The first primate after the queen's accession, was Parker; a man rigid in exacting conformity to the established worship, and in punishing, by fine or deprivation, all the puritanical clergymen, who attempted to innovate any thing in the habits, ceremonies, or liturgy of the church. He died in 1575; and was succeeded by Grindal, who, as he himself was inclined to the new sect, was with great difficulty brought to execute the laws against them, or to punish the nonconforming clergy. He declined obeying the queen's orders for the suppression of prophecyings, or the assemblies of the zealots in private houses, which, she apprehended, had become so many academies of fanaticism; and for this offence, she had, by an order of the Star Chamber, sequestered him from his archiepiscopal function, and confined him to his own house. Upon his death, which happened in 1583, she determined not to fall into the same error in her next choice; and she named Whitgift, a zealous churchman, who had already signalized his pen in controversy, and who, having in vain attempted to convince the puritans by argument, was now resolved to open their eyes by power, and by the execution of penal statutes. He informed the queen, that all the spiritual authority, lodged in the prelates, was insignificant without the sanction of the crown; and as there was no ecclesiastical commission at that time in force, he engaged her to issue a new one; more arbitrary than any of the former, and conveying more unlimited authority. She appointed forty-four commissioners, |twelve of whom were ecclesiastics; three commissioners made a quorum; the jurisdiction of the court extended over the whole kingdom, and over all orders of men; and every circumstance of its authority, and all its methods of proceeding, were contrary to the clearest principles of law and natural equity. The commissioners were empowered to visit and reform all errors, heresies, schisms, in a word to regulate all opinions as well as to punish all breach of uniformity in the exercise of public worship. They were directed to make enquiry, not only by the legal methods of juries and witnesses, but by all other means and ways, which they could devise; that is, by the rack, by torture, by inquisition, by imprisonment. Where they found reason to suspect any person, they might administer to him an oath, called ex Officio, by which he was bound to answer all questions, and might thereby be obliged to accuse himself or his most intimate friend. The fines, which they levied, were discretionary, and often occasioned the total ruin of the offender, contrary to the established laws of the kingdom. The imprisonment, to which they condemned any delinquent, was limited by no rule but their own pleasure. They assumed a power of imposing on the clergy what new articles of subscription, and consequently of faith, they thought proper. Though all other spiritual courts were subject, since the reformation, to inhibitions from the supreme courts of law, the ecclesiastical commissioners were exempted from that legal jurisdiction, and were liable to no controul. And the more to enlarge their authority, they were empowered to punish all incests, adulteries, fornications; all outrages, misbehaviours, and disorders in marriage: And the punishments, which they might inflict, were according to their wisdom, conscience, and discretion. In a word, this court was a real inquisition; attended with all the iniquities, as well as cruelties, inseparable from that tribunal. And as the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical court was destructive of all law, so its erection was deemed by many a mere usurpation of this imperious princess; and had no other foundation than a clause of a statute, restoring the supremacy to the crown, and empowering the sovereign to appoint commissioners for exercising that prerogative. But prerogative in general, especially the supremacy, was supposed in that age to involve powers, which no law, precedent, or reason could limit and determine.