- Motives of the First Puritans (§ 1).
- Congregation at Frankfort and Geneva (§ 2).
- Relations of Elizabeth and the Puritans (§ 3).
- Repressive Measures (§ 4).
- Growth of Puritanism; Thomas Cartwright (§ 5).
- Attempts at Presbyterianism, 1572 (§ 6).
- The "Prophesyings"; Archbishop Grindal (§ 7).
- Archbishop Whitgift's Articles (§ 8).
- Whitgift's Severity (§ 9).
- Attitude of Parliament (§ 10).
- The Marprelate Tracts; Brownists (§ 11).
- James I.; Hampton Court Conference (§ 12).
- Archbishop Bancroft; Puritan Emigration (§ 13).
- The Puritans Calvinists (§ 14).
- Charles I. Archbishop Laud (§ 15).
The Reformation in England was begun in the reign of Henry VIII. and consolidated in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. It was unfortunate for religion and the Church that from the first the movement was subordinated to personal caprice and state policy. Most of the principal agents employed to effect it were zealous Protestants and desired that it should be thorough; and although at first unable to do all which they desired, they rejoiced in what they had been permitted to accomplish, and hoped that the work would continue to advance. But they were doomed to disappointment, and in the end submitted to what appeared to them to be "the inevitable."
(§ 1). Motives of the First Puritans. The first Puritans were men who could not accept the work as complete or rest satisfied with it in its imperfection. They wished to make the Church as perfect an instrument as possible for promoting true religion, and therefore urged the utter rejection of everything that countenanced Roman error and superstition. They had no objection to the connection of the Church with the State, or to some control of it by the civil authorities. They submitted to those regulations which they approved, but, whether consistently or inconsistently, they resisted those which appeared to them inexpedient or contrary to the interests of Protestant truth. They were not actuated solely or chiefly, as has often been charged, by hostility to ecclesiastical government by bishops, but by the intense conviction that the hierarchy, as it was and as it seemed certain to remain, was destructive of the purity and truth of religion.
The spirit of Puritanism had appeared in the reign of Edward VI. Bishop Hooper refused to be consecrated in the papal vestments and to take the papal oath. The latter was altered, but the former could not be dispensed with. For his refusal he was imprisoned, but eventually compromised matters by consenting to wear the vestments on high occasions only (see HOOPER, JOHN).
(§ 2). Congregation at Frankfort and Geneva. During the Marian persecution many English divines fled to the continent and several found an asylum in Frankfort, where, having obtained the use of a church on condition that they should subscribe the French confession of faith, they formed a society, chose John Knox and Thomas Leaver as their ministers, drew up a service-book for them- selves, and proceeded in the path of reformation farther than it had yet been possible to do in England. Here they met with opposition from other exiles who had been invited to join them, who insisted on using the English liturgy and on conforming to the rites of the English Church as ordered in the reign of Edward VI. Troubles consequently arose, which disquieted the original company and finally caused it to remove to Geneva. The treatment these brethren met with at Frankfort was only an earnest of what they were to experience in England in the ensuing reign (cf. A Brief Discourse of the Troubles at Frankfort 1554-1558 A.D. Attributed to William Whittingham, Dean of Durham, 1575 A.D., London, 1908).
(§ 3). Relations of Elizabeth and the Puritans. When Elizabeth ascended the throne, the exiles returned home, but, much to their sorrow, found the queen disposed to retrograde rather than to advance. Fond of pomp, she determined on preserving the vestments and some symbols of popery, alleging a desire to retain the Roman Catholics in the church; and, to aid in securing this object, some offensive passages in the service-book were removed and ceremonies which favored their opinions were retained. Elizabeth cordially disliked the Puritans, and therefore such men as Miles Coverdale and John Fox were treated with neglect. In the first year of her reign the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity were passed (see SUPREMACY, ACT OF; UNIFORMITY, ACTS OF), the latter of which pressed heavily upon the Puritans, who had scruples respecting the conformity required of them in vestments and forms. They held that certain vestments, having been used by the "idolatrous" priests of Rome, defiled and obscured the priesthood of Christ, that they increased hypocrisy and pride, that they were contrary to Scripture, and that the enforcement of them was tyranny. Many of the bishops would have been glad to dispense with them. But the queen insisted upon retaining them, and, as Hallam says, "Had her influence been withdrawn, surplices and square caps would have lost their steadiest friend, and several other little accommodations to the prevalent dispositions of Protestants would have taken place" (Constitutional History, chap. iv.). There is do doubt that Elizabeth, feeling the insecurity of her position and the magnitude of the dangers which encompassed her in the beginning of her reign, acted from policy and endeavored to mark out a via media between Protestantism and popery. This partly accounts for her severities toward the Puritans, who strongly opposed this course, but can not excuse them. The Puritans, on the other hand, were jealous for the honor of Christ, the true Head of the Church, and would conform to nothing which tended to endanger Protestant truth. They acted, moreover, under the advice of the continental Reformers, who urged them "not to hearken to the counsels of those men, who, when they saw that popery could not be honestly defended nor entirely restrained, would use all artifices to have the outward face of religion to remain mixed, uncertain, and doubtful; so that, while an evangelical religion is pretended, those things should be obtruded on the Church which will make the returning back to popery, superstition, and idolatry, easy." Rudolf Gualther, the writer of the advice, says, "We have had experience of this for some years in Germany, and know what influence such persons may have. . . . I apprehend that in the first beginnings, while men may study to avoid the giving of small offense, many things may be suffered under this color for a little while; and yet it will scarce be possible, by all the endeavors that can be used, to get them removed, at least without great struggles." Later experience has proved the wisdom of this advice. The Puritans did not refuse to use the vestments as vestments merely, but as symbols; and their motto was Obsta principiis.
(§ 4). Repressive Measures. The parochial clergy at the commencement of Elizabeth's reign were almost entirely the Marian mass-priests who had conformed to the new order. Not more than 300 in the 10,000 parishes of England had vacated their livings; the rest had a great influence in the convocation of 1562, which met to review the doctrine and discipline of the Church. Notwithstanding this influence, Bishop Sandys introduced a petition for reformation, which went very far to satisfy the demands of the Puritans, and which was rejected only by the proxies of absentees, and then by a bare majority of one. This fact will show the strength of the Puritan party at that time. But, although so strong, the queen and her ecclesiastics determined to suppress it. The Court of High Commission, constituted by virtue of the royal supremacy, was empowered "to visit, reform, redress, order, correct, and amend all errors, heresies, schisms, abuses, contempts, offenses, and enormities whatsoever," and, with its oath ex officio (by which a man was compelled to testify against himself and to tell what he knew of others), was the means of inflicting extreme suffering on the Puritans. In order to insure uniformity "advertisements" (see ADVERTISEMENTS OF ELIZABETH) were issued by the bishops in 1566 (probably originally drawn up by Archbishop Parker in 1564), by which it was ordained that "all licenses for preaching, granted out by the archbishops and bishops within the province of Canterbury, bearing date before the first day of Mar., 1564, be void and of none effect." Thus all preachers were silenced. And, to complete the work, it was ordained that only "such as shall be thought meet for the office" should receive fresh licenses. Thus only conformable ministers were restored. Some of the best and most conscientious of the clergy were cast out of office and thousands of parishes were destitute and had no ministers to preach to them. This, however, in the estimation of the queen and her ecclesiastical advisers was a less evil than a ministry without the Roman Catholic vestments.
(§ 5). Growth of Puritanism; Thomas Cartwright. Archbishop Parker seconded the queen in all her severities, the consequence of which was that in 1567 some of the laity resolved to meet privately and to worship God as the Protestants did in Queen Mary's days. About 100 of them met in Plumbers' Hall in London. But they were surprised and some were apprehended and imprisoned for more than a year. These rigorous measures tended rather to the increase of Puritanism than to its destruction. The people continued to meet privately and the clergy began to look beyond the vestments and to question the constitution of the Church itself. Their leader was Thomas Cartwright, who, as Margaret professor of divinity at Cambridge, unfolded his views of ecclesiastical order, which were in harmony with those of the Presbyterian churches on the continent and in Scotland. A severe controversy hereupon, arose. Cartwright was deprived of his professorship and fellowship, and was forbidden to teach or to preach. He retired to Geneva, where he was chosen professor of divinity; but he afterward returned to England. In 1571 John Field and Thomas Wilcox (two ministers of the Puritan party) prepared the famous Admonition to Parliament for the Reformation of Church Discipline. They presented it themselves, and for doing so were committed to prison. Whitgift replied to the admonition, and took the Erastian ground, which Hooker afterward maintained, that no form of church order is laid down in the New Testament, and that the government in the apostles' days can not now be exercised. Cartwright, who had published A Second Admonition, was chosen to reply to Whitgift. Both his books gave such offense to the queen and archbishop that it was resolved to try him, but he escaped to Heidelberg. During Cartwright's exile, Whitgift published his Defence of the Answer to the Admonition; and Cartwright then published his Second Reply. This exile continued eleven years, after which Cartwright returned home to experience yet further molestation and suffering (see CARTWRIGHT, THOMAS; WHITGIFT, JOHN).
(§ 6). Attempts at Presbyterianism, 1572. It has been frequently said, that in 1572 a Presbyterian church was formed at Wandsworth; Field, the lecturer of Wandsworth, being the first minister, and Travers and Wilcox among the founders. The facts are, that the first distinct practical movement to secure a Presbyterian organization began with a secret meeting at that place. Wilcox and Field convened a few of their ministerial brethren and others to sketch an outline of the ecclesiastical polity which they wished to see in operation. Some of their papers fell into the hands of Bancroft, from which it appears that the only presbytery erected was on paper and was immediately demolished by Bancroft. Field and Wilcox were thrown into prison. The leaders of the party succumbed, and their meetings were discontinued (cf. J. Waddington, Surrey Congregational History, p. 5, London, 1866),
(§ 7). The "Prophesyings"; Archbishop Grindal. In 1575 Archbishop Parker died and was suc- ceeded by Grindal. He found the country morally and religiously in a deplorable condition in consequence of the ignorance and incapacity of so many of its clergy. This state of things did not distress the queen, for she thought one or two Archbishop preachers in a diocese enough; but the Puritans thought otherwise. In the year 1571 these clergy, in some districts, with the permission of the bishop, engaged in religious exercises called "prophesyings," which were meetings at which short sermons were preached on subjects previously fixed. These were good exercises for the clergy and cultivated the art of preaching. The laity were admitted and derived instruction and benefit from them. In 1574 Parker told the queen that they were only auxiliaries to Puritanism and Non-conformity, whereupon she gave him private orders to suppress them. When Grindal became archbishop of Canterbury, he inherited not only that office but also the task of suppressing the prophesyings; but, approving of them, he set himself rather to redress irregularities and to guard them against abuse. The queen, on the other hand, disliked them, and determined that they should be suppressed. On Dec. 20, 1576, Grindal wrote a respectful but faithful letter to the queen, in which he said, "I am forced with all humility, and yet plainly, to profess that I can not with safe conscience, and without the offense of the majesty of God, give my assent to the suppressing of the said exercises: much less can I send out any injunction for the utter and universal subversion of the same." For this boldness, Grindal was suspended, his see was placed under sequestration for six months, and he was confined to his house.
(§ 8). Archbishop Whitgift's Articles. Grindal died in 1583, and was succeeded by Whitgift, who, during the first week of his archiepiscopal rule, issued his famous articles:
"(1) That all preaching, catechising, and praying in any private house, where any are present besides the family, be utterly extinguished. (2) That none do preach or catechise, except also he will read the whole service, and administer the sacraments four times a year. (3) That all preachers, and others in ecclesiastical orders, do at all times wear the habits prescribed. (4) That none be admitted to preach, unless he be ordained according to the manner of the Church of England. (5) That none be admitted to preach, or execute any part of the ecclesiastical function, unless he subscribe the following articles: (a) That the queen hath, and ought to have, the sovereignty and rule over all manner of persons born within her dominions, of what condition soever they be; and that none other power or potentate hath or ought to have, any power, ecclesiastical or civil, within her realms or dominions. (b) That the Book of Common Prayer, and of ordering bishops, priests, and deacons, containeth in it nothing contrary to the word of God, but may be lawfully used; and that he himself will use the same, and none other, in public prayer, and administration of the sacraments. (c) That he alloweth the Book of Articles agreed upon in the Convocation holden in London in 1562, and set forth by her Majesty's authority; and he believe all the articles therein contained to be agreeable to the word of God."
(§ 9). Whitgift's Severity. It is not surprising to find that, wielding almost absolute power with a despotic severity, Whitgift suspended many hundred clergy from their ministry. Petitions and remonstrances were in vain. And for twenty years this man guided the affairs of the Established Church. Only the records of the High Commission Court can tell the havoc he made, and the misery he inflicted on some of the holiest of the clergy and the people of their charge. A new commission was issued at his instigation. Its jurisdiction was almost universal, embracing heretical opinions, seditious books, false rumors, slanderous words, abstaining from divine service, etc. A jury might be dispensed with, and the court might convict by witnesses alone; if they were wanting, "by all other means and ways they could devise,"--by the rack and ex-officio oath, etc.; and, if the oath were declined, then the court might inflict "fine or imprisonment according to its discretion." Whitgift drew up twenty-four articles to guide the commissioners when examining delinquent clergymen. The privy council remonstrated with him, and Lord Burleigh described the articles thus: "I find them so curiously penned, so full of branches and circumstances, that I think the Inquisition of Spain use not so many questions to comprehend and entrap their preys." Whitgift's reply was that he had undertaken the defense of the rights of the Church of England to appease the sects and schisms therein, and to reduce all the ministers thereof to uniformity and due obedience. "And herein," said he, "I intend to be constant, and not to waver with every wind." And so persistent was he that at one time, toward the close of Elizabeth's reign and of his life, no less than a third of the whole beneficed clergy of England were suspended; and this involved at least destitution and penury. The story of Cartwright's troubles given in more extended histories is a sad illustration of the spirit of Whitgift's rule. Cartwright died Dec. 27, 1603, and Whitgift within three months after.
(§ 10). Attitude of Parliament. Parliament on several occasions manifested a disposition to legislate for the relief of the Puritans. In 1570 they enacted that ministers who had received Presbyterian ordination might qualify for service in the English Church by declaring before the bishop, and subscribing their assent "to all articles of religion which only concern the confession of the true Christian faith and the doctrine of the sacraments contained in the Book of Articles, 1562." Many of the Puritans attempted to shelter themselves under this act, but in vain. When, in 1572, Field and Wilcox presented their Admonition and Parliament lent an ear, the queen issued a proclamation against it, and forbade Parliament to discuss such questions as were mooted in it. Again, in 1584, 1587, and 1592, the queen interfered, and at length charged the speaker "that henceforth no bills concerning religion should be received into the House of Commons, unless the same should be first considered and approved of by the clergy"; well knowing that the clergy would only act in such a matter under her direction. Peter Wentworth remonstrated in the House against this dictation, but only to be committed to prison. In 1592 an act was passed, entitled "An Act for the Punishment of Persons obstinately Refusing to Come to Church." It was decreed that "all persons above the age of sixteen, refusing to come to church, or persuading others to deny her Majesty's authority in causes ecclesiastical, or dissuading them from coming to church, or being found present at any conventicle or meeting, under pretense of religion, shall, upon conviction, be committed to prison without bail till they shall conform, and come to church"; and that, should they refuse to recant, "within three months, they shall abjure the realm, and go into perpetual banishment; and that if they do not depart within the time appointed, or if they ever return without the queen's license, they shall suffer death without benefit of clergy." Under the provisions of this cruel act, Barrow, Greenwood, Penry (qq.v.), and others. suffered death, and many of the Brownists left the kingdom.
(§ 11). The Marprelate Tracts; Brownists. The Puritans themselves were not always wise or moderate in the expression of their sentiments. The oppression to which they were subjected was severe enough to goad them often to the use of strong language. But in 1588 a series of tracts was issued from a secret press, by an unknown writer who called himself Martin Marprelate (see MARPRELATE TRACTS). They were bitter and caustic, excited the wrath of the bishops, and brought down further afflictions upon the heads of the Puritans, although it is probable that the Puritans properly so called had nothing to do with them. Indeed, many Puritans greatly disapproved of them and regretted their publication. They possibly had their origin among the Brownists (see BROWNE, ROBERT), whose opinions and practises were even more obnoxious to the bishops than those of the ordinary Puritans. These Brownists may be classed among the Puritans, and by many persons are confounded with them; but they were a distinct species of the order, and during the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth they suffered the severest afflictions.
(§ 12). James I; Hampton Court Conference. Elizabeth died on the last day of 1602, and James VI. of Scotland succeeded her. The Puritans hoped that from him they would receive milder treatment. He had praised the Scottish Kirk, and disparaged the Church of England, saying that "its service was but an evil-said mass in English, wanting nothing but the liftings." But Whitgift had sent agents to Scotland to assure the king of the devotion of the English ecclesiastics to his interests; and he, in return, gave them his patronage entirely. The Puritans presented a petition to him, when on his way to London, unsigned but expressing the wishes of about a thousand clergymen, and therefore called the "Millenary Petition" (q.v.). In it they set forth in moderate language their desires. And now a fair opportunity presented itself for conciliation. A conference was resolved upon, which assembled at Hampton Court, Jan. 14, 1604, professedly to give due consideration to these matters (see HAMPTON COURT CONFERENCE). On the first day the king and the episcopal party alone went over the ground, and settled what was to be done. The next day four Puritan ministers-John Reynolds (q.v.), Dr. Sparks, Mr. Chadderton, and Mr. Knewstubs-were called into the privy council chamber, where they expressed their desires, and explained and enforced the Puritan objections. On the third day the king and the bishops at first conferred by themselves, and, after they had settled matters, the four Puritans were again called in and told what had been decided. The king said that he expected of them obedience and humility, and added, "if this be all that they have to say, I shall make them conform themselves, or I will harry them out of the land, or else do worse." And so the opportunity for conciliation was lost, and then severities were resumed.
(§ 13). Archbishop Bancroft; Puritan Emigration. In 1604 the constitutions and canons of the church were settled in convocation, and, without receiving the assent of Parliament, were issued on the strength of the royal supremacy alone. They were conceived in a rigorous spirit and dealt freely in excommunication, which at that time was not a mere brutum fulmen. Bancroft, bishop of London, presided at this convocation, as Whitgift was now dead; and he was afterward raised to the archbishopric of Canterbury. In his new office he even surpassed Whitgift in his severities. Three hundred Puritan ministers, who had not separated from the Established Church, were silenced, imprisoned, or exiled in 1604. "But, the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew." And now the persecuted pastors and people began to think of emigrating. The Separatists went to Holland-Smyth to Amsterdam in 1606, and John Robinson with the Scrooby church to Amsterdam and Leyden in 1608-1609. Some of the Puritans also sailed for Virginia, whereupon the archbishop obtained a proclamation forbidding others to depart without the king's license. And so severe was the persecution which they endured that Parliament in 1610 endeavored to relieve them, but with little success. Bancroft died this year, being succeeded by George Abbot, and still persecution continued. In 1618 the king published his Declaration for Sports on the Lord's Day. The controversy on the observance of the Sabbath began in the latter part of Elizabeth's reign. Dr. Nicholas Bound published his True Doctrine of the Sabbath, contending for a strict observance of the day; and Whitgift opposed it. The Puritans adopted its positions, but the court clergy rejected them, and now the Book of Sports became the shibboleth of the party. All ministers were enjoined to read it in their congregations, and those who refused were suspended and imprisoned.
(§ 14). The Puritans Calvinists. The doctrines of the Reformers and of their successors, Conformists and Puritans alike, had been hitherto Calvinistic. Whitgift was a High Calvinist; the king, who prided himself on his theology, had maintained Calvinism; and the representatives of England at the Synod of Dort were of the same opinions. But a change came over the Established clergy and many began to set forth Arminianism [or, rather a semi-Pelagianism of the Roman Catholic type]. The Puritans held fast to the old faith and now in 1620 were forbidden to preach it. And from this time and through the primacy of Laud, Puritan doctrine, as well as Puritan practise, was obnoxious to those in power.
- (§ 15). Charles I.; Archbishop Laud. James died in 1625, and was succeeded by Charles I. Under this monarch "the unjust and inhuman proceedings of the Council Table, the Star Chamber, and the High Commission, are unparalleled." Non-conformists were exceedingly harassed and persecuted in every corner of the land. These severities were instigated by Laud, soon after made bishop of London, and prime minister to the king. Lecturers were put down, and such as preached against Arminianism and the Popish ceremonies were suspended. The Puritans were driven from one diocese to another, and many were obliged to leave the kingdom. In 1633 Laud succeeded to the archbishopric of Canterbury, on the death of Abbot, when the Puritans felt the whole force of his fiery zeal; and during the next seven years multitudes of them, ministers and laymen, were driven to Holland and America. The Book of Sports was republished, with like consequences as at the first publication. William Prynne, (q.v.), Burton, and Bastwick suffered their horrible punishments. Ruinous fines were imposed, superstitious rites and ceremonies were practised and enjoined, and the whole church appeared to be going headlong to Rome. In 1640 the Convocation adopted new constitutions and canons, extremely superstitious and tyrannical, which the Long Parliament condemned as being "contrary to the fundamental laws of the realm and to the liberty and property of the subject, and as containing things tending to sedition and dangerous consequence." The nation could bear the unmitigated political and ecclesiastical tyranny no longer. Those who had suffered from the king's arbitrary rule joined with those who were groaning under the despotism of the bishops, and with one vast effort overthrew absolute monarchy and Anglican popery together. A new era now commenced. Puritanism properly so called had ended; for the Puritans split into two parties, Independents and Presbyterians. For the further history see CONGREGATIONALISTS; PRESBYTERIANS; WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY; see also the biographical notices of men named in this article and others prominent in the Puritan time, as CROMWELL, OLIVER; MILTON, JOHN.
- (JOHN BROWNE.) MORTON DEXTER.