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which they shall conscientiously think God requires from them, and to countenance and support it with what civil sanctions they shall think proper. My examination therefore will not be, whether our ancestors exercised their right, and fulfilled their duty more or less judiciously or perfectly than their fucceffors; but in what manner and to what extent they actually made a religious establishment an essential part of their civil conftitution. This discussion has often been a subject of such rancorous controversy; that I am not totally free from fear, left the liberality even of the present day, may be at first unequal to form a perfectly unbiassed judgment upon the subject. I am now to examine the truth, not the reason of facts.
As true as it is, that in the twenty-fourth year of the reign of king Henry VIII, the majority of the people of England did, by
the act of their representatives in parliament, Acknowledge renounce and throw off the spiritual supope's spiritual premacy of the pope of Rome; so true is fupremacy no ufurpation.
it, that they had uninterruptedly acknowledged and submitted unto it for near one thousand years before the twenty-fourth of Henry VIII. A.D. 1532. It is frivolous in the extreme, to treat this spiritual supremacy
ment of the
of the pope as a papal usurpation; for who can be so simple as to believe, that such . submission could have been forced upon the English nation, who were ever jealous of their liberty, against their consent, by one hundred and seventy-one popes, who during that space. of time filled the papal see.
We must allow to our ancestors the same right and the same obligation of following the dictates of their consciences, which we claim and acknowledge ourselves. By the tenets of the religion, which they then profeffed, the spiritual primacy of the vilible successor of St. Peter was an essential article of their belief; their submission therefore to the bishop of Rome, as fuch visible acknowledged head of the church was as free, as their adoption of the religion, which taught the necessity of such a primacy. What an absurdity would it not be, to speak of the belief and profession of the Roman catholic religion in Poland or Portugal as an usurpation? And if our ancestors thought proper consent of the to make a free voluntary tender and security tent with usur
pation. to the bishops of Rome, either of Peter Pence, first fruits, or any other civil advantage, or benefit, how can that be called an usurpation, which could neither have been originally imposed, nor continue to be en
King Henry's heliet of and fubmission to the pope's su. premacy the strongest proof of its actual cxistencë.
forced by any civil or human means, without the content of the nation? The fact demonstrates the truth! For from the moment, in which the nation withdrew their confent, 'from that moment the bishop of Rome enjoyed no more civil or temporal rights, benefits, nor advantages within this kingdom, than St. Peter did from our heathen British ancestors, who inhabited the island in his days.
As to this point, I know of no authority, that can be fo conclusive, as that of king Henry himfelf, who, about ten years before the parfing of this act, in defence of the spiritual supremacy of the pope against Martin Luther, wrote a book, which he subscribed with his own hand, and sent to pope Leo X. by Dr. Clerke, the bishop of Bath and Wells, and for which he obtained the title of defender of the faith, which has been ever since kept up by our sovereigns to this day.
*“ I will not offer so much injury unto the pope, as earnestly and carefully to difpute heere of his right, as though the matter might be held in doubt; it is sufficient for that, which now we haue in hand, that his enemy (Luther) fheweth himself so much
Henry VIII. in Def. Sacram. cont. M. Luth.
to be carried away with passion and fury, as he taketh all faith and credit from his owne sayings, cleerly declaring his malice to be such, as it suffereth him neither to agree with himself, nor to consider what he faith."
And then, after confuting Luther's opinion and affertion, that the pope neither by diuine or humane law, but onlie by usurpation and tyrannie, bad gotten the beadshipp of the church, he continues, “ Luther cannot deny, but that all the faithfull christian churches at this daie doe acknowledge and reuerence the holy fea of Rome, as their mother and primate, &c. And if this acknowledgment is grounded neither in diuine nor humane right, how hath it taken so great and generall roote? How is it admitted so uniuersally by all christendome? When began it? How grew it to bee so great? And whereas humane consent is sufficient to giue humane right at least, how can Luther faie, that heere is neither diuine nor humane right, where this is, and hath been for time out of minde, uniuerfall humane consent? Truly if a man will looke ouer the monuments of things and times paft, he shall find that presently after the world was pacified (from persecution) the most parte
of christian churches did obay the Roman; yea, and the Greeke church also,
though the empire were passed to tha parte, wee shall find, that shee' acknowledged the primacy of the fame Romaine church, but only when shee was in schisme. And as for S. Hierome, though he were no Roman, yet did hee in his daies ascribe fo much authoritie and preheminence to the Roman church, as he affirmed, that in matters of great doubt it was sufficient for his faith to bee allowed and approued by the pope of Rome, &c.” And he says further.
“ Whereas Luther so impudently doth affirme, that the pope hath his primacie by no right, neither diuine nor humane, but onlie by.force and tyrannie, I doe wonder how the mad fellow could hope to find his readers so simple or blockish, as to beleiue, that the bishop of Rome, being a priest, unarmed, alone, without temporall force or right, either diuine or humane (as he supposed) should bee able to get authoritie ouer so manie other bishops his equals, throughout fo manie and different nations, so far off from him, and so little fearing his temporall power; or that so manie people, citties, kingdomes, commonwealths, prouinces, and nations could bee so prodigall of their owne libertie, as to subject themselues to a forraine priest (as now so manie ages they haue done) or to give him