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(Originally Titled "The Learned Men": The Text Here Used Is That Of "The Learned Men")
Chapter 9: Holy War
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Holy War 

            After long delays, Parliament was to meet on November 5, 1605. Great Britain still observes that date with bonfires, and boys dressing up, putting on masks, going around begging for pennies, and shouting a ragged little rhyme. On that day all who approached Whitehall and the old palace of Westminster found the streets barred by soldiers. London seethed with alarm, awe, and rumors, ill-founded and well-founded. When it appeared that Parliament was to convene still later, the crowd at length dispersed.

            The trouble had begun long before. From Brussels, March 17, 1604, a newsletter had said: “It is also reported that all Catholics are to leave England on pain of death. Should anyone of this religion be met with in the future, all his property and fortune are to go to his nearest friend. It is a subtle scheme for one friend to denounce the other, wherefrom it is to be gathered what is to be expected from this king.”

            In secret, it is now supposed. Queen Anne had become a papist. She and the king were oddly unsure of each other, though without an open break. James meant in the main to preserve the Church of England as it was, so long as it helped preserve his kingship. Thus, angry at a report that he had become a convert of Rome, James was putting in force with doubled vigor the revived penal laws against the papists. Those who belonged to the Roman Church, many with famous old names, were enraged or in despair.

            A band of them, mainly kinsfolk, had begun to plot some six months before, about the time a cuckoo flew over the pulpit of Paul’s Cross and cried out—this at the time was seen as an omen of something dire to come. The story is too involved to give in detail here, but on October 26, the Lord Chamberlain, Monteagle, received an unsigned letter begging him to stay away from Parliament on the day it opened. He took the letter to Robert Cecil, who on November 1 showed it to the king at a midnight meeting. The king shrewdly surmised a good deal of what it meant.

            Monday, November 4, an agent of the royal party found in a cellar beneath the House of Lords a man, named Guy Fawkes, disguised as a servant, beside piles of faggots, billets of wood, and masses of coal. The agent went away. Shortly Monteagle and one other came and talked, but gave no heed to Fawkes, who was still on guard, until they were about to go. He told them he was a servant of Thomas Percy, a well-known papist. Still later, at midnight, soldiers found Fawkes booted and spurred and with a lantern outside the cellar door. He had taken few pains to conceal his actions. They dragged him into an alley, searched him, and found on him a tinderbox and a length of slow match. In a fury now they moved the faggots, billets, and coal, and came upon barrel after barrel of powder, thirty-six barrels in all. Fawkes then confessed that he meant to blow up the House of Lords and the king.

            On November 6, Percy, with others, rushed into an inn at Dunchurch, Warwickshire, with the news that the court was aware of their plan. By the eighth the whole attempt had clearly failed. When Parliament met a week after the stated day, the king, calm, gracious, and splendid, told what had happened and then adjourned the meeting. At first Fawkes refused to name any except Percy, who, with others, was killed in the course of a chase. In time he gave the names of all, who would have blown up the House of Lords “at a clap.”

            Guy Fawkes was baptized at St. Michael le Belfrey, York, April 16, 1570, son of Edward Fawkes, a proctor and advocate in the church courts of York. The father died and the mother married a papist. In 1603 Guy Fawkes went to Madrid to urge that Philip III invade England. Thus he was a confirmed traitor, though egged on and used by more astute plotters.

            Some of these men had been involved in the rising of the Earl of Essex. A number were former members of the Church of England. Most of them had some land and wealth. They were all highly disturbed beings, throw-backs, who meant to subvert the state and get rid of King James. Church and state, they were sure, must be at one, with fealty to the Pope.

            In Westminster Hall, January 27, 1606, there was a trial after a fashion with no real defense. Sir Edward Coke simply outlined the case and asked some questions. For nearly a year, the plotters had been digging a tunnel from a distance, but had found the wall under the House of Lords nine feet thick. They had then got access to the cellar by renting a building. They had planned to kill the king, seize his children, stir up an open revolt with aid from Spaniards in Flanders, put Princess Elizabeth on the throne, and marry her to a papist. Though all but one. Sir Everard Digby, pleaded not guilty, the court, such as it was, condemned them all to death. That same week they were all hanged, four in St. Paul’s churchyard, where John Overall, the translator, could have looked on, and four in the yard of the old palace. Among the latter was Guy Fawkes, tall, brown-haired, and with an auburn beard. He was so weak from torture that guards had to help him up to the scaffold. Percy and three others had been killed before while trying to escape, and one had died in prison.

            Three months later came the trial o£ Henry Garnet, a Jesuit, thought to be head of the Jesuits in England, Brought up a Protestant, he knew of the plot but had shrunk in horror from it, though he left the chosen victims to their fate. The court condemned him also to die.

            All this concerned the men at work on the Bible. At Garnet’s hanging. May 3, in St. Paul’s churchyard, John Overall, Dean of St. Paul’s, took time off from his translating to be present. Very gravely and Christianly he and the Dean of Winchester urged upon Garnet “a true and lively faith to God-ward,” a free and plain statement to the world of his offense; and if any further treason lay in his knowledge, he was begged to unburden his conscience and show a sorrow and detestation of it. Garnet, firm in his beliefs, desired them not to trouble him. So after the men assigned to the gruesome duty had hanged, drawn, and quartered the victim. Dean Overall returned to St. Paul’s and his Bible task.

            That year, 1606, Overall was also writing his convocation book of canons. This was intended to be a code for the faithful. A part of it upheld the divine right of kings. Yet, Overall argued, if any upset by force occurred and a new rule succeeded, this too in turn could plead for itself a divine right, and insist that the people obey it, thus to do their duty toward God. To touchy James this was false doctrine. So he suppressed the whole book of canons, which came out only after 1688, when James II was forced to leave the country.

            The Guy Fawkes plot inspired many sermons. Of the translators, Ravis preached at Paul’s Cross, Barlow at Westminster, and Andrewes at Whitehall. From then on Andrewes preached ten Guy Fawkes sermons before the king, one a year, deriving awful lessons from the horrid scheme.

            William Barlow also preached at Paul’s Cross on the Sunday after the plot came to light. His text was Psalm 18:50: “Great deliverance giveth He to His king, and sheweth mercy to His anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.” Of Guy Fawkes Barlow said: “To make himself drunk with the blood of so many worthies . . . such heaps he had laid in of billets, faggots, large stones, iron crows, pickaxes, great hammer heads, besides so many barrels of gun powder . . . not manlike to kill but beastlike to . . . tear parcel meal the bodies of such personages . . . this whirling blast would have been unto our sacred king ... as the whirlwind and fiery chariot of Elias, to have carried up his soul to heaven.”

            The first Guy Fawkes sermon by Lancelot Andrewes was on Psalm 118:23, 24: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” He implied that God let the plotters proceed so that He could destroy them in signal fashion, to give the public a good lesson: “We have therefore well done ... by law to provide that this day should not die, nor the memorial thereof perish, from ourselves or from our seed, but be consecrated to a perpetual memory, by a yearly acknowledgment to be made of it throughout all generations. . . .”

            Other sermons following the Fawkes attempt were aimed directly at the papist party, now, naturally in even less favor. The Church of England had maintained, and maintains, that the Catholic Church is, as the term means, the church universal. That the Roman Church could be that church universal seemed absurd to such divines as the translator, the stodgy George Abbot. Yet he, like others to this day, confused oneness, the belief that there can be but one Christian Church, with places and numbers of people. Thus he wrote with righteous scorn to a papist, “What say you to the south continent, which is so huge a country that if the firm land do hold unto the pole, as it commonly is received and believed, it very near equaleth all Asia, Africa, and Europe, and what part in all that world is thoroughly discovered as yet by any Christian? ... If we look unto the northern and colder parts of America, which are not so fit for the breeding of gold [how wrong he was about that I]. . . what huge countries be there of incomparable bigness which have nothing of Christianity in them?”

            In other words, unless the Church of Rome had spread to all parts of the world, how could it claim to be the one church for all? He disdained the papist’s mention of Goa, “as if it were some huge region, whereas it is but a city.” As he argued, he contradicted himself, for he also wrote, “You are misinformed that the Protestants do glory in their great number; they know that truth is truth, be it in more or few.” The papists, with subdued fury about the new Bible, and the Church of England kept on pushing for themselves, and against each other. The translators worked on in this stormy air.

            Nor was the controversy limited to the Catholic claims. In the summer of 1606 four divines preached before the king on how to reduce some Presbyterian Scots to a right feeling toward the Church of England. Among them were Andrewes and Barlow.

            Meanwhile a young man in Holland was stirring up questions which long after involved Dr. Andrewes and George Abbot. Born in Essex about 1575, Bartholomew Legate had no college training, but, after being a dealer in cloth lists, he preached among the “Seekers,” an offshoot of the Mennonites in Zeeland. He soon found that Mennonite tenet, that our Lord’s body came from heaven, an “execrable heresy.” By 1605 he was teaching that Jesus Christ was a mere man, but born free from sin. The Scriptures, he said, term him God, not from his essence but because of his office. This was more than any stable churchmen could endure. The case of this bold minor figure was to be as evil as that of Guy Fawkes. Tried by the London consistory, with George Abbot presiding and Lancelot Andrewes a member, Legate was condemned to death. 

            After the Gunpowder Plot failed, the religious conflict entered a less explosive stage, but one involving many differences of opinion. The Established Church in England, as in Rome, fought all divergences as heresy. In 1607 Thomas Ravis, the Oxford translator, became Bishop of London succeeding the man who had replaced Richard Bancroft when the latter became Archbishop of Canterbury. Ravis, always grim, at once began to harass those who would not submit fully to the Church. “By the help of Jesus,” he announced with haughty sureness that Jesus was with him, “I will not leave one preacher in my diocese who doth not subscribe and conform.” While he worked on the Bible, he was highly active as a hated scourge. Writing “Of Unity in Religion,” Andrewes’ friend Francis Bacon said, “Lukewarm persons think they may accommodate points of religion by middle ways, and taking part of both.” The bishops among the translators were far from lukewarm. They had no use for middle ways.

            On July 3 the king had declared: “We advise conformity especially of ministers, who have been the chief authors of divisions, and hope they will not omit substantial duties for shadows and semblance of zeal. If they are intractable, they must be compelled by the authority which we are compelled to use for preservation of the church’s authority. Such as have been censured for disobedience may have till 30 November to bethink them of their course, and then either conform or dispose of themselves in other ways, as after that, proceeding will be taken against them.” Though the king was competent to express himself, we may assume that he used ghost writers, among them no doubt Bancroft, Robert Cecil, and Sir Thomas Lake.

            One main pinch was that all the clergy had to accept all those of the thirty-nine articles that dealt with rites and ceremonies. From a modem point of view those were the shadows, not the substance, of worship. But at the Hampton Court meeting, as we have seen, there had been controversy over making the sign of the cross, and there were many other matters in dispute.

            Increasing conflict made it certain that the men added to the list of translators would be stanch supporters of the established church. This was true of Leonard Hutton, chaplain to Bishop Bancroft. At Oxford in 1605 Hutton published An Answer to a Certain Treatise of the Cross in Baptism. This he addressed to Richard Bancroft, Archbishop since November. In it he opposed a statement that “the sign of the cross being a human ordinance is become an idol and may not lawfully be used in the service of God.” This he countered with a plea that “the consignation of a child’s forehead in baptism was one of the most ancient ceremonies of Christianity.” Some made a difference of the place for the sign, in baptism on the crown, in confirmation on the forehead. Many used the sign of the cross in all sorts of low ways, as on their breasts and foreheads in dice playing, to bring them luck.

            Hutton went on, “How much better were it to turn these forces that are spent upon ourselves against the common adversary who (as lamentable experience hath taught us) maketh this strife of ours a fit occasion and instrument to overthrow our common faith.” That urging of common sense and oneness meant, alas, that all the Puritans should accept his point of view. It never occurred to him that those who liked the cross in baptism might use it, and that those who disliked it might reject it.

            “These things and many other grievous sins and works of darkness, that blush not ... to show themselves in the open day, could not thus swarm amongst us as daily they do, if we all truly intended the same thing, if we could faithfully and unfeignedly give one another the right hand of fellowship, and seriously do the Lord’s work with one consent.” Again this hearty standing for that one consent meant that all should consent to what Hutton believed; stop all this silly fighting, and agree with what I tell you! He wrote further: “That which I would now say is, to desire the treatiser and his friends that they would first reform themselves.” What could be more within reason? It may seem to us today that he was writing not really to persuade those on the other side of the wordy contest, but to please his master, Bancroft, head of the Church under the king.

            Loving peace on his own terms, Hutton had a tranquil life, while the Puritans waxed more potent around him. “If you fear a curse,” he said grandly, “you fear where no cause of fear is.” A stained glass window at Christ Church bears the arms of this translator and two other Oxonians, Edes and Ravis.

            As the conflicts continued, the power of the bishops, an issue at Hampton Court, became stronger. “The occasion which caused the apostles to appoint bishops,” Andrewes said, “seemeth to have been schisms.” Again he said, “The whole ministry of the New Testament was at the first invested in Christ alone. He is termed . . . bishop, I Peter 2:25.”

            Bishop Barlow preached on the antiquity and supremacy of bishops, using as his text Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore with yourselves, and to all the flock over whom the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” It was clear to Barlow that overseers meant bishops. Yet to this day scholars in commentaries argue whether the Greek word rendered in English as bishop meant what we mean by bishop at all. Given the times

and the number of bishops among the learned men, the new Bible was certain to sustain the cult of bishops wherever the chance arose.

            Of the bishops one at least was to be highly useful. For Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester, with Miles Smith, at the end revised all that the rest had done. He was one on whom the king and his trusted churchmen relied. We may well ask how his style fitted him to burnish the whole final draft, but if we use this criterion we may ask in vain. Bishop Bilson was for the most part a dull writer. So are many first-rate editors.

            He was born in Winchester in 1547, the son of German parents. His father, Herman, was a son of Arnold and perhaps a daughter of a duke of Bavaria. At New College, Oxford, Thomas Bilson became a doctor of divinity in 1581, and was raised to Bishop of Winchester in 1597. In many ways he carried on the holy warfare of the Church; at New College in 1599, where the Puritans were getting stronger, he had to insist on the wearing of surplice and hood with the same firmness with which he forbade taking meat from the kitchen and bread from the buttery between meals. Liking philosophy, physics, and divinity, the bishop was also fond of poetry. In that fondness we may find a clue to his skill with the Bible work toward the end. But mainly, being very well aware of the church conflicts that had always been rampant, Bilson was correct in dogma, a safe man to steady the king’s new English Bible. One said of Bishop Bilson that he “carried prelature in his very aspect.”

            On “the perpetual government of Christ’s church,” Bilson said: “The second assured sign of episcopal power is imposition of hands to ordain presbyters and bishops, for as pastors were to have some to assist them in their charge, which were presbyters, so were they to have others to succeed them in their places which were bishops. And this right by imposing hands to ordain presbyters and

bishops in the church of Christ was at first derived from the apostles unto bishops not unto presbyters.”

            Thus he was ready to squelch the Presbyterian nonsense which the king hated. The word “presbyters” appears only once in the King James Bible, but the Greek word thus rendered is in many other places translated “elders.” The Presbyterians have survived all the would-be squelchings by Bilson and others. The good bishop himself commented on differences of opinion as inevitable: 

“Who doth marvel that amongst so many thousands of bishops as the whole world yielded in so many hundred years there should be some contentious and ambitious spirits. . . . Were the pastors but of England, France, and Germany to meet in a free synod, I will not ask you when they would agree, but if their tongues be like their pens, there would be more need of officers to part the frays than of notaries to write the acts.”

            The Bible on which the translators worked was born amid vivid and ruthless controversy. Yet outwardly at least the learned men made their peace with authority. On December 20, 1606, Dr. John Duport, the translator who was master of Jesus College, Cambridge, declared that all of that house conformed to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England. By then all the Puritan translators had conformed enough to escape being banished or direly punished in other ways. That month Archbishop Bancroft began to proceed against any Puritan clergy who were stubborn, and in a year, some historians say, got rid of three hundred, though others say fewer.

            In 1607 a number of these men found an alternative: they sailed to Virginia. In due course the Puritans won England for a time, and then lost, while they long triumphed in America.

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