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The English Theological Oaths.
1. Among the Theological Oaths prescribed by the law of England, those, by which it is declared that the King is, and ought to be, the supreme head of the church of this realm, present themselves first to our consideration.
By a statute passed in the 26th year of the reign of Henry the Eighth, it was enacted, that, “ His Majesty, his heirs and successors, Kings of England, should be the only supreme head, on earth, of the Church of England; and should have all the honors, dignities, immunities, profits, and commodities belonging to that dignity ; and full power and authority to visit, repress, redress, reform, order, correct, restrain, and amend, all such errors, heresies, abuses, contempts, and enormities, as ought or lawfully might be reformed, repressed, ordered, redressed, corrected, restrained, or amended, by any manner of spiritual jurisdiction or supremacy.”
By an Act of the 37th year of the same reign, it was declared, that " Archbishops, and the other ecclesiastical persons, had no manner of jurisdiction, ecclesiastical, but by, under, and from his Royal Majesty; and that his Majesty was the only supreme head of the church of England and Ireland; to whom, by holy Scripture, all authority and power was wholly given, to hear and determine all manner of causes ecclesiastical; and to correct all manner of heresies, errors, vices, and sins whatsoever, and to all such persons, as his Majesty should appoint thereunto.”
Language, it should seem, cannot confer spiritual power on a sovereign, or those to whom he shall please to delegate it, in terms more ample or explicit, than those adopted in these statutes. They were in force during the whole of the reign of King Edward the Sixth ; were repealed by the first Parliament of Queen Mary; revived by the first Parliament of Queen Elizabeth; have since continued, and are now in force.
· In the first year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the doctrine expressed in these statutes was inserted in an oath. Persons were required by it to swear, that “ in their consciences, they testified and declared, that the Queen was the only supreme governor of the realm, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes, as temporal; and that no foreign Prince, Person, Prelate, State or Potentate had or ought to liave any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm ; and that they renounced all foreign jurisdictions, powers, superiorities and authorities.”
Elizabeth, however, after the passing of this act, published a declaration, that, "nothing was or could be meant or intended by it, than what was acknowledged to be due to King Herry her father, or King Edward her brother; and that she neither did or would challenge any other authority by the same, than what was challenged and lately due to the said two Kings ;-which was, under God, to have the sovereignty and rule over all persons within her realm or dominions, of what estates (either ecclesiastical or temporal,) soever they were, so as no foreign power should or ought to have any superiority over them.”
“ This explanation,” says Dr. Heylin, “ not giving general satisfaction, the Bishops and clergy, in their convocation of the year 1652, by the Queen's authority, declared more plainly, that they gave not to their Princess, by virtue of the said act, or otherwise, either the ministry of God's word or sacraments, but that only prerogative, which they saw always to have been given to all Godly princes in holy scripture, by God himself: that is to say, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they were ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil doers.”
An act passed in the third year of King James the first, which prescribed an oath of allegiance and obedience. Both these oaths, and the oath of supremacy, prescribed by the act of the first of Queen Elizabeth, were abrogated by an act passed in the first sessions of the first year of King William and Queen Mary; and by the same act, a new oath of allegiance and supremacy were established in their place. An act made in the second session of the first year of King George the first intro duced a new oath of supremacy.
The explanations, by which Queen Elizabeth qualified the supremacy attributed to her, and still more the explanations given by King James the first in his Apology for the Oath of Allegiance,-in bis Præmonition,-and in his Remonstrance for the Rights of Kings, have induced some respectable writers, both Protestant and Catholic, to suppose, that the supremacy attributed to the Sovereign by the statutes, which have been mentioned, was only meant to express an unequivocal acknowledgment of the monarch's right to temporal sovereignty over the ecclesiastical, as well as over the secular part of his subjects ; and a recognition, that all the civil power, by which ecclesiastical persons or ecclesiastical courts can enforce their spiritual rights or sentences, is derived from the crown. It is probable, that, if a legislative declaration should now be given of the sense, in which the supremacy of the crown in ecclesiastical concerns should be understood, it would be found to accord with this explavation. But to the writer of these pages it appears impossible to reconcile it, either with the language of the statutes, or of the oaths, which have been mentioned, or with the constructions, which ihe sovereigns of England, since the time of the Reformation, have evidently put upon them.
2. The other theological oaths are the Declarations against Transubstantiation, prescribed by an act of the 25th of King Charles II. ; and the Declaration against Transubstantiation, the Invocation of Saints, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, prescribed by a statute passed in the 30th year of the reigu of the same monarch.
The Ten Articles and Sir Articles of King Henry the
- I. Henry the Eighth's innovations in religion occasioning much diversity in the doctrine delivered in the pulpits, his Majesty, on the 12th of July, 1536, sent a circular letter to the Bishops, enjoining them to abstain from preaching, till the ensuing Michaelmas. In the mean time he framed Ten Articles of religious credence, and sent them to the Convocation, then sitting at St. Paul's.
It is observable, that, in foreign countries, a convocation, or ecclesiastical synod, consists wholly of Bishops : in England it is a miniature of a parliament. The Archbishop presides in regal state ; the upper house contains the Bishops, and represents the House of Lords; the lower house is composed of representatives of the several dioceses, and of each particular chapter in them; and resembles the House of Commons, with its Knights of Shire and Burgesses.—But the honors of the houses of convocation should be spoken of, rather in the past than in the present tense : they still indeed have a legal capacity of existence; but have not, for nearly a century, been permitted to meet for business.
The Convocation having received the Ten Articles from the King, passed them unanimously. Baptism, Penance, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, with the doctrine of transubstantiation, auricular confession, and prayers to the saints were retained in them : they left the doctrine of purgatory doubtful.
II. In the Parliament of the year 1538, the last which was held in the reign of Henry the Eighth, the statute “ for abolishing diversity of opinions in certain articles concerning christian religion,” commonly called “ the statute of The Six Articles," was passed.—All these six articles accord with the Doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Forty-two Articles of Edward the Sixth.
In the fourth year of the reign of Edward the Sixth, it was resolved in council, to reform the doctrine of the church. Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Ridley accordingly framed forty-two Articles of Christian Doctrine. Copies of them were sent to several Bishops, and other divines, for their consideration. Being returned by them, the Articles were approved in council, and had the royal sanction. In the title page, they were styled “ Articles agreed upon, by the Bishops and other learned men, in the Convocation, held at London in the year 1552, for avoiding diversity of opinion and establishing consent touching true religion, published by the King's authority.” But it is certain by Cranmer's own admission, in the subsequent reign, that these articles never were submitted either to parliament, or to the Convocation. They are generally understood to be the same in substance as the Thirty-nine Articles.
In January, 1562, both the parliament and the convocation of the province of Canterbury were convened. It appears that the draught of the Thirty-nine Articles was presented to the convocation by Archbishop Parker; and that the convocation approved them unanimously. All the registers of the convocation having been burned at the memorable fire of London, our information of its proceedings upon the Articles must be derived from other sources, and these, unfortunately, are very imperfect. We find, that the Convocation first met at the Chapter-house at St. Paul's, on the 12th day of January, and