THE idea of reform found very congenial soil in the J. Netherlands, but in France it was checked by the king's being dependent on the Pope for assistance against their common enemy, the Emperor. In Spain and Italy it never made any progress at all. No very satisfactory explanation has ever been found for the comparative success of Protestantism in North-West Europe and its total failure in the south. Distance from Rome and lack of sympathy with Latin ideals may have caused it.
Britain soon began to receive the continental doctrines, as merchants and sailors brought them to southern and eastern ports. The national tradition was anti-papal, and Henry VIII. turned against the Pope in 1529, when the latter refused, probably from fear of Charles, to nullify Henry's marriage to Catherine, Charles's aunt. Henry was simply a tyrant, but English public opinion was behind him. He declared himself head of the Church in England, and confiscated the property of scores of monasteries. He was, emphatically, no Protestant, and he burned Protestants who refused to accept the six chief points of Catholic doctrine. But he was persuaded to allow an English translation of the Bible, copies of which were chained in churches.
A small power, such as Britain then was, would hardly have dared to set herself against the policy of the greatest powers of the Continent but for one circumstance: she was an island. Henry founded the English navy of heavily gunned sailing ships, the first in Europe, and beat off a French invasion with it. The prestige of royalty was at its height, and Henry had the solid support of the upper classes, especially of those who bought up monastery lands. His father and his own able minister Wolsey had practically dispensed with Parliament, but his urgent need of national support drove him to summon it regularly (1529-36) and have his acts endorsed by it. It was thus saved from atrophy and the foundation was laid for future claims.
But the strongest thing associated with the new Protestantism originated in France and matured in the Swiss mountains. Calvin, a clever north-Frenchman, became at twenty-three the ablest exponent of Protestantism, and Geneva, where he settled, the centre of a new propaganda. Luther had denounced the Catholic doctrine of Salvation by Works, and preached Justification by Faith. Calvin revived Augustine's doctrine of Predestination. Every soul was fated at birth either to " election " and eternal life, or to rejection and eternal torment. There was no means of deciding whether one was of the elect, except by the consciousness of grace, but a devout Calvinist, after brooding over the awful problem of his fate, was almost certain to end in a happy consciousness of his own election. Geneva adopted a form of government by the upper citizens, enforcing harsh laws against most kinds of harmless frivolity.
This bleak Calvinist creed attracted followers in the German middle class, and during the 1540's it spread into north-western France, the Netherlands, and England, where small congregations met secretly, at the risk of death. It found its way later to Scotland and proved to be completely to the Scottish taste. There were also minor novelties of reform, like the Anabaptist sect, which flourished sporadically and was attacked by the bigger Protestant bodies quite as brutally as those bodies ever were attacked by the Roman Church.