Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin > CHAPTER XIV.
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
(From 1535 to October 1536.)
Most of the reformers, Luther, Zuingle, Calvin, Knox, and others have acquired that name by their preachings, their writings, their struggles, and their actions. It is not so with the principal reformer of England: all his activity was concentred in the Holy Scriptures. Tyndale was less prominent than the other instruments of God, who were awakened to upraise the Church. We might say, that knowing the weakness of man, he had retired and hidden himself to allow the Word from
Heaven to act by itself. He had studied it, translated it, and sent it over the sea: it must now do its own work. Is it not written: The field is the world, and the seed is the Word? But there is another characteristic, or rather another fact, which distinguishes him from them, and this we have to describe.
While the new adversaries of Henry VIII., Pole and the papistical party, were agitating on the continent, Tyndale, the man whom the king had pursued so long without being able to catch, was in prison at Vilvorde, near Brussels. In vain was he girt around with the thick walls of that huge fortress. Tyndale was free. 'There is the captivity and bondage,' he could say, 'whence Christ delivered us, redeemed and loosed us.[441] His blood, his death, his patience in suffering rebukes and wrongs, his prayers and fastings, his meekness and fulfilling of the uttermost point of the law broke the bonds of Satan, wherein we were so strait bound.' Thus Tyndale was as truly free at Vilvorde, as Paul had been at Rome. He felt pressed to accomplish a vow made many years before. 'If God preserves my life,' he had said, 'I will cause a boy that driveth a plow to know more of the Scriptures than the pope.' True Christianity shows itself by the attention it gives to Christ's little ones. It was time for Tyndale to keep his promise. He occupied his prison hours in preparing for the humble dwellers in the Gloucestershire villages and the surrounding counties, an edition of the Bible in which he employed the language and orthography used in that part of England.[442] When near his end, he returned lovingly to the familiar speech of his childhood; he wrote in the dialect of the peasantry to save the souls of
the peasants, and for the first time put titles to the chapters of the Scripture, in order to make the understanding of it easier to his humbler fellow-countrymen. Two other editions of the New Testament appeared during the first year of his captivity. He did more: he had translated the Old Testament according to the Hebrew text, and was going to see to the printing of it just when Philips betrayed him. The fear that this labor would be lost grieved him even more than his imprisonment: a friend undertook the work he could no longer do himself.
At that time there lived at Antwerp, as chaplain to the English merchants in that city, a young man from the county of Warwick, named Rogers, who had been educated at Cambridge, and was a little more than thirty years old. Rogers was learned, but submissive to the Romish traditions. Tyndale having made his acquaintance, asked him to help in translating the Holy Scriptures, and Rogers caught joyfully at the opportunity of employing his Greek and Hebrew. Close and constant contact with the Word of God gradually effected in him that great transformation, that total renewal of the man which is the object of redemption. 'I have found the true light in the Gospel,' he said one day to Tyndale; 'I now see the filthiness of Rome, and I cast from my shoulders the heavy yoke it had imposed upon me.'[443] From that hour Tyndale received from Rogers the help which he had formerly received from John Fryth, that pious martyr, whose example Rogers was to follow by enduring, the first under Mary, the punishment of fire. The Holy Scriptures have been written in English with the blood of martyrs—if we may so speak—the blood of Fryth, Tyndale, and Rogers: it is a crown of glory for that translation. At the moment of Tyndale's perfidious arrest, Rogers had fortunately saved the manuscript of the Old Testament,
and now resolved to delay the printing no longer. When the news of this reached the Reformer in his cell at Vilvorde, it cast a gleam of light upon his latter days and filled his heart with joy. The whole Bible,—that was the legacy which the dying Tyndale desired to leave to his fellow-countrymen. He took pleasure in his gloomy dungeon in following with his mind's eye that divine Scripture from city to city and from cottage to cottage; his imagination pictured to him the struggles it would have to go through, and also its victories. 'The Word of God,' he said, 'never was without persecution—no more than the sun can be without his light. By what right doth the pope forbid God to speak in the English tongue? Why should not the sermons of the Apostles, preached no doubt in the mother-tongue of those who heard them, be now written in the mother-tongue of those who read them?' Tyndale did not think of proving the divinity of the Bible by learned dissertations. 'Scripture derives its authority from Him who sent it,' he said. 'Would you know the reason why men believe in Scripture?—It is Scripture.—It is itself the instrument which outwardly leads men to believe, whilst inwardly, the spirit of God Himself, speaking through Scripture, gives faith to His children.'[444] We do not know for certain in what city Rogers printed the great English folio Bible. Hamburg, Antwerp, Marburg, Lubeck, and even Paris have been named. Extraordinary precautions were required to prevent the persecutors from entering the house where men had the boldness to print the Word of God, and from breaking the printing-presses. Tyndale had the great comfort of knowing that the whole Bible was going to be published, and that prophets, apostles, and Christ himself would speak by it after his death.[445]
This man, so active, so learned, and so truly great, whose works circulated far and wide with so much power, had at the same time within him a pure and beneficent light—the love of God and of man—which shed its mild rays on all around him. The depth of his faith, the charm of his conversation, the uprightness of his conduct, touched those who came near him.[446] The jailer liked to bring him his food, in order to talk with him, and his young daughter often accompanied him and listened eagerly to the words of the pious Englishman. Tyndale spoke of Jesus Christ; it seemed to him that the riches of the divine Spirit were about to transform Christendom; that the children of God were about to be manifested, and that the Lord was about to gather together his elect. 'Grace is there, summer is nigh,' he was wont to say, 'for the trees blossom.'[447] In truth, young shoots and even old trees, long barren, flourished within the very walls of the castle. The jailer, his daughter, and other members of their house were converted to the Gospel by Tyndale's life and doctrine.[448] However dark the machinations of his enemies, they could not obscure the divine light kindled in his heart, and which shone before men. There was an invincible power in this Christian man. Full of hope in the final victory of Jesus Christ, he courageously trampled under foot tribulations, trials, and death itself. He believed in the victory of the Word. 'I am bound like a malefactor,' he said, 'but the Word of God is not bound.' The bitterness of his last days was changed into great peace and divine sweetness.
His friends did not forget him. Among the English
merchants at Antwerp was one whose affection had often reminded him that 'friendship is the assemblage of every virtue,' as a wise man of antiquity styles it.[449] Thomas Poyntz, one of whose ancestors had come over from Normandy with William the Conqueror, had perhaps known the reformer in the house of Lady Walsh, who also belonged to this ancient family. For nearly a year the merchant had entertained the translator of the Scriptures beneath his roof, and a mutual and unlimited confidence was established between them. When Poyntz saw his friend in prison, he resolved to do everything to save him. Poyntz's elder brother John, who had retired to his estate at North Okendon, in Essex, had accompanied the king in 1520 to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and although no longer at court, he still enjoyed the favor of Henry VIII. Thomas determined to write to John. 'Right well-beloved brother,' he said, 'William Tyndale is in prison, and like to suffer death, unless the king should extend his gracious help to him. He has lain in my house three quarters of a year, and I know that the king has never a truer-hearted subject.[450] When the pope gave his Majesty the title of Defender of the Faith, he prophesied like Caiaphas. The papists thought our prince should be a great maintainer of their abominations; but God has entered his grace into the right battle. The king should know that the death of this man will be one of the highest pleasures to the enemies of the Gospel. If it might please his Majesty to send for this man, it might, by the means thereof, be opened to the court and council of this country (Brabant) that they would be at another point with the bishop of Rome within a short space.'
John lost no time: he succeeded in interesting Cromwell in the reformer's cause, and on the 10th of September
1535, a messenger arrived in Antwerp with two letters from the vicar-general—one for the marquis of Bergen-op-zoom, and the other for Carondelet, archbishop of Palermo and president of the council of Brabant. Alas! the marquis had started two days before for Germany, whither he was conducting the princess of Denmark. Thomas Poyntz mounted his horse, and caught up the escort about fifteen miles from Maestricht. The marquis hurriedly glanced over Cromwell's dispatch. 'I have no leisure to write,' he said; 'the princess is making ready to depart.' 'I will follow you to the next baiting place,' answered Tyndale's indefatigable friend. 'Be it so,' replied Bergen-op-zoom.
On arriving at Maestricht, the marquis wrote to Flegge, to Cromwell, and to his friend the archbishop, president of the council of Brabant, and gave the three letters to Poyntz. The latter presented the letters of Cromwell and of the marquis to the president, but the archbishop and the council of Brabant were opposed to Tyndale. Poyntz immediately started for London, and laid the answer of the council before Cromwell, entreating him to insist that Tyndale should be immediately set at liberty, for the danger was great. The answer was delayed a month.[451] Poyntz handed it to the chancery of Brabant, and every day this true and generous friend went to the office to learn the result. 'Your request will be granted,' said one of the clerks on the fourth day. Poyntz was transported with joy. Tyndale was saved.[452]
The traitor Philips, however, who had delivered him to his enemies, was then at Louvain. He had run away from Antwerp, knowing that the English merchants were angry with him, and had sold his books
with the intent of escaping to Paris. But the Louvain priests, who still needed him, reassured him, and remaining in that stronghold of Romanism, he began to translate into Latin such passages in Tyndale's writings as he thought best calculated to offend the catholics. He was thus occupied when the news of Tyndale's approaching deliverance filled him and his friends with alarm. What was to be done? He thought the only means of preventing the liberation of the prisoner was to shut up the liberator himself.[453] Philips went straight to the procurator-general. 'That man, Poyntz,' he said, 'is as much a heretic as Tyndale.' Two sergeants-at-arms were sent to keep watch over Poyntz at his house, and for six days in succession he was examined upon a hundred different articles. At the beginning of February 1536, he learnt that he was about to be sent to prison, and knowing what would follow, he formed a prompt resolution. One night, when the sergeants-at-arms were asleep, he escaped and left the city early, just as the gates were opened. Horsemen were sent in search of him; but as Poyntz knew the country well, he escaped them, got on board a ship, and arrived safe and sound at his brother's house at North Okendon.
When Tyndale heard of this escape, he knew what it indicated; but he was not overwhelmed, and almost at the foot of the scaffold, he bravely fought many a tough battle. The Louvain doctors undertook to make him abjure his faith, and represented to him that he was condemned by the Church. 'The authority of Jesus Christ,' answered Tyndale, 'is independent of the authority of the Church.' They called upon him to make submission to the successor of the Apostle Peter. 'Holy Scripture,' he said, 'is the first of the Apostles, and the ruler in the kingdom of Christ.'[454] The
Romish doctors ineffectually attacked him in his prison: he showed them that they were entangled in vain traditions and miserable superstitions, and overthrew all their pretences.
During this time Poyntz was working with all his might in England to ward off the blow by which his friend was about to be struck. John assisted Thomas, but all was useless. Henry just at that time was making great efforts to arrest some of his subjects, whom their devotion to the pope had driven out of England. 'Cover all the roads with spies, in order to catch them,' he wrote to the German magistrates;[455] but there was not a word about Tyndale. The king cared very little for these evangelicals. His religion consisted in rejecting the Roman pontiff and making himself pope; as for those reformers, let them be burnt in Brabant, it will save him the trouble.
All hope was not, however, lost. They had confidence in the vicegerent, the hammer of the monks. On the 13th of April Vaughan wrote to Cromwell from Antwerp: 'If you will send me a letter for the privy-council, I can still save Tyndale from the stake; only make haste, for if you are slack about it, it will be too late.'[456] But there were cases in which Cromwell could do nothing without the king, and Henry was deaf. He had special motives at that time for sacrificing Tyndale: the discontent which broke out in the North of England made him desirous of conciliating the Low Countries. Charles V. also, who was vigorously attacked by Francis I., prayed his very good brother (Henry VIII.) to unite with him for the public good of Christendom.[457] Queen Mary, regent of............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved