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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

After the manner of the great Elizabethan statesman


to 28th), passed an Act of

Uniformity which took an interesting form.[549] The Act began by declaring that at the death of King Edward VI. there "remained one uniform order of common service and prayer, and of the administration of sacraments, rites, and ceremonies in the Church of England, which was set forth in one Book, entitled _The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies in the Church of England_." This Book had been authorised by Act of Parliament held in the fifth and sixth years of King Edward VI., and this Act had been repealed by an Act of Parliament in the first year of the reign of Queen Mary "to the great decay of the due honour of God, and discomfort of the professors of the truth of Christ's religion." This Act of Queen Mary was solemnly repealed, and the Act of King Edward VI., with some trifling alterations, was restored. In consequence, "all and singular ministers in any cathedral or parish church" were ordered "to say and use the Matins, Evensong, celebration of the Lord's Supper, and administration of each of the sacraments, and all their common and open prayer, in such order and form as is mentioned in the said Book, so authorised by Parliament in the said fifth and sixth years of the reign of King Edward VI., with one alteration or addition of certain lessons to be used on every Sunday in the year, and the form of the Litany altered and corrected, and two sentences only added in the delivery of the sacrament to the communicants, and
none other or otherwise." This meant that while there might be the fullest freedom of thought in the country and a good deal of liberty of expression, there was to be no freedom of public worship. All Englishmen, of whatever creed, were to be compelled by law to join in one common public worship according to the ritual prescribed. The Act of Parliament which compelled them to this had no specific Book of Common Prayer annexed to it and incorporated in it. It simply replaced on the Statute Book the Act of King Edward VI., and with it the Second Prayer-Book of King Edward, which with its rubrics had been "annexed and joined" to that Act[550]--certain specified alterations in the Book being notified in the Elizabethan Act.

The history of the Elizabethan Prayer-Book is confessedly obscure. If an important paper called the _Device_,[551] probably drafted by Cecil, embodied the intentions of the Government, their procedure may be guessed with some probability. It enumerates carefully, after the manner of the great Elizabethan statesman, the dangers involved in any "alteration of religion," and shows how they can be met or averted. France and Scotland can be treated diplomatically. Rome may be left unheeded--it is far away, and its opposition will not go beyond "evil will and cursing." The important dangers were at home. They would come from two sides--from the Romanists backed by most of the higher clergy; and from the advanced Reformers, who would scoff at the alteration which is alone possible


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