Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

a

and commons of England to pope Innocent the fourth, about the year 1245, they tell that prelate, that “the number of Italians preferred in England was infinite,” and that “the money carried to them amounted to threescore thousand marks a ; a sum,” as they further add, “greater than the revenues of the crown;" and all this, besides the vast sums which by Peter-pence' and tenths, and many other ways, were extorted from the English nation.

The success of the court of Rome in the controversy about the right of investitures, by which they gained this mighty influence over the persons of the English bishops and the revenues of the church, gave fire to their ambition to break the power, and to possess themselves of the authority by which it had been governed ; and this was done by advancing the power of their own legates.

The English church was at first settled on the institution of Christ and the canons of the catholic church, and thus continued to be governed from the foundation thereof till the beginning of the eleventh century; and this with so little interruption, that there is not so much as one English canon which allows the least authority to the bishops of Rome or their legates, nor so much as any instance of any authority exercised by them, or of any legates called into England in the space of above four hundred years, but when king Offa called over legates to give a colour to the violence which he had first offered to the province of Canterbury, and William the first invited in the legates of pope Alexander to serve the ends of the Norman revolution. On the contrary, whilst the canons and history of the English church are thus silent, the laws of England considered the legates or ambassadors of the bishops of Rome, no otherwise than the law of nations considers those of all other foreign princes; and did not allow them so much as to enter England but when called for and invited, or at least had the permission and leave of the kings thereof.

In this posture this affair was continued till the latter end of the eleventh century, when pope Gregory the seventh formed the design to erect the papal monarchy on the spoils of the civil power, and the ruins of that government which Christ and his apostles had first erected, and which for a thousand years had prevailed through the whole Christian church.

* Matth. Paris, ann. 1245. p. 667.

| By Peter-pence.] See Index, under Peter-pence. See also Twisden's Historical Vindication, p. 74–8.

In pursuance of this design, the court of Rome applied itself to break the authority of national churches, by usurping a power to themselves to convene and preside in synods and councils by their legates : but as this was a direct violence to the authority of Christ, and to the canons and usages of the whole Christian church, it was a great while before the western churches were brought to submit to it. From the pontificate of Gregory the seventh, many attempts were made upon the English church. King William the first, who was contemporary with that prelate, saw his designs and kept him at a distance. And thus things continued during the succeeding reign of William the second.

The court of Rome renewed their efforts with greater vigour under Henry the first ; but though they gained their point as to the dispute about investitures, yet king Henry suffered not their legates to come into England; and if they did, it was no otherwise than as the envoys of a foreign prince, till about the twentyfifth year of his reign, when that prince permitted a papal legate to preside in the council of London. But as this usurpation was very evident, it was so resented by the whole nation, that this matter proceeded no further till the year following, when William de Corboil, then archbishop of Canterbury, by the address of that court, was prevailed upon to accept the character of legate to the bishop of Rome. And by this fatal oversight the regular authority of that prelate made way for the usurpation, which the court of Rome had been labouring to introduce ; for the legatine power being thus let in, was so strengthened by the confusions of the succeeding reign of king Stephen, and by the advantages which the court of Rome gained under Henry the second, that the right of the English church and nation was yielded up', and

| Was yielded up.] The history and progress of this usurpation is learnedly illustrated by Sir Roger Twisden in his Vindication ; see p. 14–16. 18—28. 38—41.

The following shorter extracts are given from that work, because they comprise the principal points. They supply also an apt illustration of the progressive expedients to which the popes were in the habit of resorting, according to the exigencies of a case, and of the appropriate mischiefs which regularly ensued.

“Of these and the like cases, exercised without scruple in the church of England, and no control from Rome, it would not be easy to dispossess the archbishop of Canterbury by strong hand; the way, therefore, of making him the pope's legate was invented, by which those particulars he did before without interruption of his own right, he, whom it was not easy to bar of doing

[ocr errors]

that usurpation allowed and settled by the agreement betwixt that prince and the court of Rome in the year 1172, in that general article' by which the king surrendered all customs prejudicial to the liberties of the church; that is, in other words, every thing that stood in the way of the papal usurpation.

The authority and government of the national church being thus overwhelmed and torn to pieces, and the rights of our metropolitans made a sacrifice to the ambition and designs of the court of Rome, the way lay open to the third step' made by that court; and this was to render useless the authority of our diocesan bishops, at least to put it out of their power to give a stop to the designs formed at Rome. This work was done already in some measure, by subjecting them to the legatine power; for thus they were bound to attend synods which were not convened by their proper metropolitans, and forced to yield obedience to canons which had never passed with their own consent and suffrage, and were called out of their provinces to be judged: in short, the most ancient and distinguishing rights of our diocesan bishops sank with and were buried under the ruins of the metropolitical power. But to prostrate them still lower, and render them as little and contemptible in the face of their people and their clergy, and in them, might be said to act as the pope's agent.—Twisden, p. 26. This was about the year 1126.

“In the year 1144, the bishop of Winchester was dismissed from his legatine commission; and the pope, finding with how great difficulty the ecclesiastic affairs of this kingdom could be managed by any legate without the archbishop of Canterbury, thought of a very subtle invention to conserve his own authority, and not have any crossing with that prelate; which was, to create him and his successors legati nati ; by which, such things as he did before, and had a face of interfering with the papal plenitude, and were not so easy to divest the archbishop of exercising, he might be said to do by a legatine power ....... Certain it is, hereby the papal authority was not a little increased; there being none of the clergy now to question any thing that came from Rome, the archbishop, on whom the rest depended, himself operating but as a delegate from thence.” Ibid. p. 38, 9.

Lastly, “The popes having gained an entrance, found means to reduce the grant of legatus natus to no more than stood with their own liking : by inventing a new sort of legate, styled legatus a latere, by reason of his near dependence on the pope's person, who being employed in matters of concernment, at his being here the power of the former slept.Ibid. p. 40.

On the general history of this question, compare also Inett, vol. ii. 187, 8. 190—3. 194, 5.

| That general article.] See above, p. 55.
2 The third step.] See above, p. 36—45. 54–8.

their own consistories, as they were in the councils and synods, great numbers of the religious were exempted from their jurisdictions; and by gaining to themselves a power to receive causes by appeals from the concession of Henry the second, the court of Rome put it into every one's power who had a will to contend, to affront and insult their bishops, and to render useless the little remains of the episcopal authority, which had escaped the common deluge that swept away all the rest.

The change in the state and circumstances of the lower clergy betwixt the Norman conquest and the death of king John, was answerable to that of their superiors. Their persons were taken from the protection of the civil power, discharged from the laws of their country, and subjected to a foreign power, and to canons that denied the liberty which God and his gospel, which nature and the ancient English church had ever allowed them. A great part of the provision which the charity of the English nation had made for them was by appropriations of benefices, and the exemptions of some new orders of the religious from payment of tithes, snatched out of their hands; and that which was left to them, was laid open to the rapine and oppressions of men whose greediness had no bounds. Their titles were made litigious, and the remedy which their predecessors had ever found at their own doors, became, by being carried to Rome by appeals, a grievous and insupportable burthen : and which is sadder still, the same causes which brought all these mischiefs upon the clergy, put it out of the power of their rightful governors to protect or to support, and much more to deliver them from the oppression.

The religious of England were the only persons who seemed to reap any advantage from that usurpation, which was attended with so many mischiefs to the church and nation ; for in the com

1 pass of about one hundred and fifty years, they saw more new orders erected, and made greater accessions' to their wealth and to their numbers, and to what they for a time called privileges, than all the preceding ages had ever produced ; and yet, to look no further, the same period of time in which they were thus increased and enriched, and even whilst they valued themselves as the darlings and peculiar favourites of the court of Rome, they had the mortification to see themselves the subjects of that tyranny which they had helped to advance, and had more impo

1 Greater accessions.] Of the origin, progress, rapid increase of the numbers of the monasteries and regular clergy, the nature of their rule, &c. &c. see luett, vol ii. 207–12. 218-22.

1

sitions and heavier burdens laid upon their estates, and greater violences offered to their just rights, than all their predecessors had ever felt under their lawful superiors. And in the examples of the two brothers, Stephen and Simon Langton, and in the treatment which they received from pope Innocent the third, under the reign of king John, cathedral and conventual churches were made sensible, that the freedom of elections, and the exemptions from the authority of their kings and bishops, for which they had been taught to contend, were nothing else but artifices of the court of Rome, designed to separate them from the interests of the crown and the national church, and at once to bind oppression and sorrow about their heads, and to put it out of the power of their rightful superiors to relieve or help them.

Such was the state of the English church at the death of king John in the year 1216, and the changes in the church which a little time produced. In short, the English church, which had continued free and independent from the foundations thereof till after the Norman revolution, was in the compass of one hundred and fifty years last past, captivated, enslaved, and subjugated to a foreign power. And in this miserable state I must leave it, to stop the reader with that which will render the fate of the church still more melancholy and surprising; and that is, some reflections on the ancient and present state of the English monarchy'.

The dark steps by which our constitution grew up to that state in which it now appears, the ancient forms of the legislature, or of the administration of civil justice, come not into the compass of my present enquiry ; but the interest which the civil government had in the affairs of the church and religion, the ancient and undoubted rights of the kings of England, and the outrages offered to their authority by the papal usurpations, what the power was which they once possessed and what they lost; or, in other words, the ancient and present state of the English monarchy with respect to ecclesiastical affairs, are the subject now before us.

Our histories and our laws put it beyond all doubt, that the church, the clergy, and the religious of England, had a great share in the cares of the ancient English government. The kings of England convened national councils and synods, presided in them, and, with the advice of their bishops and nobility, made laws for the good government of all orders and ranks of their people, and punished every disobedience. And as they were ever reputed the fountain of power and law, so their courts were the last resort of

| The English monarchy.] Compare above, p. 59–76.

« ForrigeFortsæt »