Bishop Bancroft’s 1588 sermon at Paul’s Cross is an important statement on episcopacy in response to the scurrilous “Martin Marprelate” tracts which for the first time attacked the hierarchy of the Church as disposable. In response to these nascent Puritan attacks Bishop Bancroft cited prior Anglican writers, asserting the apostolic origins of the church order and the schismatic nature of the emerging Puritan party. He went further to assert that those doubters were guilty of the heresy of Aerius, a 4th-century presbyter who believed that he could ordain other presbyters. These tracts on episcopacy, by Richard Bancroft and other contemporary authors, were important in defending and clarifying the unique position of the Church in the Christian theological spectrum.
Bishop Andrewes who prodigiously wrote on Christian theology, devotion and piety, becoming a central expression of Anglican spirituality, had written on the episcopacy as well. This treatise contains the letters he and Pierre Moulin, a french Reformed minister on the Continent, exchanged in the year 1618.
The occasion for this exchange was Moulin’s polemic against the Roman Catholics that Bishops were of the same order as Presbyters. Upon receiving those opinions in England King James I made angry rejections and corrections, as Moulin himself states. In an attempt to argue that the positions of the French Reformed and the Church of England were similar, Moulin addressed these letters to the King and bishop Andrewes, and the ensuing exchange demonstrated that the positions between the Church of England and the Continental Reformed differed widely.
Wielding an array of Latin, Greek and Hebrew quotations Andrewes wrought an argument by which Moulin himself confesses he was baffled. Andrewes corrected the errors in Moulin’s biblical exegesis and once again reiterated the Church’s position of the “jure divino” nature of episcopacy, speaking significantly for the King himself (who had already made disparaging remarks on the Presbytery when entering England in 1604). These letters prove to be an important witness to the views held in the Church of England during the reign of King James I.
The Church Catechism had occasioned numerous famous commentaries over the centuries, and few are as famous as this commentary written by bishop Beveridge. He famously praised the Catechism, as sufficiently short for a young boy to memorize, and yet containing everything a grown man needed to know in the Christian religion. The bishop in this treatise patiently and gently expands of the essential elements of Christianity, smoothing out the knots some people may stumble by, producing a complete and exhaustive picture of Christianity that, as he says, no man, be he of whatever Label, can refuse. It is in this gently wholesome nature that the genius of the Church Catechism resides, strongly marking it apart from the aggressively partisan Catechisms of the other faiths.
Final in this set is this treatise by Simon Patrick, a Rector in London and an major author after the Restoration. In this work, addressing a national calamity, he weaves a noble argument of godly cheer and holy consolation. Let not this short treatise be the least among the four works, for if we have a cheerful reliance on God, undaunted by a calamity facing us, we shall be carried through the chasm, to the other side, and landed safely to continue our journey.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless you.