16 Pages


In the middle years of the sixteenth century, heresy was not as clearly defined as it later became, particularly at the grass-roots level. Whereas the preacher who asserted that salvation came by faith and not by good works was clearly a Lutheran, and he who asserted that the bread and wine remained in the Eucharistic elements was a reformer of a more radical kind, the much vaguer mutterings among their flocks were harder to pin down. Dissent at first was an elite matter, expressed in the arrest of reforming bishops and preachers, and their deprivation by royal commission. Beneath the luxuriance of early sixteenth-century cults lay the strong undertow of dissent, which divided communities and helps to explain why there was so little resistance to Henry's iconoclasm. The medieval heresy laws had been repealed at the beginning of Edward's reign, along with the conservative Act of Six Articles, and would in any case not have answered to the major need.