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5. The Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books III and IV

Note: This text is an almost exact copy of Chapter 5, "The Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books III and IV." from my English Ph.D. dissertation,

The pagination of the original thesis is given in {} brackets, e.g. {175}, but for convenience paragraph numbers have also been added. Due to time constraints involved with finishing the thesis, this chapter (unlike Chapter 4) provides only a partial analysis of Books III and IV of The Dialogue Concerning Heresies. (The sections not analyzed in detail are briefly summarized.) The titles of the summary sections below were embedded in the original thesis file, but not printed out. I have also added a table (Figure 5.1) which I had wanted to add to the original thesis, but didn't have time to prepare.

A very detailed textual summary of the parts of Books III and IV of the Dialogue dealt with in this chapter and a bibliography of The Dialogue Concerning Heresies, originally part of the Appendices to my thesis, are available in separate files (see below). (Books I and II of the Dialogue are dealt with in Chapter 4, see below.)

Any comments or queries can be sent to the author at

Romuald (Ronnie) Ian Lakowski

Table of Contents

5. The Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books III and IV

Summary of A Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books III and IV

Chapter on A Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books I and II

Bibliography of A Dialogue Concerning Heresies

Return to Thesis Table of Contents

5. The Dialogue Concerning Heresies: Books III and IV

5.1. Introduction

1. {175} The structure of the second half, Books III and IV, of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies (Heresies B), has already been briefly discussed in the section [4.3.1] on the "Introduction to Dialogue Concerning Heresies" in the previous chapter [of my thesis] (see also Figure 4.1). It is enough to recall that when the Messenger had first been sent by the Friend to visit Chancellor More, he had raised certain issues at the request of the Friend. During the course of his initial interview with the Messenger, Chancellor More had promised that he would deal with four matters that the Messenger had raised in his 'credence.' Chancellor More had promised that:

I wolde... fyrst [B.1] begyn where he [the Messenger] bygan at the abiuracyon of the man he spake of [Bilney]. Secondly [B.2] wolde I touche the condempnacyon and burnyng of the new testament / translated by Tyndale. Thyrdly [B.3] somwhat wold I speke of Luther and his secte in generall. Fourthly [B.4] and fynally / the thynge that he touched last / that is to wyt / the warre and fyghtyng agaynst infydels / with the condempnacyon of heretykes vnto dethe / whiche two poyntys / hym selfe had combyned and knytte togyther. (CW 6, 35/27--36/4)

However, instead of first dealing with these four matters, Chancellor More had instead launched into a general defence of images, saints, miracles, and pilgrimages, and from there into a general discussion on the nature of the Church, and on the relationship between the Oral Tradition of the Church and the written Scriptures. These are the matters that are dealt with in the over two hundred pages of Heresies A (Books I: 2b--II: 12; CW 6, 37--246), discussed in the previous chapter [of my thesis]. Just as Narrator More had promised at the beginning of Book I to relate Hythloday's account of the manners and customs of the Utopians (cf. CW 4, 54/1--8), but had launched into the 'Dialogue of Counsel' instead, postponing the account of the "new island of Utopia" to Book II, so also Chancellor More in Books I and II of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies had taken up the matters of Heresies A, postponing his {176} discussion of the points raised by the Messenger at the the beginning of Book I, to Books III and IV of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, in Heresies B, starting in Book III, Chapter 2.

2. The first matter (B.1) of Heresies B, the account of the trial Thomas Bilney (1527), is dealt with in Book III: 2--7 (255--84). To this may be added (B.2b) the account of the posthumous trial of Richard Hunne (1514) in Book III: 15, which covers similar ground. The second matter (B.2) of Heresies B, the discussion of William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, which also has obvious connections with the matter of Heresies A2, is dealt with in Book III: 8--16 (284--344). However, the account of the trial of Richard Hunne in Chapter 15 (316--30), which contains an important example of reported dialogue or "dialogue-within-a-dialogue," is better dealt with along with the trial of Bilney (in B.1) . The third matter (B.3) of Heresies B, on Luther's heresies, is dealt with in Book IV: 2a, 3--9 (348--54, 360--76). At this point the schematic outline provided in Book I:2a proves to be inadequate. The middle third of Book IV (B.3b), Chapters 10--12 (376--405), consists of a long "dialogue-within-a-dialogue" in Chapter 11, for which Chapters 10 and 12 are prologue and epilogue respectively. Book IV, Chapter 11 supposedly gives an account of the examination of an English Lutheran preacher. However, the real foci of the reported dialogue of Chapter 11 are the Lutheran doctrines of Predestination and "Justification by Faith Alone". The fourth matter (B.4) of Heresies B, the justification for heresy trials and the war against the Turks, is dealt with in Book IV:13--18a (405--30). (This analysis of the structure of of Books III and IV is summarized in Figure 4.1 in the previous chapter.)

3. However, the introductions to Books III and IV, and the conclusion to Book IV (Chapter 18b) call for special treatment. The introductions to Book III and IV contain further elaborations of the fictional narrative frame of the dialogue. In Book III, Chapter 1 there is yet another "dialogue-within-a-dialogue" that recapitulates the argument of Heresies A, in particular the defence of the oral tradition of the Church as an equal part of divine {177} revelation along with scriptures, that is the central argument of Heresies A2. Heresies B proper does not begin until the following chapter. Book IV, Chapter 1 is more straight-forward, but Chancellor More's treatment of Luther's heresies is interrupted almost immediately in Chapter 2 (in an addition to the 1531 and 1557 editions), by another reported dialogue that recalls both the theme of Book I: Chapter 2, the treatment of the Image of Love (also an addition to the 1531 and 1557 editions), already described in the previous chapter [of my thesis]; and the setting of the "dialogue-within-a-dialogue" in Book III, Chapter 1, which will be described below. The conclusion to Book IV (430--35) serves as a conclusion not only to Heresies B, but also to the Dialogue Concerning Heresies as a whole.

4. In my discussion of Heresies B, I have singled out the openings of Books III and IV (III:1 and IV:1--2), and the treatment of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament (B.2), and the 'Examination of a Lutheran Preacher' (B.3b), and the Conclusion of Book IV. The other sections of Heresies B (B.1, B.2b, B.3a, B.4) have only been briefly summarized at the appropriate points in my discussion.[1]


5.2. Book III:1 As Epilogue to Heresies A2

5. Book III takes place a fortnight later after the meeting described in Heresies A, and after the Messenger has just visited some of his old friends at the university where he had studied before becoming the tutor to the children of Chancellor More's Friend:[2] "About fortenyght after your frende [i.e. the Messenger] came agayne in a mornyng new comen from the vnyuersyte where he was as ye wote at lernynge ere he came at you" (247/10--12). Chancellor then continues by reporting to the Friend that while at the university, the Messenger had visited some of his old acquaintances, and had repeated to them some of the arguments that he and Chancellor More had previously had:

And vpon occasyon rysyng in communycacyon / had agayne repeted with some of them very fresshe lerned men / good parte of our foremare dysceptacyon & resonyng / had bytwene vs before his departyng. Which as {178} he sayd they toke great plesure in / & moch wysshed to haue ben present therat. (CW 6, 247/13--17)

But some of them objected to "the hard handelyng of ye man [Bilney] yt ye [the Friend] wryte of / & the burnyng of ye new testament and the forbedynge of Luthers bokys to be redde" (247/18--20). And finally there were some who thought that the clergy were very far from the practise of true charity in the burning of heretics. It was these very charges that had occasioned the visit of the Messenger to Chancellor More at the Friend's request at the beginning of Book I, and which Chancellor More had promised to deal with. And they will finally be taken up starting in the next chapter, when they will become the matter of the rest of Books III and IV (Heresies B).

6. Though the last chapter of Book II (Chapter 12), in concluding the discussion of Heresies A1, effectively served as an epilogue to Heresies A as a whole, Chancellor More and the Messenger return in this chapter one last time to the central issue raised in their previous meeting, described in Heresies A2, namely the relationship between Scripture and the Oral Tradition of the Church. Chancellor More begins by saying that he was very glad that the Messenger happened to be visiting his friends at the university:

Not so moche for any thynge that ye haue shewed them of our communycacyon had all redy / concernyng the prayeng of sayntes / worshyppyng of ymages and relyques / and goyng in pylgrymage [Heresies A1]... as for that I thynke that amonge them / beynge as ye saye so well lerned / ye haue eyther herde somwhat wherby ye be in some parte of these matters (yt we shal speke of [in Heresies B]) all redy satysfyed / wherby our busynes therin maye be the shorter / or els ye be the more strongly instructed for ye other [Lutheran] parte wherby our dysputacyon shall be the fuller / and the matters the more playnly touched / for the more ample satysfaccyon of such [doubts] as your selfe or your mayster [the Friend] shall hereafter happen to fynde.... (CW 6, 247/25--248/8)

The Messenger replies that indeed "somwhat haue they shewed me theyr myndes therin" (248/10--11). Chancellor More then asks "But yet I pray you be playne with me in one thynge. Were they satysfyed and helde them selfe contente in those thynges yt were at last {179} with moche worke agreed bytwene vs?" (248/14--17). The Messenger reports "to saye the trouthe / all were saue one / and he in all thynge saue one" (248/18--19). "I pray you tell me" responds Chancellor More "what one thynge it was / and why he myslyked it." The Messenger answers "Surely quod he for ought yt I coulde bende vpon hym / he could neuer agree that the fayth of the chyrche out of scrypture / sholde be as sure and bynde vs to the byleue therof / as the wordes of holy scrypture" (248/24--27).

7. What follows is another "dialogue-within-a-dialogue," or reported dialogue, in which Chancellor More advises the Messenger on how he should have answered his opponent, whom I shall call hereafter the 'Unnamed Critic.'[3] Chancellor More reminds the Messenger of their previous discussions: "yf ye remembred well what we sayd / ye had ynoughe to proue hym that" (248/28--29). The Messenger starts off by boasting that he had: "so had I and so dyd I / and in suche wyse that dyuers wayes I brought hym to the bay / yt he wyst not howe to voyde" (248/30--31). However, he admits that the Unnamed Critic quickly got the better of him by countering:

Whan you byleue the chyrche / wherfore do you byleue the chyrche? do you not byleue it bycause it sayth trouth? Yes mary quod I [the Messenger] what ellys. And how knowe you quod he [the Unnamed Critic] yt the chyrche sayth trouth? Knowe ye that any other wyse than by scrypture? Nay mary quod I [the Messenger]. But than by playne scrypture I knowe it very well. For the scrypture telleth me that god hath fully taught and techeth his chyrche and byddeth me byleue his chyrche. (cw 6, 249/9--16)

The Unnamed Critic then responded triumphantly to the Messenger: "Ye wolde [have me believe]... that ye chyrch was in all necessary poyntys of our faythe / as moche to be byleued as the scrypture" but now "I haue dryuen you to the wall... and prouyd vnto you that the chyrche is not to be byleued... but for the authoryte of the scrypture" (249/18--26). The Messenger then rather shame-facedly concludes the account of his discussion with the Unnamed Critic by admitting: {180}

I was therewith astonyed and sayd I wolde aduyse me further theron. But he [the Unnamed Critic] laughed and sayd he wolde lende me this / and not to be hasty on me / for he wolde gyue me respyte of payment tyll I had spoken with you [Chancellor More] agayne. (249/27--30)

Chancellor More now continues his account of his meeting with the Messenger by addressing the Friend:[4]

Whan your frende [i.e. the Messenger] had tolde [his tale] / forsoth quod I he [the Unnamed Critic] delte with you [the Messenger] lyke a courteys credytour.... And to say the trouthe ye owe hym not moche. For ye may bere hym his owne agayne and tell hym his money is nought [false]. (249/31--250/1)

The Messenger then asks "Why quod your frende [the Messenger] what thyng dyd I graunt hym that I sholde not?" (250/29--30). Chancellor More responds "no more but all that euer ye graunted. For fyrst whan he asked you whyther the cause why we byleue the chyrche be not bycause it is true yt the chyrche telleth you... answered ye not well therto whan ye graunted it" (250/31--251/3). He goes on to explain:

For yf a knowen lyar tell you a knowen trewe tale / ye wyll byleue hym bycause he telleth you trouth. But nowe if a knowen true man tell you an vnknowen trouth ye byleue not him / bycause ye thyng is trouth / but ye byleue the thyng to be trouth bycause ye byleue ye man to be true. And so byleue you the chyrche.... (251/7--11)

However, the principal thing that the Messenger should not have granted the Unnamed Critic was that he believed the Church "for none other cause but only bycause the scrypture so sheweth me" (252/5--6).

8. In reply to the objection raised by the Unnamed Critic, Chancellor More asks the Messenger: "what yf neuer scriptur had ben wryten in thys world / shuld there neuer haue bene eny chyrch or congregacyon of faythfull & ryght byleuyng people?" (252/7--9). The Messenger is nonplussed. Chancellor More then asks him further "were there neuer eny folke yt byleued in god / & had a true fayth betwene Adam and Noe / of such as neuer herd {181} god speke them self?" (252/11--13). The Messenger concedes "I suppose ther were some / but yt shold seme ther were very few. For ther were few saued in Noes shyp" (252/14--15). Chancellor More proceeds further: "Was ther also no faythfull folke at all frome Noe to Moyses / nor hym selfe neyther tyll he had the law delyuered hym in wrytyng?" (253/2--4). The Messenger is forced to admit that there were some. He is asked "why dyd eny man than byleue ye chyrch that ys to wytte the nombre and congregacyon of good and ryght byleuynge folke / of whose mouth and tradycyon he herde the true byleue" (253/11--14) against the wrong misbeliefs of the infidels and idolaters, unless they believed that God had taught these beliefs to the good men before them. Chancellor More then asks the Messenger:

I praye you tell me what scrypture hath taught the chyrch to knowe whyche bookys be the very scrypture / and to reiecte many other that were writen of the same maters / and that in suche wyse wryten / and in the namys of suche men as (sauynge for the spyryte of god geuen to hys chyrch) a naturall wyse man had bene lykely ynough / eyther to haue taken both for holy scrypture / or to haue reiected both as none holy scriptur? (CW 6, 253/21--27)

Though we prove the authority of the Church by scripture to those who believe nothing but the scripture, "yet shold we haue byleued the chyrche yf neuer scrypture had ben wryten / as those good faythfull folke dyd / that byleued well byfore the scripture was wryten" (254/3--5). Scripture itself does not make us believe the scriptures, but the Church makes us know the scripture: "And god wythout scrypture hath taught hys chyrche the knowledge of his very scripture from all counterfete scrypture" (254/7--9). A man may read the scriptures and yet believe never a word of it:

yt ys the spyryte of god that wyth our owne towardnesse and good endeuour / worketh in hys chyrch and in euery good membre therof the credulyte & bylyef / wherby we byleue as well the chyrch concernynge goddys wordys taught vs by the chyrch and by god graued in mennys hartys wythout scrypture / as hys holy wordys wryten in hys holy scrypture. (CW 6, 254/13--18)

Chancellor More continues that "where ye [the Messenger] graunted hym [the Unnamed {182} Critic] that so dyd oppose you / that we byleue the chyrche by none other way but by the scrypture" (254/19--20), the Messenger did not answer him well because:

For we besyde the scrypture do byleue the chyrch / bycause that god hym selfe by secrete inspyracyon of hys holy spyryte / doth... teche vs to byleue hys chyrche... by the selfe same meane by whych he techeth vs and ledeth vs in to the bylyefe of hys holy scrypture. (CW 6, 254/21--26)

Chancellor More concludes that "yf ye had answered hym [the Unnamed Critic] thus I byleue surely that ye had clerely dysarmed hym & broken his gay sworde in twayn" (254/38--39). To which the Messenger responds "so semeth me now to.... yet I trust he shall wynne no worshippe therof whan we mete agayne" (255/4--6). With this Chancellor More and the Messenger finish their discussion of the matters of Heresies A2. They then turn in the rest of Books III and IV to deal with the four matters of Heresies B, already previously mentioned above.


5.3. Analysis of Heresies B

[The Trials of Thomas Bilney and Richard Hunne (III:2--7, 15) (B.1,2b) (Summary)]

9. Chancellor More then turns, starting in the next chapter, to discuss the heresy trial of Thomas Bilney (Chapters 2--7; CW 6, 255--84), the first of the four matters ("the abiuracyon of the man he [the Messenger] spake of" [i.e. Bilney] (35/30)---see Figure 4.1) he had promised to deal with at the beginning of Book I. In Chapter 2 Chancellor More deals with the circumstances surrounding Bilney's trial. Chapter 3 is a vindication of the reliability of witnesses in heresy trials, In Chapter 4 Chancellor More answers an objection raised by the Messenger concerning the claims of contrary 'witnesses' who wished to prove Bilney's innocence after the fact. In Chapter 5 Chancellor More defends the integrity of Wolsey and Cuthbert Tunstal, Bilney's ecclesiastical judges. Chapter 6 deals with Bilney's perjury, and in Chapter 7 Chancellor More, in answer to an objection raised by the Messenger, denies that a man on peril of perjury may lawfully forswear himself. Except for a 'digression' on the posthumous trial (1514) of Richard Hunne for heresy in Chapter 15 (314--30), which {183} constitutes yet another example of reported dialogue or "dialogue-within-a-dialogue", the rest of Book III (Chapters 8--16; CW 6, 284--344) is taken up with a treatment of the second of the four matters (see Figure 4.1) raised by the Messenger at the beginning of Book I, namely Tyndale's translation of the New Testament.[5]


5.3.1 Tyndale's Translation of the New Testament (III: 8--15) (B.2)

10. Chancellor More begins his treatment of the second matter of Heresies B, first raised by the Messenger in Book I ("the condempnacyon and burnyng of the new testament / translated by Tyndale" 35/30--32), by criticizing Tyndale's translation of the New Testament in no uncertain terms. The Messenger asks Chancellor More what he thinks of the burning of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament:[6] Chancellor More responds that to call it the New Testament would be wrong, it should rather be called Tyndale's Testament or Luther's Testament, since Tyndale following Luther's counsel has corrupted and changed it so much. He goes on to charge that in the whole book there were over a thousand places where the text was falsely translated, and especially three words of great weight that Tyndale has repeatedly mistranslated:

The one is quod I this worde prestys. The other the chyrche. The thyrde charyte. For prestys where so euer he speketh of the prestes of Crystes chyrche he neuer calleth them prestes but alway senyours / the chyrche he calleth alway the congregacyon / & charyte he calleth alway loue. (CW 6, 285/36--286/4)

These words do not express the things meant by them and it is clear from the context that Tyndale had a malicious intention in making these changes. Though in the Greek tongue priests are called presbyteroi, or "elder men," it is clear from the example of Timothy that not all priests were chosen old. The word "senior" is either a French word, meaning "My lord", usually used in mockery, or else, in its Latin sense, it means only an old man, not a priest. He asks why Tyndale calls the Church the congregation. Though the Church is a {184} congregation, not every congregation is the Church. In England the congregation of Christian people has always been called and known by the name of the Church, but the word congregation is common both to a company of Christian men and a company of Turks. Similarly with the word charity, though charity is always love, love is not always charity. Charity signifies in English men's ears, not every common love, but a good, virtuous and well ordered love.

11. The Messenger, while agreeing with Chancellor More's objections to Tyndale's translations, nonetheless protests that he does not see any malicious purpose in Tyndale's translations. He does however agree that the translation should not go forth in its present form. Chancellor More argues that the translation was made by Tyndale, while he was at Wittenberg, with the intention of propagating Luther's views. Chancellor More goes on to suggest that the reason why Tyndale changed the word "church" is obvious. Because Luther denies that the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ, but rather claims that the true Church of Christ is an unknown congregation of folk scattered about here and there, Tyndale in his New Testament cannot abide the name of the Church, but turns it into the name of congregation. Similarly, because Luther and his followers reject the sacrament of holy orders, Tyndale deliberately puts away the word priest in the New Testament because "he wolde make it seme that the scrypture dyd neuer speke of any prestes dyfferent from ley men amonge crysten people" (289/29--31). After citing other examples of mistranslated words, Chancellor More states that Tyndale has made his translation with the intention not only of promoting Luther's heresies, but also of suggesting that "the prechers haue all thys .xv. C. yere mysse reported ye gospell and englyshed the scrypture wronge / to lede the people purposely out of the ryght way" (290/34--36).

12. The Messenger suggests that Tyndale's translation be amended by some good men and printed again. Chancellor More replies that it would be less labour to translate the whole {185} book anew. The Messenger then blames the English clergy for passing a provincial constitution (in 1408)[7] forbidding the ownership of English Bibles. The clergy will allow laymen to have no English Bibles at all. This is contrasted with the situation in other countries where the Catholic clergy allow the people to have vernacular translations of scripture.[8] The Messenger attacks the English clergy for leading the people astray with glosses of their own making, and using their provincial constitution as an excuse to take Christ's Gospel out of the hands of Christian people. The scripture is a nourisher of virtue for good men and a means of amendment for those who are bad. Therefore, the clergy are wrong in forbidding the scriptures to the laity. Chancellor More denies that they do this and launches into a defence of the clergy. While admitting that there are many corrupt priests, he argues that they are no worse than elsewhere. He goes on to suggest (in terms reminiscent of Utopia)[9] that if priests were more carefully selected this would solve many of the problems. After a digression in defence of clerical celibacy (303--14), Chancellor More then returns again to the question of the provincial constitution. The Messenger asks Chancellor More to explain why the clergy have forbidden the making of English translations of scripture. Chancellor More denies that the constitution actually forbids the making of translations and goes on to explain that, though the Bible had been translated beforehand by virtuous and well-learned men into the English tongue,[10] Wyclif took it upon himself with a malicious intent to translate it anew. In that translation he used such words as might seem to serve as proof of his heretical opinions, which he not only set forth in his translation, but also in the prologues and glosses he added to it.

13. After it was perceived what harm came through Wyclif's translations, prologues and glosses, and how it helped the spread of Lollardry, a council was held at Oxford to decide on the matter of vernacular translations. This council forbade the making of any new translations or the use of existing Wycliffite versions, until the translation had been {186} approved by the diocesan, or if need be by a provincial council. However, the council did not forbid the reading of translations made before Wyclif's time, nor did it forbid the making of new translations, provided that the translator did not have a malicious intention, as did both Wyclif and Tyndale.

14. The Messenger then cites the example of Richard Hunne, who was posthumously condemned of heresy in 1514, and whose body was burned together with an English Bible that he had in his possession. After an important digression on the Hunne case (316--330),[11] Chancellor More concludes:

there were in the prologe of that [Hunne's] byble suche wordys touchynge the blyssed sacrament / as good crysten men dyd moche abhorre to here / and whyche gaue the reders vndouted occasyon to thynke that the boke was wryten after wyclyffs copy / and by hym translated into our tonge. (CW 6, 330/18--23)

More's defence of the Constitution of Arundel may have been somewhat disingenuous because, in practise, most of the vernacular versions of the Bible circulating in late mediaeval England were Lollard or Wycliffite in origin;[12] nonetheless, the constitution did provide a basis for More himself to argue in the next chapter cautiously in favour of making a new Catholic translation for the laity.


5.3.2 Approval for a Vernacular Translation (III: 16) (B.2 cont.)

15. Chancellor More now turns in the last chapter of Book III to give considered approval to the project of producing a Catholic translation of the Bible into the English vernacular. The Messenger begins by indicating that as usual he has not been listening carefully to the arguments of Chancellor More in the previous chapter: he reiterates the charges against the clergy, that Chancellor More has just disproved, namely that the clergy keep the vernacular translations of the Bible out of the hands of the laity. Chancellor More replies with a hint of annoyance, by repeating his earlier claim that only those translations that were condemned {187} as wicked, such as Wyclif's and Tyndale's, were so withheld, but the older translations that were made before Wyclif's time remain lawful. The Messenger, however, asks why the English Bible is in so few men's hands, when so many would have it. Chancellor More replies:

howe it hathe happed that in all this whyle god hath eyther not suffered or not prouyded that any good vertuous [i.e. catholic] man hath had the mynde in faythfull wyse to translate it / and thervpon eyther the clergy or at the lest wyse / some one bysshop to approue it / this can I nothynge tell. (CW 6, 331/27--31)

He states that the clergy are reluctant to approve English translations of the Bible because they see many more of the worse sort calling for it than the better, and so they fear that if the Bible were in every man's hand it would do more harm to seditious people than good to honest folk. Chancellor More then expresses his own disagreement with the position of the archconservatives, stating that he would not for all the harm it brings to those with malicious intentions, take away the profit that others might take from it. The Messenger states his agreement with Chancellor More but immediately goes on to attack the clergy for all the reasons that they give for withholding the scriptures from the people:

But of all thynge specyally they say that scrypture is ye fode of the soule. And that the comen people be as infantys that muste be fedde but with mylke and pappe. And yf we haue any stronger mete it must be chammed [chewed] afore by the nurse and so put into the babys mouth. But me thynke though they make vs all infantys / they shall fynde many a shrewde brayne among vs / that can perceyue chalke fro chese well ynough and yf they wolde ones take vs our mete in our owne hande. We be not so euyll tothed but that within a whyle they shall se vs cham it our selfe as well as they. For let them call vs yonge babys and [if] they wyll / yet by god they shall for all that well fynde in some of vs yt an old knaue is no chylde. (CW 6, 333/3--13)

Chancellor More rebukes the Messenger by replying that it is precisely the Messenger's attitude that puts good folk in fear of allowing the Scriptures to be translated into our English tongue. It is not the reading of scrypture, but the "busy chammyng [chewing] {188} therof", i.e. interpretation, especially of such parts "as lest wyll agre wyth theyr capacytees" (333/19--20) that is the main source of trouble. Unlearned men show an inordinate appetite for knowledge when they busy themselves in searching into and disputing about the great secret mysteries of Scripture, which they are unable to understand, even when they read about in their own language. He goes on to cite the opinion of Saint Jerome:

the blessyd holy doctour saynt Hierome gretely complayneth and rebuketh that lewde homely maner / that ye comon ley people men and women were in his dayes so bolde in the medlynge / dysputynge / and expownynge of holy scrypture. And sheweth playnly yt they shall haue euyll prefe therin / that wyll reken them selfe to vnderstande it by themselfe without a reder. (CW 6, 334/8--15)

Chancellor More clearly sees the reading of scripture as a communal act: the Holy Spirit so guides the Church that he will have some readers and some hearers, some teachers and some learners. He condemns the bold presumption of those:

that boldely wyll vpon the fyrst redyng bycause he knoweth the wordys / take vpon hym therfore to teche other men the sentence with parell of his owne soule and other mennys to / by the bryngynge men into madde wayes / sectys / and heresyes / suche as heretyques haue of olde brought vp and the chyrche hath condempned. (CW 6, 335/16--20)

whereas wise men devote many years to the study of scriptures and yet fail to understand many passages. The scriptures are "so deuysed and endyted by the hyghe wysedome of god / that it far excedeth in many placys the capacyte and perceyuyng of man" (335/5--7). If the common people are allowed to "cham" and dispute about scripture:

than sholde ye haue the more blynde ye more bolde / the more ignoraunt the more besy / the lesse wyt the more inquysytyfe / the more fole the more talkatyfe of great doutys and hygh questyons of holy scrypture and of goddes great and secrete mysteryes / and thys not sobrely of any good affeccyon / but presumptuously and vnreuerently at mete and at mele. And there whan the wyne were in and the wytte out / wolde they take vppon them with folyshe wordys and blasphemye to handle holy scrypture in more homely maner than a songe of Robyn hode. (CW 6, 335/22--31) {189}

All this busy "chamming" results in the holy scriptures losing all honour and reverence. On the other hand, if we will read it devoutly, and, wherever the meaning is plain and evident, endeavour to follow its teachings by the help of God's grace and avoid wrestling with obscure passages, then no one will take harm by this manner of reading. Other matters, however, that the common people cannot understand without learning, they should leave

to theym whose hole study is byset thervpon / and to the prechours appoynted thervnto / whiche may shewe theym suche thynges in tyme and place conuenyent with reuerence and authoryte / the sermon so tempered / as may be mete and conuenyent alwaye for the present audyence. (CW 6, 336/30--337/1)

16. Chancellor More then goes on to defend vernacular translations. It has never been forbidden to read the Bible in any vulgar tongue, nor is English too barbarous a language to translate the scriptures into, but, on the contrary, it is rich enough in words to allow us to express our minds on any topic. Nor should the difficulties of translation deter us since it did not deter those who translated the scriptures either out of Greek into Latin, or out of Hebrew into them both. If some readers take harm from reading the Bible in English, this arises from their own "lewdness", not from the translation. The scriptures were first written in vulgar tongues: Hebrew, Latin, and Greek were themselves once spoken by the common people. There is no passage of scripture so hard that a good virtuous man or woman cannot find something in it to delight in and to increase their devotion. While the preacher should use discretion in his preaching, there is no harm in having the whole audience read over the passage of scripture that he intends to expound. God the Holy Spirit has so arranged the Holy Scriptures that no man may take harm from it except he that will lean proudly to the folly of his own wit. The profit that one good, devout, unlearned layman takes from scripture outweighs the harm that a hundred heretics fall into by their own wilfulness. The provincial constitution previously referred to confirms this point. When the bishops allowed English Bibles to remain in use that had been translated before Wyclif's {190} day, they consequently agreed that to have the Bible in English was not harmful.[13]

17. Chancellor More then goes on to suggest the possibility of a new translation being made, which would be distributed at the discretion of the bishops.[14] The costs of distributing the Bible in the diocese are to be absorbed by the bishop. The Messenger objects that the people would rather pay for it at the printers than have it free from the bishop. Chancellor More, however, thinks that most will be content with this arrangement. He then goes on to suggest how the bishops should regulate the reading of scriptures. Though no part of scripture should be kept out of honest laymen's hands, it should be withheld from those who would take harm by being too bold and busy meddling with it. Chancellor More suggests---in terms reminiscent of the practise in mediaeval monasteries where different books were assigned by the abbot to different monks for reading and copying---that the bishop should at his discretion determine which books of the Bible should be given to which readers. At the bishop's discretion he may also take the Bible away again from those who abuse it to their own harm. More seems to be advocating throughout this passage the extension of the mediaeval monastic tradition of lectio divina to the laity, where the bishop takes on the role almost of an abbot. He draws a very strong contrast between the devout and meditative reading of scripture (which was at the core of the best of monastic spirituality), with the busy "chammyng" of the word as practised by the Lollards and the Lutherans. The Reformation, as More so clearly saw, was caused not by private reading of the scriptures, but by private interpretation. Chancellor More ends Book III on a note of cautious optimism about the matter of biblical translations, commenting that the king "is of his blessyd zele so mynded to moue this matter vnto the prelates of the clergye / among whom I haue perceyued some of ye gretest and of the best of theyr owne myndes well inclynable therto all redy" (344/25--28). The Messenger declares that he is fully content and satisfied in all the matters that have been discussed. Chancellor More replies "Well quod I then wyll we to {191} dyner / and the remenaunt wyll we fynysshe after" (344/34--35). At this point they then go off to eat.


5.3.3 The Beginning of Book IV

18. Book IV of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies opens with a scene reminiscent of the opening of Book I of the Utopia. After they had rested for a little while after dinner, Chancellor More and the Messenger then went aside into the garden, and sat down in an arbour. There the Messenger began again by saying that both in the country and in the university where he had been, there were none that had an evil opinion of Luther, but they thought "that his bokes were by the clergye forboden of malyce and euyll wyll" (345/12--13), because the laymen could read in them the priests' faults, and for that very reason, they say, Luther's works are condemned. They also object that in Luthers works "though some parte were nought / many thyngys yet [were] well sayd / whereof there was no reason that men sholde lese ye profyte for the bad" (345/23--25). Chancellor More replies to this objection that if it were now doubtful and ambiguous whether the Church of Christ held the right rule of doctrine or not, then it were very necessary to give good audience to anybody who would dispute for it or against it. However, the case is far different:

But now on the other syde yf it so be as in dede it is / yt Crystys chyrche hath the true doctryne all redy / and the selfe same yt saynt Poule wold not gyue an aungell of heuen audyence to the contrary / what wysedom were it nowe therein to shewe oure selfe so mystrustfull and waueryng / that... we sholde gyue herynge not to an aungell of heuen / but to a fonde frere / to an apostate / to an open incestuouse lechour / a playne lymme of the deuyll / and a manyfest messenger of hell. (CW 6, 346/5--14)

It is not Luther's railing against the clergy that is the cause of his condemnation and the suppression of his books, for the old holy Fathers did not hesitate to denounce the vices of the clergy of their time that were wicked, and their books have endured for a long time, but it is because his heresies are so many and so abominable that his works are very apt to {192} corrupt and infect the reader. For the proof whereof we need no other example than the 'good' that the reading of his books has done in Saxony, where of those who read his books "ye shall scantly fynd twayn / but that they... caste of prayer and fastynge and all such godly vertues as holy scrypture commendeth / and the chyrch commaundeth" (348/11--14).

19. Chancellor More then promises to show the Messenger some of Luther's heresies written in his own books. The Messenger asks Chancellor More in the meantime to tell him some orally. Chancellor More then goes on to itemize Luther's heresies (348--355). Among the heresies of Luther that Chancellor More itemizes is that "no man sholde praye to sayntys nor sette by any holy relyques nor pylgrymagys / nor do any reuerence to any ymagys" (355/1--2), namely the very heresies that have been the subject matter of Heresies A1. The Messenger replies:

By my trouthe quod your frende I hadde forgoten / that whan I was nowe in the vnyuersyte in the communycacyon that I had wyth my frendys there in that mater [cf. Book III:1] / one of theym obiected agaynst me / that the worshyppe of ymagys hath be ere thys condempned by a greate counsall in Grece. (CW 6, 355/3--7)

There was indeed such a council, replies Chancellor More, that was called together by an emperor who was a heretic "whych was after in the eyghteth [seventh] Synode by the generall counsayll dampned and adnulled" (355/9--10).[16] This heretical council had no more validity than if those in Saxony and Switzerland, who have abandoned the faith, were to gather together and call their meeting a general council. At this point in the second edition of 1531, More made an important addition to the text (355/28--59/31).[15] This consists of yet another reported dialogue. Its theme, the defence of images, looks back to the first addition of 1531 in Book I:2 on the Image of Love, already dealt with in the previous chapter [of my thesis]; while for its locale More returns to the university setting of Book III:1, and the reported dialogue between the Unnamed Critic and the Messenger, where we meet if not the Unnamed Critic again then certainly another of the same ilk, and no doubt a friend both of the Unnamed {193} Critic as well as the Messenger.

20. There was one person at their meeting, continues the Messenger, who was learned in the law, who will be referred to hereafter as the 'Law Student.' At one point when they were gathered in the Law Student's chamber at the university, the Law Student said that if he wished he could show a fair law incorporated into the decrees of the Church "whych lawe yf it were layed in theyre lyght that wold take vppon theym the defence of eny worshyppe to be done to ymagis / wolde make all theyr eyen dase" (355/31--356/1). Those present all asked to see it. Whereupon the Law Student took down a copy of Gratian's Decretum,[17] and showed them a text in which St. Gregory the Great wrote to a certain bishop that had broken the images in his church, and though St. Gregory blamed him for breaking them, yet for all that he commended him because he would not allow them to be worshipped.[18] Chancellor More asks the Messenger:

Dyd you quod I rede that law your selfe? In good fayth quod he [the Messenger] I stode by and loked on yt boke whyle he [the Law Student] redde yt. Dyd he quod I or you eyther rede the next law folowyng in the boke [i.e. the Decretum]? Nay veryly quod he / for me thought thys was ynough. (CW 6, 356/13--17)

Then Chancellor More responds that if they had read the next law following it in the Decretum, or the gloss on the law itself they would have seen "yt the law whych he [the Law Student] shewed you made lytle for his purpose" (356/20--21). The Messenger replies that they did not look at the following law "for we thought to fynde yt contrary. And yf we shold / then shold we not yet haue wyst which we shold byleue" (356/25--26). To which Chancellor More responds that the law following it in Gratian's Decretum "ys a law synodall made in the .vi. [seventh] Synode / in whyche there is well and playnely shewed that ymagis be to be worshypped among crysten men" (356/28--31).[19] The decrees of this Ecumenical Council, declare that: {194}

though we do the ymage honour & reuerence / yet for dyuyne honour & seruyce onely done to god / that kynde of worshyppe called latrya we neyther do nor may do / neyther to ymage nor any creature in all the hole world eyther in heuen or erth. (CW 6, 357/2--6)

(These decrees concerning dulia, hyperdulia and latria, it should be recalled, had been already treated beforehand in Heresies A1 in Books I:17 and II:11, as discussed in the previous chapter.) The Messenger objects, however, that in the law itself we read that St. Gregory plainly says the contrary. To which Chancellor More responds "in dede ye boke sayth no more but that they shold not be worshypped by thys laten word adorare. By whyche word he vnderstode the diuine worshyp called latrya" (357/13--15). Though the law following also uses the word adorare, it does so of that kind of worship [i.e. hyperdulia], that may be offered to images and not of latria. The Messenger objects again that the two laws appear to be plainly contradictory. To which Chancellor More replies that it would be very unlikely "yt saynt Gregory were of one mynd and the hole Synode [Ecumenical Council] of the contrary" (358/1--2). Chancellor More then promises to show the Messenger that St. Gregory meant the same as the Council:

And therwyth I toke downe of a shelfe among my bokes the regystre of saynt Gregoryes epystles / and therin turned to the very wordes whych are by Gracyane taken owt of hys secunde epystle ad Serenum episcopum Massilie / and in corporate in the decrees. (CW 6, 358/10--14)

By collation of these two texts, Chancellor More showed him that Gratian had taken only a part of that epistle, and that, from the other words of the epistle itself, it became evident that St. Gregory spoke only of the divine worship and observance due to God himself, which as learned men well know is called latria. The decree itself makes this clear when it stated that images are the books of lay people wherein they read the life of Christ. (It should be recalled that Chancellor More had already made use of this same decree in the treatment of [Contents]

[Luther's Heresies (IV: 2a, 3--9) (B.3) Summary]

21. After finishing his account of the treatment of images in Book IV: 2, Chancellor More returns in Chapter 3 to the third matter of Heresies B. Book IV continues with a critique of Luther's doctrines, and of the spread of the Reformation on the continent (Chapters 3--9; CW 6, 360--76). This is in turn followed in Chapters 10--12 by an account of the examination of an English Lutheran preacher that focuses on the central Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone (376--405).

22. Chapter 3 deals with how Luther first fell into heresy, Chapter 4 with Luther's appearence before the Emperor Charles V at Worms in 1521 and Chapter 5 with Luther's intransigence and the inconsistency of his opinions. Chapter 6 on Luther's scorn of the Church Fathers, and rejection of every interpretation of Scripture but his own. In Chapter 7 the horrors are described of the Peasant Revolt in Germany (1525), for which Luther is blamed, and of the Sack of Rome (1527) by mainly Lutheran Landsknecht of the Holy Roman Emperor. In Chapter 8, Chancellor More argues that among the Lutherans the doctrines of their sect itself are the cause of their cruelty and malice. In Chapter 9 Luther teaches monks and nuns to break their vows of chastity made solemnly to God, and to live in spiritual incest by marrying one another, when even the pagans severely punished those who broke vows of chastity made to their false gods. {196}


5.3.4 The Examination of a Lutheran Preacher (IV: 10--12) (B.3b)

23. The account that follows in Chapter 11 (for which Chapters 10 and 12 serve effectively as 'Prologue' and 'Epilogue' respectively) of the trial or examination of an unnamed Lutheran preacher is probably the most sustained example of reported dialogue or 'dialogue-within-a-dialogue' in all of More's works, with the possible exception of the 'Cardinal Morton Episode' in Book I of Utopia [see Figure 5.1]. The dialogue that follows, which focusses on the central Protestant doctrines of 'Justification by Faith alone' and Predestination, is obviously meant to serve as a general analysis of these heresies, and is not necessarily to be taken as the record of an actual ecclesiastical examination for heresy.[20]

[Not in Thesis]

The Examination of the Lutheran Preacher (IV: 10--12)

1. Chap. 10 (376/17--377/30) Prologue: Chancellor More introduces themes of Justification and Predestination
2. Chap. 11a (377/31--379/30) Introduction: The Messenger suggests that the English Lutherans are honest men and that Luther cannot be blamed for the excesses of the German Lutherans
3. Chap. 11b (379/30--383/34) The Beginning of the Examination Proper: Chancellor More denies this, introducing the example of an English Lutheran preacher [Dr. Forman?] who was examined for heresy. The Lutheran Preacher's claim that "faith alone is sufficient" is countered with the central importance of charity or love in 1 Cor.13 and elsewhere.
4. Chap. 11c (383/35--386/17) The Interjection of Messenger: The Messenger objects that St. Paul was using hyperbole in claiming that "without charity I am nothing", and that he did not mean to imply that faith could occur without charity. Chancellor More denies this claiming that faith can be without charity, but that St. Paul shows that all the works of faith, no matter how good they are, are nothing without charity.
5. Chap. 11d (386/18--388/34) The 1531 Interpolation dealing with the argument of the Epistle of St. James that faith without good works is dead. The Lutheran Preacher claims that true faith is alive with good works. His judges reply that the Lutherans twist the meaning of the word faith to include trust, confidence and hope as well as belief.
6. Chap. 11e (388/35--394/29) Faith and Works: The Lutheran Preacher then claims that though faith without good works is nothing, that when faith and good works are joined together all the merit comes from our faith. His judges reply that many passages of Scripture contradict this, such as when Christ promised on the Day of Judgment to give the Kingdom of Heaven to those who give alms, because of their charity (cf. Matt. 25: 31--46).
7. Chap. 11f (394/30--398/18) "All our works are wicked:" The Lutheran Preacher then claims that all our works are completely "naught", being spotted with sin. His judges reply that Luther denies that we can do good even with God's grace, but the Apostle thought far otherwise when he said "I have fought the good fight," etc. (2 Tim. 4:7--8).
8. Chap. 11g (398/18--399/31) Chancellor More's Comments: After many twists and turns in the end the Lutheran Preacher claimed before his ecclesiastical judges that only God works both all good and bad works in every man, and that all the works of a predestined man turn to good, no matter how evil they are
9. Chap. 11h (399/31--402/5) Conclusion: The final conclusion of the English Lutheran's defence was that all things depend only on destiny and that men's good or evil deeds count for nothing
10. Chap. 12 (402/6--405/31) Epilogue: Chancellor More concludes that the English Lutheran's false opinion that those who are saved are only saved because God predestines them, makes God the cause of all our evils, and makes him seem worse than the cruelest tyrant

Figure 5.1. The Examination of the Lutheran Preacher (IV: 10--12)


The rubric to Chapter 11 of Book IV gives one or two details about the 'Examination' not mentioned in the text:

And for profe that how so euer they [the Lutherans] colour theyr wordes / they meane that all dependeth vppon only desteny / he reherseth a certayn dyspycyon [disputation] had wyth an heretyque detected to the bysshop[21] & examyned / the author beynge present / where the heretyque beyng lerned & a prechoure / made many shyftys to make yt seme that in hys euyll wordys he ment but well. (CW 6, 378/3--9)

As a layman, Chancellor More was presumably present as an observer by invitation of the bishop, and may not have had any active role in the questioning of the heretic. There is no reason to suppose that the next twenty-five pages that follow in Chapter 11, to the extent that they may be based on a real trial, are necessarily a verbatim transcript of the actual examination or process; rather their function, as a "dialogue within a dialogue"[22] is to illustrate the labyrinthine ways of heresy and error, and to recapitulate many of the themes previously discussed by the Messenger and Chancellor More. This account forms the climax of Heresies B, and as such fittingly focuses on the central Lutheran doctrines of 'Justification by Faith Alone' and Predestination.

24. The examination is reported as a "dialogue within a dialogue" by Chancellor More who relates both sides of the argument,[23] while the Messenger once or twice interjects his own {197} comments. The responses of the English Lutheran, referred to hereafter as the 'Lutheran Preacher', are indicated by such phrases as "To thys he sayde" (381/22) or "To this he answered" (382/26), while the replies of the ecclesiastical judges are signalized by the use of impersonal constructions such as "Than was yt sayde vnto hym" (381/1, 382/3, 383/4), and "Then was yt answered hym" (380/6, 387/12).[24] In the discussion that follows I have preserved these remarkable periphrastic constructions which are an integral part of the style of this passage, but to help clarify the argument I have clearly indicated when it is the Lutheran Preacher who is speaking.

25. In Chapter 10, which effectively serves as a 'Prologue' to this section of Heresies B, Chancellor More first introduces the themes of Justification and Predestination. In concluding the account of Luther's heresies that was given in Chapters 2--9, he condemns the followers of Luther's sect in Germany:

as those that wrechedly lay all the weyght and blame of oure synne to the necessyte and constraynt of goddys ordynaunce / affyrmyng that we do no synne of oure selfe by eny power of our owne will / but by the compulsyon and handy worke of god / And that we do not the synne our selfe / but that god dothe the synne in vs hym selfe. (CW 6, 377/1--6)

This belief gives these wretches great boldness to follow their foul affections, since they think that it is vain for them to resist their own sinful appetites. For Luther says that "they that shall be dampned / shall be dampned he sayth for no deseruynge of theyr owne dedys / but for suche euyll dedys / as god onely forced and constreyned them vnto and wroughte in them hym selfe" (377/21--24), and that God will damn them finally because it was not his pleasure to choose them as he did his Chosen People.

26. In the next chapter, the Messenger begins by suggesting that perhaps Luther did not intend to do the evils that he is blamed for, and that even if the Lutherans in Germany are wicked, that there are some Lutherans in England, who are honest men, and who are very far from Luther's manner of living:[25] {198}

yet thought your frend [the Messenger] that such as here fauour & folow his [Luther's] sect in England / of whom sum seme ryght honest & farr from hys maner of lyuyng / do not so take hys wordes nor vnderstande them that way [i.e. provoking sedition] / but construe them to sum better sence. (CW 6, 378/15--18)

Chancellor More denies this and argues that "ye find few that fall to that sect / but that sone after they fall in to the contempt of prayer and fastynge and of all other good workys vnder the name of ceremonyes" (378/25--27). For all their appearances to the contrary, they mean no better than Luther himself. Chancellor More continues that in these matters:

I haue had good experyens / and amonge many other thyngys thys that I shall shewe you. It happed me to be lately present / where as one in the Lutheranes bokis depely lerned / and of trouth neyther in holy scrypture nor in seculare lytterature vnlerned (as I perceyue not only by the testimony of other men and the degrees he hadde taken in the vnyuversyte / but also by hys wordys and hys wrytynge) was in the presence of ryght honorable vertuous and very cunnyng persons examyned. (CW 6, 378/33--379/6)

At first the Lutheran Preacher tried to hide his heretical views unsuccessfully, but at last, seeing that they could not be concealed, he began to confess and declare the opinions of his sect; nonetheless, trying to make it seem that there was nothing strange or contrary to right belief in their opinions. Chancellor More starts his account of the Examination proper by reporting that the Lutheran Preacher began by claiming that:

whan he came to thopynyon / by whych they holde that onely fayth alone ys suffycyent wythoute good workys / vnto yt he sayd in the begynnyng that they ment nothyng ellys therby / but that men shold put theyr fayth in goddys promyses and hope to be saued therby / and that they shold not put theyr trust in theyr workys / for that wolde turne them to pryde. (CW 6, 379/36--380/5)

He was answered that he could not mean so because if this were their meaning, then they meant no differently than every common preacher had preached before Luther's days. What preacher has not taught them to do well, and taught them that, though God will reward good deeds, that they should not put their trust in themselves and their own deeds, but in {199} God's goodness. These things the Church has always taught against putting too much trust in our own deeds. If the Lutherans meant the same thing as the Church means, then you would preach as the Church preaches "and not blaspheme ye chyrche in your sermons / as though ye bygan true prechynge of the gospell / and that the chyrch had hytherto preched false" (380/29--31). Luther says plainly that faith alone without any good works justifies us and suffices for our salvation. Then the Lutheran Preacher replied that "fayth ys suffycyent alone / yf one happen after he haue faythe and baptysme to dye ere he haue tyme to do eny good workys" (380/36--381/1). Then he was answered that he could not mean so for then why should they blame the church, which teaches not the contrary. To this the Lutheran Preacher replied that:

they thought also that fayth alone doth iustyfye a man wythoute eny good workys / not onely in chyldren but also in euery age. For whan so euer a man that hath ben a synner dothe repente and amend in hys mynde wyth a full faythe in the promysys of god / he ys iustyfyed ere euer he do eny of these good workys / almoyse / fastyng / or eny such other. (CW 6, 381/22--27)

Then he was asked whether, if his faith is to be effective, a man should have charity and the intention of doing good works joined with it. The Lutheran Preacher replied "Yes quod he that he must yf he haue age & dyscrecyon therto" (382/8--9). Then he was answered that:

then was all goone that hym self had sayd bifore. For than dyd not fayth alone iustyfye the man / but the charyte wyth ye purpose of good workys / must by his owne grauntyng nedys go therwith / or ellys wold hys fayth iustyfye nothynge at all. (CW 6, 382/9--14)

But then the Lutheran Preacher replied to this that only faith was sufficient and that faith alone justifies because if a man has faith, he must of necessity do good works. For faith can never be idle, just as the fire must always burn and give heat. Faith always has good hope and charity combined with it, and can not but work well, no more than fire can be without heat. Then he was answered that: {200}

where ye saye yt fayth hath alway good hope wyth it / that semeth not alway trewe. For he that hopeth that by fayth alone he shall be saued wythout eny good workys / as Lutheranis do byleue in dede / he hath an euyll hope & a dampnable." (CW 6, 383/11--14)

If it is true that faith alone is sufficient because faith always has charity joined with it, then why do you not preach as well that charity alone is sufficient, which is as near to the truth as the other opinion. Charity is the thing that specially brings forth good works rather than faith. Charity is not always joined with faith:

Thapostell Poule in many places of his epistles sayth ye contrary therof. For he sayth that yf a man haue so grete fayth that he myght by the force of his fayth worke myracles / and also such feruent affeccyon to the fayth yt he wolde gyue his body to the fyre for the defence therof / yet yf he lacked charite / all hys fayth suffysed not. (CW 6, 383/28--34)

27. The Messenger at this point objects that the Lutheran Preacher should have argued that St. Paul was just using hyperbole, that he meant only to show the great need that men have for charity, and that he did not intend to suggest that it were possible for faith to occur without charity. Chancellor More replies "Forsoth quod I the man lacked you there / for he founde not that glose" (384/26--27). He goes on to explain that St. Paul's purpose was to teach the Corinthians that they should not trust that any gift of nature, or gift of God above nature, or any manner of virtue, alms deeds, faith, or anything else were able to stand them in good stead without charity. Chancellor More then paraphrases the famous passage on charity in 1 Corinthians, Chap. 13, and concludes, "ye may se nowe that your glose wold not haue releued thys man" (385/20--21). St. Paul plainly shows in this passage that:

fayth may be wythout cheryte / and that both so grete that yt may suffyse to the doyng of greate wonders / and so feruent that yt may suffre a paynfull deth / and yet for fawte of charyte not suffycyent to saluacyon / and that thys may happe as well in fayth as in almoyse dede / whych the appostle putteth in the same case. (CW 6, 385/29--34)

Contrary to the Messenger's argument and the words of the Lutheran Preacher, St. Paul {201} shows that all the works of faith, seem they never so good, are nothing indeed if they are not done with charity. He commends only the faith that works by charity, signifying that all other works of faith are not efficacious. Then a further objection was raised against the Lutheran Preacher, that St. James says that those who consider faith without good works sufficient for salvation are worse than devils, and that without good works faith is dead.

28. At this point in the 1531 edition Thomas More inserted an addition (386/18--388/34) dealing with the argument of the Epistle of St. James. The Lutheran Preacher cannot object that if a man has no good works, he has no faith, because a dead faith is no faith, for St. James "denyeth not but that suche a dede fayth as he calleth dede bycause yt is vnprofytable / ys yet a very fayth in dede / though yt be not quykke in good workys" (386/32--387/1). The Lutheran Preacher then answered that:

sum ryght well lerned men were of the mynde / yt wythout a man wrought good workys yt was a good profe yt he had no fayth at all / for very fayth could not but worke / and yt the deuyll had no fayth but by equyuocatione of thys word fayth. (CW 6, 387/5--8)

Then he was answered that those well-learned men were Luther and Tyndale and their companions, but that the apostles St. Paul and St. James taught the contrary. St. James knew much better than Luther and Tyndale what manner of perceiving the devils have in the articles of our faith, and that when Luther and Tyndale claim that the devil has no faith they go about to set St. James to school:

For they wold we sholde wene that saynt Iames dyd speke of fayth lyke one that wyste not what fayth ment / but were deceyued by equiuocation of ye word / callyng fayth the thyng yt is not fayth in dede / where as in dede saynt Iamys speketh of yt as he sholde / and vseth the word in hys ryghte sygnyfycation / and these Lutheranys abuse the word of a malycyouse mynde to deceyue vnlerned people wyth equyuocation. (CW 6, 387/32--388/2)

Faith signifies the belief which is given not only to such things as God promises, but also to every truth that he tells his Church, either by writing or without writing, which he would {202} have us bound to believe. The Lutherans seek to blind us with their equivocation by which they

abuse the word fayth all to gether / turnyng it slyly from bylyefe in to truste / confidence / & hope / and wolde haue yt seme as though our fayth were no thyng ellys but a sure truste and a faythefull hope that we haue in goddys promises. (CW 6, 388/12--16)

The Lutherans would make us believe that our faith were nothing but hope, whereas every man knows that faith and hope are two distinct virtues, and that hope is not faith but follows faith in him that has hope. It is possible to have faith without hope, one may as the devil does, believe in Heaven and know it too, yet be far from all hope thereof. Even hope is not enough, for hope without charity will but beguile them. Having finished his proof that faith alone is insufficient without hope and charity, Chancellor More then turns in the second half of Chapter 11 to proving that good works are also necessary for salvation.


5.3.5 Faith, Works, and Predestination (IV: 11b--12) (B.3b cont)

29. At this point in his account of the 'Examination of The Lutheran Preacher', Chancellor More then turns to the topic of the relationship between faith and works, and then after that to Predestination. The Lutheran Preacher, in response to the arguments of his Ecclesiastical Judges in the previous section, replies that when they say that only faith is sufficient, they mean not a dead faith that is without charity and good works but "a very fayth that is quicke and worketh by charite / & that such fayth he thought was suffycient" (389/1--3). Then he was answered that he could not mean so, for did not Luther say that it is

grete synne and sacrylege to go about to please god by good workes / & not by only faythe? How coud they say that onely fayth suffyseth / yf they shold meane that without charyte and good workis no fayth suffyseth? For yt were a mad thyng to saye that fayth alone suffyseth withoute good workis / and therwyth to say that wythout good workes fayth suffyseth nothynge. (CW 6, 389/8--14)

Luther says that nothing can damn a Christian man except lack of belief. Then the {203} Lutheran Preacher objected that though faith is nothing without good works, yet when it is joined with good works, all the merit comes from our faith only, and no part thereof from our works. He was answered that Luther says:

yt yt is sacrylege to go about to please god by eny good workis but fayth only. And than why sholde good workes be ioyned to fayth / or why shold god exacte good workes of vs? wherof shold they serue / yf they be nothyng plesaunt to god? (CW 6, 390/3--6)

30. Then the Lutheran Preacher was asked what moved him to think that when faith and good works are joined together, the good works are worth nothing, but that all the merit is to be found in the faith. To which he replied that if our good works should be the cause of our salvation, then as St. Paul says Christ died for nothing. For he did not need to die for us, if our own works could have saved us. Nor were we redeemed freely, if we could redeem ourselves with the payment of our own works. Then he was answered that, though Christ freely redeemed us "onely of goddys mere [utter] lyberall goodnes" (391/22--23), and though "yt be sayd by the mouth of our sauyour / he that byleueth shall be saued / where he nothynge speketh of eny good workys / yet meaneth he not that he yt byleueth shall be saued / wythout good workys yf he lyue to do theym" (391/27--30). For else it would be possible to be saved by keeping the commandments without faith since Christ said that if you wish to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven you must keep the commandments. At which time Christ spoke no words about faith. Christ also says in the holy scriptures:

Gyue almoyse / and all is clene in you. Whych wordys yf men sholde as largely conster [construe] for the preemynence of almoyse dede / as ye that are of Luthers secte conster the textys that speke of faythe / they myghte take a false glose and coloure to saye / that wythout faythe or penaunce eyther / or eny other vertue / almoyse dede alone suffyseth for saluacyon / how wretchedly so euer we lede oure lyfe besyde. (CW 6, 392/1--7)

To this the Lutheran Preacher replied that none of these texts prove the contrary of his claim that when faith and good works are joined together, all the merit comes only from our {204} faith and nothing comes from our works. Then he was answered that even if no text of scripture proved the contrary, yet since there is none that says so, and the whole Church says and believes the contrary, what reason, he was asked, do you have to say so? However, there are passages in scripture that are openly to the contrary:

Sayth not Cryste of theym that dothe almoyse / A good measure shaken together / heped and runnyng ouer shall they gyue in to your bosome? Dothe not our lorde shewe that in the day of iugement he wyll geue the kyngdome of heuen to theym that haue done almoyse / in mete / drynke / clothe / and lodgynge / bycause of theyr charite vsed in those dedes? (CW 6 392/34--393/4)

Although these good deeds will not be rewarded without faith, Christ promised to reward those works, and not just faith only. The man, on the other hand, who works wonders by faith but without good works or charity, "hys fayth shall fayle of heuen" (393/14--15). Then the Lutheran Preacher replied that if a man has faith, his faith shall not fail, nor cease to bring forth the fruit of good works. Then he was answered that he had made this point before but that "fayth or byleue ys not contrary to euery synne / but only to infydelyte and lacke of bylyef / so that wyth other synnes it maye stand" (393/22--24). The Lutheran Preacher replied that if men believed surely, he thought they would not sin. For who would sin if he truly believed that sin should bring him to Hell? Then it was answered that, though this might stop many from sinning, that yet there are many men on the other hand who, though their faith were never so strong, it would still not be strong enough to master their evil desires. For all his faith, St. Paul was so afraid when he was tempted with "the thorn in the flesh" (cf. 2. Cor. 12: 7--9), that he prayed three times for God to take the temptation away. The Patriarchs believed in God and yet they sinned: "I can not se but that Adam byleued the wordys of god / & yet he brake hys commaundement. And I thynke that kyng Dauyd fell not from his fayth though he fell fyrst in aduoutry [adultery] and efte [after] in manslaughter" (394/14--18). Then the Lutheran Preacher further objected that: {205}

yf our good workys and faythe be ioyned / yet myghte yt well appere by scrypture that all the meryte was in our faythe / and nothynge in mannys workys. For all the workes of man he sayde be starke nought / as thyngys all spotted wythe synne. (CW 6, 394/31--34)

He was answered that he had clearly changed his former opinion. Previously, he had said that faith alone was enough, because it brought good works of necessity with it, but that "now ye saye that there be no good workys at all but all oure workys be starke nought" (395/12--14).

31. Then he was answered that though "all suche iustyce of ours as ys onely ours / is all spotted and in effect all one fowle spot / for eny bewtye that yt hath in the glorious eye of god" (395/29--32), this does not mean as Luther and his followers would have it seem, that the grace of God working among all his people is so feeble and has so little effect, that no man may with the help thereof be able to do one good, virtuous deed. Luther plainly teaches that no one, even with the help of God's grace, can obey the commandments of God. When you say that we can do no good with the help of God's grace, "than were grace by your tale a very voyde thynge" (396/17). The Lutheran Preacher is then asked:

Was than all the laboure and the payne that the appostles toke in prechynge / all naught and synfull? all the turmentys that the martyrs suffered in theyr passyon all togyther syn? all the dedys of charyte that Cryste shall (as hym selfe sayth) reward with euerlastynge lyfe at the generall iudgement be they synne all togyther? Saynt Poule rekened it otherwyse. For he sayd boldely of hym selfe / bonum certamen certaui / cursum consummaui / et nunc superest mihi corona iusticie / I haue laboured and stryuen a good stryfe / I haue perfourmed my course / nowe lacketh me no more for me but the crowne of iustyce. (CW 6 396/17--27)

Of all the foolish words that Luther spoke, he never spoke more foolishly than when he claimed that God has need of our faith, even though he has no need of our good works:

Trouthe is it that he nedeth neyther oure faythe nor our workys. But syth that he hath determyned that he wyll not saue vs without bothe yf we be of dyscrecyon to haue both / therfore haue we nede of bothe. And yet neyther is there the one nor the other nor they bothe togyther bytwene theym / that be of theyr owne nature worthy the rewarde of heuyn. (CW 6, 397/19--24) {206}

To this the Lutheran Preacher objected that God accepts none of the works of infidels because without faith it is impossible to please God; but that God accepts all the deeds of those of his faithful chosen people who believe and trust in him. At this point Chancellor More comments that:

in the rehersynge of the communycacyon had with this man / it maye well be that my remembraunce maye partely mysse the order / partely peraduenture adde or mynysshe in som parte of the matter / yet in this poynte I assure you faythfully / there is no maner chaunge or varyaunce from his oppynyon / but that after many shyftes he brought it playnly to this poynte at laste / that he and hys felowes that were of Luthers secte / were fermely of this oppynyon / yt they byleued that onely god worketh all in euery man good workes and bad. (CW 6 398/18--26)

Then the Lutheran Preacher was asked whether St. Peter's denial of Christ or David's adultery and manslaughter were well approved by God. To which he replied that because they were chosen and predestined, therefore those sins were not imputed unto them, and neither were the sins of any other such predestined men, and that all the works of a person predestined by God to glory, turn to good for him, no matter how evil they are. The final conclusion of the Lutheran Preacher's argument was that:

all thynge hangeth onely vppon desteny / and that the lybertye of mannys wyll sholde serue of ryght nought / nor mennys dedys good or badde made no dyfference afore god / but that in his chosen people nothynge myslyketh hym be it neuer so badde / and in the other sorte nothynge pleaseth hym be it neuer so good. (CW 6, 400/4--9)

Then it was answered him that where he alleged of St. Paul, that there is no damnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, this saying was meant "of good faythfull folke that lyue vertuously / and therefore where he sayth that there is no dampnacyon to theym that be in Cryste Iesu / yt foloweth forthwith in the texte / those that walke not after the flesshe" (400/18--21). If God accepts all the works of the predestined then their sin is no sin, but only {207} those who are not predestined actually sin:

And than is it as moche to saye as no man may lawfully be nought / no man lawfully do thefte or aduoutry / nor lawfully be a manquellor / nor lawfully forswere hym selfe / but goddes good sonnes and his specyall chosen chyldren. (CW 6, 400/27--30)

God does not remit the sin of his chosen people nor does he forbear to impute the blame for sin to them "For he accepteth not folke for theyr persons but for theyr merytys" (401/20--21). God sometimes punishes more severely those who were formerly good in order that by punishment they should be called again to grace:

God called on Dauyd by the prophete Nathan / and yet punyshed his offence. Cryst loked on Peter after he had forsaken and forsworne hym / and Peter therewith toke repentaunce. God loked on Iudas and kyssed hym to / and he turned to none amendement. Nowe god frome the begynnynge before the worlde was created / foreseynge in hys dyuyne prescyence or rather in the eternyte of hys godhed presently beholdynge / that Peter wolde repent and Iudas wolde dyspayre / and that the one wolde take holde of hys grace and the other wolde reiecte it / accepted and chose the one and not the other / as he wold haue made the contrary choyce / yf he had foresene in them the contrary chaunce. (CW 6, 401/29--402/5)

32. In Chapter 12 Chancellor More finally concludes the 'Examination of the Lutheran Preacher' by condemning the false opinion of the English Lutheran Preacher---that all who shall be saved are only saved because God predestined them, and that all their deeds are good, or if evil yet God imputes no blame to them, and that God has predestined all other people to be damned, and does not accept their good deeds because he has not chosen them---as the most abominable heresy that ever was. This execrable heresy makes God the cause of all evil, and makes him seem worse than the cruelest tyrant or tormentor. Those who believe with Luther that no man does any evil himself, but that it is God himself who does it all, will not care what they do, except for fear of the temporal laws of this world. But if their false faith is strong enough, they will set all human laws at nothing also. What purpose should having laws serve then, and what would become of all good order among {208} men if every misguided wretch could claim that his mischievous deeds were the workings of destiny? If free will serves for nothing and every man's deeds are his destiny, why do they complain about those who punish heretics, since it is their destiny to do so? They seek to turn the world upside down, and defend their foly and heresy by force. And this they call the liberty of the Gospel---to be discharged of all order and all laws, and do whatever they like, whether good or bad, and attribute it all to the works of God wrought in them. But if their heresies were once accepted, how much suffering would befall before the World were set once again in order and peace?


[On Heresy Trials and the War Against the Turks (IV:13--18a) (B.4) Summary]

33. After concluding his account of 'The Examination of the Lutheran Preacher', Chancellor More then turns (Book IV, Chapters 13--18a; CW 6, 405--430) to the fourth matter of Heresies B, the last of the issues raised by the Messenger in his "letter of credence" at the beginning of Book I of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, namely the justification for heresy trials and the war with the Turks ("the warre and fyghtyng agynst infydels / with the condempnacyon of heretykes vnto dethe" 36/2--3). Chapter 13 is a defence of heresy trials. In Chapter 14 Chancellor More argues that it is lawful for Christian princes to fight against the Turks and other infidels. In Chapter 15 that Christian princes are bound to punish heretics. In Chapter 16 Chancellor More describes how simple unlearned people are often deceived by the learning of heretics, who prey on them like wolves in sheep's clothing, disguising the true intent of their teachings. In Chapter 17 Chancellor More argues that though the Lutherans often seem to lead holy lives, they are the worst heretics that ever sprang out of Christ's Church. In Chapter 18a (428/20--430/28) Chancellor More states that in punishing heretics the Church does no more than the old holy doctors did before.[26]


5.4 The Conclusion to The Dialogue Concerning Heresies

34. After this final matter of Heresies B has been dealt with, Chancellor More "to the {209} entent that ye shall perceyue it moch the better / and ouer yt byleue your owne eyen and not my wordys in many thyngys that ye haue herde of my mouth" (430/29--31) gives the Messenger several books to read in which he had marked the relevant passages "redy with ryshes bytwene the leuys / and notes marked in the mergentys where the matter is touched" (430/35--36). Among the books which Chancellor More gave the Messenger were certain works of St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, and other holy doctors, and also "therewythall a worke or twayne of Luther / and as many of Tyndall" (431/3--4). After the Messenger has had a chance to read over the relevant passages, they meet again on the following evening. The Messenger tells Chancellor More that he has seen in the books that he has been given that the clergy do no more at the present for the punishment of heretics, than the old holy fathers did in time past. And further he said that:

he had sene of Luthers owne wordys worse than he had euer herde rehersed / and in Tyndall worse yet in many thyngys than he sawe in Luther hym selfe. And in Tyndals boke of obedyence[27] he sayd that he had founden what thynge Tyndall sayth agaynste myracles and agaynst the prayenge to sayntys. (CW 6, 431/16--20)

Chancellor More replies "I wolde it had happed you and me to haue red ouer that boke of his before" (431/22--23), and offers to go through Tyndale's Obedience of a Christian Man with the Messenger and "peruse ouer his reasons in those poyntys / and consyder what weyght is in them" (431/24--25). To which the Messenger replies contemptuously that his own former arguments in favour of the Lutheran position were stronger than Tyndale's:

Nay by my trouth quod your frende we shall nede nowe to lose no tyme therin. For as for myracles / he sayth nothynge in effect but yt whiche I layd agaynst them before / yt the myracles were the workys of ye deuyll. Sauyng that where I sayd yt it myght peraduenture be sayd so / he sayth that in dede it is so / & preueth it yet lesse then I dyd. And therfore as for yt worde of his without better profe is of lytell weyght. (CW 6, 431/26--32)

Chancellor More responds that Tyndale's word alone ascribing all miracles to the working of the devil ought not to weigh much among Christian men against the writings of St. {210} Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Chrysostom, St. Gregory, and many other holy doctors writing in defence of miracles and pilgrimages. The Messenger replies that what Tyndale says against praying to saints is very bare. It must needs be bare unless he avoids miracles, continues Chancellor More, of which he will have neither God willing nor the devil able to show any as proof for their part. The Messenger finally dismisses Tyndale's arguments "as for reasonyng the matter of prayng to sayntes / he is not worth ye redynge now. For all ye substaunce in effecte yt ye [Chancellor More] proue it by / is by hym clene vntouched" (432/21--23). The arguments that Tyndale brings forth of his own making are so faint that they are plainly confuted by all the old holy doctors. The Messenger has obviously been completely won over by Chancellor More's arguments and contemptuously concludes "whan I consyder bothe ye partes well / & rede Luthers wordes & Tyndals in some places where ye layde me the rysshes / I can not but wonder yt eyther any Almayne [German] coulde lyke the one / or any englysshe man the other" (432/31--34). Chancellor More concludes with a prayer that God may

sende these sedycyous sectes the grace to ceace / & the fauourers of those faccyons to amende / & vs the grace yt stoppynge our eres from the false enchauntementes of all these heretykes / we may by the very fayth of Crystes catholyke chyrche so walke with charyte in the way of good warkes in this wretched worlde / that we maye be parteners of the heuenly blysse / whiche the blood of goddes owne sonne hath bought vs vnto. (CW 6, 435/21--28)

He then invites the Messenger to dinner "And this prayer quod I seruynge vs for grace / let vs nowe syt downe to dyner. Which we dyd. And after dyner departed he home towarde you [the Friend] / and I to the courte" (435/28--31). {211}


5.5 Conclusion

35. While the treatment of the topics in Heresies B, which it should be remembered were not selected by Chancellor More for discussion, but were first raised by the Messenger at the beginning of Book I, and to which Chancellor More finally only responded in Books III and IV of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, is more disjointed than the treatment of the topics in Heresies A, nonetheless, it can be seen that even here there is a coherent structure to the course of the argument in Heresies B. The treatment of Bilney's trial in the first half of Book III (B.1), and the general discussion of heresy trials in the second half of Book IV (B.4), in a sense provide an outer layer or 'shell' to the core of Heresies B, namely the discussion of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament (B.2), and Luther's heresies (B.3), especially 'Justification by Faith Alone' and Predestination (B.3b) in Chapters 10--12 of Book IV---in a manner analogous to the relationship between the 'outer shell' of Book I of Utopia and the 'Cardinal Morton Episode', and also the relationship between the two parts of Heresies A, namely Heresies A1 and Heresies A2.

36. The matters that have been omitted from the discussion of this chapter are mainly of historical interest. Although they occasioned the writing of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, the real focus of More's argument lies elsewhere. More's criticism of Tyndale's translation of the New Testament and his own advocacy of a Catholic translation of the Bible, together with his analysis of the Lutheran doctrines of Predestination and Justification in the "dialogue-within-a-dialogue" of the "Examination of the Lutheran Preacher" in Book IV, Chapters 10--12, is clearly at the heart of his argument in Heresies B. If the focus of Heresies A is on defending the whole system of traditional Catholic beliefs surrounding the relationship between saints, miracles, images, and pilgrimages; and also on reiterating the orthodox Catholic teaching that the Oral Tradition of the Church is as necessary as and as much a part of divine revelation as the written Scriptures; then the focus of Heresies B is to show that the revolutionary changes advocated by the early English Protestants were aimed very clearly and deliberately at subverting and destroying this {212} whole system of traditional English Catholic beliefs.

37. In the argument of Heresies B, Chancellor More is opposed to Tyndale's translation (B.2) precisely because it is deliberately subversive. He is clearly not opposed to biblical translation as such, since he advocates having a Catholic translation made. Similarly, in analysing the Lutheran doctrines of Justification and Predestination (B.3b), Chancellor More clearly shows that when these doctrines are taken to their logical extreme they lead to political revolution and the subversion of both Church and State, as witnessed in the horrors of the Peasant Revolt in Germany (1523) and the Sack of Rome by German Landsknecht (1527), described in the first part of Book IV (Chapters 3--9 = B.3a). It is against this background that Chancellor More justifies the Trial of Thomas Bilney in the first part of Book III (B.1) and the Church's traditional treatment of heretics, discussed in the last part of Book IV (B.4).

38. The Dialogue Concerning Heresies was the first of five polemical works dealing with the English Reformation written in English in the period 1528--1533. In these works and in the two earlier Latin polemics, More dealt in one way or another with all the crucial issues raised by the Protestant Reformation, which were to separate Catholics and Protestants for centuries afterwards. Among the major issues, addressed by More in his polemical works, including the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, are the translation of the Bible, the oral tradition of the Church, the nature of the Eucharist, the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding the consensus fidelium, the doctine of Purgatory, and devotion to Our Lady and the Saints, etc. More was prophetic right at the very beginning of the English Reformation in pointing out all the crucial issues that were to divide Catholics and Protestants. Many of these same issues were also to be crucial in the next century in the conflicts between Anglicans and Puritans. Though some of the theological positions held by the High Church party, e.g. acceptance of Royal Supremacy, were quite different, many of the battles were the same. More's polemical works are a veritable theological gold mine for anyone interested in the history of the English Reformation, as well as being a literary treasure house for anyone {213} who wants to study the beginnings of modern English prose and the evolution of the English language in the Early Modern period.

39. Though More's own theological views were impeccably orthodox, many of his emphases in the polemical works were surprisingly modern. His deep devotion to the Eucharist, unusual in the early sixteenth century, anticipates much that was best in Counter-Reformation, and even High Anglican (e.g. Herbert and Donne) piety. His sense of the church, especially in the Dialogue Concerning Heresies and in the Confutation of Tyndale's Answer, as the 'Common Corps [body] of Christendom' is surprisingly organic, anticipating many of the later positions of Vatican II. (In contrast to Fisher's polemical works, More has very little to say about the 'hierarchical' Church.) His emphasis, also developed in the Confutation, on the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding the consensus of the faith of the Church down through the ages again seems very unusual in the early Sixteenth Century, either among Protestants or Catholics, and also fits in with his own very organic understanding, as a lay theologian, of the nature of the Church.

40. More hammered out his own theological positions at white heat in the course of the five crucial years 1528--1533 that marked the beginnings of the English Reformation. By the end of this period he had resigned from his position as Lord Chancellor of England, and was living in semi-retirement while writing his polemical treatises. A year later in 1534 he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. While in prison he returned again to the dialogue form to write the last of the four works under consideration in this study, the Dialogue of Comfort, to be taken up in the next chapter. In that work on one level More turned inwards away from the conflicts of the polemical works to analyse the nature of comfort in tribulation, but on another level in the Dialogue of Comfort he was to offer a profound and moving extended meditation on the nature of human suffering, persecution for the faith, and Christian martyrdom that ultimately transcends the limited positions of the Reformation conflicts. {214}



[1] There is a brief, incomplete summary of Books III--IV, of the Dialogue Concerning Heresies in J. Gairdner, "Appendix: Abstract of More's Dialogue," Lollardry and the Reformation in England, 4 vols. (London: MacMillan, 1908--13; rpt. New York: Burt Franklin, 1974), 1: 543--78, esp. 567--78. Gairdner briefly summarizes Book III, chaps. 2--5, 8--14; Book IV, chaps. 1, 13--14, 17--18.

[2] More had particularly close connections with Oxford where he studied in 1492--94, before attending the Inns of Court in London. Either Oxford or Cambridge may be intended here.

[3] The form of this reported dialogue shows certain similarities to the two "dialogues-within-dialogues" in Books II:16 and III:14 of the Dialogue of Comfort described in the next chapter.

[4] By having Chancellor More address the Friend at this point, in describing the Messenger's "dialogue-within-a-dialogue" with the "Unnamed Critic," More the author is rather artfully reminding us that the Dialogue Concerning Heresies is itself one long "reported dialogue."

[5] There is a brief summary of Heresies B.1 available in J. Gairdner, "Appendix: Abstract of More's Dialogue," 567--69.

[6] The first edition of Tyndale's New Testament survives only in fragmentary form. See The Beginning of the New Testament. Translated by William Tyndale, 1525. Facsimile of the Unique Fragment of the Uncompleted Cologne Edition, introduction by A. F. Pollard (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926). For the 1534 edition see The New Testament. Translated by William Tyndale, 1534, ed. N. H. Wallis (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1938).

[7] See "Appendix C: The Heresy Statutes," in The Apology, Vol. 9 of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, ed. J. B. Trapp (New Haven: Yale UP, 1979), 247--60.

[8] For general background to the history of late Mediaeval vernacular translations, see "The Vernacular Scriptures," The Cambridge History of the Bible: Vol. 2, The West: From the Fathers to the Reformation, ed. G. W. H. Lampe (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1969), 362--491. ([10])

[9] See CW 4, 226/19--26.

[10] See CW 6, 690, note to 314/23--27, and 692, note to 317/11--12. It is possible that More also had in mind some of the vernacular biblical paraphrases that were so popular in the late Middle Ages, cf. n.8.

[11] For the Case of Richard Hunne and More's treatment of it in the Dialogue Concerning Heresies and the Supplication of Souls see J. D. M. Derrett, "Appendix B: The Affair of Richard Hunne and Friar Standish," in The Apology, Vol. 9 of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, ed. J. B. Trapp (New Haven: Yale UP, 1979), 213--46; S. M. Jack, "The Conflict of Common Law and Canon Law in Early Sixteenth-Century England: Richard Hunne Revisited," Parergon n.s. 3 (1985): 131--45; R. J. Schoeck, "Common Law and Canon Law in the Writings of Thomas More: The Affair of Richard Hunne," Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Strasbourg, 3--6 September 1968, ed. Stephen Kuttner, Monumenta Iuris Canonici, ser. C., subsidia 4 (Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1971), 237--54; S. J. Smart, "John Foxe and 'The Story of Richard Hun, Martyr,'" JEH 37 (1986): 1--14; R. Wunderli, "Pre-Reformation London Summoners and the Murder of Richard Hunne," JEH 33 (1982): 209--24; S. Brigden, London and the Reformation, 98--103. {215} ([17])

[12] For pre-Wycliffite translations, see G. Shepherd, "English Versions of the Scriptures Before Wyclif," The Cambridge History of the Bible, 2: 362--87; and for the Wycliffite versions, see H. Hargreaves, "The Wycliffite Versions," ibid., 387--415.

[13] John Fisher also agreed with More on the matter of vernacular translations, see R. Rex, ed., "St. John Fisher's Treatise on the Authority of the Septuagint," JTS 43 (1992): 68--70, 100--101.

[14] A scheme very much like this was actually later carried out by the English bishops after the break with Rome.

[15] This is the second of three 'major' additions to the 1531 edition. The other two occur at 39/26--47/22 and 386/18--388/34, cf. Chapter 4, n.46.

[16] The synod of Hiereia in 753 A.D., called by the Emperor Constantine V condemned the use of images. Its decrees were in turn condemned by the Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.), the seventh Ecumenical Council (not the eighth as Chancellor More mistakenly identifies it)---see CW 6, 703, note to 355/7--10, and E. Ruth Harvey, "Appendix A: The Image of Love," CW 6, 742--44, where the Eighth Century Iconoclastic Controversy is briefly discussed as background to More's treatment of the Image of Love in Book I:2. ([19])

[17] For Gratian's Decretum, which was one of the most important canonical collections of Mediaeval Canon Law, compiled in the mid-Twelfth Century, see the New Catholic Encyclopedia, 17 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1967), 6: 706--708. For More's own knowledge of Canon Law, see R. J. Schoeck, "Common Law and Canon Law in Their Relation to Thomas More," St. Thomas More: Action and Contemplation, ed. R. S. Sylvester (New Haven: Yale UP for St. John's University, 1972), 17--55 and "Common Law and Canon Law in the Writings of Thomas More: The Affair of Richard Hunne" (cf. n.11).

[18] For St. Gregory's two letters to Bishop Serenus (Registrum Epistolarum, Books IX: 105 and XI: 13), see PL 77, 1027--28, 1128--30; and CW 6, 704, note to 356/5--12. There is an English translation by J. Barmby in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 13: Gregory the Great, Ephraim Syrus, Aphrahat, ed. P. Schaff, and H. Wace (1888?; rpt. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1956), 23, 53--54. [Corpus Christianorum (Turnhout: Brepols). Vol. 141 containing Books I--VII of Gregory's Epistles was published in 1982.]

[19] More follows Gratian in mistakenly identifying the synod as the Sixth not the Seventh Ecumenical Council, cf. CW 6, p. 704, note to 356/16--357/8. On 355/9--10, already previously quoted, the same council was also incorrectly identified as the Eighth Ecumenical Council, see n.16 above.

[20] For More's treatment of Justification and Predestination in the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, and his Patristic and Scholastic sources, see G. Kernan, "Saint Thomas More Theologian," Thought 17 (1942): 281--302. Though one would have thought that the theme of Book IV: 10--12 was completely obvious, G. R. Elton for one completely misses the point of More's "dialogue-within-a-dialogue." One is amazed to read in his review of CW 6 of More's "total failure to consider the problems of justification and predestination on the level employed by the Lutherans", EHR 98 (1983): 155. He also misses the point of More's discussion of the Image of Love, see Chapter 4, n.47.

[21] If the examination is supposed to have taken place in London, then the bishop would be Cuthbert Tunstall, the bishop of London in 1528, and a close friend of Sir Thomas More; see also previous note. {216}

[22] In this case the "dialogue within a dialogue" is clearly a Streitdialoge or conflict dialogue. For patristic and mediaeval examples of streitdialogen, see E. Reiss, "Conflict and its Resolution in Medieval Dialogues," in Arts libéraux et philosophie au Moyen Age (Montreal: Institute d'études médiévales; Paris: J. Vrin, 1969), 863--872.

[23] The Yale editors identify this individual (citing Tyndale's Answer) as Dr. Robert Forman who was examined for heresy and suspended by Cuthbert Tunstall on March 19, 1528, see CW 6, 714). However, there is no proof that More necessarily had a specific person in mind. In an otherwise fine study, Susan Brigden rather naively assumes that More's account is a factual record of Forman's examination, see London and the Reformation, 113--15.

[24] The impersonal passive construction here is very similar to the use of the Greek middle mood. It is especially reminiscent of such expressions as legetai ("it is said") and graphetai ("it is written") in the New Testament and elsewhere. I know of no other comparable example of such usage in English.

[25] In an earlier section (Book IV: 7; CW 6, 368--72), Chancellor More had blamed the German Lutherans for the excesses of the Peasant's Revolt in 1525, and of the Sack of Rome in 1527.

[26] There is a brief summary of Heresies B.4 available in J. Gairdner, "Appendix: Abstract of More's Dialogue," 575--77.

[27] The obedience of a Christen man and how Christen rulers ought to gouerne, (Antwerp: 1528).

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