The Ordering of a Matter of Faith

From “Answer to a Speech Made by Lord Saye and Seale” (1641)

If it comes to a matter of faith, though in his absolute power the king may do what he will and answer to God for it after, yet the king cannot commit the ordering of a matter of faith to any lay assembly, parliament or otherwise. They may not determine that which God has entrusted to the hands of his priests. Though, if the king were to do this, the clergy must do their duty to inform him and help that dangerous error if they can. But if they cannot, they must suffer an unjust violence however it proceeds. But they may not break the duty of their allegiance… [the supremacy] does not give the king power to determine points of faith, either in parliament or out… or to give him power to make liturgies and public forms of prayer, or to preach and administer sacraments.

William Laud (1573-1645) was Archbishop of Canterbury during the turbulent final years of the reign of King Charles I. Laud was a strong advocate of episcopacy and ceremonial worship, and clashed repeatedly with the Puritans. His treatise “Answer to a Speech Made by Lord Saye and Seal” upheld the liturgy and the episcopacy after a bitter attack by the Puritan parliamentarian Nathaniel Fiennes, Lord Saye and Seal (1608-1669). After the English Civil War began, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and was executed by order of Parliament. He is commemorated on January 10 on the calendars of several Anglican churches. This adaptation is from Paul More and Frank Cross, eds, Anglicanism: The Thought and Practice of the Church of England (London: SPCK, 1962).


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