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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

But we know how much the conception of ritual covered


The

Catholic bishops disliked the whole proceeding, as may be imagined, since these points had been so long settled; and they disliked no less the interference of the temporal power, and lastly the presidency of a royal minister, Nicolas Bacon. They had no mind to commit themselves to an interchange of writings: their declarations by word of mouth were more peremptory than convincing. In general they were not well represented since the deaths of Pole and Gardiner. On the other hand the Protestants, of whom many had become masters of the controverted questions during the exile from which they had now returned, put forward explicit statements which were completely to the point. They laid stress chiefly on the distinction between the universal, truly Catholic, Church and the Romish: they sought to reach firm ground in Christian antiquity prior to the hierarchic centuries. While they claimed a more comprehensive communion than that of Romanism, as that in which true Catholicity exists, they sought at the same time to establish a narrower, national, body which should have the right of independent decision as to ritual. Nearly all depended on the question, how far a country, which forms a separate community and thus has a separate Church, has the right to alter established ceremonies and usages; they deduced such an authority from this fact among others, that the Church in the first centuries was ruled by provincial councils. The project of calling a national council was proposed in Germany
but never carried out: in England men considered the idea of a national decree, mainly in reference to ritual, as superior to all others. But we know how much the conception of ritual covered. The question whether Edward VI's Prayer-book should be restored or not, was at the same time decisive as to what doctrinal view should be henceforth followed.[186]

The Catholic bishops set themselves in vain against the progress of these discussions. They withdrew from the conference: but the Parliament did not let itself be misled by this: it adopted the popular opinion, that they did not know what to answer. At the division in the Upper House they held obstinately fast to their opinion: they were left however, though only by a few votes, in the minority.[187] The Act of Uniformity passed, by which the Prayer-book, in the form which should be given it by a new revision, was to be universally received from the following Midsummer. The bishops raised an opposition yet once more, at a sitting of the Privy Council, on the ground that the change was against the promises made by Mary to the See of Rome in the name of the crown. Elizabeth answered, her sister had in this exceeded her powers: she herself was free to revert to the example of her earlier predecessors by whom the Papal power was looked on as an usurpation. 'My crown,' she exclaimed, 'is subject only to the King of Kings, and to no one else:' she made use of the words, 'But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' The Protestant bishops had perished at the stake, but the victory was theirs even in their graves.


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