Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 13.djvu/28

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

have been null and void from the first; the grounds on which either decision was pronounced being equally withheld from the public.

In the convocation which met in June and July following the sentence against Anne was confirmed, and a body of ten articles touching doctrines and ceremonies—the first formula of faith put forth by the church of England—was agreed to. These articles seem to have been drafted by the king himself and revised by Cranmer. Next year he in like manner revised the corrections which the king proposed to make in the so-called ‘ Bishops' Book,’ properly entitled ‘The Institution of a Christian Man.’ A little before this, in pursuance of a resolution of convocation in 1534, he had taken steps as metropolitan towards the production of an authorised English bible, with the concurrence of his suffragans, all of whom lent their aid in the project except Stokesley, bishop of London. The work, however, was forestalled by the first edition of Coverdale's translation, already printed abroad in 1535, and dedicated to the king; and ultimately it was superseded in favour of Matthew's bible, a patchwork of Tyndale's and Coverdale's versions published in the summer of 1537, and dedicated, like that of Coverdale, to Henry VIII. On 4 Aug. Cranmer sent a copy of this version to Cromwell to be exhibited to the king, requesting that the sale might be authorised until the bishops could produce a better version, which he thought would not be till a day after doomsday. The work was accordingly licensed, and the archbishop informed Cromwell that he could not have pleased him more by a gift of a thousand pounds.

About this time, pursuant to an act passed in 1534, a number of suffragan bishops were constituted in different parts of England, of whom three were consecrated by the archbishop himself at Lambeth, and three others by his commission. The need for these may have been increased to some extent by the suppression of the smaller monasteries in 1536, as before that time the prior of Dover seems to have acted as a suffragan of Canterbury. But of all the great movements affecting the church Cranmer had least to do with the suppression of the monasteries. In October 1537 Cranmer stood godfather to the infant prince Edward, afterwards Edward VI. In the beginning of May 1538 he examined at Lambeth Friar Forest, who was shortly after burned in Smithfield for heresy and for denying the king's supremacy. In the summer he commissioned Dr. Curwen to visit the diocese of Hereford, the see being then vacant by the death of Dr. Foxe. At this time he had disputes with his own cathedral convent of Christ Church, and a troublesome correspondence with a Kentish justice as to the interpretation of the king's injunctions. He suggested to Cromwell that the monastic visitors should examine the relics of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and particularly the liquid exhibited as the blood of the martyr, which he suspected to be ‘made of some red ochre or such like matter.’ The great feast of St. Thomas had already been abolished two years before with other superfluous holidays by royal proclamation, and the archbishop had given great offence by eating flesh in his own parlour on St. Thomas's eve in defiance of ancient usage. Commissioners were sent down to Canterbury to destroy the shrine and bear away its costly treasures of gold and jewels.

In August of the same year the archbishop was much interested in a mission of German divines who came to England to negotiate terms of union between the German protestants and the church of England. He was named on the king's side, and doubtless presided at their conferences with the English bishops, whom he accused in a letter to Cromwell of purposely seeking to make their embassy fruitless. In October a commission was issued to him and some other divines to proceed against Anabaptists, some of whom were presently brought to Smithfield and burnt. In November John Lambert, otherwise called Nicholson, was brought before him for heresy touching the sacrament, but made his appeal to the king, who hearing the case in person caused Cranmer to reply to the arguments of the accused. The archbishop did so, but not apparently to the satisfaction of Bishop Gardiner, who was also present, and who with some other bishops joined in the disputation. Ultimately, the unhappy man was condemned to the flames.

In 1539 was passed by parliament ‘An Act for Abolishing Diversity of Opinions,’ as it was strangely entitled, more commonly known as the Act of the Six Articles. A strong reaction was setting in against innovation in doctrine; and six weighty points of theology were referred by the House of Lords to a committee of bishops presided over by Cromwell as the king's vicegerent. Cranmer used every effort on the side of freedom, partly, no doubt, from interested motives, as one of the articles touched the marriage of the clergy. But his efforts were fruitless. The king himself entered the house, and his influence immediately silenced the advocates of the new learning. The doctrine of the church was then defined, and penalties of