HIST 251: Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts
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Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts
HIST 251 - Lecture 18 - Street Wars of Religion: Puritans and Arminians
Chapter 1. Jacobethan Consensus [00:00:00]
Professor Keith Wrightson: Right. Okay. Well, today we return to the main political and ecclesiastical narrative leading up to the — do you mind? — leading up to the outbreak of the civil wars in the mid-seventeenth century. We left our discussion of the Elizabethan church two weeks ago with the situation of relative calm at the end of Elizabeth’s reign. If you’ll remember, the domestic threat posed by the Catholic minority was diminishing. Puritan attempts to change the structure of the church through action in Parliament had been defeated. And to a large extent that relative stability can be said to have persisted in to the first two decades of the seventeenth century, that is in to the reign of James I who came to the throne in 1603 and died in 1625.
And indeed the continuities between the end of Elizabeth’s reign and the reign of James have led some historians to speak of what they call a “Jacobethan consensus” in the church during this generation; Jacobean plus Elizabethan, Jacobethan. The characteristics of that consensus can be perhaps illustrated with reference to an event at the very start of James’ reign. In 1603, as he made his way south from Edinburgh to be crowned in London, he was presented with what’s become known as the Millenary Petition, getting that name from the fact that it was allegedly subscribed by a thousand ministers of the Church of England. And it revealed a body of opinion within the church petitioning James in the hope that he would countenance further reform: further reform in doctrine, in the ceremonies of the church, and in the quality of the clergy.
That led James to call the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, which was a conference of leading churchmen in which all strands of opinion were represented. In the course of the conference, James was very forthright in insisting that he would not countenance any change in the episcopal government of the Church of England. Twice in the course of the debates he intervened famously with the phrase “No bishop, no King.” He’d had quite enough of the semi-independent Presbyterian Church of Scotland. So discussion of church government in that sense was not on the agenda. Still it wasn’t a confrontation between James and the Puritan wing of the Church of England. He was very comfortable with the godly issues that were raised. He was very keen on steps to improve the learning and quality of the clergy. He agreed that there should be a new English translation of the Bible, the one eventually published in 1611 known in Britain as the Authorized Version or here as the King James Bible. And everyone was very impressed with the King’s doctrinal knowledge. He had had a very thorough theological education in Scotland. There was no question in other words that James was a godly prince. He was England’s Solomon, as they flatteringly termed him.
So the Hampton Court Conference revealed the existence of continuing differences, differences of opinion about aspects of the Church of England’s structure, but there was a great deal of common ground and the conference broke up pretty amicably. Let’s look at that common ground a little closely — a little more closely. First of all, there was by the early seventeenth century an essential consensus over doctrine. Since the late 1580s, most theologians in the universities had been interpreting the ambiguities of the Elizabethan settlement in an essentially Calvinist way. They tended to accept the doctrine of predestination, the view that God had predestined those who would be amongst the elect and those who would be reprobate or damned at the Last Judgment. They also had a widely shared model of the ideal godly Protestant devotional life based on Biblicism, attendance at sermons, the practice of household devotions, and a strict ‘godly conversation’, as they called it; that is, strict personal behavior, strict moral behavior in daily life.
All of this was supported by a growing vernacular religious literature which tended to support this approach to religious life. They also shared a common view of the need to entrench Protestant doctrine and reformed behavior in the population at large. Only a minority might be saved according to Calvinist doctrine, but no one knew for sure who they were. Therefore, the church must address the whole population, it must serve the whole population, and it should minister to them. It’s interesting for example that when the 1611 translation was being prepared by a committee of divines, when they’d settled on a translation of a passage, they used to read it aloud to see if it would be effective when read aloud to illiterate congregations. They were very conscious of the need to be able to communicate in that kind of way.
Well, to that end a great deal of stress was placed on the provision of a godly pastorate of teaching, preaching ministers. And, as we saw when looking at education, a great deal was in fact achieved in that respect. By the early 1600s, there was also an unmistakable Protestant identity. Despite internal differences of opinion, most people were conscious of their common membership of a Protestant confessional family within Europe. Their feelings of religious hostility were directed outwards towards the threat of what they usually described not as Catholicism but as “Popery.” Popery was the supposed antithesis of reformed religion, characterized as a church which was based not on the pure, unvarnished word of scripture but on human errors, corrupted by false doctrine and superstitious practices, and increasingly seen as alien.
Chapter 2. Puritan Reformation [00:07:12]
Okay. Well, there’s a good deal to be said for this notion of a Jacobethan consensus in the generation which spanned the last years of Elizabeth and the reign of James. But, if the church was indeed at relative peace it was enjoying a period of stability that was in many ways fragile. One mustn’t overdo the element of consensus, and by the 1620s there was increasing evidence of that consensus being subject to destabilizing forces. And there were two of them in particular to emphasize. First of all, there was the process of what one can call Puritan reformation down in the parishes, and secondly there was the Arminian reaction at the center, and I’ll look at each of these in turn.
Well starting with the Puritans. The Puritans, as we’ve already seen, were those that contemporaries thought of as, in the phrase of the time, the “hotter sort of Protestants.” Those who were most committed to furthering the reformation. And by furthering the reformation they meant not simply conformity to a Protestant religious settlement; they also had the ambition of galvanizing the religious life of the whole nation. As one of them put it, they sought “a reduction of all things disordered,” be it in religion or in social morality, a reduction of it to the model of God’s requirements as revealed in scripture, as they saw it. These were of course people of fervent faith and astringent personal religious life. It’s best revealed in the way they monitored their own lives in the spiritual diaries that they often kept, straining by examination of their own behavior to achieve the sanctification of personal life which would give them assurance of their election. Assurance that they were amongst the elect, those who would be saved; an assurance which often simply didn’t come to many of them, but they kept struggling.
And that struggle bred a kind of spiritual anxiety which perhaps underlay their often vigorous activism. They sought reassurance often in action. These were not just formal members of the church living their lives within a general framework of Christian belief and practice. They were seriously religious people and their religion shaped their whole lives. The trouble was that it not only shaped their lives but not infrequently impacted also on the lives of others. Amongst the clergy those of puritanical inclination were amongst the most conscientious and the most active in the task of evangelizing the people. Whatever their private preferences as to forms of church government, most of them had long ago abandoned any serious attempt to transform the church by political action. They’d withdrawn from that after the 1580s. Instead they conformed more or less to the requirements of the church for the sake of the larger task of spreading the word; evangelizing.
Protestantism seemed to them to demand popular enlightenment. It demanded a dispelling of what they viewed as the darkness of popish ignorance and superstition, and godly ministers entered upon that task with very high expectations. When one reads their works they often speak initially of the mass of the population as “hungry sheep unfed.” They describe them as “fields of corn ripe for the harvest” or they’re “babes crying for the milk of good doctrine,” and what could stand against the word if it was brought to them? Unfortunately for that optimistic position, they often found that their own parishioners tended to disappoint their high hopes of evangelical success.
A parish ministry day by day, week by week, year by year, could often be a deeply disillusioning experience. Richard Greenham, who was one of the most famous of the early Puritan preachers — he was the minister of Dry Drayton near Cambridge, a man much sought after for advice by other Puritans — Richard Greenham finally resigned his living at Dry Drayton after twenty years of effort, effort which had him not only preaching on Sundays and on weekdays but even going out and standing by the fields as his parishioners went out to work on their farms to talk to them about matters of religion and so forth. After twenty years of this effort, he gave up because of what he called “the untractableness and unteachableness of that people.”
And there gradually grew up in the early decades of the seventeenth century alongside the literature of sermons and devotional works, what one can perhaps describe as a literature of godly disillusionment, in which people reflected upon their lack of success in the evangelizing movement. And such literature very often contained a very somber assessment of the state of popular religion in England, and I’ll give you some quotations from the kind of things they tended to say. They were deeply concerned about the fact that the people were ignorant of doctrine, uninstructed in what they saw as saving doctrinal knowledge. To give some examples from these works: “the poor people do not understand so much as the Lord’s Prayer.” “If any question be put to them as concerning religion, they grow as mute as fishes.” “Men can talk understandingly about ways of the world, but they can scarcely speak a word of sense about matters of salvation.” “Our sermons are but a breath from us and a sound to them” — because they didn’t understand the half of it.
These are all quotations from works of this kind. They said that the religion of the people remained one of “formality and blind devotion.” That’s a common phrase, “formality and blind devotion,” reliance upon a ritualistic repetition of one’s prayers; turning up at church services more as a gathering of neighbors than as a congregation of the faithful; more concerned with who they saw at church than with what they heard; and confident that this was enough, that this was a good life, which in the eyes of the godly ministers, of course, it wasn’t. The people were ‘superstitious’. They still adhered to practices which they were too ignorant to recognize as being hangovers from the dark age of popery. They practiced magic, they visited cunning folk, and they were “profane” people who did not appreciate the need to sanctify their lives according to the word of God and who maintained forms of customary behavior offensive to God.
They swore; they drank to excess; they indulged in what one minister described as “light, lewd, and lascivious dancing;” they broke the Sabbath either by working in their farms and workshops or by their leisure activities; hanging out in the ale house as soon as they got out of church. As one preacher put it, “every parish hath a profane and ignorant multitude who are born with a pope in their belly,” by which he meant they were directed by their fleshly appetites — “born with a pope in their belly are not yet redeemed from that gross supervision — superstition — and vain conversation which they have received by tradition from their fathers.” In short, they were prisoners of popular custom rather than followers of the precept of scripture.
But there was a remedy for all of this and these condemnatory jeremiads tended to be followed rapidly by calls for the pursuit of reformation of these disorders by a dual policy, a policy of “word and sword.” Ministers and secular magistrates, whether they be parish officers or justices of the peace, the leaders of towns or parliamentary members, they should all act together. The word of the minister would “reform the inside” of the people; the sword of the magistrate would “conform the outside”; word and sword.
Well, such recommendations didn’t fall on deaf ears, and where godly ministers and like-minded local officers and magistrates supported one another, as they sometimes did, this kind of answer to the cultural failings of the reformation, its failings to adequately communicate with the people down in the parishes, led to what’s been characterized as widespread cultural conflict in the early seventeenth century, right down at the level of the locality.
Many forms of customary popular culture in the parishes were attacked. Feasts and festivities, Sunday dancings and so forth were often put down partly because they were held on the Sabbath day, partly because they tempted people to profane behavior, notably drunkenness and the incitement of lust. One study by Ronald Hutton in The Rise and Fall of Merry England shows how gradually these traditional feasts and festivals disappeared all over southeastern England and were gradually retreating into the north and west where they continued to survive. There was also widespread attack, at local level, upon such things as the numerous alehouses which the people frequented — many of them were suppressed — and at such common everyday sins as profane swearing, for example swearing “By God” in the course of conversation. The arrest book for the town of Dorchester, which was dominated by a Puritan group from the 1610s onwards, is quite interesting on market days. It reveals numerous cases of people arrested on market day for swearing in the marketplace, or for getting drunk in the taverns around the market. That was a field day for reformation.
As a result, some communities became well known as models of godly discipline. Often they were small towns, places like Banbury in Oxfordshire, which was known for what was described, approvingly, as its “precise course of government,” its imposition locally of stricter standards of reformation. Or Dorchester in Dorset, which I’ve already mentioned, under its patriarch, John White, or indeed Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, where the local Puritan group triumphed after a sharp tussle with their opponents: the opponents in fact including a number of friends and associates of the retired playwright William Shakespeare.
Other communities remained uneasily divided. They were prone to occasional eruptions of conflict brought on by reforming initiatives: local attempts to tighten up on standards of church attendance, to put down ale houses or whatever was the case, and there might be no lasting victory, just a continuing tussle between the two sides. Still others remained relatively untouched.
A number of historians have looked at all of this and tried to interpret its broader implications. David Underdown, for example, in the study of what was going on in the west of England, has speculated about the possible association between different local social and economic structures and different degrees of proneness or susceptibility to the outbreak of this kind of religious conflict. He asks why some places seem to have been able to exclude such conflict, whereas others were deeply divided and riven by it. Why did the Puritan word take root so much better in some places than in others?
In the east of England, especially the counties of East Anglia, where the Puritans very much called the tune by the second quarter of the seventeenth century, a number of scholars, William Hunt, myself and others, have suggested that religious impulses for reformation and greater discipline were superimposed in these areas upon other forms of social tension; that the Puritan ministers tended to win their converts principally amongst what were known as the better sort of parishioners, the more prosperous leaders of the parish, the more literate people, and that local struggles were aimed primarily at disciplining the poor and the young of their communities. In other words that religious anxieties and social anxieties reinforced one another, one mutating into the other.
Still others have insisted that the whole thing was purely a religious matter, that if there was a corrugation or a segmenting of local populations according to one or another religious persuasion, it was simply a matter of the introduction of particular religious messages and the intensity with which those beliefs were held in particular places.
So there are different takes on the unevenness of Puritan success, but what one can say in general is that it was very uneven. Nevertheless, all agree that such conflict existed in many parishes, in many towns and it was all part and parcel of the local history of the reformation in its most advanced form. Obviously, it depended first and foremost upon the communication of the demand for a more stringent reformation into the localities. Those places which were least troubled by all this were those where these demands were never heard. There was never a minister of Puritan persuasion, or a town council of Puritan persuasion, there to instigate such reformatory programs. For whatever reason they found no local constituency of supporters. But the outcome, where conflict did break out, tended to depend crucially on whether the ‘godly’ or those who resisted them had most control in local decision-making power. Town councils, parish vestries and so forth and who controlled them were often crucial to the success or failure of these reformatory movements. It’s all part of the way that the long-term outcome of the reformation and the long-term development of the nature of English Protestantism was being settled and fought out in dispersed, diffuse actions taking place all over the kingdom, though rather more common in some parts of the kingdom than in others. And gradually, by the 1620s, it gave rather different complexions to the Church of England in different localities. East Anglia was predominantly Puritan. One survey of the ministers of the three counties of East Anglia for example reveals that by the 1630s two thirds of them could be described as Puritan in inclination. This was a great area of Puritan strength. There were other counties also which shared that. The north and the west tended to see much less Puritan activity. Other counties were much divided.
And in the course of it all the term “Puritan” acquired a new layer of meaning. Within the Jacobean church Puritans could not easily be distinguished by their theology, they couldn’t easily be distinguished by their ethical teachings — both of them were essentially mainstream. But what did distinguish them was their intensity and their activism. They were defined in a sense by a godly activism which, when it was unleashed in a particular local context, tended to maximize stress over religious issues. That’s where they got defined, in such contexts. No one chose to call himself a Puritan; it was a term of abuse. They were labeled as Puritans by their opponents in such conflictual contexts. As Patrick Collinson, one of the greatest historians of Puritanism, has put it, Puritanism was “not a thing definable in itself.” It was “one half of a stressful relationship.” “One half of a stressful relationship” — the relationship that arose in some parishes through the impact on local society of the fervent pursuit of reformation.
Chapter 3. Arminian Reaction [00:25:59]
Okay. Let’s turn now to the other destabilizing group, the Arminians. And before we go any further with this let me stress Arminians, A-r-m-i-n, not Armenians. Every year when we have the examination sinister groups of Armenians turn up destabilizing the Church of England. [Laughter] There was indeed an Armenian community in northwestern Europe at this time. They were vitally important in the trade networks which linked northwestern Europe to the east and they were there. But they had nothing whatever to do with the troubles of the Church of England. So “Arminians.”
The Arminians were another minority who occasioned a good deal of conflict in the early Stuart church, but this time they can be defined more easily in terms of theology. Theologically, they comprised a minority of English churchmen who rejected Calvinism. They rejected the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Rather than believing that only the elect were predestined to salvation, they believed, more traditionally, in the universality of God’s grace and in the free will of all mankind to choose salvation. So they’re theologically distinct. They had their antecedents in the late sixteenth century amongst those theologians who did not interpret the Thirty Nine Articles in a Calvinist manner but remained closely — closer — to more traditional teaching and indeed to Lutheran teaching in their views.
In the early seventeenth century, they came to be labeled ‘Arminians’ after a Dutch theologian who took this position, Arminius of Leiden. His criticism of Calvin was deemed so important at the time that it was a subject of a major conference of the reformed churches, the Synod of Dort, which met in 1618 at which Arminius’ teachings were denounced. But Arminianism also existed amongst a minority of English churchmen and it had certain distinctive features in England. In the Netherlands, Arminius was operating within the context of the Dutch Reformed Church with its Congregational structure. The English Arminians existed in the context of a church with a traditional Episcopal system of church government and a highly traditional form of prayer book ceremonial. The English Arminians tended to link their belief in the doctrine of free grace to other beliefs connected to the structure of the Church of England. They believed in episcopacy, not simply as a form of church government amongst many others but as a divinely sanctioned form of church government. They were very keen on the structure of hierarchical authority in the church. They were also very keen on the sacraments as a means of grace, as a way of coming to God. For example, they restored the significance of the altar, rather than of the communion table, and the significance of the communion service as something more than just a commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice. They tended to play down preaching, preaching so dear to the heart of Puritans as the essential means of communication. Arminians tended to play down preaching and to place more emphasis, as an element in worship, upon ritual, upon the performance of the sacraments. They spoke of the beauty of holiness. They thought that participation, reverent participation, in services and rituals of great beauty, had a spiritual function.
They also had a very high notion of the dignity of the priesthood. They were very clericalist in that sense, and their most prominent spokesmen were leading clerics; people like Lancelot Andrewes, the Bishop of Winchester, Bishop Richard Neile, the Bishop of Durham, and above all William Laud. All of these names are on your handout. William Laud, who started as an Oxford academic, was Master of St. John’s College, Oxford, and later moved on to be Dean of Gloucester Cathedral and then to other higher offices in the church as I’ll describe.
The Arminians were a minority even amongst the bishops of the church under James I. That became clear at the very end of James’ reign in 1624 when Richard Montagu, an Arminian who was the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, published his non-Calvinist interpretation of the Church of England’s Thirty Nine Articles of Religion. This publication by Montagu was widely attacked. Indeed, he was reproved and his interpretation was rejected by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, who was doctrinally a Calvinist.
To most members of the church at this point in time, the beliefs and the practices of worship which were favored by the Arminians looked very suspicious. They looked like backsliding. They looked like backsliding towards Rome, and indeed although the Arminians were undoubtedly Protestants, they were very much closer to traditional Catholic teaching in many respects, including the fact that they regarded the Catholic church itself as being a true church, albeit a corrupted one, rather than seeing it as in fact the work of Antichrist, which was the conventional extreme Protestant interpretation.
Well, all of this might have just remained a matter for theological debate at the academic level if it hadn’t been for two facts. First of all, some of the Arminians were of a singularly combative and authoritarian frame of mind. They were equal in their determination to impose their will to any of the most fervent Puritans, whom on the whole they detested. And secondly in the 1620s the Arminians succeeded in winning over to their side the young Prince Charles, the future Charles I. He was persuaded by people of Arminian convictions that their brand of religion was more suited to a monarchy. He liked it.
Well, in 1625 Charles came to the throne on the death of James I and, as head of the church, he rapidly seized the opportunity to advance Arminians in the church and to exclude Calvinists. And it all happened remarkably quickly. In 1626, the Duke of Buckingham, Charles’ favorite and mentor, was appointed chancellor of the University of Cambridge where he used his power as chancellor to forbid the teaching of predestination. In 1627, William Laud and Richard Neile were appointed to the royal privy council, a very unusual move. It had been rare for even the highest clerics to be admitted to the center of power in that kind of way. But Charles did it. In 1628, Charles as supreme head of the church insisted that an Arminian interpretation of the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, the same interpretation which had been denounced when put forward only four years earlier, was the only valid interpretation.
In the same year William Laud was promoted to be Bishop of London. That was a crucial office, not only presiding over the metropolis, of course, but it was also an office which gave the bishop the power to control the licensing of all books which were printed and published in London. And Laud used that power of control of the press to further his own views and to silence his critics by refusing licenses for the publication of their works. In 1630, Laud was appointed Chancellor of the University of Oxford with predictable results as regards theological teaching at Oxford. In 1632, Richard Neile was appointed Archbishop of York, governing the northern province of the church. And finally in 1633 on the death of his predecessor, George Abbot, Laud was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.
So, in only eight years the Arminians, with Charles’ help, had captured the Church of England; they held all the most important positions. If Puritan activism in the parishes had done a good deal to disturb the localities and to create tensions over religion down in the provinces, the Arminian victory in the church utterly shattered the Jacobethan consensus within which Puritan evangelists in the localities had been able to shelter. William Laud simply detested Puritans. More than that, he detested Calvinists and he defined all Calvinists as Puritans. He drove them together out of their shared hostility to what to them seemed to be innovations in the church, alien innovations which were suspiciously popish looking, a program of change in the church which filled them with dread.
All of this served, from both sides, to politicize religion at the national level in a way that really hadn’t been known since the 1580s. In 1626, Laud had preached a sermon to Parliament, when it met, alleging the existence of a Puritan and Presbyterian conspiracy to undermine the Church of England from within, and he denounced all those who didn’t share his own views as being Puritan subversives. In 1628, many members of Parliament, when it met again, reciprocated by condemning Laud and the Arminian innovations which had been introduced in the meantime, and they began indulging in their own name calling. One member of the House of Commons, Francis Rous, declared “an Arminian is but the spawn of a papist.” In the House of Lords, the Earl of Bedford, a Puritan aristocrat, described Arminians as, to quote him, “the little thief put in at the window of the church to unlock the door.”
“The little thief put in at the window of the church to unlock the door.” To unlock the door to whom? To popery of course, and its European champions whose successes in the 1620s in the Thirty Years War, which had been raging in Europe since 1618, just exacerbated the sense of English Protestants of being embattled against powerful enemies and exposed to a resurgent Counter Reformation Catholicism. The war which was going on in Germany was in fact immensely complex in its origins, but to outside observers it looked like an essentially religious struggle, and in the 1620s the armies of Spain fighting against the Netherlands and the armies of the Austrian emperor, a Catholic of course, were winning and seemed to be driving back Protestantism in Germany. All this fueled the paranoia of those who observed it all from outside.
Well, the rise of feeling of that kind should have warned Charles I. It would almost certainly have warned his shrewd and canny father, King James. But Charles appears to have been indifferent to the polarization of opinion. He lacked his father’s political good sense and he allowed William Laud to press ahead. Between 1630 and 1632, when he was Bishop of London, Laud was extremely active in East Anglia, part of which fell under the bishopric of London, in rooting out Puritans, in calling them before him to be examined on their beliefs, in suspending them, indeed in ejecting them from the church. Many of them joined the migration to New England, sometimes taking key members of their congregations with them. The Minister of Terling in Essex for example, a parish — little parish — down in central Essex, left when browbeat — after being browbeaten — by Laud and deprived of his living and took with him thirteen members of his community. They founded Roxbury, Massachusetts.
In 1633, once he had become Archbishop of Canterbury, Laud ordered that communion tables should be removed from their position close to the center of the chancel and they should be placed at the east end of the church like altars, suitably dressed in appropriate cloths, and railed in to create a holy space at the east end of the chancel. This was anathema to Puritans, but he required it, and he used his metropolitan visitation as archbishop to demand conformity to this new ritualism in every church. Church wardens who refused to obey were hauled before him and sometimes punished. In 1633, he also issued what was known as the Book of Sports, a declaration in the King’s name that traditional sports, festivities and leisure activities would be permitted upon Sundays, and every minister was ordered to read it out in his church. This again was anathema to Puritan ministers. Many refused to do it and they were punished and deprived of their livings.
Altogether, throughout the Arminian controlled church, a new and stricter definition of the nature of Anglican conformity was being rigorously enforced by Laud, and he had a very sharp way indeed of dealing with dissidents. Three of the most famous dissidents who smuggled in anti-Arminian books from the Netherlands to escape Laud’s censorship of the press, were arrested in 1637, ‘38, and severely punished by Laud acting from the Court of Star Chamber of which he was a leading member. They were pilloried; they had their ears slit off, for example.
Chapter 4. Results [00:42:18]
And the result of all this? Well, one result was a far more rapid growth of the Puritan colonies in New England than would otherwise have been the case. Thousands of the most dedicated of the Puritan clergy and groups of their lay followers finally despaired of England, despaired of the hope of reformation in this context and left to create a godly commonwealth of their own in the New World.
And within England? Well, it’s possible that in some, perhaps many, parishes some aspects of Laud’s Arminian policies were perhaps not unwelcome. One could say that it was a way of putting an end to the parochial controversy and reasserting order and discipline in the church. Some may well have welcomed that. It offered a doctrine of salvation which was somewhat easier and more generous than Calvinist predestination, perhaps closer to the needs and understandings of simple folk. And perhaps the brand of religious practice focused on the prayer book and the sacraments which was something which might be more inclusive at the level of the parish, less individually demanding on the population.
Perhaps. All these positive features have been suggested in an interesting book by Judith Maltby on attitudes towards the Prayer Book in this period. But in many parishes it was also the case that the policies of William Laud and the Arminians themselves brought conflict. There was widespread alarm at their ceremonial innovations. There was widespread suspicion of their ultimate intentions. There was widespread resentment and frustration amongst the godly folk who remained in English parishes that the reformation had been stopped, that perhaps it was being reversed before it had even been half won.
That in itself was a new cause for discontent, a new cause for controversy, a new cause for what have been called “street wars of religion.” A source of increased bitterness in such controversies, a bitterness which spilled over into political life, sharpening and intensifying other sources of conflict which were coming to light between the royal government and members of the political nation. And it’s to those other sources of conflict that I’ll turn next time.
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