[Ed. Note: There are major historical issues, and schools of thought when attempting to place a "puritan" within the historical context of Elizabethan Settlement (1558-59) to the Restoration (1660). The events chronicled here must be view within the historical context of that period, not in 21st Century values. There are certain stereotyped images of the puritan that may need to be re-evaluated in the light of modern research.
This brief overview may at best only begin to scratch the surface of what are complex historical issues. Please remember that we are dealing with individuals, and an aggregate. The following is not being represented as a scholarly or comprehensive presentation of the puritan from the Elizabeth Settlement to the Restoration (1660), one hundred years of history may only be scanned at best.
There is always the potential for over-simplification of complex issues here. We also must deal with the perceptions of both pro and con arguments from available historical data not just what we want to find to support a particular point of view. We need to be aware of the potential for over confident generalizations between theory and fact, "A view through a glass darkly". The puritan was only one cast member on a rather large stage of players during this period.
Historians have discussed the puritan from the mid- sixteenth century to the modern day. A number of theories have been advanced to place the puritan within its historical context. During the 1970's and 1980's a new revisionist group of historian has questioned many of the older theories using new research methods using new data. Their research has included many new areas including social history in an effort to better understand the historical context of the period. Current research and writings continue to cast new light on the period and the individuals both big and small including new cast members.
There are many issues dealing with the puritan and society that cannot be addressed here. Religion and politics were still a volatile combination. The presentation here may be of assistance in identifying some of the major sign posts along the way.
One of the major issues is the status of society during the reigns of King James I and his son King Charles I. Some might see a ongoing conflict between the Crown, the Church and the puritan. Others might see a broad and tolerant Church of moderate evangelical Calvinist bishops reacting against the rise of a more "radical" traditional and conservative liturgical reforms. Each group would gradually see the other as a faction working against the godly work of the other. These are only two areas of continuing research.
These are a number of rather board theories with many supporters and critics of each point of view which are beyond the scope of this presentation. Both of the above theories have helped to color the position of the puritan in that society over the past thirty years. There are other historical theories and views that cannot be fully discussed here.
Please consult the Puritan Bibliography below, and the General Bibliography for additional sources. Please consult the contemporary works of the following scholars as a starting point for additional readings and research: Collinson, Fincham, Lake, Morrill, Sharpe, Tyacke, White, etc.]
The word "puritan" came into usage according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) about 1556 during the middle of the reign of Queen Mary I. The word was originally used as a form of literary criticism applied by Catholic writers to their fellow writers who argued rather narrow points of criticism.
Many English protestants were dissatisfied with the Elizabethan Settlement (1558-59). Many individuals desired additional changes in the Elizabethan Settlement in matters liturgical and ceremonial especially with regards to its lingering catholic traditions. Marian protestants exiles returning from post-Reformation Europe also brought their recent religious experiences, and expressed their own desires for religious reforms.
Some have referred to the Elizabethan Church as "the Catholic and Reformed Church of England". Some may have preferred more of the latter and less of the former. There was general support for both positions within the Church.
During the early part of Queen Elizabeth's reign ca. 1564, the term "puritan" was taking on a new meaning. There was an ongoing dispute over the use of vestments in the Elizabethan Church including the surplice, a white linen vestment wore over the cassock. Many clergy used these vestments for the Eucharist and Morning Prayer services. Many reformed protestants had recommending simpler vestments rather than the more traditional vestments that were used in the Edwardian Church that is to say catholic.
Thomas Stapleton, a Catholic in exile, is sometimes credited as a possible source for the the term puritan in 1565. Stapleton used the term "puritan" as a general designation for all protestants. This usage did not catch on in conventional language.
Some Anabaptist in London during the late 1560's would refer to themselves as "puritans", the unspotted Lambs of the Lord. References like these only help to confuse the issue and the popularity of the term itself.
The term would gradually come to be applied to certain voices of dissent within the Elizabethan Church that questioned aspects of the Elizabethan Settlement. The term may have been used initially as a generic form of ridicule against dissenters in general rather than directed towards specific individuals or a group of reformers.
The early usage puritan gradually came to be applied to a certain tenor among these early reformers. The English puritan was not a member of an organized religious sect. In the main they were the loyal communicants of the Elizabethan Church expressing their opinions and voicing their concerns regarding certain desired reforms in the existing rites of the Book of Common Prayer, and the existing Church administration.
Who or what constituted a "puritan" is still vague at best and is at the heart of the issue. The differences between a protestant and a puritan of the period may be difficult to accomplish. Both may hold many of the same religious values and concerns in common. For some of these early puritans there were certain areas that were not open for interpretation in their vision of the true faith.
Various religious and ethical values have been applied to individuals referred to as puritans during this period. Specific values may not nor need not be applied equally to all individuals called "puritans". Historically the term has had many different interpretations at different levels.
Those referred to as puritans would probably not refer to themselves with the term puritans. They would more than likely have referred to themselves as: godly, professors, or the elect.
Historians as early as the 1580's have suggested that the word "puritan" should be removed from the English dictionary. Thomas Fuller in his work: The Church History of Britain (1655) wanted to banish the word. The only real consensus regarding the use of the term is no consensus. The use of "Puritan" as a collective noun has been argued against by some modern historians.
Some have used the term "religious culture" to describe a certain puritan view of the world. Others have suggested that the puritan may have had a vision of the "New Jerusalem", or the "Shining City on a Hill" for their fellow Man. And some have suggested a "clearer insight into the revealed will of God ... to maintain the true church and true faith". Puritans as with most protestants exhibited a broad spectrum of opinions and values, some may have been more focused than others in those values.
The puritan community was not relegated solely to England during the seventeenth century. Scotland had its own puritan community and traditions. Scottish puritans held others underlying values different from their English brothers in many ways.
Many English puritans migrated to the New World and the American Colonies seeking more religious freedom during the 1600's. Puritan values in the American Colonies need not necessarily mirror those at home in England during the same period, six thousand miles of ocean has been known to influence attitudes. The Church of England was not a major factor in the early American colonies development.
A very qualified attempt at a rather broad definition of a puritan: "a member of the Church of England who questioned the progress and rate of internal reform after the Elizabethan Settlement (1558-59). [Editor: This is only suggested as a starting point for additional discussion]. Others individuals of this period within and without the Church of England might also agree with the above qualified definition for themselves. Any attempt at a definition is controversial at best.
Two rather broad groups within the puritan community may be identified: 1) those who were seeking to reform the Church of England from within as a post-Reformation Church; and, 2) those who sought to change the structure of the Church of England for another reformed church model. There could be wide variations within and between these two broad groups on political, social and religious issues.
The former were generally considered more moderate in their approach. Many were willing to work within the boundaries of the existing English Church and its authority for a greater ultimate good. Many sought to extend their own godly view based on the Word of God, and to apply it to all aspects of daily life of their fellow Man. Some felt duty bound to point out the "true faith" against the mere shadow of the true church.
The Moderate Puritan has been identified as a recognized segment within the puritan community. These often came from the wealthy growing middle-classes. These puritans were often dedicated Calvinists, who were reluctant to lend their support to the more radical views and reforms voiced by other. The "moral life" was embodied in the religious views.
Some historians have applied the modern designation of "Conformist" to those clergy willing to keep the peace and work within the system as a goal towards evangelizing the English Church. Many clergy with puritan leanings may be included within this broad designation.
The latter group have been characterized as being more radical in their rhetoric and their desire for change. The general term "presbyterian" is often applied to these individuals. These individuals also desired to change the current English Church for a new national church structure not based on Roman traditions and organization. As with the puritan, there were many different points of view and different levels of enthusiasm.
Many presbyterians were looking for some type of reformed national church system. Examples along the lines of the Geneva Church under John Calvin, or the Scottish Presbyterian Church were suggested. Uniformity of opinion on a single form of presbyterianism is hard to identify. Many puritans after 1640 would come to support a non-episcopal church structure in theory.
There is a third category the so-called Separatists, also known as "radical puritans" or "disillusioned puritans" who developed during the 1580's. These individuals would separated themselves from the body of the Church of England and its sacraments, or they had failed to comply with existing Church statutes.
Many of these early groups such as Brownists, and Barrowists opted for independent congregations in control of their own ministers. Some historians have problems fitting in the Separatist with the general puritans, or the Conformist, Presbyterian or as part of a related group within a broader puritan family. [ Ed. Note: See English Dissenters Index.]
Calvinism was a major protestant theology of post-Reformation Europe. It was based on John Calvin's the work The Institution of Christian Religion which was translated into English from the Latin. Calvinism was a rather broad theology with many schools of interpretation. Protestants included both Calvinists, puritans, and others. The Lutheran churches were considered outside the Reformed Church communion and tradition.
The Reformed Church was also shorthand for Calvinism. Calvinism would have a major impact on the English Church, and many puritans in the area of evangelism towards their fellow Man. Many of the Marian Exiles found a temporary home in Geneva, Switzerland with John Calvin; and John Knox (1513?-72), Scottish reformer. It was possible to be a puritan in Elizabethan England without being a Calvinist. There was also a calvinist congregation active in Frankfurt, Germany, another popular home for many Marian Exiles.
A major tenet of Calvinism is predestinarianism. Very simply put, God had predestined or pre-elected a certain godly community that would be saved by His grace, and an ungodly community that would not. Only God would know the Elect. There are a number of schools on predestinarianism within Calvinism.
Two forms of predestinarianism were broadly advocated in England Calvinism: Credal and Experimental. The former group did not place an emphasis or distinction between the godly election and the ungodly in the broad Christian Church. The latter group generally sought to demonstrate the importance of godly election with pious activity and behaviour to the world, and to help the ungodly turn to God by example. Many of this latter group considered themselves the Elect of God.
English Calvinism was a unique blend of traditional Calvinism and other English traditional values. Non-puritans might be associated with Credal Predestination, whereas the puritan might be more predisposed to Experimental Predestination. These were issues not considered appropriate for discussion by the laity. These were considered to be academic and theological issues to be discussed only within the English Church.
The Bible as the true Word of God was the focal point for most Protestants of the period. Many protestants might argue that the values embodied in the Holy Bible should become the standard against which all aspect of daily life should be judged. Unfortunately not everyone might agree on what was the "proper interpretation", this was the crux of the Reformation.
Many puritans held a fervent desire that all should follow their godly example toward a true community of the elect here on Earth. Their godly example were often based on what was contained in the Word of God. The Bible was a blueprint for true faith and a godly life for all to follow. The indwelling of the "Spirit" was a true sign of the Elect for many puritans.
Many protestants fervently believed that they were the Elect of God, and had a duty to reform the sinful nature of the wordily Man. Religious fervor and values of the sixteenth and seventeenth century English Church may not carry the same weight or imply the same connotations to a modern reader of the 21st Century.
The difference between a puritan and another protestant of the period may only be the intensity of their zeal of their opinion or their faith. Small differences of belief were often enough to cause divisions and distrust within groups and between individuals. Some have criticized the puritan for a lack of tolerance towards others with whom they might disagree. Some puritans might see issues in black and white for those who followed the Word, and for those that did not. There was a large range of views and values within the English Church, and the puritan community.
Puritans were literate and educated individuals often with college educations, or university degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. Many puritan clergy considered the Church as a true vocation, and as a potential forum for education, and broadcasting their own religious values. Puritans wanted their own ministers who would teach the faith and preach the Word of God, rather than the religious clergy that celebrated the "holy mysteries".
Puritans were represented in the new growing middle class of merchants, professional men, businessmen, many were prosperous farmers, and land owners. A growing number of the gentry and the peerage might have puritan leanings or were themselves puritans.
The puritan was only one voice among many trying to influence the religious, political, and social aspects of the Elizabethan Commonwealth. Large numbers of protestants populated the country. The puritan did not have a large nationwide presence among the population, actual numbers are hard to come by. Many areas of the nation sometimes referred to as "dark lands" were among the traditional Catholic areas of the country. What the puritan may have lacked in numbers was more than made up for in terms of their vigor, and their political influence in Parliament or at Court.
Other protestants of the period were also seeking their own religious and political values and a vision of a new and enlightened Society which might come into conflict with some puritan values. Many puritans and non-puritans might share many common basic values with each other, and still find areas of intense disagreement.
From 1640 to 1660, puritans would also compete with the many new religious and political sects such as the: Quakers, Baptists, Ranters, Levellers, Fifth Monarchy Men [Ed. Note: See English Dissenters Index.]. A number of these sects did not survive the Restoration (1660). Puritans survived the Restoration (1660) but the more radical elements gradually disappeared from England after 1660.
Modern historical criticism regarding puritans has often been criticized as being colored by which side of the Atlantic it was written. American writers have been characterized as being overly sentimental in their view of the puritan based on the early puritan settlements which later became the United States of America.
Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
Queen Elizabeth spent most of her long reign building the English Nation, and keeping it safe from without. There was a great revival of the Arts during her reign. Her basic religious policy was keeping the Church and its bishops strong and to keep the dissents and nonconformity under control. She was not afraid to use her authority when necessary. The impact of the early puritans on the Elizabethan Church has been questioned. The Queen's constant suspicion and her constant desire for control unfortunately colored her reign.
Elizabethan Settlement (1558-59)
[Ed. Note: The Elizabethan Settlement is a major historical question that is outside the scope of this review.].
The Elizabethan Settlement (1558-59) was a major compromise instituted by the Queen between opposing religious and political points of view within her own Court, the Church of England, the wealthy land owners and conservative peers. There was a large well defined Catholic community, and a developing protestant community.
The Queen needed to forge a middle course acceptable to these various groups on political and religious values. And there was the matters of State and foreign relations with France and Spain both powerful catholic nations to be taken into consideration.
Some have used the term "normalcy" to describe the desired goal of the Elizabethan Church. The Queen wanted to establish a basic fabric of continuity of religion that the majority of the population would find comforting and acceptable to them. A standard would be established for all to follow and to comply. Those who did not would be controlled.
The Act of Supremacy (1559) was a revision of the earlier Henrician dictum that the Monarch was now the "only supreme governor of this realm", and that the Queen was responsible for "the welfare of the Church". An oath of obedience to the Crown in things temporal and religious was required by clergy and public officials.
The Act of Uniformity (1559) repealed the previous Marian Act of Uniformity. The new Act re-applied the standards of the forms of worship under Henry VIII. The Edwardian Act of 1552 and the liturgical standards and rites under the revised Book of Common Prayer (1552) were re-applied to the new Church of England.
The Book of Common Prayer (1559) would become the only approved manual for all religious services and rites. Much of the earlier Edwardian Church legacy was incorporated into the new revised Prayer Book as a familiar format between catholic and reformed theology. "In an orderly and decent manner" would become the standard. Many reformed protestants had strong objections to any rites and ceremonies based on the theological traditions of the Church of Rome. Many envisioned a post-Reformation Church and theology.
Noncompliance to the new Church statutes by laity or clergy alike would bring reprisals, fines, jail, and or prison. The Crown had the will and the resources to keep the dissidents, and nonconformity in check, or would force them to find other sanctuaries. Both catholic and protestant alike were policed equally for compliance to the new laws. All would comply or face the consequences of their actions.
The following would become reoccurring issues of concern for many reformed protestants including puritans: 1)the separation from the corrupting nature of the Roman Church, and its traditions; 2) progress towards a more Reformed Church and theology; 3) simplified forms of worship; 4) an emphasis on the literal Bible, and preaching; 5) proper observance of the Sabbath; 6) an emphasis on the simpler virtues of life. Some of these same issues could be raised by other non-puritans.
Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury 1559-1575
The period after the Elizabethan Settlement (1558-59) saw the beginnings of grumbling among many English protestants. Many had anticipated additional reforms and changes in the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth was not anticipating any additional changes just conformity with Elizabethan Settlement and its statutes. Archbishop Parker was a firm supporter of the Queen's goals, and may not have been a Calvinist.
Liturgical vestments were introduced into the Church in 1559 based on earlier Edwardian traditions. Many of the English laity considered the clerical vestments worn in and out of Church to be too catholic in tradition, and appearance.
The Vestiarian Controversy of the 1560's became a growing concern for many in the Church. The issue of liturgical and domestic vestments had already been debated in protestant Europe without resolution. Many reformed clergy in Europe adopted forms of vestments of a simpler style than in England. Other Protestant traditions keep many of the traditional vestments.
The Vestiarian Controversy of the 1560's within the Church of England may have been one of the initial issues that helped to raise a general level of conscience among the protestant laity that formed the basis for the new label known as "puritan" ca. 1564. Who exactly were these initial voices is still uncertain, but the label stuck and its usage continued, and expanded.
Some issues of disagreement between the Church and the laity were referred to as adiaphorastic , or "in their own nature indifferent". Issues were argued based on their lack of biblical authority. If something was not mentioned as necessary in the Holy Bible, its value and authority would be called into question. Rather than being ignored as "indifferent" some sought to use the negative argument as a positive vehicle to remove offending items which they found contrary to their own values or belief.
Some of these adiaphorastic areas might included: clerical dress and vestments; kneeling for prayer or communion; the use of the sign of the cross; use of the baptismal font; the use of altar rails; the placement of and the composition of an altar (or Holy Table); the use of the organ and of non-congregational singing.
Many of these areas reflected a bias against catholic tradition that was found objectionable among many post-Reformation protestants including the puritan. The Elizabethan Convocation of 1563, a conference of Church officials, had come close to resolving a number of these issues but it produced no lasting resolution.
Some of the offending adiaphorastic areas being voiced by some within the Church of England were already in practiced in Protestant congregations and churches in Europe. Some of these same practices allowed in Europe were still considered offensive by many in the puritan community. European reformed clergy often criticized their English puritan brothers for not being more tolerant, and for being too narrow in their views, some puritans took exceptions to these comments.
In the early 1560's there was a growing concern within the Church of unregulated and inappropriate preaching. The local bishop controlled access to the parish pulpit, and the issuance of the required preaching licenses. The Queen for her part was just as concerned about unregulated or unauthorized preaching of potentially unfavorable opinions concerning the Crown or the Church at large. Parish preaching was well regulated, or reduced to the reading of written authorized homilies.
Lectureships was employed to circumvent these issues. Non-Church groups such as parishes, individuals, or towns might employ individuals to preach after Church services, or during the week to spread the Word of God and puritan values. Since these were not official church activities, they did not fall under church statutes. The practice continued into the 1570's.
Thirty-Nine Articles (1563)
The Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) were formulated under Archbishop Parker according to the directives of Queen Elizabeth. They were an attempt to summarize various doctrinal formulae in rather broad and often ambiguous language. The Articles were only issued officially until 1571 after the Queen had been excommunicated by Rome.
The Articles were not being put forth as formal Church doctrines, but rather as a mixture of catholic and the reformed protestant theology that might be referred to for insight. The Queen wanted the Articles to be intentionally vague and to cause uncertainty among certain groups within the Church. Additional articles on the Sovereign and civil powers were added for the nonconformists. The clergy were required to subscribe to these articles. There were many cries of protests from many on the protestant right.
Thomas Cartwright at Cambridge University 1569-1571
During 1569-1571, Cambridge University
became the focal point of theological controversy. A form of neo-Calvinism
was being lectured on by
Thomas Cartwright and others lectured on the history of the New Testament Church from the Acts of the Apostles. Their thesis was that the New Testament churches had been organized at the congregational level. Cartwright was advocating that the true church administration and structure should be based on a model similar to John Calvin's Church in Geneva (Switzerland) which is what most presbyterians would probably endorse.
Professor Cartwright was deprived of his fellowship in 1571, and left the University. He made his way to Geneva, Switzerland. He returned to England a few years later. The impact of these lectures on presbyterianism and Separatism in England has been argued by historians.
Prophesyings were educational and instructional meetings where preaching techniques were taught and discussed. Prophesyings were supported in practice by the Church. Many local bishops saw the long term benefits of training qualified preachers and supported the practice. Many see Prophesying as growing out of the earlier influences of the Lectureships and there desire to educate.
Puritan and non-puritan clergy might attend periodic public gatherings to study and expound on the Scriptures. They provided a form of "religious education" for the laity. Even when supported by local bishops these meetings became a source of concern for Queen Elizabeth as potential sources of unregulated doctrine and spreading political controversy outside of her control.
The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Day (August 1572) saw the massacre of some 5,000 to 10,000 French Huguenots (Protestants) in France. The event had a major impact on Protestant Europe and in the English Church.
Admonition Controversy 1572-75
The period from 1566-1572 was a period of growing discontent over the Book of Common Prayer (1559) with its catholic traditions. There were no provisions in the Prayer Book for any non-standard or local practices at the parish level. Many parishes began to request the use of non-standardized rites and ceremonies from their bishops. Some congregations even sought to take local control at the parish level.
There was an underlying criticism of the authority of the bishops and the structure of the Church. Attempts for changes were attempted, the Queen saw to their failure. Many were beginning to feel that attempts at internal reforms within the Church structure were mute, and that change was only possible if the power structure changed too. Many now looked to the House of Commons as a new venue for potential changes.
In 1570, Queen Elizabeth was excommunicated by the Pope. A number of prominent reformed protestants and puritans broached the Queen for new moderate Church reforms hoping that politics would not now be an issue for the Queen on Church reforms to the Elizabethan Settlement. The Articles of Religion (1563) were now issued officially in 1571 to cries of protests.
The Alphabet Bills (1572) introduced in Parliament were supported by the Church administration to help redress certain issues with local clergy. Pro-puritan MP's yoked certain radical sections into the legislation that would have permitted changes to the Book of Common Prayer(1559) and the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth had the Bill vetoed in the House of Commons for trying to legislate religious policy.
What became known as the Admonition Controversy was an important discussions on reforms that were being requested by puritans and those with similar leanings. The writings that came out of this discussion would help outline the first general statements of puritan theology for many years.
Important puritan writers such as Thomas Cartwight carried on extended conversations with Church officials such as Archbishop Whitgift. The controversy started with two companion pieces written by John Wilcox and John Field in 1572.
There was a general criticism against Field's work. His work was criticized by many well known puritans.
The Second Admonition to the Parliament (1572) has been ascribed to Thomas Cartwright, a noted puritan theologian. It was a basic defense of the earlier work by Wilson. A warrant was soon issued for Cartwright who promptly left the country.
Archbishop Whitgift (1530?-1604) answered Cartwright in, An answere to a certen libel entituled an admonition to the Parliament (1572). Penned by the Archbishop, he supported the authority and traditions of the Church, and its bishops. Whitgift included his own theological support for Credal Predestination in the English Church which was contrary to the general puritan position. He followed this up with: The Defense of the aunswere to the admonition, against the replie of T.C. (1574).
Cartwright carried on a running conversation on the topic until 1577: A reply to answere made M Dr Whitgift agayste the Admonition to Parliament (1574); The second replie to T. C. against Master Doctor Whitgift's second answer, touching the church discipline (1575); The rest of the second replie ... (1577).
The first general statement of puritan beliefs and doctrines came out of the extended exchange. These statements became the central core of puritan concerns for the next generation.
Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury 1576-83
In 1576 Grindal as Archbishop was instructed by the Queen to shut down a number of Prophesyings meetings, and to discourage preaching. Being in sympathy with their cause, Grindal was unwilling to comply with the Queens initial instructions. Other bishops and clergy were also divided in their own opinions on the matter. Grindal recommended placing the Prophesyings under the authority of the Church, but this was rejected.
In a famous Letter (20 Dec. 1576), Grindal rather undiplomatically expressed his own opinions on the matter to the Queen, and suggested that she might respect the authority of her bishops in religious matters, she was not pleased. From 1577-1583, most of Grindal's authority was rescinded by the Queen. Unable to replace Grindal as Archbishop, he became a lame duck. Agents for the Queens finished shutting down the remaining Prophesyings in 1577. Grindal became blind in his last years of his life. Some have suggested that Grindal appointment to the See of Canterbury might have been considered as an unfortunate mistake at Court.
John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury 1583-1604
John Whitgift (1530?-1604) was a moderate Calvinist. He had spoken out against Thomas Cartwright, as Lady Margaret Professor at Cambridge, a position which Whitgift had held in 1563. Whitgift was Dean of Lincoln (1571), and Bishop of Worcester (1577), and Archbishop of Canterbury (1583-1604).
Whitgift unlike this predecessor Archbishop Grindal (1576-83), was outspoken in his anti-puritan views and his support of Queen Elizabeth. Whitgift was not one to look the other way, or to give a little slack in the enforcement of statutes especially with regards to puritans.
Whitgift introduced his Six Articles of 1583 to all clergy in his dioceses. Some three hundred clergy were suspended for their failure to fully subscribe, but most were later re-instated by outside pressures from the Privy Council. Uniformity and authority were major issues of concern for Archbishop Whitgift especially for any suspected of nonconformity be they catholic or puritan.
The 1580's saw the rise of the English Separatist. Among the early groups were the Brownists and the Barrowist. The Church had agents activity sought out foreign sects and nonconformity where they could find it, now they were seeking out domestic nonconformity. Some of these new English sects went underground while others left England for the religious freedom and safety of Europe. Holland was an especially popular destination for its religious tolerance under the Dutch Reformed Church. Many English sects could find pre-existing brethren already residing in safety in Holland.
Whitgift was diligent in his pursuit of dissidents wherever they could be found. He was known for hunting down the noted English Separatists: Henry Barrow (1550?-1593), John Greenwood (d. 1593), and John Penry (1559-1593). All noted Barrowists, they were martyred in 1593 on charges of seditious writings and stirring up rebellion. They all pleaded innocent to the charge of "intent" in the statutes. There were allegations of illegal procedures used by the Church authorities in the pursuit of these own ends. Both Barrow and Penry were alledged to have been possible authors of the notorious Marprelate Tracts. [Ed. Note: See English Dissenters:Barrowist for more details.]
Classical Movement 1580-90
The Classical Movement (1580-1590) was an administrative form of presbyterianism that was organized in secret within the Church of England. Puritan ministers set up local chapter to express their concerns on various religious matters. These were than report to a larger city or county chapters, and ultimately to some type of national council.
By 1580 the organization was already operational, John Field, radical puritan, was one of its leaders. The organization collapsed in 1591 based on information gathered from links with the Marprelate Tracts (1587-89) publication to those clergy that were involved with the Classical Movement.
The extent of the operations and its impact on puritans or presbyterianism in England is hard to judge since we know little of what they did. Some have suggested it may have accomplished more in the minds of the government that it did in deed. The institution may have even helped the discussion of issues within the puritan community rather than create controversy.
The ring leaders including Thomas Cartwright were arrested in 1591. They were questioned by the Star Chamber, which was usually reserved for traitors. Cartwright was freed in 1592.
Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603) and some other Presbyterian supporters were discredited over a incident about a certain individual, a Mr. William Hackett (d. 1591), whom they had declared to be the Messiah. Presbyterianism in England was at a low ebb.
The abortive Classical Movement (1580-90) had failed to establish a meaningful structure within the Church of England. The actual numbers of clergy holding pro-presbyterian views were relatively small during this period. The laity were the active voices of reform and change within the Church, not its clergy. Many lay puritans deciding to turn their attentions to a new and larger arena outside the control of the Church to Parliament itself.
The Parliamentary Elections of 1584 were targeted by John Fields and other puritans as a test case to influence the election of pro-puritan and presbyterian members for the House of Commons. The results fell short of their hoped for expectations. Attempts were made again in the 1586-87 Elections which did see an increase in pro-puritan members, but not presbyterian.
A Bill was introduced in Parliament in 1584 to establish a national presbyterian church system in England by Dr. Peter Turner, MP, which failed. A Bill was introduced in Parliament in February 1587 by Anthony Cope, MP to replace the Book of Common Prayer with the Genevan Prayer Book, and a presbyterian church administration was vetoed. Members of the House of Commons might listen to complaints against the Church, but it was not a friend of presbyterianism during this period.
Church Discipline (1587) a scholarly treatise on presbyterianism by Walter Travers. Travers sought to produce the final word on presbyterianism. Unfortunately the work failed to set any standards or resolve all of the issues. It only created more tensions and raised more questions than producing any real answers or forming any real consensus of opinion within the English presbyterian community.
Support for presbyterianism had begun decline in Parliament in the late 1580's. By 1590 a number of the important protestant
patrons at Court had died:
Marprelate Tracts 1587-89
During 1587-1589, seven religious tracts were written under the pseudonym of Martin Marprelate attacking the institution of the Church of England and its clergy. These pro-puritan tracts criticized the conditions in the Church of England and its clergy from their perspectives, and were not above a certain amount of satire for good measure. Rather than generating the desired public support, the tracts only seemed to enflame the general public sentiment against the tracts and its puritan rhetoric. Not all puritans supported the tenor of the tracts but many might agree with the underlying issues addressed although poorly formed.
The Church and Crown made it a high priority in finding the unknown author(s) of these works and tracking them down. A number of possible suspects authors were questioned including
Richard Hooker's major work Of the Law of Ecclestical Policy (1593) was a major defense of the Elizabethan Settlement. It supported an historical legacy of the Church of England as a product of its liturgy, episcopal structure and traditions. The work contributed to the theological basis for what would later be more commonly referred to as Anglican theology. Archbishop Bancroft (1604-10) openly supported its basic message against puritanism and Calvinism. This work would again impact another Archbishop William Laud some thirty years later.
King James I (1603-1625)
With the death of Queen Elizabeth, the House of Stuart was confirmed as the successors to the House of Tudor. Under James I of England or James the Fourth of Scotland both Scotland and England were now united under a single monarch.
Many of the same general policies enacted under Elizabeth I were to be continued in place. The authority of the Crown and compliance to the authority of the Jacobean Church were key elements of policy for the new King.
Radicals and nonconformists within the State would continue conform. "In an orderly and decent manner" were still valid. Conformity with the rites of the Book of Common Prayer (1559) and subscription to the Thirty Nine Articles were still the norms to be followed. The King could be tolerant but he sought uniformity and order wherever possible. King James may have enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the English Court, and the support of the Church of England.
King James I pursued two basic religious programs during his reign to: 1) maintain the ceremonial conformity of the Book of Common Prayer; and, 2) to reduce the radical elements in society, the puritans (i.e. Presbyterianism) and catholics. To a certain extend the King James was successful in his goals.
The King saw himself in the role as a champion of Protestantism in Europe. He hoped to facilitate moderate views among the warring factions and monarchs of Europe. His good intentions aside, the King had little tangible success in these efforts. The successes of his reign are open to criticism.
The Millenary Petition 1603
The Millenary Petition (1603), signed by one thousand English clergy, was a list of puritan reforms assembled by
Hampton Court Conference (1604)
The Hampton Court Conference (1604) was called on 14 January 1604 to discussed the Millenary Petition (1603) presented to the King. A delegation of puritan representatives and Church divines met to discussed their positions before the new King. The King had come to listen to the puritan positions, and may have been favorable to some concessions. The King was an active participant in the discussions and was well versed on the theological and political issues.
Many of the Church divines including the elderly Archbishop Whitgift were not well disposed to the puritan cause and generally argued against their positions which might have impacted their own authority. Some in the puritan delegation presented reasonable arguments for changes that were not too radical, and while others unfortunately make unrealistic demands on church authority and presumed on the authority of the King.
Some members of the puritan delegation were predisposed to the general opinion that the new King having come from Presbyterian Scotland would accept many of the same policies already in place in Scotland. The King's concerns with his own Scottish Presbyterians, only helped to heighten his own personal concerns of what some of these English puritans might want later. In the end, the King chose to maintain the status quo.
The King was very wary of a national Church of England not under the control of the Crown. "No Bishops, No King" was the Kings' mantra. The monarchy and the episcopacy were still necessary for true religion and the punishment of sin.
Among the few concessions granted by the King at the Hampton Court Conference was the requested commission of a new English translation of the Bible. The Authorized Version (1611), the jewel of the English language, or later known as the King James Version of the Bible, is one of the great achievements of the English Language. The puritans for their part wanted a new English translation of the Bible to read and study.
Even catholics were approached for inclusion by the new King. The Treaty of London (1604) ushered in a new peace with Spain. The King needed to keep the English catholics close and to keep them happy.
Canons of 1604
Following the Hampton Court Conference (1604),
the Church issued The Book of Canons, or more commonly referred to as the Canons of 1604. The Canons of 1604 were compiled in Latin by than
The Canons of 1604 became a code of conduct for all clergy to follow on Church policies and practices including Divine Services and the sacraments. Some of the statutes and procedures were directed at the rising tide of puritan nonconformity, and a desire to conform with the policies of the past. Even Archbishop Whitgift's Three Articles (1583) were added to the Canon.
Cries of protest came from many in the protestants community including puritans. Some two hundred clergy would finally refuse to subscribe to the new statues. A number of churchmen left the Church rather than following the 1604 Canons subscriptions on conscience. Many of these rejected clergymen would become quite prominent individuals in the growing Separatist movement in England.
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury 1604-1610
The Crown would initiate a basic "carrot and stick" policy within the Jacobean Church under Bancroft. The carrot was a basic subscription to the authority of the Crown and the Church and to comply with its basic ceremony requirements of the Book of Common Prayer. Once having subscribed all clergy would be welcomed as loyal supports of the Crown and Church.
The Crown and the Church for its part would welcome all moderate clergy including those with puritan values. The Church was also willing to moderate its own procedures to make subscription as easy as possible to accommodate the greatest number of individual clergy possible including those holding puritan values. The Crown wanted as large a tent as possible within which to reasonable accommodate the greatest number of moderate and conformable clergy. Tolerance and as little controversy as possible was sought by the Crown and the Church. Successful clergy need only comply, keep their opinions to themselves, and not to be controversial.
As far as the Crown and the Church was concerned there were two basic clergy in the Jacobean Church: 1) those clergy that had subscribed; and, 2) those clergy who had not. The former were considered loyal clergy, puritan or not. And the latter might be considered to be Radicals, nonconformists, and possible enemies of the State.
Non-conforming clergy could be deprived of their parishes, and or their preaching licenses. The more moderate elements of the clergy generally kept their parishes. It was the more radical dissident elements in the Church that were usually weeded out over time, or would leave over time out of personal conviction.
Moderate clergy including puritans were often willing to accept the tolerant attitudes of their bishops, and to work within the current structure, and to honor their own personal oaths. Many bishops may have been tolerant of moderate puritan leanings.
Some clergy have been called "conformable" for their willingness to overlook or ignore the controversies raised by their more radical brethren. Being able to preach and to maintain ones livelihood were strong inducement to many of these clergyman to work within the system and to support changes towards their goals.
Between 1604-11 bishops would continue to keep an eye out for or targeted suspected radical and nonconformist clergy. The Church did not want open controversy in the rank and file. The Church was not looking for reformers but only for dutiful clergy to serve the needs of the Church.
After 1608 there was a growing number of clergy in the English Church who would embrace a theological doctrine called Arminianism. The major theological tenets were "free will" and "universal salvation by faith". These clergyman were tolerated as a radical theological faction within the Reformed Church.
By 1611 a number of English sects were beginning to return from Europe bringing their new found religious experiences and radical theology home with them. Many of these sects and their new memberships only helped to increased the general unrest within the Church authorities. The first English Baptists made their appearance during 1612 outside of the city walls of London near Spitalfields, near a French Huguenot community, and others would soon follow. Dissident sects as with the English Separatist were sought out by Church agents.
George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury 1611-33
An English Calvinistic theology of grace had become acceptable to most Jacobean bishops. Moderation, tolerance and conformability were the general preferred norms of the Church of England by 1611.
Moderate evangelical Calvinist bishops tried to maintained the outward forms of the Book of Common Prayer (1555). A "harmonious Calvinist consensus in the English Church" was the goal. Differing attitudes and points of view still existed within the fabric of the Jacobean Church. Both anti-Calvinism and anti-puritanism attitudes still lingered just below the surface in silence. Tolerance and moderation were the preferred perception of the Jacobean Church, controversy was to be stifled.
King James I took an active interest in the composition of bishops and in the translation of bishops in the Church of England. The King James I added a number of pro-liturgical bishops during his reign in what appears to have been an intentional effort to keep a balance if you will within the Church hierarchy. Many of the bishops later so-called Arminian WIng under Charles I were originally appointed by his father James I, including William Laud. Most of these liturgical bishops were looked on with suspicion by many of the reformed clergy and laity including the puritans at the time.
Puritan areas of concern under James I were basically the same as under Elizabeth I. Items such as the Elizabethan Settlement itself, the lack of more religious reform away from lingering Catholicism, the Book of Common Prayer (1559), and the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563), and the Act of Uniformity (1559). The Canons of 1604 became a new weapon against the more radical dissidents in the Church. For their basic love for what they thought the English Church could be against the many lingering abuses which they saw within that same Church, many puritans continued their basic support of the Church of England.
Synod of Dort 1618-19
The Synod of Dort (1618-19) was called to debate the Arminian Controversy within the Dutch Reformed Church (Holland). A hand picked delegation of moderate Calvinist divines from the Church of England attended the synod. The English delegation watch and acted more as neutrals between the various factions, and were not active participants in the formal debates themselves.
An official document was issued by the Synod stating the Calvinist principles of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1619. The English delegation was invited to sign the document, which they basically agreed with in principal, but they declined respectfully indicating that they were committed to their own Church authority.
Arminianism was pronounced a heretical movement within Calvinist theology. Some two hundred clergy of the Dutch Reformed Church were deprived for holding these views after the Synod of Dort. A growing number of clergy in Europe had already begun to embrace what was now considered anti-Calvinist or heretical theology.
The Synod of Dort (1618-19) indicated a rather broad acceptance of a moderate Calvinist theology within the mainstream clergy of the English Church at the time. The English delegates represented many highly placed and respected members of the Church including a number of Calvinist bishops.
During the reign of James I and Charles I the following areas became more central to the puritan view of English Society, and the need for change. The following areas represent some of those concerns raised by puritans during the period.
The Day the Lord Hath Made
For many puritans the strict observance of the Sabbath was a major point of personal religious belief. Private religious study at home, or attending an appropriate form of religious service would be the preferred norm for the puritan family. Lacking an appropriate religious service, many sought out religious gatherings or meeting places where the Scriptures were discussed, and good preaching was available. Unfortunately, the puritan's personal beliefs came into direct conflict with the Church of England.
Attendance at all local parish services was a general requirement of the Church of England for all local parishioners, protestants, catholics, and puritans. All healthy adults were expected to attend regularly scheduled parish church services including the primary Sunday Services of the Church of England. Those not attending were subject to fines, and other legal outcomes.
Church services under the Book of Common Prayer (1559) were considered inappropriate by many puritans who objected to the overtly Roman traditions embodied within them. The lack of appropriate preaching and religious contents vexed many puritan laity in the Church of England. The lack of puritan clergy in local parishes was also an issue. Some puritans began to look elsewhere for their spiritual needs.
Puritans had concerns regarding the Sabbath since the 1560's. By the 1590's, many puritans were in open opposition to many of the Sabbath statutes. Richard Greenham (1535?-94?), a puritan divine, in his Treatise of the Sabbath (1592) proposed the strict observance of the Sabbath was good for business. Nicholas Bownde (Bound) (d. 1619), a puritan and Greenham's step-son, wrote a strict legal treatise of the Sabbath and Mosaic Law, Sabbathum (1595). Some protestants including puritans observed the practice called Sabbatarianism the observance of Saturday under Old Testament and Mosaic Law.
Sermons and preaching on the Word of God were considered of high moral and educational value for the puritan. If one had no preacher, or even a bad preacher, one might seek out someone else to hear. Local parish preaching was often poor or the reading of printed homilies. Groups of puritans might walk for miles in search of a good preacher or sermon on the Word of God.
Puritans might engage in Sunday prayer meetings which might last for hours or the entire Sabbath. They might feature numerous sermons and preachers, discussions the of the Scriptures, and maybe some unaccompanied singing of Psalms. These were gatherings held outside the authority of the Church of England and usually only attended by puritans and their families. This practice of walking outside of your local parish to attend other Sunday meetings was officially known as "gadding".
Gadding on the Sabbath was seen as an act of civil disobedience against the Church and the Establishment. Puritan did not always find ones local parish preachers to their liking, so they might find somewhere else more in keeping with their religious values. This was a problem for the Church authorities and it became a major issue of nonconformity with King James. Laws were passed to restrict the movement of puritans outside of their own local parishes on the Sabbath. Local authorities attempted to restrain the movement of puritans on the Sabbath outside of their parishes.
The Book of Sports
Many puritans made a conscious distinction between the godly and the profane. The temporal pleasures and enjoyment on the village green were considered an offence against the Lord's Day. Local parish gatherings called "church-ales" were denounced as inappropriate or worse.
The Book of Sports (1618 and 1633) had been authorized by James I to engender public activities and sporting events as appropriate activities on Sunday after Church services. The division between the temporal and the sacred, if you will.
These temporal activities on the Lord's Day only helped to heighten a general discontent and increased the general resentment against the Crown and Church by many puritans. Both were identified with the temporal and profane rather than the godly piety that many puritan wanted to presented to the world. The Crown was acting against the biblical message of the Bible in many puritan eyes.
Charles I (1625-1649) "The Personal Rule"
The new King, Charles I (1600-1649) was the second son of James I and Queen Anne of Denmark. His older brother and the heir apparent to the throne, Henry, Prince of Wales died in 1612. Both parents doted on the eldest son as a paragon of virtue and manhood as the next King. Charles was not held in the same high esteem by his parents, and was treated differently.
George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury (1611-1633) crowned the new King in 1625. Abbot had the bad sense to questioned the King's Divine Right to rule. By 1627, Abbot had run afoul of the King and had become a virtual lame duck waiting to be replaced. Archbishop Abbot is an uneven figure of the period.
The reign of Charles I is often referred to as the "Personal Rule" for his hands on management style. Charles wanted to prove his manhood to be as competent a King as his elder brother Henry would have been. The young King was heavily influenced way, and some say controlled by George Villiers (1628-87), 1st Duke of Buckingham, his fathers' minister, until the Duke's assassination in 1628.
Charles I had always been suspected of having pro-Catholic and "popish" sentiments. His marriage in 1625 to
The treaty with France that accompanied the marriage agreement would guarantee certain rights to English Roman Catholic. The Queen would establish her own private Catholic Chapel with foreign musicians. These only enhanced a growing perception of creeping "popery" at Court for many. Her Catholic chaplains were instructed to leave England. Queen Mary was still in the public memory. There was also an ongoing anti-catholic bias in the country that many were more than willing to enflame whenever they could for their own purposes.
During the reign of King Charles I (1625-49) the Crown instituted a number of reforms within the fabric of the Nation. These reforms ranged from financial and economic policies to the Church of England. By the early 1630's the nation was in excellent financial conditions, and the King was well respected even by his distracters.
The Caroline Church 1625-1640
The state of the English Church when Charles I came to the throne was still much in the mode of his father, King James I. There was a general accommodation between the moderate Calvinist bishops and the clergy. There were moderate clergy willing to administer the rites under the Book of Common Prayer (1559) without controversy. The Church was tolerant, broad and largely Calvinistic in spirit. This was not to say that controversy still lingered under the surface.
The new King was concerned with uniformity and order in the Nation. Was the Church in keeping with its historical liturgical and sacramental traditions of the true religion under Elizabeth I? Was the House of God a house of prayer and worship following the precepts of the Book of Common Prayer (1559), and in continuity with its ancient liturgical and sacramental traditions?
These included a view of the true religion and of ecclesiastical order, the priesthood of believer's, and authority of the State and Crown flowing from one another. These were the broad views that the King would expounded as Head of the Church of England during the 1630's. Many of the new envisioned reforms would come into conflict with the status quo, the English reformed tradition, as it was sometimes known. They would also have an impact on the on the vision of the "Godly and the profane" of many puritans.
Richard Montague (1577-1641) sometime Canon of Windsor (1618), Royal Chaplain (1625), Bishop of Chichester (1628), and Bishop of Norwich (1638) was known as a supporter of traditional values. His work Appello Caesarum (1625) was a defense against Popery and Arminianism. John Pym (1584-1643), a well known puritan MP, argued against Arminianism in Parliament. The Duke of Buckingham voiced his own support for Arminianism.
The King had personal concerns with culture in the Church of England with the statutes relating to the Book of Common Prayer (1559), the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Canon of 1604. "Uniformity, order, and obedience" were the new watch words for the King, and his Church.
The King had been raised on the traditional norms of the Elizabethan and early Jacobean Church with greater emphasis on its historical traditions embodied in the Book of Common Prayer (1559). These would form the basis of what were later referred to as the "Laudian Reforms".
The King found additional support for his views in the works of Richard Hooker (1554?-1600). His monumental work of eight volumes (1549-1662) Of the lawes of ecclesiasticall politie which defended the Elizabethan Settlement and supported the argument for the authority of the episcopacy. Hooker also attacked many puritan views. Archbishop Bancroft (1604-1610) had also supported these same views and conclusions of Hooker's works, and was himself a strong opponent of the puritan. Some have referred to these works as cornerstones of what became known as Anglicanism.
The contemporary Church of England of the period was often referred to as the Anglican Church, the continuity of the church constitution and administration dating from the Elizabethan Church (1559). Some have used the term Anglicanism to describe a particular theological view derived from the historical traditions of the Church of England. And some have called King Charles I "the first" Anglican.
King James I had added a number of traditional clergyman to the episcopacy during his reign. Many of these bishops were rewarded under Charles I and assumed position of authority within the Church. Many of these churchmen would become important individuals in the implementation of the King Charles' envisioned Church reforms.
1652 saw the rise of the Durham House (1617), a circle of clergy known for his support of the Book of Common Prayer and its more conservative traditions. Many of the so-called Arminian Wing clergy of the Church were associated with the Durham House movement. Bishop Richard Neile, later Archbishop of York was the titular leader of the group. Unfortunately charges of being pro-popish with Arminianism leanings, anti-Calvinist "free will" fears were often promoted.
During the period from 1625-29 the well known puritan MP, John Pym (1584-1643), a Parliamentary radical argued against the theology of Arminianism. Rather than centering on the anti-predestinarism aspect of the tenet, Pym would argue that is was in effect a conduit against creeping free will catholicism into the Church of England.
Laudianism of the 1630's
[Ed. Note: We will use the term Laudianism to describe the broad religious controversy and its problems within the English Church during the 1630's-1640's.]
The 1630's saw a confluence of a number of competing policies, theological and religious views, and the royal whims of King Charles I. An increase of pro- Arminian bishops and clergy in the Church would become a help to the King to facilitate his desired reforms in the English Caroline Church.
There was a new message of order, uniformity, and obedience to the authority of the bishops from the Crown. This would cause problems with some of the moderate bishops and Calvinist divines. Mere subscription in principal was no longer acceptable, but rather a zeal of conviction was being sought among the clergy for the new reforms under King Charles I. Some of clergy held to their oaths of obedience to their bishops while others saw the new reforms as a rejections of their reformed theology, or as creeping catholicism.
The so-called Laudian Reforms of the 1630's had been formulated on traditional values of ceremony, liturgy and the administration of the sacraments in continuity with the The Book of Common Prayer and its Elizabethan and Edwardian traditions. The moderate Calvinist reformed church of James I was being requested to change. Not a change to a more reformed Church , but rather a transition back to a more conservative and traditional Church of their grandparents.
The new emphasis on the Church as the House of God and a vision of the divine presence in the world and its liturgical response to that vision. The "Beauty of Holiness" being the relationship between public prayer and preaching with the administration of the sacraments in observing the Church liturgical year and the celebration of its major festivals and Holy days. This also included the beautification of the House of God for his divine service with religious finery and religious images.
There was an attempt to redraw the line between the sacred and the profane in the Jacobean Church would had a major impact on the Calvinist theology of grace, i.e. presbyterianism. A new theology based on "universal salvation" and "free will" would threaten this. There was also the issue of difference between individuals and groups, i.e. the puritans as the godly and elect saints and the ungodly majority. Many puritans would migrate to the Low Countries, or the new English Colonies in the New World away from the Church of England and its authority.
Many parish churches had maintained the standards under the Book of Common Prayer (1559) while other had not. It was the latter that were most concerned with these changes and their suspected underlying motives of the King and this supports for popish reforms. The English Church was not a uniform institution of a single point of view but a broad institution with many different and varied points of view.
By the late 1630's, the continuing emphasis on the Book of Common Prayer (1559) with its catholic traditions was seen as an argument for a planned popish plot to take control of the Caroline Church. For many members of Parliament including the pro-puritans and presbyterian supporters their worst fears were coming true. With the imposition of more order and uniformity in the Church under the Book of Common Prayer the greater became the fears of those who opposed those same changes.
William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury 1633-45
The new King found a competent and willing churchmen to help oversee the implementation of his Church reforms. One such individual was
Laud was well known for his traditional sacramental and liturgical theology and his support for the Book of Common Prayer. Laud was translated to Bishop of St David's (1621) under James I. Under Charles I he was translated to Bishop of Bath and Wells (1626), the Privy Council (1627), Bishop of London (1628-33), Chancellor of Oxford University (1630). He was translated as Archbishop of Canterbury (1633-1645).
From 1621-45, Laud as bishop had followed a general policy of compliance at the parish level with the statutes related to the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the Canon of 1604. Especially troubling to some was the refurbishing of many parish church interiors with altar rails, baptismal fonts, the replacement of the altar, or other liturgical finery.
Laud has been criticized by some for his administration of Canterbury. Evidence would tend to support a general policy of moderation and even handedness was pursued. He was know to take action against "extreme" Arminians. Many local parishes complained about the "local intervention" of the bishop on what they considerate their local authority. The puritan community would voice its own disapproval of the bishops policies. Charges of a new catholic plot were common.
Many puritans would see Archbishop Laud and the so-called Laudian Reforms of the 1630's as an attack on the true religion. Arminian theology and the catholic traditions of the Book of Common Prayer were a potent combination of a pending popish plot.
The 1640 saw the erosion of the Church of England as an independent body under the Long Parliament. Archbishop Laud was subsequently impeached (1640), sent to the Tower of London (1642-44), tried (1644) and finally executed by order of Parliament in 1645 for attempting to "overthrow the Protestant religion".
The 1630's produced a number of puritan publications questioning the state of the Nation and the Church. Three prominent examples are addressed here.
The puritans in Scotland were of a slightly different disposition than their English cousins. The Scottish puritans had a high respect for Holy Communion, and many of the traditions values of Scotland. They had embraced a preferred church structure known as presbyterianism in the Scottish style. To paint the puritan Scots in the same mode as the English puritans would be a mistake.
The Bishop's Wars 1639-40
The King in his desire for greater order and uniformity in the Nation, the King turned his attention towards Scotland. The King had decided to impose a Scottish version of the Book of Common Prayer (1559) on the Scottish Church. Scots rioted in the streets of Edinburgh under the perception that an episcopal church structure was to be imposed on Scotland. The Scots organized and armed themselves fearing a possible English invasion.
Two brief military campaigns were mounted against the Scots in 1639 and 1640 which were general known as the Bishop's Wars (1639-40). An under staffed an ill prepared English Army moved against a superior Scottish army which resulted in major defeat for the English Army with large concessions for the Scots.
The King found themselves financially strapped in 1639. Each campaign against the Scots required the financial assistance of Parliament to fund the King's war chest. The King had managed to rule successfully up until now without becoming dependent upon Parliament's financial assistance. He now found himself in a difficult political position and needing financial assistance from Parliament and their good will.
Short Parliament 1640
Short Parliament (1640) was called by the King under the general leadership of
Long Parliament 1640-1648
There was a certain optimism in the air that church and state reforms and good governance were possible with the co-operation of Parliament, Country and King during 1640. Later in 1640 the King called another Parliament which would become known as the Long Parliament (1640-48).
The King needed additional funding for the Second Bishop's War (1640) in the same situation with regards to Scotland. The Scots soon invaded England and occupy Newcastle-on-Tyne in autumn of 1640.
A number of concessions were made to the Scots on financial and political considerations. Many historians credit the military blunders of the Bishop's Wars (1639-40) as a contributing factor on the eventually road to the English Civil War.
The King was becoming unwilling to deal with Parliament, or was not willing to make any concessions. The King would gradually turned to the application of force in an effort to resolve his problems with Parliament.
In 1641, the Parliament expressing its own frustration with the King, many of the MP's began to push the envelop on its legislative prerogatives for their own political advantages. In February 1641, Pro-Scottish MP's proposed the Root and Branch Bill which outlined the elimination of the episcopal church administration, but the bill was shelved.
Proceedings were initiated by Parliament against Archbishop Laud and Thomas Wentworth (1593-1641), 1st Earl of Strafford. Laud was imprisoned and Wentworth was executed following mob violence in London. Various governmental and church officials became objects of the Parliamentary ire.
Pro-puritan MP's and their supporters began to turned their attention towards the dismantling of the Church of England. The authority of the bishops was rescinded with the election of any new bishops was halted. The hated Book of Common Prayer was to be replaced with a new reformed Directory for the Public Worship of God (1654) complied by the Westminster Assembly (1645) was not well received. The Liturgical Church calendar with Christmas, Easter, and various other Holy Days were eliminated. Directives were issued to parish churches to remove or destroy any images, furnishings, altar railings, or decorations that supported any "popish" liturgical functions including church organs.
The Church of England as an institution was in the process of being reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. Parliament was becoming the new Supreme Head of the Church of England. Many saw this as and opportunity to remake the Church of England into a true reformed protestant church. A Presbyterian form of church administration was even imposed in some areas of the country.
Many of the landed gentry, wealthy land owners and freeholders did not support a presbyterian church structure which would diminished their own authority and control at the local county level. They held up the implementation of this process until local churches could elect their form of worship. Many parishes became Independent congregations which allowed them to chose their own form of religious service which in many cases was Anglican. It is interesting to see that "all politics are local" as a 20th century political voiced.
Somewhat ironically just as the puritans had often refused compliance with their objectionable Government and Church policies, a large percentage of the protestant laity generally ignored most of the Puritan directives after 1641 against their local churches. Large segments of protestant parishes continued using the Book of Common Prayer (1559) and the traditional church services until the Restoration (1660). The offending religious artifacts were often hidden from public view and government agents.
Some members of the House of Commons began to question if the King was fully competent to continue to exercise his authority as King. The King was willful and stubborn, unwilling to compromise or make concessions with Parliament.
Some MP's seized on this for their own political advantages to under cut the King and his own supporter in Parliament and by playing on the public fears of a driven King waiting to establishing a Catholic church, shades of Queen Mary. The vision of King Charles commanding a large army was a picture that concerned many members of Parliament. Many MP's including puritan supporters initially did not support the goals of Parliament, and actively sought to bring reason to bear on both parties involved.
English Civil Wars 1642-49
Frustrated and angered by Parliament the King in January 1642 sent members of the Royal Guard into the House of Commons to arrest five MP's. They left without the MP's. This single act became a pivotal factor in precipitating the events which would led to the start of the English Civil Wars (1642-49). Within a few months preparations were underway for war. [Ed. Note: The history of the English Civil Wars is outside the scope of this "short" overview. Please refer to the General Bibliography for selected references.]
By 1642 most of the optimism of 1640 had disappeared. Political and religious rhetoric and growing anti-Catholic fears and papist plots following the Irish Rebellion ran high. Catholic lords and bishops were considered suspect. The common man was often in open rebellion against the local authorities and the county land owners. Fear and anxiety were rampant in the land being fed for the political and religious benefit of a number of interests.
A Scottish army of 100,000 was raised to quell the Irish Rebellion (1642) in Ireland. Thousands of transplanted protestants Scots had been killed in Ulster and northern Ireland. The rebellion was suppressed in late 1642. Returning Scots spread their tales and accounts of alleged atrocities by the Irish Catholics before the Parliamentary elections.
In May 1642, an attempt was made in the House of Commons to re institute the Root and Branch Bill (1641) against the Church. The House of Commons was actively involved in establishing new legislative powers and controls of the government.
Royalist and Parliamentary troops would soon to be engaged in a bloody Civil War. The New Model Army of Parliament would become the new major military and political force within England. Military battles were waged across the Commonwealth, and many died. The King fled London to Oxford to establish a temporary new capital.
Unfortunately for the Long Parliament, the New Model Army was not just another mercenary army. Many of the New Model Army troops and its officers had their own political and religious agendas which were often at odds with various agendas of Parliament. They would have a major voice in the political decisions of the Parliament and in the peace that followed.
The signing of the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) had committed Parliament to accepting a presbyterian system of religion in England in exchange for receiving military support from Scotland. The surrender of the King and his troops in 1646 had threatened this agreement.
From 1643-49, the "Assembly of Learned and Godly Divines" or more commonly called the Westminster Assembly was created. This was an assembly of appointed churchman to advise Parliament on religious matters and a proposed new national church organization and its structure. There were representatives from various religious points of view including Calvinists, puritans, presbyterians, independents, and some former Church of England clergy.
Political forces within the New Model Army (1645) grew. Radical dissident religious and political groups and sects, and the new organization of the Long Parliament began to shape their own long sought religious and political goals. Radical religious and political views among these groups led to conflict, suspicion and distrust.
The Putney Debates (1647) argued for more personal and religious freedom within a more democratic state. Independents and the New Model Army wanted complete religious freedom from any and all imposed national church structures or models be they Presbyterian or Episcopal. The latter being more acceptable than the former. The end results of the Putney Debates were inconclusive other than that many voices of change to the current system.
During 1647, Charles I attempted to broker an alliance between the Scottish Presbyterians and the pro-presbyterian MP's for a new national church structure acceptable to them. This was being offered in exchange for military assistance to the King to help re-establish himself as the head of the British Nation.
The dialogue by presbyterians MP's in 1647 to establish a national presbyterian church structure in Scotland and England was even less acceptable to the New Model Army than maintaining the current Church of England. The perception of presbyterians MP's trying to make an independent deal for peace with Scotland, and with the King on their own terms was viewed with grave suspicion. The presbyterians were attempting to impose a new national Presbyterian church order on the English nation from within. Not all puritans supported their agenda.
The growing suspicion and discontent by Independents and the New Model Army of the recent actions of the pro-presbyterian members in the Long Parliament prepared the way for Pride's Purge (Dec. 1648). One hundred and forty three pro-presbyterian members of the House of Commons were removed by troops of the New Model Army.
The Regicide of King Charles I
Pride's Purge (Dec. 1648) did not result in a better political situation for the King. This in turn led to the formation of the so called Rump Parliament (1648-53). Many of the remaining MP's held pro-puritan views, and they had a deep distrust for the King and his political and religious views. What to do with the King was the problem facing the Rump Parliament.
"No Bishop, No King" was becoming the new watch words in the halls of Parliament and for many of the population. Church and Crown were being targeted for a major revision. There was a great deal of anger and fear being generated against the King.
Within a very short period of time, the Rump Parliament unable to resolve their own ambivalent positions with the recognized head of the English Nation, members of the Rump Parliament decided to removed the King's head and his authority with it. Not everyone including members of the Rump Parliament had supported this draconian resolution. There was even a brief attempt to broker a compromise solution with the young Charles II which failed.
Many only wanted to change the structure of the current government with the monarchy playing a reduced role, not the elimination of the monarchy as an institution and the King with it. A quick dog and pony trial for the public, and a sentence of death was a forgone conclusion once the charges were made.
The King was in control of the trial and argued the government charges against himself during the trial.The Parliamentary Court was unable to provide any legal precedents or documentation to support their charges against the King, or for his execution. The King was still the king, Divine Right and all. The King was credited is asking at the trail who was present there with authority to accuse him. Many public ally argued against the death sent ice.
Many of the senior officers of the New Model Army signed the death warrant against the King including Oliver Cromwell. Charles showed himself every inch a King at his public beheading outside of the Banqueting Hall (Whitehall). With the regicide of Charles I in January 1649, England became a republic. Cromwell was reported to have called the beheading "a tragic necessity".
Rump Parliament 1648-65
The Rump "the remnant" Parliament of some fifty MP's was now the only legal Law of the Land.The Rump Parliament governed with a Council of State until its rejection by Cromwell in April 1656.
Between 1648-1649 the Rump Parliament began to articulate its own agenda of pro-puritan reforms now unencumbered by the Long Parliament majority. Much of their efforts were directed at their perceptions against popery, and the need for new religious reforms. A new society based on ethical and moral values was being legislated on religious principals.
The period from 1649-53 saw the New Model Army vie with the new radical religious and political groups for power and the control of the minds of the People and control of the State. The New Model Army wanted its back wages which the Rump Parliament was refusing to pay. The Rump Parliament would soon come to learn the political clout of the New Model Army.
Some former historians have referred to the period from 1649-1660 as the Puritan Revolution. Some have also called it "more confusion than revolution".
Additional directives were issued against the Church and its various institutions. Forms of worship and conduct of religion in the nation were impacted. Certain forms of entertainment were either restricted or banned by order of Parliament such as playhouses where plays had criticized or poked fun at puritan values. The concert halls for popular music and entertainment were generally untouched. English opera was a new form of public entertainment which develop during the Interregnum. Liturgical and most sacred music was prohibited.
Barebone's Parliament 1653
Some 140 delegates were appointed to the Barebone's Parliament (1653), named for Praise-God Barebone (or Barbon, Barbone) (ca.1596-1679), a well known London minister and Common Councilman. It was called by Cromwell after his explosion of the Rump Parliament in April 1653. It was called as a "godly" parliament to recommend guidelines for creating a new national governmental structure. A liberal delegation of that assembly argued for many democratic reforms in society. A more conservative delegation of that assembly was afraid of the proposed liberal reforms, and quickly closed down the assembly. It only functioned from July to Dec. of 1653.
The more liberal members of the Barebone's Parliament and their supporters condemned these tactics, and demanded the reopening of the Parliament at once. There was a total lack of any support from Cromwell on the issue. There was some comment that the "Status Quo" would not look too kindly on any public political referendum on governmental reforms that might impact their own positions of authority and power.
Cromwell as Lord Protector (1653-1658)
A new national government was quickly established on the heels of the Barebone's Parliament closure. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was quickly appointed as the new "Lord Protector" by the Instrument of Government (1653) England's first written constitution, this was not a national election. Cromwell was an acceptable candidate to the Establishment. Some Englishmen soon questioned if they had just substituted one old yoke for another new one?
Cromwell's first task as the new "Lord Protector" was to keep the ship of state afloat. His next task was to keep the peace, and the various radical and dissident elements under control.
Cromwell believed in the basic principal of freedom of religion and of worship. He helped to facilitate a broad policy of tolerance towards most religious groups including most of the English sects. Some religious groups including some puritans resented the fact that Cromwell's freedom of religion was a little too open ended from their point of view. The amount of practical religious freedom allowed was unprecedented in England until this point in its history. Cromwell understood when to be moderate, and when he needed to be firm.
Cromwell needed to deal with the political and economic aspects of a new government. Eleven military districts were establish each under a General reporting directly to Cromwell and enforced various administrative directives and enforced puritan values. Cromwell needed to reassure those individuals of power and influence that put him there that he was capable of keeping the Nation peaceful and prosperous. If he did not, they would find someone else that would.
Quakers, Baptists, Levellers, Puritans and other sects all took a back-seat to the State as they had under the Crown. Many of these sects would try to either manage or improve their own positions under the new "Protectorate" on social or religious grounds. Oliver Cromwell made an effort to be fair and equitable to all who kept the peace. Even the puritans were counted just another religious group. [Ed. Note: See English Dissenters Home Page.]
Many of the English dissident sects would feel the heel of the new government. Many members of society were beginning to resent the imposition and enactment of more puritan laws and regulations from Parliament. Many began to question the puritan ethics impacting their daily lives. Many questioned their new found freedoms and the rational for the Civil War,, and its current status.
An English nation dominated by puritans was not the desired outcome of the Civil Wars by the general population. Many non-puritans actively worked in the background against or simply ignored many of the new imposed Parliamentary reforms especially in the more rural areas. Others have referred to these puritan reforms as "much to do about nothing".
A major group in opposition were the local gentry and the old wealthy landed families across the country. They were convinced that the puritans would place their interests above the locals. At the local county level many families use their authority to keep the growing puritan influence at bay.
The death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 was a major cause of concern for the Establishment. With the failure of his son, Richard Cromwell (1626-1712) as a surrogate "Lord Protector" who only contributed to the growing fears of 1658-59. The short lived new Rump government did little to bring stability.
There was a growing unrest within the country, and the fear of a possible failing government. Many in the Establishment wanted a more secure and stable government for property, commerce, trade and security at home than what the Republic would appear to provide.
Many in the nation were unhappy with the social experiment of the Interregnum. A growing social unrest from militant religious sects and a perceived lack of security at home prompted many to find a new "Protector". This resulted ultimately in a facilitated reconciliation with the Army under General Monck and the Charles II of Scotland in the Restoration (1660). Better the devil they knew and the former monarchy looked rather attractive to the wealthy and powerful.
The Restoration (1660) returned King Charles II back to his father's throne after a long vacation. This would not the same English throne that his father left in 1649 nor would it be again. The fruits of the Civil War and the Republic included new civil and religious relationships that could not be put back in the bottle.The old relationship of the Monarchy with Parliament and the People would not be the same again.
The Savoy Conference (London: 1661) attempted to mediate the concerns of puritans on the proposed revisions to the new The Book of Common Prayer (1662). The Anglican bishops basically ignored most of proposed changes being requested by the puritan and other reformed ministers.
The Anglican bishops also required the re-ordination of all English ministers not previously ordained by a authorized bishop of the Church of England. Some two thousand presbyterian minister would not support the new The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and were deprived of their livings.
Most of the former bishops and its clergy returned to their former dispositions or parishes. Many parish churches were repaired and returned to their pre-Civil War conditions. Unfortunately many churches and cathedrals had been vandalized, defaced, or damaged during the Civil War and Interregnum. Many church organs and stained glass windows were destroyed or severely damaged.
The puritan and other dissident sects had reduced influence under the new government of
Puritans and other dissenters who would not or could not submit to the new law of the land became known as Nonconformists. Many prominent puritan families especially the growing middle class merchants continued to prospered within the new restrictions of post-Restoration England. Some puritans looked for new homelands where their religious freedom and values would be less restricted such as Europe, or the New World.
Puritan values and Calvinist theology did not disappear with the Restoration (1660) but continued as a vital force within the religious and social life of England. Those radical puritan values of the Interregnum gradually disappeared during the 1660's. Many of the puritan values were exported to the new American Colonies where they grew and prospered. They have left their impact on the history of North America as well.