« ZurückWeiter »
"But, in mercy to the nation, Divine Providence terminated this cruel reign, by the death of the queen, on the 19th of November, 1558; and Elizabeth's accession was ushered in with every demonstration of joy.
"Nor did the conduct of this wonderful woman disappoint the expectations raised on her behalf; and her long and prosperous reign was marked by proceedings of wisdom. By an act of oblivion, she quieted the fears of those who had reason to dread her power, released all those confined for conscience sake, and consulted on the best plan for bringing about, and settling the reformed religion. As soon as the parliament met, several bills were passed in favour of the protestant cause.
"The English liturgy was restored; and, in short, all the laws respecting religion, which were made in the reign of king Edward, were revised, and those of queen Mary repealed.
"All offensive popish observances were abolished, and the national worship was modelled to nearly the present standard.
"Thus was the Reformation finally settled, under the wise policy and energetic measures of queen Elizabeth; to whom, under God, the protestants are indebted for their deliverance from superstition and tyranny."
"Excuse me, Sir," said Mrs. Spencer, when Mr. Wilmot had finished his narration; "but you spoke of the Lollards as a persecuted sect, and I fancy the girls are ignorant from whence the title was derived. Perhaps you will kindly give them this information, and add a few more particulars of the life of John Wickliffe."
"The Lollards," replied Mr. Wilmot, "were so called from Raynard Lollard, who lived in the thirteenth century. He was at first a Franciscan monk, and afterwards a zealous preacher and martyr. After his death, all the reputed heretics were indiscriminately called Lollards, by their sanguinary persecutors. These sects were dreadfully oppressed in France and Flanders; but in England they were, for a time, protected by the powerful influence of the celebrated John Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and many other noblemen, who either secretly or openly espoused their cause, in defiance of all the machinations of the Catholic clergy.
"The rise of this sect in England, under the celebrated John Wickliffe and his followers, may justly be considered as the earliest dawn of the Reformation. There were, indeed, some solitary individuals who had before protested against the growing corruptions of the Romish church; and these, as being reformers at heart, and as having made some honourable, though ineffectual attempts at reformation, deserve to be remembered with honour. The first of these was Robert Groteste, or Greathead, bishop of Lincoln, who is supposed to have been born about A. D. 1175, and flourished in the reign of Henry the Third. He was a man of great learning, fervent piety, and undaunted courage. As soon as he was called to the episcopal chair he began to reform abuses, especially in the religious houses belonging to his diocese. This great and good man both saw and lamented the corrupt state of the church to which he belonged, and turned all his episcopal and personal influence to purify it from these flagrant corruptions. Conscious that Rome was the fountain-head of all, he aimed at cleansing the spring, that the streams issuing from it might be pure also. When any bulls were received from thence, containing instructions contrary to the gospel, and injurious to morality and religion, he tore them in pieces with indignation. Nor was he content with refusing to comply with these instructions; but he wrote to the pope, when in the plenitude of his power, letters of sharp reproof and faithful admonition. When these
philippics were received at Rome, the pontiff threatened vengeance against his faithful monitor; which he was only deterred from executing, by the earnest persuasions of his cardinals, and conviction of the public odium he should incur, by sacrificing a man of such exemplary piety and distinguished learning. It is no small honour to this excellent prelate, that he resisted, successfully, the papal power, at a period in which that power seemed to be irresistible, and when the mightiest sovereigns were compelled to crouch before the Roman pontiff. "The next individual who lifted up a standard against the corruptions of popery, during that period, was Richard Knapwell, a Dominican friar, who maintained, in the year 1286, several propositions which were deemed heretical by the prelates of that age, and most furiously controverted by archbishop Peckham. The greater part of these propositions were unintelligible jargon, relative to the sacrifice of the mass; but the last, which was probably the most obnoxious of the whole, contained a sound Protestant maxim: namely, 'That, in articles of faith, a man is not bound to set on the authority of the pope, or of any priest or doctor; but that the holy Scriptures, and right reason, are the
only foundations of our assent.' These doctrines were denounced, but it is not known what became of the author of them. Of Thomas Bradwardine, archbishop of Canterbury, I have already told you. But the individual who aimed the most effectual blow at the mighty fabric of papal superstition, was the celebrated John Wickliffe. This primitive reformer delivered lectures on divinity, in Merton College, Oxford. His learning acquired him great reputation; but he soon became disgusted with the vices, ignorance, and rapacity of the clergy, and preached against them with great zeal. His boldness attracted the attention of king Edward the Third, from whom he received several benefices, and by whom he was sent on several embassies to the court of Rome. Here he saw so much to confirm his former opinions, that; on his return, he inveighed, with increased vehemence, against the errors of popery. He soon proceeded so far as to deny the pope's supremacy, and even to denounce him as antichrist. This effrontery, in an humble ecclesiastic, soon armed against him all the dignitaries, of the church which he had presumed to assail; and subjected him to the thundering anathemas of the pontiff, who command