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[289] men listen to their deprived pastors in the recesses of
Chap VIII.} 1583
forests, the offence, if discovered, was visited by fines and imprisonment. A court of high commission was established for the detection and punishment of nonconformity, and was invested with powers as arbitrary as those of the Spanish inquisitors.1 Men were obliged to answer, on oath, every question proposed, either against others or against themselves. In vain did the sufferers murmur; in vain did parliament disapprove the commission, which was alike illegal and arbitrary; in vain did Burleigh remonstrate against a system so intolerant, that ‘the inquisitors of Spain
1584 July 1.
used not so many questions to trap their preys.’2 The archbishop would have deemed forbearance a weakness; and the queen was ready to interpret any freedom in religion as a treasonable denial of her supremacy. Two men were hanged for distributing Brown's
tract on the liberty of prophesying;3 that is, a tract on the liberty of the pulpit.

The party thus persecuted were the most efficient opponents of Popery. ‘The Puritans,’ said Burleigh, ‘are over squeamish and nice, yet their careful catechising and diligent preaching lessen and diminish the Papistical numbers.’4 But for the Puritans, the old religion would have retained the affections of the multitude. If Elizabeth reformed the court, the ministers, whom she persecuted, reformed the commons. That the English people became Protestant is due to the Puritans. How, then, could the party be subdued? The spirit of brave and conscientious men cannot

1 Strype's Annals, III. 180. Haltham's England, i. 271—273. Rymer, XVI. 291—297, June 15, 1596, and 546—551, August 26, 1603. Mackintosh, III. 261, 262. Lingard, VII. 266.

2 Burleigh, in Strype's Whitgift, 157.

3 Strype's Annals, III 186. Fuller's Church History, b. IX. 169.

4 Somer's Tracts, fourth collection, 103.

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