Select Page

Book 19 - The English New Testament and the Court of Rome

A History of the Reformation in the 16th Century

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

For a full treatment of the Reformation, see my work: The Reformation Made Easy – C. Matthew McMahon.

Book 19 – The English New Testament and the Court of Rome

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 1

The church and state should not be mixed together. They have separate functions and are intrinsically different. Though they have a God-given task, they remain different identities. Though they are diverse, the church has need of the state, and vice versa. The church does not execute the sword, but needs the state to do so. The state does not produce Christians but functions best when it is most “evangelical.”

Henry VIII obviously played a part in the history of the Reformation of England; the history is not Henry VIII. He was simply a character in the play. God is the Father of the reformation, and Henry remained as a pawn. Some believed Henry’s fiascoes concerning his amusements, trial, divorce, and the like remain as the hallmark of the English Reformation, but this is far from true. Tyndale’s New Testament marked the beginning of a real reformation and the end of popery in the country as the dominating influence.

The New Testament was crossing into England in 1525. Who would distribute it among the people? Thomas Garret, a sound evangelical, and former priest, preached the good news of Christ and desired to see it strewn across the land. He offered his house to the merchants and kept a close watch over the library until it was distributed. What Erasmus had given the people in Greek in 1517, so Tyndale gave the people in English in 1526. As the New Testament was distributed, people began reading, and in reading king Henry was given his copy. A reply was needed, for Henry was not ready for this providentially. Wolsey desired to confiscate them and Thomas More wrote against the use of them.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 2

Wolsey saw the danger the New Testament in English would cause the papacy, and he desired to stop its distribution. As a good starting point London, Oxford and Cambridge were to be searched, and the New Testament impounded and burnt. Orders were issued to this end and on February 3, 1526 this work commenced.

The search started by checking Monmouth’s and Garret’s homes looking for evidence. Garret was counseled that he should leave the area and change his name because of his involvement in hiding the New Testaments. Dalaber, a friend of Garret, after tending to his safety, hid his own works concerning many of the reformers. Unfortunately Garret came back, not desiring to hide, and Wolsey’s men arrested him in his bed. Dalaber was not privy to Garret’s arrest and began thinking through the night how he in fact may be convicted by helping Garret escape. All through the night, both he and his other Oxford friends were anxiously wondering what the outcome of the day would be.

Wolsey set a ploy to capture the young students. He promised them glory and gave them a dungeon to sleep in instead. Among the captors were Fryth, Clark, and Sumner. They were cast into a cellar that Wolsey had under his college where he kept fish. It was dank, dark and smelled awful even affecting the youth’s weakened state. One by one they were brought out and charged, and only three were given freedom, the rest were condemned. They carried their books to a burning fire and were compelled to throw them in under duress and then led back to prison.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 3

Wolsey turned to Cambridge, the home of Latimer, Barnes, Bilney, and Stafford. The search began on Monday February 5th, when Gibson, Wolsey’s sergeant, arrived. The next day, while these friends were talking, Barnes was arrested, and later the rest, for having New Testaments. They were held in a chosen location in the school where they could not escape. Word was given to others at the school and the books that they needed to condemn these men were taken from the school and hid. Gibson had received expressed order to burning the books and their owners, but where there were no books, there could be no arrests. They had to let the men go except for Barnes who had a New Testament.

Gibson brought Barnes to Wolsey. They traveled three days and reached the cardinal’s home. Wolsey interrogated him, and he said that he taught nothing but the Scriptures. Barnes took the opportunity to preach to Wolsey one on one. Wolsey then said that if he had twenty doctors who would vouch for him that he was not preaching heresy than he would let him go. He said that would be impossible, for there were only a few doctors of his caliber. Wolsey then said that he was left no choice but to burn him alive for heresy the next day. He and three others were martyred the next day at St. Paul’s churchyard.

Barnes was not martyred yet for his faith for he escaped a number of times from the hands of the persecutors. However, others were not so fortunate. The youth held in Wolsey’s cellar were kept there for six months and returned to Oxford. They were already too far gone and died within the week.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 4

Luther wrote to Henry and incensed his anger towards the reformer to greater heights. Luther accused him of taking counsel against the Lord, which of course was the truth, but Henry hated to hear this thinking he was upholding the truth in the papacy. Upon counsel by Thomas More, Henry wrote back. The letter was from the king of England to the king of heretics and it was widely distributed.

It was not enough just to write letters to heretics. Wolsey wanted them burnt and called Latimer before him. His learning and “presence of mind” allowed him to be released. Bilney was also called and ordered not to preach Luther’s doctrines. Bilney said he would, because all he wanted to preach were the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Garret was called but seized with horror. He fell to his knees and the cardinal saw his fear and released him.
The adversaries for the Reformation continued to search for the New Testaments that were circulating through England. But this work to find and confiscate all these books was beyond the ability of the priests all through the country. As they were searching, they found a newly printed New Testament, smaller in size and more easily hidden. Christopher Eyndhoven of Antwerp printed it. Wolsey sent Hackett to have this man punished. He was arrested but allowed leave due to a lack of evidence and time to prosecute him properly.

Though 1526 was a difficult year of trial for many in England, and many died, the Reformation advanced as a result of this New Testament work being distributed among the people, and allowing them to read it for themselves.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 5

Wolsey was angry that he did not secure the papacy. He detested Charles V for his adversity in the attempt. To place a wedge between England and the empire, Wolsey pressed Henry to give up his wife, this seemed impossible since even Erasmus said that the royal family was the epitome of all families living happily together. Henry repulsed the idea for he loved Catherine. Wolsey would not give up so quickly.

The attack upon Henry and his marriage began in 1526. Longland and Wolsey plotted this, but Wolsey was forced to take the reigns. Catherine had not delivered and the throne was at jeopardy. Henry needed to have a son or the throne would be lost. Henry was pressed to meet with Wolsey and Longland to judge the matter. Henry consented to hear them. Wolsey suggested marrying Margaret, Francis 1st’s sister, but she had already married just soon after to Henry d’Albret king of Navarrer.

Henry did decide to contemplate the idea of divorce. This matter needed to be looked into in detail before any hasty move was made. In fear he opened the Bible to “He shall be childless” and became afraid. He thought that taking a younger wife may be the solution in order to have as much possibility of having a son as could be humanly executed.

During all this commotion, Catherine suspected nothing. She had lost her children to death, and her heart weighed heavy for her husband. But she was unaware that Henry had fallen knee deep into a horrible plot to divorce her. However, she heard the news by rumors and confronted Henry. Henry comforted her with superficial promises. Now, Catherine desired the emperor to be informed of this treachery.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 6

Anne Boleyn returned with Sir Thomas More to the court and was assigned to Catherine as one of her maids of honor. Wolsey disliked her and her family, and was angered at the thought of her being at the court. Because of the tension with Wolsey she could not remain at court and left to tend Margaret of Valois. Margaret had obtained a holy

Book that she began to read (possibly the work by William Tyndale on Christianity) and was consoled by it. Later she returned to England for good, and began to become more acquainted with Henry VIII.

While the court of Henry was in commotion, rumor had it that Thomas Cromwell, one of many Englishmen, stormed Rome and took the city by assault with the imperialist soldiers. He read the New Testament daily and vowed, after reading the Bible and seeing the abuses at Rome, to be a tool in the hand of God to destroy popery. On returning to England, he entered the Cardinal’s house. The captive Pope and cardinals in Rome wrote Wolsey and he declared a fast for the safe release of the Pope.

Henry was taken by their problem of divorcing Catherine and obtaining an heir. Stories of Anne Boleyn captivated him. He sent for her but she repelled his advances many times, though with respect. Henry was angry, not accustomed to being ill treated in getting his way. Anne would not return to the court even when summoned by him. Henry wrote her a letter, and Anne replied making known that she did not want to dishonor herself or anyone else by coming to him while he was married. Finally she came, after pressure from the king, and he asked her to marry him, but she refused. Wolsey found out that the king had her in mind and remained speechless before him.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 7

Even though he was persecuted, Bilney continued to preach the free grace of Christ. He would preach in the church, and then with his friend Arthur, he would go into the towns and preach among the people. He preached among the Franciscans who hardly knew their bibles, and detested his preaching. Twice they pulled him out of his pulpit and brought him to London under arrest.

Arthur did not hide after Bilney was arrested, but continued to visit the towns and to preach. The priests were horrified at the doctrines that Arthur was preaching and threw him into the same prison as Bilney. They were again interrogated by Wolsey and then led back to prison. Tonstall questioned Wolsey that he could be mistaken in his judgment of Bilney. It was the New Testament of Erasmus that converted the man. Tonstall was given leave to examine him, and gave him the ultimatum that he should rejoin the Catholic Church or suffer the consequences. Bilney retired to the next room think about this by the command of Tonstall. Later, Bilney came in and Tonstall thought he would recant. He did not, and Tonstall gave him more time to reconsider. Even Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII looked on with amazement at the proceedings. Bilney then did the unthinkable and denied the faith to save his life. He was so horror stricken about this sin that all he could think about was the wrath of the Lamb upon him. Arthur had also done the same.

The New Testament was still circulating, and though the distributors were often persecuted, a copy even made it to the court through the priests and Anne Boleyn read it.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 8

Henry VIII desired the approval of the priests and of the Pope to divorce Catherine and a to marry Anne. Of all men he most desired the consent of Sir Thomas More. Henry appealed to the Bible and Sir Thomas More would not answer him and told him he should consult the doctors of the church for his answer. As a result Henry ordered Warham to assemble the most learned doctors to inquire into this. To pass the responsibility on the learned doctors appealed to the universities.

Henry told Wolsey to declare the divorce. This placed him in a precarious position on both fronts. On the one hand he could lose his position by one act of the Queen, on the other he could lose the Pope’s throne forever by disagreeing with the Pope. Wolsey told Henry that the Pope must come to a decision on this.

Charles V also struggled with whole he was to unite. Would he unite with Henry who wanted to divorcer his wife, or the Pope, who would discourage this and place him on bad terms with Henry? Charles decided to run from Henry which meant he had to place the Pope back on his throne and out of prison.

The same day Clement received a letter from the king by messenger, he was restored by Charles to the throne of popery. Henry was exceedingly agitated in his court, while Clement was in utter joy to be back upon the throne. Henry decided to petition an audience with him through Gregory De Casale, and told him that at whatever cost he is to procure an audience with the Pope. No matter how much it cost, he was to throw money at him in order to have this special meeting to decide the future of the Kingdom for Henry and annul this marriage with Catherine.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 9

The Pope had hardly been released from prison when De Casale showed up. Clement received Henry’s envoy with reservation. De Casale made the matter known quite veraciously and Clement was now forced to choose between Charles V and Henry VIII. It had been his policy to keep peace between these men, but now he had to make a choice. If he made a refusal to Henry, England would be lost to the Pope. The Pope decided to write a letter to Henry in which he really avoided the issues at stake which agitated Henry all the more. Another letter was written and said so long as Henry had not been with Anne in any way (which was not true) then he would annul it. It was just a ploy to dupe Henry.

At the same time Knight and De Casale were appearing on behalf of Henry to the Pope, Luther and Tyndale had just published two books. Luther published Parable of the Wicked Mammon, and Tyndale had published the Obedience of a Christian Man. Both works demonstrate the Catholic Church and the Pope as Antichrist, double-faced and malicious.

Henry then requested of the Pope a cardinal more suited to the task to come to London and deal with these affairs in a comprehensive manner. The Pope loved that idea for that absolved him in many ways of making an immediate decision. Henry wanted someone who would make a real answer, unlike the run around that Wolsey was now giving him. At this same time Catherine was up in arms about having this divorce and desired to make her petitions known as having been abused by Henry in this matter of divorce.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 10

Henry was exceedingly vexed at the manner the Pope handled this situation and passed the responsibility to some else. Henry believed the Pope did not have his best interests in mind and put him off. An envoy arrived with Gambara. Henry consulted with Wolsey and asked him what should be done next. Wolsey said that the only way Henry could make Clement follow his desire is to take down Charles V. Henry declared hostility against the Emperor as a result. This was looking a favorable for Wolsey. Charles had robbed him of the tiara of the Pope, so Wolsey would now rob him of the crown altogether. Henry was then instructed by Wolsey to tell the Pope and then he would protect him against the king, and at the same time, he wrote to the cardinals telling them that if they backed him they would be handsomely rewarded.

Gardiner, the secretary of the court, was sent to Clement with Henry’s letters. Clement retired to his room to think all this through. To give Henry a divorce would step on the honor of the Queen, Catherine, as well as begin a war with Charles. Clement met again the next day with Gardiner and Gardiner spoke to him with more and more imperatives on the king’s behalf.

The Pope was stalling Gardiner as much as possible, and Gardiner tried every means to gain a solid, positive answer for Henry. Gardiner told Clement that he was not dealing with the king well, and he would answer for it. A sealed letter was written to Wolsey on behalf of Clement giving him power to dissolve the marriage.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 19, Chapter 11

Fox returned from Rome carrying the letter. The Pope, he said, had given this letter to affirm the annulment the moment the commissioners here pronounce the divorce. Henry was pleased with this. Fox was to report to Wolsey and update him on these proceedings. Wolsey was upset that the whole deal fell on him alone to execute. And Henry, based on this news, called in Anne to become officially engaged to her.

Wolsey read the document the next day and found the loophole that stated the Pope could retract his view on all this at any time – something Gardiner missed and Fox did not relay to Henry. Wolsey then had the document rewritten with large words in order to bind the Pope to his decision. At the same time in Italy, Gardiner met with Campeggio and entreated him to pronounce the divorce in London. But Henry in coming to a knowledge of all this, simply thought the Pope was trying to entangle him in some way.

Henry thought through the implication of the Pope’s action and decided to move along a different line of thought. The Pope had not really given him the positive answer he looked for. Would there be, then, the possibility of changing the players? Henry could break off from the Roman Church and have his own church by which he remained king and priest. This would in fact take a turn for the better, but was this the best course to take?

Offsite Banner Ad:

Help Support APM

Search the Site

Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind