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Ecclesiastical Empire

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    IN ENGLAND

    33. When Henry VIII divorced himself and England from the pope, that he might be divorced from his wife, he put himself in the place of the pope as head of the Church in England; and that which thus became the Church of England was simply that which before had been the Catholic Church in England. “In form nothing had been changed. The outer constitution of the Church remained entirely unaltered.”ECE 786.3

    34. In faith, likewise, nothing had been changed in fact, except in the mere change of the personages who assumed the prerogative of dispensers of it. Henry, as both king and pope, was now the supreme head of the Church. “From the primate to the meanest deacon, every minister of it derived from him sole right to exercise spiritual powers. The voice of its preachers was the echo of his will. He alone could define orthodoxy or declare heresy. The forms of its worship and belief were changed and rechanged at the royal caprice.” For as early as 1532, Henry had laid down the proposition that “the king’s majesty hath as well the care of the souls of his subjects as their bodies; and may by the law of God by his Parliament make laws touching and concerning as well the one as the other.”—Green. 12[Page 787] Id., book vi, chap 1, par 5, 1, and book v, chap 6, par. 12.ECE 787.1

    35. Such was the “Reformation” accomplished by “Henry, Eighth of the Name” so far as in him and his intention lay. But to be divorced from the pope of Rome was a great thing for England. And as Henry had set the example of revolt from papal rule when exercised from the papal throne, the English people were not slow in following the example thus set, and in revolting from the same rule when exercised from the English throne. This began even in Henry’s reign, in the face of all the terrors of a rule “which may be best described by saying that it was despotism itself personified.”—Macaulay. 13[Page 787] Essays, “Hallam,” par. 27. During the regency of Edward VI and under the guidance of Cranmer and Ridley, advance steps were taken even by the Church of England itself—the use of images, of the crucifix, of incense, tapers, and holy water; the sacrifice of the mass, the worship of saints, auricular confession, the service in Latin, and the celibacy of the clergy, were abolished. During the Catholic reaction under Mary, the spirit of revolt was confirmed; and under Elizabeth, when the polity of the Church of England became fixed, and thenceforward, it constantly, and at times almost universally, prevailed.ECE 787.2

    36. In short, the example set by Henry has been so well and so persistently followed through the ages that have since passed, that, although the Church of England still subsists, and, although the sovereign of England still remains the head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith, both the office and the title are of so flexible a character that they easily adapt themselves to the headship and defense of the faith of Episcopalianism in England and of Presbyterianism in Scotland. And yet even more and far better than this, the illustrious sovereign of England, Queen Victoria, distinctly renounced the claim of right to rule in matters of faith.ECE 788.1

    37. In 1859 Her Majesty issued a royal proclamation to her subjects in India, in which she said:—ECE 788.2

    “Firmly relying, ourselves, on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the right and the desire to impose our convictions on any of our subjects. We declare it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be in any wise favored, none molested or disquieted, by reason of their religious faith or observances, but that all shall alike enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law; and we do strictly charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under us that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief or worship of any of our subjects, on pain of our highest displeasure.ECE 788.3

    “And it is our further will that, so far as may be, our subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to offices in our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability, and integrity to discharge.”ECE 788.4

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