The work here presented to the reader is intended to give, within moderate compass and in the light of recent research, the history of the rise, growth and decline of that puritan movement which, for a hundred years, so vitally affected the course of our rational life. It aims at a middle course. There have been historical monographs dealing with separate portions of the movement; and there have also been connected histories of it as a whole; but the monographs were necessarily sectional and incomplete; and on the other hand the connected histories were too elaborate and therefore too lengthy for readers with only limited time at their disposal, but who yet wished to arrive at a fairly trustworthy knowledge of the subject. It is hoped this little book may to some extent meet the needs of readers of this class.
The subject is worthy of attention, for puritanism had important bearings both upon the religious life and the constitutional history of the nation. It was first of all religious in its character. The early puritans had no political views, yet their religion opinions worked out to political results. Borgeaud has shewn that modern democracy is the child of the Reformation, not of the reformers. For in the Reformation the two levers used to break the! authority of the Holy See were free enquiry and the priesthood of all believers; and these two principles contained in them the germs of the political revolution which has come to pass. For they made the community the visible centre of the Church, and the people the principal factor of social life. On these grounds the history of the English puritans deserves to be known from within and in such connected form as the necessary limitations of space will allow.
The origins of puritanism
The origins of puritanism as a recognised descriptive term, came into use, Thomas Fuller tells us, about the year 1564. But as there were reformers before the Reformation, so there were puritans before that which has come to be regarded as in a special sense the puritan period. For puritanism was not so much an organised system as a religious temper and a moral force, and being such it could enter into combinations and alliances of varied kind. It may fairly be applied to Wycliflfe and the Lollards as well as to the later protestant reformers; to Hooper and Latimer in the days of Edward VI as well as to Cartwright and Travers in those of Elizabeth; to some who remained within the pale of the English Church and to others who separated from it. The name was not confined to presbyterians and congregationalists, for there were bishops who may be described as distinctly puritan; nor was it to be identified with the Calvinistic system of doctrine, for Archbishop Whitgift
And even yet we have not enumerated all possible applications. What an old writer calls this reproachful word puritan was applied scoffingly to men who were regarded as foolishly precise in the matter of forms and ceremonies; it was also applied seriously to some of the greatest names in our history and literature to Cromwell and Milton, to Baxter and Bunyan. Then it was but a step from those who were thought to be needlessly precise as to forms of worship, to pass to men who were thought to be needlessly strict as to life and morals. Richard Baxter relates that his father was jeered at as a puritan, though a strict conformist to the Church and the Book of Common Prayer, because he read the Bible with his family on Sunday afternoons, and refused to join in the merry-makings then going on round the maypole which stood by the great tree near his door.
.As was said by a writer of those days In the mouth of a drunkard he is a puritan who refuseth his cups; in the mouth of a swearer he which feareth an oath in the mouth of a libertine he who makes any scruple of common sins. Still, while the name thus varied in its applications with time and persons and the course of events, we discern at once a common element of characteristic sort running through all the variations (...).
Under all its forms, reverence for Scripture, and for the sovereign majesty of God, a severe morality, popular sympathies and a fervent attachment to the cause of civil freedom have been the signs and tokens of the puritan spirit. While saying thus much we are not concerned to deny that there were puritans who did not realise the greatness of their own idea.
There were those among them who had not that wider conception of the action of the Spirit of God in human life which leads a man to regard scholarship, knowledge, art and beauty as sacred things; they may not have always heard the voice of God speaking through the forces of history and in the facts of daily life as well as from the pages of revelation; and they may not have sufficiently recognised the developments of mans richer nature as gifts of God, Gods way of unfolding man himself, enriching his culture and sweetening his life. But this is only true in a narrow and limited sense. Both in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the leaders of the puritans were among the foremosf of their age in learning and intellectual force.
They were, for the most part, university men, and for culture and refinement of taste had no need to fear comparison with their opponents either in Church or State. It may be true that there were small men among them, men bitter and narrow and rude, but so there were among those on the other side; and when all abatements have been made, and all has been said that can be said in the way of caricature and depreciation, it still remains true that the sacred cause of liberty owes much to these men, and that the puritan strain has entered into much that is best in our national life and literature.
But while there have been manifestations of the puritan spirit in different ages and in varying form, there was a distinct and definite period in English history which has come to be recognised as that of puritanism proper. This was a period of a hundred years, from the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558 to the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658. Previous to the first of these dates the controversy was between Romanist and Protestant, during the century referred to it was waged between Anglican and Puritan, and we can trace puritanism taking, as an historical movement, a definite line including its rise, development, ascendancy, and ultimate downfall. The accession of Queen Elizabeth brought the English people to what we may call the parting of the ways. It was the introduction of a new era both for Church and State. Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, and Elizabeth a few days before the beginning of 1559.
During the half century between these two dates England was governed by three sovereigns of the House of Tudor and passed through three revolutions in her national Church life. At Henry s accession the Church in England was an organic portion of the Western Church, an extension into England of the one great Catholic Church of the West. Within this extension the Pope was supreme in all ecclesiastical causes; the highest Court of Appeal was at Rome; the highest officers of the Church were appointed by the Pope, and as far back as the long reign of Henry III the Pope appointed Italian ecclesiastics not only to English bishoprics, but also to the ordinary livings of the Church. Then, in 1534, came the Reformation, and the Church in England became the Church of England.
Various Acts of Parliament, but chiefly the great Act of Supremacy, transferred the papal authority to the King, and made Henry VIII, in everything but in name, Pope of England. It only remained for Pope Paul III to complete the process, which he did by issuing a Bull of Excommunication and deposition against the King and his abettors. There was an important difference between the way the Reformation took its rise in England and the course it took among the protestant nations of the Continent. In Switzerland and Germany the movement began with the people; in England, on the contrary, it took its rise from the action of the State as a decisive movement and, for the most part, spread among the people afterwards. This accounts for the fact that when Edward VI came to the throne in 1547 the externals of worship were but little changed from their ancient form.
The altars in the churches stood as of old; the priests wore their gorgeous vestments and celebrated their masses as before. And so long as this was the case and the Church service went on as it had done all their lives and those of their fathers before them, the people generally troubled their heads very little about changes in legislation. But Edward VI had not long been king before new ways came in. In the spring of 1548 a service-book in English instead of in Latin was prepared, and issued with authority the following year. The first English Book of Common Prayer took the place of the Mass, which in itself was a momentous fact; and stone altars gave place to communion tables. Still further, the leaders of the English Church entered into close and friendly relations with the ministers of the Reformed Churches of the Continent. So much so, indeed, that Peter Martyr and Martin Bucer came over at Cranmers request to assist him in the preparation of the Articles and in the revision of the First Prayer Book of 1549, preparatory to the one of 1552.
It was a revolution again, which came in when in 1553 Queen Mary ascended the English throne. In her first proclamation of August 18 she expressed a wish that her people should be of the old religion, the one she had ever professed from her infancy hitherto. One of the first Acts of her first Parliament was the Act of Repeal which abolished nine Acts passed in the reign of Edward VI, and restored the Church to the condition in which it was at the death of Henry VIII. Her second Act of Repeal, of 1554, abolished eighteen Acts of Henry relating to the Church, and one of Edward, thus restoring the Church to the condition in which it was in 1529 before the breach with Rome. England was again reconciled to the Papal See, and received absolution for her supposed sin of departure from the true faith. In meekness and docility she returned to the Roman obedience, and the power of the Catholic clergy became what it had been when the Pope constituted Henry VIII Defender of the Faith.
But while restoring the ancient Church to its former ascendancy she did so in a spirit so ruthless that in the end it was found to have defeated itself. She outraged the better feeling of the nation by burning worthy men and women at the stake, so that while she overthrew the work of her father and her brother, hers also in turn came to be overthrown. It is but little indeed of the Acts and deeds of her government that took permanent place in the Constitution or laws of England. It has been truly said that her cruelties, her martyr-fires by the loathing which they produced in the minds of Englishmen did more to establish the Reformation than any other single cause. At the same time there were other causes at work as well. Even in the earlier days of Henry VIII the New Learning had begun to influence the minds of men and to change their attitude to the old ideas.
In its conflict with old institutions and ancient modes of thought, it had with it as a mighty ally the newly-discovered power of the printing press. A new world was come to its birth time. It is said that most of the young men of brains and energy who grew to manhood during Marys reign were lapsing from Catholicism and that educated women were falling faster and further. There is one fact connected with the reign of Mary to which special attention must be called as being fundamental to the historical development of puritanism. Many of the leading men who had embraced protestantism in the reigns of Henry and Edward found, as soon as the new Queen came to the throne, that England was no longer a place of safety for them. Burnet says that more than a thousand of these men sought refuge among the Reformed Churches of the Continent. Strype adds that among these exiles there were five bishops, five deans, four archdeacons, and fifty-seven doctors of divinity and preachers who had held these offices in the Church under Edward VI.
It is to be noted that these men sought refuge not in the Lutheran cities of North Germany but among the Zwinglian and Calvinistic peoples of Switzerland and the Upper Rhine. This fact is thought to indicate that the English Church in the time of Edward VI was more Zwinglian than Lutheran in its view of the sacraments than is sometimes supposed. While the exiles found homes in various cities, in Frankfort, Strasburg, Bale, Zurich and Geneva, Zurich seems to have been their most important centre. Here during the five years of Marys ill-starred reign they remained, forming friendships of closest Christian affection which have their record in the extensive body of letters preserved in the archives of the city, and which were written to Bullinger and other brethren after their return. But what is more to our purpose they were brought into close contact with the doctrines and discipline of the foreign reformers.
They were favourably impressed with the simpler Church polity, to which they became accustomed, and were attracted to what seemed to them the more scriptural and spiritual forms of worship. The impressions thus received and the opinions they then came to hold had direct influence upon the course of events in the days near at hand. Their time of return came at length when on the 17th of November, 1558, Mary passed away and Elizabeth was proclaimed queen in her stead. Sandys, who was then at Strasburg, heard the news on the 19th of December, and passed it on to the brethren at Zurich and Geneva. All prepared to return at once. The winter was, however, unusually severe, the roads in places almost impassable, and, the Rhine being frozen hard, sailing was impracticable. Those who started from Zurich were no less than fifty-seven days on the return journey. But rough and tedious as that journey was it was nevertheless cheered by a rising hope, the hope, as they expressed it, that we may teach and practise the true knowledge of Gods Word which we have learned in this our banishment, and by Gods merciful providence seen in the best Reformed Churches.
That is to say, these protestant exiles returned to England with foreign ideals in their minds which they hoped to be able to realise m the government and worship of the English Church at home. Meantime Elizabeth had been already welcomed to the throne as the cherished hope of the protestant part of the nation. Young as she was she had seen strange sides of life and gone through rough experiences. Still, she had embraced the ideas of the later policy of her lather, had entered into the spirit of the New Learning, and had expressed approval of a reform of the Church in accordance with a fuller understanding of Scripture and Christian antiquity. At the service held on Christmas Day, and therefore only a few days after her accession, she forbade the elevation of the Host, and on Bishop Oglethorpe, who was the celebrant, refusing to obey, she went out after the reading of the Gospel. Her feeling was still more marked on the more important occasion of the Coronation Service held on the 13th of January. Oglethorpe again officiated, again she commanded him to celebrate without the elevation, and again he refused. So she also took her own line of action, and just before the time when elevation would take place she retired to her traverse or dressing-room.
On another state occasion, at the opening of Parliament, when she was met by the last abbot of Westminster with monks and candles, she unceremoniously bade him: Away with those torches; we can see well enough. Still, in spite of these manifestations the more advanced protestants could not feel quite sure of her. She had told De Feria, the Spanish ambassador, that she acknowledged the Real Presence in the sacrament, and did now and then pray to the Virgin Mary. On another occasion also she explained to him that her religion was that of all sensible people who looked upon all the differences between the different versions of Christianity as little more than a mere bagatelle. The feeling of uncertainty concerning her thus created is reflected in the letters from England preserved in the archives of Zurich. One of the returned exiles, writing to a friend in that city, says: If the Queen herself would but banish the Mass from her private chapel the whole thing might easily be got rid of. John Jewell, also, afterwards bishop of Salisbury, writes in much the same strain: As to ceremonies and maskings there is a little too much foolery.
That little silver cross of ill-omened origin still maintains its place in the Queens Chapel. In a further letter to Peter Martyr he adds:
The scenic apparatus of divine worship is now under agitation: and those very things which you and I have so often laughed at are now seriously and solemnly entertained by certain persons as if the Christian religion could not exist without something tawdry. We cannot make these fooleries of much importance.
The first public act of Elizabeth, as it was with Mary, was to issue a proclamation forbidding any change being made in the forms of worship till Parliament met and settled the future order by statute. This first Parliament of Elizabeths reignmet on the 25th of January, 1559, and sat till the 8th of May, to begin the alterations of religion. After restoring to the Crown the first-fruits andtenths which Mary had returned to the Church, and repealing such penal laws as had been enacted against the service used under Edward VI the Houses passed to the two great memorable Acts of this Parliament, the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity, the two pillars on which the Church of England has rested down to our own day. The Act of Supremacy repealed Marys Act of Repeal, and restored the ancient Jurisdictions and pre-eminencies appertaining to the Imperial Crown, but with one important change. Henry VIII and Edward VI had each claimed to Supreme Head of the Church of England.
Elizabet was unwilling to be so described, maintaining as did that this honour belongs to Christ and to Chris alone. She was therefore entitled Supreme Governor the oath prescribed to be taken by all and ever ecclesiastical person being to the effect that the Queens Highness is the only supreme governor or this realm, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastica things or causes as temporal, and that no foreign prince or prelate hath any ecclesiastical or spiritual authority within her dominions. Still while the Queen renounced the Headship of the Church the Act of the Submission of the Clergy was restored in full so that it was only the mere title that was renounced, and the whole power was reserved to the Crown. There was fierce battle round the Supremacy Bill for two whole months, from February 9 till April 29, but after renewed debates, changes and concessions it was finally passed.
Any person refusing to take the oath prescribed under this Act was to forfeit and lose all and every ecclesiastical and spiritual promotion, benefit and office, and even temporal and lay promotion and office which he held at the time of refusal; his emoluments should cease as though he were actually dead. There was one section of the Act of Supremacy profound significance coming time. The Queen and her successors were to have power, by letters patent under the Great Seal to appoint commissioners to exercise under the Crown all manner of jurisdictions and to visit, reform, redress, correct and amend all errors, heresies, and schisms which might come within the scope of spiritual or ecclesiastical power. In other words, while the two great Acts referred to revolutionised the ecclesiastical constitution, this commission was to carry out the Queens visitation and enforce her injunctions, and that too without authority rom or reference to any clerical or ecclesiastical authority whatsoever, except that which pertained to the Crown itself. These commissions were renewed from time to time, deriving their authority direct from the Crown under the Great Seal and held responsible not to the Church in any sense, nor even to Parliament, but to the Privy Council.
These commissions, whether temporary, as in the case of the first, which completed its task at the end of October, 1559, or permanent, as in the case of the Court of High Commission of 1583, became the recognised mode by which the supremacy of the sovereign, with the aid of the Privy Council, was brought to bear upon the government of the Church of England independently alike of Parliament or Convocation. In Tudor times the personal government of the Church by the sovereign was complete, and not less complete under Elizabeth Athan under Henry VIII, Edward VI, or Queer Mary. The first Parliament of Elizabeth is memorable ii our history not only for the Act of Supremacy bis also for the Act of Uniformity by which it was accompanied. The reforming party in the Church were agreed as to doctrine but not as to discipline any ceremonies. This Act was intended to secure uniformity in both. But it was found then, as often since, that the men most resolute in enforcing uniformity are the men who create the most serious divisions. The first thing to secure was the basis on standard. Before the assembling of Parliamer there was a private consultation held at the house of Sir Thomas Smith in Cannon Row to discuss which Prayer Book, that of 1552 or the one of 1549, should be submitted to Parliament for consideration and with what suggested changes.
The Service Book, 1552 being agreed upon, certain changes were made therein, probably to meet the wishes of the Queen In the Communion Service the old words of deliverance were prefixed to the new; the rubric which de the real and essential presence was left out; clause in the Litany which prayed for delivers from the Bishop of Rome and from all his detest: enormities was also omitted. A further change at the instance of the Queen, a change most tasteful to the puritans, was the introduction of what is now known as the Ornaments rubric, framed for the retention of the priestly vestments as they had been in 1548 before the issue of the First Prayer Book of 1549. This was a distinctly reactionary step in the dew of the more advanced protestants, setting aside is it did the legislation of 1553 which prohibited the use of alb, vestment and cope in the prefatory rubric to the Order for Daily Prayer. The Act of Uniformity, having thus re-established the Second Prayer Book of 1552, with alterations and additions, as the recognised order of public worship, also made its use imperative under pressure of certain pains and penalties which were certainly not wanting in stringency. It provided that a minister using any other form of service, or any other manner of cele brating the Lords Supper, should for the first offence lose a years income and be imprisoned for six months; for a second offence he should suffer deprivation of benefice, and for a third imprisonment for life. So far as the laity were concerned, absence from public worship without lawful or reasonable excuse brought the offender under pain of the censure of the Church, and subjected him to a fine of twelve pence for the use of the poor of his parish.
Such were some of the provisions of the Act of Uniformity which came into force on the 24th of June, 1559, one day after the Act of Supremacy. The lines of legislation being thus laid down by Parliament the Queen under the powers conferred by the Act of Supremacy appointed a body of commissioners to make a general visitation of the kingdom and see the laws carried out. These commissions were appointed in companies according to districts, each company consisting of several noblemen and gentlemen, a divine, a doctor of civil law and one or more lawyers. For their guidance and common action certain instructions were provided which are known as the Injunctions of Elizabeth. They were based on the previous injunctions issued by King Edward in 1547, and consisted of fifty-three Articles. They appear to have been drawn up by the revisers of the Prayer Book and were distinctly protestant in tone, Injunctions 2 and 18, for example, ordering the putting away of all the old paraphernalia associated with the ancient forms of worship, and also the abolition of all ecclesiastical processions. They were intended to regulate the lives of the clergy and the subjects of their preaching.
All ecclesiastical persons having cure of souls were, to the uttermost of their wit, knowledge and learning, to declare manifest and open, at least four timesevery year, that all foreign power had been taken away and abolished, and that the Queens power within her realms is the highest power under God they were forbidden to set forth or extol the dignity of any images, relics or miracles; and on other subjects were to preach a sermon at least once a quarter. They were to take away, utterly extinct and destroy all shrines, coverings of shrines, all tables, candlesticks, trindals, and rolls of wax, pictures, paintings and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry and superstition so that there remain no memory of the same. As in recent times mere children unlearned and un able to read matins or mass had been made priests, such as these were no more to be admitted to any cure or spiritual function. There should be a modest and distinct song so used in all parts of the common prayers in the Church that the same may be as plainly understanded as if it were read without singing. Still for the comforting of such that delight in music, either at the beginning or the end of common prayer it may be permitted that there may be sung a hymn or such like song to the praise of Almighty God in the best sort of melody and music that may be conveniently devised, but still so that the sentence of the hymn may be understanded and perceived. Under the sanction of these and such like laws, and guided by these Injunctions, the commissioners appointed set forth in the summer of 1559 to reform and reconstruct the religious life of England of their time.
The task assigned to the commissioners, of making an ecclesiastical visitation through the various counties, was proceeded with soon after Parliament was dissolved. Jewell, writing to Peter Martyr in the month of August, says:
I am on the point of setting out upon a long and troublesome commission for the establishment of religion through Reading, Abingdon, Gloucester, Bristol, Bath, Wells, Exeter, Cornwall, Dorset and Salisbury, a journey of about seven hundred miles, and occupying about four months.
It was theirs to see the two principal Acts of the recent Parliament carried into practical effect. The Act of Supremacy as superseding the authority of the Pope by that of the Queen bore mainly, of course, upon the Roman Catholics in the nation who were opposed to the Reformation altogether. The Act of Uniformity was intended to regulate and bring to one standard the forms of worship of the more advanced protestants, whose one desire was to see the Reformation carried further still.
The Roman Catholic bishops, at Elizabeths succession had been greatly reduced in numbers by death; those who remained, with the single exception of Kitchin of Llandaff, resolved to resign their positions and refuse the Oath of Supremacy rather than accept the Queen as governor of the Church. Their example was followed by an abbot and an abbess, four priors, twelve deans, fourteen arch deacons, sixty canons or prebendaries, and a hundred of the beneficed clergy, together with fifteen heads of Colleges in Oxford and Cambridge.
The majority of the unbeneficed clergy took the oath and kept their places as they had done through all the changes of the three last reigns. It is calculated that there were then about 9400 clergy, of whom only 192 refused the oath. The vicar of Bray was the type of a class. Anthony Kitchin contrived to retain possession of the bishopric of Llandaff from 1545 to 1567, taking all the incongruous oaths required by Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth Jewell, after telling Peter Martyr that Dr Smith the Regius Professor of Divinity had now at last recanted for the fifth time, said to him: Go now and deny transsubstantiation if you can. The Act of Uniformity, affecting as it did the Roman Catholics as well as the Puritans, was in their case carried out somewhat rigorously. In the case of the Queen herself but little change was made in the ritual of her own private chapel. Being fond of pomp and magnificence in worship as in everything else, she would not part with the altar or crucifix; the choristers and priests still appeared in their copes; the altar was furnished with rich plate, had gilt candlesticks with lighted candles and a massive silver crucifix in the midst; on solemn festivals there was special music; and the ceremonies observed by the knights of the garter in their adoration towards the altar ceremonies which had been abolished by King Edward and restored by Queen Mary were now retained. So that the service in the Queens own chapel, save that it was rendered in English instead of Latin, was as showy and splendid as in the days of the Roman ritual. But whatever may have been Elizabeths own private tastes in worship, there can be no doubt that in the latter half of 1559 the commissioners empowered by her made great changes in the London churches generally, and especially in the cathedral church of St Paul. According to Strype they took effectual care to have all the instruments and utensils of idolatry demolished and destroyed, such as the roods with Mary and John and the images of tutelary saints. They commanded the prebendaries and arch deacon to see that St Pauls be stripped of all images and idols, and that in place of the altar a decent table should be provided for the celebration of the Lords Supper. The people, too, with the memories of Smithfield fires strong within them, joined in the crusade. They attended upon the commissioners, carried into Cheapside, St Paul s Churchyard and Smithfield, roods, crucifixes, the vestments of the priests, copes and surplices, banners and altar-cloths, books and Good Friday sepulchres; and all that could be burnt they burnt to ashes. Turning now to the protestants and to the way in which the Act of Uniformity affected them, we find them already dividing themselves into two parties which we may describe as court reformers and puritans. While there was difference between them on some points, on one point there was absolute agreement. They were both against toleration; both believed not only in uniformitv but also in its enforcement by the sword of the civil power.
What they did differ about was as to what was the standard of uniformity, the one side upholding the Queens supremacy and the law of the land, the other the Scriptures and the decrees of provincial and national synods. The court party and the majority of the bishops while admitting that the Scriptures were a perfect rule of faith, contended that they were not also an authoritative standard of discipline and church government, these matters being left by our Lord and His Apostles to the discretion of the civil magistrate. The puritans, on the contrary, maintained that in discipline as well as in doctrine nothing should be imposed as necessary which could not he proved from Scripture. They held that what Christ has left indifferent man should not insist upon, for we are bidden to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. They could not accept as indifferent, but rejected as unlawful, rites and cere monies which, as experience shewed, tended to idolatry and superstition. Christ, said they, is the sole lawgiver in His Church, and such things as are really necessary He Himself has enjoined to be observed to the end of the world.
Their own experience of kingly interference in matters religious had not been without its lessons. They could not forget usurys Act of Six Articles, the whip of six strings, as it was palled; the dread memories of Marys reign, too, were of painfully recent date and the puritans felt themselves drawn to the forms of ecclesiastical polity prevailing among the Reformed Churches of Switzerland with whom they had so recently enjoyed Christian fellowship. Thus in protestantism there was at this early stage a right and a left wing, not unlike the differences sometimes found in a modern political party. While the new Injunctions had made great changes in the forms of worship, and that in a protestant direction, there was a provision in the 30th Article which caused great searchings of heart. This required that all persons admitted into any vocation ecclesiastical, or into any society of learning in either of the Universities should use and wear such habits and garments and such square caps as were most commonly or orderly received in the last year of the reign of Edward VI. This was really a revival of what was called the Vestarian Controversy, which had stirred great feeling ever since the day when Hooper on being made bishop of Gloucester refused to wear the vestments usually worn by bishops at their consecration. He called them the livery of Antichrist, and even obtained the Kings permission to decline the bishopric on that account, only yielding at length to the earnest entreaty of other bishops and on the understanding that he might lay the vestments aside after wearing them at his consecration. To him and to men of his mind the garments used at mass were a significant symbol of ecclesiastical tendency as the flag of a nation is a significant symbol of cherished nationality. It was the outward and visible sign of a system which, in their souls, they had cast away from them. This controversy had never really altogether died out, as the letters sent to friends in Zurich remain to testify. Jewell, after wards bishop of Salisbury, tells Peter Martyr that the doctrine of the Church is most pure, but as to ceremonies and maskings there is a little too much foolery… God alone knows what will be the issue. The slow-paced horses retard the chariot.
Sampson, afterwards dean of Christ Church, asks the same friend: Should we not rather quit the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, than that these relics of the Amorites should be admitted? Thomas Lever, master of St Johns College, Cambridge, in Edwards time, writes that the Injunctions having prescribed to the clergy some ornaments such as the mass-priests formerly had and still retain, a great number of the clergy are now resuming similar habits, as they say, for the sake of obedience. And finally, Edwin Sandys, afterwards bishop of Worcester, wrote to Martyr in 1560 telling him, among other things, that the popish vestments remain in our Church, I mean the Copes, which, however, we hope will not last long. Such was the mental attitude of these men between Elizabeths first Parliament in 1559 and her second Parliament which was opened on the 12th of January, 1563. What is of consequence, however, is that at the same time with this second Parliament there met also a Convocation which was destined to leave an enduring mark on the Church of England. It met at St Paul s, and under letters of advice from the Queen calling for a review of the doctrine and discipline of the Church, proceeded first with the subject of doctrine. Archbishop Parker, somewhat elate with the idea that the time had arrived when the Church would be allowed to legislate for herself, opened the proceedings with the buoyant remark: Behold the opportunity come for reforming the Church of England! The first thing that was done was the carrying through of a revision of Cranmers Articles of 1551, as a theological guide for the clergy in their public teaching. After being reduced to the number of thirty-nine at which they still remain, these Articles were sent to the Queen for the required authority under the Great Seal. So far all was plain sailing, for on the matter of doctrine both sides were fairly agreed. But after this, Convocation proceeded to the discussion of the more thorny question of rites and ceremonies, and on reopening thus the whole ecclesiastical settlement on its ceremonial side, the relative strength of parties was plainly made manifest. To begin with, an overture was presented, bearing thirty-three signatures, in cluding those of five deans, the provost of Eton, twelve archdeacons, and fourteen proctors or representatives, and demanding, among other things, that at the celebration of the Lords Supper the posture of kneeling, as suggesting the adoration of the elements, should be left indifferent; that the sign of the cross in baptism should be disused; that the wearing of copes and surplices be abolished, so that all ministers should use a grave and comely side garment or preaching gown; and that they should not be compelled to wear such caps and gowns as the Romish clergy.
This overture not being approved, a motion was then brought forward to the effect that while Sundays and the special feasts associated with the events of our Saviours life should be religiously observed, all other holidays should be abolished; that in all parish churches the minister in common prayer should turn his face to the people; that the cross in baptism be omitted; that kneeling at the sacrament be left to the discretion of the minister; and that it should suffice if he wear the surplice once, provided that no minister should say service or minister the sacraments but in comely garment or habit. After some discussion this motion was carried to the vote, when it appeared there was a majority in its favour by forty-three against thirty-five. But the proxies had then to be counted and these reversed the decision by one vote and only one, there being now fifty-eight for the motion and fifty-nine against. So that by the vote of one man, who was not present at the debate- that odd, shy man as he has been called, it was thus determined to make no alteration in the ceremonies, and the Court party, therefore, carried theirpoint in that memorable Convocation. It remained now to be seen what effect this decision would have upon the country at large. There being a visitation of the plague in 1563, there was not much done that year in the way of enforcing uniformity in the matter of the vestments. Many of the parochial clergy had an aversion to the prescribed habits; sometimes they wore them, but more frequently they did not. Occasionally a refractory minister would be cited before the spiritual courts and there admonished, and so the matter ended. But at length more peremptory steps were taken. A document bearing date February 14 1564, was laid before the Queen setting forth the irregularities prevailing in the order of Church service. She was greatly incensed by this report, and especially that so little heed was paid to her laws, for she regarded the Church as hers and held that in all matters pertaining to it her will should be paramount. She therefore addressed a letter to the two archbishops directing them to inquire as to what diversities in doctrine, rites and ceremonies prevailed among the clergy and to take eifectual methods for securing an exact order and uniformity. The puritans tried to avert the storm they saw to be approaching.
One of their most trusted leaders, Dr Pilkington, the bishop of Durham, laid their case before the Earl of Leicester, seeking his interest with the Queen on their behalf. He pleaded that compulsionshould not be used in things of liberty, and urged his lordship to consider how all protestant countries had cast away popish apparel along with the Pope, while England was resolving to keep to it as a holy relic. He was sure, he said, that many ministers would rather lose their livings than comply, and that, too, at a time when there was great scarcity of teachers, many places having one at all. But all pleas were alike unavailing. The Queen gave command to Archbishop Parker to proceed at once in the enforcement of uniformity, a command he obeyed with vigour and resolution. So much excitement prevailed that Bishop Jewell in a sermori preached at St Paul s Cross endeavoured to throw oil on the troubled waters. He said he was not there to defend the prescribed habits; his purpose was rather to shew that the things prescribed were, after all, only matters of indifference. Still they were insisted upon. Under the title of Advertisements Archbishop Parker issued certain Articles apparently without the royal sanction or authority. They were described as certain orders or rules thought meet and convenient though not prescribed as laws equivalent with the eternal Word of God, or as of necessity binding the conscience, but as temporal orders, mere ecclesiastical. But though thus mildly described the Advertisements were sufficiently imperative. All licenses for preaching bearing date before March 1, 1564 were to be regarded as void and of none effect, but would be renewed to those meet for office. In the matter of the vestments it was ordered that in cathedrals and collegiate churches the officiating minister at the Communion should use a cope; that deans and prebends should wear a surplice with a silk hood, in the choir; every minister saying public prayer or administering sacraments should wear a comely surplice with sleeves, to be provided at the charges of the parish. In their common apparel abroad all deans of cathedral churches, masters of colleges, archdeacons and other dignitaries having any ecclesiastical living were to wear side gowns with sleeves straight at the band without any falling cape, and to wear tippets of sarcenet.
To some of the bishops the enforcing of the Advertisements proved a very unwelcome task:
Bishop Jewell writing to his friend Bullinger in 1566, says: The contest about the surplice is not yet.at rest. I wish that all, even the slightest vestige of popery might be removed from our churches; and above all from our minds.
But the Queen at this time is unable to endure the least alteration in the matter of religion. The nonconforming puritans felt they were entitled to claim that the bishops in enforcing the orders upon their clergy were doing so only under constraint and not by conviction. They were temporising, but for themselves they could not temporise. They could not look upon these vestments as matters of indifference, associated as they had been with Romanism and the evil days of Marys reign. In July, 1566, Humphrey and Sampson writing to Bullinger asked:
How can that habit be thought to be consistent witii the simple ministry of Christ which used to set off the theatrical pomp of the Romish priesthood? Our opponents are the real innovators.
In King Edward s time the Lord s Supper was celebrated in simplicity in many places without the surplice. The cope was then abrogated by law and is now being restored after abrogation. This is not to extirpate popery but to replant it; not to advance in religion but to go backward. Why should we borrow anything from popery? Why should we not agree in rites as well as in doctrine with the other Reformed Churches? It is only even years ago that we regained our liberty, why should we go back to servitude? There is danger in these practices; they are insidious; they do not shew themselves all at once, but creep on little by little. Why cannot the bishops endure us who formerly bore the same cross with them and who now preach the same Christ? Why do they cast us into prison? Why do they persecute us on account of the habits? Why do they spoil us of our substance and means of subsistence?
In this urgent manner the president of Magdalen College and the dean of Christ Church put the case on behalf of themselves and their puritan brethren. Turner, dean of Bath and Wells, a man of versatile learning and still remembered as one of the early founders of science, when preaching in his cathedral asked, with a feeling of indignation:
Who gave the bishops more authority over me than I over them, either to forbid me or to deprive me, unless they have it from their holy father the Pope?
The nonconforming clergy claimed that they had an equal right with the conformist to say the Church of England was theirs. Indeed they were not without hope that the future of that Church would be with them. They remembered that when the decision in Convocation went against them in 1563, it did so by only one vote, and that a proxy vote; so that thereat least parties proved to be of nearly even strength. And there were not wanting signs that in the community at large they were increasing in strength and influence. Among the laity there were not a few who were quite as averse to the habits as they were themselves. With increasing dislike to popery there was increasing dislike to the vestments, many refusing to go to the churches where they were worn. Even Whitgift recorded that the clergy who did wear them were sometimes rudely assailed in the streets as time-servers and papists in disguise. There were some people at least who could not forget that only ten years ago friends and neighbours of theirs had been burnt at the stake in Marys time. To them therefore the vestments seemed almost as if they were stained with the blood of the martyrs. And not merely among the common people, the puritans had reason to know, there was sympathy with them, but also in high places, even in the Court itself, with men like Secretary Cecil, the Earl of Leicester, Sir Francis Knollys arid the Earls of Bedford and Warwick. Meantime the archbishop persisted in his policy of coercion. Among those whom he cited to Lambeth were Sampson and Humphrey with whom he entered into conference on the points at issue. They afterwards appealed to him by letter pleading that conscience is a very tender thing and all men cannot look upon the same things as being indifferent. They also made their appeal to antiquity, to the practice of the other Reformed Churches in their own day and even to the consciences of the bishops themselves.
It so happened that at the very time these conferences were going forward, Sampson and Humphrey were both selected as the preachers at St Pauls Cross during Lent, an appointment regarded as a mark of distinction. The archbishop was indignant, and writing to Cecil he said: This appointment is not by me; by whom I know not: either by the Bishop of London or the Lord Mayor. Being thus incensed he had the two men before him again and peremptorily commanded them either to conform or to leave their posts. They merely replied that their consciences would not permit them to comply with his injunctions! come what might. Upon this they were then and there committed to prison; and as Sampson s deanery was in the gift of the Crown he was deprived of his office at once. The same experience came to Humphrey somewhat later on. When he also was deprived, he sent an earnest remonstrance to the commissioners in which he says:
Since the mass attires be so straitly commanded, the mass itself may shortly be looked for. A sword is now put into the hands of those that under Queen Mary have drawn it for popery. The painful preacher for his labour is beaten, the unpreaching prelate offending in greater escapeth scot-free. The learned man without his cap is afflicted, the capped man without learning is not touched. Is not this directly to break the laws of God? Is not this to prefer man s will before faith, judgement and mercy, man s traditions before the ordinances of God? We confess one faith of Jesus Christ, we preach one doctrine, we acknowledge one ruler in earth over all things. Shall we be used so for a surplice? Shall brethren persecute brethren for a forked cap devised of singularity of him that is our foreign enemy? Oh that ever I saw this day, that ever our adversaries should laugh to see brethren fall together by the ears!