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   A Description of Elizabethan England.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Chapter V
 
Of the Ancient and Present Estate of the Church of England
 
[1577, Book II., Chapter 5; 1585, Book II., Chapter 1.]
 
 
THERE are now two provinces in England, of which the first and greatest is subject to the see of Canterbury, comprehending a part of Lhoegres, whole Cambria, and also Ireland, which in time past were several, and brought into one by the archbishop of the said see, and assistance of the pope, who, in respect of meed, did yield unto the ambitious desires of sundry archbishops of Canterbury, as I have elsewhere declared. The second province is under the see of York. And, of these, each hath her archbishop resident commonly within her now limits, who hath not only the chief dealing in matters appertaining to the hierarchy and jurisdiction of the church, but also great authority in civil affairs touching the government of the commonwealth, so far forth as their commissions and several circuits do extend.  1
  In old time there were three archbishops, and so many provinces in this isle, of which one kept at London, another at York, and the third at Carleon upon Usk. But as that of London was translated to Canterbury by Augustine, and that of York remaineth (notwithstanding that the greatest part of his jurisdiction is now bereft him and given to the Scottish archbishop), so that of Caerleon is utterly extinguished, and the government of the country united to that of Canterbury in spiritual cases, after it was once before removed to St. David’s in Wales, by David, successor to Dubritius, and uncle to King Arthur, in the 519 of Grace, to the end that he and his clerks might be further off from the cruelty of the Saxons, where it remained till the time of the Bastard, and for a season after, before it was annexed to the see of Canterbury.  2
  The Archbishop of Canterbury is commonly called the Primate of all England; and in the coronations of the kings of this land, and all other times wherein it shall please the prince to wear and put on his crown, his office is to set it upon their heads. They bear also the name of their high chaplains continually, although not a few of them have presumed (in time past) to be their equals, and void of subjection unto them. That this is true, it may easily appear by their own acts yet kept in record, beside their epistles and answers written or in print, wherein they have sought not only to match but also to mate 1 them with great rigour and more than open tyranny. Our adversaries will peradventure deny this absolutely, as they do many other things apparent, though not without shameless impudence, or at the leastwise defend it as just and not swerving from common equity, because they imagine every archbishop to be the king’s equal in his own province. But how well their doing herein agreeth with the saying of Peter and examples of the primitive church it may easily appear. Some examples also of their demeanour—I mean in the time of popery—I will not let to remember, lest they should say I speak of malice, and without all ground of likelihood.  3
  Of their practices with mean persons I speak not, neither will I begin at Dunstan, the author of all their pride and presumption here in England….  4
  Wherefore I refer you to those reports of Anselm and Becket sufficiently penned by other, the which Anselm also making a shew as if he had been very unwilling to be placed in the see of Canterbury gave this answer to the letters of such his friends as did make request unto him to take the charge upon him—
          “Secularia negotia nescio, quia scire nolo, eorum námque occupationes horreo, liberum affectans animum. Voluntati sacrarum intendo scripturarum, vos dissonantiam facitis, verendúmque est nè aratrum sanctæ ecclesiæ, quod in Anglia duo boves validi et pari fortitudine, ad bonum certantes, id est, rex et archiepiscopus, debeant trahere, nunc ove vetula cum tauro indomito jugata, distorqueatur à recto. Ego ovis vetula, qui si quietus essem, verbi Dei lacte, et operimento lanæ, aliquibus possèm fortassis non ingratus esse, sed si me cum hoc tauro coniungitis, videbitis pro disparilitate trahentium, aratrum non rectè procedere,” etc.
  5
  Which is in English thus—
          “Of secular affairs I have no skill, because I will not know them; for I even abhor the troubles that rise about them, as one that desireth to have his mind at liberty. I apply my whole endeavour to the rule of the Scriptures; you lead me to the contrary; and it is to be feared lest the plough of holy church, which two strong oxen of equal force, and both like earnest to contend unto that which is good (that is, the king and the archbishop), ought to draw, should thereby now swerve from the right furrow, by matching of an old sheep with a wild, untamed bull. I am that old sheep, who, if I might be quiet, could peradventure shew myself not altogether ungrateful to some, by feeding them with the milk of the Word of God, and covering them with wool: but if you match me with this bull, you shall see that, through want of equality in draught, the plough will not go to right,” etc.
  6
  As followeth in the process of his letters. The said Thomas Becket was so proud that he wrote to King Henry the Second, as to his lord, to his king, and to his son, offering him his counsel, his reverence, and due correction, etc. Others in like sort have protested that they owed nothing to the kings of this land, but their council only, reserving all obedience unto the see of Rome, whereby we may easily see the pride and ambition of the clergy in the blind time of ignorance.  7
  And as the old cock of Canterbury did crow in this behalf, so the young cockerels of other sees did imitate his demeanour, as may be seen by this one example also in King Stephen’s time, worthy to be remembered; unto whom the Bishop of London would not so much as swear to be true subject: wherein also he was maintained by the pope….  8
  Thus we see that kings were to rule no further than it pleased the pope to like of; neither to challenge more obedience of their subjects than stood also with their good will and pleasure. He wrote in like sort unto Queen Maud about the same matter, making her “Samson’s calf” 2 (the better to bring his purpose to pass)….  9
  Is it not strange that a peevish order of religion (devised by man) should break the express law of God, who commandeth all men to honour and obey their kings and princes, in whom some part of the power of God is manifest and laid open unto us? And even unto this end the cardinal of Hostia also wrote to the canons of Paul’s after this manner, covertly encouraging them to stand to their election of the said Robert, who was no more willing to give over his new bishopric than they careful to offend the king, but rather imagined which way to keep it still, maugre his displeasure, and yet not to swear obedience unto him for all that he should be able to do or perform unto the contrary….  10
  Hereby you see how King Stephen was dealt withal. And albeit the Archbishop of Canterbury is not openly to be touched herewith, yet it is not to be doubtedtbut he was a doer in it, so far as might tend to the maintenance of the right and prerogative of holy church. And even no less unquietness had another of our princes with Thomas of Arundel, who fled to Rome for fear of his head, and caused the pope to write an ambitious and contumelious letter unto his sovereign about his restitution. But when (by the king’s letters yet extant, and beginning thus: “Thomas proditionis non expers nostræ regiæ majestati insidias fabricavit” 3) the pope understood the bottom of the matter, he was contented that Thomas should be deprived, and another archbishop chosen in his stead.  11
  Neither did this pride stay at archbishops and bishops, but descended lower, even to the rake-hells of the clergy and puddles of all ungodliness. For, beside the injury received of their superiors, how was King John dealt withal by the vile Cistertians at Lincoln in the second of his reign? Certes when he had (upon just occasion) conceived some grudge against them for their ambitious demeanour, and upon denial to pay such sums of money as were allotted unto them, he had caused seizure to be made of such horses, swine, neat, and other things of theirs as were maintained in his forests, they denounced him as fast amongst themselves with bell, book, and candle, to be accursed and excommunicated. Thereunto they so handled the matter with the pope and their friends that the king was fain to yield to their good graces, insomuch that a meeting for pacification was appointed between them at Lincoln, by means of the present Archbishop of Canterbury, who went off between him and the Cistertian commissioners before the matter could be finished. In the end the king himself came also unto the said commissioners as they sat in their chapter-house, and there with tears fell down at their feet, craving pardon for his trespasses against them, and heartily requiring that they would (from henceforth) commend him and his realm in their prayers unto the protection of the Almighty, and receive him into their fraternity, promising moreover full satisfaction of their damages sustained, and to build an house of their order in whatsoever place of England it should please them to assign. And this he confirmed by charter bearing date the seven-and-twentieth of November, after the Scottish king was returned into Scotland, and departed from the king. Whereby (and by other the like, as between John Stratford and Edward the Third, etc.) a man may easily conceive how proud the clergymen have been in former times, as wholly presuming upon the primacy of their pope. More matter could I allege of these and the like broils, not to be found among our common historiographers. Howbeit, reserving the same unto places more convenient, I will cease to speak of them at this time, and go forward with such other things as my purpose is to speak of. At the first, therefore, there was like and equal authority in both our archbishops, but as he of Canterbury hath long since obtained the prerogative above York (although I say not without great trouble, suit, some bloodshed, and contention), so the Archbishop of York is nevertheless written Primate of England, as one contenting himself with a piece of a title at the least, when all could not be gotten. And as he of Canterbury crowneth the king, so this of York doth the like to the queen, whose perpetual chaplain he is, and hath been from time to time, since the determination of this controversy, as writers do report. The first also hath under his jurisdiction to the number of one-and-twenty inferior bishops; the other hath only four, by reason that the churches of Scotland are now removed from his obedience unto an archbishop of their own, whereby the greatness and circuit of the jurisdiction of York is not a little diminished. In like sort, each of these seven-and-twenty sees have their cathedral churches, wherein the deans (a calling not known in England before the Conquest) do bear the chief rule, being men especially chosen to that vocation, both for their learning and godliness, so near as can be possible. These cathedral churches have in like manner other dignities and canonries still remaining unto them, as heretofore under the popish regiment. Howbeit those that are chosen to the same are no idle and unprofitable persons (as in times past they have been when most of these livings were either furnished with strangers, especially out of Italy, boys, or such idiots as had least skill of all in discharging of those functions whereunto they were called by virtue of these stipends), but such as by preaching and teaching can and do learnedly set forth the glory of God, and further the overthrow of anti-Christ to the uttermost of their powers.  12
  These churches are called cathedral, because the bishops dwell or lie near unto the same, as bound to keep continual residence within their jurisdictions for the better oversight and governance of the same, the word being derived a cathedra—that is to say, a chair or seat where he resteth, and for the most part abideth. At the first there was but one church in every jurisdiction, whereinto no man entered to pray but with some oblation or other toward the maintenance of the pastor. For as it was reputed an infamy to pass by any of them without visitation, so it was no less reproach to appear empty before the Lord. And for this occasion also they were builded very huge and great; for otherwise they were not capable to such multitude as came daily unto them to hear the Word and receive the sacraments.  13
  But as the number of Christians increased, so first monasteries, then finally parish churches, were builded in every jurisdiction: from whence I take our deanery churches to have their original (now called “mother churches,” and their incumbents, archpriests), the rest being added since the Conquest, either by the lords of every town, or zealous men, loth to travel far, and willing to have some ease by building them near hand. Unto these deanery churches also the clergy in old time of the same deanery were appointed to repair at sundry seasons, there to receive wholesome ordinances, and to consult upon the necessary affairs of the whole jurisdiction if necessity so required; and some image hereof is yet to be seen in the north parts. But as the number of churches increased, so the repair of the faithful unto the cathedrals did diminish; whereby they now become, especially in their nether parts, rather markets and shops for merchandise than solemn places of prayer, whereunto they were first erected. Moreover, in the said cathedral churches upon Sundays and festival days the canons do make certain ordinary sermons by course, whereunto great numbers of all estates do orderly resort; and upon the working days, thrice in the week, one of the said canons (or some other in his stead) doth read and expound some piece of holy Scripture, whereunto the people do very reverently repair. The bishops themselves in like sort are not idle in their callings; for, being now exempt from court and council, which is one (and a no small) piece of their felicity (although Richard Archbishop of Canterbury thought otherwise, as yet appeareth by his letters to Pope Alexander, Epistola 44, Petri Blesensis, where he saith, because the clergy of his time were somewhat narrowly looked unto, “Supra dorsum ecclesiae fabricant peccatores,” etc.), 4 they so apply their minds to the setting forth of the Word that there are very few of them which do not every Sunday or oftener resort to some place or other within their jurisdictions where they expound the Scriptures with much gravity and skill, and yet not without the great misliking and contempt of such as hate the Word. Of their manifold translations from one see to another I will say nothing, which is not now done for the benefit of the flock as the preferment of the party favoured and advantage unto the prince, a matter in time past much doubted of—to wit, whether a bishop or pastor might be translated from one see to another, and left undecided till prescription by royal authority made it good. For, among princes, a thing once done is well done, and to be done oftentimes, though no warrant be to be found therefore.  14
  They have under them also their archdeacons, some one, divers two, and many four or more, as their circuits are in quantity, which archdeacons are termed in law the bishops’ eyes; and these (beside their ordinary courts, which are holden within so many or more of their several deaneries by themselves or their officials once in a month at the least) do keep yearly two visitations or synods (as the bishop doth in every third year, wherein he confirmeth some children, though most care but a little for that ceremony), in which they make diligent inquisition and search, as well for the doctrine and behaviour of the ministers as the orderly dealing of the parishioners in resorting to their parish churches and conformity unto religion. They punish also with great severity all such trespassers, either in person or by the purse (where permutation of penance is thought more grievous to the offender), as are presented unto them; or, if the cause be of the more weight, as in cases of heresy, pertinacy, contempt, and such like, they refer them either to the bishop of the diocese, or his chancellor, or else to sundry grave persons set in authority, by virtue of an high commission directed unto them from the prince to that end, who in very courteous manner do see the offenders gently reformed or else severely punished if necessity so enforce.  15
  Beside this, in many of our archdeaconries, we have an exercise lately begun which for the most part is called a prophecy or conference, and erected only for the examination or trial of the diligence of the clergy in their study of holy Scriptures. Howbeit, such is the thirsty desire of the people in these days to hear the Word of God that they also have as it were with zealous violence intruded themselves among them (but as hearers only) to come by more knowledge through their presence at the same. Herein also (for the most part) two of the younger sort of ministers do expound each after other some piece of the Scriptures ordinarily appointed unto them in their courses (wherein they orderly go through with some one of the Evangelists, or of the Epistles, as it pleaseth the whole assembly to choose at the first in every of these conferences); and when they have spent an hour or a little more between them, then cometh one of the better learned sort, who, being a graduate for the most part, or known to be a preacher sufficiently authorised and of a sound judgment, supplieth the room of a moderator, making first a brief rehearsal of their discourses, and then adding what him thinketh good of his own knowledge, whereby two hours are thus commonly spent at this most profitable meeting. When all is done, if the first speakers have shewed any piece of diligence, they are commended for their travel, and encouraged to go forward. If they have been found to be slack, or not sound in delivery of their doctrine, their negligence and error is openly reproved before all their brethren, who go aside of purpose from the laity after the exercise ended to judge of these matters, and consult of the next speakers and quantity of the text to be handled in that place. The laity never speak, of course (except some vain and busy head will now and then intrude themselves with offence), but are only hearers; and, as it is used in some places weekly, in other once in fourteen days, in divers monthly, and elsewhere twice in a year, so is it a notable spur unto all the ministers thereby to apply their books, which otherwise (as in times past) would give themselves to hawking, hunting, tables, cards, dice, tippling at the alehouse, shooting of matches, and other like vanities, nothing commendable in such as should be godly and zealous stewards of the good gifts of God, faithful distributors of his Word unto the people, and diligent pastors according to their calling.  16
  But alas! as Satan, the author of all mischief, hath in sundry manners heretofore hindered the erection and maintenance of many good things, so in this he hath stirred up adversaries of late unto this most profitable exercise, who, not regarding the commodity that riseth thereby so well to the hearers as speakers, but either stumbling (I cannot tell how) at words and terms, or at the leastwise not liking to hear of the reprehension of vice, or peradventure taking a misliking at the slender demeanours of such negligent ministers as now and then in their course to occupy the rooms, have either by their own practice, their sinister information, or suggestions made upon surmises unto other, procured the suppression of these conferences, condemning them as hurtful, pernicious, and daily breeders of no small hurt and inconvenience. But hereof let God be judge, unto the cause belongeth.  17
  Our elders or ministers and deacons (for subdeacons and the other inferior orders sometime used in popish church we have not) are made according to a certain form of consecration concluded upon in the time of King Edward the Sixth by the clergy of England, and soon after confirmed by the three estates of the realm in the high court of parliament. And out of the first sort—that is to say, of such as are called to the ministry (without respect whether they be married or not)—are bishops, deans, archdeacons, and such as have the higher places in the hierarchy of the church elected; and these also, as all the rest, at the first coming unto any spiritual promotion do yield unto the prince the entire tax of that their living for one whole year, if it amount in value unto ten pounds and upwards, and this under the name and title of first fruits.  18
  With us also it is permitted that a sufficient man may (by dispensation from the prince) hold two livings, not distant either from other above thirty miles; whereby it cometh to pass that, as her Majesty doth reap some commodity by the faculty, so that the unition of two in one man doth bring oftentimes more benefit to one of them in a month (I mean for doctrine) than they have had before peradventure in many years.  19
  Many exclaim against such faculties, as if there were more good preachers that want maintenance than livings to maintain them. Indeed when a living is voit there are so many suitors for it that a man would think the report to be true, and most certain; but when it cometh to the trial (who are sufficient and who not, who are staid men in conversation, judgment, and learning), of that great number you shall hardly find one or two such as they ought to be, and yet none more earnest to make suit, to promise largely, bear a better shew, or find fault with the stage of things than they. Nevertheless I do not think that their exclamations, if they were wisely handled, are altogether grounded upon rumours or ambitious minds, if you respect the state of the thing itself, and not the necessity growing through want of able men to furnish out all the cures in England, which both our universities are never able to perform. For if you observe what numbers of preachers Cambridge and Oxford do yearly send forth, and how many new compositions are made in the Court of First Fruits by the deaths of the last incumbents, you shall soon see a difference. Wherefore, if in country towns and cities, yea even in London itself, four or five of the little churches were brought into one, the inconvenience would in great part be redressed and amended.  20
  And, to say truth, one most commonly of those small livings is of so little value that it is not able to maintain a mean scholar, much less a learned man, as noting be above ten, twelve, sixteen, seventeen, twenty, or thirty pounds at the most, toward their charges, which now (more than before time) do go out of the same. I say more than before, because every small trifle, nobleman’s request, or courtesy craved by the bishop, doth impose and command a twentieth part, a three score part, or twopence in the pound, etc., out of the livings, which hitherto hath not been usually granted, but by the consent of a synod, wherein things were decided according to equity, and the poorer sort considered of, which now are equally burdened.  21
  We pay also the tenths of our livings to the prince yearly, according to such valuation of each of them as hath been lately made: which nevertheless in time past were not annual, but voluntary, and paid at request of king or pope…. 5  22
  But to return to our tenths, a payment first as devised by the pope, and afterward taken up as by the prescription of the king, whereunto we may join also our first fruits, which is one whole year’s commodity of our living, due at our entrance into the same, the tenths abated unto the prince’s coffers, and paid commonly in two years. For the receipt also of these two payments an especial office or court is erected, which beareth name of First Fruits and Tenths, whereunto, if the party to be preferred do not make his dutiful repair by an appointed time after possession taken, there to compound for the payment of his said fruits, he incurreth the danger of a great penalty, limited by a certain statute provided in that behalf against such as do intrude into the ecclesiastical function and refuse to pay the accustomed duties belonging to the same.  23
  They pay likewise subsidies with the temporalty, but in such sort that if these pay after four shillings for land, the clergy contribute commonly after six shillings of the pound, so that of a benefice of twenty pounds by the year the incumbent thinketh himself well acquitted if, all ordinary payments being discharged, he may reserve thirteen pounds six shillings eightpence towards his own sustentation or maintenance of his family. Seldom also are they without the compass of a subsidy; for if they be one year clear from this payment (a thing not often seen of late years), they are like in the next to hear of another grant: so that I say again they are seldom without the limit of a subsidy. Herein also they somewhat find themselves grieved that the laity may at every taxation help themselves, and so they do, through consideration had of their decay and hindrance, and yet their impoverishment cannot but touch also the parson or vicar, unto whom such liberty is denied, as is daily to be seen in their accounts and tithings.  24
  Some of them also, after the marriages of their children, will have their proportions qualified, or by friendship get themselves quite out of the book. But what stand I upon these things, who have rather to complain of the injury offered by some of our neighbours of the laity, which daily endeavour to bring us also within the compass of their fifteens or taxes for their own ease, whereas the tax of the whole realm, which is commonly greater in the champagne than woodland soil, amounteth only to 37,930 pounds ninepence half-penny, is a burden easy enough to be borne upon so many shoulders, without the help of the clergy, whose tenths and subsidies make up commonly a double, if not treble sum unto their aforesaid payments? Sometimes also we are threatened with a Melius inquirendum, as if our livings were not racked high enough already. But if a man should seek out where all those church lands which in time past did contribute unto the old sum required or to be made up, no doubt no small number of the laity of all states should be contributors also with us, the prince not defrauded of her expectation and right. We are also charged with armour and munitions from thirty pounds upwards, a thing more needful than divers other charges imposed upon us are convenient, by which and other burdens our ease groweth to be more heavy by a great deal (notwithstanding our immunity from temporal services) than that of the laity, and, for aught that I see, not likely to be diminished, as if the church were now become the ass whereon every market man is to ride and cast his wallet.  25
  The other payments due unto the archbishop and bishop at their several visitations (of which the first is double to the latter), and such also as the archdeacon receive that his synods, etc., remain still as they did without any alteration. Only this, I think he added within memory of man, that at the coming of every prince his appointed officers do commonly visit the whole realm under the form of an ecclesiastical inquisition, in which the clergy do usually pay double fees, as unto the archbishop.  26
  Hereby then, and by those already remembered, it is found that the Church of England is no less commodious to the prince’s coffers than the state of the laity, if it do not far exceed the same, since their payments are certain, continual, and seldom abated, howsoever they gather up their own duties with grudging, murmuring, suit, and slanderous speeches of the payers, or have their livings otherwise hardly valued unto the uttermost farthing, or shrewdly cancelled by the covetousness of the patrons, of whom some do bestow advowsons of benefices upon their bakers, butlers, cooks, good archers, falconers, and horse-keepers, instead of other recompense, for their long and faithful service, which they employ afterward unto the most advantage.  27
  Certes here they resemble the pope very much; for, as he sendeth out his idols, so do they their parasites, pages, chamberlains, stewards, grooms and lackeys; and yet these be the men that first exclaim of the insufficiency of the ministers, as hoping thereby in due time to get also their glebes and grounds into their hands. In times past bishoprics went almost after the same manner under the lay princes, and then under the pope, so that he which helped a clerk unto a see was sure to have a present or purse fine, if not an annual pension, besides that which went to the pope’s coffers, and was thought to be very good merchandise.  28
  To proceed therefore with the rest, I think it good also to remember that the names usually given unto such as feed the flock remain in like sort as in times past, so that these words, parson, vicar, curate, and such, are not yet abolished more than the canon law itself, which is daily pleaded, as I have said elsewhere, although the statutes of the realm have greatly infringed the large scope and brought the exercise of the same into some narrower limits. There is nothing read in our churches but the canonical Scriptures, whereby it cometh to pass that the Psalter is said over once in thirty days, the New Testament four times, and the Old Testament once in the year. And hereunto, if the curate be adjudged by the bishop or his deputies sufficiently instructed in the holy Scriptures, and therewithal able to teach, he permitteth him to make some exposition or exhortation in his parish unto amendment of life. And for so much as our churches and universities have been so spoiled in time of error, as there cannot yet be had such number of able pastors as may suffice for every parish to have one, therebare (beside four sermons appointed by public order in the year) certain sermons or homilies (devised by sundry learned men, confirmed for sound doctrine by consent of the divines, and public authority of the prince), and those appointed to be read by the curates of mean understanding (which homilies do comprehend the principal parts of Christian doctrine, as of original sin, of justification by faith, of charity, and such like) upon the Sabbath days unto the congregation. And, after a certain number of psalms read, which are limited according to the dates of the month, for morning and evening prayer we have two lessons, whereof the first is taken out of the Old Testament, the second out of the New; and of these latter, that in the morning is out of the Gospels, the other in the afternoon out of some one of the Epistles. After morning prayer also, we have the Litany and suffrages, an invocation in mine opinion not devised without the great assistance of the Spirit of God, although many curious mind-sick persons utterly condemn it as superstitious, and savouring of conjuration and sorcery.  29
  This being done, we proceed unto the communion, if any communicants be to receive the Eucharist; if not, we read the Decalogue, Epistle, and Gospel, with the Nicene Creed (of some in derision called the “dry communion”), and then proceed unto an homily or sermon, which hath a psalm before and after it, and finally unto the baptism of such infants as on every Sabbath day (if occasion so require) are brought unto the churches; and thus is the forenoon bestowed. In the afternoon likewise we meet again, and, after the psalms and lessons ended, we have commonly a sermon, or at the leastwise our youth catechised by the space of an hour. And thus do we spend the Sabbath day in good and godly exercises, all done in our vulgar tongue, that each one present may hear and understand the same, which also in cathedral and collegiate churches is so ordered that the psalms only are sung by note, the rest being read (as in common parish churches) by the minister with a loud voice, saving that in the administration of the communion the choir singeth the answers, the creed, and sundry other things appointed, but in so plain, I say, and distinct manner that each one present may understand what they sing, every word having but one note, though the whole harmony consist of many parts, and those very cunningly set by the skilful in that science.  30
  Certes this translation of the service of the church into the vulgar tongue hath not a little offended the pope almost in every age, as a thing very often attempted by divers princes, but never generally obtained, for fear lest the consenting thereunto might breed the overthrow (as it would indeed) of all his religion and hierarchy; nevertheless, in some places where the kings and princes dwelled not under his nose, it was performed maugre his resistance. Wratislaus, Duke of Bohemia, would long since have done the like also in his kingdom; but, not daring to venture so far without the consent of the pope, he wrote unto him thereof, and received his answer inhibitory unto all his proceeding in the same….  31
  I would set down two or three more of the like instruments passed from that see unto the like end, but this shall suffice, being less common than the other, which are to be had more plentifully.  32
  As for our churches themselves, bells and times of morning and evening prayer remain as in times past, saving that all images, shrines, tabernacles, rood-lofts, and monuments of idolatry are removed, taken down, and defaced, only the stories in glass windows excepted, which, for want of sufficient store of new stuff, and by reason of extreme charge that should grow by the alteration of the same into white panes throughout the realm, are not altogether abolished in most places at once, but by little and little suffered to decay, that white glass may be provided and set up in their rooms. Finally, whereas there was wont to be a great partition between the choir and the body of the church, now it is either very small or none at all, and (to say the truth) altogether needless, sith the minister saith his service commonly in the body of the church, with his face toward the people, in a little tabernacle of wainscot provided for the purpose, by which means the ignorant do not only learn divers of the psalms and usual prayers by heart, but also such as can read do pray together with him, so that the whole congregation at one instant pour out their petitions unto the living God for the whole estate of His church in most earnest and fervent manner. Our holy and festival days are very well reduced also unto a less number; for whereas (not long since) we had under the pope four score and fifteen, called festival, and thirty profesti, beside the Sundays, they are all brought unto seven and twenty, and, with them, the superfluous numbers of idle wakes, guilds, fraternities, church-ales, help-ales, and soul-ales, called also dirge-ales, with the heathenish rioting at bride-ales, are well diminished and laid aside. And no great matter were it if the feasts of all our apostles, evangelists, and martyrs, with that of all saints, were brought to the holy days that follow upon Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, and those of the Virgin Mary, with the rest, utterly removed from the calendars, as neither necessary nor commendable in a reformed church.  33
  The apparel in like sort of our clergyment is comely, and, in truth, more decent than ever it was in the popish church, before the univeristies bound their graduates unto a stable attire, afterward usurped also even byt the blind Sir Johns. For, if you peruse well my Chronology ensuing, you shall find that they went either in divers colours like players, or in garments of light hue, as yellow, red, green, etc., with their shoes piked, their hair crisped, their girdles armed with silver, their shoes, spurs, bridles, etc., buckled with liek metal, their apparel (for the most part) of silk, and richly, their caps lacede and buttoned with gold, so that to meet a priest in those days was to behold a peacock that spreadeth his tail when he danceth before the hen, which noew (I say) is well reformed. Touching hospitality, there was never any greater used in England, sith by reason that marriage is permitdted to him that will choosed that kind of life, their meat and drink is more orderly and frugally dressed, their furniture of household more convenient and better looked unto, and the poor oftener fed generally than heretofore they have been, when only a few bishops and double or treble beneficed men did make good cheer at Christimas only or otherwise kept great houses for the entertainment of the rich, which did often see and visit them. It is thought much peradventure that some bishops etc., in our time do come short of the ancient gluttony and prodigality of their predecessors; but to such as do consider of the crutailing of their livings, or excessive prices whereunto things are grown, and how their course is limited by law, and estate looked into on every side, the cause of their so doing is well enough perceived. This also offended many, that they should, after deaths, leave their substances to their wives and children, whereas they consider not that in old time such as had no lemans nor bastards (very few were there, God wot, of this sort) did leave their goods and possessions to their brethren and kinsfolks, whereby (as I can shew by good record) many houses of gentility have grown and been erected. If in any age some one of them did found a college, almshouse, or school, if you look unto these our times, you shall see no fewer deeds of charity done, nor better grounded upon the right stub of piety than before. If you say that their wives be fond, after the decease of their husbands, and bestow themselves not so advisedly as their calling requireth (which, God knoweth, these curious surveyors make small account of truth, further than thereby to gather matter of reprehension), I beseech you then to look into all states of the laity, and tell me whether some duchesses, countesses, barons’ or knights’ wives, do not fully so often offend in the like as they? For Eve will be Eve, though Adam would say nay. Not a few also find fault with our threadbare gowns, as if not our patrons but our wives were causes of our woe. But if it were known to all that I know to have benn performed of late in Essex, where a minister taking a benefice (of less than twenty pounds in the Queen’s books so far as I remember) was enforced to pay to his patron twenty quarters of oats, ten quarters of wheat, and sixteen yearly of barley (which he called hawks’ meat), and another let the like in farm to his patron for ten pounds by the year which is well worth forty at the least, the cause of our threadbare gowns would easily appear: for such patrons do scrape the wool from our cloaks. Wherefore I may well say that such a threadbare minister is either an ill man or hath an ill patron, or both; and when such cooks and cobbling sifters shall be removed and weeded out of ministry, I doubt not but our patrons will prove better men, and be reformed whether they will or not, or else the single-minded bishops shall see the living bestowed upon such as do deserve it. When the Pragmatic Sanction took place first in France, it was supposed that these enormities should utterly have ceased; but when the elections of bishops came once into the hands of the canons and spiritual men, it grew to be far worse. For they also, within a while waxing covetous, by their own experience learned aforehand, raised the markets, and sought after new gains by the gifts of the greatest livings in that country, wherein (as Machiavelli writeth) are eighteen archbishoprics, one hundred forty and five bishoprics, 740 abbeys, eleven universities, 1,000,700 steeples (if his report be sound). Some are of the opinion that, if sufficient men in every town might be sent for from the universities, this mischief would soon be re edied; but I am clean of another mind. For, when I consider whereunto the gifts of fellowship in some places are grown, the profit that ariseth at sundry elections of scholars out of grammar schools to the posers, schoolmasters, and preferers of them to our universities, the gifts of a great number of almshouses builded for the maimed and impotent soldiers by princes and good men heretofore moved with a pitiful consideration of the poor distressed, how rewards, pensions, and annuities also do reign in other cases whereby the giver is brought sometimes into extreme misery, and that not so much as the room of a common soldier is not obtained oftentimes without a “What will you give me?” I am brought into such a mistrust of the sequel of this device that I dare pronounce (almost for certain) that,aif Homer were now alive it should be said to him:
        “Tuque licet venias musis comitatus Homere,
Si nihil attuleris, ibis Homere foras!”
  34
  More I could say, and more I would say, of these and other things, were it not that in mine own judgment I have said enough already for the advertisement of such as be wise. Nevertheless, before I finish this chapter, I will add a word or two (so briefly as I can) of the old estate of cathedral churches, which I have collected together here and there among the writers, and whereby it shall easily be seen what they were, and how near the government of ours do in these days approach unto them; for that there is an irreconcilable odds between them and those of the Papists, I hope there is no learned man indeed but will acknowledge and yield unto it.  35
  We find therefore in the time of the primitive church that there was in every see or jurisdiction one school at the least, whereunto such as were catechists in Christian religion did resort. And hereof, as we may find great testimony for Alexandria, Antioch, Rome and Jerusalem, so no small notice is left of the like in the inferior sort, if the names of such as taught in them be called to mind, and the histories well read which make report or the same. These schools were under the jurisdiction of the bishops, and from thence did they and the rest of the elders choose out such as were the ripest scholars, and willing to serve in the ministry, whom they placed also in their cathedral churches, there not only to be further instructed in the knowledge of the world, but also to inure them to the delivery of the same unto the people in sound manner, to minister the sacraments, to visit the sick and brethren imprisoned, and to perform such other duties as then belonged to their charges. The bishop himself and elders of the church were also hearers and examiners of their doctrine; and, being in process of time found meet workmen for the Lord’s harvest, they were forthwith sent abroad (after imposition of hands and prayer generally made for their good proceeding) to some place or other then destitute of her pastor, and other taken from the school also placed in their rooms. What number of such clerks belonged now and then to some one see, the Chronology following shall easily declare; and, in like sort, what officers, widows, and other persons were daily maintained in those seasons by the offerings and oblations of the faithful it is incredible to be reported, if we compare the same with the decays and oblations seen and practised at this present. But what is that in all the world which avarice and negligence will not corrupt and impair? And, as this is a pattern of the estate of the cathedral churches in those times, so I wish that the like order of government might once again be restored unto the same, which may be done with ease, sith the schools are already builded in every diocese, the universities, places of their preferment unto further knowledge, and the cathedral churches great enough to receive so many as shall come from thence to be instructed unto doctrine. But one hindrance of this is already and more and more to be looked for (beside the plucking and snatching commonly seen from such houses and the church), and that is, the general contempt of the ministry, and small consideration of their former pains taken, whereby less and less hope of competent maintenance by preaching the word is likely to ensue. Wherefore the greatest part of the more excellent wits choose rather to employ their studies unto physic and the laws, utterly giving over the study of the Scriptures, for fear lest they should in time not get their bread by the same. By this means also the stalls in their choirs would be better filled, which now (for the most part) are empty, and prebends should be prebends indeed, there to live till they were preferred to some ecclesiastical function, and then other men chosen to succeed them in their rooms, whereas now prebends are but superfluous additiments unto former excesses, and perpetual commodities unto the owners, which before time were but temporal (as I have said before). But as I have good leisure to wich for these things, so it shall be a longer time before it will be brought to pass. Nevertheless, as I will pray for a reformation in this behold, so will I here conclude my discourse on the estate of our churches.  36
 
Note 1. Overcome. [back]
Note 2. A fool or dupe. [back]
Note 3. “Thomas, not innocent of treason, has intrigued against the majesty of our court.” [back]
Note 4. “Sinners build on the back of the church.” [back]
Note 5. Here follows a story about the bootless errand of a pope’s legate in 1452.—W. [back]
 

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