1. The Erastian Bondage of the Church:
The promise of Magna Charta “that the English Church shall be free and have her rights entire and her liberties inviolate,” went largely unfulfilled. The autonomy of the Church was dreamt of by men like Stephen Langton and Robert Grosseteste, but it was never realized. In the Middle Ages it was restricted by the assertion of the jurisdiction of the Pope on the one hand, and of the King on the other. Magna Charta marked the humiliation of the King and met with the prompt condemnation of the Pope. By a long series of events between ca. 1350 and ca. 1570, the Pope's cause in England was lost, and in the same course of events the royal power was greatly enhanced. So far as constitutional autonomy was concerned the Church was now in a weaker state than before. The gates of a prison-house of Erastianism closed about her. A blight fell upon her governing institutions. Her Convocations were not permitted to function, and after 1718 were discontinued, except for pro forma meetings held for the purpose, as Edmund Burke phrased it, “of making some polite ecclesiastical compliments to the King.” Burke spoke for the politicians of his century when he added: “It is wise to permit its legal existence only.” Because Convocation's last acts had been attended by strife, the fear that its revival would mean a renewal of unseemly contention was habitually invoked as an answer to the few who ventured to suggest that step.