Larger font
Smaller font

History of Protestantism, vol. 3

 - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    Chapter 15: Elizabeth; Restoration of the Protestant Church

    Joy at Mary’s Death—A Dark Year—The Accession of Elizabeth—Instant Arrest of Persecution—Protestant Policy—Difficulties—The Litany and Gospels in English—Preaching Forbidden—Cecil and Bacon— Parliament—Restoration of the Royal Supremacy—Act of Uniformity— Alterations in the Prayer Book—The Sacrament—Disputation between Romish and Protestant Theologians—Excommunication Delayed—The Papists Frequent the Parish Churches—The Pulpit—Stone Pulpit at Paul’s Cross—The Sermons—Visitation Articles—Additional Homilies—Cranmer, etc., Dead, yet Speaking—Return of the Marian Exiles—Jewell—New Bishops—Preachers sent through the Kingdom— Progress of England—The Royal Supremacy

    Picture: Views in the Tower of London:

    Picture: Queen Elizabeth.

    Picture: View of the West Porch of Rochester Cathedral.

    Queen Mary breathed her last on the morning of the 17th November, 1558. On the same day, a few hours later, died Cardinal Pole, who with Carranza, her Spanish confessor, had been Mary’s chief counsellor in those misdeeds which have given eternal infamy to her reign. The Parliament was then in session, and Heath, Archbishop of York, and Chancellor of England, notified to the House the death of the Queen. The members started to their feet, and shouted out, “God save Queen Elizabeth!” The news of Mary’s decease speedily circulated through London; in the afternoon every steeple sent forth its peal of joy; in the evening bonfires were lighted, and the citizens, setting tables in the street, and brining forth bread and wine, “did eat, drink, and rejoice.” Everywhere, as the intelligence traveled down to the towns and counties of England, the bells were set a-ringing, and men, as they met on the highways, clasped each other by the hand, and exchanged mutual congratulations.HOPV3 431.3

    The nation awoke as from a horrible nightmare; it saw the troop of dismal specters which had filled the darkness taking flight, and a future approaching in which there would no more be spies prowling from house to house, officers dragging men and women to loathsome gaols, executioners torturing them on racks, and tying them with iron chains to stakes and burning them; no more Latin Litanies, muttered masses, and shaven priests; it saw a future in which the Bible would be permitted to be read, in which the Gospel would again be preached in the mother tongue of old England, and quiet and prosperity would again bless the afflicted land.HOPV3 432.1

    There is no gloomier year in the history of England than the closing one in the reign of Mary. A concurrence of diverse calamities, which mostly had their root in the furious bigotry of the queen, afflicted the country. Intelligence was decaying, morals were being corrupted, through the introduction of Spanish maxims and manners, commerce languished, for the nation’s energy was relaxed, and confidence was destroyed. Drought and tempests had induced scarcity, and famine brought plague in its rear; strange maladies attacked the population, a full half of the inhabitants fell sick, many towns and villages were almost depopulated, and a sufficient number of laborers could not be found to reap the harvest. In many places the grain, instead of being carried to the barnyard, stood and rotted in the field. To domestic calamities were added foreign humiliations. Calais was lost in this reign, after having been two centuries in the possession of the English crown. The kingdom was becoming a satrapy of Spain, and its prestige was year by year sinking in the eyes of foreign Powers. “It was visible,” says Burnet, “that the providence of God made a very remarkable difference, in all respects, between this poor, short, and despised reign, and the glory, the length, and the prosperity of the succeeding reign.” 1Burnet, vol. 3., book 5., p. 394; London, 1820.HOPV3 432.2

    When Elizabeth ascended the throne, the gloom instantly passed from the realm of Great Britain. The prisons were opened, the men whom Mary had left to be burned were released, the fires which were blazing all over England were extinguished; and the machinery of persecution which up to that moment had been vigorously worked, inspiring fear and terror in the heart of every friend of religious liberty, was arrested and stood still. The yoke of the tyrant and the bigot now rent from off the nation’s neck, England rose from the dust, and rekindling the lamp of truth, started on a career of political freedom and commercial prosperity, in which, with a few exceptional periods, there has been no pause from that day to this.HOPV3 432.3

    When Elizabeth received the intelligence of her sister’s death and her own accession she repaired to the Tower, as was the ancient custom of the sovereigns of England before being crowned. On crossing its threshold, remembering that but a few years before she had entered it as a prisoner, with little hope of ever leaving it save for the scaffold, she fell on her knees, and gave thanks to God for preserving her life in the midst of so many enemies and intrigues as had surrounded her during her sister’s lifetime. As she passed through the streets of London on her coronation day, a copy of the Bible was presented to her, which she graciously received. The people, whom the atrocities of the past reign had taught to value the Reformation more highly than before, hailed this as a token that with the new sovereign was returning the religion of the Bible.HOPV3 432.4

    Elizabeth ascended the throne with the sincere purpose of restoring the Protestant religion; but the work was one of immense difficulty, and it was only in the exercise of most consummate caution and prudence that she could hope to conduct it to a successful issue. On all sides she was surrounded by great dangers. The clergy of her realm were mostly Papists. In the eyes of the Marian bishops her title was more than doubtful, as the daughter of one whose claim to be the wife of Henry VIII they disputed. The learned divines and eloquent preachers who had been the strength of Protestantism in the reign of her brother Edward, had perished at the stake or had been driven into exile. Abroad the dangers were not less great. A Protestant policy would expose her to the hostility of the Popish Powers, as she very soon felt. The Duke of Feria, the Spanish ambassador, let her understand that his master was the Catholic king, and was not disposed to permit, if his power could prevent, the establishment of heresy in England. 2Burnet, vol. 3., book 6., p. 396. But, her chief difficulty was with the court of Rome When her accession was intimated to Paul IV, he declared “that she could not succeed, being illegitimate; and that the crown of England being a fief of the Popedom, she had been guilty of great presumption in assuming it without his consent.”HOPV3 432.5

    Elizabeth labored under this further disadvantage, that if on the one hand her enemies were numerous, on the other her friends were few. There was scarcely to be found a Protestant of tried statesmanship and patriotism whom she could summon to her aid. The queen was alone, in a sort. Her exchequer was poorly replenished; she had no adequate force to defend her throne should it be assailed by rebellion within, or by war abroad. Nevertheless, in spite of all these hazards the young queen resolved to proceed in the restoration of the Protestant worship. That her advance was slow, that her acts were sometimes inconsistent, and even retrogressive, that she excited the hopes and alarmed the fears of both parties by turns, is not much to be wondered at when the innumerable perils through which she had to thread her path are taken into account.HOPV3 432.6

    The first alteration which she ventured upon was to enjoin the Litany and the Epistle and Gospel to be read in English, and to forbid the elevation of the Host. This was little, yet it was a turning of the face away from Rome. Presuming on the queen’s reforming disposition, some of the more zealous began to pull down the images. Elizabeth bade them hold their hand; there were to be no more changes in worship till the Parliament should assemble. It was summoned for the 27th of January, 1559. Meanwhile all preaching was forbidden, and all preachers were silenced, except such as might obtain a special license from the bishop or the Council. This prohibition has been severely censured, and some have seen in it an assumption of power “to open and shut heaven, so that the heavenly rain of the evangelical doctrine should not fall but according to her word;” 3Professor Bruce, The Ecclesiastical Supremacy Annexed to the English Crown, p. 34; Edinburgh, 1802. but this is to forget the altogether exceptional condition of England at that time. The pulpits were in the possession of the Papists, and the use they would have made of them would have been to defend the doctrine of transubstantiation, and to excite popular odium against the queen and the measures of her Government. Instead of sermons, which would have been only apologies for Popery, or incitements to sedition, it was better surely to restrict the preachers to the reading of the homilies, by which a certain amount of much-needed Scriptural knowledge would be diffused amongst the people.HOPV3 434.1

    The same cautious policy governed Elizabeth in her choice of councilors. She did not dismiss the men who had served under her sister, but she neutralized their influence by joining others with them, favorable to the Reformation, and the superiority of whose talents would secure their ascendency at the council board. Especially she called to her side William Cecil and Nicholas Bacon, two men of special aptitude. The first she made Secretary of State, and the second Lord Keeper, in the room of Archbishop Heath, who resigned the post of Chancellor. The choice was a happy one, and gave early proof of that rare insight which enabled Elizabeth to select with unerring judgment, from the statesmen around her, those who were best able to serve the country, and most worthy of her confidence. Cecil and Bacon had lived in times that taught them to be wary, and, it may be, to dissemble. Both were sincerely attached to the Reformed faith; but both feared, equally with the queen, the danger of a too rapid advance. Of large comprehension and keen foresight, both efficiently and faithfully served the mistress who had done them the honour of this early choice.HOPV3 434.2

    The Parliament met on the day appointed-the 27th of January, 1559. The session was commenced with a unanimous declaration that Queen Elizabeth was “the lawful, undoubted, and true heir to the crown.” The laws in favor of the Protestant religion which had been passed under Henry VIII and Edward VI, but which Mary had abolished, were re-enacted. Convocation, according to its usual practice, assembled at the same time with Parliament. Foreseeing the reforming policy which the Commons were likely to adopt, the members of Convocation lost no time in passing resolutions declaring their belief in transubstantiation, and maintaining the exclusive right of the clergy to determine points of faith. This was on the matter to tell Parliament that the Pope’s authority in England, as re-established by Mary, was not to be touched, and that the ancient religion must dominate in England. The Commons, however, took their own course. The Parliament abolished the authority of the Pope. The royal supremacy was restored; it being enacted that all in authority, civil and ecclesiastical, should swear that they acknowledged the queen to be “the supreme governor in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as temporal, within her dominions; that they renounced all foreign power and jurisdiction, and should bear the queen faith and true allegiance.” 4Act 1 Elizabeth, chapter 1. The same Parliament passed (April 28th, 1559) the Act of Uniformity of the Book of Common Prayer, enjoining all ministers “to say and use the matins, evensong, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, etc., as authorized by Parliament in the 5th and 6th year of Edward VI.” A few alterations and additions were made in the Prayer Book as finally enacted under Elizabeth, the most important of which was the introduction into it of the two modes of dispensing the Sacrament which had been used under Edward VI, the one at the beginning and the other at the close of his reign. The words to be used at the delivery of the elements-as prescribed in the first Prayer Book of Edward-were these:—“The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.” The words prescribed in the second Prayer Book were as follow:—” Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heal by faith with thanksgiving.” The communicant might interpret the first form, if he chose, in the sense of a corporeal presence; the second excluded that idea, and conveyed no meaning save that of a spiritual presence, to be apprehended by faith. Both formulas were henceforth conjoined in the Communion Service.HOPV3 434.3

    The tide of Reformation, though flowing slowly, was yet proceeding too fast for the clergy, and they strove to stem it—or rather to turn it back— by insisting on a reply to their resolutions approving of transubstantiation, sent to the House of Lords, and also presented to the queen. They at last succeeded in obtaining an answer, but one they neither expected nor desired. A public debate on the points at issue was ordered to be held on the last day of March, in the Abbey of Westminster. Four bishops, and four other divines of the Roman school, were to dispute with an equal number of theologians on the Protestant side. Cole, Dean of St. Paul’s, figured prominently in the debate. “He delivered himself,” says Jewell, “with great emotion, stamping with his feet, and putting himself as in convulsions.” The dean justified the practice of performing worship in a dead language, by affirming that the apostles divided their field of labor into two great provinces—the Eastern and the Western. The Western, in which Latin only was spoken, had fallen to the lot of Peter and Paul; the Eastern, in which Greek only was to be used, had been assigned to the rest of the apostles. But, inasmuch as the West had descended to themselves through Peter and Paul, it became them to worship in the ancient and only legitimate language of that province. It was not the least necessary, Cole argued, that the people should understand the worship in which they joined, it was even to their advantage that they did not, for the mystery of an unknown tongue would make the worship venerable in their eyes and greatly heighten their devotion. Fecknam, Abbot of Westminster, defended the cause of the monastic orders by reference to the sons of the prophets and the Nazarites among the Jews, and the yet weightier example of Christ and his apostles, who, he maintained, were monks. The Lord Keeper, who presided, had frequent occasion to reprove the bishops for transgressing the rules of the debate. The Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln angrily retorted by threatening to excommunicate the queen, and were committed to the Tower. The Popish cause lost by the disputation, and the Parliament gathered courage to return, with bolder steps to that order of things which had existed under Edward VI. 5Burnet, vol. 3., book 6., pp. 402-405.HOPV3 435.1

    Elizabeth, having determined upon a Protestant policy, saw every day the difficulties vanishing from her path, and new and unexpected aids coming to her assistance. The task was not so overwhelmingly difficult after all! Two sagacious statesmen had placed their genius and their experience at her service. This was her first encouragement. Her way had been smoothed, moreover, by another and a very different ally. Death had been busy in the nation of late; and, as of proceeding on system, the destroyer had leveled his shafts against the more influential and zealous upholders of Popery. While the enemies of the queen were thus being thinned at home, abroad the aspect of the horizon was less threatening than when she ascended the throne. The death of Francis II, and the distractions that broke out during the minority of Charles IX, weakened the Popish combination on the Continent. Paul IV, loath to think that England was finally lost, and cherishing the hope of reclaiming Elizabeth from her perverse course by mild measures, forbore to pronounce sentence of excommunication-which he held her liable for the offense of intruding into a fief of the Papal See without his consent. His successor in the Pontifical chair, Pius IV, pursued the same moderate course. This greatly facilitated Elizabeth’s government with her Popish subjects. Her right to her crown had not been formally annulled. The Romanists of her realm had not been discharged of their allegiance, and they continued to frequent the parish churches and join in the Protestant worship. Thus for eleven years after Elizabeth’s accession the land had rest, and, in the words of Fuller, England “was of one language and one speech.” The delay in the excommunication never yielded the fruits which the Popes expected to gather from it: England and its queen, instead of returning to the Roman obedience, went on their way, and when at last Pins V fulminated the sentence which had so long hung above the head of the English monarch it was little heeded; the sway of Elizabeth had by this time been in some degree consolidated, and many who eleven years before had been Papists, were now converts to the Protestant faith.HOPV3 435.2

    Amid runny injunctions and ordinances that halted between the two faiths, and which tended to conserve the old superstition, several most important practical steps were taken to diffuse a knowledge of Protestant truth amongst the people. There was a scarcity of both books and preachers, and the efforts of the queen and her wise ministers were directed to the object of remedying that deficiency. The preacher was even more necessary than the book, for in those days few people could read, and the pulpit was the one great vehicle for the diffusion of intelligence. At St. Paul’s Cross stood a stone pulpit, which was a center of attraction in Popish times, being occupied every Sunday by a priest who descanted on the virtue of relics and the legends of the saints. After the Reformation this powerful engine was seized and worked in the interests of Protestantism. The weekly assemblies around it continued, and increased, but now the crowd gathered to listen to the exposition of the Scriptures, or the exposure of Popish error, by some of the most eminent of the Protestant ministers. The court was often present, and generally the sermon was attended by the Lord Mayor and aldermen. This venerable pulpit had served the cause of truth in the days of Edward VI: it was not less useful in the times of Elizabeth. Many of the sermons preached from it were published, and may be read at this day with scarcely less delight than was experienced by those who heard them; for it is the prerogative of deep emotion-as it is of high genius-to express thought in a form so beautiful that it will live for ever.HOPV3 436.1

    The next step of Elizabeth, with her statesmen and clergy, was to issue injunctions and visitation articles. These injunctions sanctioned the demolition of images and the removal of altars, and the setting up of tables in their room. The clergy were required—at least four times in the year— to declare that the Pope’s supremacy was abolished, to preach against the use of images and relics, against beads in prayer, and lighted candles at the altar or Communion table, and faithfully to declare the Word of God. Every minister was enjoined to catechize on every second Sunday for half an hour at least, before evening prayer—in the Ten Commandments, the Articles of the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Curates were “to read distinctly,” and such as were but “mean readers” were to peruse “once or twice beforehand the chapters and homilies to be read in public, to the intent they may read to the better understanding of the people.” Low indeed must both teachers and taught have sunk when such injunctions were necessary! Elizabeth and her Government found that the ignorance which Popery creates is one of its strongest defenses, and the greatest of all the impediments which have to be surmounted by those who labor for the emancipation of nations fallen under the dominion of Rome.HOPV3 436.2

    It was against that ignorance that Elizabeth and her councilors continued to direct their assaults. The next step, accordingly, was the publication of the Book of Homilies. We have already said that in the reign of Edward VI twelve homilies were published, and appointed to be read in those churches in which the ministers were disqualified to preach. The clergy, the majority of whom were secretly friendly to the Romish creed, contrived to evade the Act at the same time that they professed to obey it. They indeed read the homily, but in such a way as to frustrate its object. The minister “would,” says Latimer, “so hawk and chop it, that it were as good for them to be without it, for any word that could be understood.” Edward’s Book of Homilies, which contained only twelve short sermons, was to be followed by a second book, which had also been prepared by the same men-Cranmer, Latimer, and others; but before it could be published Edward died. But now the project was revived. Soon after Elizabeth ascended the throne, the first Book of Homilies was re-published, and along with it came the second series, which had been prepared but never printed. This last book contained twenty sermons, and both sets of homilies were appointed to be read from the pulpit. No more effectual plan could have been adopted for the diffusion of Scriptural knowledge, and this measure was as necessary now as in the days of Edward. A great retrogression in popular intelligence had taken place under Mary; the priests of Elizabeth’s time were as grossly ignorant as those of Edward’s; the majority were Papists at heart, and if allowed to preach they would have fed their flocks with fable and Romish error. Those only who were known to possess a competent knowledge of the Word of God were permitted to address congregations in their own words; the rest were commanded to make use of the sermons which had been prepared for the instruction of the nation. These homilies were golden cups, filled with living waters, and when the people of England pressed them to their parched lips, it well became them to remember whose were the hands that had replenished these vessels from the Divine fountains. The authors of the homilies-Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer-though dead, were yet speaking. They had perished at the stake, but now they were preaching by a thousand tongues to the people of England. Tyrants had done to them as they listed; but, risen from the dead, these martyrs were marching before the nation in its glorious exit from its house of bondage.HOPV3 436.3

    The mere reading of the Homilies Sunday after Sunday was much, but it was not all. The queen’s Injunctions required that a copy of the Homilies, provided at the expense of the parish, should be set up in all the churches, so that the people might come and read them. By their side, “one book of the whole Bible, of the largest volume in English,” was ordered to be placed in every church, that those who could not purchase the Scriptures might nevertheless have access to them, and be able to compare with them the doctrine taught in the Homilies. To the Bible and the Homilies were added Erasmus’s Paraphrase on the New Testament, also in English. And when the famous Apology of Jewell, one of the noblest expositions of Protestantism which that or any age has produced, was written, a copy of it was ordered to be placed in all the churches, that all might see the sum of doctrine held by the Reformed Church of England. These measures show how sincerely the queen and her councilors were bent on the emancipation of the nation from the yoke of Rome; and the instrumentalities they made use of for the diffusion of Protestantism form a sharp contrast to the means employed under Mary to convert men to the Roman worship. The Reformers set up the Bible, the Romanists planted the stake.HOPV3 437.1

    During the first year of Elizabeth’s reign, though there lacked not thousands of clergy in England, the laborers qualified to reap the fields now white unto harvest were few indeed. But their numbers were speedily recruited from a quarter where the storms of prosecution had for some time been assembling them. When the great army of Protestant preachers at Zurich, at Geneva, at Strasburg, and at other foreign towns heard that Elizabeth was on the throne, they instantly prepared to return and aid in the Reformation of their native land. These men were rich in many gifts— some in genius, others in learning, others were masters of popular eloquence, and all were men of chastened spirit, ripe Christians and scholars, while their views had been enlarged by contact with foreign Protestants. Their arrival in England greatly strengthened the hands of those who were laboring in rebuilding the Protestant edifice. Among these exiles was Jewell, a man of matchless learning, which his powerful intellect enabled him to wield with ease and grace, and who by his incomparable work, the Apology, followed as it was by the Defence, did more than any other man of that age to demonstrate the falsehood of the Popish system, and the impregnable foundations in reason and truth on which the Protestant Church reposed. Its publication invested the Reformed cause in England with a prestige it had lacked till then. The arrival of these men was signally opportune. The Marian bishops, with one exception, had vacated their sees—not, as in the case of the Protestants under Mary, to go to prison or to martyrdom, but to retire on pensions, and live till the end of their days in security and affluence. But the embarrassment into which they expected the Government would be thrown by their resignation was obviated by the appointment to the vacant posts of men who, even they were compelled to acknowledge, were their superiors in learning, and whom all men felt to be immensely their superiors in character. Of these exiles some were made bishops, others of them declined the labours and responsibilities of such an office, but all of them brought to the service of the Reformation in England an undivided heart, an ardent piety, and great and varied learning. The queen selected Matthew Parker, who had been chaplain to her mother, Anne Boleyn, to fill the See of Canterbury, vacant since the death of Cardinal Pole. He was consecrated by three bishops who had been formerly in possession of sees, which they had been compelled to vacate during the reign of Mary—Coverdale, Scorey, and Barlowe. Soon after his consecration, the primate proceeded to fill up the other sees, appointing thereto some of the more distinguished of the Reformers who had returned from exile. Grindal was made Bishop of London, Cox of Ely, Sandys of Worcester, and Jewell of Salisbury. An unusual number of mitres were at this moment vacant through death; only fourteen men who had held sees under Mary survived, and all of these, one excepted, had, as we have already said, resigned; although they could hardly plead that conscience had compelled them to this step, seeing all or nearly all of them had supported Henry VIII in his assumption of the royal supremacy, which they now refused to acknowledge. Of the 9,400 parochial clergy then computed in England, only some eighty resigned their livings. The retirement of the whole body would have been attended with inconvenience, and yet their slender qualifications, and their languid zeal, rendered their presence in the Reformed Church a weakness to the body to which they continued to cling. It was sought to counteract their apathy, not to say opposition, by permitting them only the humble task of reading the homilies, and by sending better qualified men, so far as they could be found, throughout England, on preaching tours. “In the beginning of August, 1559,” says Burnet, “preachers were sent to many different parts; many northern counties were assigned to Sandys; Jewell had a large province—he was to make a circuit of many hundred miles, through Berkshire, Gloucestrshire, Dorsetshire, and Wiltshire.” 6Burnet, vol. 3., book 6., p. 406.HOPV3 437.2

    The first eleven years of Elizabeth’s reign were those in which the Protestantism of England took root, and the way was prepared for those splendid results that were to follow. These eleven years were likewise those of Elizabeth’s greatest successes, though not those of the greatest brilliancy, because wanting the dramatic incidents that gave such glory to the latter half of her reign. In these years the great queen is seen at her best. With infinite tact and sagacity, aided by her sage adviser Cecil, she is beheld threading her way through innumerable labyrinths and pitfalls. When she ascended the throne England was a chaos; whichever way she turned, she beheld only tremendous difficulties; but now order has emerged from the confusion; her throne is powerful, her arsenals are stored with arms, her dockyards with ships, the Protestant faith is established in her realm, genius and learning flourish under her scepter, and the name of England has again become a terror to her foes. So long as Elizabeth pursues her reforming path, obstacle after obstacle vanishes before her, and herself and her kingdom wax ever the stronger.HOPV3 438.1

    But the point at which Protestantism finally halted under Elizabeth was somewhat below that which it had reached under Edward VI. For this various reasons may be assigned. The queen, as was this her object in the restoration into the administration of the Lord’s Supper of both forms of words prescribed in the two Prayer Books of Edward. The union of the two forms, the one appearing to favor the corporeal presence, the other conveying the spiritual sense, obscured the Heylin hints, loved a gorgeous worship as well as a magnificent state ceremonial-hence the images and lighted tapers which the queen retained in her own chapel. But the prevailing motive with Elizabeth was doubtless the desire to disarm the Pope and the Popish Powers of the Continent by conciliating the Papists of England, and drawing them to worship in the parish churches. This was the end she had in view in the changes which she introduced into the Prayer Book; and especially doctrine of the Eucharist, and enabled the Papist to say that in receiving the Eucharist he had partaken in the ancient Roman mass. But the great defect, we are disposed to think, in the English Reformation was the want of a body of canons for the government of the Church and the regulation of spiritual affairs. A code of laws, as is well known, was drawn up by Cranmer, 7Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum. and was ready for the signature of Edward VI when he died. It was revived under Elizabeth, with a view to its legal enactment; but the queen, thinking that it trenched upon her supremacy, would not hear of it. Thus left without a discipline, the Church of England has, to a large extent, been dependent on the will of the sovereign as regards its government. Touching the nature and extent of the power embodied in the royal supremacy, the divines of the Church of England have all along held different opinions. The first Reformers regarded the headship of the sovereign mainly in the light of a protest against the usurped authority of the Pope, and a declaration that the king was supreme over all classes of his subjects, and head of the nation as a mixed civil and ecclesiastical colaboration. The “headship” of the Kings of England did not vest in them one important branch of the Papal headship that of exercising spiritual functions. It denied to them the right to preach, to ordain, and to dispense the Sacraments. But not less true is it that it lodged in them a spiritual jurisdiction, and it is the limits of that jurisdiction that have all along been matter of debate. Some have maintained it in the widest sense, as being an entire and perfect jurisdiction; others have argued that this jurisdiction, though lodged in a temporal functionary, is to be exercised through a spiritual instrumentality, and therefore is neither inconsistent with the nature nor hostile to the liberties of the Church. Others have seen in the supremacy of the crown only that fair share of influence and authority which the laity are entitled to exercise in spiritual things. The clergy frame ecclesiastical enactments and Parliament sanctions them, say they, and this dual government is in meet correspondence with the dual constitution of the Church, which is composed partly of clerics and partly of laics. It is ours here not to judge between opinions, but to narrate facts, and gather up the verdict of history; and in that capacity it remains for us to say that, while history exhibits opinion touching the royal supremacy as flowing in a varied and conflicting current, it shows us the actual exercise of the prerogative— whether as regards the rites of worship, admission to benefices, or the determination of controversies on faith—as proceeding in but one direction, namely, the government of the Church by the sovereign, or a secular body representing him. 8Those who wish to see at full length the different opinions which have been maintained by divines on the royal supremacy, may consult, among other works, Strype, Eccles. Mem. Bibliotheca Scriptorum Ecclesiae Anglicanae, 1709; Becanus (a Jesuit), Dissidium Anglicanum de Primatu Regis, 1612; Madox, Vindication of the Church of England; Professor Archibald Bruce, Dissertation on the Supremacy of Civil Powers, etc., 1802; Dr. Blakeney, History of the Book of Common Prayer, 1870; Dr. Pusey, The Royal Supremacy not an Arbitrary Authority, 1850; Warren, The Queen or the Pope, 1851; Cunningham, Discussion on Church Principles, chapter 6, 1863.HOPV3 439.1

    Larger font
    Smaller font