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Fisher, Romanus in hoc regne Convocation
It was then that the final extinction of the Papal supremacy was determined on. But how was that extinction effected ? Not by any tyrannical act of a monarch ready enough for acts of tyranny; not even by an authoritative Act of Parliament. The question was first of all submitted to the proper Council of the Church, the Convocations of Canterbury and York. On March 31, 1534, both houses of the former Convocation decided (Gardiner, Bonner, Fisher, Tunstal, and other such Bishops forming the upper house) “Quod Romanus Episcopus non habet majorem jurisdictionem sibi a Deo collatam in hoc regno quam alius quivis externus Episcopus." On June 1, 1534, the Convocation of York came and not hastily-to the same decision. And so general was the conviction of the clergy on this point, that hardly any declined this renunciation of the Pope's authority. When the documents belonging to the Convocation house were yet existing, Wharton, the ecclesiastical antiquary, found the subscriptions of all the bishops, chapters, abbots, &c., of thirteen dioceses, and affirmed that those of the remaining dioceses were to his certain knowledge in existence elsewhere. This general assent is also confirmed by the fact that scarcely any one was found to maintain the doctrine of the Papal supremacy. Such men as Friar Peto and Elstow would run any risk in warning the King against what they thought an adulterous marriage ; and there were many as ready as they to suffer martyrdom for a sufficient cause. But hardly a voice was raisednot even the voices of More and Fisher-in favour of the Pope's supremacy, however unwilling to accept its substitute: so completely was the mind of England set against the continued exercise of that usurped authority. It is even more to the point that this acquiescence and agreement was not the result of hasty passion and indignation, but that it was, as we have shown, a deliberate conviction, arrived at after careful consideration, and though consummated by the Church's synods, forming only the final link in a chain of regular and national legislation. The securing of a really competent Court of Appeal, which shall be free from local and temporary prejudices, is one of the highest feats of legislative skill. Nor can there be any antecedent surprise felt that such a Court should have been sought at Rome. It was a question originally only of order and expediency; and when the expedient failed to answer, there was nothing more natural than that it should be abolished.
We pass on now to a few remarks on the acceptance by the clergy of the supremacy of the King in the place of the supremacy of the Pope. And here, too, we find equal grounds for concluding that every step in the Reformation was taken advisedly, and not without much consideration of the consequences that would follow. There was a difficulty in this case which had not occurred in the other ; and that was in the extreme demands of the king. Henry was far from being ignorant of theology, but yet he seems to have had confused potions as to the respective provinces of temporal and spiritual jurisdiction. Upon the renunciation of the Pope's supremacy in England, he evidently wished to transfer to the Crown all the authority which had previously been exercised by the Bishop of Rome. So far as all reasonable taxes on ecclesiastical revenue were concerned this was nothing but right. It was but right also that when appeals to that distant authority were abolished, those who would otherwise have appealed should acknowledge the King to be the supreme fountain of justice, whose duty was to see that no wrong was permitted either in causes ecclesiastical or civil.
Henry assumed, however, as is well known, the title of “Supreme Head of the Church of England.” When the clergy in Convocation were required to acknowledge and subscribe to this new title proposed in the form “Ecclesiæ et Cleri Anglicani cujus Protector et supremum Caput is solus est,” they rigidly refused to assent to it, even after three days of pressure while they were lying under the penalty of the præmunire on account of Wolsey's exercise of legatine authority. The King then allowed the title to be submitted to them with the qualification “after God, supreme Head," &c., but even this could not reconcile the consciences of the clergy. In the end, as is well known, the document (a money bill) in which the title was to be inserted was sent up to the King with the modified clause “quantum per legem Christi licet, supremum caput," a modification to which a majority of the members of Convocation assented willingly, though regretting the King's assumption of the title in any form. The proceedings of the Convocation of Canterbury were carried on so privately-apparently through Cranmer's fear of exciting the King's further anger-that nothing is known certainly of the arguments used on either side. But in that of York, Bishop Tonstal, (president, on account of a vacancy in the see of York, protested against the title in terms which seem to contain the whole argument from that side of the question; and his protest is so instructive that we shall give the substance of it as an illustration of our assertion that much wise forethought was exercised in this stage of the Reformation. This good and wise Bishop wrote to the effect that if the title meant only that the Sovereign is head in his own dominions, under CHRIST, and in this particular case of the clergy, their head in temporal matters as the bead of all his other subjects, then they were all agreed on the subject, only wishing that more definite language should be used. On the other hand, if it was intended that the King was supreme head in spiritual matters as fully as in temporal, they believed such an assumption to be contrary to Catholic doctrine. And although “quantum per Christi legem licet" was a qualifying clause, yet "Supreme Head of the Church” bad so complicated and mysterious a meaning that they thought it exceedingly
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capable of misconstruction and very likely to scandalize weak brethren. There is little room for doubt that the resistance of the clergy to this title, even while they were in a position of much difficulty and danger, exercised a wholesome restraint upon the King, and prevented him from going the full length that he otherwise would have done in personal interference in the government of the Church. It was, moreover, fully justified by Queen Elizabeth when she refused to assume the title, even with its qualifying clause, and so finally caused it to disappear from among the prerogatives claimed by the English crown.
In taking this very cursory review of the actual steps by which that was brought about which was really the most important of all the changes effected at the Reformation, we have not been careful to point out the respective shares which the three estates of the realm had in it, nor the cases in which any one opposed measures attempted by the others. We started with the assumption that the whole course of the Reformation may be proved by its progress and by its results to have been providential; and we have had to look rather, therefore, at the measures as a whole, than at the instruments by whom they were brought about. A very important feature in the government of the universe is the providential balancing of one force by another; and this is as true in the moral as in the natural world. If, therefore, contentions are observed between the several powers of the constitution in the course of the Reformation, we may probably find an illustration in them of that balance of which we speak. Certainly among all the errors committed or nearly committed, whether by the civil or the ecclesiastical body, there are none which need lower either body in our respect; since they were but the mistakes of men who were too much in the midst of the crowding events to see clearly what was the true general bearing of the whole. If the civil legislature sometimes wished to exceed their province, and became violent in their dealings with the Church, we can hardly wonder when we see the grievous nature of the abuses which they had to reform. If the clergy were thought at the time by some good men over tenacious about their rights, no sound Churchman can now hesitate to admit that they were influenced by a truly prophetic wisdom.
As it was, the sturdy conservatism of the clergy was the great bulwark against licence, and if they did commit errors in endeavouring to maintain the status quo,we may yet look on them as the Providential counterbalance to that swingeing desire for change which often carries on a body of secular rulers in a course of recklessness to which such a curb is exceedingly useful.
We may take an opportunity at a future time of returning to this subject, with reference to the internal economy of the Reformation, and especially the re-construction of the offices and formularies of the Church.
SCOTLAND IN THE MIDDLE AGES.
Scotland in the Middle Ages : Sketches of Early Scottish History
and Social Progress. By Cosmo Innes, Professor of History in the University of Edinburgh Edinburgh: Edmonston. 1860.
The romances of Sir Walter Scott threw such a charm over mediæval Scotland, and gave us a picture so completely couleur de rose, that we forget or ignore altogether the darker shades. We saw brave, noble, handsome knights and barons, ready at all times to hazard life and limb for suffering innocence ; but we forget altogether that there must have been a formidable amount of injustice and tyranny to call for this romantic redress : in other words, it is quite clear that oppression and lawlessness must have been rather the rule than the exception, for it called forth the redresser of wrongs, who found generally his bands pretty full. The same exaggerated ideas respecting religion prevailed, of course tempered according to the peculiarities of the parties entertaining them. They are well described by the late Mr. Pugin :-" The vulgar Protestant idea is, that before the Reformation there was an entire reign of idolatry and superstition; that the Clergy were all ministers of Antichrist, worshippers of false gods; and, in fine, that the first dawnings of Christian light and truth commenced with the spiritual headship of the eighth Henry. . . . . Such was the low and Protestant view. Now let us examine the ordinary Catholic idea that prevails in our own body, and which is very little nearer to the truth than the one I have described. All, anterior to the Reformation, is regarded and described as a sort of Utopia : pleasant meadows, happy peasants, merry England; according to Cobbett, 'bread cheap, and beef for nothing,' all holy monks, all holy priests, all holy everybody. Such charity, and such hospitality, and such unity, when every man was a Catholic. I once believed in this Utopia myself; but, when tested by stern facts and history, it all melts away like a dream.” The truth is, that a few characters stand out in high relief, some very good, some very bad; and according as we are impressed with the one or the other, we are apt to judge of the rest, and unconsciously to suppose that these are the types of the men of the times in which they lived, and that all others resembled them; forgetting that there must be a great mass of men about whom we hear nothing, but whose every day life is really the type of the age or times, and not the few whose acts history brings prominently forward. :
When a writer sits down deliberately to investigate, from auVOL. XXII.
thentic documents, the laws, institutions, customs, and habits of a people of any past age, and gives us the fruit of his labours, this man renders us a real service; and this Mr. Innes has done. He has taken the most interesting portion of Scottish history, the mediæval, and has given us a very good idea of what Scottish life then was. We expressly limit our approbation to this period ; for when he goes back into conjectures on the primitive state of Scotland, he gets out of his depth, and shows clearly that his studies in that period are not profound. We had thought that his own countryman, Mr. Wilson, had utterly exploded the notion that cromlechs, standing stones, Pight's houses, or dunes, were Keltic; and bad shown, conclusively, that at least two races of inhabitants, at two successive periods, known as the “stone period ” and the “ bronze period,” had preceded the advent of the Scots, perbaps also of the Pights.
In saying, however, that Mr. Innes has given us a picture of mediæval Scotland, we ought to have limited our language to Lowland Scotland; for we are told little or pothing of the life of the Highlander during that period. Perhaps there is little to tell; perhaps the writer considers that Highland life and manners are 80 totally distinct from the Lowland, that he does not like to mix them up. One point, however, of Keltic custom he does clear up, and that is the law of succession : for want of a proper understanding of this law, historians have made the greatest blunders.
“The law of succession was according to the law which is called, in Ireland, at least, the law of Tanistry—a system which depended upon à descent from a common ancestor, but which selected the man come to years fit for war and council, instead of the infant son or grandson of the last chief, to manage the affairs of the tribe, and who was recognised ás his successor, under the name of Tanist, even during the life of the chief. To take one instance from the ancient history of Moray, a district which long continued to pay respect to its ancestral Maormors. Maolbride is the first known Maormor: he left a son Malcolm, but the office or dignity did not descend upon him, but went to Finlay, the brother of Maolbride. After Finlay's death, Malcolm at length succeeded to his father's place; he was succeeded in turn by his brother Gilcongain ; Gilcongain was succeeded by Macbeth, the son of Finlay ; and after Macbeth had lost his local dignity, and his crown with his life, he was succeeded in the maorship by Lulach, the son of Gilcongain: the maormanship thus påssing, in as many generations, to the brother, nephew, brother, nephew, and cousin-german.”—P. 177.
This explains the whole matter of dispute between Bruce and Balliol. Bruce claimed to be nearer in degree than Balliol ; i.e., though Balliol was descended in the line of the elder son, yet there were fewer links between the .common ancestor of Bruce than between him and Balliol: so, by the common law of Scotch succession, Bruce had the prior right to the crown.