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Edward Brayne

Edward Brayne was a learned divine of Cambridge, and greatly harassed for refusing subscription to Whitgift's three articles, accounting them contrary to scripture and the dictates of his own conscience. Having received two canonical admonitions, he united with his brethren in the diocese of Ely, in writing the following peaceable letter to the archbishop, dated March 12, 1584 :—f* Whereas two canonical admonitions are already passed upon us, for refusing to subscribe to things, some of which we know not, and others we greatly doubt. We are, therefore, bold to offer our humble supplication unto you, as well as crave your lordship's favour that a longer space of time may be granted us, endeavouring and praying daily with our whole hearts for the peace of the church. Wherefore, if it shall please your lordship, we wish either to be freed from all subscription, excepting to her majesty's authority, and the articles of religion, as by law required, or to give us so long a time, that we may sufficiently consider the subject, and be persuaded that we ought to subscribe; or if, at length, we cannot subscribe, to submit ourselves to suffer punishment, for the peace of the church. In the mean time, we condemn not those who have subscribed, and we desire that they may not condemn us. Thus if it shall please Almighty God to move your lordship to have compassion on our troubled consciences, we shall praise God and manifest our thankfulness to you."*

It does not, however, appear that this letter had any good effect on the mind ana conduct of this severe prelate. His grace remained inflexible. Therefore, May 24, 1584, Mr. Brayne and his brethren presented a supplication to the lords of the council; in which they protest their aversion to popery, and their inviolable loyalty to the queen, having already sworn obedience to her authority, and subscribed the articles of religion, and were ready to do the same again, if required. That they abhorred all error, heresy, and schism, and made use of the Book of Common Prayer, and endeavoured both in doctrine and conversation, to maintain a conscience void of offence towards God and men. And that being commanded to subscribe to many things not required by law, they humbly crave their lordships to accept of the following reasons for their refusal, and to be a means of releasing them from the subscription required:

" Some things," say they, " appear to us repugnant to the word of God; as the allowance of an unlearned ministry, reading the apocrypha in the service of God, private baptism, and the government of the church. And to us many things appear very doubtful, some of which it is impossible for us to practice with a good conscience. Yet, as we judge not others in the practice of them; so we desire that we may not be judged by them, but left to our liberty in not subscribing. There are other things to the use of which we have subscribed, because they are tolerated for a time, and imposed upon us by the laws of the church ; yet we see not how they agree with the word of God, and cannot approve of them. But if we offend against any law of the church or statute, we humbly crave such favour and clemency as is not contrary to law; but if this cannot be obtained, we submit ourselves to the censures of the law, still avowing our peaceableness both in church and state.

" We, therefore, must humbly on our knees, beseech your honours, that we may be freed from the subscription now urged upon us; or have so much time allowed us to examine and consider the case, as your wisdoms shall think fit; or we must give up our places for the peace of the church. For we most humbly confess before God and the elect angels, that to subscribe as now required, we should act contrary to the doctrines of faith and repentance which we have taught among the people of our charge: We should subscribe to some things against our consciences, to many things with a doubtful conscience, and most of all with an ignorant conscience; from all such dealing the Lord ever preserve us. We commend to your wise consideration the indignity and reproach which is likely to be cast upon us and our ministry, being accounted disloyal and seditious against her majesty; but we much more commend to you our doubtful, fearful, and distressed consciences, and the miserable state of our poor and distressed people hungering after the word of life, who, when they are deprived of us, almost despair of having a learned and godly ministry. If they might have better than ourselves, wc should rejoice, and be much more content. We bless the Lord, that the people of our charges are free from heresies and seditions, and most of them from gross crimes, and all, so far as we know, are faithful subjects, and many of them are known and approved christians. But what may befall them when they are left as sheep without

a shepherd, we leave to your honoured wisdoms to judge.

H We have only to add our humble npology for now soliciting the favour of your honours. We have forborne applying to you as long as we possibly could, and perhaps till it is too late, as three canonical admonitions have already passed upon us, and our deprivation is threatened; which sentence, two of us have already tasted. We have used means by our right worshipful and some of her majesty's justices, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who have used their earnest suit for us with the archbishop, both by their letters and private conference; but hitherto to no purpose. Such dealing may seem favourable to them who treat us thus, but to us it seemeth very hard. Our release from this hard dealing by your kind favour, will provoke us to pray for your honours' present peace and prosperity, and that when you have done with all things here, you may receive the crown of glory."*

Notwithstanding this supplication, or their letter to the archbishop, in the month of July this year, Mr. Brayne was cited to appear before his grace and other high commissioners at Lambeth. Having attended several times according to appointment, and being required to take the oath ex officio, to answer the interrogatories of the court, he refused, unless he might first sec them, and write down his answers with his own hand. His grace refusing to grant him the favour, immediately gave his canonical admonitions, once, twice, thrice; and caused him to be registered for contempt, and suspended from his ministry. u But," says the good man, " God knowelh how far contempt was from my heart, and, I trust, my words and behaviour will witness the same."+ But guilty or not guilty, the tyrannical archbishop cut him off from all public usefulness in the church of God.

Mr. Brayne being silenced from his beloved work, wrote a very appropriate letter, dated July 6th, to the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, giving him an account of the hard treatment he had met with. In this letter, he earnestly solicited the treasurer's kind favour and interference; but whether it proved the means of procuring his restoration, appears extremely doubtful.t The treasurer, indeed, used his utmost endeavours. He applied to the archbishop, signifying his dissatisfaction with his lordship's urging ministers, by his method of examination, to accuse themselves; and then to punish them upon their own confessions. He further observed, " that he would not call his proceedings captious, but they were scarcely charitable. That he would not offend his grace; and was content that he and the Bishop of London, might use Mr. Brayne as their wisdoms should think fit. But when by examining him, it was only meant to sift him with twenty-four articles, he had cause to pity the poor man."* Such was the wisdom, the boldness, and the sympathy of this celebrated statesman; but his generous efforts appear to have been without effect. +

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