A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century

By J. W. Allen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE PURIT AN PROTEST

§ 1. THE CALVINISTS

IT was, for obvious reasons, unlikely that opposition from the Protestant side to the action of the government would become serious during the early stages of the Reformation in England. But it is significant that quite early in the process we find Robert Barnes making some of the assertions that were constantly insisted upon by the Elizabethan Puritans. He declared that no ecclesiastic ought to be allowed in any case to exercise any civil jurisdiction and he declared that ecclesiastical law made concerning things indifferent in religion need not or should not be obeyed.1 But his confused protest was quickly stifled. Tyndale, from his exile, might view the proceedings of the government with very mixed feelings; but for the most part religious Protestants were supporting the government and trying to push it forward on the way it should go.

Yet in spite of all reasons for silence there developed among enthusiastic Protestants a strong sense that the action of Henry VIII's government was not inspired by the Scriptures, that motives were at work which could not justify themselves to any religious consciousness, that little good was likely to ensue to the cause of true religion from the measures taken, that the setting up of secular rulers as final authorities on religious questions involved something like denial of revelation, that the last state of things might be worse than the first. The Act of Six Articles was, of course, a terrible blow to their hopes. Bitter, too, was the resentment and disappointment at the way in which monastic property was disposed of. In 1542 Henry Brincklow complained that the Church was then worse served and the poor more neglected, than in the days of the Papal Antichrist.2

____________________
1
Men's Constitutions Bind not the Conscience, 1532. Printed in the Whole Workes of Tyndale, Frith and Barnes, 1573. Barnes declared that if the King forbade reading of the Bible he must be disobeyed. He reflects Luther's aversion to law and lawyers.
2
Complaynt of Roderyck Mors. Geneva, 1542, ed. J. M. Cooper ( 1884), for E.E.T.S., Chap. 14.

-210-

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