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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

As they were then framed in Saxony by Melanchthon


It

was now inevitable that the question from which all had started in England, as to the relation between State and Church, should be decided completely in favour of the secular principle. It is very true that Cranmer held fast to the objective view of the visible church. If the ceremonies were altered with which the Romish church imparts the spiritual consecration, yet in this respect only the mystical usages introduced in recent centuries were abandoned, and the ritual restored to the form used in more primitive times, especially in the African church. But it was surely a violent change, when those who wished to receive consecration were now previously asked, whether their inward call agreed both with the will of the Redeemer and the law of the land; they were required to assent to the principle that Scripture contains all which it is necessary for man to know, and to pledge themselves to guard against any doctrine not in conformity with Scripture. It is generally believed, and the fact is of lasting importance, that the Convocation of the clergy, a commission of the spiritualty, the Primate-Archbishop and a number of bishops, took part in the change; but yet the decisive decrees went forth from the Parliament, to which the spiritual power had been irrevocably attached since Henry VIII, and sometimes from the Privy Council alone. To establish a normal form of doctrine, men set to work to compose a Confession, which was completed at that time in forty-two Articles. There had been
a wish that Melanchthon should have come over in person to aid in composing it; at any rate his labours had much influence in deciding the shape it took. The Articles belong to the class of Confessions, as they were then framed in Saxony by Melanchthon, in Swabia by Brenz, to be laid before the coming Council. And it is just in this that their value lies, that by them England attached herself most closely to the Protestant community on the Continent. They are the work of Cranmer, who was entrusted with their composition by the King and Privy Council, and communicated his labours first to the King's tutor, Cheke, and the Secretary of State, Cecil: in conjunction with them he next laid them before the King; with the assistance of some chaplains their final form was given them; then the Privy Council ordered them to be subscribed. The influence of the government on the nominations to the office of bishop was now still more open: the bishops were to hold office as long as they conducted themselves well,--in other words, as long as the ruling powers were content with them: the church jurisdiction was no longer administered in the name of the bishopric, but, like the temporal jurisdiction, in the King's name and under the King's seal; when they proceeded to revise the church laws, the primary maxim was, not to admit anything that contravened the temporal laws.[153] The use of the power of the keys was also derived by Cranmer from the permission of the sovereign. Against this ever-increasing dependence some bishops of the old views made a struggle; to avoid coming into direct conflict with the supremacy, which they had acknowledged, they put forth the assertion that it could not be exercised by a King under age; they connived at the mass being read in side-chapels of their cathedrals, or refused to allow the change of the altars into communion-tables, or kept alive the controversy as to the doctrine of faith. The government on their side persisted in enforcing uniformity. They brought all opponents before a commission consisting of secular as well as ecclesiastical dignities, which had no scruple in pronouncing the deprivation of the bishops: a fate which befell Gardiner of Winchester, Bonner of London, Day of Chichester, Heath of Worcester. In vain did they plead that the court before which they were brought was not a canonical one; the government appealed to the general rights of the temporal power as it had once been exercised by the Roman Emperors. In the conflict of church opinions the Protestant-minded prelates now had the upper hand. Many who did not conform bought toleration from the government by sacrifices of money and goods. Elsewhere the newly-appointed bishops assented to concessions which did not always profit even the crown, but sometimes, as at Lichfield, private persons.[154] Already the further question was discussed whether there is in fact any essential distinction between bishops and presbyters: a church of foreigners was set up in London, to present a pattern of the pure apostolic constitution as an example to the country. The government which had acquired such a thorough mastery over the clergy developed an open disinclination to the old forms of constitution in the church. Who could have said, so long as things remained in the path thus once entered upon, whither this would lead?


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