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The Works of John Knox, Volume 4

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On her entrance into the Tower, she could not forbear reflecting on the great difference between her present fortune and that which a few years before had attended her, when she was conducted to that place as a prisoner, and lay there exposed to all the bigotted malignity of her enemies. She fell on her knees, and expressed her thanks to Heaven, for the deliverance, which the Almighty had granted her from her bloody persecutors; a deliverance, she said, no less miraculous than that which Daniel had received from the den of lions.

This act of pious gratitude seems to have been the last circumstance, in which she remembered any past hardships and injuries. With a prudence and magnanimity truly laudable, she buried all offences in oblivion, and received with affability even those who had acted with the greatest malevolence against her.

Sir Harry Bennifield himself, to whose custody she had been committed, and who had treated her with severity, never felt, during the whole course of her reign, any effects of her resentment. When the bishops came in a body to make their obeisance to her, she expressed to all of them sentiments of regard; except to Bonner, from whom she turned aside, as from a man polluted with blood, who was a just object of horror to every heart susceptible of humanity. She sent Lord Cobham to the Low Countries, where Philip then resided; and she took care to express to that monarch, her gratitude for the protection which he had afforded her, and her desire of persevering in that friendship which had so happily commenced between them.

Philip, who had long foreseen this event, and who still hoped, by means of Elizabeth, to obtain that dominion over England, of which he had failed in espousing Mary, immediately dispatched orders to the duke of Feria, his ambassador at London, to make proposals of marriage to the queen; and he offered to procure from Rome a dispensation for that purpose. But Elizabeth soon came to the resolution of declining the proposal.

She was sensible, that her affinity with Philip was exactly similar to that of her father with Catherine of Arragon; and that her marrying that monarch was, in effect, declaring herself illegitimate, and incapable of succeeding to the throne. And though the power of the Spanish monarchy might still be sufficient, in opposition to all pretenders, to support her title, her masculine spirit disdained such precarious dominion, which, as it would depend solely on the power of another, must be exercised according to his inclinations.

He told Carne, that England was a fief of the holy see; and it was great temerity in Elizabeth to have assumed, without his participation, the title and authority of queen: That being illegitimate, she could Edition: current; Page: [ 6 ] not possibly inherit that kingdom; nor could he annul the sentence pronounced by Clement VII. Re-establishment of the protestant religion. The education of Elizabeth, as well as her interest, led her to favour the reformation; and she remained not long in suspence with regard to the party, which she should embrace.

But though determined in her own mind, she resolved to proceed by gradual and secure steps, and not to imitate the example of Mary, in encouraging the bigots of her party to make immediately a violent invasion on the established religion. She immediately recalled all the exiles, and gave liberty to the prisoners, who were confined on account of religion.

We are told of a pleasantry of one Rainsford on this occasion, who said to the queen, that he had a petition to present Edition: current; Page: [ 8 ] her in behalf of other prisoners called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: She readily replied, that it behoved her first to consult the prisoners themselves, and to learn of them whether they desired that liberty, which he demanded for them. Elizabeth also proceeded to exert, in favour of the reformers, some acts of power which were authorized by the extent of royal prerogative, during that age.

Finding, that the protestant teachers, irritated by persecution, broke out in a furious attack on the ancient superstition, and that the Romanists replied with no less zeal and acrimony, she published a proclamation, by which she inhibited all preaching without a special licence; k and though she dispensed with these orders in favour of some preachers of her own sect, she took care, that they should be the most calm and moderate of the party. And having first published injunctions, that all the churches should conform themselves to the practice of her own chapel, she forbade the hoste to be any more elevated in her presence; an innovation, which, however frivolous it may appear, implied the most material consequences.

These declarations of her intention, concurring with preceding suspicions, made the bishops foresee with certainty a revolution in religion.

The Works of William Robertson, D. D.

They therefore refused to officiate at her coronation; and it was with some difficulty, that the bishop of Carlisle was at last prevailed on to perform the ceremony. When she was conducted through London, amidst the joyful acclamations of her subjects, a boy, who personated Truth, was let down from one of the triumphal arches, and presented to her a copy of the Bible. She received the book with the most gracious deportment; placed it next her bosom; and declared, that, amidst all the costly testimonies, which the city had that day given her of their attachment, this present was by far the most precious and most acceptable.

Open in her address, Edition: current; Page: [ 9 ] gracious and affable in all public appearances, she rejoiced in the concourse of her subjects, entered into all their pleasures and amusements, and without departing from her dignity, which she knew well how to preserve, she acquired a popularity beyond what any of her predecessors or successors ever could attain. Her own sex exulted to see a woman hold the reins of empire with such prudence and fortitude: And while a young princess of twenty-five years for that was her age at her accession who possessed all the graces and insinuation, though not all the beauty of her sex, courted the affection of individuals by her civilities, of the public by her services, her authority, though corroborated by the strictest bands of law and religion, appeared to be derived entirely from the choice and inclination of the people.

A sovereign of this disposition was not likely to offend her subjects by any useless or violent exertions of power; and Elizabeth, though she threw out such hints as encouraged the protestants, delayed the entire change of religion till the meeting of the parliament, which was summoned to assemble. A parliament. The elections had gone entirely against the catholics, who seem not indeed to have made any great struggle for the superiority; n and the houses met, in a disposition of gratifying the queen in every particular, which she could desire of them.

Satisfied therefore in the general opinion entertained with regard to this fact, which appeared the more undoubted, the less anxiety she discovered in fortifying it by votes and enquiries; she took possession of the throne, both as her birthright, and as ensured to her by former acts of parliament; and she never appeared anxious to distinguish these titles. The first bill brought into parliament with a view of trying their disposition on the head of religion, was that for suppressing the monasteries lately erected, and for restoring the tenths and first-fruits to the queen.

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This point being gained without much difficulty, a bill was next introduced, annexing the supremacy to the crown; and though the queen was there denominated governess, not head, of the church, it conveyed the same extensive power, which, under the latter title, had been exercised by her father and brother. All the bishops who were present in the upper house strenuously opposed this law; and as they possessed more learning than the temporal peers, they triumphed in the debate; but the majority of voices in that house, as well as among the commons, was against them.

By this act the crown, without the concurrence, either of the parliament or even of the convocation, was vested with the whole spiritual power; might repress all heresies, might establish or repeal all canons, might alter every point of discipline, and might ordain or abolish any religious rite or ceremony. In order to exercise this authority, the queen, by a clause of the act, was empowered Edition: current; Page: [ 11 ] to name commissioners, either laymen or clergymen, as she should think proper; and on this clause was afterwards founded the court of ecclesiastical commission; which assumed large discretionary, not to say arbitrary powers, totally incompatible with any exact boundaries in the constitution.

Their proceedings indeed were only consistent with absolute monarchy, but were entirely suitable to the genius of the act on which they were established; an act that at once gave the crown alone all the power, which had formerly been claimed by the popes, but which even these usurping prelates had never been able fully to exercise, without some concurrence of the national clergy.

These punishments, however severe, were less rigorous than those which were formerly, during the reigns of her father and brother, inflicted in like cases.

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This pretended equivalent was commonly much inferior in value; and thus the queen, amidst all her concern for religion, followed the example of the preceding reformers, in committing depredations on the ecclesiastical revenues. The bishops and all incumbents were prohibited from alienating their revenues, and from letting leases longer than twenty-one years or three lives. This law seemed to be meant for securing the property of the church; but as an exception was left in favour of the crown, great abuses still prevailed. It was usual for the courtiers during this reign, to make an agreement with a bishop or incumbent; and to procure a fictitious alienation to the queen, who Edition: current; Page: [ 12 ] afterwards transferred the lands to the person agreed on.

The present depression of the clergy exposed them to all injuries; and the laity never stopped, till they had reduced the church to such poverty, that her plunder was no longer a compensation for the odium incurred by it. A solemn and public disputation was held during this session, in presence of lord keeper Bacon, between the divines of the protestant and those of the catholic communion.

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  6. The champions, appointed to defend the religion of the sovereign, were, as in all former instances, entirely triumphant; and the popish disputants, being pronounced refractory and obstinate, were even punished by imprisonment. Penalties were enacted, as well against those who departed from this mode of worship, as against those who absented themselves from the church and the sacraments.

    The commons also made a sacrifice to the queen, more difficult to obtain than that of any articles of faith: They voted a subsidy of four shillings in the pound on land, and two shillings and eight pence on moveables, together with two fifteenths. NOTE [A] The house in no instance departed from the most respectful deference and complaisance towards the queen.

    Even the importunate address which they made her on the conclusion of the session, to fix her choice of a husband, could not, they supposed, be very disagreeable to one of her sex and age. The address was couched in the most respectful expressions; yet met with a refusal from the queen. She told the speaker, that, as the application from the house was conceived Edition: current; Page: [ 13 ] in general terms, only recommending marriage, without pretending to direct her choice of a husband, she could not take offence at the address, or regard it otherwise than as a new instance of their affectionate attachment to her: That any farther interposition on their part would have ill become either them to make as subjects, or her to hear as an independent princess: That even while she was a private person, and exposed to much danger, she had always declined that engagement, which she regarded as an incumbrance; much more, at present, would she persevere in this sentiment, when the charge of a great kingdom was committed to her, and her life ought to be entirely devoted to promoting the interests of religion and the happiness of her subjects: After the prorogation of the parliament, y the laws, enacted with regard to religion, were put in execution, and met with little opposition from any quarter.

    The liturgy was again introduced in the Edition: current; Page: [ 14 ] vulgar tongue, and the oath of supremacy was tendered to the clergy. The number of bishops had been reduced to fourteen by a sickly season, which preceded; and all these, except the bishop of Landaffe, having refused compliance, were degraded from their sees: But of the inferior clergy throughout all England, where there are near 10, parishes, only eighty rectors and vicars, fifty prebendaries, fifteen heads of colleges, twelve archdeacons, and as many deans, sacrificed their livings to their religious principles.

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    Though the catholic religion, adapting itself to the senses, and enjoining observances, which enter into the common train of life, does at present lay faster hold on the mind than the reformed, which, being chiefly spiritual, resembles more a system of metaphysics; yet was the proportion of zeal, as well as of knowledge, during the first ages after the reformation, much greater on the side of the protestants.

    The catholics continued, ignorantly and supinely, in their ancient belief, or rather their ancient practices: But the reformers, obliged to dispute on every occasion, and inflamed to a degree of enthusiasm by novelty and persecution, had strongly attached themselves to their tenets; and were ready to sacrifice their fortunes and even their lives, in support of their speculative and abstract principles. The forms and ceremonies, still preserved in the English liturgy, as they bore some resemblance to the ancient service, tended farther to reconcile the catholics to the established religion; and as the queen permitted no other mode of worship, and at the same time struck out every thing that could be offensive to them in the new liturgy, a even those who were addicted to the Romish communion made no scruple of attending the established church.