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On June 9, 1536, assembled the first reformed convocation in England; in which Lord Cromwell, prime secretary, sat in state above the bishops, as the king's vicegerent in all spiritual matters.” On this occasion, Cromweli, by order of the king, declared, “That it was his majesty's pleasure, that the rites and ceremonies of the church should be reformed by the RULEs of Scriptune, and that nothing should be maintained which did not rest on that authority; for it was absurd, since the scriptures were acknowledged to contain the laws of religion, that recourse should be had to glosses or the decrees of popes, rather than to them.” Happy had it been, if the reformers of the church of England had invariably adhered to this sacred principle. Much, however, was done even at this early period. The pious reformers rejoiced to see the holy scriptures professedly made the only standard of faith and worship, to the exclusion of all human traditions. The mediate worship of images and saints was now renounced, nd purgatory declared uncertain. But the corporeal presence in the sacrament, the preservation and reverence of images, with the necessity of auricular confession, were still retained.: The publication of Tindal and Coverdale's Translations of the Bible, greatly promoted the work of reformation; though it soon received a powerful check by the passing of the terrible and bloody act of the Six Articles. By this act, all who spoke against transubstantiation were to be burnt as heretics, and suffer the loss of all their lands and goods; and to defend the communion in both kinds, or the marriage of priests; or, to speak against the necessity of private mass, and auricular confession, was made felony, with the forfeiture of lands and goods.; Towards the close of this king's reign, the popish party obtained the ascendancy; the severity of persecution was revived ; and the Romish superstitions greatly prevailed. Till now, these superstitions had never been denominated taudable ceremonies, necessary rites, and godly constitutions. All who refused to observe them, were condemned as traitors against the king. To make the standing of the persecuting prelates more secure, and their severities the more effectual, this was ratified by act of parliament.] Many excellent persons were, therefore, condemned to the flames: among whom were the famous Mr. Thomas Bilney, * Fuller's Church Hist. b. v. p. 207.
Mr. Richard Byfield, Mr. John Frith, and Dr. Robert Barnes, all highly celebrated for piety and zeal in the cause of the reformation.* King Henry was succeeded by his son, Edw ARD VI., a prince of most pious memory. Being only nine years and four months old when he came to the crown, he was free from bigotry and superstition, and ready to observe. the instructions of Archbishop Cranmer and the Duke of Somerset, by whose aid and influence, he set himself to promote sound religion. Upon his accession, the penal laws against protestants were abolished, the chains of many worthy persons confined in prison were struck off, the prison-doors were set open, and the sufferers released. Others who had fled from the storm, and remained in a state of exile, now with joy returned home. Among the former were old Bishop Latimer and John Rogers;+ and among the latter, were Hooper, afterwards the famous martyr, and Miles Coverdale, afterwards a celebrated puritan.: Men of real worth were esteemed and preferred.’ Hooper became Bishop of Gloucester, and Coverdale was made Bishop of Exeter. The monuments of idolatry, with the superstitious rites and ceremonies, were commanded to be abolished, and a purer form of worship introduced. Though, during this reign, the reformation made considerable progress, the greatest part of the parochial clergy were in a state of most deplorable ignorance: but to remedy, as far as possible, this evil, the pious reformers composed and published the book of Homilies for their use.} . The order of public worship was a Liturgy or Book of Common Prayer, established by act of parliament. Though this act did not pass without much opposition, especially from the bishops, some were so enamoured with the book, that they scrupled not to say, “it was compiled by the aid of the Holy Ghost.” In the year 1550, the altars in most churches were taken away, and convenient tables set up in their places. “And as the form of a table,” says Burnet, “ was more likely to turn the people from the superstition of the popish mass, and bring them to the right use of the Lord's supper, Bishop Ridley, in his primary visitation, exhorted the
* Fox's Martyrs, vol. ii. p. 227, 241, 256,445. + Burnet's Hist. of Refor. vol. ii. p. 25. f Fuller's Church Hist. b. vii. p. 371. § Burnet's Hist. of Refor. vol. ii. p. 25, 27. | Ibid. p. 94. * MS. Remarks, p. 51.
curates and churchwardens in his diocese, to have it in the fashion of a table, decently covered.” This was very congenial to the wishes of many of the pious reformers, who, at this early period, publicly avowed their nonconformity to the ecclesiastical establishment. Among the articles of the above visitation, the bishop inquired, “Whether any of the anabaptists’ sect, or others, use any unlawful or private conventicles, wherein they use doctrine, or administration of sacraments, separating themselves from the rest of the church 2 And whether any minister doth refuse to use the common prayers, or minister the sacraments, in that order and form, as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer "+ The disputes about conformity were carried into the pulpits; and whilst some warmly preached against all innovations, others as warmly preached against all the superstitions and corruptions of the old Romish church; so that the court prohibited all preaching, except by persons licensed by the King or the Archbishop of Canterbury.f In the convocation of 1552, forty-two Articles of Religion were agreed upon by the bishops and clergy, to which subscription was required of all ecclesiastical persons, who should officiate or enjoy any benefice in the church. And all who should refuse, were to be excluded from all ecclesiastical preferment. This appears to be the first time that subscription to the articles was enjoined. Here the reformation under King Edward made a stand. During this king's reign, there were numerous debates about the habits, rites and ceremonies; and many divines of great learning and piety, became zealous advocates for nonconformity. They excepted against the clerical vestments, kneeling at the communion, godfathers and their promises and vows in baptism, the superstitious observance of Lent, the oath of canonical obedience, pluralities and nonresidence, with many other things of a similar description. At this early period, there was a powerful and very considerable party disaffected to the established liturgy.1 Though the reformation had already made considerable progress, its chief promoters were concerned for its further advancement. They aimed at a more perfect work; and manifested their disapprobation of the numerous popish ceremonies and superstitions still retained in the church. King Edward desired that the rites and ceremonies used under ". should be purged out of the church, and that the English churches might be brought to the AposTolic PURITY. Archbishop Cranmer was also very desirous to promote the same ; and he is said to have drawn up a book of prayers incomparably more perfect than that which was then in use; but he was connected with so wicked a clergy and convocation, it could not take place # And the king in his diary laments, that he could not restore the primitive discipline according to his heart's desire, because several of the bishops, some through age, some through ignorance, some on account of their ill name, and some out of love to popery, were opposed to the design.f Bishop Latimer complained of the stop put to the reformation, and urged the necessity of reviving the primitive discipline. The professors of our two universities, Peter Martyr and Martin Bucer, both opposed the use of the clerical vestments. To Martyr the vestments were offensive, and he would not wear them. “When I was at Oxford,” says he, “I would never use those white garments in the choir; and I was satisfied in what I did.” He styled them mere relics of popery. Bucer giving his advice, said, “That as those garments had been abused to superstition, and were likely to become the subject of contention, they ought to be taken away by law; and ecclesiastical discipline, and a more thorough reformation, set up. He disapproved of godfathers answering in the child's name. He recommended that pluralities and nonresidences might be abolished; and that bishops might not be concerned in secular affairs, but take care of their dioceses, and govern them by the advice of their presbyters.” The pious king was so much pleased with this advice, that “he set himself to write upon a further reformation, and the necessity of church discipline.” Bucer was displeased with various corruptions in the liturgy. “It cannot be expressed, how bitterly he bewailed, that, when the gospel began to spread in England, a greater regard was not had to discipline and purity of rites, in constituting the churches.” He could never be prevailed upon to wear the surplice. And when he was asked why he did not wear the square cap 2 he replied, “Because my head is not square.” The famous Dr. Thomas Sampson, afterwards one of the heads of the puritans, excepted against the habits at his ordination, who, nevertheless, was admitted by Cranmer and Ridley. But the celebrated John Rogers and Bishop Hooper, according to Fuller, were “ the very ringleaders of the nonconformists. They renounced all ceremonies practised by the papists, conceiving (as he has expressed it) that such ought not only to be clipt with shears, but shaven with a razor; yea, all the stumps thereof pluckt out.”, The sad effects of retaining the popish habits in the church, began to appear at a very early period. In the year 1550, a debate arose, which to some may appear of small consequence; but, at this time, was considered of great importance to the reformation. The debate was occasioned by Dr. Hooper's nomination to the bishopric of Gloucester. Burnet denominates him a pious, zealous, and learned man. Fuller says, he was well skilled in
* Burnet's Hist. of Refor. vol. ii. p. 158. + Sparrow's Collection, p. 36. f Burnet's Hist. of Refor. vol. iii. p. 195. § Sparrow's Collection, p. 39.—Strype's Eccl. Mem. vol. ii. p. 420. | M.S. Remarks, p. 51. T Fuller's Church Hist, b. vii. p. 426.
* Neal's Puritans, vol. i. p. 73.—Strype's Cranmer, p. 299. + Troubles at Frankeford, p. 43. if King Edward's Remains, numb. 2. in Burnet, vol. ii. § Burnet's Hist. of Refor. vol. ii. p. 152. | Ibid, vol. ii. p. 155–157.
Latin, Greck, and Hebrew. He was some time chaplain .
to the Duke of Somerset, and a famous preacher in the city of London; but declined the offered preferment for two reasons,—1. Because of the form of the oath, which he calls foul and impious. And, 2. Because of the popish garments. The oath required him to swear by the saints, as well as by the name of God; which Hooper thought impious, because the Searcher of Hearts alone ought to be appealed to in an oath. The young king being convinced of this, struck out the words with his own pen.” But the scruples about the habits were not so easily got over. The king and council were inclined to dispense with them, as his majesty openly signified in the above letter to Cranmer: but Cranmer and Ridley were of another
* Heylin's Hist. of Refor. p. 65. + Strype's Parker, Appen. p. 41.
f Strype's Cranmer, p. 192. § Church Hist, b. vii. p. 402.
| Burnet's Refor. vol. iii. p. 199.—Fuller's Church Hist. b. vii. p. 402, 403.-King Edward, in his letter of nomination to Cranmer, dated Aug. 5, 1550, writes thus: “We, by the advice of our council, have called and chosen our right well-beloved and well-worthy Mr. John Hooper, professor of divinity, to be our Bishop of Gloucester; as well for his learning, deep judgment, and long study, both in the scriptures, and profane learning; as also for his good discretion, ready utterance, and honest life for that kind of vocation.”—Ibid.
T Strype's Cranmer, p. 211.
** Burnet's Hist, of Refor. vol. iii. p. 203.