not accurate, but full of facts told in a forcible style.

Wilkins: Concilia Magnæ Brittaniæ et Hiberniæ (446–1717). Four vols. folio. 1736 sq.

E. Cardwell: Documentary Annals of the Church of England (1546–1716), Oxford, 1844, 2 vols.; Synodalia (1547–1717), Oxford, 1842, 2 vols.; The Reformation of the Laws in the Reigns of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth, Oxford, 1850.

(b) Historical Works.

John Strype (a most laborious and valuable contributor to the Church history and biography of the English Reformation period; b. 1643, d. 1737): Ecclesiastical Memorials . . . of the Church of England under King Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Queen Mary (London, 1725–37; Oxford, 1822, 3 vols.); Annals of the Reformation . . . in the Church of England during Queen Elizabeth's Happy Reign (London, 1738; Oxford, 1824, 4 vols.; Memorials of Archbishops Cranmer (2 vols.), Parker (3 vols.), Grindal (1 vol.), Whitgift (3 vols.). See his Complete Works, Oxford, 1822–40, in twenty-seven vols.

Gilbert Burnet: The History of the Reformation of the Church of England. London, 1679 sqq., 7 vols., and other editions. New edition by Pocock.

C. Hardwick: History of the Christian Church during the Reformation, third edition (by W. Stubbs). London, 1873, pp. 165–249.

Fred. Seebohm: The Oxford Reformers, Colet, Erasmus, and More. London, 1869. The same: The Era of the Protestant Revolution. 1874.

The Church Histories of England and of the English Reformation by J. Collier (non-Juror), Dodd (Rom. Cath.), Thos. Fuller (Royalist; Church History of Great Britain until 1658 and The Worthies of England), Neal (History of the Puritans), Heylin, Soames, Massingbeard, Short, Blunt, Waddington, Weber, d’Aubigné, Fisher.

Also the secular Histories of England by Hume, Macaulay (the introductory chapter), Hallam (Constitut. Hist.), Lingard (Rom. Cath.), Knight, Froude, Ranke, Green, in the sections on the Reformation period.


The last and, in its final results, the most important chapter in the history of the reformation was acted in that remarkable island which has become the chief stronghold of Protestantism in Europe, the ruler of the waves, and the pioneer of modern Christian civilization and constitutional liberty. The Anglo-Saxon race is intrusted by Providence with the sceptre of empire in its eastward and westward coarse. The defeat of the Armada was that turning-point in history when the dominion in which the sun never sets passed from Roman Catholic Spain to Protestant England.

The Reformation in Britain, favored by insular independence, was 594a national political as well as ecclesiastical movement, and carried with it Church and State, rulers and subjects; while on the Continent it encountered a powerful opposition and Jesuitical reaction. It began with outward changes, and was controlled by princes, bishops, and statesmen rather than by scholars and divines; while in other countries the reform proceeded from the inner life of religion and the profound study of the Scriptures. Good and bad men, from pure and low motives, took part in the work, but were overruled by a higher power for a noble end.11371137   Robert Southey (Life of Wesley, Vol. I. p. 266, Harpers' edition) says: 'In England the best people and the worst combined in bringing about the Reformation, and in its progress it bore evident marks of both.' England produced no reformers of such towering genius, learning, and heroism as Luther and Calvin, but a large number of learned and able prelates and statesmen, and a noble army of martyrs worthily led by Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Hooper, and Rogers. It displayed less theological depth and originality than Germany and Switzerland, where the ideas and principles of the Reformation were wrought out, but a greater power of practical organization. It gave the new ideas a larger field of action and application to all the ramifications of society and all departments of literature, which entered upon its golden age in the reign of Elizabeth, and which, in wealth of genius and in veneration for the truths of Christianity, far surpassed that of any other nation.11381138   Fisher (The Reformation, p. 533): 'The boldness and independence of the Elizabethan writers, their fearless and earnest pursuit of truth, and their solemn sense of religion, apart from all asceticism and superstition, are among the effects of the Reformation. This is equally true of them as it is of Milton and of the greatest of their successors. Nothing save the impulse which Protestantism gave to the English mind, and the intellectual ferment which was engendered by it, will account for the literary phenomena of the Elizabethan times.' Even that brilliant and racy French critic, Taine, must acknowledge the constant influence of 'the grave and grand idea of religion, of faith and prayer,' upon such writers as Bacon, Raleigh, Burton, and Sir Thomas Browne. Although at first despotic and intolerant, English Protestantism by its subsequent development became the guardian of civil and religious liberty. The fierce struggle between 'the old and new learning' lasted for more than a century, and passed through a baptism of blood which purified and fertilized the soil of England and became the seed of new colonies and empires beyond the sea.

The British Reformation is full of romantic interest, and developed a great variety of strongly marked characters, who still excite 595the passions, prejudices, and contradictory judgments of writers and readers. It is a succession of tragedies; it abounds in actions and reactions, in crimes and punishments, in changes of fortune, in men and women elevated to the pinnacle of power and happiness and hurled to the abyss of disgrace and misfortune. It furnishes a striking illustration of the truth that the history of the Church, as well as of the world, is a judgment of the Church. This idea of righteous retribution imparts a thrilling moral effect to the tragedies of Shakspere, who lived at the close of these shifting scenes, and gathered from them his marvelous knowledge of human nature, in all its phases and conditions, such as no poet ancient or modern ever possessed.

The richest fruit of the British Reformation is the translation of the Bible—the work of three generations, the best ever made, and to this day the chief nursery of piety among the Protestant denominations of the English-speaking race; and next to it that noble responsive liturgy which animates and regulates the devotions of the Episcopal communion on land and sea. These two works are truly national institutions, and command a veneration and affection above all other books, not only by their sacred contents, but also by their classical diction, which sounds in the ear like solemn music from a higher and better world.


The history of the English Reformation naturally divides itself into four periods:

1. From 1527 to 1547. The abolition of the authority of the Roman See over England and the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. This was chiefly a destructive process and a political change of the supreme governing power of the Church, prompted by unworthy personal motives, but it prepared the way for the religious reformation under the following reign. The despotic and licentious monarch, whom Leo X. rewarded for his book against Luther with the title 'Defender of the Faith,' remained a Catholic in belief and sentiment till his death; he merely substituted king-worship for pope-worship, a domestic tyranny for a foreign one, by cutting off the papal tiara from the episcopal hierarchy and placing his own crown on the bleeding neck; but he could not have effected so great a revolution 596without the sanction of Parliament and a strong clerical and popular current towards ecclesiastical independence and reform, which showed itself even before his breach with Rome, and became dominant under his successor.

2. From 1547 to 1553. The introduction of the Reformation in doctrine and worship under Edward VI., Henry's only son, and the commencing conflict between the semi-Catholic and the Puritan tendencies. The ruling genius of this period was Archbishop Cranmer, the Melanchthon of England, who by cautious trimming and facile subservience to Henry had saved the cause of the Reformation through the trials of a despotic reign for better times.

3. From 1553 to 1558. The papal reaction under Henry's oldest daughter, Mary Tudor, that 'unhappiest of queens and wives and women.'11391139   Tennyson, in Queen Mary, act v. scene 2. She had more Spanish than English blood in her veins, and revenged the injustice done to her mother, Catharine of Aragon. Her short but bloody reign was the period of Protestant martyrdom, which fertilized the soil of England, and of the exile of about eight hundred Englishmen, who were received with open arms on the Continent, and who brought back clearer and stronger views of the Reformation. The violent restoration of the old system intensified the hatred of Popery, and forever connected it in the English mind with persecution and bloodshed, with national humiliation and disgrace. 'The tale of Protestant sufferings was told with wonderful pathos and picturesqueness by John Foxe, an exile during the persecution, and his "Book of Martyrs," which was (under the following reign) set up by royal order in the churches for public reading, passed from the churches to the shelves of every English household.'

4. From 1558 to 1603. The permanent establishment of the Reformed Church of England in opposition both to Roman Catholic and to Puritan dissent during the long, brilliant, and successful reign of Queen Elizabeth.

This masculine woman, the last and the greatest of the Tudors, inherited the virtues and vices of her Catholic father (Henry VIII.) and her Protestant mother (Anne Boleyn).11401140   Her character is admirably drawn by Froude, and by the latest historian of England, J. R. Green, A Short History of the English People (London, 1875), pp. 362–370. She was endowed with rare 597gifts by nature, and favored with, the best education; she was brave and bold, yet prudent and cautious; fond of show, jewelry and dress, yet parsimonious and mean; coldly intellectual, high-tempered, capricious, haughty, selfish, and vain, and well versed in the low arts of intrigue and dissimulation. She trusted more in time and her good fortune than in Almighty God. She was destitute of religious enthusiasm, and managed the Church question from a purely political point of view. She dropped the blasphemous title 'Head of the Church of England,' and was content to be the supreme 'Governor' of the same.11411141   Parliament, in the act of supremacy (1534), declared King Henry, his heirs and successors, to be 'the only supreme head, on earth, of the Church of England, called the Anglicana Ecclesia.' For denying this royal supremacy in spiritual matters, More and Fisher suffered martyrdom. The thirty-seventh of the Elizabethan Articles modifies it considerably, but still claims for 'the Queen's Majesty the chief power in this Realm of England, . . . unto whom the chief government of all estates, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain,' etc. Elizabeth disclaimed the sacerdotal character which her father had assumed, but retained and exercised the vast power of appointing her prelates, summoning and dissolving convocations, sanctioning creeds and canons, and punishing heresies and all manner of abuses with the civil sword. But with this limitation the royal supremacy was the chief article in her creed, and she made her bishops feel her power. 'Proud prelate,' she wrote to the Bishop of Ely, when he resisted the spoliation of his see in favor of one of her favorites, 'you know what you were before I made you what you are! If you do not immediately comply with my request, by God! I will unfrock you.' As a matter of taste she liked crucifixes, images, and the gorgeous display of the Roman hierarchy and ritual; and, being proud of her own virginity, she disliked the marriage of the clergy; she insulted the worthy wife of Archbishop Parker by refusing to call her 'Madam,' the usual address to married ladies. But she had the sagacity to perceive that her true interests were identified with the cause of Protestantism, and she maintained it with a strong arm, aided by the ablest council and the national sentiment, against the excommunication of the Pope, the assaults of Spain, and the intrigues of the Jesuits at home. This is the basis of the popularity which she enjoyed as a ruler with all classes of her subjects except the Romanists.

Her ecclesiastical policy at home was a system of compromise in the interest of outward uniformity. It was fortified by a penal code which may be explained though not justified by the political necessities and 598the general intolerance of the times, but which was nevertheless cruel and abominable, and has been gradually swept away by the progress of a nobler and more enlightened policy of religious liberty.

As in the case of her predecessors, we should remember that the policy of Elizabeth was merely the outward frame which surrounds the true inward history of the religious movement of her age. The doctrinal reformation with which we are concerned was begun in the second and completed in the fourth period.

With the reign of Elizabeth ended the great conflict with Rome. It was followed by the internal conflict between Puritanism and Episcopacy, which, after a temporary triumph of the former under Cromwell, resulted in the re-establishment of the Episcopal Church and the expulsion of Puritanism (1662), until another revolution (1688) brought on the final downfall of the treacherous Stuarts and the toleration of the Dissenters, who thereafter represented, in separate organizations, the left or radical wing of English Protestantism.

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