Project Canterbury

Lectures on the First Prayer Book of King Edward VI.

by Morgan Dix
Rector of Trinity Church, New York

New York: Young and Co., 1881.


IT would be difficult to exaggerate and hard to overstate the extent of the mischief done to religion in the latter years of King Edward VI., or the peril into which the Church was brought in consequence. Oppression and violence were in all her borders; bishops were deprived, churches robbed, cathedrals suppressed, universities plundered; libraries gf inestimable value were burnt, and the estates and property of the religious orders, and of the cathedral and parochial clergy stolen and divided among rapacious courtiers. These and the like outrages against learning and religion followed in the train of the reckless reformers, who, in their fanatical hatred of Rome, and their devotion to the metaphysical systems which were popularly lauded as the sole and original pure Gospel, left far behind them the principles of the English Reformation and became destroyers of order, law, and peace. It is hard to realize the true state of the realm in those days, or to gauge the extent of the danger. But some one has said, that to bring things home to us, one instance, drawn from the life, is worth no end of generalities. You tell me that, at such a battle, there were, of dead and wounded, ten thousand men. I am not moved so much as I should be by a minute description of the anguish of any one man of those ten thousand, and the misery which came to him, his wife, and children, in that dreadful day. Even so to say generally that by the year 1553 the Church of England was all but ruined by Calvinism and Zwinglianism makes some impression on the hearer; but I hope to make a stronger one, by taking a single specimen of the men of that time and showing how great the peril was by telling what he held and did. The person whom I select for that purpose is no other than John Hooper, who began as a monk of the Cistercian Order and ended his days as Bishop of Gloucester.

Let me then give you, in brief, the history of that remarkable man; let me state his theological position, and describe those acts which were the index of his mind, and then let me ask you to say, what was the extent of the danger, when such a person, intrepid and inflexible, conscientious and able, and representing a great number of sympathizers, was taken up by the Court, promoted to a place of power, made a Bishop of the Church, and given, thereby, the leverage necessary to shake the Catholic system to its base. If Bishop Cummins, with his peculiar ideas, had been set up among us with a strong backing by the General Government, and thus enabled to carry out his views on dogma and ritual, we should have been in the position of Catholic Churchmen under Bishop Hooper three hundred years ago.

He first appears on the stage of events as a Bachelor of Arts of the University of Oxford, in the year 1518. Thence he went to Gloucester, and entered a monastery of the Cistercian Order, but remained there only a short time, returning to Oxford. He next became private chaplain in the family of Sir Thomas Arundel, but was dismissed on the discovery that he was already deeply imbued with Lutheran ideas, and had erred and strayed far from the older faith. Ex-monk, ex-chaplain, and now in danger of persecution for his Protestant sentiments, (During the prosecutions under "the Six Articles." They were intended to keep such persons as this in order, and prevent them from setting quiet folk by the ears) he fled from England and went to Zurich. There, placing himself under the tuition of the celebrated reformer Bullinger, he underwent another change of views, abandoned Lutheranism, and found his level at last and the logical terminus of his mental progress in Zwinglianism of the radical type. Such was the arc which this eccentric intellect described; but once having reached its congenial goal, it remained there settled and fixed, with no further change, abhorring all through which it had come, and unalterably convinced of the truth and correctness of its last position. Nor was it long before this active spirit found a field for the exercise of its power on other men. The pervert is always dreadfully in earnest; his zeal is greater in proportion to the rawness of his state.

When Henry the Eighth died, and Edward ascended the throne, Hooper returned to England. This was the year 1549, the same in which our Prayer Book was set forth by Church and State as the one service book for the realm. Hooper came back, full to the brim of foreign ideas; regarding the Prayer Book as not merely defective, but impious, and resolved not to communicate according to its directions; as resolute as he was fanatical. What should be done with such an impracticable as this? We know what ought to have been done; unfortunately we know what was done. Archbishop Cranmer was shy of him at first; for though running in Hooper's general direction, he had not yet reached Hooper's position. But the Protector, Somerset, took him to his heart at once, and gave him the help which comes from court favor. And so he began to be a power in the land.

Cranmer, at that time, was still under the influence of Bucer and Martyr; he retained something of the milder type of Lutheran sympathies which marked the beginning of the Edwardine Hegira. But Hooper observed with pleasure the change which was taking place in the unfortunate Archbishop's mind. He reports to his friends that "Canterbury is growing," that he is getting more light every day, that he is entertaining much more correct views respecting the Supper. He means the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. They called it, briefly, "the Supper." The cant of that day was, "correct views of the Supper." We shall see by and by what "correct views "on this and other subjects were.

Next year, the Archbishop's views continuing to "improve," he took up Hooper, gave him his official sanction, and had him made Lent preacher to the King. It was a great advance; it told a plain story of what was afoot. The only serious obstacle in the way of the Zwinglian radicals seems to have been poor Martin Bucer, whose fidelity to his Lutheran views of that "Supper" exasperated them; but Bucer was worn out and dying, and could not much longer write letters and protest. And Hooper said, with triumph, that "with the exception of the Church of Zurich, and those who agree with it in religion, the Word is in no part of the world preached more purely than in England."

While thus the tide is ebbing fast, and men like this are climbing up to power and larger influence, it is time to ask what were Hooper's views, and where we should place him among theologians and churchmen. To this I proceed.

First, then, he totally rejected the sacramental system. He did this by denying that the sacraments are means, or instruments, or channels of grace, or divine mysterious ordinances whereby God the Holy Ghost works in the soul of man, and making them the signs, merely, of things done without them. Thus, for instance, we hold that Baptism is the instrument of regeneration; when the child is brought to the font we pray that he may be made regenerate; and as soon as ever he is baptized we thank God that he is regenerate. Now Hooper's notion was that no one can ever be made regenerate in baptism, and that baptism is but a sign that God has already done it, or will do it afterwards. We believe "in One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins." He believed in forgiveness of sins, but not in that sacrament. He said that there are two kinds of baptism, both necessary, an inner and an outer. The inner is effected and completed whenever any one believes in Christ and accepts him as the author of salvation; the outer is only a sign to the world that the person is already God's child. This is not the doctrine of the Catechism. "My sponsors in baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, the Child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven." The distinction is too clear to be misunderstood; between baptism as an instrument of doing a certain work and baptism as a sign that the work has been done already. And thus the Zwinglians made the word of God of none effect by their tradition. It reminds one of that clever illustration of Newland's, in his lectures on Tractarianism. [I quote from memory; it is a long time since I read that delicious little pamphlet.] "Baptism doth now save us," says St. Peter. "What is that you say? "asks some one; "Baptism saves us?" "O dear, no!" cries the sectary, "baptism does not save us; but baptism is as it were a sign of our being saved." So the doctor says, "Quinine cures the ague." "What did the doctor say? "asks the patient: "quinine cures the ague? "" O no, he only said that quinine is as it were a sign of the ague's being cured."

This same rationalizing method they applied to the Sacrament of the Altar. First, there was to be no altar; that was popish superstition; and of course, no altar, no priest. Nothing was needed but bread, wine, a table, and a fair table-cloth. It was a memorial meal, a supper, nothing else. The service, as Hooper wanted it, was to consist of prayers, not tied to any particular form, of reading from the Bible a passage of scripture, and then of carrying bread and wine about to the people, sitting in their places, or at the most standing; no one should be permitted to kneel, lest superstitious reverence should be implied. He said of that most holy and august sacrament, that it was "a ceremony instituted by Christ to confirm and manifest our society and communion in His Body and Blood until He come to judgment." The order of celebration and administration, as prescribed in the Prayer Book, according to Primitive and Catholic use, he regarded as actually impious, idolatrous, and an abomination.

Thus he and his followers swept away the Sacramental System. Sacraments were not even the application of God's Promises--and surely nothing more mild and feeble could be said--but they were the confirmation of promises previously applied through faith. All the benefits which the Catholic Church ascribes to Baptism and Holy Communion, come before their reception and apart from them, according to these men; they may come before, or after, or at any time except when those divine ordinances are ministered. This is the frustration of God's appointment, direct revolt from His word; and yet the dogged obstinacy with which they stick to their rejection and refusal is admirable in its way. One longs for some such determination as this in the defenders of the truth.

As for the Ministry, it was not to be bound to any special order of men, nor to any succession of bishops or others. Their views of the Ministry are as loose as those of the Sacraments; and no wonder, for unless there be divine mysteries, what need of holy orders? The priest is no priest unless he have something to offer; and they who take away the sacrifice of the Altar, abrogate, ipso facto, the order of the Priesthood.

And, finally, as to the Holy Catholic Church, Hooper's notions were thoroughly Calvinistic. "It is the whole number of those elect persons who are chosen and predestinate into everlasting life, before the foundations of the world were laid;" and, in perfect keeping with the spirit of those miscalled Evangelical Systems, and also with a belief in one point at least of the Lutheran creed, which is, that the faith which justifies us is the positive certainty of our own salvation, this man leaves on record his entire conviction that he himself, beyond all doubt, is one of the said predestinate and elect.

Such is a brief outline of the views of this remarkable man, and knowing them we know where to place him. We should know where to place him if he were here today; we could tell him to which of the bodies around us he belonged; and he, if an honest man, would be found in one of them, and not among us. But what we do not know and cannot comprehend is, how any one who calls himself even a moderate old-fashioned high-churchman, and knows the facts of the case, can stand up as defender of such a man, or commend him as a good representative of the Principles of the English Reformation. He was totally at variance with that movement in its original shape, and his aim was to upset all that had been done, and build upon the ruins of the old Anglican Catholicity a pure and correct religion such as they enjoyed in the sunshine of Zurich and in the Gardens of Paradise in Geneva.

Unhappily, the power to carry out his ambition was not long wanting. In the year 1551 he was raised to the Episcopate, nominated by the Crown to the See of Gloucester, and in due time consecrated to an office which it is more than probable that he did not think necessary in the Church. But, as all students of history know, the consecration was delayed, and for an odd reason. This thorough impracticable objected to two things; first to the form of the oath of allegiance which he had to take, and secondly to the vestments which must be worn during the ceremony. As for the oath, he made no trouble about its Erastian character, its pledge of obedience to an earthly potentate, its promise of absolute submission to a layman; but the grave difficulty was that in the oath the holy Saints of God are mentioned; that was not to be endured. And the vestments were in his eyes rags of Popery, part of the paraphernalia of the mystical Babylon, and therefore he would not wear them. There was a long wrangle about this, in which the obstinacy of the man came out in its full force; they conjured and he refused; they implored him to wear the dress prescribed in the Prayer Book, and he vowed that nothing should induce him to do it; nor did he consent till a brief imprisonment in the public prison had given him time to cool down. But finally the affair was adjusted, and John Hooper, duly consecrated, came forth, vestments and all, as Lord Bishop of Gloucester--a sight indeed for the faithful Catholics of the unhappy diocese.

Now, I say, consider this man, and judge what was the peril of the hour. He was alien from the spirit of the Anglican Church, and in sympathy with the non-Episcopal continentals. He was distinguished for a fanatical hatred of Catholic theology and Catholic practice. He was moreover a man of force; a brilliant preacher, and popular on that account; very conscientious, fully persuaded in his own mind, and determined to do what he could to perfect the reformation which he deemed sadly incomplete. Hooper was one of those who never give up; who die, rather than yield; let us do him full justice in that particular. He did die in the following reign; he died that awful death of burning alive; they tried hard to induce him to recant, but in vain; with indomitable courage he walked to the stake and perished in the flames. All this does honor to the manhood of the sufferer; it does not justify his errors, nor prove the soundness of his faith. It rather deepens our regret that so strong a champion should have been on the wrong side; it adds to our dismay when we see such a man lifted high up into a position where he can assail the Altar of the Lord, scatter the lovers of the old religion, and break down the carved work of the sanctuary with axes and hammers. Looking back to those days, and reviewing the mischief that was done, the attention is fixed on two notable outrages which give the key to everything else. The first of these was the degradation of the Prayer Book; the second was the throwing down of the Altars of the Lord. Let me speak briefly of these in turn.

And, first, be it remembered, that by Royal Authority only, and by an. Act of Uniformity, that is to say, by the Act of the Civil Power, the Book which was so obnoxious to the radicals was put aside, and a second Reformed Book of Common Prayer substituted for it, A.D. 1552. How can an intelligent churchman look at that strange thing, outcome of the fast-changing age, without indignation and disgust?

For this was what followed: a prompt, sharp raid on what yet reminded the people that England's was a Catholic religion. To attempt to compare the First and Second Books, page by page, and to point out how cleverly the work of the adversary of Catholic doctrine was done, is beyond my present purpose. Let it suffice to speak of the changes in the Order for the Celebration of the Holy Communion. No word expresses the general result so well as the term "Dislocation." It seems as if, intending to root out the very idea of Sacrifice, they had taken the office and stirred it round, and mixed it up, till everything should be in the wrong place; dislocation is the proper word for the process, perhaps not strong enough. The confusion to which an orderly, purposeful, logical system was reduced was so thorough as to leave no doubt of the intention. And then, of course, the particulars corresponded to the general remorseless act. No longer was the Priest to take the bread in his hands or lay his hand on it as if to consecrate it; no longer to take the cup and lay his hand upon it; the ''Manual Acts," as they are called, were to be performed no more. And the Oblation and Invocation, beautiful forms found in every ancient liturgy and, by the mercy of God, in our own, were expunged, because they imply a sacrifice, and can mean nothing else. And when the people received the elements, the minister was no longer to say, "The Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee," but to use instead the abrupt, cold formula, "Take and eat this, Drink this." The Introits were gone, and the mingling of the water with the wine was gone; and the commemoration of the Holy Dead, much more the prayer for them; and the bread was to be such as men commonly eat at their tables; and there should be no celebration unless "a goodly number" of laymen be present to communicate. And when we ask further where and how this rite should be administered, we find, of course, that with the Ritual of the Altar is vanished also the Altar itself; and instead of it there must be a long wooden table, with legs, and it must stand, not in the chancel, but in the body of the church, lengthwise, one end toward the front door and the other end toward the old chancel; and the Priest, if so he may still be figuratively called, must stand at the long side of it, facing across the church; and no doubt Hooper and others had hope of yet seeing the communicants comfortably seated at the table and in that position partaking of barren, empty signs, mere elements of this world, while meditating on an event which occurred near two thousand years ago, and a Person who during all that time had been really absent from His People.

Such was the first menacing sign of the peril of the Church. And swift on this followed the downfall of the Altars. This wretched work was begun promptly, in the Diocese of Gloucester, and, under Ridley, in that of London. No wonder. To the Calvinist and the Zwinglian, totally and resolutely ignorant of the true doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and supposing it to be in conflict with the faith that our Blessed Lord's was one sacrifice for sins forever, and cannot be repeated, the Christian Altar is "an abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not." And therefore the command went forth that the Altars everywhere must go. Try and imagine what that was. Suppose that into this church there should march a band of workmen with crowbars and pickaxes, and that you should be compelled to look on while they entered the sanctuary, and assailing that stately fabric, so lovely to the eye, so dear to you who have found rest to your souls in kneeling about it, so impressive in its holy teachings, should demolish it, stone by stone, and lay it even with the pavement; and next suppose they should bring in hither, from some adjacent school-room or business office, a common wooden table, and set it down below the chancel steps, and bid 3-011 put up with that, and deny the Catholic faith in the Solemn Memorial before God. Under such circumstances, what would be your emotions? Yet that might have been seen any day, in England, during those fat years when the darkness was deepening, month by month, deepest about the desecrated shrines of the old religion. And foremost in this black work was our High Priest of the Zwinglian Faith. No doubt he was devout and sincere; but there are divers types of devotion, and God defend us from that type! And behind him stood the boy-king, pledging his royal word, in right royal style, that there should be a thorough reform and a new Prayer Book, and that if the Church opposed it he would have it without the Church. And further than this, I know not what were the degrees in complicity, and how we should measure the shares of responsibility: but certainly these steps met no resistance from the Primate of All England. For Hooper, writing as usual to his ever-faithful Bullinger, informs him, toward the last, that Cranmer, having found Lutheranism according to Bucer a failure, is throwing himself more and more freely into the Zwinglian form of faith.

I have used John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, as one illustration of the dangers that beset religion, at what must be pronounced the darkest period of its history. I have done this, with no wish to misrepresent the man, or detract from his merits and personal character, but simply to show what is the danger when persons not in harmony with a system become the directors of its action. For one who sincerely loves the old Catholic Religion, and believes the Church of England to be a true and living branch of the Holy Catholic Church, the most terrible episode in history is that of the reigns of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. Beginning with the former, we see shocking pictures everywhere of arrogance, lust, and rapine; the brutal divorce of Queen Katharine, the wedding of the light and wanton Anne Boleyn, and then successive marital and domestic tragedies treading on each other's heels; we behold the shameless spoiling of the Church, and the outrageous and unjust suppression of the religious houses, their wealth poured into the royal coffers; we watch the judicial murders of Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and that noble gentleman, Sir Thomas More; the brutal butchery of the venerable Abbot of Glastonbury in his eighty-first year; (Historical Sketches of the Reformation, by the Rev. Frederick George Lee, pp 173-220) the starvation and massacre of the indomitable Monks of the Charterhouse, martyrs to their conscience, and refusing to render to Caesar the things that are God's. And then we pass on to the next reign, and look with amazement at the invasion of the foreigners, and their seizure of the reins, and the onward rush to doom. The perils thicken every hour; one reads, the heart in the mouth. Who shall stop this? Who shall save? Henry reigned thirty-eight years. Had Edward reigned as long, it seems probable that nothing would have been left in England deserving the name of a true Church; nothing but a State Establishment of the Continental Protestant type, bound helplessly to the wheels of the civil government. Never was there a more imminent peril. What could avert it? What but the Powerful Arm of Almighty God. That Arm was stretched forth and the Church was saved. The student of history knows how. I may remind the general congregation of the facts, in a few words, ere I conclude.

About the first day of July, A.D. 1553, pale and troubled faces were seen around a death-bed in the royal residence at Greenwich. The young King was passing away; struck some time before with a consumption from which there was no recovery. He had been ill for months, slowly declining. On the sixth day of July the end came; and with his parting soul the hopes of the revolutionists departed also. One might have read on their anxious features a bitter disappointment, a dread of what was in front. For now came Mary Tudor to the throne; daughter of the divorced queen, England's true queen, though Henry had put her away; and Mary was a Catholic, nay, a Roman Catholic, of the severest type. Every one knew what must follow; and what all expected did follow; the restoration, not of the Catholic, but of the Roman Catholic Religion. She has been called "Bloody." She was no worse than the age in which she lived; nor were worse things done in her reign than, in those which preceded it. If, by the axe and the faggot she abated the Zwinglian type of Christianity which had replaced the faith of her father, let us remember that it was by the axe and the faggot also that he, in his time, had abated the type of Christianity which revered the Bishop of Rome as sole Head of the Church on earth. Doubtless those were bloody days; but there are operations which must be performed to save life, and when capital operations are performed blood must run. It has been so always; it shall be always so. One thing is plain. It was the temporary restoration of Romanism for some six years, under Mary Tudor, that saved the Catholic Religion in England. When a railroad train in rapid motion meets an obstacle which it is not strong enough to displace, the result is a sudden break-up, wherein ruin is piled on ruin, and a general scene of wreck is displayed. That happened to the religious development, conducted by such men as a Lasco, Walrond Pullein, and Hooper, when Edward gave place to his half-sister. Flung every way, scattered here and there, driven some to exile and some to death, the reformers, miscalled so, beheld their glory put out and their honor in the dust. But He who did that was the Almighty and Eternal One, who strengthens the things that are ready to die. The brief and terrible episode, the purification by fire, lasted but a few years. And when Elizabeth ascended the throne, it became apparent that the tide had turned; that the Church was to be no further degraded; that a work of restoration was to commence; that changes were to be in a conservative direction; that the First English Prayer Book, if not actually recovered, was again to be held in honor; and that the old leaven of Calvin, Zwinglius, and Luther was to be gradually replaced, in after ages, by the new and perpetual life of the Catholic Religion, free from the corrupt inventions of Geneva and of Rome.

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