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English people ! How it would have softened its unbending disposition, purified its asperity, and, above all, diminished its implacable egotism. But God decreed otherwise. The spirit of evil has prevailed.”
Let us examine this assumption interrogatively, that is by inquiring, what have been the antecedents of Popery, when its partizans were in the plenitude of their “benign and holy power ?”
? Since the time of the Conquest, two Kings, most opposite in their characters—the one wise and great; the other weak and irresolute, exhibited the same result. Henry II, embroiled his reign in trying to diminish the overgrown power of the Papal clergy; whilst John, quarrelled with the Pope, and was excommunicated. These are the earliest specimens of that “salutary influence” wanting a considerable cropping at the hands of its own votaries. Next
may be cited King Henry V, so notorious for the persecution of the followers of, and the primitive Reformer himself—Wickliffe. This learned and pious man, has the exalted merit attached to his memory, that he was the first to openly protest against the gross errors of the Romish Church. Thus can be traced the rise of bloodshed under the jurisdiction of the Popish priesthood; as, Sir John Oldcastle, and Lord Cobham, upon refusing to violate their consciences, were put to an ignominious death.
Henry VIII, as is well known, abjured the Romish Faith because the Pope would not encourage his (the King's) connubial lust to the fullest extent. Good sprung out of evil. The divorce of Catherine rent asunder the strongholds of Popery; for the seeds of Truth were planted while the debauched King, and haughty, vacillating Clement wasted their time in quibbling about temporal supremacy. Romish writers must not too hastily ignore the events appertaining to the period in question ; as “despotic” Henry once enjoyed very close communion with the Holy See: indeed, his (?) arguments on behalf of the Seven Sacraments procured for him the title, Defender of the Faith. The King, moreover, during the early part of his allegiance to Rome, was a fiery persecutor of the Protestants, having himself orally condemned John Lambert to the flames. The King's pristine bigotry and vicious prejudices, were shown in another quarter .—Cardinal Wolsey, the arrogant prelate who by turns sung, laughed, and danced with every libertine at court, was originally the chief favourite; whilst the clergy headed by this engaging and ambitious minister, greedily seized upon extra power, only, as the
sequel proyes, to bring fresh odium among their clique. Consequently, the insatiable vices of the priesthood, laid the foundation of the after reverses which befel Popery.
But we have yet to see the “benign influences” of Romanism at their meridian height, under the sceptre of Mary; who, in conjunction with those “holy” monsters, Bishops Gardiner and Bonner, waded vulture-like through Anglo blood, to re-establish the heresies of Popery. The French savan with genuine Papai “ flexibility” turns apologist for this Queen-of odious memory, by contending that her reckless cruelties
the sad means REQUIRED by the intolerance of her age, to bring back the Kingdom to the unity of Catholicism.” As will be presently demonstrated, Mary played a part in strict conformity with the spirit, which actuated other Papal rulers to wreak such necessary vengeance on their subjects; likewise, parallel instances of moderate date equally prove that, persecution of the most atrocious kind not only has been, but is still systematically practised by the direct, or covert sanction of the Holy See. Brute force, subtlety, and perfidiousness are all-prevailing tenets of Romanist administration. No tolerant regard for the spiritual belief of others,—even to the utmost stretch of charitable excusation, can palliate the former feature of the Papists. Shall we estimate those anatomical butcheries of the years 1553 to 57, so exquisite was the refinement of their torture-as“
necessary” methods of appealing to human reason and bringing sinners to repentance, Are thumb-screws, the stake, and the rack collateral evidence in part proof of, a “pure, benign” religion ! God forbid! Love thy neighbour; dedicate your heart and soul to the Omnipotent; also, let the guiltless cast the first stone, are Divine commands. That all the Christian graces belong exclusively to Romanism, is certainly, a vain and wicked boast. How did the supporters of Popery and the councillors of Queen Mary, obey these former heavenly mandates ? Let history tell its own tale .-Hooper, Ferrar, Rogers, Taylor, Saunders, Ridley, Latimer, Cranmer; all these worthy and eminent prelates, suffered at the hands of Papists ạ cruel, lingering death. Every school-boy remembers the account of a furious bigot, who preached a sermon to proselytize the Oxford martyrs while they were preparing for the stake; and when the pile was lit up, one of them pronouncing the immortal words, “Be of good cheer brother, we shall this day kindle such a torch in England, as I trust by God's grace, will never be extinguished.” The venerable speaker, though palsied with age and chained to a stake fronting Baliol college, thus calmly surrendered his soul unto God. Further :--the dying remorse of the apostate Primate who cried, “ Perish my unworthy hand" is a companion tragedy not yet forgotten. Incidently observe the animus of the Romish Bishop Bonner, that ceremonial master of gore, lust, and bigotry; who, sometimes whipped the prisoners and tired himself with the “benign” exercise : he also tore out the beard of a weaver, and then—as a foretaste of "holy” arguments, held the victim's hand to a lighted candle until the sinews shrunk and burst. This same priest's vehemence, when the ambassador of polygamist Henry to the Court of Rome, so incensed His Holiness that he threatened to throw Bonner into a cauldron of boiling lead. Master and man, therefore had an assimilation of animal, if not of controversial feeling. As a summary of the preceding horrors, be it known to all modern dabblers in Romish ritual, that during Mary's reign, two hundred and seventy-seven persons suffered death by fire; besides those punished with imprisonment, fines, and confiscations. Amongst the number who perished at the stake, were five bishops, twenty-one clergymen, eight lay-gentlemen, eightyfour tradesmen, fifty-five women, and four children! These comprise a total of the murders perpetrated at a given historical epoch, by the connivance and with the sanction of Popish priests; or, to borrow the Comte de Montalembert's opinion, the above cruelties were only “the sad means required to bring back the Kingdom to the unity of Catholicism.” The court or lay party, also, kept near to the acts of the Church; for the following proclamation was issued in order to win the public again to orthodoxy :-“Whosoever had any books of heresy, and did not presently burn them; without any further delay should be executed by martial law.” Concerning the social state of England, whilst subject to this bigoted government; Erasmus at the climax of a quaint description of its near ally, declares—“that our domestic condition was everything nasty."
The succeeding reign of Elizabeth, in one particular, affords especial evidence about the unscrupulous means employed for the diffusion of Popery. Philip, King of Spain, had long contemplated the destruction of the Reformed Church, so as at a decisive blow to re-introduce Roman Catholicism and once more enslave the people of England. For the accomplishment of this object, he made an abortive attempt with the Spanish Armada to destroy our war-ships off the coast of Plymouth; of which (the former) crescent-shaped naval enterprise, extending seven miles from point to point, also styled Invincible-our admirals only left fifty-three out of a hundred and thirty vessels to reach the shores of Spain. So complete a victory over that gigantic fleet with its formidable living freight, was a humiliating lesson to those intrusive bigots; aye, and the old fashioned bravery which then adorned our “wooden walls,” now only slumbers until its dauntless spirit is again aroused by foreign foes.
Curiously enough, the French writer on reviewing the consecutive reigns of this historical period, terms Elizabeth “merciless,” Henry VIII, “brutal,” but omits an assessment of Mary. The reason is obvious. Our government under Elizabeth was diametrically opposed to that of her predecessor; art, commerce, and legislation began to develope themselves every day; while the state of learning so improved under the sceptre of this Queen, as to acquire the appellation of England's Augustan age. For a brief season, the withering action of Popery was dispelled, and a new era of progress arose out of the ruins of the past. Hooker, Spenser, Raleigh, Bacon, and Shakspeare were some of the bright intelligences that shone around Elizabeth's throne. How striking a difference between such an array of genius, and the Romish prelates that infested the court during the former reign, namely, Bishops Bonner, Gardiner, and Thirlby! Liberty, 'tis true in the days of Queen Elizabeth, was subjected to fluctuations; but if we examine history and consider the rise of nations, there is no parallel case of any people so rapidly acquiring equal wisdom and power.
Though the Reformation dawned under the sceptre of Henry VIII, yet posterity owes very little to that Monarch for so mighty a change in our national religion ; as the King's vices, rather than any apprehension, or love on his part of the truth itself, propounded to him the convenience not the necessity of endorsing the overthrow of Popery. The Protestant powers had become so strong as to render it safe for Henry to invoke their support against the Papists not only of England but of the world. The policy of Elizabeth consummated that glorious emancipation of our Faith. All the potentates of earth could not have longer retarded such a step,-because the people themselves, by some intuitive process of conviction, were ripe for the downfall and extirpation of Antichrist.
The next link in this historical chain, is James I, a descendant of Mary, and supposed to have had during his youth a partiality for Popery; yet who displayed sufficient sagacity when the throne of England was transferred from the late Queen, to himself,--a Stuart, to persevere in the tolerant conduct which characterised the preceding reign.
“ Discretion (especially in crowned heads) is the better part of valour;” and thus thought King James. The asperity of his religious views, and a somewhat rigid observance of them, did not, as in Mary's career escape beyond the boundary of regal state to contaminate the councils of the nation. Notwithstanding this neutral action combined with the declaration, to maintain in its integrity, all the most important legislation of the departed Tudor's reign, yet the Papists were again provoked to renewed hostilities, commencing at the germ of conspiracy under Catesby, and terminating in the arrest of Guido Fawkes. The object of the foregoing plot was to annihilate the King, his family, friends, ministers, and Parliament in order to proclaim the Princess Elizabeth-Queen. That diabolical scheme of wholesale murder is commonly termed, the Gunpowder Plot ; and its chief promoters were Percy, Catesby, Bates, Winter, and Sir Everard Digby, with the Jesuits Garnet, Tesmond, and Oldcorn. Whether or not the last two really implicated themselves, or only intended (a trumpery distinction) to join the conspiracy, has ever since that transaction been disputed with much plausibility on both sides. Nosciter ex sociis, was a proverb among the ancients. The Chinese have a saying pretty similar, “who-are-you-with ;” which is tantamount to, a man is known by the company he keeps. Rome has indeed laboured hard, to vindicate herself against every charge of direct complicity in so dreadful a project; but a recent discovery proves beyond doubt, that the crafty power of Jesuitism was implicated. The infamous rebel Garnet is now a saint and worshipped by the Papists! Yet, when accused as a conspirator, he dissembled and said “equivocation was saved from a lie, or even an oath without perjury, by receiving the sacrament if just necessity so require.” This same Provincial or Chief of the Jesuits, upon Catesby inquiring “whether it were lawful in a good cause, to adopt measures which, though framed for the guilty, would sometimes include the innocent?” replied “that such a proceeding ” (namely murder) perfectly correct.” This casuistry would, under our modern code of criminal law, be held as abetting crime; and in truth a tacit confederacy of so flagrant a nature, was no less wicked then, than it is now. The actual leaders of that treasonable design, were the mere tools of a Papal institution-dominion by fire and sword. Now the virulence of crime,