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the debates in parliament. Wolsey first paved the way; and, unfortunately for the kingdom, Henry too well. improved upon his plans soon after. A treaty with France, which threatened to make a breach with the emperor, induced Henry to wish for new supplies; or at least he made this the pretext of his demands. But as the parliament had testified their reluctance to indulge his wishes, he followed the advice of Wolsey, and resolved to make use of his prerogative alone for that purpose. He issued out commissions to all the counties of England for levying four shillings in the pound upon the clergy, and exacting three shillings and four pence from the laity; nor did he attempt to cover the violence of the measure by giving it the name either of benevolence or loan. This unwarrantable stretch of royal power was quickly opposed by the people; they were unwilling to submit to impositions unknown till now; and a general insurrection threatened to ensue. Henry had the prudence to stop short in that dangerous path into which he had entered; and declared, by circular letters to all the counties, that what was demanded was only by way of benevolence. But the spirit of opposition, once roused, was not so easily quieted; the citizens of London hesitated on the demand; and in some parts of the country insurrections were actually begun, which were suppressed by the duke of Suffolk. These imposts, which were first advised by Wolsey, not happily succeeding, he began to lose a little of his favour with the king; and this displeasure was still more increased by the complaints of the clergy, who accused him of extortion. Henry reproved Wolsey in severe terms; which rendered him more cautious and artful for the future. As an instance of his cunning, having built a noble palace, called Yorkplace, at Westminster, for his own use, fearing now the WOL. II, C

general censure against him, he made a present of it to the king, assuring him that from the first he intended it as an offer to his majesty. Thus Wolsey’s impunity only served to pave the way to greater extortions. The pride of this prelate was great; but his riches were still greater. In order to have a pretext for amassing such sums, he undertook to found two colleges, one at Ipswich, the other at Oxford, for which he received every day fresh grants from the pope and the king. To execute this favourite scheme, he obtained a liberty of suppressing several monasteries, and converting their revenues to the benefit of his new foundations. Whatever might have been the pope's inducement to grant him these privileges, nothing could be more fatal to the pontiff's interests; for Henry was thus himself taught shortly afterwards to imitate what he had seen a subject perform with impunity. Hitherto the whole administration was carried on by Wolsey; for the king was contented to lose, in the embraces of his mistresses, all the complaints of his subjects; and the cardinal undertook to keep him ignorant, in order to continue his own uncontrolled authority. But now a period was approaching that was to put an end to this minister’s exorbitant power. One of the most extraordinary and important revolutions that ever employed the attention of man, was now ripe for execution. This was no less a change than the Reformation; to have an idea of the rise of which, it will be proper to take a cursory view of the state of the church at that time, and to observe by what seemingly contradictory means Providence produces the most happy events. The church of Rome had now, for more than a thousand years, been corrupting the ancient simplicity of the Gospel, and converting into a temporality the kingdom of another world. The popes had been frequently

seen at the head of their own armies, fighting for their dominions with the arm of flesh, and forgetting, in cruelty, and detestable maxims of state, all the pretended sanctity of their characters. The cardinals, prelates, and dignitaries of the church, lived in envied splendour, and were served like voluptuous princes; and some of them were found to possess eight or nine bishoprics at once. Wherever the church governed, it exerted its power with cruelty; so that to its luxuries the crime of tyranny was usually added. As for the inferior clergy, both popish and protestant writers exclaim against their abandoned and dissolute morals. They publicly kept mistresses, and bequeathed to their illegitimate children whatever they were able to save from their pleasures, or extort from the poor. There is still to be seen a will made by a bishop of Cambray, in which he bequeathed a certain sum for the use of the bastards he already had, and those which, by the blessing of God, he might happen to have. In many parts of England and Germany, the people obliged their priests to have concubines, that the laity might preserve their wives with greater security; while the poor laborious peasant and artisan saw all the fruits of their toil go, not to clothe and maintain their own little families, but to pamper men who insulted them with lectures to which their example appeared a flat contradiction. But the vices of the clergy were not greater than their ignorance; few of them knew the meaning of their Latin mass. Their sagacity was chiefly employed in finding out witches, and exorcising the possessed; but what most increased the hatred of the people against them, was the selling pardons and absolutions for sin, at certain stated prices. A deacon, or Subdeacon, who committed murder, was absolved from his crime, and allowed to possess three benefices, upon paying twenty crowns. A bishop or abbot might commit murder for about ten pounds of our money. Every crime had its stated value; and absolutions were given for sins not only already committed, but such as should be committed hereafter. The wisest of the people looked with silent detestation on these impositions; and the ignorant themselves, whom fortune seemed to have formed for slavery, began to open their eyes to such glaring absurdities. These vices and impositions were now almost come to a head; and the increase of arts and learning among the laity, propagated by means of printing, which had been lately invented, began to make them resist that power which was originally founded on deceit. Leo the Tenth was at that time pope, and eagerly employed in building the church of St. Peter at Rome. In order to procure money for carrying on that expensive undertaking, he gave a commission for selling indulgences, a practice which had been often tried before. These were to free the purchaser from the pains of purgatory; and they would serve even for one's friends, if they were purchased with that intention. There were every where shops opened where they were to be sold; but in general they were to be had at taverns, brothels, and gaming-houses. The Augustine friars had usually been employed in Saxony to preach the indulgences, and from this trust had derived both profit and consideration; but the pope's ministers, supposing that they had found out illicit methods of secreting the money, transferred the lucrative employment from them to the Dominicans. Martin Luther, professor in the university of Wittenberg on the Elbe, was an Augustine monk, and one of those who resented this transfer of the sale of indulgences from one order to another. He began to show his indignation by preaching against their efficacy; and being naturally of a fiery temper, and pro

voked by opposition, he inveighed against the authority of the pope himself. Being driven hard by his adversaries, still, as he enlarged his reading in order to support his tenets, he discovered some new abuse or error in the church of Rome. The people, who had long groaned under the papal tyranny, heard his discourses with pleasure, and defended him against the authority and machinations of his enemies. Frederic, elector of Saxony, surnamed the Wise, openly protected him; the republic of Zurich even reformed their church according to the new model; and Luther, a man naturally inflexible and vehement, was become incapable, either from promises of advancement or terrors of severity, of relinquishing a sect of which he was himself the founder. It was in vain, therefore, that the pope issued out his bulls against Luther; it was in vain that the Dominican friars procured his books to be burned; he boldly abused the Dominicans, and burned the pope's bull in the streets of Wittenberg. In the mean time, the dispute was carried on by writing on each side. Luther, though opposed by the pope, the conclave, and all the clergy, supported his cause singly, and with success. As the controversy was new, his ignorance of many parts of the subject was not greater than theirs; and, ill as he wrote, they answered still worse. Opinions are inculcated upon the minds of mankind, rather by confidence and perseverance, than by strength of reasoning or beauty of diction; and no man had more confidence or more perseverance than he. In this dispute it was the fate of Henry to be a champion on both sides. His father, who had given him the education of a scholar, permitted him to be instructed in school divinity, which then was the principal object of learned inquiry. Henry, therefore, willing to convince the world of his abilities in that science, obtained the pope's permission

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