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

The movement was so strong that Convocation


Convocation of 1563 had other important matters before it. Its proceedings showed that the new Elizabethan clergy contained a large number who were in favour of some drastic changes in the Prayer-Book and in the Act of Uniformity. Many of them had become acquainted with and had come to like the simplicity of the Swiss worship, thoroughly purified from what they called "the dregs of Popery"; and others envied the Scots, "who," wrote Parkhurst to Bullinger (Aug. 23rd, 1559), "have made greater progress in true religion in a few months than we have done in many years."[589]

Such men were dissatisfied with much in the Prayer-Book, or rather in its rubrics, and brought forward proposals for simplifying the worship, which received a large measure of support. It was thought that all organs should be done away with; that the ceremony of "crossing" in baptism should be omitted; that all festival days save the Sundays and the "principal feasts of the Church" should be abolished;--this proposal was lost by a majority of one in the Lower House. Another motion, leaving it to the option of communicants to receive the Holy Supper either standing, sitting, or kneeling, as it pleased them, was lost by a very small majority. Many of the Bishops themselves were in favour of simplifying the rites of the Church; and five Deans and twelve Archdeacons petitioned against the use of the surplice. The movement was so strong that Convocation, if left to itself, would probably

have purified the Church in the Puritan sense of the word. But the Queen had all the Tudor liking for a stately ceremonial, and she had political reasons, national and international, to prevent her allowing any drastic changes. She was bent on welding her nation together into one, and she had to capture for her Church the large mass of people who were either neutral or who had leanings to Romanism, or at least to the old mediaeval service. The Council of Trent was sitting; Papal excommunication was always threatened, and, as above explained, Lutheran protection and sympathy were useful. The ceremonies were retained, the crucifixes and lights on the altars were paraded in the chapel royal to show the Lutheran sympathies of the Queen and of the Church of England. The Reforming Bishops, with many an inward qualm,[590] had to give way; and gradually, as the Queen had hoped, a strong Conservative instinct gathered round the Prayer-Book and its rubrics. The Convocation of 1563 witnessed the last determined attempt to propose any substantial alteration in the public worship of the English people.

At the same Convocation a good deal of time was spent upon a proposed Book of Discipline, or an authoritative statement of the English canon law. It is probable that its contents are to be found in certain "_Articles for government and order in the Church, exhibited to be permitted by authority; but not allowed_," which are printed by Strype[591] from Archbishop Parker's MSS. Such a book would have required parliamentary authority, and the Parliament of 1563 was too much occupied with the vanishing protection of Spain and with the threatening aspect of France and Scotland. The marriage of the Queen of Scots with Darnley had given additional weight to her claims on the English throne; and it was feared that the English Romanists might rise in support of the legitimate heir. Parliament almost in a panic passed severe laws against all recusants, and increased the penalties against all who refused the oath of allegiance or who spoke in support of the authority of the Bishop of Rome. The discipline of the Church was left to be regulated by the old statute of Henry VIII., which declared that as much of the mediaeval canon law as was not at variance with the Scriptures and the Acts of the English Parliament was to form the basis of law for the ecclesiastical courts. This gave the Bishop's officials who presided over the ecclesiastical courts a very free hand; and under their manipulation there was soon very little left of the canon law--less, in fact, than in the ecclesiastical courts of any other Protestant Churches. For these officials were lawyers trained in civil law and imbued with its principles, and predisposed to apply them whenever it was possible to do so.

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