religious settlement consisted of the Acts of Uniformity and
Supremacy (1559), The Prayer Book of 1559, and the
Thirty-nine Articles of 1563.
The Church of
England retained various traditional forms of worship that some
Protestants found offensive, in particular:
vestments - particularly the surplice (a white wide-sleeved
gown worn to officiate in church services) and (to a lesser degree)
the square cap (worn outdoors by ministers)
Kneeling to receive communion
Making the sign of the cross in baptism
Bowing at the name of "Jesus"
Using the wedding-ring in marriage services
Protestants wanted to purify the church of such "popish remnants";
these "puritans" became very important both in the Church of England
and in the founding of English settlements in America.
Puritanism to 1570
The ideas of Jean Calvin and
his successor at Geneva, Theodore Beza, were very influential
in England. The Genevan church had replaced bishops with presbyters
and elders, and had stripped worship of all ornamentation.|
Initially, few attempts were made to
enforce the wearing of clerical dress. Many senior clergymen had
little taste for these garments themselves. However, increasingly
Elizabeth and her Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker
came to see the refusal to wear clerical dress as an attack on their
1566, Matthew Parker issued the
Advertisements requiring conformity in clerical dress. In London,
thirty-seven ministers refused to obey - a number were deprived of
their livings when they would not submit.|
John Jewel and other bishops, including Edmund Grindal,
Bishop of London wrote to key Continental Reformers - especially
Heinrich Bullinger - asking their views on the vestments and
Bullinger and the other Zurich
Reformers did not fully approve of the ceremonies, but insisted that
they were not so bad that any minister should risk dismissal by
refusing to conform. Thereafter, the English bishops did uphold the
ceremonies (although some less enthusiastically than others).
Increasingly, the bishops in general came to see those who would not
conform as mere troublemakers.
The Zurich Reformers supported
Elizabeth, but Beza sided with the puritans and criticized both the
ceremonies and the Church of England's governors.
Many of the critics of the 1560s
abandoned opposition and conformed, but a hard core of radicals
continued to protest at the ceremonies. They came to see the retention
of the vestments and ceremonies as a sign that the Church of England's
government was flawed. They believed that worship would never be
properly reformed until government by bishops was ended.
The most important Puritans were
Thomas Cartwright and John Field.|
||Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603)
was the son of Hertfordshire yeoman. He went to Cambridge
University in 1562, and in 1569 was appointed to one of its most
prestigious positions (the Lady Margaret Professorship of
Divinity). Cartwright used his position to inveigh against the
government of the Church of England, arguing that bishops had
not held such power in the pure days of the primitive Christian
He was promptly deprived of his office (1570) and went to visit
Beza in Geneva. He returned briefly to England but had to leave
again (for the Netherlands) to escape arrest. He returned in the
1585, and though briefly imprisoned, benefited from the
protection of powerful patrons, such as Francis Walsingham.
He spent his declining years living comfortably in Warwick,
honored as the foremost English puritan theorist. He died 27
England are so far off from having a Church rightly reformed,
according to the prescript of God's word that as yet we are not
come to the outward face of the same. …"
From the Admonition to Parliament (1572)
|John Field (?1545-1588)
Unlike Cartwright, Field's strength was not theory but
organization. He spent his time lobbying sympathizers throughout
England to take practical steps towards "reform" of the English
In June 1572, he arranged for the publication of an
Admonition to Parliament. It inveighed against "superstitious"
ceremonies, and pleaded for the establishment of Presbyterian
government. In 1584, he helped draft a "Book of Discipline" as a
model for how Parliament should set about reforming the Church.
Unfortunately for the Presbyterian cause, most members of
Parliament were content to let the Queen control the church.
Field was reduced to compiling a "Register" detailing the
Bishops' persecution of nonconforming ministers.
During the 1570's a few London ministers
kept the Presbyterian cause alive, but they had little chance of
changing the English church as a whole.
Ironically, the puritan cause received a
form of support from the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund
Grindal (?1519-83). Grindal (another Marian exile) saw Catholicism
as the greatest threat to true religion.|
In 1576, Grindal conducted a metropolitan visitation (a sort of survey
of standards in the archbishopric) and was shocked by how few
ministers preached regularly to their flocks. He decided to try and
rectify the problem by encouraging prophesyings. Prophesyings
had begun spontaneously in various parts of the South-East c. 1571.
They were meetings of clergy in the localities for prayer and sermons
followed by mutual criticism and discussions about the state of the
Prophesyings rapidly became very
popular, and were often attended by zealous laymen. Elizabeth (who
thought that four or five preachers per county were quite enough) saw
them as inherently disruptive and a covert attack on royal control of
Elizabeth wanted prophesyings stopped,
merely issued orders for regulating their conduct.
Elizabeth was furious - particularly when Grindal refused a
direct order to suppress them, and wrote her a
letter saying that it was his duty to obey God rather than her. She
wanted to deprive him immediately of his post as Archbishop but was
prevailed on by her Privy Council merely to suspend him until he
submitted. He never did.
Grindal's suspension marked a
significant deterioration in relations between puritans and the
English Church. Many of those involved in the prophesying
movement continued to meet secretly and espouse Presbyterian ideas.
In Presbyterian theory, each
congregation would send representative ministers and elders to a
classis of several local congregations in order to decide matters
of worship and discipline. Above this classis were to be regional and
national synods. If fully implemented, it would have left little place
for the Queen and none for the bishops.
From about 1580, a few East Anglian
congregations began to organize themselves informally into this
structure. John Field tried to expand the movement nationally, but few
clergy really supported the system.|
Although the puritan cause had support in high quarters (Francis
Walsingham and Robert Dudley
Earl of Leicester, for example), the gentry had little taste for a
basically clericalist system that would undermine their rights of
presentation and impropriation. The attempts made by Anthony Cope,
Peter Wentworth and other radicals to introduce Presbyterianism
through Parliamentary legislation failed miserably.
Government attacks on Puritans
result of Whitgift's campaign was the suspension of two to three
hundred ministers. Lawyers as well as puritans protested High
Commission's inquisitorial techniques.
Walsingham both tried
to rein in Whitgift. Even Lord Burghley wrote to Whitgift questioning
the severity of his methods.
Elizabeth's support for Whitgift did not waver, and he was appointed
to the Privy Council in 1586. There he was supported by Sir
Christopher Hatton (whose chaplain,
Richard Bancroft, was a close ally of Whigift). In 1588, Leicester
died, and in 1590, Walsingham.
Whitgift was also
helped by his opponents going too far.
From 1588, some puritans began to publish scandalous, cheap,
highly-readable attacks on the bishops.
Printed in great secrecy,
under the false joke name of "Martin Marprelate", these
pamphlets were aimed at a popular audience. They used earthy language
and specialized in scurrilous stories and insults.
However, the tracts were so crude and violent that they probably
alienated many moderates - especially gentlemen who saw the seeds of
social revolution in such attacks on authority. The crazy revolt of
William Hacket in 1591 ( a zealot with some links to London puritans,
but who nursed with an insane belief that he was the Messiah) helped
discredit the puritan cause further.
[Text of one of the Marprelate tracts.]
[Who was Martin?
Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford?
Job Throckmorton with John Penry?]
In 1590, Whitgift
imprisoned Cartwright and eight other puritan leaders; all were
released after one or two years, but the puritan movement was broken
as an organized force.
tried to undermine the intellectual appeal of puritanism. Assisted by
Richard Bancroft (Bishop of London from 1597), he directed a
successful propaganda campaign. |
The title page of one of Richard Bancroft's
attacks on puritan ideas.
Not all English
puritans were Presbyterians. The moderate puritan tradition in the
Church of England:
The supporters of episcopacy (most
famously Richard Hooker) wrote defenses of the English Church, its
discipline and worship, and disparaged Presbyterian claims to be the
purest form of Christianity.
sermons (the preaching of God's word)
anti-papist (they saw the pope as the Antichrist foretold in
the Book of Revelation)
clerical vestments, traditional ceremonies, and stress on the efficacy
of the sacraments (all - in their view - a hangover of popish
doctrine of predestination at the centre of theology
strict observation of the Lord's Day (this
sabbatarianism was especially
important from the mid 1590's).