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5—7. Of the third Sort of Convocations. The Form of ancient
Writs of Convocations. Observations thereon. A third sort of Convocation succeeds. For after the Statute of Præmunire was made, (which did much restrain the papał power, and subject it to the laws of the land,) archbishops called no more Convocations by their sole and absolute command, but at the pleasure of the king, as oft as his necessities and occasions with the distresses of the church did require it. Yea, now their meetings were by virtue of a writ of precept from the king, and it will not be amiss here to exemplify the form thereof.
Rex, &c. Reverendissimo in Christo patri, A. Canturiensi archiepiscopo totius Angliæ primati, et apostolicæ sedis legato, salutem.-Quibusdam arduis et urgentibus negotiis, defensionem et securitatem ecclesia Anglicana, ac pacem, tranquillitatem, et bonum publicum, et defensionem regni nostri, et subditorum nostrorum ejusdem concernentibus, vobis in fule et dilectione, quibus nobis tenemini rogando mandamus, quatenus præmissis debito intuitu attentis et ponderatis universos et singulos episcopos nostra provincia, ac decanes, et præcones ecclesiarum cathedralium, abbates, priores et alios electivos exemptos et non exemptos. Nec non archidiaconos, conventus, cupitula, et collegia, totumque clerum, cujuslibet diceceseos ejusdem provincia, ad conveniendum eorum vobis in ecclesia sancti Pauli London, vel alibi prout meliùs expedire videritis, cum omni celeritate accommodâ modo debito convocari faciatis ; ad tractandum, consentiendum, et concludendum, super præmissis et aliis, quæ sibi clarius proponentur, tunc et ibidem ex parte nostra. Et hoc, sicut nos et statum regni nostri, et
cx honorem et utilitatem ecclesia prædicta diligitis, nullatenus omittatis. Teste me ipso, &c.
In this writ we may observe: 1. That from the word Convocari faciatis, the word “ Convocation ” took its denomination, being formerly called “ Synods,” as lately (since our Scotizing) termed
Assemblies." Secondly. That clause, in ecclesiâ sancti Pauli London, vel alibi prout meliùs expedire videritis, pointeth at a power placed [in], or rather a liberty left to, the archbishops, to call their synods elsewhere, in case they adjudged it more convenient. But, because the archbishops and bishops might the better attend their business in Parliaments, henceforward commonly kept at the same time with Convocations, St. Paul's in London was generally preferred for the place of their convention. Thirdly. This writ was used even after the Reformation, mutatis mutandis ; namely, the title of apostolical legate to the archbishop being left out, as also the names of priors and abbots are extinguished. Lastly. Of this third sort of Convocations, were all those kept by Thomas
Arundel and the archbishops of Canterbury his successors, unto Thomas Cranmer; or if you will, from the sixteenth of Richard II. unto the twenty-fifth of King Henry VIII. These Convocations did also make canons, as in Linwood's “ Constitutions” do appear, which were binding, although none other than synodical authority did confirm them.
8. The last Sort of Convocations. The last sort of Convocations remains, called since the statute, the twenty-fifth of king Henry VIII. “ that none of the clergy should presume to attempt, allege, claim, or put in ure, any constitutions or ordinances provincial, or synodals, or any other canons, constitutions, or ordinances provincial, (by whatsoever name or names they may be called,) in their Convocation in time coming; which always shall be assembled by the king's writ; unless the same clergy may have the king's most royal assent and licence to make, promise, and execute such canons, constitutions, and ordinances provincial or synodical, upon pain of every one of the said clergy doing the contrary to this act, and, thereof convicted, to suffer imprisonment, and making fine at the king's will." Since this year, from archbishop Cranmer to archbishop Laud, all Convocations (so long as they lasted) are born tongue-tied, till the king did cut the string thereof with his letters patent, allowing them leave to debate on matters of religion. Otherwise, what they conclude are arrows without piles, daggers without points; too blunt to pierce into the practice of others, but sharp enough to wound themselves, and bring them within the compass of a premunire. Yea, even such Convocations with the royal assent, subject not any (for recusancy to obey their canons) to a civil penalty in person or property, until confirmed by Act of Parliament.
9, 10. The Author's Submission. A vulgar Error. This I humbly conceive to be the difference betwixt the three kinds of Convocations, submitting what I have written to the censure and correction of the learned in the law, conscious of my own ignorance therein ; as, indeed, such skill neither is to be expected nor required in one of my profession, who am ready with willingness, yea, with cheerfulness, yea, with thankfulness to God and man, publicly to recall and retract what any such convince me to have mistaken herein ; hoping that my stumbling in so dark a subject may prevent the failing of others.
There goeth a tradition, taken up by many without examination, that anciently the clergy sat as one body with the parliament, and were not divided till in the reign of king Henry VIII. as a modern
author * hath written in a tract. But when I asked of him where he had read the same, he cited a French letter of cardinal Sadolet's. Strange that a foreigner should be more seeing herein than any of our native authors and records that I ever could behold! But, it may be, the error had its original hence, because anciently bishops sitting in the parliament did not always appear personally, or by the proxy of men of their own order, but sometimes sent one or more of the inferior clergy to represent them, if it be true what I have read in a small English book, bearing the name of Mr. Selden, (but I question whether avowed by bim,) of the proceedings in parliament.
11. The Martyrdom of John Fryth. John Fryth sealed the truth with his blood : one who justly may be said aged sixty at six-and-twenty, (so young was he martyred,) such his learning, gravity, and constancy! It was chiefly charged on him, that he denied the believing of the real presence in the sacrament (understand him de modo thereof) to be an article of the faith, though confessing Christ really present in the bread, so he might not be compelled to the worshipping thereof. But these things are set down largely in Mr. Fox. Only I will add, that persons out of groundless [reports) suggest two scandals on this good man and his wife's memory : One-that he was guilty of some practice against the state, merely because he was committed to the Tower. The other, that his wife, being beyond the seas with Mr. Tyndal, expressing himself “ content with the will of God, that for her sake she would not have the glory of God hindered," desired to be rid of her husband's life, that Mr. Tyndal might the more freely enjoy her company. Thus this Jesuit, being himself a bastard, measureth others by the chastity of his own parents. Indeed, the aforesaid Tyndal much exhorted Fryth to patient suffering, but not as those cowardly captains which encourage others to fight, and themselves forsake the field ; because afterwards he valiantly brought up the
and suffered for the same cause two years after.
12. Bishop Fisher's Letter for new Clothes and a Counsellor.
A.D. 1534. John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, was now prisoner in the Tower, where he was but coarsely used ; as appears by a letter to Mr. Secretary Cromwell :
“ Furthermore I beseche yow to be gode master unto me in my necessitie ; for I have neither shirt, nor sute, nor yet other clothes, that ar necessary to me to weare ; but that be ragged and torn to
• CALEBUT DOWNING,
shamefully. And now in mine age, my stomake may not away but with a few kind of meats; which if I want, I decay forthwith, and fall into coffs, and diseases of my body, and cannot keep my selfe in health. And, as our Lord knoweth, I have nothing left unto me for to provide any better, but as my brother * of his own purse laieth out for me, to his great hinderance.
" Wherefore, gode master secretary, eftsones I beseche yow to have som pittie pon me, and let me have such things as bar necessary for me in mine age, and especially for my health ; and also that it may please yow by yowr high wysdome, to move the king's highnesse to take me unto his gracious favour againe, and to restore me unto my liberty, out of this cold and painful imprisonment; whereby ye shall bind me to be yowr pore beadsman for ever unto Almighty God, who ever have yow in his protection and custody.
“ Other twain things I must also desyer upon yow; first oon is, that it may please yow, that I may take some preest within the Tower, by th' assignment of Master Livetenant, to have my confession against my hooly tym. “ That other is, that I may borrow some bookes to stir my
devotion mor effectually theis hooly dayes, for the comfortte of my sowl. This I beseche yow to grant me of yowr charitie. And thus our Lord send yow a mery Christenmas, and a comfortable, to yowr heart desyer. Att the Tower this xxij. day of December.
“ Your poor Beadsman,
“John RoFFE.”+ His first petition for clothes was granted him, (having exchange thereof at his execution,) and it is probable the other two petitions, being so reasonable, were not denied him.
13, 14. His often Examinations of four principal Particulars.
Taketh Offence at the Preface of the Statute. A. D. 1535. During his durance in the Tower, he was often and strictly examined, before Sir Edmund Walsingham lieutenant thereof, by Thomas Bedyll and Richard Layton, clerks of the council, and was sworn, in verbo sacerdotii, to answer to many interrogatories, but chiefly concerning four subjects.
First. About the king's divorce; wherein he was always constant to what he had printed of the unlawfulness thereof. Secondly. About his supremacy, which at last he' peremptorily denied. Thirdly. About his concealing the imposture of Elizabeth Barton, the Maid of Kent; wherein he confessed his weakness, and over-easy belief; but utterly denied any ill intentions to the king's person. Fourthly, • ROBERT FISHER.
| Er literis in Bibliotheca Cotłoniand.
About the statute of succession, wherein, as appears by his letter to secretary Cromwell, he was content to subscribe, and swear to the body, but not to the preamble thereof.
Which words therein, so offensive to Fisher, (except there be any other unprinted preface to this statute,) were these : “ The bishop of Rome and see apostolic, contrary to the great and inviolable grants of jurisdiction by God immediately to emperors, kings, and princes, in succession to their heirs, hath presumed in times past to invest who should please them to inherit in other men's kingdoms and dominions; which thing we your most humble subjects, both spiritual and temporal, do most abhor and detest.”+
15. Archbishop Cranmer's politic Charity. Here I know not whether more to commend the policy or charity of archbishop Cranmer, desiring, in a letter to secretary Cromwell, that this partial subscription which bishop Fisher proffered to the statute of succession might be accepted ; adding, that good use might be made thereof to the king's advantage, such general reputation the world had of this bishop's learning, and of Sir Thomas More's ; both which, it seems, went the same path and pace, and in this point started, ran, and stopped together. Indeed, it was not good to strain such fine strings too high, which, possibly, moistened with mild usage, might, in process of time, have been stretched to a further compliance. But, it seems, nothing at present would satisfy except both of them came up to the full measure of the king's demands.
16, 17. Fisher's concealing Barton's Forgeries, waved ; yet
how indicted, why condemned. As for bishop Fisher's concealing the pretended prophecies of Elizabeth Barton, it was so far waved, that he was never indicted for the same. And, indeed, he made an ingenious plea for himself; namely, that the said Elizabeth had told him, she had acquainted the king therewith ; yea, he had assurance thereof from the archbishop. And therefore, knowing the king knew of it before, he was loath to hazard his displeasure in that which was not revealing what was unknown, but repeating what would be unwelcome, to his Grace.
But not long after he was arraigned of high treason; and it will not be amiss to insert the sting of the indictment out of the original.
Diversis domini regis veris subditis, falsè, malitiosè, et pro• Extant in Sir Thomas Cotton's library. † See the printed statutes, 25 Henry VIII. cap. xxii. page 558. * Ex Litt, MSS, in Bib. Cotton. Ś In his Letter to the King, in Bib. Cotton.