Thomas Underdown

Thomas Underdown was minister of St. Mary's church in Lewes, in the county of Sussex, but was brought into trouble for nonconformity. By a special warrant from Dr. Longworth, visitor to Archbishop Whitgift, dated November 18, 1583, he was summoned to appear in the ecclesiastical court at Lewes.* Upon his appearance in the court, he was immediately required to subscribe to Whitgift's three articles. He signified his readiness to subscribe to the first and third of those articles, but, hesitating about the second, he was immediately suspended. At the same time, Mr. William Hopkinson, vicar of Salehurst, Mr. Samuel Norden, minister .of Hamsey, Mr. Thomas Hely, minister of Warbleton, with many others in the same county, were cited and suspended, for refusing subscription, though their refusal was not out of contempt, but because to them some things appeared doubtful.t

These ministers having received the ecclesiastical censure, ventured to lay their case at the feet of the archbishop. They appeared before his grace at Lambeth, December 5th, in the same year; when they entered upon the follbwing conference:

Underdown. We are become suitors to your lordship, out of the diocese of Chichester, being urged thereunto by the hard dealing of Dr. Longworth; who hath suspended us from the exercise of our functions, for not subscribing to certain articles, pretended to be sent by your lordship ; and to request your favour to be released from the same.

* Dr. Longworth sent the following warrant or citation to all the ministers within the archdeaconry of Lewes, requiring them to appear before him:—" These are to command you in her majesty's name, to " appear personally in St. Michael's church in Lewes, the 20th day of this " present November, between the hours of eight and ten o'clock in the " forenoon, then and theie to perform all such duties and injunctions, as I " am to impose npon you, from the Archbishop's grace of Canterbury, as " appeareth by a special letter directed to me in that behalf. Fail yon " not hereof, npon pain of the law which will necessarily ensue upon the " default which you shall commit in these premises. From Lewes, " November 18, 156*.

" Signed your loving friend,

" John Lonowobth."

JbTS. Rtgister, p. 396.

+ Ibid. p. 895, S96.—Strype's Whitgift, p. 128,129.

Archbishop. I am so far from releasing you from your suspensions, that I declare it to have been orderly done; and I approve and justify the same, and shall further proceed against you unless you subscribe.

U. My lord, we have subscribed to the first and third articles, but desired respite for the second. And though we have used the Book of Common Prayer, so far as concerned our ministry, we cannot with a good conscience, subscribe to every particular in that book.

A. If you use that to which you will not subscribe, you dissemble. And how much respite would you have, after the exercise of twenty-five years ?

U.i Every thing in the book doth not pertain to our ministry; and in some things we are left to our liberty; but this subscription bindeth us to give our full consent to the whole, and thus abridgeth us of the liberty which the book alloweth.

A. What do you dislike in the Book of Common Prayer ?

U. We do not say dislike, my lord; but there are many things doubtful, and about which we are not yet resolved.

A. What are the points doubtful, which you wish to have resolved ? I will endeavour to satisfy you, if you will be satisfied.

U. We desire to know what book your lordship would have us to subscribe unto. For there are many copies, which differ in many points of great weight; and those which have been printed last, have most declined to superstition.

A. I mean the book which is now used for divine service and administration of the sacraments in the church of England.

U. That is not the book established by law, according to 1 Eliz., but differeth in more points from the book of 5 Edward VI. than the law of the land alloweth.

A. And what is the difference ?

U. They differ in the following points and some others: The kalenders are not the same; the first lessons on all saints' days are appointed out of the apocrypha: the kalender appoints the saints' eves to be observed by fasting: it putteth in the popish saints: it prescribeth a number of holy-days: and it omitteth the advertisement after the communion, to avoid the popish adoration in kneeling at the sacrament.

A. The kalenders are not of the substance of the book.

U. They form a principal part of the book, and have a chief interest in the directions there given: and the statute calleth it a part.

A. What other doubts have you which you wish to be resolved ?

U. The book prescribeth certain parts of the apocrypha to be read in public worship, which contain gross errors, both in doctrine and practice; and leaveth out some parts of canonical scripture.

A. All the apocrypha is not appointed to be read, but those parts which are most edifying. And the ancient fathers permitted them to be read in the church.

U. Not some detached parts only, my lord, but whole books are appointed.

A. What errors in doctrine and practice do they contain.'

U. Raphael maketh a lie, Tobit v. 15.

A. If this be a lie, then the angels lied to Abraham, by seeming to have bodies and to eat, when they had no bodies and did not eat: And Christ, when he seemed to intend going farther than Emmaus: And God, when he destroyed not Ninevah.

U. The cases are not alike.—Again, the devil is said to have loved Sara, Tobit vi. 16., which is fabulous.

A. Is it strange to you that the devil should love men and women ? Do you think the devil doth not love ?

U. In Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 20. it is said, that Samuel preached after he was dead.

A. It is controverted whether this were Samuel or some evil spirit.

U. What writers are of this opinion ?

A. What point of faith is it to believe it was Samuel ?

U. A principal point, my lord; for Rev. xiv. 13. it is said, that the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and rest from their labours; which is not true, if they be at the call of a witch or sorcerer, to do those things which while they lived, they would not have done.

A. Cannot the Lord dispense with them, and allow them to come, being called ?

U. He dispenseth with things according to his word. And, surely, he would not condemn such abominations, and encourage them.

A. It is no matter whether we believe the one or the other. What is your next error? Are there any other faults in the apocrypha ?

U. There are many others, which at this time we remember not.

A. Is there any other reason why you will not subscribe to the Book of Common Prayer ?

U. Yes, my lord, there are many others. For if we subscribe to the book, we must subscribe to the massing apparel: as copes, vestments, tunicle, &c.

A. Whatever you are discharged from by any article or injunction, you are not required to subscribe unto it in the book.

U. Who then shall interpret how far our subscription shall extend ?

A. Thrtt will I and the other bishops do, who know best what the book and subscription meaneth.

U. But, my lord, we dare not subscribe without protestation.

A. I will have no protestation. You are not called to rule in this church of England; and you shall not rule, but obey. And unless you subscribe, you shall have no place in the ministry. Is there any other thing which hindereth your subscription ?

U. The rubric requireth that after the reading of the Nicene creed, an homily shall be read, either one already set forth by public authority, or hereafter to be set forth ; and we think it is absurd to subscribe to the use of things not yet published.

A. You need not trouble yourself about that. Have you any thing else ?

U. If we subscribe, we must subscribe to private baptism, and the baptism of women, directly contrary to the word of God.

A. Though baptism were unlawfully performed, yet being once performed, it is not to be repeated; and seeing it has the seal of the prince, it may not be condemned, though not performed by an ordinary minister.

U. We acknowledge the necessity of baptism, and that he who administereth it, does not make the sacrament better; yet from the words of Christ, " Go teach and baptize," it appears that he who administers this sacrament should be a minister of the word.

A. Whosoever shall say it is of the substance of the \ sacrament, that he who baptizeth must be a minister, I will proceed against him as an heretic. I say, moreover, it is not lawful for women to baptize; yet if they do baptize, their baptism is valid, and ought not to be set aside.

U. Seeing the sacrament is not saving, but the seal of God's promises, there is no need of them to baptize.

- A. If I had a child dying without baptism, I should be doubtful of its salvation.

U. We think, my lord, that it is not the want of baptism, but the contempt of it, and that not of his friends, but the person himseli, that doth condemn. Yet we believe and teach the lawfulness and necessity of childrens' baptism, and that it ought to be performed by ministers.

A. The book doth not speak of women; and it is called private because of the place, not the persons.

U. The circumstances of it can admit of no other sense. For it may be administered when there is not time to say the Lord's prayer.

A. There may not be so much time after the minister is come.

- U. We know that the baptism of a certain nobleman by the midwife was allowed and defended by the Book of Common Prayer.

A. You should have complained of this abuse, that the parties might have been punished.

TJ. Your lordship knoweth the opinion of most persons upon this point, and that they practise accordingly.

A. It is not the fault of the book, if in this case it be misunderstood.

U. The practice was condemned in the. convocation, when your lordship was prolocutor.

A. True: and you are to take away the superstition attached to it, by preaching against it.—Have you any other thing to mention ?

U. We object against private communion.

A. Strange, indeed ! Do you not think it lawful for two to communicate alone ? If there were only two persons together in time of persecution, or in a wilderness, or in the world, would you have them not to communicate ?

U. Such communion, if the church were there, would not be private. But we live in a time of gospel light and peace; therefore, the communion which your lordship defendeth, savours too much of the popish housel.

A. The minister is not compelled to do it, but only suffered if he will.

U. But if we subscribe, we must subscribe unto this as a convenient order appointed by the book. We have many other things ; but we fear to be tedious. There are many others who are suspended, and are waiting your lordship's pleasure.

A. Why did they not all come ? I would have endeavoured to satisfy them. You seem to be sober and discreet men. I would not have you depend on any vain fancies; but be ruled and enjoy your places, which, without this subscription, you shall not hold.

U. If our ministry have been useful to souls, we thank God for it; and we desire to keep our places, if it may be done with peace of conscience.

Hely. If we may subscribe with a good conscience, it is what we desire. But, my lord, if we subscribe to the book, do we not subscribe to the translation of the Bible, which the book appointeth to be read ? That translation is faulty and incorrect in many places.

A. Mention some place.

H. In the Psalms.*

The first day's conference thus broke off; but by order of the archbishop, they all attended the next morning; when they appeared before the archbishop, the bishops of London, Salisbury, and Rochester, and the dean of Westminster. The archbishop having rehearsed the substance of what had passed the preceding day, with some enlargement upon the devil's laving women, the Bishop of London spoke as follows:

Bishop. If you had read either divinity or philosophy, it would not be strange to you that the devil should love women.

U. My lord, we have not learned any such divinity. A. You must subscribe. It will be much to your advantage.

Hopkinson. We cannot subscribe, my lord, without pro

that we can subscribe at present, therefore we desire longer respite.

B. What respite would you have, after the use of the book twenty-five years ? If you be not skilful in the knowledge of it, in so long a time, it seems as if you had not used it much.

Hopk. There are many things in the book which belong not to us, or to our ministry, therefore we desire favour in this subscription.

A. You shall subscribe or you shall enjoy no place in the ministry. And because you are the first who have been thus far proceeded against, in this case, you shall be


made an example to all others.

» MS. Register, p. 397—401.

Hopk. If your lordship will deal thus hardly with us, we must give up our places.

A. If you do give them up, I can furnish them with as sufficient men as you are, and yet conformable.

B. Rochester. There are many learned men who are now in want of livings. These will fill up their places.

A. You of Sussex have been accounted very disorderly and contentious; and her majesty hath been informed of you; and I mean to proceed strictly with you.

U. My lord, the ministers of Sussex have been as well ordered as any in the kingdom, until one Shales came among them, and broached certain points of popery and heresy, which hath been the cause of all those troubles.

A. It would have been a wonder, if you had not been quiet, seeing you have all done as you pleased, without the least controul: the devil will be quiet so long. Why do you not accuse the man ? and you shall see how I will deal with him.

B. Roches. What were his points of popery and heresy ? U. My lord hath been informed of these things already.

A. I remember you found fault yesterday with holydays.

B. Have we not as good reason to maintain the holy-days established by law, as you have to make them when you please ?

Hopk. We make no holy-days.

B. What do you else, when you call the people together unto sermons on working-days ?

Hopk. When we have sermons, the people go to work before sermon, and return to work after sermon, as on other days: but to do this on the holy-days, they might be presented and punished, as hath been lately witnessed.

A. I see whence you have most of your doubts. Mr. Cartwright and I might have been better employed, especially he, who began the contest.* If you have any more doubts, propose them now, seeing there are so many of the bishops to answer them.

H. In the rubric before confirmation, salvation is ascribed to baptism. For whosoever is baptized, is said to be undoubtedly saved.

A. Is there any such thing in the book ?

H. Yes, my lord, those are the words.

* Thii statement is incorrect. Mr. Cartwright did not begin the coatest; but Whitgift himself engaged first in the controversy.—See Art. Cartwright.

A. Let us see the book.

Hartwell. They are the last words of the rubric.

A. The meaning of the book is to exclude the popish opinion of confirmation, as if it were as necessary as baptism. Therefore, those who have been baptized have all outward things necessary to salvation, even without confirmcition.

H. The words may be taken in another sense, and, therefore, may not be subscribed without some deliberation.

Dean. I wonder you do not subscribe, seeing there is nothing in the second article which is not in the third, and you are willing to subscribe the third.

U. We have subscribed to the third already; and seeing all things contained in the second are contained in the third, we desire you to be satisfied with that subscription.

B. Not so.

Norden. How do your lordships understand these words, " Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office of a priest ?"

A. Not imperatively, but optatively; and this speech is much the same as that other, " I baptize thee," &c.

B. We cannot give the Holy Ghost.

B. Roches. Do you not think, that when we use these words, we do communicate something ?

U. I think not, my lord. For persons return from you no better furnished, than when they came unto you, if we may form our opinion from their practice.

A. We hope you are now resolved, and will now subscribe. You are unlearned, and only boys in comparison of us, who studied divinity before most of you were born.

U. We acknowledge our youth, my lord, and have no high opinion of our learning. Yet we hold ourselves sufficiently learned to know and teach Jesus Christ, as the way of salvation.

Hopk. If we subscribe under such interpretations, our subscription may become dangerous to us hereafter, when no interpretation may be allowed; therefore, we desire some protestation.

A. I will admit no protestation.

Dean. Come, Mr. Hopkinson, subscribe. My lord will favour you much, and help you against your adversaries.

Hopk. We must be better advised, Mr. Dean.

A. Go into the garden, or elsewhere, and consider of this matter, and return here again.

These divines having retired for some time, after consultation among themselves, they returned and consented to subscribe, on condition that their subscription should not be required to any thing against the word of God, or contrary to the analogy of faith ; and that it should not be extended to any thing not already contained in the Book of Common Prayer. Also, to avoid all cavilling, Mr. Underdown protested, that the book of consecration did not belong to them, and that they could not subscribe to it; yet he acknowledged the ministry of the church to be lawful. To these conditions the archbishop and bishops agreed; and the ministers accordingly subscribed. Afterwards, Mr. Underdown having requested that the cross in baptism might not be urged, the conversation was briefly renewed, as follows : A. You must use the cross, or the statute will reach you.

Hopk. Because it is intended as a significant sign, and is a new mystery in the church, we take it to be contrary to the second commandment.

A. Remember, it is required in the rubric.

N. It seemeth hard that the child must be asked whether it believe, and will be baptized.

A. The child is not asked, but the godfathers.

N. The godfathers and godmothers are several; therefore, if this were the meaning of the book, the number should be altered.

U. There are in our county many more of our brethren suspended for not subscribing. We beseech you that they may enjoy the same benefit, if they will subscribe as we have done.

A. I am content.

B. Roches. Are there any more who have refused ?
U. Yes, my lord; there are above twenty in all.
B. Are there so many in your county ?

German. There are some who have subscribed, and are

freatly troubled in mind for what they have done. What o you think they had best do ?

A. Let them come to me, and I hope to satisfy them.* In the conclusion of the above conference, Mr. Underdown and his brethren were dismissed, when they returned home; and December 11th, being assembled in open court at Lewes, they were publicly released from their suspensions, where the business ended.

• MS. Register, p. 401—406.