THE CHURCH AND THE NATION
THE power of the Church in the Middle Ages and its influence over the nation were very great--greater, or at least exercised in a more direct manner, than they are now. For this there were many reasons, some inherent in the nature of the Church itself, some due to the condition of the laity. In England, at the present day, there are many religious communities, both Christian and non-Christian, each free to formulate its own creed and to choose its own mode of worship. In the Middle Ages there was but one Church in England, and all Christians who did not conform to its doctrines were considered heretics and outcasts, and incurred the most severe punishments, even (after 1401) death in one of its most horrible forms. There were, it is true, different branches of the Church--regular and secular clergy, and different orders of monks and friars --and there was great rivalry, and even enmity, between them; but they all held the same beliefs, they all acknowledged the same head. Those who were not Christians were not allowed, except in the case of a few favoured individuals, to live in England. The Jews were expelled from the country in the reign of Edward I, and did not return until after the close of our period.