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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 383



XIV.] PERSECUTION. 377 which Coke's authority might be pleaded, although all the earlier legislation against heretical pravity had been abrogated. The invulnerability of the common law which had maintained the High Commission in Cawdrey's case, now treated the issue of the writ ' de heretico comburendo ' as a matter of its own, and brought equal shame on theology and jurisprudence. The heretics who were burned were men whom the Puritans did not care to defend ; they would have burned them as willingly as they would have done the bishops. And here let me say by the way, great as the horrors of religious persecution are, they cannot be properly estimated without some consideration of the value set upon human life both at the period in which they occur and at other times: I believe that I could show that all the executions for religious causes in England, by all sides and during all time, are not so many as were the sentences of death passed * in one year of the reign of George III for one single sort of crime, the forging of bank-notes. But I must pass on, leaving the Laudian period altogether out of sight : and indeed it is not, for our purpose, so important as the earlier portion : Laud and Charles were, neither of them, men who were satisfied with such things as the High Commission Court, and the sinking of ecclesiastical discipline in the state administration; but they did not make their way to any-better system, and supported that which was to them for the time the only possible system. With the opening of the struggle in 1641 the Court of High Commission fell to the ground, and at the Restoration its abolition was confirmed by the first parliament of Charles II. During the Elizabethan and Jacobean period the study of church law had not been neglected ; for it had shared the benefit of the great historical and antiquarian revival of


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