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“ Item objicimus, ponimus, et articulamur. That for the space of these three years, two years, one year, half a year, three, two, or one month last past, you, . have used and worn only your ordinary apparel, and not the surplice, as is required. Declare how long, how often, and for what cause, consideration, or intent you have so done, or refused so to do.
“ Item objicimus, etc.—That within the time aforesaid you have baptized divers, or at least one infant, and have refused to use, or not used, the sign of the cross in the forehead with the words in the said Book of Common Prayer, there prescribed to be used. Declare how many you have so baptized, and for what cause, consideration, and intent."
This is a fair specimen of the whole series of interrogatories.
The Court of High Commission. — The special machinery relied upon for the enforcement of these Test Articles was that set in motion by that terrible engine of oppression known as the Court of High Commission, which was created under the Act of Supremacy, and specially designed to deal with all offences against this Act and the Act of Uniformity. It was armed with powers so absolute and inquisitorial, that no obnoxious opinion could be professed, no non-attendance at church could be indulged, no service be conducted in chapel or private house, without bringing down upon delinquents fine and imprisonment, and even death. It had power to “visit, reform, redress, order, correct, and amend all
1 See Appendix to Strype's Whitgift, vol. iii. p. 81.
errors, heresies, schisms, abuses, offences, contempts, and enormities whatsoever.” 1
“ By the mere establishment of such a court half the work of the Reformation was undone." It made the primate for the time being—for the powers of the Commission fell practically into his hands—absolute dictator, and master of the lives and liberties of the Queen's subjects. “No Archbishop of Canterbury,” says Mr. Green, “had wielded an authority so vast, so utterly despotic, as that of Parker and Whitgift, and Bancroft and Abbot and Laud.” The most terrible feature of this tyranny on the part of the bishops was its personal character. No fireside was safe from the intrusion of his officers and pursuivants. No act, no word, was so innocent but it could be construed into a crime. The primates created their own tests of doctrine with an utter indifference to those created by law. In one instance, Parker deprived a vicar of his benefice for the denial of the verbal inspiration of the Bible. This is but a sample of the charge of heresy which was liable to be brought home to anyone who expressed an opinion upon religious subjects. This and the mode of taking evidence in the court, which was contrary to the "most simple ideas of justice and equity," made it a terrible engine of oppression, and, according to Hume, its jurisdiction was more terrible than that of the Star Chamber.2
1 See Statutes and Constitutional Documents illustrative of the Reigns of Elizabeth and James I., edited by G. W. Prothero, Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, p. 227.
2 The Court of Star Chamber was a court where "great riots and contempts” were punished. Its jurisdiction was civil rather than ecclesiastical, and extended to everything that might be supposed to
No wonder that the Ecclesiastical Commission "stank in the nostrils of the English clergy.” It was even more detestable to the English laity; to them it remained, as Froude says, “an inexpressible detestation and scorn. All sides united in dread and hatred of those ecclesiastical tribunals, whose yoke had been broken by Henry, and which had so fearfully abused their recovered power.”
In the Court of High Commission, Whitgift had all the machinery he required made ready to his hand for carrying out his Test Articles. In 1583, on Whitgift's accession to the primacy, a new Commission was appointed. It is generally believed that this Commission was invested with greatly expanded powers, and became, for this reason, a more terrible instrument of oppression; but this belief, though resting on the authority of Hallam (in this following Neal), does not seem to be substantiated.1
The power which the Court put at Whitgift's command was practically absolute and unlimited, and he proceeded to use it without mercy in the case of all persons known to be incriminated by the Test Articles,-a species of ecclesiastical tyranny utterly at variance alike with our English laws and all principles of natural equity.”
Lord Burghley, who, though at first rather friendly to disturb or endanger the government, and to misdemeanours, such as libels. Hence it regulated and controlled the censorship of the press. The court consisted of all the members of the Privy Council, together with two Chief Justices.
1 “It is true that under Whitgift the Commission was more active and efficient than before; but this change was apparently due, not to any additional powers, but to the energetic and uncompromising character of its new head."-Introduction to Select Statutes and other Constitutional Documents, by Professor Prothero, p. xlii. ? See Hallam, in loco.
Whitgift, was soon disgusted by his intolerant and arbitrary behaviour, wrote in strong terms of remonstrance against these articles of examination, “which I have read, and find so curiously penned, so full of branches and circumstances, as I think the inquisitors of Spain use not so many questions to comprehend and to trap their preys. According to my simple judgment, this kind of proceeding is too much savouring of the Romish Inquisition, and is rather a device to seek for offenders than to reform any."1 Burghley was no Puritan, but, like Bacon, his “calm and sagacious mind” was affronted and scandalised by such high-handed proceeding. Whitgift, however, was as little inclined as his royal mistress to resile from a position which he had once taken up. With him it was war to the knife and to the bitter end.
1 See Appendix to Strype's Whitgift, vol. iii. pp. 104-107.