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

The Book may have been the Edwardine Prayer Book of 1552


in the condition of the kingdom,

and would call it a "cloaked papistry and a mingle-mangle." Yet both may be overcome by judicious firmness. The Romanists may be coerced by penal laws. The danger from the advanced Reformers may be got over by a carefully drafted Prayer-Book, _made as far as possible to their liking_, and enforced by such penalties as would minimise all objections. There is great hope that such penalties would "touch but few." "And better it were that they did suffer than Her Highness or Commonwealth should shake or be in danger." The _Device_ suggested that a small committee of seven divines--all of them well-known Reformers, and most of them refugees--should prepare a Book "which, being approved by Her Majesty," might be laid before Parliament. It was evidently believed that the preparation of the Book would take some time, for suggestion is made that food, drink, wood, and coals should be provided for their sustenance and comfort. There is no direct evidence to show that the suggested committee met or was even appointed; but evidence has been brought forward to show that most of the theologians named were in London, and were in a position to meet together and consult during the period when such a Book would naturally be prepared.[552] The whole matter is shrouded in mystery, and secrecy was probably necessary in the circumstances. No one knew exactly what was to take place; but some change was universally expected. "There is a general expectation that all rites and ceremonies will shortly be
reformed," said Richard Hilles, writing to Bullinger in the end of February (1559), "by our faithful citizens and other godly men in the afore-mentioned Parliament, either after the pattern which was lately in use in the time of King Edward the Sixth, or which is set forth by the Protestant Princes of Germany in the afore-mentioned Confession of Augsburg."[553]

The authorities kept their own counsel, and nothing definite was known to outsiders. A Book was presented to the Commons--_The Book of Common Prayer and Ministration of the Sacraments_--on Feb. 16th, at the time when the first draft of the Supremacy Bill was being discussed.[554] It must have been withdrawn along with that Bill. The second attempt at a Supremacy Act was probably accompanied with a Prayer-Book annexed to the Bill; and this Prayer-Book was vehemently opposed in the Lords, who struck out all the clauses relating to it.[555] What this Book of Common Prayer was, cannot be exactly known. Many competent liturgist scholars are inclined to believe that it was something more drastic than the Edwardine Prayer-Book of 1552, and that it was proposed to enforce it by penalties more drastic than those enacted by the Act of Uniformity which finally passed. They find the characteristic features of the Book in the well-known letter of Guest (Geste) to Cecil.[556] Such suggestions are mere conjectures. The Book may have been the Edwardine Prayer-Book of 1552.

The Government had made slow progress with their proposed "alteration of religion," and the Protestant party were chafing at the delay. Easter was approaching, and its nearness


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