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The Progress of the Nation page 5

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Whilst Edward VI. thoroughly established Protestantism, Mary as completely reinstated Popery, and with a series of horrors which stamped terror and aversion of Roman Catholic ascendancy for ever deep in the spirit of this nation. The number of persons who died in the flames in that awful reign, for their faith and the freedom of conscience, is stated to have been 288; but Lord Burleigh estimated those who perished by fire, torture, famine, and imprisonment at not less than 400. Besides these, vast numbers suffered cruelly in a variety of ways. "Some of the professors," says Coverdale, "were thrown into dungeons, noisome holes, dark, loathsome, and stinking corners; others lying in fetters and chains, and loaded with so many irons that they could scarcely stir. Some tied in the stocks with their heels upwards; some having their legs in the stocks, with their necks chained to the wall with gorgets of iron; some with hands and legs in the stocks at once; sometimes both hands in and both legs out; sometimes the right hand with the left leg, or the left hand with the right leg, fastened in the stocks with manacles and fetters, having neither stool nor stone to sit on to ease their woful bodies; some standing in Skevington's gyves (commonly called ' Skevington's daughter') - which were most painful engines of iron - with their bodies doubled; some whipped and scourged, beaten with rods, and buffeted with fists; and some having their hands burned with a candle to try their patience, and force them to relent; some hunger-pined, and some miserably famished and starved." The chief Reformers fled out of the kingdom, chiefly to Frankfort and to Switzerland; and 800 or more lived to become the heads of the restored Church under Elizabeth; amongst these were Poynet, Bishop of Winchester; Grindal, afterwards Bishop of London, and finally Primate of England; Sandys, afterwards Archbishop of York; Ball, Bishop of Ossory; Pilkington, afterwards Bishop of Durham, Bentham, afterwards Bishop of Lichfield; Scorey, Bishop of Chichester, and afterwards of Hereford; Young, afterwards Archbishop of York; Cox, afterwards of Ely; Jewel, afterwards of Salisbury; Coverdale, the translator of the Bible, Bishop of Exeter; Horn, Dean of Durham; Khox, the apostle of Scotland; and Fox, the martyrologist. Besides these eminent men, there were Sir John Cheke, the famous Greek scholar, Sir Anthony Cooke, and Sir Francis Knollys, afterwards Elizabeth's vice-chamberlain.

On Elizabeth's accession to the throne she was by no means disposed to go so far as her brother Edward had gone, much less as far as the refugees, who now flocked back again from Geneva, would have carried her. They had imbibed all the rigid independent notions of Calvin and Zwinglius, and that probably before their departure from England - a circumstance which there is little doubt directed their course to that quarter, for the Reformers who resorted to Frankfort were much nearer to her standard - that standard very much the same as that of her father. She renounced all allegiance to the Pope and the Church of Rome, though she hesitated to declare herself the supreme head of the Church till it was conferred on her by Parliament. She issued orders to restrain the zeal of the Protestants, who began to pull down the images, and to restore the service to its state in King Edward's time. She gave directions that a part of the service should be read in English, and forbade the elevation of the host; but at the same time she suspended all preaching.

Parliament, on meeting, passed an Act asserting the supremacy of the Crown over the Church, revived the Acts of Henry VIII. which abolished the power and jurisdiction of the Pope in England, and authorised the use of King Edward's Book of Common Prayer, with some alterations, chiefly in the Communion Service. Thus they cast off the Roman Catholics who would not conform, but did not go far enough for the more zealous Reformers. The oath of supremacy was presented to the bishops, and it had the effect of clearing the Church of all but Kitchen of St. Asaphs. The inferior clergy, however, were not so firm, and only six abbots, twelve deans, twelve archdeacons, fifteen heads of colleges, fifty prebendaries, and eighty rectors refused compliance. The monks returned to secular life, but the nuns mostly went abroad. The. clergy were ordered to wear the habits in use in the latter part of King Edward's time; and their marriages, against which the queen showed a strong repugnance, were put under stringent regulations. The press also was laid under the most rigorous restrictions, and no book was to be printed or published without the licence of the queen, or of six of her privy council, or of her ecclesiastical commissioners, or the two archbishops, the Bishop of London, the chancellors of the universities, and the bishop and archdeacons of the place where it was produced. All persons were commanded to attend their parish churches under severe penalties. In 1562 the articles of religion of King Edward were reduced from forty-two to thirty-nine. In 1571 they underwent a further revision, and were made binding on the clergy before they could be admitted to orders.

Like her father, the longer she lived the more resolute she became to enforce her own dogmas on the whole body of her subjects. In the twenty-third year of her reign the penalty for non-attendance of the Established Church was raised to 20 per month. In the same year another Act was passed, declaring it high treason to attempt to draw any one to the Church of Rome; and the persons thus drawn were equally guilty of treason, and all their aiders, abettors, and concealers were made guilty of misprision of treason. These arbitrary laws against the freedom of opinion went on increasing in severity. In 1585 an Act was passed, which made traitors of all Jesuits and other Popish priests who had been ordained abroad, and all subjects whatever educated in Papal seminaries who did not immediately return home and take the oath of supremacy. The receivers of any such persons were declared felons without benefit of clergy. Whoever sent money to any foreign Jesuits or priests were liable to praemunire; and parents sending their children to school abroad without licence from Her Majesty, were liable to a penalty of 100. Fresh Acts were added in 1581 and 1593, the former to make void all conveyances of property by Popish recusants, with the object of escaping the penalties imposed upon them, and to decree that the penalty of 20 a month for non-attendance at church should be levied by distress to the extent of all the offenders' goods and two-thirds of their lands; the latter ordered all Popish recusants above sixteen to repair to their proper places of abode, and never more to go more than five miles from them without special licence from the bishop of the diocese or lieutenant of the county, under penalty of forfeiture of their goods and of the profits of their lands for life; those having no goods or lands to be deemed felons.

But if the atrocities committed by the Roman Catholics in the reign of Mary, and the fears of their recurrence should they regain the power, afforded some plea for these persecutions, what is to be said of the same rigours applied to the Reformers, who simply desired to form their religious opinions on the sacred volume - the divine charter of humanity? Thousands of these, from the earliest days of the Reformation, had claimed this privilege as their plain birthright; and many of those who came back from the Continent on the termination of the Marian persecution, were no little surprised and discouraged to find themselves equally excluded from the exercise of their own judgments by a Protestant queen. They were required to attend the preaching of those against whose doctrines they protested, and suffered the same monstrous fines if they absented themselves. Instead of that "glorious liberty of the gospel" which they had promised themselves, they found themselves required to accept with all homage the cut out and prescribed pattern of opinion dictated by an individual woman, who made a desperate stand against the removal of images from the churches, and practised many Popish ceremonies in her own private chapel. Instead of the form of service which the English refugees had established at Geneva, in which there was no Litany, no responses, and scarcely any rites or ceremonies, they were commanded to adopt a form which appeared to them little removed from Popery. The Genevan refugees, who, from their demand for the utmost purity and primitive simplicity in worship, were styled Puritans, would, had they been permitted, have planted a church far more like the church as it came to exist in Scotland than that which was and is established for England. They opposed the claims of the bishops to a superior rank or authority to the presbyters; they denied that they possessed the sole right of ordination, and exercise of church discipline; they objected to the titles and dignities which had been copied by the Anglican Church from, the Roman, of archdeacons, deans, canons, prebendaries; to the jurisdiction of Spiritual Courts; to an indiscriminate admission of all persons to the communion; to many parts of the liturgy, and of the offices of marriage and burial, including the use of the ring in marriage; they repudiated set forms of prayers, and the use of godfathers and godmothers, the rite of confirmation, the observance of Lent and holidays, the cathedral worship, the use of the organ, the retention of the reading of apocryphal books in the church, pluralities, non-residence, the presentation of livings by the Crown, or any other patron, or by any mode but the free election of the people.

But in that age no conception of religious liberty was entertained. The Puritans were as resolute in their ideas of conformity to their notions as Elizabeth was to hers; and had they had the power, would have used the same compulsion. Knox exhibited that spirit of exclusiveness to the extreme in Scotland, even calling for the deposition of the queen as a "Jezebel" and "an idolatress," because she would not adopt his peculiar tenets and view of things. The Puritans exhibited the same spirit long after in America, where they put to death the Quakers for the exercise of their faith. In fact, the great and divine principle of the entire liberty of the gospel was too elevated to be arrived at suddenly after so many ages of spiritual despotism, and required long and earnest study of the spirit and example of Christ; severe struggles, and bloody deaths, and incredible sufferings in those who came to see the sublime truth, before the battle of religious freedom was fought out, and all parties could admit the plain fact which had revealed itself to Charles V. after his abdication of the throne, when he amused himself with clock-making: that as no two clocks can be made to go precisely alike, it is folly to expect all men to think precisely alike. "Both parties," says Neal, in his " History of the Puritans," speaking of these times, "agreed too well in asserting the necessity of a uniformity of public worship, and in using the sword of the magistrate for the support and defence of their respective principles, which they made an ill use of in their turns whenever they could grasp the power in their hands." The standard of uniformity, according to the bishops, was the queen's supremacy, and the laws of the land; according to the Puritans, the decrees of provincial and national synods, allowed and enforced by the civil magistrate: but neither party were for admitting that liberty of conscience and freedom of profession which is every man's right as far as is consistent with the peace of the civil Government he lives under."

Elizabeth, having the power, compelled all those clergymen who conformed sufficiently to accept livings and bishoprics, not only to conform, but more or less to persecute their brethren. Even men like Parker and Grindal, naturally averse to compulsion, were obliged to do her bidding, till Grindal rebelled and was set aside; but their places were supplied by Sandys, who had himself fled from Popish compulsion, and by Whitgift, who rigorously enforced the laws. Sandys actually sentenced the anabaptists who, in 1575, were burnt at the stake by order of the queen - for to this pass it came: Hammond, a ploughman, being burnt at Norwich in 1579, and Kett, a member of one of the universities, in the same place, ten years afterwards, under Elizabeth.

Such was the state of the Protestant Church at the termination of the period we are now reviewing. The queen discouraged preaching and instruction of the people, allowing many bishoprics, prebends, and livings to be vacant, and receiving their incomes. She declared that one or two preachers in a county was enough, probably fearing the prevalence of the more advanced opinions. Parker in his time had been ordered to enforce strict compliance with the rubric, and numbers of the most eminent and eloquent clergymen resigned their livings and travelled over the country, and preached where they could, "as if," says Bishop Jewell, "they were apostles; and so they were with regard to their poverty, for silver and gold they had none." Being, however, continually brought before the authorities and fined and otherwise punished, they determined to break off all connection with the public churches, and form themselves into an avowed separate communion, worshipping God in their own way, and being ready to suffer for his sake. Hero, then, commenced the great cause of Nonconformity, and the formation, of all those sects which from time to time have since appeared, each claiming - and justly - the right to worship God and to regulate their particular church as seems conformable to their understanding of the Scriptures. These separate assemblies, however, were stigmatised as conventicles, and many from this time became the laws passed to put them down, as we shall hereafter find. Amongst the Nonconformists a most zealous and resolute sect arose called Brownists, from Robert Brown, a preacher in the diocese of Norwich, a man of good family, and said to be a relative of Lord Burleigh. His followers soon acquired the name of Independents, which they still retain, from their denial of all ecclesiastical dignities and authority whatever, asserting that each congregation constitutes a complete church, with the right to nominate their own minister and conduct their own affairs. This body of Christians, at this day so extensive and respectable, of course felt the especial weight of the persecution of the Established Church, with which it refused to hold the slightest communion; yet to such a degree did it nourish - a proof of the onward spirit of the time - that Sir Walter Raleigh declared in Parliament that there were before the death of Elizabeth not less than 20,000 members of that body in Norfolk, Essex, and the neighbourhood of London.

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