Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build the case for the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which was one of the causes of the separation of the English Church from union with the Holy See. Along with Thomas Cromwell, he supported the principle of Royal Supremacy, in which the king was considered sovereign over the Church within his realm.
During Cranmer's tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England and published the first officially authorized vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany.
- It is not also taught you in Scripture, that you should desire St. Rock to preserve you from the pestilence, to pray to St. Barbarra to defend you from thunder or gun-shot, to offer St. Loy an horse of wax, a pig to St. Anthony, a candle to St, Sithine. But I should be too long, if I were to rehearse unto you all the superstitions that have grown out of the invocation and praying to saints departed, wherewith men have been seduced, and God's honour given to creatures.
This was also no small abuse that we called the images by the names of the things, whom they did represent. For we were won't to say, "This is St. Ann's altar ;"-"My father is gone a pilgrimage to our Lady of Walsingham;"-" In our church St. James standeth on the right hand of the high altar." These speeches we were wont to use, although they be not to be commended. For St. Austin in the exposition of the 113th Psalm affirmeth, that they who do call such images, as the carpenter hath made, do change the truth of God into a lie. It is not also taught you in all Scripture.
Thus, good children, I have declared how we were wont to abuse images, not that hereby I condemn your fathers, who were men of great devotion, and had an earnest love towards God, although their zeal in all points was not ruled and governed by true knowledge, but they were seduced and blinded partly by the common ignorance that reigned in their time, partly by the covetousness of their teachers, who abused the simplicity of the unlearned people to the maintenance of their own lucre and glory. But this be profitable, for if they had, either Christ would have taught it or the Holy Ghost would have revealed it unto the Apostles, which they did not. And if they did, the Apostles were very negligent that would not make some mention of it, and speak some good word for images, seeing that they speak so many against them. And by this means Anti-christ and his holy Papists had more knowledge or fervent zeal to give s godly things ad profitable for us, than had the very holy saints of Christ, yea more than Christ himself and the Holy Ghost. Now forasmuch, good children, as images be neither necessary nor profitable in our churches and temples, nor were not used at the beginning in Christ's nor the Apostles' time, nor many years after, and that at length they were brought in by bishops of Rome, maugre emperors' teeth; and seeing also, that they be very slanderous to Christ's religion, for by them the name of God is blasphemed among the infidels, Turks, and Jews, which because of our images do call Christian religion, idolatry and worshiping of images: and for as much also, as they have been so wonderfully abused within this realm to the high contumely and dishonor of God, and have been great cause of blindness and of much contention among the King's Majesty's loving subjects and are like so to be still, if they should remain: and chiefly seeing God's word speaketh so much against them, you may hereby right well consider what great causes and ground the King's Majesty had to take them away within his realm, following here in the example of the godly King Hezekias, who brake down the brazen serpent, when he saw it worshiped, and was therefore praised of God, notwithstanding at the first the same was made and set up by God's commandment, and was not only a remembrance of God's benefits, before received, but also a figure of Christ to come. And not only Hezekias, but also Manasses, and Jehosaphat, and Josias, the best kings that were of the Jews, did pull down images in the time of their reign.
- The Life, Martyrdom, and Selections from the Writings of Thomas Cranmer by Thomas Cranmer, p.139-142, (1809)
- Now the nature of man being ever prone to idolatry from the beginning of the world, and the Papists being ready by all means and policy to defend and extol the mass, for their estimation and profit; and the people being superstitiously enamored and doted upon the mass (because they take it for a present remedy against all manners of evils); and part of the princes being blinded by papistical doctrine part loving quietness, and loth to offend their clergy and subjects, and all being captives and subjects to the antichrist of Rome; the state of the world remaining in this case, it is no wonder that abuses grew and increased in the church, that superstition with idolatry were taken for godliness and true religion, and that many things were brought in without the authority of Christ as purgatory, the oblation and sacrificing of Christ by the priest alone; the application and appointing of the same to such persons as the priests would sing or say mass for, and to such abuses, as they could devise; to deliver some from purgatory, and some from hell (if they were not there finally by God determined to abide, as they termed the matter); to hallow and preserve them that went to Jerusalem, to Rome, to St. James in Compostella, and to other places in pilgrimage; for a preservative against tempest and thunder, against perils and dangers of the sea, fora remedy against murrain of cattle, against pensiveness of the heart, and against all manner of affliction and tribulation
- Ibid, pp. 517-518, (1809)