James Wayland Joyce.

England's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic online

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Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 47 of 83)
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the express request of the vicar- general p and the king.

The statute i " concerning '>'' the examination of the canon
laws by two and thirty persons, &c." was enacted also in the
spring of 1544 n.s.

But this act was only ancillary to a provision in 25 Hen.
VIII. c. 19, s. 2 ; and that provision respecting the review
of the canon law had been agreed to by the clergy in con-
vocation on May"^ 15, 1532. Moreover, the subsidy voted
on Feb. 23®, 1543 n.s., by the provincial Synod of Can-
terbury, had been accompanied by a request, which, taken



with its concomitant, was not unlikely to meet with the king's
and the parliament"'s joint consideration. That request was —
" for * the ecclesiastical laws of this realm to be made accord-
ing to the statute made in the 25th * year of his (the king's)
most gracious reign." And once again this question of a
review of the canon law had been discussed in convocation in
this very year, Feb. 1 % 1544 n.s., and deliberation had been
held upon an address to the king for the specific purpose
which the act before us contemplates.

" The king's ^ letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury, for
publishing royal injunctions " for using " certayne ^ godly
prayers and suffrages in our natyve Englyshe tongue," were
put forth June 11 % 1544.

But these injunctions, without doubt, refer to that litany
similar to the one now in use, which, as we have ^ seen, there
is internal evidence to prove was sanctioned by the convoca-
tion which rose JNIarch 81 ^, 1544.

The statute^ "for^^ tithes in London" was enacted in the
autumn of 1545.

But this act was made subsequent to the request sent up
to the king with a subsidy voted in convocation, Feb. 23 ^
1543 N.s,, that a just payment of tithes should be enforced by
parliament. And, still further, it had been ordered on the
Isf^ of Feb. 1544 n.s., that a bill for this purpose should be
prepared in the lower house of the Canterbury Convocation
for the sanction of parliament.

" An injunction ^ given by the king ... for the autorisyng
and establishyng the use of his primer" was issued on the 6th
of May, 1545. The chief point insisted on here was, " that ^
the youthe by divers persones are taught the Pater noster,
the Ave Maria, crede, and ten commaundements all in Latin,
and not in Englyshe." And this primer was chiefly intended
to rectify such abuse.

But on the 17th and 24th of Feb.' 1542, this subject had
been debated ^ in the Convocation of Canterbury ; and on the
latter day Archbishop Cranmer had treated with the upper
house on the advisability of the " people's ^ learning and re-

^ There is here a misprint of 5th for 25th in the original.
' Vid. sup., pp. 408 and 409. Feb. 14 is given in the records, but that is a
majiifest error for 24.

A.D. 1546.
K. Henry

Mag. Brit.
iii. 863.

" Cone.
Mag. Biit.
iii. 868.
Sup. p. 418.

^ Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 869.
" Cone.
Mag. Brit.
iii. 870.
=f Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 870.
y Vid. sup.,
sub an.
1544, p. 418.
^ Cone.
Mag. Brit.
iii. 868.
» 37 Hen.
VIII. c. 12.
^» Stat, at
Large, in-
•> Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 863.
Sup. p. 414.

c Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 868.
Sup. p. 418.

d Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 875.
e Cone.
Mag. Brit.
iii. 875.

Mag. Brit.
iii. 861.
g Cone.
Mag. Brit.




A.D. 1546.




Robert Hoi-


VIII. c. 21.
''li Stat, at
Large, in-

i Stat, at
J Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 863.

•t Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iv. 1.

1 Cone.
Ma^. Brit.
iv. I.

" Sup. p.
406. Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 860-1.
n Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. '860-1.
Sup. p. 407.

o 34 & 35
Hen. Vin.
0. 1, 8. 1.

P Vid. sup.
pp. 380. 422.
1 Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 770-6.

citing in the vulgar tongue the Lord's prayer, the creed, and
the ten commandments." All this leaves little room to doubt
that this primer was the result of those debates.

The statute '' " For ''^ the union of churches not exceeding
the value of six pounds " was enacted in the parliament which
began at Westminster', November 23, 1545.

But on the 2Srd of February, 1543 x.s., the convocation
had attached this petition to their subsidy then voted : " For
an act J of parliament to be made this session for the union
and corporation of small and exile benefices through this
realm, which for smallnessof fruits be not able to find a priest,
and so rest untaken by parson, vicar, or curate."

On the 8th of July, 1546, K. Henry VIII.'s last proclama-
tion ^ connected with religion was published. It was directed
against Wickliffe's, TindaFs, and Coverdale's translations of
the scriptures, and also against other books containing • mat-
ter contrai-y to the act of parliament 84 & So Hen. VHI.
c. 1.

But on the Srd Feb. 1542 n.s. the bishops in the Canterbury
Synod had decided"" again.st those earlier translations of the
scriptures, and joint committees of both houses had subse-
quently been appointed" for amending them. The intent,
therefore, of this proclamation was to enforce the use of such a
translation only as had proper authority. And as regards the
books referred to in the proclamation, the language of the act °
recited plainly specifies that they were such as impugned the
established religion, or were contrary to the king's previous
proclamation on the subject ; and that proclamation, as we
have seen above p, was made at the express request of the
convocation, put up on the 19th of December 'J, 1534.

Now from the synodical discharge of the papal supremacy
in 1534 down to the date of the death of K. Henry VIII.,
January 28, 1547, the foregoing embrace all the royal letters,
injunctions, and proclamations, as well as all the statutes con-
nected with purely spiritual matters (at least they embrace
all that are upon record in the "Concilia" and Statutes at
Large), excepting only seven copies of injunctions and one act
of parliament, which have hereafter to be considered sepa-

And if any patient reader has had sufficient perseverance



(which is, however, much to be doubted) to wade through
the preceding long and dry detail of facts and dates, he can
hardly fail to pause before he admits the popular assertion
that spiritual matters were at this time dealt with by the
king and parliament without reference to the synods of Eng-
land, the rightful authorities in such cases. At any rate here
are materials worthy of consideration, which afford to a con-
tradictory assertion some reasonable foundation. In fact, if
dates are to be respected in historical research, and if chro-
nology is admitted to be a necessary element in arriving at
truth, every reasonable man must conclude that in spiritual
matters royal letters, proclamations, and injunctions were at
this time nothing more than the authoritative promulgation
of foregone synodical conclusions ; and that acts of parliament
were the statutable sanctions of the previous determinations
or requests of the convocations. Hence it may be justly
concluded, that such sure advances, as had up to this time
been made towards a true reformation in rehgion, were legiti-
mately secured by the proper acts of the English Church in
her provincial synods.

It was however admitted that seven copies of injunctions
and one act of parliament had to be considered apart. They
shall be taken in order ; and first of the injunctions.

Of these seven documents, four of them, viz. those
issued A.D. 1535 "", a.d. 1535% a.d. 1535', and a.d. 1545"
respectively, have respect to the visitation of monaste-
ries. Their object, as we shall see hereafter when consider-
ing that matter more closely, was not so much to regulate the
spiritual concerns of the inmates, as to appropriate to royal
and courtly uses their possessions. Carnal, not spiritual,
interests were the main and ultimate aim of these docu-
ments ; and therefore any further investigation of their con-
tents may be omitted in this part of our inquiry, and deferred
to a future time when we shall consider^ the very excep-
tionable managements to which those religious institutions
were subjected.

There remain then three copies of injunctions referring to
spiritual concerns for special consideration in this place.

The first of these was an " inhibition ^ for a royal visita-
tion," signed by the king September 18, 1535. This was a

A.D. 1546.
K. Henry

f Cone.
Mag. Brit.
iii. 786.
s Cone.
Ma?. Brit.
iii. 789.
' Cone.
Majr. Brit,
iii. 799.
" Cone.
Mag. Brit.

'' Vid. infra,
■ec. 17.

"■" Cone.
Mag. Brit.
iii. 797.




A.D. 154C.




Robert Hol-


^ In loco.
y See

" .Tudgment
of some
Cone. ^lag.
Brit. iii.

^ Cone.
Mag. Brit,
iii. 859.
a Cone.
Mair. Brit.

royal command prohibiting the archbishops, bishops, and arch-
deacons from holding visitations in their respective localities,
under penalties due to contempt " of his majesty, until a royal
visitation should be completed.

Notwithstanding, however, K. Henry's extravagant inhibi-
tion, it does not appear that this unreasonable attempt to
extend the regale was'' in any way warranted, nor did the
Church of England, however subservient her primate may
have proved in this matter, herself compromise, so far as
appears, her spiritual independence. Such tyrannical eccen-
tricities may provoke ridicule, as cruelties excite disgust.
But that thus the foundations of the Church can be dissolved
or the commission given by her Lord on the mount of Galilee
disabled is not a probable consequence. When Nero perse-
cuted, the Church suffered, but was not destroyed.

There are two other remaining copies of injunctions to be
considered, for which I have no synodical authority to produce ;
one copy published in 1541, entitled "a decree^ for observ-
ing the feasts of S. Luke, S. Mark, and S. JSIary Magdalene,"
&c. ; the other entitled "a proclamation^ concerning eating
white meats," issued Feb. 9, 1543 x.s.

Now considering that the registers of convocation have been
destroyed by fire, it is no w^onder if some of their decrees should
not be forthcoming. Moreover, my search in those records
which do remain has perhaps not been sufficiently accurate
to discover such synodical authority as may be in existence
for these injunctions. At any rate, considering the mass of
evidence previously adduced to shew that the long list of
injunctions already quoted was consequent upon synodical
decrees or decisions, it would not come within the terms of rea-
sonable argument to quote these two exceptions as a foundation
on which to ground a denial that the reformation in the reign
of K. Henry VIIL was mainly carried on by the sacred synods
of England. A " decree " for the observance of a few holi-
days, and a "proclamation concerning eating white meats"
are not the basis upon which the reformation of religion in
England rests. Nor can they be reasonably relied upon to
form a bar against the whole current of contemporaneous
history, which unmistakeably teaches us that our faith was
gradually refined and restored to tlie primitive standard by




the authority of the legitimate synods of our national i

We have also one statute made in this reign to consider, '
viz. 31 Hen. VIII. c. 9, and this is an exception to the common
usage of the time, and was not enacted in conformity with
the decrees or requests of a convocation. It is of course
to be understood that in our present inquiry we have no need
to consider the acts of parliament which referred exclusively
to the temporal possessions of the Church, and were directed
to the conversion of trust properties to the king's and his
courtiers' use. These will be considered hereafter in their
proper place when we inquire into the reduction in number
of the members in our synods consequent upon the dissolution
of the monasteries. Our inquiry here is confined to such acts
of parliament as respected purely spiritual matters ; and of
such is the act above specified.

It is the statute ** "for^^ authorizing the king's highness to
make bishops by his letters patent." The title of this act is
certainly surprising, but then we are to consider that the
learned person who penned it was not sufficiently circumspect
in his use of words. The meaning the legislature intended to
convey was that the king might "nominate and present"
bishops by his letters patent, for confirmation and consecra-
tion, as (under a supposition of circumstances) had been pre-
viously enacted*^. And if the somewhat exceptionable lan-
guage of the gentleman who drew this act is thus explained
to its intended sense, we need not dwell longer upon the sub-
ject than to remember that neither crown patronage in the
matter of bishoprics (which is all that was here intended) nor
lay patronage in respect of parochial benefices can be tortured
into any reasonable argument against the spiritual authority
of the Church herself.

In fine it appears clear that the acts of parliament in this
reign on spiritual matters were the formal embodiment of
foregone synodical decisions subsequently fortified by legis
lative sanctions, and this seems incontrovertible, notwith- 1
standing a very remarkable announcement to the contrary
made by a late writer ^. The Church had thrown off her |
subserviency to Rome, and a return in a great measure was |
made, now that she had recovered her liberty, to the ancient

A.D. 1546.
K. Heniv

b 31 Hen.
VIII. c 9.

bb Stat, at
large, In-

« 25 Hen.
VIII. c. -20,
sec. 4.

d Rev. R. I.

on " The
macy," p.




A.D. 1546.




Robert Hol-


e Fuller,
Ch. Hist,
book V. p.

and laudable principles of the Anglo-Saxon constitution.
Would that we had the piety and wisdom in this generation
to adhere to tliem !

It appears equally clear that royal injunctions were at this
time the formal promulgation under the sovereign's authority of
synodical decrees. Formerly such instruments had appeared
in the shape of " Constitutions," first agreed to in synod and
then set out in the archiepiscopal name. But now the whole
executive power was lodged ultimately in the crown. And
though the synods, as deliberative assemblies, decided upon
such spiritual matters as required attention, yet when settled
the decisions were issued under the form of royal injunctions,
which in effect were canons ratified by the king, and so to be
enforced under temporal penalties by the civil magistrate,
against such as should resist their provisions. '

To sura up this topic, the words of the Church historian
Fuller, one not peculiarly favourable to ecclesiastical autho-
rity, seem to apply with much aptness. " Upon ® serious con-
sideration," he says, " it will appear that there was nothing
done in the reformation of religion save what was acted by
the clergy in their convocations, or grounded upon some act
of theirs precedent to it, with the advice, counsel, and con-
sent of the bishops and most eminent Churchmen confirmed
upon the postfact, and not otherwise, by the civil sanction
according to the usage of the best and happiest times of

^,,„ ,^. , As we now arrive at the close of K. Henry

XV II. Dissolu- ...

lion of the abbeys VIII.'s reign, it will be necessary to consider

and monasteries. , i i i • i ■,

the change whicli passed upon our convocations
in consequence of that monarcirs disposition of the ecclesi-
astical property of this country.

The dissolution of the abbey.s, monasteries,
and religious houses tended to diminish greatly
the number of the members of our provincial
synods; and as so great a change from this
cause passed upon those assemblies, the subject
requires some special attention in the prosecution of our
inquiry. A more excessive strain of injustice has seldom
been exercised. When the enterprise was fresh, and K.
Henry VIII. was contemplating the dissolution of the

This subject im-
portant to our in-
quiry, as thus our
provincial synods
were materially
reduced in num-




religious houses, he was advised at the council board " not to
think of ruining but of ^ reforming those societies/"" It was
there remarked that he should " be pleased to remember
the foundations were dedicated to God Almighty," that such
a consideration ought to s " prevail with his majesty to trans-
fer the estates to some pious use, and that even here the
matter should be managed with reservation, and a sufficient
number of these religious houses be still maintained for both
sexes in every county," and that by these means his " high-
ness would be screened from censure and shew a regard to
antiquity and devotion ss." This though wholesome advice was
little congenial to the king's temper. Counsel of an opposite
character submitted to him appears to have been more palat-
able, and to have secured his compliance. It was said on the
other hand that " the government'^ must have people to work
and fight as well as to preach and pray for it :" otherwise " our

A. D. 1546.
K IJcniy

f^Cdl. iv.


? Coll. iv.


■< Speech at



generals and captains should be made bishops and deans, and .29"2'' '^'

ss Coll.

our men of war and forts be turned into chapels and religious
houses." It was therefore suggested " that' a visitation would
be a proper remedy, and that those who visit should be autho-
rized to discharge those religious who find their vows too
nmch for them ; to open the cloister, to suit their tempers
better, and give them the freedom of the world." And to
this was added a hint that in certain emergencies it would be
"desirable^ to proportion the fortunes of the spiritualty and
temporalty, and bring the kingdom to an evener balance."

Cromwell ap- ^liis last advice prevailed, as was likely,
pointed visitor. ^yj^j-^ j^jg niajesty, wlio declared that he would
order a visitation. For the management of this business no
person was thought better qualified than the secretary Crom-
well, who being disaffected to the monasteries was appointed
visitor ; and to qualify him for that function among others
he received the title '' of vicar-general. Cromwell was ' autho-
rized by the king''s letters patent to constitute deputies for
the more easy performance and speedy management of his
new duties, and his choice fell upon Richard Layton, Thomas
Legh, William Petre, John London, and others. The threefirst
mentioned were doctors-in-law, the last Dean of Walliiigford.
Before the visitation conmienced, letters were issued by ™
the king, forbidding the Archbishop of Canterbury and his

i Coll.


•< Hume,
chap. 31.
I Con.-.
Mag. nri
iii. 7«4.

"' Coll. iv.
•29G. Sup.
pp. 431 - 2.





A.I). 1,546.
Cra Timer,
Robert llol-

" Cone.
Maor. Brit,
iii. 7.97.

o See Coll.
iv. 2D7.

00 See Coll.
iv. 297.

P Coll. iv.

<J Coll. iv.

r 27 Hen.
VIII. c. 20.

• See 25
Hen. VIII.
c. 1.0. Sup.
pp. .%l-2.

« Ilun.e,
chap. x,\xi.
<• Coll. iv.
323. &
ch.ip. xxxi.
ad an. 153G.

suffragans to exercise their customary right of visitation until

the royal " inquiry was finished. And here a strain of power

I somewhat startling was challenged, episcopal jurisdiction

j struck down, and the regale exalted to an unwarrantable


The abbey com- ^'hc Commissioners soon began their visitation
'"'**'°"- under Cromweirs auspices, Souwell, Price,

Gage, and Bellasis acting together with those before men-
tioned. Many high" functions of ecclesiastical jurisdiction
were committed to them, " and as to monasteries they had as
it were an unlimited authority, and were empowered to allow
pensions to such as were disposed to quit that way of Hving o"."
For direction in the prosecution of their oljject they were
furnished with instructions condensed into eighty-six p articles,
which tended to draw forth information on all the minutest
points of management connected with the religious houses.

Upon their return the visitors gave a tragical account of
the morality practised in the monasteries, and flourished upon
their excessive wealth. But that their reports were fair, their
evidence unbiassed, and their whole conduct just, has been
reasonably doubted. Some monasteries fell, some of the in-
mates were transferred *i to larger houses, some went forth into
the world, and some, by cautious management, obtained more
favourable conditions and received small pensions. Having thus
paved the way for a more general sally against the property
of the religious (whose possessions, it would seem to unpreju-
diced persons, ought to have stood upon the foot of the law
and the connnon rights of the subject), an act of parliament'
for the dissolution of the smaller abbeys was obtained in order
to complete their overthrow. And if the doleful preamble of
this act is "according to the truth," which, as before remarked,
was not always the case * in this reign, the state of morals, devo-
tion, and religion in those institutions which were now doomed
must have been shocking in a very high degree. But lan-
guage so comprehensive and assertions so general and sweep-
ing as are there contained suggest doubts whether the
evidence of the authors was unprejudiced', and all their state-
ments precisely limited by truth.

The lesser reli- ^^ ^lic body of the act all rcligious houses
gious houses fall, ^fu tJic vcarlv valuc of -200/. and under, with




" Virg. ^n.
ii. 7t>3-6.

' all their manorial rights, lands, tithes, and advowsons were , a. d. 154(5.
granted to the crown, together with all the ornaments, jewels, vin.^"'^
goods, chattels, and debts thereto belonging.

" . . . . gaza
Inceusis erepta adytis, meiisseque Deorum,
Crateresque auro solidi, captivaque vestis

Now if the mismanagement of these houses was really so
scandalous as was represented, a more unexceptionable remedy
might have been applied than a pillage of their property.
Treasures so obtained have never entailed a blessing on the
new possessors. And, moreover, a pretence of correcting
morals by the commission of sacrilege is a proceeding which
will hardly bear rigid scrutiny.

It may seem at first somewhat unaccountable that the lesser
abbeys should have been the prey first fastened upon by this
act ; especially as the greater ones would have afforded richer
spoils. But it must be borne in mind that many of the supe-
riors of those larger houses had seats in parliament ", about
twenty-nine mitred abbots and priors sitting with the lords.
It was well, therefore, at the opening of the attack not to
make an assault on that point where resistance might have
proved most vigorous ; and prudence therefore suggested that
the lesser abbeys should alone bear the first brunt, and that
some flourishes of compliment on the other hand should be
paid to the greater houses, for which this statute ^ was made
the vehicle.

Thus, as is usual, the weak and defenceless fell first; 376 ^
of these "ancient^ monuments of devotion were disincorpo-
rated and dissolved." A revenue of 32,000^. ^ per annum
came in to the exchequer, together with at least 100,000^.,
the value of realized property confiscated. That this ex-
pedient^ for enriching the crown was unjustifiable is cer-
tain ; whether it gave general satisfaction at the time is ex-
tremely doubtful. For, not to speak here of the morality of the
proceeding, we learn that no less than 10,000 persons were
thrown upon the public unfurnished with means of subsistence.
And we are told also, what is not hard to believe, that
" the seeing the monks and nuns stroll about the country for
their bread, and the churches pulled down, profaned, and

VIII. c. 23.

>' Hmiie,
chap, xxk'i.
ad an. 1536.
^ Coll. iv.

* Hume,
chap. xxxi.
ad an. 1536.

" See Hume,
chap. xxxi.
ad an. 1538.




A.D. 1546.




Robert Hol-



K. Henry V in.

covets tlie greater
religious houses.

<l Coll. iv.

e Cone.
Mag Brit,
iii. 835-6.


K Vir2. Mn
vi. 624.

Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 47 of 83)