Page images
PDF
EPUB

and they are derogatory to her majesty's prerogative royal, because hereby some of her subjects might claim an uulimited power over her other subjects, independent of the crown, and by their private authority command or forbid what they please. Since then the archbishop's articles were framed by his own private authority, they cannot be justified by any of the canons now in force. And as for the peace of the church and quiet of the realm, they were so far from promoting them, that they were like to throw both into confusion.

2. It was said that the Queen, as head of the church, had power to publish articles and injunctions for reducing the clergy to uniformity; and that the archbishop had the Queen's licence and consent for what he did. But the Queen herself had no authority to publish articles and injunctions in opposition to the laws; and as for her majesty's permission: and consent, it could be no warrant to the archbishop, except it had been under the great seal. And if the archbishop had no legal authority to command, the clergy were not obliged to obey ; the oath of canonical obedience does not bind in this case, because it is limited to lieitis et honestis, things lawful and honest; whereas the present articles being against law, they were enforced by no legal authority, and were such as the ministers could not honestly consent to.

Notwithstanding these objections, the archbishop, in his primary metropolitical visitation, insisted peremptorily, that all who enjoyed any office or benefice in the church should subscribe the three articles above-mentioned ; the second of which he knew the puritans would refuse : Accordingly there were suspended for not subscribing, In the county of Norfolle

64 Ministers. Suffolle

60 Sussex, about

30 Essex

38 Kent

19 or 20 Lincolnshire

21

In all 233

All whose names are now before me; besides great numbers in the diocese of Peterborough, in the city of London, and proportionable in other counties; some of whom were dig. nitaries in the church, and most of them graduates in the university ; of these some were allowed time, but forty-nine were absolutely deprived at once. *

Among the suspended ministers his grace shewed some particular favor to those of Sussex, at the intercession of some great persons ; for after a long dispute and many arguments before himself at Lambeth, he accepted of the subscription of 6 or 7, with their own explication of the rubrics, and with a declaration that their subscription was not to be understood in any other sense, than as far as the BOOKS were agreeable to the word of God, and to the sub. stance of religion established in the church of England, and to the analogy of faith ; and that it did not extend to any thing not expressed in the said books.f Of all which the archbishop allowed them an authentic copy in writing, dated Dec. 6th, 1583, and ordered his chancellor to send letters to Chichester, that the rest of the suspended ministers in that county might be indulged the same favor.

Many good and pious men strained their consciences on this occasion ; some subscribed the articles with this protestation in open court, as far as they are agreeable to the word of God, and others dempto secundo, that is, taking away the second. Many, upon better consideration, repented their subscribing in this manner, and would have rased out their names, but it was not permitted. Some, who were allured to subscribe with the promises of favor and better preferment, were neglected and forgotten, and troubled in the commissaries court as much as before. $ The court took no notice of their protestations or reserves ; they wanted nothing but their hands, and when they had

got them, they were all listed under the same colors, and published to the world as absolute subscribers.

The body of the inferior clergy wished and prayed for some amendments in the service book, to make their brethren easy. “I am sure (says a learned divine of these times) that

this good would come of it. (1.) It would please Al"mighty God. (2.) The learned ministers would be more firmly united against the papists. (3.) The good ministers 6 and good subjects, whereof many are now at Weeping« Cross, would be cheered ; and many able students encour• aged to take upon them the ministry. And, (4.) Hereby

MS. P.

436. † MS. p. 323, 405. Life of Whitgift, p. 129. S Fenner's Answer to Dr. Bridges, p. 119, 120.

the papists, and more careless sort of professors, would be 6 more easily won to religion. If any object, that excellent

men were publishers of the BOOK OF PRAYER, and that it 6 would be some disgrace to the church to alter it, I answer, • 1st. That though worthy men are to be accounted of, yet • their oversights in matters of religion are not to be hon• ored by subscriptions. 2dly. The reformation of the service book can be no disgrace to us nor them, for men's • second thoughts are wiser than their first ; and the papists • in the late times of Pius V. reformed our Lady's Psalter. • To conclude, if amendments to the book be inconvenient,

it must be either in regard of protestants or papists ; it - cannot be in regard of protestants, for very great numbers • of them pray heartily to God for it. And if it be in re

gard of the papists, we are not to mind them; for they whose captains say, that we have neither church, nor sacraments, nor ministers, nor Queen, in England, are not greatly to be regarded of us."*

But Whitgift was to be influenced by no such arguments; he was against all alterations in the liturgy, for this general reason, Lest the church should be thought to have maintained an error: which is surprising to come from the mouth of a protestant bishop, who had so lately separated from the infallible church of Rome. His grace's arguments for subscription to his articles are no less remarkable. 1st. If you do not subscribe to the book of common prayer, you do in effect say there is no true service of God, nor administration of sacraments in the land. 2dly. If you do not subscribe the book of ordination of priests, &c. then our calling must be unlawful, and we have no true ministry nor church in England. 3dly. If you do not subscribe the book of the thirty-nine articles, you deny true doctrine to be established among us, which is the main note of a true church.t Could an honest man, and a great scholar, be in earnest with this reasoning? Might not the puritans

* MS. p. 156. | Life of Whitgift, p. 123. VOL. I.

34

dislike some things in the service book without invalidating the whole? Did not his grace know, that they offered to subscribe to the use of the service book, as far as they could apprehend it consonant to truth, though they could not give it under their hands, that there was nothing in it contrary to the word of God, nor promise to use the whole without the least variation, in their public ministry? But according to the archbishop's logic, the church must be infallible or no church at all. The liturgy must be perfect in every phrase and sentence, or it is no true service of God; and every article of the church must be agreeable to scripture, or they contain no true doctrine at all. He told the ministers, that all who did not subscribe his articles were schismatics; that they had separated themselves from the church; and declared peremptorily, that they should be turned out of it.

This conduct of the archbishop was exposed in a pamphlet, entitled the Practice of Prelates ;t which

says,

that none ever used good ministers so severely since the reformation as be; that his severe proceedings were against the judgment of many of his brethren the bishops, and that the devil, the common enemy of mankind, had certainly a hand in it. -For who of the ministers (says this writer) have been tumultuous or unpeaceable ? Have they not striven for peace in their ministry, in their writings, and by their example; and sought for their discipline only by lawful and dutiful means? Why then should the archbishop tyrannize over his fellow ministers, and starve many thousand souls, by depriving all who refuse subscription ? Why should be lay such stress upon popish opinions, and upon an hierarchy that never obtained till the approach of antichrist?

Loud were the cries of these poor sufferers and their distressed families to Heaven for mercy, as well as to their superiors on earth! Their temptations were strong; for as men, they were moved with compassion for their wives and little ones; and as faithful ministers of Christ, they were desirous to be useful, and to preserve the testimony of a good conscience. Some through frailty were overcome and submitted, but most of them cast themselves and families upon the providence of God; having written to the Queen, to the

+ Life of Whitgift, p. 122.

archbishop, and to the lords of the council; and after some time to the parliament, for a friendly conference, or a public disputation, when and where, and before whom they pleased; though without success. *

The supplication of the Norfolk ministers to the lords of the council, signed with twenty hands; the supplication of the Lincolnshire ministers with twenty-one bands; the supplication of the Essex ministers with twenty-seven hands; the supplication of the Oxfordshire ministers with

hands; the supplication of the ministers of Kent with seventeen hands, are now before me; besides the supplication of the London ministers, and of those of the diocese of Ely and Cambridgeshire ; representing in most moving language their unhappy circumstances, “We commend, . they say, to your honors compassion, our poor families, 6 but much more do we commend our doubtful, fearful and 6 distressed consciences, together with the cries of our poor people, who are hungering after the word, and are now as sheep having no shepherd. We have applied to the • archbishop, but can get no relief, we therefore humbly beg * it at your honors hands."— They declare their readiness to subscribe the doctrinal articles of the church, ac. cording to the Stat. 13 Eliz. cap. 12. and to the other articles, as far as they are not repugnant to the word of God. And they promise further, if they may be dispensed with as to subscription, that they will make no disturbance in the church, nor separate from it.

The Kentish ministers, in their supplication to the lords of the council, professed their reverence for the established church,and their esteem for the book of common prayer,

In the year 1583, one John Lewis, for denying the deity of Christ, was burnt at Norwich. Many of the popish persuasion, under the charge of treason, were executed in different places. But, notwithstanding these severities, “ her majesty (says Fuller) was most merci6 ful unto many popish malefactors, whose lives stood forfeited to the “ law, in the rigor thereof. Seventy, who had been condemned, by 6 one act of grace were pardoned and sent beyond sea.” Church His. tory, b. ix. p. 169, 170. En. + MS. p. 328, 330, &c.

This has been considered, by bishop Warburton, as inconsistent with calling the “ established church an hierarchy, that never obtained " till the approach of antichrist." But the charge of inconsistency

« PreviousContinue »