the Fourth Week of Lent
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
a name given to a large party in the reign of queen Elizabeth, who complained that the Reformation in England was left in an imperfect state, many abuses both in worship and discipline being still retained. The name Puritans was derived from the frequent assertion of those who composed the party that the Church of England was corrupted with the remains of popery, and that what they desired was a "pure" system of doctrine and discipline; but the English wrord "Puritans" happens accidentally to represent the Greek name "Cathari" which had been assumed by the Novatians, and which had been adopted in Germany during the Middle Ages in the vernacular form "Ketzer" for the Albigenses and other opponents of the Church. It first came into use as the designation of an English Church party about the year 1564 (Fuller, Ch. Hist. 9:66), but after a few years it got to be used also as inclusive of many who had separated from the Church of England. It was gradually superseded as regards the latter by the names of their various sects, as Independents, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc., and as regards the former by the term ‘"Nonconformists." At a still later time, towards the end of the 17th century, the Church Puritans were represented bv "Low-Churchmen," and the Non-Church Puritans by "Dissenters."
The presence of a Puritan party in the Church of England is, however, traceable for two centuries before the name of'" Puritan" was assumed. In the 14th century the conmmon people had become alienated from their parish priests by the influence of the friars, who had authority from the pope to preach and to receive confessions wherever they pleased, and quite independently of the ordinary clergy. This extra-parochial system of mission clergy weakened the hold of the Church upon the populace at large; and, when the friars themselves began to lose their influence, alienation from the clergy developed into alienation from the Church. Thus arose the Lollards of the 15th century, a party which made no attempt to set up separate places of worship or a separate ministry, but which introduced its anltisacerdotal principles into many parish churches, and made many of the clergy as strong opponents of the existing ecclesiastical system as was Wycliffe himself. During the trying times of the Reformation the party thus formed was largely augmented by those whose opposition to lomnish abuses had, by a similar excess, developed into opposition to the whole of the established ecclesiastical system — men who thought that "pure" doctrine and "pure" worship could only be attained by an utter departure from all that had been believed and practiced during the times when the Church of England had contracted impurities of doctrine and worship through popish influences.
While Luther's movement was at its height, the party which thus became the progenitors of the Puritans was formed into a society under the name of "The Christian Brethren," which seems, from the faint view we get of it, to have been very similar to that organized by John Wesley two centuries later. The headquarters of the Brethren were in London, but they had gained a footing at both the universities, apparently among the undergraduates and younger graduates. As early as the year 1523, a body of Cambridge residents "met often at a house called ‘ The White Horse' to confer together with others, in mockery called Germans, because they conversed much in the books of the divines of Germany brought thence. This house wvas chosen because those of King's College, Queen's College, and St. John's might come in at the back side and so be the more private and undiscovered" (Strype, Ecclesiastes Mem. i, 568, ed. 1822). Among those mentioned as so meeting are the names of Barnes, Arthur, Bilney, Latimer, and Coverdale, familiarly known as precursors nof the Puritan movement in Edward VI's and queen Elizabeth's reign. A few years later, in 1527, similar gatherings were detected at Oxford, where the names of Frith, Taverner, Udal, Farrar, and Cox, Edward VI's tutor, are found among those who met together for the same purpose (ibid. i, 569). Among the Oxford party the men of Wolsey's college held a conspicuous position, and his leniency towards all who were brought before him on charges of heresy was very striking.
The principles which were developed among the more extreme section of these early Puritans may be seen by an extract from a work written by William Tyndale (himself a friar and a priest), who was their representative man. Writing of the ministerial office, he says: "Subdeacon, deacon, priest, bishop, cardinal, patriarch, and pope be names of offices and service, or should be, and not sacraments. There is no promise coupled therewith. If they minister their offices truly, it is a sign that Christ's Spirit is in them; if not, that the devil is in them. . . O dreamers and natural beasts, without the seal of the Spirit of God, but sealed with the mark of the beast, and with cankered conscinces,...By a priest understand nothing but an elder to teach the younger, and to bring them unto the full knowledge and understanding of Christ, and to minister the sacraments which Christ ordained, which is also nothing but to preach Christ's promises.... According, therefore, as every man believeth God's promises, longeth for them, and is diligent to pray unto God to fulfil them, so is his prayer heard; and as good is the prayer of a cobbler as of a cardinal, and of a butcher as of a bishop; and the blessing of a baker that knoweth the truth is as good as the blessing of our most holy father the pope.... Neither is there any other manner of ceremony at all required in making our spiritual officers than to choose an able person, and then to rehearse him his duty, and give him his charge, and so put himu in his room" (Obed. of Christ. Man [Park. Soc. ed.], p. 254-259).
These floating elements of Puritanism had, however, very little compactness and unity except in the one particular of opposition to the principles and practices which then prevailed in the Church of England. But in the latter years of Henry VIII's reign, Calvin was consolidating a system of doctrine, worship, and ecclesiastical discipline which was exactly calculated to unite in a wieldy form the individual particles which had previously been comparatively powerless for want of cohesion. Calvin gained some personal influence in England by means of pertinacious letters addressed to the king, the protector Somerset, and archbishop Cranmer; but the principles of his system were chiefly propagated through the introduction of some of his foreign disciples into positions of influence in the Church of England. Thus an Italian named Pietro Vermigli, who had been an Augustinian friar, was made regius professor of divinity at Oxford, and is known to history as Peter Martyr (q.v.). A similar appointment was made at Cambridge, where the regius professor of divinity was a German named Martin Bucer (q.v.), who had been a Dominican friar. Paul Biicher, or Fagius, a companion of Bucer, was destined for the professorship of Hebrew at Cambridge, but died in 1549. Bernard Ochinus (q.v.), ex-vicar- general of the Capuchin friars and confessor to pope Paul III, came from Geneva with Peter Martyr, and was made canon of Canterbury, being afterwards banished from place to place on the Continent for his Socinianism and his advocacy of polygamy. John a Lasco, the Pole, was an inmate of Lambethi Palace, where he and other foreigners formed a kind of Calvinistic privy council to Cranmer; and John Knox (A.D. 1505-72), the Scotch preacher, was at one time carrying out his duties as chaplain to the young king, and at another going on a roving commission to preach down the Church in Northumberland, Durham, and the other northern counties (Jackson, Works, iii, 273).
It was not to be expected from his character that Henry VIII, though he rescued the kingdom from the papal yoke, would proceed very far in reforming the religion of the country. His successor, however, Edward VI, a young prince of earnest piety, was likely, had his valuable life been spared, to have carried out a real reform, which would have rendered the Church of England more simple in her ritual and more strict in her discipline than she has ever had it in her power to be. But Mary succeeded to the throne, and the ancient superstitions were restored. Several congregations of German Protestants, fleeing from Continental persecution, had found an asylum in England. One of the principal of these was settled in London under the pastoral care of John a Lasco, a man of great repute. the friend and patron of Erasmus; while another was placed by the duke of Somerset, the protector during the king's minority, at Glastonbury, upon the lands of the famous monastery then recently dissolved. The influence of the foreigners in matters of religion, however imperceptible, must have already been such as to excite suspicion, for they were commnanded to leave the kingdom without delay. Nor did they retire alone. A furious burst of persecution drove with them a thousand Englishmen, who felt that to remain at home was to incur a needless hazard. The Low Countries, the free cities of the Rhine, and Switzerland were now filled with these wanderers. Frankfort. Basle, Zurich, and Geneva particularly attracted them; for there the doctrines of the Reformation had taken the strongest hold, and there its most eminent professors dwelt. Mingled with these were the leaders of the Continental Reformation. The English refugees had constant intercourse with Calvin, with Gualter, with Peter Martyr, and John a Lasco, and, above all, with Henry Bullinger.
On the death of Mary, the English exiles returned home, "bringing nothing back with them," says Fuller, "but much learning and some experience." It is likely that they were influenced by the manners of the German churches. On their return to England, the contrast between the splendor of the English ceremonial and the simplicity of that abroad was the more striking. Their opponents never ceased to attribute much of the discontent that followed to the Genevan exile. "They were for the most part Zwinglian- gospellers at their going hence," says Heylin, "and became the great promoters of the Puritan faction at their coming home." The Pulritans themselves were never unwilling to own their obiigations to the German Reformers, still, however, founding their scruples rather upon what they themselves conceived to be the absence of scriptural simplicity than upon the practice of other Christians. The question of the habits, or, as it has since been termed, the vestiarian controversy (q.v.), most unsettled them, and it then began to wear an anxious, if not a threatening aspect.
It was urged by the dissatisfied party that the imposition of the vestments was an infringement of their Christian liberty. They were called under the Gospel to worship God in spirit and in truth; and no outward forms or splendors could contribute in any measure to assist the devout mind in a service so spiritual and exalted. On the contrary, the tendency of these official garments was to distract the worshipper, and to debase his devotions by an admixture of those sentiments which are allowed no place in spiritual things. The Church of Christ was only safe in its simplicity, and such was its inward glory that any attempts to decorate could but in fact degrade it. They objected, too. that the vestments against which they wvere contending had a Jewish origin, and belonged not to the Christian ministry, but to the priesthood of the house of Aaron. To introduce them into the Church of Christ was to pervert their meaning. They were a part of the divinely appointed constitution of the Jewish Church, and had passed away, together with the rest of its figurative and mystic ceremonial.
It was a further objection, and one that appealed not only to divines and controversialists, but to the feelings of the common people, that the vestments were identical with all the superstitions of popery. They were looked upon as the badge of antichrist; and those who wore them were regarded with suspicion, as men either indifferent to the cause of the Reformation, or not yet sufficiently enlightened as to the danger, and indeed the sinfulness, of approaching the most distant confines of a system which ought to be avoided with alarm and horror. "If we are bound to wear popish apparel when commanded, we may be obliged to have shaven crowns, and to use oil, and cream, and spittle, and all the rest of the papistical additions to the ordinances of Christ."
The accession of Elizabeth, after the brief but bloody reign of Mary, revived the hopes of those who had been longing for a day of more complete reformation. But it soon became quite apparent that the queen, though opposed in principle to popery, was resolved, notwithstanding, to retain as much show and pomp in religious matters as might be possible. A meeting of convocation was held in the beginning of the year 1562, at which the proposal for a further reformation was seriously discussed. Six alterations in particular were suggested — the abrogation of all holidays except Sabbaths and those relating to Christ; that in prayer the minister should turn his face to the people; that the signling of the cross in baptism should be omitted; that the sick and aged should not be compelled to kneel at the communion; that the partial use of the surplice should be sufficient; and that the use of organs should be laid aside. By a majority of one, and that the proxy of an absent person, these proposed alterations were rejected. From this time the court party and the Reformers, as they may be termed, became more decidedly opposed to each other. The difference in their views is well described by Dr. Hetherington in his History of the Westminster Assembly. "The main question," says he, "on which they were divided may be thus stated: whether it were lawful and expedient to retain in the external aspect of religion a close resemblance to what had prevailed in the times of popery, or not?
The court divines argued that this process would lead the people more easily to the reception of the real doctrinal changes, when they saw outward appearances so little altered, so that this method seemed to be recommended by expediency. The Reformers replied that this tended to perpetuate in the people their inclination to their former superstitions, led them to think there was, after all, little difference between the Reformed and the Papal churches; and, consequently, that if it made them quit popery the more readily at present, it would leave them at least equally ready to return to it should an opportunity offer; and for this reason they thought it best to leave as few traces of popery remaining as possible. It was urged by the court party that every sovereign had authority to correct all abuses of doctrine and worship within his own dominions: this, they asserted, was the true meaning of the Act of Supremacy, and consequently the source of the Reformation in England. The true Reformers admitted the Act of Supremacy in the sense of the queen's explanation given in the Injulctions, but could not admit that the conscience and the religion of the whole nation were subject to the arbitrary disposal of the sovereign. The court party recognised the Church of Rome as a true Church, though corrupt in some points of doctrine and government; and this view it was thought necessary to maintain, for without this the English bishops could not trace their succession from the apostles. But the decided Reformers affirmed the pope to be antichrist, and the Church of Rome to be no true Church; nor would they risk the validity of their ordinations on the idea of a succession through such a channel. Neither party denied that the Bible was a perfect rule of faith; but the court party did not admit it to be a standard of Church government and discipline, asserting that it had been left to the judgment of the civil magistrate in Christian countries to accommodate the government of the Church to the policy of the State.
The Reformers maintained the Scriptures to be the standard of Church government and discipline as well as of doctrine; to the extent, at the very least, that nothing should be imposed as necessary which was not expressly contained in, or derived from, them by necessary consequence, adding that if any discretionary power in minor matters were necessary, it must be vested, not in the civil magistrate, but in the spiritual office-bearers of the Church itself. The court Reformers held that the practice of the primitive Church for the four or five earliest centuries was a proper standard of Church government and discipline, even better suited to the dignity of a national establishment than the times of the apostles; and that, therefore, nothing more was needed than merely to remove the more modern innovations of popery. The true Reformers wished to keep close to the Scripture model, and to admit neither office- bearers, ceremonies, nor ordinances, but such as were therein appointed or sanctioned. The court party affirmed that things in their own nature indifferent, such as rites, ceremonies, and vestments, might be appointed and made necessary by the command of the civil magistrates; and that then it was the bounden duty of all subjects to obey. But the Reformers maintained that what Christ had left indifferent no human laws ought to make necessary; and, besides, that such rites and ceremonies as had been abused to idolatry, and tended to lead men back to popery and superstition, were no longer indifferent, but were to be rejected as unlawful. Finally, the court party held that there must be a standard of uniformity, which standard was the queen's supremacy and the laws of the land. The Reformers regarded the Bible as the only standard, but thought compliance was due to the decrees of provincial and national synods, which might be approved and enforced by civil authority."
From this contrast between the opinions of the two parties, it is plain that, though the use of the sacerdotal vestments formed the rallying-point of the whole controversy, its foundation lay deeper than any mere outward forms. The queen gave strict orders to the archbishop of Canterbury that exact order and uniformity should be maintained in all external rites and ceremonies. Nay, so determined was she that her royal will should be obeyed that she issued a proclamation requiritng immediate uniformity in the vestments on pain of prohibition from preaching and deprivation from office. Matters were now brought to a crisis by this decided step on the part of the queen. Multitudes of godly ministers were ejected from their churches and forbidden to preach anywhere else. Hitherto they had sought reformation within the Church, but now, their hopes from that quarter being wholly blasted, they came to the resolution in 1566 to form themselves into a body distinct from the Church of England, which they regarded as only half reformed. Elizabeth was enraged to see her royal mandate so signally set at naught. The suspended ministers took strong ground, and, having separated from the Church as by law established, they published a treatise in their own vindication, boldly declaring that the imposition of mere human appointments, such as the wearing of particular vestments by the clergy, was a decided infringement on Christian liberty, which it was not only lawful but a duty to resist. In the face of persecution, and under threats of the royal displeasure, the Puritans, who, since the Act of Uniformity had been passed, in 1562, were sometimes called Nonconfonmists, continued to hold their private meetings. Their first attempt to engage in public worship was rudely interrupted by the officers of justice, and under color of law several were sent to prison and were afterwards tried. The party, however, continued to increase, and so infected were the younger students at Cambridge with the Puritan doctrines that the famous Thomas Cartwright, with three hundred more, threw off their surplices in one day within the walls of one college.
The religious condition of England at this time was truly deplorable. "‘ The Churchmen," says Strype, in his Life of Parker, "heaped up many benefices upon themselves, and resided upon none, neglecting their cures; many of them alienated their lands, made unreasonable leases and wastes of their woods, granted reversions and advowsons to their wives and children, or to others for their use. Churches ran greatly into dilapidations and decays, and were kept nasty and filthy, and indecent for God's worship. Among the laity there was little devotion. The Lord's day was greatly profaned and little observed. The common prayers were not frequented. Some lived without any service of God at all. Many were mere heathens and atheists. The queen's own court was a harbor for epicures and atheists, and a kind of lawless place, because it stood in no parish. Which things made good men fear some sad judgments impending over the nation."
To provide a remedy for the ignorance and inefficiency of the clergy, associations were established in different dioceses for the purpose of conducting "prophesyings," as they were called, or private expositions of difficult passages of Scripture. These meetings, however, excited the jealousy of the queen, who issued an order for their suppression. The Parliament seemed to be somewhat disposed to mitigate the sufferings of the Puritans, and in 1572 two bills were passed having that object in view. Encouraged by this movement in their favor, they prepared a full statement of their grievances under the title of an "Admonition to the Parliament;" and in this document, which is understood to have been the production of Cartwright, the Parliament was urged to reform the churches. Instead of obtaining redress, several of the leading Puritans were imprisoned and treated with great severity. The decided opposition which the queen had manifested to all reform in the Church finally led the Puritans to surrender all hope of any legislative act in favor of their views; and being most of them Presbyterians in principle, those of them resident in London and its neighborhood formed themselves into a presbytery, although the step thus taken called forth from the queen another proclamation enforcing uniformity.
In 1572, a Presbyterian Church was formed and a meeting-house erected at Wandsworth, in Surrey. Field, the lecturer of Wandsworth, was its first minister; and several names of consideration with the Puritans, including those of Travers and Wilcox, were among its founders. Presbyteries were formed in other parts of the kingdom, and numerous secret meetings were held in private houses, Which gave more alarm to the government, or at least a stronger pretext for severity. Even moderate men began to express anxiety. To meet the danger, the High Court of Commission was now first put in motion. It empowered the queen and her successors, by their letters patent under the great seal, to authorize, whenever they thought fit, and for as long a period as they pleased, a commission of persons, lay or clerical, to exercise all manner of jurisdiction, under the queen and her successors, in spiritual things; and "to order, visit, reform, and redress all heresies, errors, schisms, abuses, contempts, offences, and enormities whatsoever." One of its first acts was the violent suppression of the Presbyterian meeting at Wandsworth; its subsequent labors were of the same character. Notwithstanding these severities, Puritanism continued to increase; for the persecution which does not exterminate a religious party never fails to strengthen it. And while the cause was gaining strength in London, it was taking firm root in the great seats of learning.
The Puritans were now effectually separated from the Church of England, and were organized under a different form of Church polity. But the independent attitude which they had thus assumed rendered them only the more obnoxious to the queen and the HighChurch party. Stronger measures were accordingly adopted to discourage them and destroy their influence; many of them were silenced, imprisoned, banished, and otherwise oppressed. In 1580, an act of Parliament was passed prohibiting the publication of such books or pamphlets as assailed the opinions of the prelates and defended those of the Puritans. This was followed in the same session by another act authorizing the infliction of heavy fines and imprisonment upon those who absented themselves from "church, chapel, or other place where common prayer is said according to the Act of Uniformity."
The effect of these harsh and rigorous enactments was to render the Puritans bolder and more determined. No longer limiting their complaints against the Established Church to merely outward rites and ceremonies, some of them even went so far as to relnounce her communion, and to declare her as scarcely entitled to the name of a Christian Church. Political discussion broke in upon religious inquiry. The hierarchy was assailed, the Prayer-book vilified, and ministers who had been silenced for their irregularities were listened to, perhaps with the greater satisfaction because of their nonconformity, in the prophesyings. The general religious condition of the country meanwhile suffered greatly. In many counties scarcely one preacher could be found. In some dioceses there were two or three; there was a general thirst for religious instruction, but the people, as the archbishop told the queen, were allowed to perish for lack of knowledge. Grindal resolved to take the "prophesyings" under his own care, and at the same time to remove the causes of objection. IHe therefore forbade the introduction of politics, the speaking of laymen, or ministers suppressed, and the allusions, hitherto not unfrequent, to matters of government; and instead of a chairman elected by the societies, he placed the meetings for the future under the care of the archdeacon, or of some grave divine to be appointed by the bishop. Ten bishops heartily approved of the primate's decision, and encouraged the prophesyings in their dioceses. But the queen regarded them with great dislike, and the court resolved on their suppression. It was in vain the faithful primate remonstrated with the queen. "Alas! madam, is the Scripture more plain in any one thing than that the Gospel of Christ should be plentifully preached? I am forced, with all humility, and yet plainly, to profess that I cannot with safe conscience. and without offence to the majesty of God, give my assent to the suppressing of the said exercises." In vain did the earl of Leicester and the lord-treasurer Burleigh, who presented the remonstrance, add the weight of their intercessions. The queen was enraged. and the primate, who was old and sick, was ordered to consider himself a prisoner in his own house, and would probably have been deprived if death had not stepped in to his release. He died July 6, 1583. Preaching fell into contempt, and the Church of England has never since entirely recovered from the blow. There has always since this event been a party in the Church which has regarded this divine ordinance with real or well-feigned contempt.
One of the leaders of the extreme section of the Puritan party was Robert Brown, who is thought to have been the founder of the Independent or Congregational Church in England. (See BROWNISTS). The greater number of the Puritans, however, were either Presbyterians, or still retained their connection with the Church of England. But in all circumstances they were the objects of the most bitter and unrelenting hostility on the part of Elizabeth. The tide of persecution ran high and strong. In vain did the House of Commons attempt to throw the shield of their protection over the poor oppressed Puritans; the queen was inexorable, and parliament was compelled to yield.
In this state of matters all hope of a legislative remedy was abandoned, and the Puritan ministers set themselves to devise plans for their own usefulness and efficiency as Christian teachers. Although many of the Puritans thus formed separate sects, a very large proportion of them still continued in the Church; and very subtle measures were taken by some of their leaders a few years later, under Cartwright's advice and direction, for the inoculation of the country with Presbyterian principles in such a manner as to avoid the forfeiture of their benefices. On May 8, 1582, sixty clergymen from the eastern counties met at Cockfield, in Suffolk, of which parish one of them — Knewstub — was vicar (oddly enough, Cockfield is within a short distance of Hadleigh, where the earliest plans of the Tractarians were laid), to consult about the ordinary Puritan platform — "apparel, matter, form, days, fastings, injunctions." etc. They adjourned to Cambridge, and from thence to London, "where they hoped to be concealed by the general resort of the people to Parliament." At length, under the guidance of Cartwright, the late Margaret professor, and of Travers, afterwards Hooker's opponent, and who was at the time domestic chaplain and tutor in the family of lord Burleigh, this convocation of Puritan clergy framed the following systematic plan for grafting their new system on that of the Church. The document is of sufficient importance to be given at full length:
"Concerning Ministers. — Let no man, though he be a university man, offer himself to the ministry; nor let any man take upon him an uncertain and vague ministry, though it be offered unto him. "But such as be called to the ministry by some certain Church, let them inmpart it unto that Classis or Conference whereof themselves are, or else unto some greater Church assembly; and if such shall be found fit by them, then let them be commended by their letters unto the bishop, that they may be ordained ministers by him.
"Those ceremonies in the Book of Common Prayer which, being taken from popery, are in controversy ought to be omitted and given over, if it may be done without danger of being put from the ministry. But if theie be any imminent danger to be deprived, then this matter must be communicated to the Classis in which that Church is, that by the judgmment thereof it may be determined what ought to be done.
"If subscription to the Articles of Religion and to the Book of Common Prayer shall be again urged, it is thought that the Book of Articles may be subscribed unto, according to the statutes 13 Eliz., that is, unto such of them only as contain the sum of Christian faith and doctrine of the sacramen ts. But, for many weighty causes, neither the rest of the Aiticles in that book nor the Book of Common Pranyer may be allowed; no, though a man should be deprived of his ministry for it.
"Concerning Churchwardens. — It seemeth that churchwardens and collectors for the poor might be thus turned into elders and deacons.
"When they are to be chosen, let the Church have warning fifteen days before of the time of elections, and of the ordinances of the realm; but especially of Chiist's ordinance touchinig appointing of watchmen and overseers in his Church, who are to foresee that none offence or scandal do arise in the Chni ch; and if any such happen, that by them it be duly abolished.
"Of Collectors for the Poor, or Deacons. — And touching deacons of both sorts — viz., men and women — the Church shall be mionished what is required by the apostle; and that they are not to choose men of custom and of course, or of riches, but for their faith, zeal, and integrity; and that the Church is to pray, in the meantime, to be so directed that they make choice of them that be meet.
"Let the names of such as are chosen be published the next Lord's day, and after that their duties to the Church, and the Church's towards them, shall be declared; then let them be received unto the ministry to which they are chosen with the oeneral prayeis of the whole Church.
"Of Classes. — The bletren are to be requested to ordain a distribution of all churches, according to these rules in that behalf that are set down in the Synodical Discipline, touching classical, provincial, comitial, or of commencements and assemblies for the whole kingdom.
"The Classes are to be required to keep acts of memorable matters, which they shall see delivered to the comitial assembly, that from thence they may be brought by the provincial assembly.
"They are to deal earnestly with patrons to present fit men whensoever any Church is fallen void in that Classis.
"The comitial assemblies are to be admonished to make collections for the relief of the poor aind of scholars, but especially for the relief of such ministers here as are put out for not subscribing to the articles tendered by the bishops; also for relief of Scottish ministers and others, and for other profitable and necessary uses.
"All the provincial synods must continually aforehand foresee in due time to appoint the keeping of their next provincial synods, and for the sending of chosen persons with certain instructions unto the national synod, to be holden whensoever the Parliament for the kingdom shall be called, and at some certain time every year" (Dangerous Positions and Proceedings , p. 46; Neal, Hist. of the Puritans, i, 345).
A Book of Discipline was prepared for their direction in their pastoral work; and this document was subscribed by upwards of five hundred of the most devoted ministers in England.
The High-Church party now took a bold step in advance. Dr. Bancroft, in a sermon which he preached at Paul's Cross, Jan. 12, 1588, maintained the divine right of bishops, thus exposing the Puritans to the charge of heresy. The promulgation of a doctrine so novel and startling excited the utmost commotion throughout all England. Many of the moderate supporters of episcopacy were not prepared to coincide in the extreme view which Dr. Bancroft had taken, and the friends of royal supremacy were alarmed lest the propagation of such opinions might lead to an infringement of the queen's prerogative as head of the Church of England. The Puritans, on the other hand, were for a considerable time disposed to treat the whole matter with ridicule, and, accordingly, the famous Martin Mar-Prelate tracts were issued at this time, characterized by the most pungent wit and caustic satire, levelled against the bishops and their supporters. These anonymous pamphlets were circulated in great numbers throughout the country, and read with the utmost avidity by all classes of the people. The authors of these clever though coarse productions were never discovered, and their damaging effect upon the High-Church party was only arrested by the seizure of the printing-press from which they had been thrown off.
But the evil which Bancroft wrought was not limited to the extravaganut assertion of the divine right of episcopacy; he persecuted the Puritans with such relentless fury that in one year three hundred ministers were silenced, excommunicated, imprisoned, or compelled to leave the country. An act was passed for the suppression of conventicles on pain of perpetual banishment. In short, throughout the whole reign of Elizabeth, the Puritans were assailed with the most cruel persecution in almost every conceivable form. At length, as the life of the despotic queen approached its close, the hopes of the oppressed and down-trodden party began to revive. The throne, when vacant, was likely to be filled by James VI of Scotland, whose educcation in a Presbyterian country, as well as his avowed preference for a Presbyterian Church, was likely to predispose him to favor their views.
March 24, 1603, queen Elizabeth died, and the Scottish king was proclaimed sovereign of England. The Puritans lost no time in taking steps to call the attention of the new king to the heavy grievances under which they had long labored. As James was travelling southwards to take possession of the English throne, a document, commonly known by the name of the Millenary Petition, was put into his hands, in the preamble of which the petitioners declared — and hence the name — "That they, to the number of more than a thousand ministers, groaned under the burden of human rites and ceremonies, and cast themselves at his majesty's feet for relief." This petition was signed by seven hundred and fifty ministers, which was probably about one half of the Puritan ministers in England. As was to hare been expected, the prelatic party also assailed the royal ear with plausible statements of their HighChurch views. James professed to have a peculiar skill in theological debate, and by way of appearing to be impartial, he arranged a public discussion of the contested points to take place in his presence on an appoilted day. This is well known as the Hampton Court Conference, which ended in convincing the Puritans that they were uttterlv mistaken in looking for protection, not to speak of favor, from the new monarch, who had evidently become a sudden convert to Episcopacy, and that, too, of the strongest and most High-Church character.
James had no sooner ascended the throne of England than he began to manifest a disposition to be still more tyrannical and despotic than even Elizabeth herself had been. The High Commission, which had long been an engine of the most cruel oppression against the Puritans, was continued; subscription to canons and articles was enforced with the utmost rigor, and those ministers who refused to subscribe were silenced or deposed. Thus insulted and oppressed, both by the government and the dominant party in the Church, the Puritans felt it to be important that their true principles should be thoroughly understood by the people, With this view a treatise was published, entitled English Puritanism, which afforded a full and impartial statement of their peculiar opinions.
The extent to which James was disposed to push the royal prerogative was well fitted to awaken alarm both in the Parliament and the people. Both civil and religious liberty were evidently in danger, and Parliament prepared to interfere and to demand redress of grievances which had now become intolerable. "But the king," says Dr. Hetherington, "met all their remonstrances and petitions for redress with the most lofty assertions of his royal prerogative, in the exercise of which he held himself to be accountable to God alone, affirming it to be sedition in a subject to dispute what a king might do in the height of his power. The Parliament repeated the assertion of their own rights, accused the High Commission of illegal and tyrannical conduct, and advocated a more mild and merciful course of procedure towards the Puritans. Offended with the awakening spirit of freedom thus displayed, the king, by the advice of Bancroft, dissolved the Parliament, resolved to govern, if possible, without parliaments in future. This arbitrary conduct on the part of James aroused, in the mind of England, a deep and vigilant jealousy with regard to their sovereign's intentions, which rested not till, in the reign of his son, it broke forth in its strength and overthrew the monarchy."
Deprived of all hope of redress, numbers of the Puritans fled to the Continent, and some of them, having there become imbued with the principles of Independency, returned to introduce that system of Church polity into England. Thus arose a body of Christians which ere long assumed a prominent place both in the religious and political history of the kingdom. The king, though a professed religionist, was still more a politician; and so completely was the former character merged in the latter that he had come to rank all as Puritans who dared to limit the royal prerogative or to uphold the rights and liberties of the people as established by law and the constitution of the country. To the maintenance of despotism in the State he added also the fostering of a novel theology in the Church, avowing his hostility to the Calvinistic views in which he had been reared in Scotland, and bestowing his favors upon those of the English clergy who were beginning to teach Arminian sentiments. The condition of the country, both in a political and religious aspect, was every day becoming more agitated, and matters were fast ripening for a great national convulsion, when the death of James, in 1625, and the accession of his son Charles I, arrested the revolutionary tendencies for a time. Additional cruelties, however, were inflicted upon the Puritans under the new reign; fresh ceremonies of a thoroughly Romish character were introduced by Laud with the royal sanction; and, in consequence, numbers who refused to conform were obliged to seek refuge in other countries.
A few years before the new reign had commenced, a body of Puritans, unable longer to endure the persecution to which they were exposed, had embarked as exiles, seeking a new home on the western shores of the Atlantic, and had formed a settlement in New Elngland, destined to be the foundation of a new empire. This colony of the Pilgrim fathers (q.v.) received vast accessions in consequence of the arbitrary measures of Latd. An association for promoting emigration to New England was formed on a large scale. Men of rank and influence and ejected Puritan ministers of high standing encouraged the scheme, and a grant of land from the government was applied for. The king was not opposed to the design, and a patent was obtained for the government and company of Massachusetts Bay. Emigrants to the number of 200 set sail, and, landing at Salem in 1629, established a new colony there. Next year 1500 left the shores of England, including many both of wealth and education. The desire for emigration on the part of the oppressed Puritans continued to gather strength, and year after year large numbers of them proceeded to New England. Neal alleges that had not the civil power interfered to check the rage for emigration, in a few years one-fourth part of the property of the kingdom would have been taken to America. But the government became alarmed, and a proclamation was issued "to restrain the disorderly transporting of his majesty's subjects, because of the many idle and refractory humors, whose only or principal end is to live beyond the reach of authority." Next day an order appeared to "stay eight ships now in the river of Thames prepared to go for New England," and the passengers, among whom was Oliver Cromwell, were obliged to disembark. Notwithstanding the check thus given to emigration, it is calculated that during twelve years the emigrants amounted to no less than 21,000 persons.
The tyrannical conduct of Charles and his minions, both in the government and the Church, soon precipitated the country into all the horrors of a civil war, which ended in the death of the king by the axe of the executioner, and in the establishment of the Commonwealth under the protectorate of Cromwell. By the act of Sept. 10, 1642, it was declared that prelacy should be abolished in England from and after Nov. 5, 1643, and it was resolved to summon together an assembly of divines in order to complete the necessary reformation. In the meantime, various enactments were passed for the suppression of some of the most crying evils, and for affording some support to those Puritan ministers who had been ejected in former times for nonconformity, or had recently suffered from the ravages of the king's army. It was a religious age; and though the people had trampled the crown beneath their feet, they showed no disposition to depreciate the office of the clergy. During the heat of the war the Puritans, who almost to a man sided with the Parliament, preached to large congregations; and, in all the great towns at least, they had the implicit ear of the people. Episcopacy being at an end, they acted, for a while, according to the dictates of conscience or mere taste; the surplice was generally laid aside; and extempore prayer was used in the parish churches even before the ordinance of Parliament appeared, in 1645, forbidding the Book of Common Prayer. The old Puritanism, however, was now passing away. A generation had arisen in whose eves the principles of Cartwiright were crude and imperfect. They no longer contended against the forms and vestments, but against the constitution of the Church of England. Prelacy, by which we understand the episcopacy titled and associated with civil authority, was detested; all forms of prayer were decried; and episcopacy, even in its mildest forms, was thought unscriptural. Thus Puritanism, properly so called, became extinct because the grounds of the old contention no longer existed. The later Puritans appeared and immediately fell into two great parties, Presbyterians (q.v.) and Independents (q.v.). For nine months after the passing of the act for the abolition of prelacy there was no fixed and legalized form of Church government in England at all. Even Charles had consented to the removal of the bishops from the House of Lords; and though he had not sanctioned the abolition of the hierarchy, yet a large party regarded the measure as called for in the circumstances of the country. In this state of matters the Westminster Assembly of Divines was convened, consisting largely of Puritan preachers who had gradually become attached to Presbyterianism. The Independent or Congregational party in the Assembly, however, though few in point of number, yet had sufficient influence to prevent presbytery from being established in England. Throughout the days of the Commonwealth Puritanism existed in the form chiefly of Independency. On Dec. 25, 1655, Cromwell issued a proclamation that thenceforth no minister of the Church of England should dare to preach, administer the sacraments, or teach schools, on pain of imprisonment or exile. After the Restoration of Charles II, in 1662, the name of Puritan was changed into that of Non-conformist, which comprehended all who refused to observe the rites and subscribe to the doctrines of the Church of England in obedience to the Act of Uniformity. By this act nearly 2000 ministers of the Church of England were ejected from their charges and thrown into the ranks of the Nonconformists (q.v.).
It may be proper to mention, in conclusion, the doctrinal Puritans. These formed, in fact, the moderate Church party during the reign of Charles I. Their leaders were bishops Davenant, Hall, Williams, and Carleton. The title of doctrinal Puritans was fastened upon them by the Laudian party. They held and taught the doctrines of the Reformation, in opposition to the sacramental system which Laud had recently introduced. They entertained no scruples as to the forms and ceremonies of the Church of England, to which they willingly conformed. But they rejected with indignation the innovations of the Laudian party, who, in return, branded them with the name of Puritans. It was an entirely new application of the word, and one against which they did not fail to protest. It seems to have been first used about 1625 by bishop Montague in a controversy with Carleton, and the latter exclaims, "This is the first time that I ever heard of a Puritan doctrine in points dogmatical, and I have lived longer in the Church than he hath done. I thought that Puritans were only such as were factious against the bishops, in the point of pretended discipline; and so I am sure it hath been understood in our Church." The controversies which have ever since existed within the bosom of the Church of England now for the first time appeared. The construction of the baptismal offices became a subject of contention, and the whole question of baptismal and sacramental grace. The doctrinal Puritans adhered to the ancient forms of worship, and for doing so were severely harassed. The Laudian party maintained "that whatever rites were practiced in the Church of Rome, and not expressly abolished at the Reformation, nor disclaimed by any doctrine, law, or canon, were consistent with the Church of England." Under this general maxim they introduced a multitude of ceremonies — such, for instance, as bowing to the east and placing candles on the altar, now gorgeously decorated once more — which had long been dismissed as badges of popery. Thus in a short time a difference was apparent between the two parties both in doctrinal teaching and in visible forms. To complete the quarrel, the Laudians were of the Arminian school, while the doctrinal Puritans were moderate Calvinists. For twenty years the doctrinal Puritans were subjected to all manner of annoyance; but they remained steadfast in their attachment to the Church, and when the storm burst upon it they were exposed to all its fury. They took no share in Laud's convocation of 1640, and greatly disapproved of its arbitrary measures. But the popular rage made no distinctions, and the Church Puritans suffered just as much as their old opponents of the high prelatic party. The Church itself was overthrown; and in the darkness and confusion that ensued they disappear from sight during the civil war.
The literature of the Puritans, as a religious party, consists chiefly of controversial and practical theology, and in both its ability is confessed by friend and foe. As Whitgift and his disciple Hooker exhausted the argument in favor of episcopacy and a liturgical Church, so did Cartwright and Travers that in behalf of Presbyterian discipline. The student, after a wide search among the combatants of later times, finds, to his surprise, how insignificant are all their additions to a controversy opened, and, as far as learning and argument can go, finally closed, by the earliest champions on either side. Of the practical divinity of Elizabeth's reign, a large proportion was contributed by the Puritans. The party embraced men of high rank and general education as well as men of theological learning; and the literature of the age bears many tokens of their influence. If we descend to the next age, the names of the greatest men of the reigns of James, Charles I, and the Commonwealth present themselves as in a greater or less degree connected with the Puritans. Selden, Whitelock, Milton, with their pens; Rudyard, Hampden, Vane, in Parliament; Owen, Marshall, Calamy, Baxter, and a host of others, in the pulpit; Cromwell, Essex, and Fairfax, in the field — all ranged themselves under the Puritan cause. Never was a party more distinguished in its advocates; never was a cause lost amid more hopeful prospects, or when to human eyes its triumph was more secure. In 1650 it was at the summit of its pride and power, with the Church of England at its feet. Ten years afterwards its influence had passed away; and, in the persons of the Presbyterians who crossed over to propitiate the yomung king at Breda, it was submissively pleading for its life. See Zurich Letters; Strype, Life of Cranmer; Paul, Life of Whitgift; Brook, A Memoir of Thomas Cartwright; Hall, Hard Measure and Shaking of the Olive Tree; Whitelock, Memorials; Speeches in this Great and Happy Parliament, 1645; History of the Westminster Assembly; Clarendon, History of the Great Rebellion; Neal, History of the Puritans; Heylin, History of the Reformation, and Life of Laud; Gardiner, History of the English Revolution (republished in the excellent series of history manuals by Scribner & Co., New York); Marsden, Dictionary of Sects and Heresies; and the exhaustive articles in Gardner. Dictionary of Faiths, and Blunt, Dictionary of Historical Theology, both of which we have freely used.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Puritans'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/puritans.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.