Powerful Cardinal, Neglected God

When I visited Ipswich in the summer, I wished to find some connection to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. This incredibly powerful man, once Chancellor of England, rose from humble beginnings to great height, only to fall down again. Whether he was as full of pride and vanity as his snobbish opponents insisted, one cannot be sure. Charged with high treason, he was being carted off to London to face trial, when, conveniently for Henry VIII and mercifully for Wolsey himself, he died of illness. When Kingston, the royal messenger arrived summoning him to London, he famously observed:

“Master Kingston, I see the matter against me now it is framed; but if I had served God as diligently as I have done the King He would not have given me over in my grey hairs.”

I have little sympathy for Roman Catholic cardinals, but I wonder if this little admission that he had put king before God, career before soul, this world before the world to come, was a sign of genuine repentance.

Ipswich is proud of its famous son, and a grand statue of him with excessive robes sits in its centre. Re-paving was taking place while I was there, and the statue seemed rather ridiculous next to that modern machinery and fencing. On the site, opposite, of where he grew up is now a recruitment agency. To recruit a clever lad from a butcher’s shop into a clerical career and from thence to national government, would be a triumph indeed for social mobility. The question, though, is not where you come from, but where you’re going. His confession about serving Henry better than King Jesus is a self-indictment. Too many of us serve cheap and unworthy causes, only to neglect the One for whose service and pleasure we were created.

How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?

Heb. 2:3