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Hereditas Jacens Abey Ance

heresy, statute, elizabeth, writ, alive and burnt

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This word is the English form of the Greek Hadresis (ciptotc). It signifies literally' a choice,' and hence it came to denote an opinion on any subject ; and it was used to express a sect in philosophy. The word occurs in the New Testament, sometimes simply to denote a religious body, and sometimes as a term of reproach applied to the religious opi nions of persons which differed from the opinion of him who used the term. When ecclesiastical councils determined what was the orthodox or Catholic faith, then Christians who would not acknowledge the decisions of such councils were called Heretics, and their guilt was expressed by the term Heresy : those who reject Christianity altogether are infidels and unbelievers.

The fifth title of the first book of the Code of Justinian contains penalties against Heretics, Manichteans, and Sa maritans; which, in some cases, extended to death. Heretical books were ordered to be burnt. Before the Reformation in England heresy was the holding of opi nions contrary to the Catholic faith and the determination of Holy Church : at least this is the definition of heresy in the statute 2 Hen. IV. c. 15. The court in which a man could be convicted of heresy, according to the common law, was that of the archbishop in a provincial synod. After conviction the criminal was deli vered up to the king to do what he pleased with him. If the criminal had abjured his heresy and then relapsed, the king in council, upon a second conviction, might issue the writ De Haeretico combu rendo, upon which the criminal was burnt alive. One Sawtre, it is said, was the first man burnt alive for heresy in England, and the writ De Haeretico com burendo was formed in his case. But the statute 2 Hen. IV. c. 15, empowered the diocesan alone, without a synod, to com mit a man for heretical opinions, and to imprison him as long as he chose, or fine him ; or if he refused to abjure, or after abjuration relapsed, the sheriff, mayor, lir other officer, who should be present, if required, with the ordinary or his com mis;ary, when the sentence was pro nounced, was to take the convict and burn him openly, without waiting for the king's writ.

It is unnecessary to mention the sta tutes of Henry V III. relating to heresy. The Reformation was not fully established till the reign of Elizabeth, and the statute I Elizabeth, c. 1, declares that the persons to whom the queen or her successors shall give authority to judge of heresies shall not declare any matters to be heresies ex cept " such as heretofore hath been ad judged heresy by the authority of the canonical Scriptures, or by the first four general councils, or any of them, or by any other general council wherein the same was declared heresy by the express and plain words of the canonical Scrip tures, or such as shall hereafter be ad judged heresy by parliament with consent of the clergy in convocation." But there is no statute that determines what heresy is. After this statute of Elizabeth the proceedings in cases of heresy remained as they were at common law ; for this statute repealed all former statutes about heresy, which was accordingly punished, after the Reformation was fully established, by ecclesiastical censures, and by burning alive a criminal who had been convicted, in the manner above described, in a pro vincial synod. The writ for burning the heretic could not be demanded as a mat ter of right, but was left to the discretion of the crown ; and both Elizabeth and James the First, in their discretion,thought proper to grant the writ. Elizabeth, it is said, burnt alive two Anabaptists, and James burnt alive two Arians.

The statute of 29 Charles II. e. 9, abo lished the writ De Haeretico comburendo. Heresy is now left entirely to the eccle siastical courts ; and the punishment of death in consequence of any ecclesiastical censure was by that act abolished in England. As Elizabeth and James prac tically showed their approbation of burn ing heretics alive, so Lord Coke (3 Instit. c. 5) approves of the punishment.

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