Henry VIII: How The Man With Six Wives Ignited A ReformationDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | March 25, 2007
Selected highlights from this sermon
Anglicanism came about in an unusual manner. In order to support his immorality, King Henry VIII separated the Church of England from Rome. After he died, Protestantism began to take hold.
But Mary, Queen of Scots, persecuted it fiercely, burning hundreds of godly people at the stake. When she perished, Queen Elizabeth, a Protestant, brought stability. Even so, people wanted the realm to reform more than England. This led many to travel with their Protestant faith, as far as the shores of the United States.
If you’re visiting with us today and you think that Moody Church has turned into a lecture hall on history, you’re wrong. I have been doing this series on the Reformation and we continue that tonight, but you know, I’ve always been concerned about Christians who generally believe that church history began with the first Billy Graham Crusade. And what I want us to do is to understand certain things about theology historically, and tonight you’re going to learn about how Anglicanism came about and all kinds of other things.
Now, tonight’s lecture is so fascinating that if I don’t make this interesting, then you’ve got a problem. (chuckles) I mean here we’re going to see the providence of God like seldom you see it in history. I mean you talk about one little thing in history being important, like a pebble on a lake and the ripples go all the way to the shore. That’s what happens.
You know, of course, that Catholicism not only had Europe in its pocket, but also England, and so when we talk about the Reformation, we’re talking about the Protestantism—the Protestantization...I don’t think there’s a word like that, but let’s say there is...becoming Protestant. That’s the way it is, England becoming Protestant. How did it become Protestant? We learned about Germany and something about Switzerland, but what about England? Well, that’s tonight. If you’ve ever wondered about it, this is the place to be, to be edified and to learn. Thank you for joining us on the journey.
Now, of course, the way was prepared for the Protestant Reformation in England because of the ideas of Martin Luther. And if you were here for the first lecture that we gave, you remember that there were Lollards in England under John Wycliffe and they were promoting the English Bible and so, even though they lived a hundred years before this time, there were preparations being made for people to accept the Protestant faith. People were tired of the abuses of the clergy. But nonetheless, there was great opposition to Luther. Imagine his impact. Here he is in Germany and he is influencing England. In 1521, state officials and Catholics are worried about Luther’s works and they have a ceremony and they burn them in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Whenever I am at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and I’ve been there two or three times, I visualize...I stand back and I visualize 30,000 people gathering for the burning of Luther’s books. But nonetheless, Protestantism began to gain some foothold. And now I introduce to you the man who is one of the most remarkably evil, and yet unique individuals in all of history. His name is Henry VIII.
Henry VIII was not supposed to be the next king of England. His older brother, Arthur, was supposed to be the king. And Arthur married a woman from Spain. This marriage took six years to arrange. The idea was that if Arthur, who was going to be the king, supposedly they thought, married a Spanish princess, then Spain and England would be together and they would be united. That’s the way things worked in those days. So after six years, Arthur marries Catherine of Aragon, the Spanish woman, and low and behold, Arthur dies within six months without ever having been the king.
His father, who was Henry VII, continues to rule until he dies, and now next in line is the man who is going to be Henry VIII. Henry VIII has to marry Catherine of Aragon, because after all, she was married to his brother, who died, and furthermore, the marriage took six years to work out the details with Spain. Obviously he has to continue the succession, and so he marries her, Catherine of Aragon.
But Catherine of Aragon did not bear him a son, and Henry was obsessed with a son. She did give him a daughter who would be called Mary, and that daughter is going to turn out to be, in history, Bloody Mary.
Now what happens is this. Henry begins to wonder exactly what to do next and he wants to get out of the marriage because he has to marry somebody who’s actually going to bear him a son, and she’s getting older, and he doesn’t think she can bear a child anymore, and he is absolutely obsessive compulsive about having a son because they obviously make better rulers than a woman. Sorry about that. I’m just quoting Henry. So what happens is, he begins to wonder what he can do, so he appeals to the pope for an annulment. Clement is ruling in Rome, and he says, “Please annul my marriage.” What Henry did is, he got the scholars to try to find out some biblical reason why he could divorce Catherine of Aragon. And lo and behold, they found one. In Leviticus, chapter 20, verse 21, “If a man shall take his brother’s wife, they shall be childless.” Well, he wasn’t exactly childless. He had a daughter, but he didn’t have a son, and so taking this verse and building a shaky theory on it, he says the marriage should have never been consummated. This isn’t really a marriage at all. It’s a marriage that wasn’t a marriage, so he appeals to Clement and says, “Annul it for me.”
Pause right here. If the pope, Clement VII, had gone ahead and said, “Okay, I’ll give you an annulment,”—they used to do it in those days just like they do it now—the Reformation would not have happened. Certainly not this way. There would have been some kind of a Reformation, but I’ll tell you it would not have happened in the way it happened. All of history would have been changed.
Well, why didn’t Clement do it? An annulment here, an annulment there. The problem was that the head of the Holy Roman Empire at that time was Charles V. And Charles V was in a war with the pope. In fact, the pope was a virtual prisoner in Rome, and you know what? Charles V was the nephew of Catherine of Aragon. He would not have liked it to see his aunt humiliated. So the pope’s hands were tied. He wanted to give the annulment but couldn’t.
Henry was absolutely desperate. He appeals to the universities of Europe and says, “Get me out of this marriage. Find out a way.” Luther and Melanchthon weigh in on it and say, “Oh, you know you could have bigamy.” Like the man said who had two wives, “Isn’t that big o’ me?,” he said. Am I going a little fast for you tonight? “Go marry two,” and all the university said, “Oh, annulment is the way to go.” And then he appeals to the clergy. The clergy would have loved to have given him an annulment. The problem was they didn’t want to get into trouble with the pope who had said no to the annulment.
By now, Henry is madly in love with a woman by the name of Anne Boleyn. As a matter of fact, she’s pregnant with a child. Of all things she’s going to give birth to a girl, and that girl’s name is Princess Elizabeth, and is going to be Queen of England, Elizabeth I, reigning for 45 years. Anne Boleyn doesn’t know that obviously, but she’s pregnant, and the marriage has not yet been annulled to Catherine of Aragon.
Henry is in a stupor. What do I do now? So he goes ahead and he marries Anne Boleyn, his second wife. He still has Catherine of Aragon to take care of. So what is he going to do? The pope doesn’t give him an annulment, so he’s desperate. Well, I’ll tell you what he does. He decides that what he’s going to do is to encourage the parliament to come up with the Act of Supremacy. The Act of Supremacy says very much that Henry is the head of the Church of England, and that the pope is to be regarded as nothing more than one of many Italian bishops, and the new head of the Church of England is none other than King Henry VIII, king of the Roman Catholic English church. “I am above the pope.” The Act of Supremacy. So, with the action of Parliament the pope has no authority in England.
Could I give you a parenthesis? Previous to this, Henry was a very good Catholic. In fact, he died a very good Catholic. In fact, Martin Luther had written a book in which he said that there were only two sacraments, and lo and behold, Henry, with the help of some of his aides, wrote a book against it, defending the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic church, and the pope was so pleased that he named him and crowned him “Defender of the Faith.” That’s why in England that was on their coins for years. That’s its origin, “Defender of the Faith.” I understand it’s taken off the coins now, and Charles, who is going to be king someday, says that he wants to change it to “Defender of Faith” and not “the faith.”
So the pope, you see, had given this award to Henry. This was, of course, before Henry decided to come forward with the Act of Supremacy, and he was the “Defender of the Faith,” and now he takes the very pope who had so honored him, and basically says, “The pope has no authority.” And so the Act of Supremacy put Henry in charge of the head of the church. And who’s the head of the church today in England? The queen. And when there’s a king, the king. Where did that come from? Right here. I’m telling you the story.
Well, now, you know there were some people, after he had done the Act of Supremacy, who didn’t like it. But Thomas Cranmer... Hang on to that name, folks, and I have to go so fast today. This should really be a two-hour lecture. Thomas Cranmer initiates a way by which the marriage is annulled. And what does Henry do to Thomas Cranmer? He appoints him as the Archbishop of Canterbury. That’s where the Archbishop of Canterbury in England came from today. Why is Canterbury so important? Well, it’s a very large diocese, but Henry appoints him Archbishop. And that’s why the succession of the Archbishops of Canterbury has been so important in English history, going back to Henry.
Now, what happened was Henry had created the English Catholic church. Now the problem was that there were some people like Thomas More who refused to accept the authority of Henry over the pope, because Thomas More was a good Catholic. If you’ve seen the movie, “A Man for All Seasons,” it’s his story, and he’s generally thought of as a very principled person because he actually was beheaded by Henry for refusing to accept Henry’s authority.
Now, I might say in passing that Thomas More had been a vicious enemy of Protestants, but let that be as it may. The fact is that Thomas More was beheaded because of his principle of being unwilling to accept Henry’s authority over the church.
I should point out that in addition to the Act of Supremacy, Henry also put in place the Law of Treason and Heresy. You know what the Law of Treason and Heresy was? “If you do not accept my authority over the pope, you die.” That’s how come Thomas More died, but a lot of others did too. Good Catholics died because they wanted to accept the authority of the pope above Henry’s, and Henry said, “You can do that, but your body will be in two pieces.”
Well, Anne Boleyn, bless her, as I mentioned did not bear Henry a son, but did bear him a daughter, I should say, who is going to become Queen Elizabeth and will reign for 45 years. And Henry suspects her of adultery, and Anne Boleyn is taken to the Tower of London and beheaded.
Now it’s time for a parenthesis. I believe with all of my heart that Anne Boleyn is going to be in heaven. I didn’t bring it with me because I don’t have time, but if you were to read the prayer that she prayed before she died, it was an amazing prayer. She said, “I entrust my soul to the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His blood for sinners.” I mean it would give you goosebumps. As a matter of fact, when she was beheaded there at the Tower of London, and you can go to the site today to see the place of beheading, as I have done on an occasion, she actually had with her a New Testament. And where did she get that New Testament from? Tyndale. Now, she’d never met Tyndale directly because he was on the continent, but what Tyndale did was, he sent her a New Testament and she spent time advancing the Protestant cause. And Henry didn’t like that at all. Now she was accused of adultery. That’s why she was beheaded. But very probably she was not at all guilty of adultery. Henry already had someone else in his sights, because you know, we’ve only covered so far just two of his wives.
The third was Jane Seymour (his third wife). He married her the day after Anne Boleyn died (and was executed). And she gave Henry his son, Edward. He took this as vindication that the other two marriages were never marriages. At last God smiled on him. As for Jane she had difficulties in childbirth and died, in effect, shortly after little Edward was born. And Henry was really heartbroken. When you go to Henry’s tomb today it’s Anne Boleyn who is buried with him, the only one of his six wives who has that privilege. [Editor’s note: It is Jane Seymour who is buried with Henry; Pastor Lutzer corrects it during the Q&A at the end].
Well, we must hurry on to number four. That’s Anne of Cleves. She was recommended to him by Thomas Cromwell who was an ancestor to Oliver Cromwell. In fact, Anne was from Germany. She was brought there to form another alliance politically, and so forth. She only knew German. She was not able to function in the king’s court and Thomas said, “Oh, she’s very beautiful,” and brought a picture of her, without a digital camera, it was just a painted picture, and she looked very beautiful. When Henry saw her, she was just barely pretty. Could I say humbly, he was unable to consummate the marriage? He never did connect with Anne of Cleves. She was number four.
Well, now we get to number five, Catherine Howard. She apparently kept up male friendships and so forth, so he had her beheaded. And then his final wife was Catherine Parr. She’s number six, and she outlived the old man because by now he was bloated, and he died of syphilis, and she outlived him and actually married someone else. And that was her fourth marriage. She had been married twice before Henry. She married Henry and then the fourth time she got married.
So when you think of his wives, it goes like this: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. That’s the way you remember the six wives of Henry VIII. He only beheaded two of them. The others died natural deaths, God bless them.
Now, here’s the point. The confiscation of the monasteries took place under his rule. All of the monasteries in England were sold. The nuns and the monks were told, “You don’t need to be monks and nuns anymore,” and the lands were sold, and that’s where the aristocracy in England really arose. Five-hundred seventy-eight monasteries were sold between 1530 and 1540.
All right. Henry dies, but what has happened? A couple of things. First, the pope no longer has any authority in England so the strength of the papacy is gone. No more having to pay taxes to the papacy. You have also the fact of the active uniformity which says that everyone should conform to the new religion, the new kind of Catholicism, out of which Anglicanism is going to come. And you also have this man, Thomas Cranmer, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a Protestant. Now he was appointed by Henry because remember he arranged Henry’s annulment of his first marriage. But Thomas Cranmer is a very important person in this story.
So, before Henry dies, he says what he would like to do is, he outlined the succession after his death. He says, “First of all, I want Edward to reign.” Edward, you remember, is the son of Jane Seymour. “And then I want Mary to reign,” the daughter of Catherine of Aragon. She’s going to be “Bloody Mary.” And then Elizabeth, the daughter of Anne Boleyn. He said, “This is the succession.
When Henry dies, he dies a good Catholic. As a matter of fact, he leaves lots of money for the church to say lots of Masses for him because he killed a lot of people, and he knew that he needed absolution. See, this is why Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone was so devastating to the church. When people died, when rich people died, they left the church an awful lot of money so that the church would remember to say a lot of Masses for them. And now suddenly justification by faith alone was cutting through all of that and saying, “You don’t need these Masses.” Well, Henry dies of syphilis. He was a very immoral man, and he passes off the scene.
All right. Edward reigns. He’s nine years old when he takes the throne. Two counselors are appointed. One is Thomas Cranmer. Protestantism is increased in the land. The Mass is abolished, and all kinds of changes come. Parliament passes a law that all communicants should be allowed to partake of the wine and the bread. And the images were removed from the churches. But alas, he rules very, very few years, because at the age of 15 he dies. What did he die from? Almost certainly he was poisoned by his half-sister, Mary, because she was so anxious to get to the throne.
So Edward dies, and Protestantism must retreat because coming to the throne now is the daughter of Catherine of Aragon. And you remember Catherine was from Spain, very Catholic, and Mary herself had been persecuted by the Protestants so she is determined to turn the clock back to Catholicism. She mandates that the Mass is going to be used throughout all of England, and she reigns, and my, how does she reign. Her marriage... She had a disastrous marriage to Phillip II of Spain, and that’s a long story. And she was obsessed about having a son. She wanted a son desperately because she did not want the throne to be given to her half-sister, Elizabeth whom she knew was a Protestant. Elizabeth, very probably, came to understand the Protestant faith because of her mother. Is this all becoming clear? She is the daughter...Elizabeth is the daughter of Anne Boleyn, who I told you I believe is going to be in heaven. And so Mary wants a son.
Now, there is a name for it, but she actually had a disease where she thought that she was pregnant. And the bells in London tolled that a child had been born, but alas (It happened on two occasions.) there was no child. She ended her life basically being psycho. But she rounds up 2,000 clergies who had married, and she fired all of them. They lost their positions. The Mass was restored throughout England, and four or five hundred people were burned at the stake and massacred because they were Protestants. And that’s where she got her name—Bloody Mary.
So if you remember the three children of Henry, and the order in which they ruled, you basically understand the Protestant Reformation. First of all, you have Edward. He is poisoned at the age of 15. Then you have Mary who turns out to be Bloody Mary. And then you have Elizabeth. But let’s not hurry over Mary.
During the time of the Marian Persecutions there were many martyrs. I told you between four and five-hundred, but there were three who were very, very famous. And today you can go to Oxford where I have stood. And you stand there and there is traffic along the street, and there’s a marker there in the street, and the cars are going this way, and the cars are going that way, and people don’t even think of what happened there.
Three famous martyrs were burned at the stake there. One was a man by the name of Nicholas Ridley. He was the bishop of London. In 1540, he became a chaplain to the king. He saw the error of transubstantiation and convinced Latimer, who I’ll refer to in a moment. And Nicholas Ridley helped Cranmer write the “Book of Common Prayer” and the Thirty-nine Articles of what became known as the Anglican church. And so he removed stone altars, and for other things that he was considered to be wrong about, he was burned at the stake, with Hugh Latimer. Latimer was a great preacher. Latimer said, “If I see the blood of Christ with the eye of my soul, that is true faith that His blood was shed for me.” He emphasized the English Bible. Latimer was actually in the king’s court, able to preach under Edward but, of course, was banished under Bloody Mary.
And now I want to tell you about how these two died. He’s burned to death during the persecutions in 1555. He takes the candle from the executioner and lights his own fire and says, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, (he and Ridley are dying together) this day we shall light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.”
Wow. So he takes the candle and he lights his own fire. That’s what happened at Oxford where you can stand today where it happened. In fact, you can actually go somewhere and you can see what the flames did to some of the doors and some of the buildings in that area. It was a huge bonfire.
Watching these two guys burn to death is Thomas Cranmer, who I told you about earlier. Cranmer wrote the Thirty-nine Articles of Anglicanism. He was a great promoter of Protestantism. Remember he was an adviser under Edward, who was Protestant. He was the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Mary wanted him to recant so badly because she thought if she could get him to recant then all of England (all these Protestants) would recant. And do you know what? She succeeded. Under pressure, Thomas Cranmer denied the Protestant faith.
Now, he was forced to watch the burning of Latimer and Ridley, and he was forced to see that [in order] to get him to recant. He is asked if he will recant and he does recant on several occasions. But ultimately...I know that all of you have been disappointed at this point. You say, “Oh this Thomas Cranmer. Oh, don’t tell us that about him.” It’s all right. It ends well. Ultimately, he recants of his recantation, and he is burned, and he puts his hand in the fire that signed the document, and he says, “This hand, which hath sinned, having signed the writing, must be the first to suffer punishment.” He held his hand in the fire until it was charred, and then he was burned to death in the very same place where Latimer and Ridley were burned to death there in Oxford.
Well... By the way, you can ask questions if you want. You can write them on your song sheet there. We’ll get the staff to pick them up in just a few moments.
Well, what about the reign of Elizabeth? Forty-five years. She’s the daughter, now, of Anne Boleyn, and tradition says she was overcome when told of the death of her half-sister. She is to have knelt in the grass and to have quoted in Latin, “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Philip of Spain wanted to marry her, thinking that he would force Catholicism on England, and she absolutely refused to marry him or anyone else, and she is known as the Virgin Queen, reigning for 45 years. She was a Protestant, though her doctrinal views are somewhat confusing. Yes, there were times when she attended Mass, and yet when the Abbot of Westminster came to her with sputtering candles, she waived them aside and said, “Away with these torches. We have light enough without them.”
Now we get to something that is so intriguing. Most of her life, Mary Queen of Scots is plotting against her. Now that’s a story I’m going to tell you. There’s one more lecture left in this series. Okay? And it’ll be the last. We’ll take Scotland and John Knox.
Mary Queen of Scots is a cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. How they are related I shall not tell you because it doesn’t matter for our purposes. And Mary Queen of Scots is brought from France to reign in Scotland, and all kinds of trouble breaks out there, and you feel sorry for Mary Queen of Scots. And she has a child by the name of James that she can’t even raise. James is taken away from her and raised Protestant. But Mary Queen of Scots believes, as all of the Scots did, that Elizabeth I should not be ruling in England because she is, strictly speaking, an illegitimate child, because after all, Henry’s first two marriages were annulled. And so, strictly speaking, she was conceived illegitimately.
And so Mary Queen of Scots plots against Elizabeth and wants to kill her, and finally when Elizabeth knows that the evidence is overwhelming, she could not bring herself to sign the death warrant. I should have saved this story for the next lecture, but some of you might not be here, and you can’t live without this. She could not bring herself to sign it, so what she did is she signed a whole bunch of papers but the death warrant was among them, and she just kind of closed her eyes and signed one paper after another, after another, after another. And Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded for having plotted the downfall of Elizabeth I. But here’s the kicker. I tell you...I’m telling you the whole story.
Mary Queen of Scots lost in life because her cousin Elizabeth had her beheaded. But Mary Queen of Scots won in death. You know this James that I’ve been telling you about that she bore? He ended up becoming the King of England and the King of Scotland, uniting the two monarchies, and it was his idea, because of what his advisers told him, that gave us the King James Version of the Bible.
And here’s something. I’m sorry if I am finding this interesting and you are not. I go to Westminster Abbey and I say to the tour guide (Now, Mary Queen of Scots, her remains were brought to Westminster and buried there by her son, James.), “I want to go to two tombs.” Now Westminster Abbey is nothing but a cemetery. But I said, “There are two tombs I especially want to see. I want to see the tomb of Elizabeth I, and I want to see the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots,” because I read in tour books that the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots is more ornate and taller than the tomb of Elizabeth I.
So I walked through Westminster Abbey and saw the tombs. You go to this room and you see the tomb of Elizabeth I, and then you go and you see the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots. Absolutely, it’s more ornate. Why? Because how they were buried and the ornamentation of their tombs was determined by James who is the son of Mary Queen of Scots, so obviously he’s going to give his mother first dibs, even though she never ruled over the kingdom of England, most assuredly. And she ruled for a time in Scotland, and even though Queen Elizabeth ruled for 45 years, her tomb is not quite as fancy, nor as big. Blood runs thicker than other relationships, doesn’t it?
Now, what do we say about the Anglicans? What is Anglicanism? Anglicanism, and it is really under Elizabeth I that it was solidified, with all kinds of rules that standardized it, the Common Book of Prayer [sic], the Common Book of Liturgy, and so forth—Anglicanism is basically Protestantism with Catholicism still evident through such things as the vestments. The Anglican church takes the theology of Protestantism, the Thirty-nine Articles, and retains many Catholic practices in terms of liturgy, worship, vestments, the garments, etc. that are worn by clergymen. Often these garments are indicative of the rank, etc. These are especially worn while performing the Eucharist, or on a ceremonial occasion. And in America, we call Anglicans Episcopalians.
High church has more ritualism than low church, so when you go to an Anglican church today, if you have a Catholic background you probably pick up on a lot of things that those of us who are a little bit more Protestant may not have. And it’s because Anglicanism is really a synthesis of Protestantism with some remnants of Roman Catholicism.
All right, the Puritans have to leave under the bloody persecutions of Mary. They go to places like Geneva that I told you about where Calvin welcomed them, and where they built homes on top of homes in the city of Geneva. And they are there for a number of years, and then Mary (Bloody Mary) dies, and now they know it’s safe to return to England. And they’ve heard that the church is reformed, and so the Puritans begin to attend church, but they say, “This church is not reformed.” And because of acts of uniformity, everybody has to follow the common rituals. It was standardized for the whole Anglican church, and they didn’t like that, so they said to themselves, “You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to come to America and we’re going to find freedom of religion for ourselves, and worship God in the way in which we want to worship God.” And what did they bring with them but the Geneva Bible that was translated into English while they were refugees there in Geneva with Calvin.
And who else is studying there for two full years in Geneva with Calvin but John Knox whose story I’m going to tell you next time. Knox is a man with many faults. There are people, you know, who have feet of clay. I would say that Knox had clay up to his armpits. I mean, you know, he was very human with many faults, a lot of pride, a lot of rigidness. I mean he talked to Mary Queen of Scots on six occasions. I’ll tell you that story, but yet, that’s the genesis of the Presbyterian church, and today we have Knox seminaries all over the world, don’t we?
What can we conclude tonight as we do conclude? And if you have any questions, staff, this is the time where you go up and down the aisles and pick up the questions. Now maybe I’ve answered all of them so if we have no questions tonight no problem, but this is the time to do it.
First of all, history is really God’s story. Think of the fact that Henry VIII was, by any measure, an evil man, beheading whomever he wishes to behead. By the way, did I tell you about Anne of Cleves whom he didn’t find to be beautiful, and Thomas Cromwell is the one who worked through and set her up and brought her from Germany? Do you know what Cromwell got for that? He was beheaded. “I’ll teach you to tell me a woman is beautiful when she isn’t. Will that learn you or won’t it?” Of course, he was evil. Yet, he was the means by which the power of the papacy and the power of the church was broken in England. Very interesting. History is God’s story. And you think of the fact that the Reformation began in England because of personal issues, namely a marriage that wasn’t a marriage. How do I annul this marriage? I already told you that if the pope had annulled it, that would have been the end of the game. Henry could have married someone else and gone on.
We, also in history, learn that children can be used of God, even if they were conceived illegitimately. You remember I told you that before Henry even had an annulment from Catherine, Anne Boleyn was already pregnant with Elizabeth I. And Elizabeth I became this great queen under whom England mightily prospered in her 45-year reign. Isn’t it interesting the way in which God uses all kinds of circumstances, and even all kinds of sins?
And then we learn such things about Anglicanism, its compromise between Calvinism and Catholicism.
Question: I think you said that Anne Boleyn was buried next to Henry.
Answer: And if I did that, that is an error. I am really sorry. It is Jane Seymour. Absolutely. Did I not say Jane Seymour is buried next to Henry? Did I say Anne Boleyn? That is an error. Of course not, because she was beheaded at the Tower of London. And you can go to the church in the Tower of London, and they will tell you that under this altar are the bones of many people, including the bones of Anne Boleyn. So that is a mistake.
Question: What are his two last wives named?
Answer: Catherine Howard is number five. And Catherine Parr is number six. Two Catherines And sometimes it is jokingly said... In fact, I was preaching somewhere this weekend, and I said to the people as I got near to the end of my message, “Just be patient. To quote the words of Henry VIII to his fifth wife, ‘I won’t keep you very long.’” You know.
Question: Did you know if Robert Bruce of Scotland was a believer?
Answer: I do not know the answer to that question. I know very little about Robert Bruce.
Question: Wasn’t there a translation of the Bible affected by Henry’s influence?
Answer: Yes. I’m not sure if it’s the Coverdale Bible. It may be. When I lecture on the history of the Bible I mention that. And Henry...Oh yes! Here’s another stroke of providence. Henry allowed the Bible to be read in the churches and he did that to solidify his opposition to Catholicism which did not allow it to be read. So you see, Protestant ideas began to flourish under Henry with, in a quasi-kind of way, his approval. And you’re absolutely right. Thank you for reminding me of that. I believe it is the Coverdale Bible. It was called, I think, the big Bible because there was only one per church, and every church was supposed to have a reader of it, and that was with Henry’s blessing. And so in spite of himself, Henry promoted the Word of God.
I guess when I study history, one of the things I think about is all the experiences that people have had in life. I mean, just think of England where you had beheadings, where you have people being killed, and you have all this political intrigue. You know one day, everybody is supposed to be Protestant. Mass abolished. The next day, everybody is supposed to be Catholic. Mass is back. That’s the way it was in Scotland, even worse, but you have to wait for the full story.
Bottom line, if there is some takeaway tonight, it is simply this: We ought to be very, very grateful to Almighty God that we live in a country where you can go to Mass if you want. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to go to Mass. You can attend a Protestant church. You can attend an Anglican church, and we have freedom of religion. My dear friend, that is something that is so precious we had better not take it for granted.
Well, thank you for joining me on this very, very brief journey of the Protestant Reformation in England, and the incredible story of Henry VIII and his six wives.
Would you join me please as we pray?
Our Father, today we want to thank you for those who died. I want to thank you for Cranmer who denied the faith and then recanted his recantation and put his hand first in the fire and let it burn because it wrote the recantation of his faith. I want to thank you for Ridley, for Latimer. What a preacher. Thank you, Father, that they represent hundreds of others. We were in England and we saw the fields that were wet with the blood of the martyrs at one time, during this period. And yet there you are, doing your work, working in spite of people, working through people, accomplishing your end, getting the Gospel out, and we thank you. We thank you that we stand upon the shoulders of many people, and that we have the privilege of worshiping with such liberty and freedom. We are deeply, deeply indebted. In Jesus’ name, Amen.