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Book 20 - The Two Divorces

A History of the Reformation in the 16th Century

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Book 20 – The Two Divorces

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 1

In looking at the progress of the Reformation in England, it is important to note that the divorce from Henry to Catherine was not the primary help to the advancement of the Gospel. The primary help was the church’s divorce from Rome. Obviously there was a close affiliation between these two events, for one lead to the other, and the latter is far more important the former.

Anne, at first, desired to have nothing to do with Henry and the dishonor of Catherine. Henry pursued her relentlessly. He told her that if it were not her on the throne, then someone else would take her place. She was then pressed from all sides to take the scepter.

Wolsey attempted to dissuade the king to renounce his plan to marry Anne and have the divorce with Catherine. It would ruin the grip that popery had on the country if he did not resolve to let this matter go. However, Wolsey had this change of heart based on the enemies he had made and the disdain that was being heaped upon him from all sides. He decided to deal with his bishoprics and duties in a more cordial manner than usual, hoping to make amends as he could and retain his position. His hope was that he could win the affections of the people.

A disease struck the city called the “sweating sickness” which carried its pestilence to every quarter. Even one of Anne’s maidens became ill and Henry was not willing to die. He left the Castle and sent Anne to her father until the sickness ran its course. In fours days two thousand people died of this plague.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 2

Among the men trained at Cambridge under Barnes’s teaching, there arose Miles Coverdale. He had read the Bible and knew that the only reformation that would take place and be beneficial to the Reformation of the church was the Bible itself. Human agency, popery, could not attain this. Coverdale loved to study and found great joy in translating and working through biblical passages. Coverdale decided, at the same time Tyndale was making his translation in Germany, to translate the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into English. Coverdale wrote to Thomas Cromwell and asked for certain books he knew he had collected that would aid him in this task.

Though he was pressed to translate the Bible, a revival going on in Bumpstead drew him from his study and into the pulpit. Many were converted and Coverdale became friends with Pykas, a man who had read Wickliffe’s Wicket many times, and after hearing the Gospel preached, was converted to the faith.

The bishop of London kept a close eye on these proceedings of “revival.” He arrested many of them, including Pykas, placed them in prison and in the socks, and had many of them confess as he so desired in recanting their faith. They also went after Monmouth, the merchant who received books as they cross into England, in order to stop the distribution of the Gospel. They arrested him and Sir Thomas More interrogated him. He was convicted, but appealed to Wolsey on behalf of all those he employed. If he were killed they would be out of work. Wolsey melted, being the statesman he was, and released Monmouth from prison.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 3

Political change was in the air. Charles opened his eyes to the dealings of the Pope and the justice of Catherine’s cause. He sent four delegates to intercept Campeggio and his letters. Campeggio was a sharp cardinal but one of the youngest and the slowest. He took his time in travel, far longer than anyone expected, and was easily caught up to. The English ambassador at France sent him money to quicken his pace in order to move along the politics that waited upon his arrival. But that was not his way.

At the same time king Henry repeatedly wrote Anne and Anne wrote Wolsey expressing desires to move this along and allow them to marry. Campeggio said to Francis I that the marriage would never take place, and this is obviously significant from the standpoint of Clement. The Spanish and Roman parties did everything they could to stop this union from taking place.

Campeggio finally arrived in England, and before the king. He took his time arriving at the palace (it took him four days to travel thirty miles) for he knew that based on the Pope’s direction, if Charles V is angered, then the papacy would fall again, and so the situation was delicate. The greatest outcome of the arrival of the nuncio was that Anne was finally resolved in her opinion of what she would do, for she had wavered back and forth many times.
Campeggio finally had his audience with the king. If the divorce was refused, the Reformation of England would be the outcome. The bull delivered on behalf of the Pope was more of a trick than a decree and Henry was agitated again. He charged Charles’s people to leave the country and decided to take matters into his own hands.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 4

Catholicity is accomplished between brothers who love Christ. Tyndale and his brothers accomplished this in their walk with one another for the sake of the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church is not really Catholic in the true sense. The church of Christ requires Christ to be the Head and a divine unity. Wolsey desired to uphold a different kind of Catholicity. He wanted Rome to stand in authority before all. This was his notion of “Catholic.” These two opposites mark the differentiation between popery and Christianity.

Wolsey took up the task of arresting Tyndale. He wanted this spiritual Catholicity stopped. He remembered Herman Rincke and sent to him John West in order that they may attempt a capture of Tyndale. While Wolsey was plotting against him Tyndale remained steadfast in his task and printed several works for the edification of the saints. He was forced to change his lodgings from time to time as a result of the encroaching dangers around him, but continued to serve the Lord in writing works for Christian growth. John Fryth had escaped prison and joined up with Tyndale. Tyndale had finished the New Testament and had begun translating the Old Testament and Fryth was a great help to him here.

Wolsey set Rincke out to collect the works of Tyndale from the printers, and Rincke paid for all the works and confiscated them. Wolsey was not satisfied with collecting his books; he wanted the man. However, affairs of the court turned his attention away from Tyndale and to the peace between the papacy and the king.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 5

Wolsey wrote to De Casale in order to press him to do everything possible to secure the rift breaking England from Rome. He did not want to see this occur. De Casale met with the Pope again, and begged him to save the church in England, and the Pope agreed so long as it was in his power to do so. De Casale believed the Pope would side with Charles, and that it was not in his interest to save England.

Wolsey desired to see the papacy saved in England, but the Pope did not seem to want the same thing. The Pope was making a league with Charles while at the same time trying to fix the problem in England in a political manner. On the same day the Pope sent two decretals out, one public and the other private, one to Charles confirming his allegiance, and one secretly to England conferring with the situation.

The situation did not improve for Henry. The Pope seeing the power and the triumph of Charles V, “the indecision of Francis I, the isolation of the king of England, and the distress of his cardinal” threw himself into the hands of the emperor. His decision was ratified and made. He was not with Henry but with Charles. This meant that the change in polity would come about both for the church and for the state. Wolsey was afraid for this and decided to send yet another envoy to Rome with different men, figuring new talent may cause a happy turn to this situation. He was bolstering his courage and though he could dissuade the Pope, where he failed in times past, with a new courage. However, there were events on the horizon that would change the course of this unhappy attempt.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 6

The Pope became ill, even unto death and Wolsey though the may yet again ascend to the seat. Would Clement die? Wolsey even sent Gardiner to attempt a persuasion on behalf of his master to gain the throne. Wolsey and Henry drew up a list of those cardinals that were favorable to England and those that were not. They had to compose a winning team in order to save the papacy, have Henry’s wishes fulfilled, and put Wolsey on the throne. However, Clement recovered.

Wolsey was not determined to gain the divorce for Henry. This would be in opposition to both Charles and Clement. In the midst of this, Clement had a relapse and was constantly swaying between life and death, making matters more difficult.

Wolsey was loosing at ever turn, and Gardiner and Brian had just returned from Rome. He ordered De Casale to affirm the Pope’s vicar in case he turned on him, but Wolsey was losing his judgment and the pieces of his reign were fallen down to a bitter end.

Henry was concerned because he was not receiving a solid answer on his divorce and it was too difficult to get Rome to do anything he desired. Rome seemed to side with Charles and his hopes of having his marriage annulled by the pontificate had fled quickly into the distance.

The influence of Rome over Europe was greatly political. It was not that they had won the hearts of the people through edification, but manipulated them by superstition, and advanced their causes by politics in playing emperors and kings against one another.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 7

The Catholics and Protestants were discussing the political situation and the outcomes. The affair of Henry’s divorce was disquieting all people on all fronts. How would all of this affect the life of the church and the Reformation?

The clergy in the capital cities were afraid of the laymen who were preaching and teaching evangelical doctrines. Since Monmouth had been acquitted, they needed another martyr in which to make an example, and this was John Tewkesbury, one of the most faithful friends to the Scriptures and their distribution on all of England. His name ought to be inscribed with that of Latimer and Tyndale upon the effect he had in encouraging and edifying the brethren. The activity of these laymen could not go unnoticed by the cardinal. The cardinal saw the rebellion and freedom of the laity a more dangerous heresy in some ways than justification by faith alone. Tewksbury was arrested and put to torture on the rack. His limbs were crushed and he was told to renounce Tyndale and the faith. This he did. He left the tower a cripple.

Sir Thomas More wrote against Tyndale in order to silence him with his pen. Tyndale became informed of his work, in which he ridiculed both Tyndale and Luther, and Tyndale engaged him in a fierce debate. More relied on the papacy and Tyndale relied on the Holy Spirit. This characterized their understanding of the work of God in the church. More was set against Tyndale and wanted his capture as much a Wolsey.

Tyndale went to Hamburg after attempting to pay all his dents to the printers, and there he found Miles Coverdale waiting to help him in his work.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 8

Henry decided to turn away from Rome and to Wolsey and Campeggio to ratify the divorce. Henry knew the Pope was about to recall the two cardinals and he desired to affect the divorce immediately. Clement had given Campeggio orders to advance very slowly and never finish the task.

A commission was structured to deal with the divorce and Campeggio moved ever so slowly forward. After three weeks, Catherine took the floor of the court and appealed to the Pope saying the judges of the court were incompetent to revoke the decision. The commission became angry at her and had her removed for a time. The commission was undecided as to the course they should take and recalled Catherine again into the court while Henry was present. She spoke eloquently and captured the hearts of many there. She could not understand how they could utter such falsehoods saying that the marriage never took place, and would annul it. They dismissed her, and she was not summoned again, but she left in dignity. Even Henry was embarrassed, and her words moved him as well. Wolsey was also embarrassed for she made mention of him in her speech as the one guilty of many of her troubles.

The debate among the court reached every friar, monk and priest and was the cause of the continued stir in the land. Was Henry’s marriage really consummated with Catherine? Of course it was, but the idea was to find a loophole out of it.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 9

A trial was held that determined to consider the matters and the church’s lawful response to it. Catherine was summoned as a witness and interrogated as to her marriage with Henry. The court continued for days in attempting to unravel the question as to whether Henry was justified in marrying his dead brother’s wife. By all biblical standards this was acceptable, but the court attempted to turn this into a farce and make the verdict null and void. On the day that the court sat to read their verdict, they pronounced that the because of the threat of malaria in Rome at the end of every July, that the court must be dismissed until a further time in order to be sure that the Pope in Rome was safe. The court then adjourned based on bad air in Rome and the listeners to this verdict were awestruck. The entire court was held up because of the possibility of malaria in Rome.

It was obvious that the delay was simply that – a delay in order to hinder Henry’s demands. The entire court was almost unanimous in announcing the divorce for Henry, but the Pope vetoed it. Henry did not allow this to stop him.

Wolsey also was disdained as a result of this verdict. They blamed him for the bad news since he was the representative of Rome in England and before the King, as well as his other political problems that he had created surfaced to the top, not to mention the blow struck by Catherine on his character the instigation of all this trouble. As a result, he took refuge and fled the city for a time for the people took it upon themselves to persecute him in his home with threats and stones.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 10

While the court was in an uproar, Anne was at Hever Castle in retirement until she was called for by the king. She was fearful of returning to England and seeing the queen again, as well as Wolsey and Campeggio who had been plotting her ruin all along, though Wolsey was playing both sides of the fence.
Anne was given a Book by a friend of the Reformation called The Obedience of a Christian Man, written by Tyndale. She was not converted by the book, but did have a great interest in the man that Wolsey and Henry were after, this William Tyndale. Unfortunately, she would quickly leave behind these studies to be called back to court and to the midst of commotion.

Upon returning, George Zouch, a friend in court, began reading The Obedience of the Christian Man. Anne read it less frequently, but he took the
Book and read it with great interest. She was called away and George took it to read himself. Her mistress asked for the Book back and Anne had to gather it from George but he was not willing to give it up. He desired to know the truths hid inside it. So even in Henry’s court we find those who were changed by the formation of biblical doctrine printed and reproduced for the masses.

Zouch was summoned by Wolsey and interrogated about the reading of the book. Zouch had given it back to Anne who in turn returned it to Margaret and it ultimately fell into the hands of Henry. This Anne hoped for. She asked him to read it and he promised to do so. He loved it since Tyndale was sympathetic to the Christian following the godly king.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 11

Clement outwardly refused the divorce of Henry and Catherine. He sided with Charles V and the matter was finished by papal dictate. The contest would not be given on this end. The church in England would be destroyed, for Henry would not tolerate it there any longer opposing his wishes. Clement wrote to Wolsey to help do what he could to save the papacy. This was not going to happen. When the church in England is destroyed, Wolsey will be at the head of the decent ready to crash along with her.

At this point Henry was ready to march on Rome itself, and resolved in some ways to do so. Nothing would stand in his way of his vengeance and anger against the Pope. The matter had been concealed and delayed long enough, and now the entire situation was laid bare before the court and all the people of England.

Wolsey was summoned before Henry and he had a conversation amidst the people of the court but in low tone. Henry accused him as much as Rome of ill dealings and even produced intercepted papers demonstrating his treachery in playing both sides of the issue for his own benefit. Wolsey simply attempted to justify himself, but this was not going to happen with Henry. Henry escorted him in to his chamber to interrogate him of all the information he could. Henry was resolved that this would be last time he talked with Wolsey.

Wolsey was utterly undone. Henry had all the information he wanted and Campeggio fled with other documents that were intercepted, but those that were important to Wolsey’s dealings had previously been destroyed. In any case the political end was at the door of Wolsey’s house.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 12

Though Wolsey was descending, another was rising on the horizon that would be a help to Henry, Thomas Cranmer, a doctor at the university of Cambridge. He was born at Aslacton in Nottinghamshire in 1489. He did not have a good early education and was trained by an ignorant priest who taught him little. In 1504 he was sent to Cambridge and in 1510 he was elected fellow of Jesus College. He studied Erasmus and Lefevere and other great authors at this time. He married, but his wife died a year later and after this he gave himself to study the Bible and the Bible alone, for he was determined to find out the truth. In the end he took the Bible for his standard. He was made a doctor of divinity, professor and university preacher of the school.

Cranmer met with his old friends at the court of England, Fox and Gardiner and told them they were looking in the wrong place for answers on Henry’s desires. They should look to the Bible that gives a clear answer. They arranged a meeting with the king, which Cranmer did not desire, but had nonetheless. The king approached him and asked him to lay aside every other affair he had and to give himself to finding out whether his marriage to Catherine was lawful or not. Cranmer did not want this task, but Henry compelled him to finish this task for him.

Cranmer was also introduced to the people of the court, especially to Anne whom the King desired to marry. Henry respected Cranmer greatly even though, in the end Cranmer did not agree with Henry. In any case he placed him high in his court as a learned doctor of theology.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 13

While Cranmer was attempting to come to a resolution on this divorce, Wolsey was still in the thrall of saving his own skin by conferring with ambassadors, princes and filled his palace with self-importance. Yet in all his efforts, he still fell.

Wolsey had opened the chancery and sat upon the bench. His intention, now, was to have Henry excommunicated from the church by the Pope, and Henry found this out. It was obvious that Wolsey had not kept one promise he made to the King, and Henry wanted him prosecuted. While Wolsey was attempting to make some helpful ecclesiastical acts on his part work out, at the same time the attorney general was accusing and condemning him before the Kings’ bench. Wolsey was commanded to give up his seal and retire to a country seat near Hampton court. Wolsey would not deliver the seal unless the two dukes demonstrated they had a commission from the Pope which they did not. They left, and this was Wolsey’s last triumph. The next day he was ordered to leave the palace immediately, taking nothing with him.

In a disparate hope to appease the king in some manner, while Wolsey was preparing to leave, he offered up a huge banquet table for the king. This however accomplished nothing and simply made the use of his wealth to attempt favor another sign of the sadness of his state of affairs.
As Wolsey was leaving, Norris, the King’s messenger approached him by horseback. Wolsey had a glimmer of hope that something good would come of this. Norris handed him a ring that the king gave him, instructing him, through Norris, that he was still a friend of the king. He was sent to a small house in Esher, and there remained.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 14

Thomas More was elected chancellor in Wolsey’s place. More was to decide on behalf of the King and the choice of the throne over the Pope, and he certainly leaned in that direction. However, he still made efforts to save papal power in England.

The first order of business was to pass judgment over Wolsey. He was condemned and pronounced guilty and his properties were forfeited, and the king was to summon him to pronounce a judgment upon him. Wolsey was terrified. More had condemned Wolsey, one whom he had seen as a friend previously.

Thomas Cromwell decided to take a course of action that Henry had not thought through. Cromwell had first gone to Wolsey and had dinner and a long conversation. He told Wolsey that he would attempt to save him. Cromwell made it to court and had an appearance before the king. Cromwell suggested that every Englishman is a lord unto himself. This was certainly the proper dictate of the king as well and the king out to throw off the yoke of Rome altogether. He could, of his own accord, as king, make ecclesiastical decisions as the king of the country and not needing the authority of the Pope. This kind of talk had not entertained Henry’s ears before. Henry made Cromwell a member of the court and gave him a seal and ring. This marks the time the papacy was cut off from England.

At the same time the king was throwing off the Catholic Church altogether, as well as the Pope to be an independent country ecclesiastically, parliament addressed the abuses of the priesthood and pronounced bills against them. Every help from Rome was cut off and Henry approved these bills to make them law.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 15

Persecution was breaking out now against heretics, and Thomas More was turning into a fanatic in this area. He believed that the burning of heretics was just and necessary to the well-being of the church. Bishops led the attack against the heretics. A list of books was made that were to be condemned. The Bible, and the works of “Luther, Melancthon, Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Pomeranus, Brentius, Bucer, Jonas, Lambert, Fryth and Fish” were all condemned. Henry gave an order that without a bishop’s license no printing could be accomplished.

More, Warham, Tonstall, and Gardiner made a special plea to the king concerning heresy. They proposed that the New Testament should be forbidden. Latimer, who was among them, spoke up. The church was setting its own voice over God’s. The Bible he said, should be free to circulate in English. Latimer pressed the king that he had promised the Word of God to the people, and so now, he should make good on that promise. Tonstall did have all the New Testaments collected under lock and key. All that was needed was to distribute them. Latimer knew that such talk was risking his life. But his life was God’s.

Persecution began, and Thomas Hitton, a pious minister of Kent was burned at the stake. Bayfield, who delivered the bible across the country, was arrested as well. The outbreak became violent and husbandmen, tradesmen, artists, and people from every quarter were being persecuted for their faith. Terror spread across the whole country under the direction of Thomas More and the king.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 20, Chapter 16

While the people of God were being persecuted, Wolsey was languishing and detained as Esher. He wrote to Cromwell and he came to visit him. Wolsey’s enemies desired him dead. The House of Peers authorized Sir Thomas More to impeach the cardinal of high treason. Nobody would undertake Wolsey’s defense. He had no more friends but one, Cromwell. Cromwell carried the day and the impeachment failed.

Wolsey fell ill and unless he had some comfort given to him by Anne or the King he would be dead rather quickly; or so said his physician. Anne took a ring off her embroidered gown and sent it to Wolsey which he received with gratefulness. His strength returned and courage again was with him. Wolsey took new lodgings at Cawood Castle and attempted to win over the affections of the people. He gave away money to the people, faithfully attended the services and entreated the mass on behalf of the people in the town and wrote to several princes imploring them to help him.

Wolsey desired the king to be excommunicated, and Henry caught wind of Wolsey’s treacheries. Percy was sent to him to arrest him, and so he did. Wolsey was stunned. Out of fright he became ill, and he died in 1530. The man, who attempted to gain the pontificate, gained nothing but hardship and difficulty, and ultimately death.

The death of Wolsey is where this survey ends. Three movements were accomplished from which the Reformation would proceed. The first is the transfer of power from the Pope to the king, the second is the reestablishment of the Bible under Cranmer, and the third was represented by the martyrs who would die for their faith, which included William Tyndale.

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