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day of April, from the Protector and the Council, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, commanding him to apprise all persons entrusted with the care and control of churches, that any embezzlements or unauthorised alienations of the property provided for divine service, would be visited by the King's highest displeasure'. Another gross indecency called, about this time, for the interference of the government. Romish places of worship are usually left
for the purpose of allowing men to offer
within a few paces of the pix, which, as ever containing consecrated wafers, is thought to enclose an incarnation of the Deity. In a coarse and unruly age, it may readily be supposed, that even before the sanctity of these diminutive cakes was ordinarily called in question, the open churches would occasionally become the scenes of wanton folly or brutal outrage. But when an opinion was generally spread abroad, that the high and mighty God " dwelt not in the temples made with hands 5," and that the Holy One who was to see no corruption could not reside in a petty preparation of baked meal which would be mouldy in a month; those who, from levity, or ill-regulated zeal, were prone to unseemly acts, hastened to insult the places for which reverence had been claimed upon grounds so palpably untenable.
In London, especially, which, from its size, contained a numerous unruly
populace, and of which the inhabitants, being better informed than the rustics, were more alive to the corruptions of Popery than they, shameful outrages took place in churches. They became the scenes of quarrelling, riot, and even bloodshed, horses and mules were led into them, guns were discharged within their walls, and a hideous spirit of profanation began to stalk among the unthinking multitude. For the sake of removing from the Reformation the stain of such glaring scandals, a royal proclamation forbade all irreverent acts in edifices assigned to public worship, under pain of his Majesty's indignation, and of imprisonment i
But much more than by these sallies of rude licentiousness, were individuals of sound religious principles now disquieted by the growth of pestilent opinions engendered from the unwonted liberty of conscience so freely conceded to all men. When the sensible austerities of Romanism were held up to merited contempt, spiritual pride was driven into another direction. That seductive species of fanaticism, which leads men to value themselves upon imaginary religious privileges, sprung up in spirits fitted for its nurture.
Strype, Mem. Cranm. 251. “ It is observed in the Registerbook of the parish of Petworth, that many at this time affirmed the sacrament of the altar to be of little regard, that in many places it was cast out of the church, and many other great enormities committed ; which they seconded by oppugning the established ceremonies ; as holy water, holy bread, and other usages of the seven sacraments." Heylin, Hist. Ref. 63.
Men were found to arise from the perusal of Scripture, not impressed with an humble conviction, that eminent spiritual advantages impose the duty of more than ordinary circumspection, but with crude notions of extraordinary privileges conferred upon God's elect; a designation which readers of that cast never fail of applying to themselves. It was also taught by some ill-informed or ill-judging preachers and writers, that the elect did not, and could not sin; that the regenerate never fall from godly love; and that the elect have a right to take so much of this world's goods as will supply their necessities. Doctrines like these which nourish spiritual pride, and an indifference to moral restraints, which encourage idleness by asserting the right of certain favoured individuals to the rewards of industry, though shunning honest endeavours to obtain them, will never want converts so long as the world contains supercilious enthusiasts, and idle hypocrites. It is, however, the duty of those who form the moral and intellectual strength of a country to stand forward as the opponents of such pestilent assumptions; and it is the duty of such as guide the national affairs to restrain by means of penalties, if necessary, the dissemination of principles injurious to the peace of society. Such restraint was now imperiously demanded. Not only was the Reformation exposed to unmerited obloquy from the conflicting or the pernicious tenets advanced by persons who had turned their backs upon Romanism, but the excited passions of the
populace afforded a specious colour to those who were ever misrepresenting the religious changes in agitation, or actually effected. The contempt heaped upon Romish doctrines had even afforded a pretence to youthful petulance, and vulgar insolence, to insult the clergy as they walked along the streets of London. Wanton apprentices and servants, on meeting men in clerical or scholastic habits, jostled them, knocked their caps from off their heads, and tore their tippets from their shoulders. It had been found necessary to repress this disposition to daring outrage by a royal proclamation, issued in the last Novemberk. But, as must be inferred from the manner in which churches were now profaned, the grosser elements of society were still in a most unsettled and unsatisfactory state respecting their religious principles. It was, therefore, deemed desirable to repress the dissemination of wild and heterodox opinions, by allowing none to preach unless they were notoriously guided by a sound discretion. All clergymen, accordingly, were inhibited from the delivery of sermons without being licensed for that purpose by the Protector, or the Archbishop of Canterbury'. The royal proclamation, imposing this restraint upon the pulpit, also commanded the bishops to punish by ecclesiastical
* Extracts from the Proceedings of Privy Council, from the year 1545 to the year 1558, by H. Ellis, Esq. F.R.S. From the Archæologia. Lond. 1815. p. 9.
I“ By proclamation, bearing date the 24th of April.” Heylin, Hist. Ref. 60.
law an offence unhappily now beginning to disgrace the kingdom in consequence of that uncertainty respecting religion which generally prevailed. Hypocritical sensualists, or ignorant enthusiasts, were found to maintain, that the existing laws prohibiting divorce and polygamy were mere devices of papal tyranny, unsanctioned by Scripture, and hence upon the point of being justly disclaimed by the English legislature. Some profligate or silly persons acted upon this monstrous assumption, and the Reformation was exposed to the infamy of being cited as an authority for their proceedings, by men who took upon themselves to dismiss their wives, or to invest a mistress with the conjugal character ".
From an attention to these excesses so injurious to the credit of their principles and labours, the leading Reformers were in some measure called off by political affairs. On the 6th of May an order of council was transmitted to the several prelates" enjoining them to circulate among their clergy a prayer for peace and victory; which was to be used instead of one of the collects, on every Sunday and holiday during the continuance of hostilities. These appeared far from likely to be soon concluded, as the French party had gained a complete ascendancy in the councils of Scotland. The clergy of that country naturally dreaded and detested their innovating southern neighbours,
* Strype, Eccl. Mem. II. 142.