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The State of the Church of England

laid open in a Conference between Diotrephes
a Bishop, Tertullus a Papist, Demetrius
a Usurer, Pandochus an Innkeeper, and
Paul a Preacher of the Word of God

by Rev. John Udall

Published: 1588

Edition: London 1895

Updated & Reprinted:
HAIL & FIRE 2008
(full text)

PREFACE to the 21st Century Reader

It should be noted that during the reign of queen Elizabeth I of England, when our author composes his work, the government of Elizabeth I undertook to observe openly a harboring and a nurturing of the Gospel and
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The State of the Church of England

the truth and purity of its tenets through what became known in that century as ‘Protestant’ theology, that is, the Gospel alone without the admixture of tradition or men’s commandments, and it undertook this while leaving all room for those who practiced the “old religion,” so long as they practiced it according to a new rule of unspoken toleration for one’s neighbor, of peaceful living through common respect of the religion of other men’s consciences, and under a requirement to give the government no cause for provocation through any treasonable act or word, especially by insinuating that any foreign ruler had superior rights over the lawful state. This rule was enacted against dogmatic religion and against the intolerant creeds of the day with the authors of them, even in the face of that power that claimed dominion over kings and emperors, able to crown and to depose - which also did condemn this ‘opinion’ and queen.

It cannot but be said that on the Protestant side there existed individuals and factions who looked to civil law as a vehicle for the securing of wholesale religious change, hoping for opportunity to remove from the churches every vestige of the ‘old religion’ and to tip the balance forever against it. Their ‘proof’ for the undertaking was, however, in the very opportunity of having a Protestant prince, rather than in the instruction of the Gospel, and they did not, nor were capable of considering whether God had ever showed that such a thing was a proper undertaking or that he had not shown that such a thing was in itself wrong and, if undertaken, as our 16th century author proposes, could only be undertaken in opposition to the Gospel and the faith of the scriptures in terms prophetical and soteriological. For, the time and the age were known and the Gospel way of salvation was openly proclaimed: the Gospel being so placed in the world that by grace alone it is made manifest in power through the preaching of repentance and mercy to those who do not believe, so that as many as believe are manifest in a change wrought upon their hearts, and this, individually according to grace, according to the gift of God, and by no other means or intervention, human or divine.

Such individuals, however, were incapable of bringing their minds into conformity with the Gospel upon this point or of resisting the idea of effecting a thorough change in religion, for they considered not that the undertaking would have to have been as intolerant as that effected for 1200 years previously upon the Vaudois and the Waldenses: it would have to cause opposers to be removed from office or position, unable to own property, without right to debate, learn, form and hold their own opinions, freely read the scriptures, and ultimately to believe or disbelieve. But of all such as would advocate against a moderate policy and against the free preaching of the Gospel alone in the attempt to convert men’s hearts, the government of Elizabeth I stood sentry, ready to curb the words of such persons and preachers and to cast into prison those who were outspoken advocates of religious intolerance, which was tantamount at the time to the inciting of civil war. Those on both sides who took up against or who through expressed desire or activity sought to force the hand of Elizabeth into policy against any peaceful subject or law abiding citizen, were themselves not tolerated by policy.

Elizabeth I, as a ruler, was incapable of countenancing any that might try to force her hand - or mind - or yet, dared to claim, as our author does, that she was such a person and ‘King’ that might be and was manipulated by men near her, when, in every matter touching the realm she would and did govern by counsel and through moderation and by peaceful policy. Our author’s attack is directed at the Bishops, and stated in such a way as to make Elizabeth a pawn of the Council and the Bishops rather than chief governor and head of them all; and one who was acutely aware of the personal faults and designs of Council members, Lords and Bishops, and of the constant stream of foreign intrigue against her realm and rule, and was herself in a continuous and complex shifting for and against men, which, through pure genius and by the grace of God, made for stability and security within the realm.

Whether our Preacher promotes his doctrine out of simplicity, as Luther envisioned that Tetzel was a mere aberration of policy and not the very policy itself, so that an attack upon Tetzel was an attack upon the very heart’s desire of the Pope, is unknown. But the effect is devastating for John Udall and the original printer of his book, who, as can be read in the Introduction, find their way to prison. An attack upon the Bishops was a direct attack upon the queen, and such a queen as had, of the desire of her own heart and in the fear of God, attempted to cause men, by every method of policy that should be capable of allowing good men to live in peace, to do so and to busy themselves in the pursuit of prosperity and God according to their own consciences. Such an attack upon the Bishops, though it be of extreme simplicity, was nevertheless treasonable in its intent, especially as it touched so close to the queen’s heart as to presume upon policy and to declare as an absolute necessity, a change that would forestall the remaining and continued adherence to the “old religion,” curtail the possibility of growth of that religion, and rout the indifferentism that cared for neither side, insisting upon otherwise peaceful men a decision in favor of the Protestantism in which they did not place faith and against the Catholicism they cared not for, and assigning to all an active part in stifling that religion within the realm. This was treasonable, and indeed it was regarded as such in the same sense that the activities of the Jesuits within England were so regarded; for, both were prompted by a tolerant government policy, which neither could abide, and each designed, as a chief end, the overturning of current policy - of Elizabeth’s policy - in order to establish another, singularly tolerant to one religion or the other. The teaching and preaching of the Roman Catholic extremists and the “Puritan” extremists were together unlawful and in the functional instigation of change, were treasonable.

With respect to the Protestant side, intolerance is not and has never been a part of Christian or Gospel teaching, it is condemned by Jesus Christ and it is denied in every form with all violence and hatred, so that force and coercion of conscience have no part in Gospel principles, but the preaching of Christ according to the Gospel alone is the charge in hand of those who take up serving Christ. Nor was the civil penalizing of men for religion’s sake ever preached or condoned, nor the disturbing or upsetting of peaceful rule ever a doctrine of Christ, so that, be that rule ever as pagan as ancient Rome, Christ taught his followers even under Roman rule to govern themselves according to truth in their homes and families, and gatherings, and in their communities among unbelievers, and to pray for peace in all societies and under all governments, in hope that the Gospel might have free course to spread abroad. For, by the Gospel alone are men saved and by the hearing of faith are they cleansed. Such Elizabeth stood on and maintained against both the faction of Puritans who thought to place all men under the rule of Puritan preaching, as if under Christ, when all men are simply not Christ’s, and on the other side, Catholic dogmatists, who were intent upon inciting such a treachery and rebellion as might be capable of delivering England to the Pope and binding again by those well known means, the consciences of all in a tradition against Christ.

Such was the dilemma of Elizabeth from when she first ascended the throne, although this is not taught today of that period or of the persons, great and small, of that period, or of the laws and actions of the Elizabethan government. For, we stand today in a new ecumenism which assumes common error and guilt for the excesses of religious extremism, insisting a common intolerance among the culpable and the innocent alike, especially the persecuted, for the natural mind cannot conceive of a heart or mind or theology that would not, if it could, avenge itself upon its persecutor through similar intolerance. The same teachers who teach this today in the name of Jesus Christ, forget their own beginnings, for Christ, whom they confess as the image into whom they are made ever the more conformable, no more rose from the dead to avenge himself upon his persecutors than the Gospel Christians, who learned Christ in truth, ever acted against their persecutors or played a different part in Christ than that described of them in the Gospel in which they placed their faith and upon which promises they stood in hope. This book, stands as a proof of the government of that era and of the beginnings of the establishment of freedom of conscience against the ministration of Rome and of the ‘old religion’ and against those who did not truly embrace the principles of the Gospel of Christ newly espoused among them, especially those among the extreme party of Puritans, whose ‘gospel’ was outside Christ and of their own hearts’ making, who dared to demand or effect a change of policy against moderation. Its stands as an example of the intentions of those persons who balanced themselves on the line of toleration, admiring men for their natural abilities, loving the truth for God’s sake, and demanding toleration even of error, suppressing only the violence or counter-violence of men’s hearts, and ensuring that peace ensued as a result of policy so precariously placed as to thwart both sides in the very budding of intolerance and persecution.

And the evidence, while manifest in all the doings of that government toward its citizenry, and the sayings of Elizabeth, in her person and laws, is herein, in brief, shown to be a balance. Rome may today make Saints of persons who bade the world farewell in order to become martyrs for the Pope’s cause, in the attempt to re-establish Rome in power over England’s kings and for the suppression of all other creeds; but toleration and charity do not admit that subversion and treason against such governments and laws as establish and ensure freedom of conscience to all men, is a good and a religious right or a “Christian” ministry, or a way of Christ.

For this reason alone is this book included in our book list: let it be seen too that those, who, on the Puritan and Protestant side, were not content to allow a queen to rule by moderation and by leaving every man to his conscience, either in the traditions of Rome or in the simplicity of the Gospel, were promptly acted against for the same daring and determining of change. The Elizabethan government might be studied for what was done and not done to the greater joy of Christians, rather than claiming against Elizabeth a repaying of that done under Mary, as is vogue today. For, by protecting itself in lawful ordinances from all outrageous and extreme examples, those recently become Protestant and lovers of the Gospel under the preaching of Christ, together with those who remained Catholic at that time in England, were equally relieved under her rule, and even the Catholic people, in such a measure, as to be knitted to Elizabeth in a greater affirmation of religious conscience than ever they were to the Pope, under whom they had lived before.

Hail & Fire, 2008

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." Rom 13:1-2 KJV
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