The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0844  Wednesday, 20 March 2002

From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 18:10:17 -0000
Subject: 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism II
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism II

[Continued from last digest]

Hooker's view was that in Sacraments there are two things distinctly to
be considered, the outward sign, and the secret concurrence of God's
blessed Spirit... Sacraments therefore as signs have only these effects
before mentioned, but of Sacraments, in that by God's own will and
ordinance, they are signs assisted always with the power of the holy
Ghost... so God hath instituted and ordained that together with due
administration, and receipt of Sacramental signs, there shall proceed
from himself, grace effectual to sanctify, to cure, to comfort, and
whatsoever else for the good of the souls of men.  (Richard Hooker, Of
the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book VI, Folger Library Works III,

In terms which would come to be used by "Arminians" in the next century,
Hooker confuted Bellarmine's view of "his adversaries, as if their
opinion were that Sacraments are naked, empty and uneffectual signs
wherein there is no other force, than only such as in pictures, to stir
up the mind" (Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book VI, Folger
Library Works III, pp.84).  Indeed, the Laws might best be seen as a
defence of prayer and sacrament as a necessary means of grace, and
therefore of the theology implicit in the Book of Common Prayer (his
great defence of which takes up the long fifth Book); it is not
surprising that we should find Hooker defending the forms of liturgy
established by law, nor that he should do so in terms which reflect the
underlying assumptions of the Elizabethan Settlement, and its generous
attitude towards doctrinal definition. What is not entertained is any
specific, doctrinal anti-Calvinism.

The same can be said of his "Arminian" followers. Montagu, who was to
become one of the easiest targets for these Puritan accusations, wrote
that the sacraments "are signes of Gods love and promise, seales of his
covenant and grace, and instruments of his mercy", which he considers to
be more "than a bare figure". Elaborating, he said that the Church
accepts that "the Body and Bloud of our Saviour Christ is really
participated & communicated", but that "We are not sollicitous for the
manner how he worketh it", which causes him to wonder at "those
unexplicable Labyrinths of Con-substantiation, and Trans-substantiation,
which onely serve to set the world in division", and to reject the
"jejune and macilent conceit of Zwinglius and Oecolampadius: whereby men
account of this Sacrament, but onely as of a bare shadow, emptie & void,
and destitute of Christ" (Gagg for the new Gospell? No: A New Gagg for
An Old Goose... pp.251-252, 255; see also p.316); not only is this
perfectly orthodox, as far as I can see, it is explicitly concerned to
allow for the freedom of conscience in the issue, while stressing the
importance of the sacrament as a means of saving grace.  Prynne's
opinion, that "The wicked and such as be voide of a lively faith,
although they doe carnally and visibly presse with their teeth (as St.
Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the body and bloud of Christ: yet in
no wise are they partakers of Christ but rather to their condemnation
doe eate and drinke the signe or Sacrament of so great a thing" (The
Church of Englands Old Antithesis to New Arminianisme, p.9) seems at
first to be equally orthodox - Article 28 does indeed say that only
those who come "with faith" to the eucharist actually partake of the
Body and Blood of Christ - but Prynne's equivocation around "signe or
Sacrament" does not agree so well with the Article's certainty. The
Puritan should have experienced saving grace before he comes to the
sacrament; but in being a sacrament, the eucharist is supposed to impart
saving grace, and so he would rather think of it as a mere "signe".  For
the conformist Anglican, the problem does not arise, because saving
grace should have been administered in the sacrament of baptism as an
infant anyway, with the eucharist acting as a confirmation; he can still
accept that faith makes the sign more than just a sign, or he can simply
hold, like Prynne, that partaking of the sacrament in an unfit state
will result in its acting as a condemnation. No man should come to
receive the sacrament "without a search, and a privy search, without
consideration, and reconsideration of his conscience", warned Donne
(Sermon 10, 1619, Sermons II, p.223), for "except, the power of thy
Spirit make thine Ordinance effectuall upon me, even this thy Iordan
will leave me in my leprosie, and exalt my leprosie, even this Sermon,
this Sacrament will aggravate my sin" (Sermon 15, Sermons V, p.305).
Even the Church of Rome holds that "it is not the bodily touch in the
Sacrament, that doth the good", said Andrewes, and "Wicked men, very
reprobates, have that touch, and remain reprobates as before": only
"Faith will elevate itself, that ascending in spirit we shall touch Him,
and take hold of Him" (Sermon XV, Easter Sunday 1621, Works III,
pp.37-38). The "hypocrite" who receives the sacrament in an unfit state
- "that by certain pins and gins, makes show of certain works and
motions as if there were Spirit, but surely Spirit there is none in
them" (Sermon V, Whitsunday 1612, Works III, p.194) - such a person
"does God service, and yet is damned" (John Donne, Sermon 3, 24 March
1617, Sermons I, p.189), for "all the public external service of God...
if it be not accompanied with the inward service of the heart, is worth
nothing" (William Laud, Sermon III, at the opening of Parliament, 6 Feb
1625, Works Ip.73). Consequently, both Donne and Andrewes drew a fine
distinction between what they see as the acceptable veneration that
should be paid to the sacrament, and the idolatry of Popish adoration:
"[Greek], after the manner of adoring, amounteth not to adoring: for
after the manner, or as men used to do, that adore, is a term qualified,
and restrained to the outward manner", wrote Andrewes (A Briefe Answer
to... Cardinall Perron's Reply, Works XI, pp.15-16), once again
emphasizing that orthodoxy simply requires an outward signification of
an inward faith - belying claims that ceremonialism necessary equals the
suppression of freedom of conscience.

Milton was more "Arminian" than Prynne when he wrote that "Faith needing
not the weak, and fallible office of the Senses, to be either the
Ushers, or the Interpreters, of heavenly Mysteries, save where our Lord
himselfe in his Sacraments ordain'd", thereby accepting that these are
necessary channels for saving grace; but he goes on to criticize
attempts to "bring the inward acts of the Spirit to the outward, and
customary ey[e]-Service of the body, as if they could make God earthly,
and fleshly, because they could not make themselves heavenly, and
Spirituall" (Of Reformation..., Complete Prose Works I, pp.519-520),
language that hints at his own difficulty in approving the orthodoxy of
Article 28.This kind of criticism tends to conflict with the strict
orthodoxy of the faith because it is polemical: it is specifically and
aggressively aimed at the theology of Andrewes, rather than in defence
of any notion of the true religion. Andrewes's, and perhaps to an even
greater extent Donne's, conception of the eucharist can be related to
their obvious fascination with the hypostatical theology of the
Incarnation.  When Andrewes said, "had we been spirit, and nothing else,
God could and would immediately have inspired us that way; but
consisting of bodies also as we do, it hath seemed to his wisdom most
agreeable, to make bodily signs the means of conveying the graces of His
Spirit into us", we can see what it is Milton takes exception to. It is
because Christ "partaketh of both body and Spirit" that his means of
conveying grace to us employs "both Word and flesh" (Sermon II,
Whitsunday 1608, Works III, p.143). For it is "another congruity for the
Sacrament, that the 'great mystery of godliness,' which is 'God
manifested in the flesh,' [1Tim 3:16] might not be celebrated without
the mystery of His flesh; that the day He came among us to be partaker
of flesh and blood, we also might be partakers of the flesh and blood
which He took from us to give them us again", and "this mystery is the
substance of all the ceremonies, and the fulfilling of all prophecies"
(Sermon XIII, 25 Dec 1619, Works I, p.231; Sermon III, 25 Dec 1607,
Works I, p.41).  Similarly, the importance of Christ for Donne is his
status as "a mixt person" (Sermon 5, Whitsunday ?1624, Sermons VI,
p.123): the sacrament is like another "Christmas-day, a manifestation of
Christs birth in your soules" (Sermon 11, 25 Dec 1626, Sermons VII,
p.280), and in sermon after sermon and poem after poem he emphasizes
this with insistent and often stark evocations of the sheer physicality
of His flesh and blood. Christ offers grace through his sacrifice, and
this is what is remembered in the taking of the sacrament: as such, the
eucharist is "not Christ's body as now it is, but as then it was, when
it was offered, rent, and slain, and sacrificed for us... So, and no
otherwise, do we represent Him" (Lancelot Andrewes, Sermon VII, Easter
Sunday 1612, Works II, pp.301-302). Here, we are given a specifically
physical idea of the flesh and blood which is involved in the sacrament,
but then told that this is merely a "representation", a sign.  This is
not a rejection of Christ's presence, however, which Andrewes explains
is due not to the ceremony, which "works nothing", but to the mystery of
the Incarnation, which "Beside that it signifieth, it hath his
operation; and work it doth, else mystery it is none" (Sermon III, 25
Dec 1607, Works I, p.41).

Donne and Andrewes assert Christ's presence, because the sacraments work
a saving grace. The bread is not "transubstantiated", but "that
internall form, which is the very essence and nature of the bread, so it
is transformed, so the bread hath received a new form, a new essence, a
new nature, because whereas the nature of the bread is but to nourish
the body, the nature of this bread now, is to nourish the soule" (John
Donne, Sermon 11, 25 Dec 1626, Sermons VII, p.295). Hence, they are
"annihilations of Iesus, when men will make him, and his Sacraments, to
be nothing but bare signes" (John Donne, Sermon 6, Sermons V, p.135),
because His Spirit works through the "correspondency... between the
Sacrament and His character" (Lancelot Andrewes, Sermon VII, 25 Dec
1612, Works I, p.116). The "power be in the Spirit, and the blood be the
vehiculum of the Spirit" (Sermon XVIII, Easter Sunday 1624, Works III,
p.102), and this "maketh that we eat there
escam spiritualem, 'a spiritual meat,' [1Cor 10:3] and that in that cup
we be 'made drink of the Spirit' [1Cor 12:13]" (Sermon V, Whitsunday
1612, Works III, p.199). The holy mysteries of the sacrament are a means
for the raising of our soul out of the soil of sin - for they are given
us, and we take them expressly for the remission of sins - so are they
no less a means also, for the raising our bodies out of the dust of
death... Our Saviour saith it totidem verbis, "Whoso eateth My flesh and
drinketh My Blood, I will raise him up at the last day" [John 6:54] -
raise him, whither He hath raised Himself.  (Lancelot Andrewes, Sermon
XII, Easter Sunday 1617, Works II, pp.402-403)

The sacrament is like a second Passover, "by the blood of His cross as
by the blood of the paschal lamb, the destroyer passeth over us, and we
shall not perish" (Sermon II, Good Friday 1604, Works II, p.153); and
the body of Christ "is the best means to restore us to that life" -
indeed, "to life we cannot come, unless we do participate with the flesh
and blood of the 'second Adam,' that is Christ" (Sermon II, Easter
Sunday 1607, Works II, p.220; see also Sermon V, Easter Sunday 1610,
Works II, p.268). Donne preached that "nothing lesse then a Sacrament
would deliver us from originall sin" (Sermon 5, Whitsunday ?1624,
Sermons VI, p.119): "baptisme doth truly, and without collusion, offer
grace to all" he said elsewhere, and so "it may be a figure; but if we
speake of reall salvation by it, baptisme is more then a figure" (Sermon
7, Sermons V, p.163).

In doctrinal terms, then, the sacramental theology of the establishment
agreed with the orthodoxy of Article 28, and stressed the primacy of
faith before it claimed that the sacraments could act as a vehicle for
saving grace; it never seriously challenged any doctrinal opinion that
can be found in Calvin, who himself held a similar opinion of the
sacraments. In political and social terms, however, the enforcement of
orthopraxy did make a very visible difference to Church life, in that
some sections of the clergy exploited the implications of sacramentalism
to make manifest the unique importance of their profession. Thomas
Laurence taught that the duty of the laity required "an humble distance
from God", while the privilege of the clergy involved the
"immediatenesse of their acesse", and that the altar was "the
inviolablest sanctuary of all", where only a priest could partake of the
eucharist (Two Sermons. The First preched at St. maries in Oxford July
13, 1634... the Second in the Cathedral Church of Sarum... May 23, 1634
[Oxford 1635], p.3); A Sermon preached before the King's Majesty at
Whitehall [London 1637], pp.9-10). John Pocklington stressed that while
all Christians could offer spiritual sacrifices "the sacrifice of the
altar...  is the particular function of the priest to perform", because
the altar was "the highest place of all", where "none but the priests
might be allowed to come to officiate": "Was not the holy eucharist
there and nowhere else consecrated? Durst the priests themselves ascend
thither without doing lowly reverence three several times? Was not the
holy altar and the mysteries thereof at sometime kept railed from the
eyes of most men?" (Altare Christianum [London 1637], pp104, 117).
Jasper Fisher described the "twice-dipt purple of the priesthood",
ambassadors "from Heaven by the Lord of Hosts, about a peace between God
the Father and sinfull mankind" who were "elevated above this wicked
world, and imbued with a heavenly power" (The Priest's Duty and Dignity
[London 1635], pp.9, 34, 42, 46). The notion that the priest exuded a
kind of divine, angelic aura seems related to the pursuit of an order
that justifies itself by some transcendent authority:

the minister like an angel of light appears in his white vestment
behaving himself with that gravity and reverence and decency which well
befits his calling and the religious duty he hath in hand. When the
whole congregation shall appear in the presence of God as one man,
decently kneeling, rising, standing, bowing, praising, praying
altogether... like men of one mind and religion in the house of God.
(Edward Boughen, A sermon concerning decency and order in the church
[1638], pp.10-11)

The link between sacerdotalism and ecclesiastical order surely accounts
for the Puritan attacks against images like these: "how have they
disfigur'd and defac't that more then angelick brightnes, the unclouded
serenity of Christian Religion with the dark overcasting of
superstitious coaps and flaminical vestures", wrote Milton in The Reason
of Church-government (Complete Prose Works I, p.827).

Andrewes, it should be noted, preached that when we receive the
Eucharist we are "on earth most near to Angelic perfection", indicating
a sense of shared experience between clergyman and congregation (Sermon
XII, 25 Dec 1618, Works I, p.214); Donne recalls that "S. John in the
beginning of the Revelation, cals every Governour of a Church an Angel.
And much respect and reverence, much faith, and credit behoves it thee
to give to thine Angell, to the Pastor of that Church, in which God hath
given thee thy station", before warning against "over-affecting,
overvaluing the gifts of any man so, as that thou take the voice of an
Angell, for the voyce of the Archangell" (Sermon 2, Easter Day 1622,
Sermons IV, pp.20-21); and Hooker had suggested that Bishops "which will
be esteemed of as they ought" should shine "as Angels of God in the
midst of perverse men" (Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book VII,
Folger Library Works III, p.299). So we can detect a change in the
employment of this imagery of the angelic priest, from an ideal to which
mortal men in the profession ought to aspire, and according to which
they should see themselves as part of a hierarchical chain, linked with
the laity and subject to God, to a straight statement of unqualified
fact. The sacerdotal implications of sacramental grace are inherent in
Andrewes's early work: "Prophets spake, but purged not", he said in
1612, "Purging was ever the Priest's office" (Sermon VII, Works I,
p.116). And even in 1600 he saw this authority  setting the profession
apart from all others:

I take it to be a power distinct from the former and, not to hold you
long, to be the accomplishment of the promise made, of the power of "the
keys," [Mat 16:19] which here in this place and in these words is
fulfilled, and have therein for me the joint consent of the Fathers.
Which being a different power in itself, is that which we all call the
act or benefit of absolution, in which, as in the rest, there is the due
time and place of it a use for the remission of sins. Whereunto our
Saviour Christ, by His sending them, doth institute them and give them
the key of authority; and by breathing on them and inspiring them doth
enable them, and give them the key of knowledge to do it well; and
having bestowed both these upon them as the stewards of His house, doth
last of all deliver them their commission to do it, having so enbled
them and authorized them as before.  (Lancelot Andrewes, Sermon IV, 30
March 1600, Works V, pp.94-96)

However, as with his comments on sermonizing, Andrewes's neutral tone in
preaching the office of the priest became more aggressive during the
politically unstable years after 1622: the power of benediction "is a
branch of ours, of the Priest's office", he said at Easter 1624, and in
the Primitive Church "they would not offer to stir, not a man of them,
till bowing down their heads they had the blessing pronounced over
them"; but "An evil custom hath prevailed with our people; away they go
without blessing, without leave, without care of either. Mark if they
run not out before any blessing, as if it were not worth the taking with
them" (Sermon XVIII, Works III, pp.81-82).

What happened in the 1620s was not an innovation in theology so much as
a change of policy in enforcement of ecclesiastical order, in direct
response to lay encroachment. The culture of clerical elitism that began
to be directly espoused by some in the profession was, with some
justification, thought to be against the spirit of Protestantism. Luther
had said that if there were no pastors available, "let each head of a
family read the Gospel in his own house, and baptize his children"
("Letter to the Calixtines" [1523]), and had given expression to the
ideal of a "priesthood of all
believers". Hooker had emphasized the difference "between the doctrine
of Rome and ours, when we teach repentance": the Church of England holds
"that every soul which is wounded with sin, may learn the way how to
cure itself; they clean contrary, would make all sores seem incurable,
unless the Priest have a hand in them"; after all, if a person is not
sincere in his contrition, no amount of absolution will do him any good,
unless " we now believe that the form doth give the matter, that
absolution bestoweth contrition" (Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity,
Book VI, Folger Library Works III, pp.70, 92, 94). At Hampton Court,
Bancroft had pointed out that Calvin approved of the "generall kinde of
Confession, and Absolution, as the Church of England useth"; what this
was felt to be is suggested by the King's "utter dislike" of the opinion
"That any but a Lawfull Minister might baptize anywhere", and his
earnestness "against the baptizing by women and Laikes" (William Barlow,
The Summe and Substance of the Conference, pp.13, 8; also pp.17-18),
shared by the Bishop of Worcester, but tempered by Bancroft's reminder
that those learned and reverend men, who framed the Booke of Common
Prayer, entended not by ambiguous termes to deceive any, but did,
indeede, by those wordes entend a permission of private persons, to
baptize in case of necessitie, whereof their letters were witnesses,
some partes whereof hee then read, and withall declared that the same
was agreeable to the practise of the auncient Church; urging to that
purpose, both Actes 2. where 3000.  were baptized in one day, which for
the Apostles alone to doe, was impossible, at least improbable; and,
besides the Apostles, there were then no Bishoppes or Priestes: And also
thee authoritie of Tertullian, and Saint Ambrose in the fourth to the
Ephesians, plaine in that point; laying also open the absurdities, and
impieties of their opinion, who thinke there is no necessities of
Baptisme; which word, Necessitie, he, so, pressed not, as if God,
without Baptisme could not save the child; but the case put, that the
state of the Infant, dying unbaptized, being uncertaine, and to God only
known; but if it dye baptized, there is an evident assurance, that it is
saved... (William Barlow, The Summe and Substance of the Conference,

The Bishop of Winchester agreed, "affirming that the denying of private
persons in cases of necessitie, to baptize, were to crosse all
antiquitie", and adding "that the Minister is not of the Essence of the
Sacrament".  However, "His Maiestie answered, though hee be not of the
Essence of the Sacrament, yet is he of the E ence of the right and
lawfull ministrie of the Sacrament, taking for his ground the commission
of Christ to his Disciples, Mat. 28.20. Go preach and baptize" (William
Barlow, The Summe and Substance of the Conference, p.18).

Although Tyacke is right to say that "the sacramental counter-argument
to determinism remained undeveloped" in 1604, it seems strange, on this
evidence, to conclude that "the initiative indubitably still lay with
the Calvinists, and subsequent royal support was considerably to
strengthen their position". If anything, it was the King himself who
placed the greatest emphasis on clerical exclusivity, which suggests
that the issue was already, for him, more political than doctrinal, and
that when the clergy came to adopt a similar position it would be in
response to the politics of professionalism rather than any "link
between free will and the externals of devotion". How else can one
explain the anti-episcopal, anti-ceremonial position entertained by the
doctrinally Arminian Milton, who had loved "the sensory beauty of the
Anglican service... as London boy and Cambridge student"?


S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.