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For the final adjudication of his case, however, Northampton had not thought proper to wait, but had contracted a new marriage with the daughter of Brooke, Lord Cobham. This hasty step gave great offence, and the Marquess was summoned before the council to answer for his precipitancy. He then justified his conduct as plainly warranted by Scripture, and condemned only by Popish canons imposed under a notion that marriage was a sacrament. Such arguments, however, were deemed unsatisfactory, and it was ordered that his new wife should leave his house, and reside with his sister, the Queen Dowager, until the legality of his marriage should be ascertained. At length that matter was decided to his satisfaction, and the Marchioness returned to cohabit with him. Still it was doubted whether his marriage would stand good in law, and therefore, he thought it prudent, about four years afterwards, to procure the sanction of an act of Parliament for what he had done d.
No sooner was the attention of the leading divines released from Northampton's case, than it was fixed upon objects of more general concernment. The time was now at hand when the Church of Rome found most employment for the imaginations of the people. Before the commencement of Lent, confession was expected of all men ; during the continuance of the fast they were to perform the several penances imposed
d Ibid. 94.
upon them by their spiritual guides; and the gloomy season of abstinence was closed by various imposing ceremonies and exhibitions. In all this bustle and variety, there was much to captivate the senses, little to amend the heart, or to store the mind with sound religious knowledge. Justly, therefore, did those excellent men, who were now the crown's ecclesiastical advisers, determine upon abolishing these spurious incentives to devotion. Accordingly, Bishop Boner, who, in right of his see, was the provincial dean of Canterbury, received from his metropolitan, an order of council upon the subject of certain superstitions, for the purpose of transmitting it to the several prelates of the southern province. Boner's letter to his brethren, written in obedience to this command, bears date the 28th of January, and interdicts the use of candles in processions on Candlemas-day, of ashes on Ash-Wednesday, and of palms on Palm-Sunday. This order appears. to have been received with no small satisfaction by the more zealous opponents of Romanism, and it is probable that some such persons immediately commenced a series of unsparing attacks upon the established ritual. In order to stay the indiscretion of such reformers, a royal proclamation was issued on the 6th of February, by which all persons, whether clerical or lay, who should discontinue ancient ceremo
• Circular letter of the Bishop of London. Heylin, Hist. Ref. 55.
nies, preach or argue publickly against them, or introduce new church usages, without proper authority, were threatened with imprisonment and other penalties. All clergymen also were by this instrument interdicted from preaching out of their own pulpits, unless by especial licence from the King, the royal visitors, the Archbishop of Canterbury, or their respective diocesans. From the penalties denounced, however, those were expressly excused who should refuse to bear a candle, take ashes, bear a palm, creep to the cross, take holy bread or water, or omit such other rites and ceremonies as the Archbishop of Canterbury, by his Majesty's will and commandment, has enjoined, or may hereafter enjoin to be discontinued '. Thus cautiously were the minds of men prepared for such farther innovations upon the system under which many generations had lived and died, as might appear necessary to those illustrious divines, who then laboured for the religious renovation of their country. Perhaps a proscription of ancient superstitions may be thought by some, an injudicious mode of introducing to the populace a more scriptural faith than that which they had hitherto known. But it should be recollected that Holy Writ encourages no compromise with human frailty. Men with ears yet tingling with the thunders of Jehovah would hardly have debased themselves by the stupid adoration of a golden
Royal proclamation. Burnet, Hist. Ref. Records, II. 179.
calf, had not their sacrifice to the brutish idol been succeeded by the banquet and the dance. But, however, attractive religious rites were rendered by such exhilarating ceremonies, all such were utterly and indignantly rejected by the Divine founder of the ancient Jewish Church. In this respect the Old Testament is a safe guide to those who teach the doctrines of Christianity. It shews them the danger and impropriety of alluring gross and sensual minds into the semblance of religion by means of striking ceremonies and holiday pastimes. The affections of thoughtless people may, indeed, be thus conciliated towards an ecclesiastical system, but a spirit of rational piety and sound morality can only flow from long-continued, and heaven-directed reflection upon the awful truths of Revelation. To these, therefore, will the well informed and conscientious teacher of religion steadily direct the minds of those who look up to him as a spiritual guide. Nor is it likely to escape the observation of such a man, that even important truths cannot safely be communicated to the populace through the medium of ceremonies which are chiefly calculated to take a strong hold upon the imagination. In these, the shadow effectually conceals the substance from a large portion of mankind. Hence it was desirable to wean the minds of men from their inveterate habits of religious trifling, as a preparative for a thorough
& Exod. xxxii. 6.
purgation of the Church of England from the blemishes contracted in her long connexion with papal Rome.
On the 11th of February Cranmer had the satisfaction of receiving an order of council, for transmission through his province, enjoining the indiscriminate removal of images from Churches. In this instrument it is stated, that former injunctions upon the subject, having been very partially and imperfectly obeyed, there were in many places violent contentions respecting images. In scarcely any place, it was added, were men at peace unless these things had been wholly removed. For the sake, therefore, of putting an end to such disputes, and in order that “the lively image of Christ should not contend for the dead images, which be things not necessary, and without which the Churches of Christ continued most godly many years," an immediate removal of all these venerated objects was commanded". Several years had now passed away since images abused to superstitious purposes had been proscribed by royal authority, and in consequence, some of the most glaring instances of this kind were no longer allowed to pollute the land. But it was only where local feelings coincided with those expressed in royal proclamations that the search for these
• Heylin, Hist. Ref. 55. Burnet, Hist. Ref. Records, II. 181. This order of council is signed by the Protector, the Earl of Arundel, the Lord Russel, Sir Thomas Seymour, Sir Anthony Wingfield, and Sir William Paget.