Tyndale’s Application of the Regulative Principle

Mark well how many parsonages or vicarages are there in the realm, which at the least have a plow-land a-piece. Then note the lands of bishops, abbots, priors, nuns, knights of St John’s, cathedral churches, colleges, chauntries, and free-chapels. For though the house fall in decay, and the ordinance of the founder be lost, yet will not they lose the lands. What cometh once in, may never more out. They make a free-chapel of it; so that he which enjoyeth it shall do nought therefore. Besides all this, how many chaplains do gentlemen find at their own cost, in their houses? How many sing for souls, by testaments? Then the proving of testaments, the prizing of goods, the bishop of Canterbury’s prerogative; is that not much through the realm in a year? Four offering days, and priuy tithes. There is no servant, but that he shall pay somewhat of his wages. None shall receive the body of Christ at Easter, be he never so poor a beggar, or never so young a lad or maid, but they must pay somewhat for it.

…What get they also by confessions? Yea, and many enjoin penance, to give a certain [sum] for to have so many masses said, and desire to provide a chaplain themselves; soul-masses, dirges, month-minds, year-minds, All-souls-day, and trentals. The mother church, and the high altar, must have somewhat in every testament. Offerings at priests’ first masses. Item, no man is professed, of whatsoever religion it be, but he must bring somewhat. The hallowing, or rather conjuring of churches, chapels, altars, super-altars, chalice, vestments, and bells. Then book, bell, candlestick, organs, chalice, vestments, copes, altar-cloths, surplices, towels, basins, ewers, ship, censer, and all manner ornament, must be found them freely; they will not give a mite thereunto. Last of all, what swarms of begging friars are there! The parson sheareth, the vicar shaveth, the parish priest polleth, the friar scrapeth, and the pardoner pareth; we lack but a butcher to pull off the skin.

William Tyndale | Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures. Originally published 1525. ed. Henry Walter (Cambridge: Parker Society , 1848), 236–238.


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3 comments

  1. Sorry to be a bit dense, but what is there in this list that would be acceptable under the Normative Principle and yet unacceptable under the Regulative Principle?

    • soul-masses, dirges, month-minds, year-minds, All-souls-day, and trentals. …priests’ first masses. Item, …The hallowing, or rather conjuring of churches, … altars, super-altars, chalice, vestments, and bells. Then book, bell, candlestick, organs, chalice, vestments, copes, altar-cloths, surplices, towels, basins, ewers, ship, censer,

  2. The earlier list is all idolatry, albeit in a slightly subtle form. I question whether everything in the latter list was condemned by Tyndale for their nature, rather than because of (1) who would and who wouldn’t be paying for these effects, and (2) the objects of the worship in which they were being employed. Did Tyndale comment on the church bells and organs, and clothing as worn by Luther and the Lutherans?

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