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Life of Archbishop Cranmer

Life of Archbishop Cranmer

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Excerpt from Life of Archbishop Cranmer: A New Edition

The character of Archbishop Cranmer hath been equally the subject of exaggerated praise, and of undeserved censure. The protestant is as little inclined to acknowledge that he had any failing, as the papist is to allow him any virtue. The historian therefore, who means to be impartial, will often, of course, give offence to the warmer advocates of both sides.

At the hazard however of this I have endeavoured to do justice as well to the failings, as virtues of this celebrated reformer. Every cause, in which truth is concerned, is the better, I should think, for having all things but truth sifted from it. And in discriminating the lights and shades of a character, the greater the character is, the nicer should be the discrimination: for the very foibles of an amiable man are fascinating. Queen Elizabeth used to tell the artists who drew her picture, that she did not like shade: it was a mere accident.-It may be so : but it is such an accident, that the truth of a portrait cannot be had without it. - Besides, by impartial treatment, you add respect to the character you represent. General applause is always suspected, while just censure gives weight to praise.

But the question recurs; is your censure just ?

In censuring some parts of the archbishop's conduct, particularly his intolerant principles, I have little doubt of having the general sense of good men on my side.

As to the indelicacies, and improprieties of his behaviour, I can only appeal to my own feelings. What I should not wish to approve in myself, I cannot but censure in another. I always however give my reasons; and if they have no weight, they must be dismissed. Archbishop Cranmer certainly filled one of the most difficult stations, considering all its circumstances, in which a man could be placed; and the only matter of surprize is, that the false steps he made were so few.

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