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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 382



376 ARGUMENT ON PROHIBITIONS. [XIV. Marian statute. If that resolution had not been accepted, the whole existing fabric of the Church must, so far as secular interests were concerned, have fallen to the ground. But the opening of James I's reign is important for a third critical question. In 1605 Archbishop Bancroft presented from Convocation a series of articles against the proceedings of the common law judges in issuing prohibitions and claiming the exclusive right to interpret acts of parliament touching the Church. The long argument on this subject, which is to Coke's Second Institute what Cawdrey's case is to the Reports, is of considerably greater weight ; no doubt there was much to be said on both sides, and the voice of the Convocation of 1605 was in harmony with that of 1559 and 1446, where the claims of the theologians to interpret acts that touched theology were fairly stated ; but Coke embellishes the report with words that have an amusing cogency even in the present day; 'for judges expounding of statutes that concern the ecclesiastical government or proceedings, it belongeth unto the temporal judges, and we think they have been expounded as much to the clergy's advantage as either the letter or intention of laws would or could allow of: and when they have been expounded to their liking then they could approve of it, but if the exposition be not for their purpose then they will say as now they do that it appertaineth not unto us to determine of them.' Anyhow the judges agreed that they were the proper interpreters of the acts of parliament ; and as the whole liturgy, and indeed the Bible also, might be brought under those terms, there was practically no limit to their assumption of infallibility ; for the common law judges could not, like theologians, afford to leave any question unsolved. Well, Coke was right as to the bishops, as was proved in 1612, when the common lawyers allowed bishops King and Neill to burn two heretics under a common law writ, for


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