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CIRCUMSTANCES IN THE GOVERNMENT OF BISHOPS.
FIRST therefore, for the government of bishops, I for my part, not prejudging the precedents of other reformed churches, do hold it warranted by the word of God, and by the practice of the ancient Church in the better times, and much more convenient for kingdoms, than parity of ministers and government by synods. But then farther, it is to be considered, that the Church is not now to plant or build; but only to be pruned from corruption, and to be repaired and restored in some decays.
For it is worth the noting, that the Scripture saith, Translato sacerdotio, necesse est ut et legis fiat translatio. It is not possible, in respect of the great and near sympathy between the state civil and the state ecclesiastical, to make so main an alteration in the Church, but it would have a perilous operation upon the kingdoms; and therefore it is fit that controversy be in peace and silence.
But there be two circumstances in the administration of bishops, wherein, I confess, I could never be satisfied; the one, the sole exercise of their authority; the other, the deputation of their authority.
For the first, the bishop giveth orders alone, excommunicateth alone, judgeth alone. This seemeth to be a thing almost without example in good government, and therefore not unlikely to have crept in in the degenerate and corrupt times. We see the greatest kings and monarchs have their councils. There is no temporal court in England of the higher sort where the authority doth rest in one person. The king's bench, common-pleas, and the exchequer, are benches of a certain number of judges. The chancellor of England hath an assistance of twelve masters of the chancery. The master of the wards hath a council of the court: so hath the chancellor of the duchy. In the exchequer-chamber, the lord treasurer
is joined with the chancellor and the barons. The masters of the requests are ever more than one. The justices of assize are two. The lord presidents in the North and in Wales have councils of divers. The star-chamber is an assembly of the king's privy council, aspersed with the lords spiritual and temporal : so as in courts the principal person hath ever either colleagues or assessors.
The like is to be found in other well-governed commonwealths abroad, where the jurisdiction is yet more dispersed; as in the court of parliament of France, and in other places. No man will deny but the acts that pass the bishop's jurisdiction are of as great importance as those that pass the civil courts: for mens souls are more precious than their bodies or goods; and so are their good names. Bishops have their infirmities, and have no exception from that general malediction which is pronounced against all men living, Væ soli, nam si occideret, etc. Nay, we see that the first warrant in spiritual causes is directed to a number, Dic Ecclesia; which is not so in temporal matters: and we see that in general causes of Church government, there are as well assemblies of all the clergy in councils, as of all the states in parliament. Whence should this sole exercise of jurisdiction come? Surely I do suppose, and, I think, upon good ground, that ab initio non fuit ita; and that the deans and chapters were councils about the sees and chairs of bishops at the first, and were unto them a presbytery or consistory; and intermeddled not only in the disposing of their revenues and endowments, but much more in jurisdiction ecclesiastical. But it is probable, that the deans and chapters stuck close to the bishops in matters of profit and the world, and would not lose their hold; but in matters of jurisdiction, which they accounted but trouble and attendance, they suffered the bishops to incroach and usurp; and so the one continueth, and the other is lost. And we see that the bishop of Rome, fas enim et ab hoste doceri, and no question in that church the first institutions were excel
lent, performeth all ecclesiastical jurisdiction as in consistory.
And whereof consisteth this consistory, but of the parish-priests of Rome, which term themselves cardinals, a cardinibus mundi; because the bishop pretendeth to be universal over the whole world? And hereof again we see many shadows yet remaining: as, that the dean and chapter, pro forma, chooseth the bishop, which is the highest point of jurisdiction: and that the bishop, when he giveth orders, if there be any ministers casually present, calleth them to join with him in imposition of hands, and some other particulars. And therefore it seemeth to me a thing reasonable and religious, and according to the first institution, that bishops, in the greatest causes, and those which require a spiritual discerning, namely, in ordaining, suspending, or depriving ministers, in excommunication, being restored to the true and proper use, as shall be afterwards touched, in sentencing the validity of marriages and legitimations, in judging causes criminous, as simony, incest, blasphemy, and the like, should not proceed sole and unassisted : which point, as I understand it, is a reformation that may be planted sine strepitu, without any perturbation at all: and is a matter which will give strength to the bishops, countenance to the inferior degrees of prelates or ministers, and the better issue or proceeding to those causes that shall pass.
And as I wish this strength given to the bishops by council, so it is not unworthy your majesty's consideration, whether you shall not think fit to give strength to the general council of your clergy, the convocation-house, which was then restrained when the state of the clergy was thought a suspected part of the kingdom, in regard of their late homage to the bishop of Rome; which state now will give place to none in their loyalty and devotion to your majesty.
For the second point, which is the deputation of their authority, I see no perfect and sure ground for that neither, being somewhat different from the
examples and rules of government. The bishop exerciseth his jurisdiction by his chancellor and commissary official, etc. We see in all laws in the world, offices of confidence and skill cannot be put over, nor exercised by deputy, except it be especially contained in the original grant; and in that case it is dutiful. And for experience, there was never any chancellor of England made a deputy; there was never any judge in any court made a deputy. The bishop is a judge and of a high nature; whence cometh it that he should depute, considering that all trust and confidence, as was said, is personal and inherent; and cannot, nor ought not to be transposed? Surely, in this, again, ab initio non fuit sic: but it is probable that bishops when they gave themselves too much to the glory of the world, and became grandees in kingdoms, and great counsellors to princes, then did they delegate their proper jurisdictions, as things of too inferior a nature for their greatness: and then, after the similitude and imitation of kings and counts palatine, they would have their chancellors and judges.
But that example of kings and potentates giveth no good defence. For the reasons why kings administer by their judges, although themselves are supreme judges, are two: the one, because the offices of kings are for the most part of inheritance; and it is a rule in all laws, that offices of inheritance are rather matters that ground in interest than in confidence for as much as they may fall upon women, upon infants, upon lunatics and idiots, persons incapable to execute judicature in person; and therefore such offices by all laws might ever be exercised and administered by delegation. The second reason is, because of the amplitude of their jurisdictions; which is as great as either their birth-right from their ancestors, or their sword-right from God maketh it. And therefore if Moses, that was governor over no great people, and those collected together in a camp, and not scattered in provinces and cities, himself of an extraordinary spirit, was nevertheless not able to suffice and hold out in person to judge the people, but did, by the
advice of Jethro approved from God, substitute elders and judges; how much more other kings and princes?
There is a third reason, likewise, though not much to the present purpose; and that is, that kings, either in respect of the commonwealth, or of the greatness of their own patrimonies, are usually parties in suits: and then their judges stand indifferent between them and the subject: but in the case of bishops, none of these reasons held. For, first, their office is elective, and for life, and not patrimonial or hereditary; an' office merely of confidence, science, and qualification. And for the second reason, it is true, that their jurisdiction is ample, and spacious; and that their time is to be divided between the labours as well in the word and doctrine, as in government and jurisdiction: but yet I do not see, supposing the bishops courts to be used incorruptly, and without any indirect course held to multiply causes for gain of fees, but that the bishop might very well, for causes of moment, supply his judicial function in his own person. For we see before our eyes, that one chancellor of England dispatcheth the suits in equity of the whole kingdom: which is not so much by reason of the excellency of that rare honourable person which now holdeth the place: but it was ever so, though more or less burdenous to the suitor, as the chancellor was more or less able to give dispatch. And if hold be taken of that which was said before, that the bishop's labour in the word must take up a principal part of his time; so I may say again, that matters of state have ever taken up most of the chancellor's time; having been for the most part persons upon whom the kings of this realm have most relied for matters of counsel. And therefore there is no doubt but the bishop, whose circuit is less ample, and the causes in nature not so multiplying, with the help of references and certificates to and from fit persons, for the better ripening of causes in their mean proceedings, and such ordinary helps incident to jurisdiction, may very well suffice his office. But yet