the summer of 1636 Panzani was in England on a mission from the pope, listening to those who, in their dislike of puritanism, brooded over the idea of a reunion of the churches of Rome and England. Laud correctly gauged the situation when he told the king that if 'he wished to go to Rome the pope would not stir a step to meet him;' but his clear-sightedness gained him no popular credit.
In 1636 Laud's preference for external power over spiritual influence received a curious illustration. On 6 March Charles made Juxon, the bishop of London, lord treasurer. 'No churchman,' Laud noted in his 'Diary,' 'had it since Henry VII's time. I pray God bless him to carry it so that the church may have honour and the king and the state service and contentment by it, and now if the church will not hold up themselves under God I can do no more' (Works, iii. 226). He could not see that the exercise of secular authority was in itself a source of weakness to the church. In his hands the church came to be regarded as an inflicter of penalties rather than a helper on the path of godliness and purity.
One side, though not the most important, of Laud's deficiency in this respect was afterwards set forth in Clarendon's 'History' (i. 196): 'He did court persons too little, nor cared to make his designs and purposes appear as candid as they were, by showing them in any other dress than their own natural beauty and roughness, and did not consider enough what men said or were like to say of him. If the faults and vices were fit to be looked into and discovered, let the persons be who they would that were guilty of them, they were sure to find no connivance of favour from him. He intended the discipline of the church should be felt as well as spoken of, and that it should be applied to the greatest and most splendid transgressors, as well as to the punishment of smaller offences and meaner offenders; and thereupon called for or cherished the discovery of those who were not careful to cover their own iniquities, thinking they were above the reach of other men or their power and will to chastise.'
On 21 June 1636 the privy council acknowledged Laud's claim to visit the universities. He prized the judgment as enabling him to override the opposition of Cambridge. At Oxford he had long been master, and on 22 June he sent down a body of statutes, which were cheerfully accepted by convocation. On 29 Aug. he appeared at Oxford to do honour to the king, who was then on a visit to the university, and on the 30th showed him over the Bodleian Library, and took him round St. John's.
Meanwhile puritans attacked him and his system with scurrilous bitterness. When, on 14 June 1637, three of them, Prynne, Burton, and Bastwick, were brought up for sentence in the Star-chamber, Laud seized the opportunity of delivering a speech, which is as instructive on his position as a disciplinarian as the conference with Fisher is on his views concerning doctrine (Works, vi. 36). In the course of his speech Laud referred bitterly to a book issued by Bishop Williams under the title of 'The Holy Table, Name and Thing,' in which a compromise in the dispute about the position of the communion table was recommended. Williams was at this time being prosecuted in the Star-chamber and high commission court for personal offences, and on 30 Aug., after he had been sentenced, Laud by the king's command offered him a bishopric in Wales or Ireland, on condition that, besides resigning the see of Lincoln and his other benefices, he would acknowledge himself guilty of the crimes imputed to him, and his error in publishing his book (Lambeth MSS. mxxx. fol. 68 b).
In spite of all that he was now doing, Laud was unable to understand why his maintenance of the strict severity of the law of the church should be interpreted as savouring of a tendency to be on good terms with Rome, and on 22 Oct., many conversions to Roman catholicism having been made through the agency of Con, who had recently succeeded Panzani as papal agent, he took the opportunity of complaining at the council of the favour shown to Roman catholics, and of asking that Walter Montagu, the Earl of Manchester's Roman catholic son, might be prosecuted before the court of high commission. By this Laud drew down on himself the displeasure of the queen. 'I doubt not,' he wrote to Wentworth, 'but I have enemies enough to make use of this. Indeed, my lord, I have a very hard task, and God, I beseech Him, make me good corn, for I am between two great factions, very like corn between two mill-stones' (Laud to Wentworth, 1 Nov., ib. vii. 378). He found the queen's influence too strong to be resisted. At his importunity, indeed, Charles consented to issue a proclamation threatening the Roman catholics with the penalties of the law; but when it appeared on 20 Dec. it was found that it had been so toned down as to be practically worthless.
At the same time Laud was not unmindful of the duty of encouraging those who undertook the church's defence by argument. He took an interest in the publication of Chillingworth's 'Religion of Protestants' towards the end of 1637, and though in the spring of 1638 he sent for John Hales [q.v.] of Eton