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CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.

OF PRAEMUNIRE.

A THIRD species of offence more immediately affecting

the king and his government, though not subject to capital punishment, is that of praemunire ; so called from the words of the writ preparatory to the prosecution thereof: “ praemunire" facias A. B. cause A. B. to be forewarned that he appear before us to answer the contempt wherewith he stands charged: which contempt is particularly recited in the preamble to the writ. It took it's original from the exorbitant power claimed and exercised in England by the pope, which even in the days of blind zeal was too heavy for our ancestors to bear.

It may justly be observed, that religious principles, which (when genuine and pure) have an evident tendency to make their professors better citizens as well as better men, have (when perverted and erroneous) been usually subversive of civil government, and been made both the cloak and the instrument of every pernicious design that can be harboured in the heart of man. The unbounded authority that was exercised by the Druids in the west, under the influence of pagan superstition, and the terrible ravages committed by the Saracens in the east, to propagate the religion of Mahomet, both witness to the truth of that antient universal observation, that in all ages and in all countries, civil and ecclesiastical tyranny are mutually productive of each other. It is therefore the glory of the church of England, that she inculcates due obedience to lawful authority, and hath been (as her prelates on

» A barbarous word for praemoneri.

Old. Nat. Brev. 101. edit. 1534.

a trying occasion once expressed it ) in her principles and practice ever most unquestionably loyal. The clergy of her persuasion, holy in their doctrines and unblemished in their lives and conversation, are also moderate in their ambition, and entertain just notions of the ties of society and the rights of civil government.

As in matters of faith and morality they acknowledge no guide but the Scriptures, so, in matters of external polity and of private right, they derive all their title from the civil magistrate ; they look up to the king as their head, to the parliament as their law-giver, and pride themselves in nothing more justly, than in being true members of the church, emphatically by law established. Whereas the notions of ecclesiastical liberty, in those who differ from them, as well in one extreme as the other, (for I here only speak of extremes,) are equally and totally destructive of those ties and obligations by which all society is kept together; equally encroaching on those rights, which reason and the original contract of every free state in the universe have vested in the sovereign power; and equally aiming at a distinct independent supremacy of their own, where spiritual men and spiritual causes are concerned. The dreadful effects of such a religious bigotry, when actuated by erroneous principles, even of the protestant kind, are sufficiently evident from the history of the anabaptists in Germany, the covenanters in Scotland, and that deluge of sectaries in England, who murdered their sovereign, overturned the church and monarchy, shook every pillar of law, justice, and private property, and most devoutly established a kingdom of the saints in their stead. But these horrid devastations, the effects of mere madness, or of zeal that was nearly allied to it, though violent and tumultuous, were but of a short duration. Whereas the progress of the papal policy, long actuated by the steady counsels of successive pontiffs, took deeper root, and was at length in some places with difficulty, in others never yet extirpated. For this we might call to witness the black intrigues of the jesuits, so lately triumphant over Christendom, but now universally abandoned by even the Roman catholic powers: but the subject of our present chap- [ 105 ] ter rather leads us to consider the vast strides which were formerly made in this kingdom by the popish clergy; how

• Address to James II. 1687. VOL. IV.

I

nearly they arrived to effecting their grand design; some few of the means they made use of for establishing their plan ; and how almost all of them have been defeated or converted to better purposes, by the vigour of our free constitution, and the wisdom of successive parliaments.

The antient British church, by whomsoever planted, was a stranger to the bishop of Rome, and all his pretended authority. But the pagan Saxon invaders, having driven the professors of Christianity to the remotest corners of our island, their own conversion was afterwards effected by Augustin the monk, and other missionaries from the court of Rome. This naturally introduced some few of the papal corruptions in point of faith and doctrine ; but we read of no civil authority claimed by the pope in these kingdoms, till the aera of the Norman conquest; when the then reigning pontiff having favoured duke William in his projected invasion, by blessing his host and consecrating his banners, took that opportunity also of establishing his spiritual encroachments: and was even permitted so to do by the policy of the conqueror, in order more effectually to humble the Saxon clergy and aggrandize his Norman prelates ; prelates, who, being bred abroad in the doctrine and practice of slavery, had.contracted a reverence and regard for it, and took a pleasure in rivetting the chains of a free-born people. (1)

(1) Whatever was the extent of William's submission to the papal power, it was regulated entirely by his own convenience. His haughty and fearless nature was favoured by the circumstance of a divided papacy, and he carried his independence of Rome farther than most of his successors before the Reformation. He would not permit any pontiff to be acknowledged in his dominions without his previous approbation; and he examined all letters from the court of Rome, on their arrival, before their publication was permitted. Upon a demand made by Gregory VII. for the arrears of Peter's pence, he consented to it, as a payment commonly made through Europe, and which had been submitted to by his predecessors; but he positively refused to accede to a demand, made at the same time, that he should do homage for his crown. William's preference of Norman prelates seems to be misunderstood by the author; it is admitted, on all hands, that the Saxon clergy had degenerated to a disgraceful state of ignorance and sensuality, and that his appointments were in general creditable to himself, and highly useful to the cause of religion: it is also clear that the Norman prelates partook of the general freedom of their countrymen, and were not " bred in the doctrine or practice of slavery."-See Turner's and Lingard's Histories,

The most stable foundation of legal and rational government is a due subordination of rank, and a gradual scale of authority; and tyranny also itself is most surely supported by a regular increase of despotism, rising from the slave to the sultan; with this difference, however, that the measure of obedience in the one is grounded on the principles of society, and is extended no farther than reason and necessity will warrant; in the other it is limited only by absolute will and pleasure, without permitting the inferior to examine the title upon which it is founded. More effectually, therefore, to enslave the consciences and minds of the people, the Romish clergy themselves paid [ 106 ] the most implicit obedience to their own superiors or prelates; and they, in their turns, were as blindly devoted to the will of the sovereign pontiff, whose decisions they held to be infallible, and his authority co-extensive with the Christian world. Hence his legates a latere were introduced into every kingdom of Europe, his bulls and decretal epistles became the rule both of faith and discipline, his judgment was the final resort in all cases of doubt or difficulty, his decrees were enforced by anathemas and spiritual censures, he dethroned even kings that were refractory, and denied to whole kingdoms (when undutiful) the exercise of Christian ordinances, and the benefits of the gospel of God.

But, though the being spiritual head of the church was a thing of great sound, and of greater authority, among men of conscience and piety, yet the court of Rome was fully apprized that (among the bulk of mankind) power cannot be maintained without property; and therefore it's attention began very early to be rivetted upon every method that promised pecuniary advantage. The doctrine of

The doctrine of purgatory was introduced, and with it the purchase of masses to redeem the souls of the deceased. New-fangled offences were created, and indulgences were sold to the wealthy, for liberty to sin without danger. The canon law took cognizance of crimes, injoined penance pro salute animae, and commuted that penance for money. Non-residence and pluralities among the clergy, and marriages among the laity related within the seventh degree, were strictly prohibited by canon ; but dispensations were seldom denied to those who could afford to buy them. In short, all the wealth of Christendom

was gradually drained by a thousand channels, into the coffers of the holy see.

The establishment also of the feodal system in most of the governments of Europe, whereby the lands of all private proprietors were declared to be holden of the prince, gave a hint to the court of Rome for usurping a similar authority over all the preferments of the Church ; which began first in Italy,

and gradually spread itself to England. The pope became a [ 107 ) feodal lord; and all ordinary patrons were to hold their right

of patronage under this universal superior. Estates held by feodal tenure, being originally gratuitous donations, were at that time denominated beneficia; their very name as well as constitution was borrowed, and the care of the souls of a parish thence came to be denominated a benefice. Lay fees were conferred by investiture or delivery of corporal possession; and spiritual benefices, which at first were universally donative, now received in like manner a spiritual investiture, by institution from the bishop, and induction under his au-thority. As lands escheated to the lord, in defect of a legal tenant, so benefices lapsed to the bishop upon non-presentation by the patron, in the nature of a spiritual escheat. The annual tenths collected from the clergy were equivalent to the feodal render, or rent reserved upon a grant; the oath of canonical obedience was copied from the oath of fealty required from the vasal by his superior ; and the primer seisins of our military tenures, whereby the first profits of an heir's estate were cruelly extorted by his lord, gave birth to as cruel an exaction of first-fruits from the beneficed clergy. And the occasional aids and talliages, levied by the prince on his vasals, gave a handle to the pope to levy, by the means of his legates a latere, peter-pence and other taxations.

Ar length the holy father went a step beyond any example of either emperor or feodal lord. He reserved to himself, by bis own apostolical authority', the presentation to all benefices which became vacant while the incumbent was attending the court of Rome upon any occasion, or on his journey thither, or back again ; and moreover such also as became

Ertrar. 1.3. t. 2. c. 1S.

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