Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

TO THE REVEREND JOSEPH JONES, M.A. of SUTton in surrey IN REMEMBRANCE of A LoNG, CLose, AND UNBRokEN FRIENDSHIP, DATING FROM THE DAYs When he And The Writer

were FELLOW-STUDENTS

at COLLEGE

[graphic]

PREFACE

THE place of the Marprelate Tracts in the development of ecclesiastical affairs in England must justify the following endeavour to explain their origin and character. The years which come under our observation, the first thirty in the reign of Elizabeth, are vital years in the story of progress, , both civil and religious, in our country. The ferment of . the intellectual upheaval of the fifteenth century showed itself in England first, as a religious force; then, by necessary consequence, the civil movement followed. But progress, whether in Church or in State, came to a standstill under the reign of Mary. Intellectually this period counts for nothing. Its significance is moral. The reaction following the cruelties of the reign became the dynamic of the reforming creed, and the arrested currents of national progress travelled at an accelerated pace when released at the accession of Elizabeth. There was never a moment's illusion on the part of the Papal Church on the one hand, or of the Church which replaced it under the direction of Elizabeth on the other, that a break had been made in the continuity of the religious story of the country. What the Vatican thought of the proceeding may be seen in the Bull of Pius W. and in the humiliating act of contrition by which the Roman Church still receives the Protestant wanderer back to its fold. What the Elizabethan Protestants thought

of the Church they had left may be seen for that matter

clearly enough in their Book of Common Prayer. But the literature of the period leaves no ambiguity in the mind of any reader. There was not a bishop nor superior ecclesiastic in the reformed church to whom the Pope was not in very truth the Antichrist. The question of compromise with Rome was in no man's mind. Rome offered no compromise; the English prelates of the period neither desired compromise nor conceived it to be possible. The activity of Rome was political; its culmination was the expedition of the Spanish Armada. On the side of the Reformation the question was, How far shall evangelical progress go? The fierce controversies of the time turn on that point. Elizabeth, caring little for the purely theological issues, desired to retain the external pomp of the Papal Church as befitting the dignity of a sovereign; the men who clambered into high office in the Church wished for the reformed creed, a simplified worship, but retaining all the emoluments and administrative authority of the displaced Roman prelates. The evangelical reformers, however, would have cleared the Prayer Book of all ritual reminiscences of Rome; would have banished the official vestments of ministers; and have purified the Church of all merely nominal members—baptized parishioners who showed no outward sign that they were obedient to any religious faith and discipline. Prelacy they would have utterly destroyed, and all parties among them would have given a varying measure of self-government to each distinct local community. Such was the position. Controversy began early in the reign and gathered strength as Elizabeth felt free from the obsession of the Catholic powers, and as the reforming prelates were corrupted by the privileges of their offices. The culmination of the repressive acts of the episcopacy and of the energy of the reforming apologetic is represented by the Marprelate Tracts. How far they have been misunder

« PreviousContinue »