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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

On the one side lay progressive innovation


Henry

lost no time in fortifying the harbours and coasts against such an attack.

But the chief means of preventing all dangers of this kind lay in cutting from under them the ground on which they rested. Henry VIII was not minded to yield a jot of the full power he had inherited: on the contrary his supremacy in church matters was confirmed in 1539 by a new act of Parliament: another finally ordained the suppression of the greater abbeys also, whose revenues served to endow some new bishoprics, but mainly passed into the possession of the Crown and the Lords: the unity of the Church and the exclusive independence of the country were still more firmly established. But the more Henry was resolved to abide by his constitutional innovations, the more necessary it seemed to him, in reference to doctrine, to avoid any deviation that could be designated as heretical. And though he some years before made advances to the Protestants because he needed their support against the Emperor and the Pope, things were now on the contrary in such a state that he could feel himself all the safer, the less connexion he had with the Germans. Under quite different auspices of home and foreign politics was the religious debate, that had led in 1536 to the Ten Articles, resumed three years later. The bishops who held to the old belief were as steady as ever and, so far as we know, bound together still more closely by a special agreement. They knew how to get rid of the old

suspicion of their having thought of restoring the Papal supremacy and jurisdiction, by showing complete devotion to the King. On the other hand the Protestants had suffered a very sensible loss in Bishop Fox of Hereford, who had always possessed much influence over the King, but had died lately. An understanding between the two parties on questions which were dividing the whole world was not to be thought of; they confronted each other as irreconcilable antagonists. The debates were transferred on Norfolk's proposal to Parliament and Convocation; at last it was thought best that each of the two parties should bring in the outline of a bill expressing its own views. This was done: but first both bills were delivered to the King, on whose word, according to the prevailing point of view, the decision mainly depended. We may as it were imagine him with the two religious schemes in his hand. On the one side lay progressive innovation, increasing ferment in the land, and alliance with the Protestants: on the other, change confined to the advantages already gained by the crown, the contentment of the great majority of the people, who adhered to the old belief, peace and friendship with the Emperor. The King himself too had a liking for the doctrines he had acknowledged from his youth. The balance inclined in favour of the bishops of the old belief: Henry gave their bill the preference. It was the bloody bill of the Six Articles, mainly, so far as we know, the work of Bishop Gardiner of Winchester.

The doctrine of transubstantiation and all the usages connected with it, private masses and auricular confession, and the binding force of vows, were sanctioned anew; the marriage of priests and the giving the cup to the laity were prohibited; all under the severest penalties. The whole of the high nobility to a man agreed to it: the Lower House raised the resolutions of the clergy into law.


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