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TREVELYAN ON THE  CHURCH OF  ENGLAND: 1559

 

 

The internal organization of the English Church was left in its mediaeval form, entirely clerical in composition. For this very reason it was felt to be the more necessary to subject the Church to the external control of Crown and Parliament. The bulk of the clergy loyally accepted that control from outside as the necessary condition of the large franchises still left to them, among others the national monopoly of all religious rites, which the Crown and Parliament secured from them at the expense of all would-be Dissenters, Romanist or Puritan. No one dreamed of permitting a variety of religions. No one therefore could reasonably deny to the nation the right of deciding in Parliament what its one and only religion was to be. . . .

 

‘Rome and Geneva, Loyola and Knox, claimed for the Church freedom and even superiority in relation to the State, the claims of Rome resting on sacerdotal authority, those of Geneva on religious democracy. The English Church made no such claim, for in England the days of sacerdotal authority were numbered in a land where men had learned to think for themselves, and the spirit of democracy, so far as it yet existed, found its expression and organ in the House of Commons and not in any assembly of the Church. The arrangement suited the Tudor English well, for they were interested in many other things besides religion; when in succeeding centuries the spirit of democracy required expression in religion, it found it in the safety-valve of the Non-conformist sects. The Elizabethan religious settlement, tempered by successive doses of Toleration, has held a permanent place in the institutions and still more in the spirit of modern England.’

 

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