To the most Christian and Excellent Prince, our gracious and dread Sovereign James, by the grace of God, etc. We, the ministers of the Church of England that desire reformation, wish a long, prosperous, and happy reign over us in this life, and in the next everlasting salvation.
Most gracious and dread Sovereign seeing it hath pleased the Divine Majesty, to the great comfort of all good Christians, to advance your Highness, according to your just title, to the peaceable government of this Church and commonwealth of England; we, the ministers of the Gospel in this land, neither as factious men affecting a popular parity in the Church, nor as schismatics aiming at the dissolution of the state ecclesiastical, but as the faithful servants of Christ and loyal subjects to your Majesty, desiring and longing for the redress of divers abuses of the Church, could do no less, in our obedience to God, service to your Majesty, love to his Church, than acquaint your princely Majesty with our particular griefs. For as your princely pen writeth, 'The King, as a good physician, must first know what peccant humours his patient naturally is most subject unto before he can begin his cure.' And although divers of us that sue for reformation have formerly, in respect of the times, subscribed to the Book, some upon protestation, some upon exposition given them, some with condition, rather than the Church should have been deprived of their labour and ministry; yet now we, to the number of more than a thousand, of your Majesty's subjects and ministers, all groaning as under a common burden of human rites and ceremonies, do with one joint consent humble ourselves at your Majesty's feet to be eased and relieved in this behalf. Our humble suit then unto your Majesty is, that of these offences following, some may be removed, some amended, some qualified:
I. In the Church Service. That the cross in baptism, interrogatories ministered to infants, confirmation, is superfluous, may be taken away: baptism not to be ministered by women, and so explained: the cap and surplice not urged: that examination may go before the communion: that it be ministered with a sermon: that divers terms of priests and absolution, and some other used, with the ring in marriage, and other such like in the Book, may be corrected: the lonesomeness of service abridged: church songs and music moderated to better edification: that the Lord's Day be not profaned, the rest upon holy-days not so strictly urged: that there may be an uniformity of doctrine prescribed: no Popish opinion to be any more taught or defended: no ministers charged to teach their people to bow at the name of Jesus: that the canonical Scriptures only be read in the church.
II. Concerning Church ministers. That none hereafter be admitted into the ministry but able and sufficient men, and those to preach diligently, and especially upon the Lord's Day: that such as be already entered and cannot preach, may either be removed and some charitable course taken with them for their relief or else to be forced, according to the value of their livings, to maintain preachers: that non-residency be not permitted: that King Edward's statute for the lawfulness of ministers' marriage be revived: that ministers be not urged to subscribe but, according to the law, to the Articles of Religion and the King's Supremacy only.
III. For Church livings and maintenance. That bishops leave their commendams, some holding prebends, some parsonages, some vicarages with their bishoprics: that double-beneficed men be not suffered to hold, some two, some three benefices with cure, and some two, three, or four dignities besides: that impropriations annexed to bishoprics and colleges be demised only to the preachers incumbents, for the old rent: that the impropriations of laymen's fees may be charged with a sixth or seventh part of the worth to the maintenance of the preaching minister.
IV. For Church Discipline. That the discipline and excommunication may be administered according to Christ's own institution; or, at the least, that enormities may be redressed: as namely, that excommunication come not forth under the name of lay persons, chancellors, officials, etc.; that men be not excommunicated for trifles and twelvepenny matters; that none be excommunicated without consent of his pastor; that the officers be not suffered to extort unreasonable fees; that none having jurisdiction or registers' places put out the same to farm; that divers Popish canons (as for restraint of marriage at certain times) be reversed; that the lonesomeness of suits in ecclesiastical courts, which hang sometimes two, three, four, five, six, or seven years, may be restrained; that the oath ex officio, whereby men are forced to accuse themselves, be more sparingly used; that licences for marriage without banns asked be more cautiously granted.
These, with such other abuses yet remaining and practised in the Church of England, we are able to shew not to be agreeable to the Scriptures, if it shall please your Highness farther to hear us, or more at large by writing to be informed, or by conference among the learned to be resolved. And yet we doubt not but that without any farther process, your Majesty, of whose Christian judgment we have received so good a taste already, is able of yourself to judge of the equity of this cause. God we trust hath appointed your Highness our physician to heal these diseases.
And we say with Mordecai to Esther, 'Who knoweth whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time?' Thus your majesty shall do that which we are persuaded shall be acceptable to God, honourable to your Majesty in all succeeding ages, profitable to his Church which shall be thereby increased; comfortable to your ministers which shall be no more suspended, silenced, disgraced, imprisoned for men's traditions; and prejudicial to none but to those that seek their own quiet, credit, and profit in the world. Thus with all dutiful submission referring ourselves to your Majesty's pleasure for your gracious answer as God shall direct you, we most humbly recommend your Highness to the Divine Majesty, whom we beseech for Christ's sake to dispose your royal heart to do herein what shall be to his glory, the good of his Church, and your endless comfort.
Majesty's most humble subjects the ministers of the Gospel, that desire
not a disorderly innovation but a due and godly reformation.