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APRIL 1843.

No. LX.

ART. I.-Church Reform. BY A CHURCHMAN. 2d Ed. Murray. London, 1830.

THE paper on the Anglican Reformation in our last Number, despite of all efforts at selection, omission, and condensation, so far exceeded the limits we had prescribed to ourselves when we commenced, that we were reluctantly compelled to omit all mention of one of the most important topics connected with the general subject of that paper; we mean the ecclesiastical law of England, -the law by which the Anglican Church, as a church, is regulated.

That subject we now purpose to discuss. We may, however, premise, that as we have not the honour of a doctorate in either law, we make no pretensions to any very profound erudition in the matter. The following general points, however, we have taken some pains to make ourselves acquainted with; and we believe our readers may receive our conclusions in perfect faith. At all events, as we give our authorities as we proceed, our readers may attach to each the credit to which it is entitled.

There is not, perhaps, one point of general interest to the empire at large, on which there exists so much of ignorance and error, as the ecclesiastical law of England. Nor is this ignorance confined to the less informed classes. It is just as dense in certain high places where acquaintance with the law of the land' might well be expected. Nor, if we may trust our author, does England



generally know more of its own ecclesiastical law than certain other parties who yet must decide our Presbyterian causes by Prelatic


"As the clergy," says our author, and, be it observed, he speaks exclusively of England," As our clergy constitute what may, in several respects, be considered as a distinct body in the state, with peculiar duties, and peculiar privileges and immunities, it may naturally be supposed, that they are governed by a distinct code of laws relating to their particular functions;" just as the army is, within its own province, by the articles of war.' "It is, I believe, taken for granted by the public,-by those of the public, I mean, who bestow a single thought upon the subject,-that the clerical profession is governed by a similar professional code. They would probably be surprised at being told of the heterogeneous materials of which the clerical law is composed; and of its vague, indefinite, uncertain operation upon either the practice or the conscience of members of the profession whose conduct it is supposed to regulate. They (the public) would be surprised at finding that the clergy of England of the present day are governed pro tanto by the synodical constitutions of Otho and Othobon, the papal legates in the reign of Henry III., and by the provincial constitutions of Boniface, Pecham, and Mepham, and other archbishops of Canterbury in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries." Pp. 45, 46.

Much, however, as the public may be expected to feel surprised at such statements, from the following historical narrative not only will it be seen that such is the fact, but the reasons also will appear which have produced so anomalous a result, as that a modern Protestant (?) Church should continue still to be regulated by the papal laws which were passed in the dark ages.

When Henry VIII. quarrelled with the pope, and assumed to himself, and to the English crown in perpetuity, the whole spiritual and ecclesiastical usurpations of the papacy, he saw the necessity of cancelling, at one stroke, the entire code of ecclesiastical law as then in existence, and of framing a new code, which should proceed upon his own authority, and sanction his own claims. He had the better opportunity for carrying this resolution into effect, inasmuch as the clergy in convocation assembled, (1532,) in order, if possible, to disarm his resentment, (which they had excited,) and secure, at least, their own lives, and some portion of their ancient powers and possessions, had sent him a petition, in which they most humbly prayed, among other matters, that the ecclesiastical laws of the kingdom might be submitted to the revision of a committee of thirty-two persons, the one half members of the upper and lower houses of legislature, and the other half of the clergy,all to be selected and appointed by the king;-that this committee should revise the whole code of ecclesiastical law as it then stood, cancel such parts as were found inconsistent with his majesty's prerogative royal and supremacy ecclesiastical, (which had been previously assigned to the crown,) or with the laws of the realm, common and statutory, and with the well-being of the subject,

temporal and ecclesiastical; and that such parts of said code as should be approved of by the committee, having first obtained the royal assent, should be declared the ecclesiastical law of England.*

Henry, perceiving clearly the advantage thus placed in his hands, and seemingly apprehensive that the clergy might attempt to revoke their extorted petition, determined at once to push the advantage to the utmost, and render it utterly impossible for them ever to recal the permission they had given. For this purpose he ordered his ministers to introduce a bill into Parliament, (25 H. VIII. c. 19,) known in history under the title of the Act of Submission,' by which the clergy were forbidden, in all time coming, to make or pass any constitutions, canons, or laws, under penalty of imprisonment and fine at the king's pleasure; by which also the committee prayed for by the clergy was appointed; and then the act thus proceeds, and we beg special attention to the following clause:-Providing also that such canons, constitutions, and ordinances, provincial and synodal, being already made, which be not contrary nor repugnant to the laws, statutes, and customs of this realm, nor to the damage nor hurt of the king's prerogative royal, shall now still be used and exercised as they were before the making of this act, till such time as they be viewed, searched, or otherwise ordered and determined by the said thirty-two persons, or the more part of them, according to the tenor, form, and effect of this present act.' By this statute, therefore, while all canons and constitutions, provincial or synodal, which were contrary to the king's prerogative, or the laws and customs of the realm, were at once swept away, such canons and constitutions as did not labour under these disqualifications received the force of statute.

The commission was accordingly appointed, and commenced its labours. But whether it was, that the task of searching through the complicated mass of papal canons and constitutions then in force was too laborious to be soon brought to an issue, or that Henry, who had now the entire power, ecclesiastical as well as civil, in his own hands, conceived that his end should be best accomplished by leaving the whole matter in darkness and dubiety, certain it is the commission gave in no report during his reign, and at his death consequently the Act of Submission' remained the ecclesiastical law of England.

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The matter was taken up with more zeal and sincerity by Edward VI., and a code of canon law was drawn up; but his untimely death prevented its receiving the last finish, or obtaining the royal assent. The reforming and Puritan House of Commons of Elizabeth, offended at the Popish laws still in force, as well as

• Wilkin's Concilia, iii. 754.

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