Зображення сторінки

rests. And with all its defects, it was a great and glorious step.* Up to that time the public services of the church had, for the most part, been said and sung in a language unintelligible to ninety-nine hundredths of the people.t Even the Lord's prayer the poor sinners had been compelled, until within a very short time, I to mumble over in Latin, not knowing the meaning of one petition which they uttered; and very many of the priests who officiated at the altars knew scarcely more of what they said or sang than the poor people whom they deluded with their ostentatious ceremonies. То gather together the mass-books and primers, cull from them the best bits and translate them into English, and place in the hands of the people a book of prayer, administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies, which they could read and understand, and by means of which they could intelligently engage in acts of public worship

to do all these things was indeed a great and most praiseworthy work. It was to take a long and bold step towards reformation. And could the Reformers have appreciated the true spirit of Christianity sufficiently to have left this reformed and intelligible service to find friends and make its way in the world without enforcement by penal enactments, it would have saved their memory, and the church of England, from many stains, which no human hands can now fully remove. The fatal error of the Church-and-State Reformers was the delusive idea of enforcing absolute uniformity. The very title of the act which established the new service-book is “An Acte for the Uniformytie of Service and Administration of the Sacrament throughout the Realme.” The attempt to compel unvarying uniformity throughout the · realm, the refusal to grant any liberty to worship God otherwise than the law prescribed this was the great error of the Reformers. And unfortunately it did not die with them, but has been handed down as an entailed curse on the church of England almost to the present generation.

* Some of the more prominent defects of the Common Prayer Book have been noticed in the View of Congregationalism, pp. 238–62, fourth edition.

† The creed, the Lord's prayer, and the ten commandments were read in English, and in 1544 a litany in English was put forth by royal authority. See ante, p. 144; Lathbury, 8, 9.

I As late as 1547. See ante, p. 159.

In this matter of exact uniformity the Reformers even outran the very papists; for, previous to the passage of this act, there was no absolutely uniform service in the English church, but a variety of forms of prayer and communion were tolerated, differing in different sections of the country. As the pope permitted this latitude, so Henry VIII. seems to have allowed the churches to disregard all the popish forms and prayers, and to use such others, even in English, as they preferred. So at least we infer from what Strype says, when speaking of the variety which existed in England before the act of uniformity -- that " those that liked not any of these popish forms and Latin prayers, used other English forms, according as their own fancies led them." *

. Another act passed by this parliament, February 19th, 1548-49, abolished - all and every law and laws positive, canons, constitutions, and ordinances heretofore made by the authority of men only, which do prohibit and forbid marriage to any ecclesiastical or spiritual person or persons which by God's law may lawfully marry." + Though this act thus definitely authorizes the marriage of all spiritual persons, yet in the preamble the framers pay so much respect to the prejudices of the age as to base the act entirely on expediency; saying, that " it were better for priests and the ministers of the church to live chaste and without marriage," but, inasmuch as “great filthiness of living, with other inconveniences, had followed on the laws that compelled chastity and prohibited marriage, *** it was better they should be suffered to marry than be so restrained.”

It was about this time that David's Psalms were first translated into English metre, and, as Fuller says, “ if not publicly commanded, generally permitted to be sung, in all the churches. The work was performed by Thomas Sternhold (a Hampshire man, esquire, and of the privy chamber to Edward VI., who, for his part, translated thirtyseven selected psalms), John Hopkins, Robert Wisedome, etc., men whose piety was better than their poetry; and they had drunk more of Jordan than of Helicon.” Sternhold appears to have composed these metrical psalms at first merely for his own solace; but having set and sung them to his organ, Edward heard them, and was so delighted that the composer was induced to publish them and dedicate them to the king.*

* Ecc. Mems., vol. 11. pt. I. bk. I. p. 134.

| Statutes, 2 and 3 Edward VI. ch. 21 ; Burnet, vol. II. pt. 1. bk. I. pp. 81–86. This law was confirmed by an act, 5 and 6 Edward VI. ch. 12, 1551-52, which legitimated the children of priests.

The first years of Edward's reign were years of great anxiety and trouble to the government. The youth of the king, the determined opposition of some of the most influential men in the kingdom, the bitter hostility and all but open rebellion of “the Lady Mary," the next heir to the crown, and the uneasiness of the people generally, all together, made the condition of the new government anything but comfortable, and the prospects of the Reformation far from flattering.

The restless state of the common people arose from several causes, some of which were purely secular, some religious. The popish priests took pains to increase this popular disquietude, and, as far as possible, to turn it to their own account against the Reformation. And, on the other hand, the friends of reform inveighed against the old superstitions, and violently urged on further changes, and thus increased the excitement. To counteract, these efforts, the council issued the proclamation in the king's name, already noticed, against unauthorized innovations on old rites and ceremonies, and against rash preachers; forbidding any to preach out of their own parishes or precincts, except by license from the king or his visitors, the archbishop of Canterbury, or the bishop of the diocese where the preaching was to be. But this not proving effectual in checking the violence of the agitators, as several of the bishops and many of the parish clergy were bitter enemies of the new religion, the council issued another proclamation, April 24th, 1548, forbidding all preaching except by persons licensed by the king, the lord protector, or the archbishop of Canterbury. And even this failing to stop the evil, on September 23d, 1548, a proclamation came out, forbidding all preaching, and in all places. This prohibition lasted but a few weeks. Fuller excuses it, by saying: “ We read of a silence for about the space of half an hour, even in Heaven itself.” *

* Fuller, vol. iv. bk. VII. sect. 31, p. 72. Burnet (vol. II. pt. 1. bk. 1, p. 194) places the introduction of psalms sung into the Eng. lish church, about 1548-49. But Fuller, ut sup., places it about 1550

But all these attempts of the government to prevent agitation among the people were abortive; for during the very month in which this last proc

* Fuller's Ch. Hist., vol. iv. bk. VII. sect. 1, § 16. See the proclamation in Fuller. Burnet, vol. 11. Pt. II. bk. I. p. 166; Strype, vol. 11. pt. 1. bk. I. ch. 12, p. 141; ch. 15, p. 183.

« НазадПродовжити »