When King Edward breathed his last the Reformed Worship of the English Church hung for a moment in the balance.
The prospects on the accession of Queen Mary.
|No compulsion of her subjects in the matter of religion| was the promise by which Mary gained supporters in Norfolk and Suffolk against her rival for the throne; and her words were taken up and repeated in every part of the kingdom. And when she entered the Tower and lifted the imprisoned Gardiner from his knees, and let him go free, it was, she might have urged, one fulfilment of her promise, but it was interpreted very differently. Anglican and Protestant began to tremble for their faith; and as soon as her Crown was secure she threw off the disguise. A dagger launched by some fiery zealot against a preacher at St. Paul's Cross, who divining his mistress's mood inveighed against the Prayer-book, was the signal for decisive measures to begin. Cranmer was confined within the walls of his Palace, Ridley was committed to the Tower, Cox was shut up in a cell in the Marshalsea, from which Bonner was released, and many others were imprisoned. In Canterbury Cathedral the suffragan Bishop, seizing the advantage of the Primate's confinement, stopped the legal service, and with all the pomp and circumstance of the Roman Ritual restored the Mass : and from this beginning the old use regained its position step by step till the last vestige of opposition, that of the Legislature itself, entirely disappeared. The Houses of Parliament, with scarcely a dissentient voice, passed a vote of repentance for their schism, and after receiving, in behalf of the nation, absolution from the Papal legate on their bended knees, they heard the proclamation read, that England had entered again into union with Rome. For four years no language of prayer and praise but that which spoke in the Breviary and Missal was ever heard in the Churches.The Reaction upon her death. But Mary died, and Elizabeth reigned: and a fresh epoch in the religion and worship of the Church began. Never in the world's history was a movement initiated under more difficult circumstances than the Elizabethan Reaction. It was well for England that the Sovereign, who was to guide it, was possessed of an unconquerable will and a tenacity of purpose rarely equalled, perhaps never surpassed.
The difficulties by which Queen Elizabeth was confronted.
Let us look awhile at the difficulties by which she was confronted when she resolved, as she did in heart from the beginning, to re-establish the Reformed Worship of the Catholic Church, unimpaired if possible alike by Papal and Puritan innovations.
The clergy of the country were pledged to Rome; the posts of dignity and influence from Bishopric to Prebend were filled, with rare exceptions, by men who were intensely Roman; the Parish priests were the same, in a less degree no doubt, but in over- whelming majority, for the vigilant eye of Bonner had promoted none that were lukewarm, and spared from deprivation few that were disaffected. Here then was one obstacle of appalling magnitude.
And there was a second hardly less formidable. For Edward it would have been trivial: for Elizabeth it was overwhelming. The one would have seized it and made it a vantage ground: the other would be satisfied with nothing short of victory over it, or at least in spite of it.From the exiled clergy. This was the Puritan Party which long banishment and depression had embittered, and which now the prospect of release made buoyant with hope and eager for reascendancy.
When Mary declared herse1f for the Roman Faith, and the Second Prayer-book was suspended, all who held views that were decidedly Protestant determined to escape from the intolerance which threatened them at home. An exodus to the Continent took place of some hundreds of the clergy, and Strasburg and Frankfort, Zurich and Geneva became for the English, what London had been a few years before, when it afforded a sanctuary from the Inquisition of Charles V. and the Papal Interim. And many of the exiles were seized at once with a spirit of unrestrained freedom. Calvin, who at Frankfort was looked upon as an oracle, denounced the English Prayer-book, and his denunciation produced a powerful effect. Knox, the fiery revolutionist in Church government, placed himself at the head of those who wished to shako themselves free from the forms and ceremonies to which they had been tied. Thus a party was created of what we may call ultra-Protestants. A few held out vigorously against these democratic innovations, under the leadership of Cox, and for a time they succeeded in preserving the English ritual in its integrity, but time and circumstances told upon them. Living as exiles in want and penury, they found that they had little to spend on vestments and ornaments, on the luxuries and beauty of an elaborate worship, and indifference to externals crept in, and the laxity of rule and discipline of their neighbours had its effect upon them and made them impatient of order. And so it came about that when they returned to England, even the bareness of worship which the close of Edward's reign had encouraged was made barer still by Genevan and Frankfort usage.
Confronted by these, what was the Queen to do? She was determined to overthrow the Roman worship, because with all the pomp and ceremonial which she loved, it involved doctrines which she (lisbeheved, and she shrank from an alliance with the power which would have made the task so easy, because her nature rebelled instinctively against the unattractive nakedness of Puritanical worship.
There was yet a third party, albeit apparently a small one, with which she decided to identify herself.
The Anglican Party.
When the Romanists came in, the Protestants fled; but there were some who dreaded the association of the foreign Churches more than contact with Rome, and they determined to remain in England, some of them conforming to the Roman worship, and retaining their posts, others, whose consciences were more tender, resigning their livings and retiring into privacy, contented to bide their time and hope for better days. With this third party, the less violent portion of the exiles, who had clung to the Prayer-book through all their vicissitudes, were practically united on their return. It was reinforced too no doubt by the adherence of numbers of the laity, for this is the only explanation of the conduct of the representatives of the people, in the Houses of Parliament, when they were called upon to declare their opinion on the Acts of Uniformity.
The Queen's doctrinal views.
It will be well to ascertain as clearly as possible what the Queen's doctrinal views really were, at the time when she was called upon to assume the direction of affairs. There can, I think, be little question that they underwent considerable modification in her later years, and it has been a common practice to lose sight of this and to speak of her as though she had held in the beginning the faith and opinions in which she died. Every surrounding had tended to lower the standard. Of the Bishops of her reign Parker was the nearest in sympathy, but with none of the Queen's enthusiasm and ever ready to make concessions. Of her councillors Cecil was most faithful to her wishes, but in the maintenance of Catholic faith and worship only a half-hearted minister; while Essex was an avowed patron of nonconformity, and Leicester, |the wicked Earl,| seemed to have been born for the destruction of the Church. Such a combination of evil influences could hardly fail to affect her.
At the beginning of her reign she was distinctly Catholic in the true and proper sense of the term: and we shall see how she succeeded in more ways than one in stamping her Catholicity upon the revised Liturgy which was shortly put forth. And this point can hardly be too carefully considered or too clearly established, because it must have a most important bearing upon the |Vestiarian Controversy,| and the right interpretation of the disputed Advertisements.
In proclaiming her title she designated herself |of the true and ancient and Catholic faith.| When the adoption of a Prayer-book was mooted, she expressed a strong predilection in favour of the First of Edward VI. She had long been a student of patristic lore and the early history of the Church, and it had created in her an intense love for antiquity and reverence for old and time-honoured rites and observances.
Her views upon the crucial point of the Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist she was known to have expressed with a caution and reverence which might well be imitated.
| 'Twas GOD the Word that spake it,
He took the Bread and brake it,
And what the Word did make it,
That I believe and take it.|
And once when the preacher in the Royal Chapel confessed with reverence and becoming humility the mystery of the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, she expressed her satisfaction by giving thanks to him openly for his pains and piety at the conclusion of the service.
And when de Feria, Philip's ambassador, pressed her to explain the doctrines which her people would be expected to believe, she assured him that |she held that GOD was really present in the Sacrament,| though she was not prepared to accept the teaching of the Roman Catholics upon the manner of His Presence. All this shows very plainly the bent of her mind.
Accused of Roman tendencies.
The Puritans made a perpetual grievance of her allowing the Crucifix and Lights to remain on the altar in her chapel, and Dean Nowell, when preaching before her in Lent, took occasion to speak by the way with little reverence of the symbol of the Cross; whereupon Her Majesty called to him from her closet window |to retire from that ungodly digression and return to his text.| The figure of the Crucified nailed to the Cross had become an object of intense aversion, but sober-minded judges would deem it an extreme measure to condemn her for Roman tendencies in using it, especially if her own avowed objections are allowed their legitimate weight.
It is true that in selecting her Privy Council she retained a number of statesmen who had served the same office to Queen Mary, but she was actuated herein by prudential motives which admit of ample justification; and she was careful to provide against an undue preponderance of influence by the addition of others of very different views and policy. Again, she has been blamed for continuing to attend the Celebration of the Mass far longer than was necessary after her accession, but she exercised a wise discretion in determining to feel her way cautiously and avoid irritating her opponents by precipitate change. On one or two occasions, however, she thought fit to resist what she believed to be innovations upon Catholic usage. The Romans, for instance, elevated the Host that it might be worshipped, and against1 this she protested. It is recorded that on Christmas day she directed the Bishop, who was about to celebrate in the Royal Chapel, not to elevate the Host in her presence, and that, when he replied that |his life was the Queen's but his conscience was his own,| she marked her disapproval by rising before the Gospel and leaving with her attendants.
We pass now to see what, under these circumstances, was the tendency of the ecclesiastical measures with which she began her reign.
Her first steps towards important changes.
Her first act was the introduction of certain parts of the Service in English in the Royal Chapel, viz., the Litany, the LORD'S Prayer, Creed, Epistle, and Gospel. Then with the intention of checking the intemperate zeal of the advanced Reformers, who, in the belief that she was on their side, began at once a number of innovations, she issued a proclamation prohibiting any further departure from the established order of worship than such as she had sanctioned in her own chapel, till such time as |consultation should be had by her Majesty and her three estates of the realm.|
Her next step was to take into her confidence Sir Thomas Smith, a man of great learning, and, what was especially helpful to her at such a crisis, profound knowledge of the laws of the country. He at once drew up suggestions and embodied them in a document entitled |Device for the alteration of religion| it is singularly interesting as expressive at every turn of the legal mind, which saw things chiefly from the opponent's side, and was occupied in forestalling the objections which would be raised.
A committee appointed.
His advice, which was acted upon, was the immediate appointment of an intimate cabinet of trusty Councillors, who should be made privy to the Queen's designs and wishes, and aid her in the selection of a Committee of Divines to review the service and ceremonies of the Church. The inner circle was formed of Cecil, Gray, Northampton, and Bedford, and the revision of the Liturgy committed to eight learned and able men, Parker, Grindal, Cox, Bill, Pilkington, Whitehead, and May, with Sir Thomas Smith to render such legal and lay assistance as they were likely to require. The Catholic and Protestant views were equally represented, but those who held the latter, though chosen from the returned exiles, were of the more orthodox side, all having resisted the lax discipline and libertinism of Knox and his colleagues, and adhered throughout to the English order. They met for deliberation without any appointment under the great seal, but as a private body gathered together to advise the government how to proceed in the matter of religion. Their place of meeting was the lodging of their legal adviser in Cannon Row, Westminster: and the chair was taken by Parker. His health broke down shortly after, and Guest was appointed to fill his place whenever he was unable to attend. The first question which they were called upon to decide was the basis of the proposed revision.The basis of the proposed revision. Sir Thomas Smith, as representing the Queen's opinion, advised the First Prayer-book of Edward VI. It not only expressed those Catholic doctrines which she was prepared to uphold, but the authority under which it had been issued was unimpeachable. Convocation had drawn it up, the voice of the people in Parliament had ratified it, the King had sealed it, and beyond all this it had been acknowledged by its Revisionists to have been compiled under the guidance and influence of the Holy Ghost. These were weighty arguments in its favour, but the returned exiles interposed. They felt themselves to be the representatives of the whole Protestant body, and realising what a violent shock it would be to them to hear that a Book, which many of them disliked only one degree less than the Roman Use itself, was about to be presented to Parliament for adoption, they pleaded eagerly for that which had been last in use. And their arguments prevailed. The office of conciliating the Queen was undertaken by Parker. He was known to have great influence with her, and he succeeded in overcoming her determination. His own inclinations were entirely with hers, but he was a far-seeing and sagacious counsellor, and he knew that to alienate the Protestants would be to leave the government, if not entirely without support, yet face to face with two bitterly hostile parties, which they would be powerless to resist.
It is very probable that he gave the Queen assurances that the Second Prayer-book would only be nominally presented to Parliament: he had every hope that such alterations would be made as should strip it of its most obnoxious features, and so prevent her from doing any violence to her conscience in accepting it.
After this preliminary was settled, the Committee had repeated sittings, and on the 15th of February, a Bill was laid before Parliament for Uniformity of worship, but deferred on the ground that the subject was not yet ripe for legislation. The Queen thereupon directed the Archbishop of York to make arrangements for a public disputation between the Roman and Reforming parties in Westminster Abbey. Eight disputants were chosen on either side.
Public debate in Westminister Abbey.
On the Roman side were Heath, Archbishop of York, four Bishops, White of Winchester, Bayne of Lichfield, Scott of Chester, Watson of Lincoln, Fecknam, Abbot of Westminster, Cole, Dean -- and Chedsey Prebendary of St. Paul's, and two Archdeacons, Langdale of Lewes, and Harpsfield of Canterbury.
On the side of the Reformers were Scory, late Bishop of Chichester, Cox, late Dean of Westminster, Horn of Durham, Sandys, Whitehead, Grindal, Guest, Elmar, and Jewel.
Of the Advocates of Rome apart from Archbishop Heath, who however took no part in the discussions, there are only two whose names bear any distinction in history, -- Cole and Harpsfield, -- the former as having been chosen for his learning to preach the Sermon at Oxford in justification of Cranmer's sentence, the latter, for the unenviable reputation he gained in the Marian persecutions, as |the inquisitor of Canterbury,| in pitiless cruelty second only to |the bloody Bonner.|
The other list presents a far different aspect, almost the whole number having left the mark of their names upon the annals of the age.
Friday, March 31, was the day appointed for the commencement of the combat. It must have been a striking spectacle even in a building which, excepting only St. Peter's, has witnessed grander assemblages than any other in Europe.
The gathering of the disputants and the spectators.
It was the arbitrament to which the Queen had resolved to submit the rival claims of her divided subjects, and on the result of the disputations the gravest consequences appeared to depend. And the spectators were not unworthy of the occasion. The Lord Keeper of the Seal, Sir Nicolas Bacon, came representing the Crown, and as Moderator of the Assembly, may have occupied for the occasion the Abbot's stall, which would only be vacated for the Queen or her delegate. The Privy Council, as next in order of dignity, were placed in the stalls of the Monks. The Prelates, and the rest of the disputants, some in their Convocation robes, others in their Academical dress, were seated in the Quire beneath, the one on the North, the other on the South. The Houses of Parliament, Nobility and Commons, were provided for where room could be found, for their sittings had been suspended that all might attend that momentous contest. And such was the excitement and eager expectation of the populace, wherever sight could be obtained or hearing found, the Abbey was crowded with a dense mass of human beings.
Three subjects had been agreed upon for discussion: --
The points of debate.
Firstly, That it is repugnant to GOD'S Word, and the usage of the Primitive Church, that the service should be conducted in an unknown tongue.
Secondly, That every Church has authority to vary or modify its forms of worship, with a view to edification.
Thirdly, That the Mass is not a propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead.
The terms of the discussion agreed upon were, that the Roman advocates should begin, their adversaries follow. It was pretended that the arrangement was made in deference to the superior rank and position of the Romans, and they accepted it, without thinking apparently, and were placed at a manifest disadvantage. Intellectually the Marian party were inferior, and could ill afford to make any such concession. The debate was opened with the question of the use of the Latin tongue in public service, and it ended as every one expected in the total discomfiture of the defenders of the Roman practice, and so completely did their adversaries overpower them in argument that they carried the audience completely with them, the vast assemblage raising loud plaudits at the conclusion, and the Prelates being covered with confusion and dismay.
The following Monday was fixed for the continuation of the dispute, but when they reassembled, the Bishops demanded that the order of proceedings should be reversed: and argued that alike by the practice of the Schools and the Law Courts, as they maintained the negative of the question to be discussed, they were entitled to the second place in the debate. And certainly they had justice on their side. Until the Law had deprived them of their position, they were the recognised guardians of the Religion of the country; and it was obviously their duty to continue at their post, and when assailed to repel the assault if they could, or to succumb if they must.
But the Moderator ruled that the orders drawn up by the Queen admitted of no modification, and must be strictly complied with, or the discussion would be closed. Angry recriminations and bitter invectives were bandied from side to side, but neither party would yield. The Romanists were conscious of being overmatched, and decided that it was better to retire with at least a show of unfair treatment, than risk being fairly beaten.
The Queen's Representative rose from his seat and pronounced the discussion closed, but forgetting that an arbiter should know no favour, he turned with anger to the Bishops, and said, |You have refused to let us hear you; ere long, it may be, you will hear of us.| And the ominous threat was soon put into execution; the Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln, who had been foremost in defying the Queen's mandate, were committed to the Tower for contempt of court, and the rest were bound over in heavy recognisances to come up for judgment whenever they should be called upon, and eventually sentenced to considerable fines.
In a short time, the Parliament-sittings were recommenced, and one of the earliest measures brought on was the Bill which had been dropped three months before for Uniformity of worship.
Propsals for legislation renewed.
The debate in Westminster Abbey facilitated its progress. The Commons accepted it, as far as we can find, without a division, satisfied that it had received full consideration from competent commissioners; but the Lords, whom the presence of the spirituality in their councils had affected with a deeper concern for matters of religion, were in a far different mood, and offered vigorous opposition both at the second and third readings of the Bill.
Oppostion from the Abbot of Westminster and Bishop Scott.
The first to rise was the Abbot of Westminster, and ashamed no doubt of the miserable exhibition which his party had made in the Abbey, and eager to retrieve the credit they had lost, he made a vigorous attack upon its principles. The arguments of his speech were directed to the establishment of three propositions: --
Firstly, That the Faith which was imperilled was that which had come down from ancient times.
Secondly, That it was the only Faith which had ever been held with perfect consistency.
Thirdly, That it fostered loyal obedience to the Crown and to all in authority.
At the third reading, Scott, the Bishop of Chester, made a final effort to throw it out. His appeal was addressed especially to the lay members of the House, and he tried to overawe them by dwelling upon the weightiness, the darkness, the difficulty of the subject, |one touching life and death, upon which damnation depended;| and he drew a terrible picture of the danger and peril which hung over their heads if they erred in their judgment: and then, traversing the history of the past, and the settlement of the great disputes of Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, and Eutyches, in which no voice of the temporal power was suffered to be heard, he called upon his brethren of the laity to imitate the modesty of Emperors like Theodosius and Valentinian, and leave the settlement of Religion to the judgment of the Episcopate.
Both speeches have happily been preserved, and they are full of interest to those who study the turning-points of history.
How they were answered or by whom, the annals of Parliament have left us no record; but when we remember that notwithstanding the fact that the occupants of the Episcopal benches were pledged to support them, they were defeated, we may fairly conclude that their fallacies were exposed, and the fears which they conjured up disarmed of their sting. The Act of Uniformity passed.The Bill passed by a majority of three, the non-contents including the names of nine lords temporal and nine spiritual. It provided that the Second Prayer-book of Edward VI., as revised by a Committee of Divines, should be adopted throughout the kingdom on or after the Feast of St. John the Baptist next ensuing.
Now let us see how the mind of the Queen was reflected in the changes.Changes introduced. All but one perhaps involved important principles. That was simply the removal of an uncharitable petition in the Litany, which fostered a spirit of unchristian hatred, by praying for deliverance |from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities.|
The reader's place.
Of the others the first was a direction that prayers should be said |in the accustomed place;| and the words, |as the people may best hear| were erased. There can be no question that |the accustomed place| was the Quire, where the prayers were wont to be said during the three years and a half, when the First Prayer-book of Edward was in use. It has been asserted that it may have been simply a return to the usage of the Second Book, but as that was only used for eight months in the metropolis, and probably much less time in the provinces, no usage it enforced or sanctioned could have been of sufficiently long duration to be designated by such an epithet as |accustomed.| Indeed it is extremely probable that, owing to the difficulties of communication, many of the more remote parishes never adopted the Book at all.
The Ornaments Rubric.
The second was the introduction of an |ornaments rubric,| which brought back the Eucharistic vestments, and repealed the prohibition of 1552 A.D. An additional clause was appended referring to an Act of Parliament which gave the Queen power by he Royal prerogative |to take other order.| |Provided always, and be it enacted, that such ornaments o the Church and of the ministers thereof shall be retained and be used, as were in this Church of England by authority of Parliament, in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI, until other order shall be therein taken by authority of the Queen's Majesty, with the advice of her Commissioners appointed and authorised under the Great Seal of England for causes Ecclesiastical, or of the Metropolitan of this Realm.|
|And also that if there shall happen any Contempt or Irreverence to be used in the Ceremonies or Rites of the Church, by the Misusing of the Orders appointed in this Book, the Queen's Majesty may, by the like advice of the said Commissioners or Metropolitans, ordain and publish such further Ceremonies or Rites, as may be most for the Advancement of GOD'S glory, the Edifying of His Church, and the due Reverence of Christ's Holy Mysteries and Sacraments.|
When these clauses are read together (and they were printed as one in all the Elizabethan Prayer-books) it points to the interpretation of the objects of the provision being in both cases rather a development than a restraint or modification of Ceremonial.
The words of administration.
The third was the happy combination, as we have it now, of the two clauses in the Form of administration of the Elements: the first only having been used in the First Prayer-book, the second only in the Second.
The Black Rubric.
The fourth and last of any real import was the striking out of the |Black Rubric,| which, the Queen insisted, had been illegally foisted into the Prayer-book after the revision was completed.
Such were the changes, exhibiting a marked determination of the Revisionists to recover from the retrograde movement of the close of Edward's reign. That the whole ground was not regained is not so in such a matter of surprise, as that, in the face of such opposing forces, they were able to regain so much.
Even after Parliament had given legal force to the re-establishment of the reformed worship, efforts were made to stay the execution. The Queen was inexorable, and before the term of respite expired she resolved to summon the discontented Prelates into her presence and declare her unalterable resolve. Her Privy Council was calledThe Queen meets her Privy Council. and the whole Episcopal order and other ecclesiastics of distinction; and Archbishop Heath rose in the name of GOD and the Church he represented, to entreat her even at the eleventh hour to reconsider her determination: and in a speech full of foreboding predicted the consequences if the See of St. Peter should cease to be obeyed. The Queen replied with a dignity and calmness that fills us with wonder in one so young before such an assembly, and the words she used have become so familiar on her lips, as almost to have lost their original application: |As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD,| adding, |My aim is to bind myself and my people to Christ, the King of kings, and not to the Roman See.| And the Assembly broke up. Within six weeks from that date, Breviary and Missal were superseded, and Forms of worship in which the laity were enabled to take an intelligent part restored to the Churches. But the Queen was not satisfied to leave the enforcement of the Act to be carried out in the ordinary way. Before the year closed she issued a body of |Injunctions| to insure conformity in some essential particulars. Let me mention two by way of illustration.
The first was for the promotion of music in Divine Service. Recognising its value not only as a vehicle of praise but as a help to devotion, she made provision for the due maintenance of singing men and children, with a wise precaution that the service should not be made thereby less intelligible. And for the special comfort of those who delighted in music, she enjoined that at the beginning and end of Common Prayer a hymn or song in praise of Almighty GOD should be sung in the best melody that could be conveniently devised. Could she have foreseen that under the shield of her royal sanction, the barbarous strains of Sternhold and Hopkins would thrust out even the |Te Deum| and |Magnificat,| she would have hesitated to pen such an injunction.
The second direction was to insure becoming reverence in the outward gesture of the worshipper: and she embodied a general principle in the following orders which dealt with a familiar case: |That whensoever the Name of Jesus should be pronounced in any lesson, sermon or otherwise in the Church, due reverence should be made of all persons young and old, with lowliness of courtesy, and uncovering of the head of the men kind, as thereunto did necessarily belong and heretofore hath been accustomed.|
It shocks our ideas of reverence to hear of men having their heads covered in a consecrated building, but the practice was general at this time. Whether it was confined to the hearing of the sermon only, or extended to the whole service, is doubtful. The well-known picture in the Palace of Ely, representing the funeral of Bishop Cox, exhibits the whole congregation wearing their hats within the choir.
Anglican worship fully restored.
And with the Act of Uniformity, passed April 28, 1559 A.D., and the Injunctions which followed, the Anglican Reformed worship, with the Ritual of Edward's early years, was in the main re-established.
The priests, according to the service in which they were engaged, were free to wear the Edwardian vestments: outward reverence for holy things and places and for the Sacred Name was revived: and music, wherever it could be had, lent added beauty to the service of GOD'S House. And, what was of no little importance, the Queen herself, by whose happy efforts these results had been mainly attained, was careful to set before her subjects a fitting pattern of the worship which she desired to be offered throughout her dominions. The Royal Chapel was a model to all Churches, in furniture and ornaments, as well as in the frequency and the reverential conduct of its services.
Accepted by the Roman party.
But how far was the copy imitated? In proof that in many places it was done with no little success, we may appeal to the fact that multitudes of Roman Catholics, to whom the absence of Ritual would have been intolerable, were, if not satisfied, yet at least able to worship in our Churches. The Queen writing some years after testifies to this: many of the nobility, who still remained true to Papal allegiance, she says, |did ordinarily resort in all open places to Divine Services in the Churches without contradiction or show of misliking.|
And if the higher classes did deliberately accept the Reformed worship, the common people very probably did the same unconsciously.The changes not felt at first. It is almost certain that in many parishes the transition was practically unobserved by the congregation. The altars were vested very much as under the Marian rule, the |ornaments of the minister,| which the Elizabethan Revision enjoined, were not so divergent from the Roman as to strike the eye, while the gestures, the manner of the officiant priests, the intonation of the voice, all would in the nature of things remain the same, for no direction was given for change in any of these points. The real change was effected in the substance and doctrine of the Liturgy, but as it had been recited for six years in Latin, which was quite unintelligible to the masses, it is highly improbable that they would recognise the modifications. The only alteration which they would be certain to realise, they must have hailed with satisfaction and delight, viz., the substitution of the tongue which they spoke themselves, in place of one which, from their utter inability to comprehend it, had made their worship a cold and lifeless formality.
But it would have been far too much to expect that such acquiescence would be universal.Oppostion at length aroused. In places opposition would be stirred up and fostered by the priests, who hated the Reformation, and outbreaks of rebellion, for the restoration of the Roman Faith and worship, were by no means infrequent. That which assumed perhaps the most dangerous proportions was headed by the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland, |the hereditary leaders of the North,| we may add also |the hereditary chiefs of English Revolution.| It reached its height in Durham, when they strode defiantly into the Cathedral with a crowd of followers armed to the teeth, headed by a massive Crucifix, aud the old banner of the Pilgrimage on which the five Sacred Wounds were emblazoned. They tore the English Bible and Prayer-book to pieces: set up the ancient altar, replaced the holy water vessel, and then, as the historian relates, |amidst tears, embraces, prayers, and thanksgivings, the organ pealed out, the candles and torches were lighted, and the mass was said once more in the long desecrated aisles.| This rebellion however, like the rest, was crushed, and the Roman worship driven out. Then came the Papal Bull of Excommunication against the Queen, and no Romanist was suffered any longer to worship in the English Church.
But there was a party in England from whom the Elizabethan Reforms had more to fear than from any threatened rebellion of discontented Papists.
Causes contributing to the advance of the Puritans.
The Puritans had come in like a flood, and Acts and Injunctions and Royal proclamations proved powerless to stay their advance. Multitudes of important posts in the Church suddenly fell vacant. There had been an unprecedented mortality among the Bishops; the Plague had entered their Palaces, and no less than nine had died, as Fuller puts it, to form |the death-guard| of Queen Mary. The rest, with a single exception, refused either the oath of Supremacy or the Act of Uniformity, and were deprived. And not only those in the highest office, but many Deans, and Archdeacons, and other dignitaries shared a similar fate. And what followed? Their places were far from being adequately filled. In the dearth of competent men of Catholic views, there was no alternative but to draw from the Protestant ranks. Men were appointed with strong Puritan tendencies, not only satisfied with a meagre ritual, but pledged in principle to encourage it. Bishops like Scambler at Lincoln, Pilkington at Durham, Sandys at Worcester, and even Grindal in London, made no show even of enforcing the Act, but lent all the aid of their countenance to nonconforming clergy, till in many parts almost every feature of Catholic worship was obliterated.
The Queen's rapacity.
And then there was another cause contributing largely to the same untoward result, for which the Queen herself must be held responsible, we mean the impoverishment of the Church.
There is a noble protest among Whitgift's Letters, which must be remembered to his honour: |Madam,| he writes, |religion is the foundation and cement of human societies: and when they that serve GOD'S Altar shall be exposed to poverty, then religion itself will be exposed to scorn and become contemptible; as you may already observe it to be in too many poor vicarages in this nation. And therefore as you are by a late Act or Acts of Parliament entrusted with a great power to preserve or waste the Church's lands, yet dispose of them, for Jesus' sake, as you have promised to men and vowed to GOD, that is, as the donors intended : let neither falsehood nor flattery beguile you to do otherwise; but put a stop to GOD'S and the Levite's portion, I beseech you, and to the approaching ruins of the Church, as you expect comfort at the last day; for kings must be judged.|
Many a Bishopric was sequestered. Ely, for example, was vacant for twenty years after the death of Cox, and his successor Heton found the estates of the See frightfully curtailed. And Elizabeth seized the revenues with unblushing rapacity, and appropriated them with unaccountable inconsistency, to enrich courtiers like Cecil and Leicester, as well as herself.
The richest endowments were the first to suffer. The Cathedrals soon presented an appearance of most appalling neglect. The only sign of life among the Deans and Canons was the principle of self-interest,with which the example of the Queen had infected them. They suffered the daily services to cease: the altars to be stripped: flagons and chalices stood on their side-boards; and the copes and vestments were slit into gowns and bodices for their wives and children.
In the towns and villages things were but a few degrees better. The Parish Priests who conformed and retained their benefices, made a struggle to maintain at least the decencies of Ritual, but at last, |drawing foul ensample from fair names,| they became like the rest.
The Puritan clergy, to whom even a surplice was an abomination, could hardly be expected to check the prevailing desecration.
The neglected condition of the Churches.
So early as 1561 A.D. we read in a legal document, in which there is no probability of exaggeration, of the deplorable state to which the Chancels were reduced. |In sundry Churches and Chapels . . . there is such negligence and lack of convenient reverence used towards the comely keeping and order of the said Churches, and specially of the upper part called the chancels, that it breedeth no small offence and slander to see and consider, on the one part, the curiosity and costs bestowed by all sorts of men upon their private houses, and, on the other part, the unclean or negligent order and spare keeping of the house of prayer, by permitting open decay . . . and by appointing unmeet and unseemly tables, with foul cloths, for the Communion of the Sacraments, and generally leaving the place of prayer desolate of all cleanliness and of meet ornaments for such a place whereby it might be known a place provided for Divine service.|
Much of this deplorable neglect was inherited from the close of Edward's reign. The change of Altars into Tables and also of their position in the Churches had almost necessitated the disuse of the rich vestments in which they had been clothed. To replenish his exhausted coffers the King issued a Commission with power to seize upon the plate and hangings and other furniture and ornaments which, it was said, being no longer available for their original purpose, would be better appropriated than suffered to fall into decay. The demolition of images too had led to a great defacement of Churches and Chapels; and the east wall in many cases, from having been a favourite position for sculpture, presented a ruinous appearance, while no attempt at restoration had been made during the Marian rule. This state of neglect, which the Romans, with all their love of the externals of religion, had done nothing to correct, was aggravated by the carelessness of the Elizabethan clergy, and the Preamble of the Queen's |Order| to her Commissioners is a terrible revelation.The object of the injunctions. Her Injunctions were issued not merely to stay further desecration but to recover what was lost. In destroying the Roods, the Screens on which they were placed had away: but former, she to efface the distinction between the Chancel and the Nave should not be acknowledged, and she peremptorily ordered that the partitions should be replaced. Further to hide the disfigured wall above the Altar, she directed that the Table of the Decalogue should be set up. In Cathedrals, |the exemplary Churches,| they were to be embellished with |costly painting,| but in Parish Churches where poverty was sure to be pleaded, printed copies pasted upon board were sanctioned. We could hardly have a more forcible and telling description than is given by the fact that what bore no more traces of beauty than a modern |School Board Time Table| should have been accounted as a |comely ornament,| calculated to recover something of the reverence in which the Chancel had once been held. But the Injunctions failed to stay the progress of decay, and the Worship of GOD and everything connected with it fell into contempt. Even Convocation shared the indifference of the times, and a proposal to abolish some of the simplest ceremonies was only rejected by fifty-nine to fifty-eight votes. Then came the Advertisements, 1566 A.D. They were an honest attempt of the Archbishop to enforce the laws which were everywhere persistently broken. Even the surplice had been discarded in the administration of the Holy Communion, and some received kneeling, some standing, some sitting. The superficial reader will be struck with the triviality of the points at issue, the use of a dress, the sign of the Cross, the outward reverence at the Sacred Name; but the discerner of the times knows that in the greatest struggles the immediate battle is often fought over apparent trifles, and sees here that the conflict was in reality between antiquity and novelty, between the voice of the Church and private judgment, between Catholic truth and sectarian error.
The result of the first attempt to enforce Uniformity proves how necessary an appeal to force had become.The London Clergy. When the London clergy were summoned before the Primate and the Bishop of London, no less than thirty-seven out of ninety-eight, more than one-third, refused compliance, and their livings were sequestrated.
Of the Universities, the natural feeders of the Ministry, Oxford, after the suppression of the Roman influence, to which it yielded itself up in Queen Mary's reign, became |Calvinistic in the extreme.| Sampson. Dean of Christ Church, and Humphrys, the President of Magdalene, came back from exile, and soon succeeded in creating a reaction. Their party was reinforced shortly after by the institution of a new Divinity Professorship, to which the Secretary of State appointed Dr. Rainolds, |a learned and rigorous Puritan.|
Cambridge too, though traditionally less liable to fluctuations than the sister University, passed rapidly from Roman under Puritan influence, and fanatical preachers excited the undergraduates to rise in rebellion against the operation of the Act for Uniformity of worship. Many of the Heads of Houses took an active part in the |Vestiarian controversy,| and gained the nickname of| cap and surplice fanatics.| Others vented their Protestant spleen in stripping their Chapels of every vestige of beauty and ornament, and many fine paintings and stained glass windows fell victims to their iconoclastic zeal. Then came the libellous acts of Martin Mar-prelate, which fostered the spirit of insubordination to the last degree, and the evil genius of the University, Thomas Cartwright, appeared to add to the confusion. The evil influnecne of Cartwright. It would be impossible to name any one who did more to impregnate that generation with an uncatholic system of Theology, and to stereotype in the Schools of the clergy principles which aimed at divesting the Worship of the Church of all that was attractive and beautiful. His Lecture-room was thronged by admiring students, and his sermons were so popular that |the very windows were taken out of Great St. Mary's Church that the multitudes might come within reach of his voice.| But amidst so much that was sad and discouraging there was a gleam of sunshine and it must have gladdened the heart of the Queen before she died with at least the prospect of a brighter future for the Church which she loved.
The opportuneness of Hooker's writings.
The Protestant invasion had stifled the |new learning| which was born when the century began. It breathed again in the immortal pages of Hooker when the century closed.
The Puritan rested the authority for the doctrines and worship of the Church upon the narrow ground of express Scripture direction. Nothing whatever, he said, in faith or practice may claim our acceptance, or has even any right to receive it, unless it is clearly laid down in GOD'S written Word. Hooker showed that this narrow ground must be abandoned, and that |a divine order exists, not in written revelation only, but in the moral relations, the historical development, and the social and political institutions of men,| and he claimed for human reason the province of determining the laws of this order.
|The Ecclesiastical Polity| was exactly what was wanted in the crisis, and though the impression which it made was not immediately felt, it was deep and lasting. It informed the minds of men like Overall, and Andrewes, and Laud, and Cosin, and a great host of others who drew from its pages the spirit which gave them courage to meet the onslaught of the Commonwealth, and enabled them to raise the Church from her temporary overthrow, and place her securely in that position from which every effort has been powerless to dislodge her.