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that they could be judged only by the pope; who frequently made the sacraments subservient to their passions, forbidding divine service, and interdicting the benefits of Christianity, to all those who refused to comply with their arbitrary injunctions and decrees.' *
And bishop Berrington : “ The notions of all men were indistinct upon the subject; for, so universal and undefined had the power of Rome been, — call it ecclesiastical or spiritual, — so much had it absorbed within its cognizance all the concerns of life, that the primitive rights of a first bishop could with difficulty be traced, and the whole fabric of his jurisdiction seemed rather to be the contrivance of human ambition, on the one side, and weak concession on the other. How, then, should a state proceed, now convinced that such a paramount jurisdiction was incompatible with its sovereignty, except by at once breaking down the whole mass, and committing any ambiguity of expression to the interpretation of the law, should an interpretation be afterwards deemed necessary.'+
• Were it quite clear,' says Mr. Butler f, that the interpretation contended for, is the true interpretation of the oath, and quite clear also, that the oath was, and is, thus universally interpreted by the nation, then, there might be strong ground to contend, that it was consistent with Catholic principles, to take either the oath of supremacy which was prescribed by Elizabeth, or that which is used at present.
Now it is remarkable, that as to the first and most important point, namely, the true interpretation of the oath, Mr. Butler himself has quoted some authorities in elucidation of it, which would probably satisfy any moderate man, but the too cautious compiler.
The first, is the Admonition of the queen herself, forbidding her loving subjects to give car to perverse and
* Historical Address, 2. 272. + Memoirs of Panzan, Introduction, 8. | History of Catholics, 1. 183.
malicious persons,' who explained the oath as claiming a spiritual power for the crown. She then proceeds to say, according to Mr. Butler's quotation : · Her majesty neither doth, nor ever will, challenge any other authority, than what was challenged, and lately used, by the said noble kings of famous memory, Henry the Eighth, and Edward the Sixth, which is, and was of ancient time, due to the imperial crown of the realm; that is, under God, to have the sovereignty and rule over all manner of persons' born within her realms and dominions, so as no foreign power shall or ought to have any superiority over them.' But the queen says more ; and Mr. Butler, having undertaken, as he did, to sum up so important a case for the judgment of the public, acted rather according to his habits, than his professions, when he suppressed the next sentence. It is given by the more ingenuous Berrington, as follows: "And if any person that hath conceived any other sense of the form of said oath, shall accept the same oath, with this interpretation, sense, or meaning, her majesty is well pleased to accept every such, in that behalf, as her good and obedient subjects, and shall acquit them of all manner of penalties contained in the said act.'
Secondly, in the next parliament,' says Mr. Butler, * this explanation of the oath of supremacy received the sanction of the legislature. The words of the act are given by Bishop Berrington. • Provided also, that the oath expressed in the act made in the first year of her majesty the queen, shall be taken and expounded in such form, as is set forth in the admonition, annexed to the queen's majesty's injunctions.'
Thirdly, Mr. Butler confesses, that the thirty-seventh article of the church of England is in unison with this exposition of the regal supremacy. The words of the article are : -The king's majesty hath the chief power in the realm of England, and other his dominions ; unto whom the chief government of all estates in this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all cases doth appertain; and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction. When we attribute to the king's majesty the chief government, (by which titles, we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended,) we give not to our princes the ministering, either of God's word, or of the sacraments; (the which thing, the injunctions, also, lately set forth by Elizabeth, our queen, do most plainly testify ;) but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always, to all godly princes in holy scripture, by God himself; that is, that they should govern all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain, with the civil sword, the stubborn and evil doers.'
Fourthly, it is acknowledged by Mr. Butler, that the same description of the nature and extent of the spiritual supremacy of the crown, was repeatedly given by king James.
Here we have the sovereign, who imposed the oath, solemnly explaining the sense in which alone she understood it, and declaring that she would accept, as good subjects, all who should take it in the sense so explained. We have the same declarations from her successor, and from the parliament, that is, in fine, from all who had authority to explain the sense intended : and, corresponding to these, we have the declaration of the church, the party taking the oath, that the sense thus explained is the only one she acknowledges. Now, if oaths are not to be interpreted in doubtful cases, either by the party which imposes, or by that which accepts them, or by both together, there is no criterion of their sense; there is no standard for the interpretation of them, more accurate or more honest, than the casuists of the papal schools.
Yet Mr. Butler is not satisfied. The causes of his scepticism are, as he says, one loose expression of Mr. Hume, in his History of England, and certain arguments of Mr. Neale, in his History of the Puritans. — Weighty authorities certainly, against the solemn decisions of the crown, the legislature, and the church. As to the other point, the sense generally given to it by the nation, Mr. Butler is pleased to consider it quite undeniable,' that the objectionable sense is that at this time understood, both by the general body of Catholics, and the general body of Protestants.' – That those who persist in rejecting the oath, should devise some pretext for justifying their refusal, is, of course to be expected: if Mr. Butler had therefore said, that the interpretation above given was not received generally, either by Roman Catholics, or by Protestant dissenters, he might have asserted what was true, or at least, what was probable. As to the members of the Church of England, the Bishop of Chester * has sufficiently corrected Mr. Butler's assumption, that the articles do not continue to speak their sentiments.
There have been, however, many eminent Roman Catholics from time to time, who accepted the authorized interpretation of the oath. We are informed by the candid Berrington, that, in the reign of Charles the Second, some took the oath, and others wrote treatises to prove its lawfulness. Those writers undertook to show, that the oath neither did nor could mean to attribute any power purely spiritual to the prince, or to take it away from the pope; but only meant external and coercive jurisdiction in external courts, in the same sense as we call Doctor's Commons the spiritual court, all which spiritual power, it is manifest, the king of Spain claims and exercises in Sicily.' The names of Winter, Hutchinson, Cressy, Fisher, and Serjeant, all English Roman Catholics, are mentioned among the advocates of this interpretation. A priest, named Andrew Bromwich, took the oath, and explained it thus: “I am satisfied in my conscience, that under God, belongs to his sacred majesty Charles the Second, the supreme coactive jurisdiction, sovereignty, and rule, over the persons of all his subjects, within any of his dominions, of what state or condition soever they be. I have professed, that neither the pope, nor any foreign
[Now Bishop of London.]
person, hath right to exercise any external power, or coercion by civil or corporal punishment, without his majesty's authority, upon his subjects, within his dominions. I do not mean that the king can exercise any power
of the keys, or any act of jurisdiction purely spiritual or internal; as to preach, minister the sacraments, consecrate to holy orders, absolve, define, or excommunicate; because all these things, being merely and purely spiritual, belong only to those whom the Holy Ghost hath placed to rule the church of God.'
It is not then, without reason, that Bishop Berrington proceeds to ask his English lay-brethren ; why should we importune government for a further redress of grievances, or complain that we are aggrieved, if the remedy be in our own hands? One bold man, by taking the oath, may dissipate the whole charm of prejudice, and restore us to the most valuable privileges of British citizens.' It would appear, that such bold men would not be wanting among the Roman Catholic laity, either in England or in Ireland, if the state would but avail itself of their rising spirit, and reduce the jurisdiction of the priesthood within those modest limits, which are sufficient for all other classes of Christian minister's. At the late election for Preston, many of the Roman Catholic inhabitants took the oath, to qualify themselves for the exercise of the elective franchise; and shortly after, there appeared in the Dublin Freeman's Journal, a Roman Catholic paper, an able article, maintaining that the oath might be taken by every member of that communion. There is, indeed, good reason to believe, that the oath would be taken by a majority of the laity, were the legislature to extend to them that protection, to which they are entitled, against the tyranny of their priesthood. As the case stands at present, they cannot have the consolations of their religion, unless they yield to the great and growing usurpations of its ministers, upon their temporal rights and comforts. The law, or, at least, the local executive, allows these usurpations: thus, the industrious and unobtrusive citizens in middle life, those who have not