The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I: The Post-Reformation Era, 1559-1689 019870223X, 9780198702238

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The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I: The Post-Reformation Era, 1559-1689
 019870223X, 9780198702238

Table of contents :
The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions Volume I: The Post-Reformation Era, c.1559–c.1689
List of Contributors
Series Introduction
Part I Traditions Within England
1 Presbyterianism in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England
2 Presbyterians in the English Revolution
3 Presbyterians in the Restoration
4 Congregationalists
THE 1650S
5 Separatists and Baptists
6 Early Quakerism and its Origins
Part II Traditions Outside England
7 The Dutch Republic: English and Scottish Dissenters in Dutch Exile, c.1575–1688
8 Scotland
9 Ireland
10 Wales, 1587–1689
11 Dissent in New England
12 Colonial Quakerism
Part III Dissent and the World
13 Dissent in the Parishes
14 Dissent and the State: Persecution and Toleration
15 Dissent Empowered: The Puritan Revolution
16 The Print Culture of Early Nonconformity: From Martin Marprelate to Reliquiæ Baxterianæ
Part IV Congregations and Living
17 The Bible and Theology
18 Worship and Sacraments
19 Sermons and Preaching
20 Women and Gender
21 Being a Dissenter: Lay Experience in the Gathered Churches

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T H E OX F O R D H I ST O RY O F P R O T E S TA N T D I S SE N T I N G T R A D I T IO N S General Editors: Timothy Larsen and Mark A. Noll The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I The Post-Reformation Era, c.1559–c.1689 Edited by John Coffey The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume II The Long Eighteenth Century, c.1689–c.1828 Edited by Andrew C. Thompson The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume III The Nineteenth Century Edited by Timothy Larsen and Michael Ledger-Lomas The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume IV The Twentieth Century: Traditions in a Global Context Edited by Jehu J. Hanciles The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume V The Twentieth Century: Themes and Variations in a Global Context Edited by Mark P. Hutchinson

The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions Volume I The Post-Reformation Era, c.1559–c.1689

Edited by



1 Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Oxford University Press 2020 The moral rights of the authors have been asserted First Edition published in 2020 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2020934336 ISBN 978–0–19–870223–8 Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, Elcograf S.p.A. Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.

Acknowledgements A substantial work like this is a collaborative project, the product of many hands. The series was conceived in the minds of Tim Larsen and Mark Noll, and I am grateful to them for inviting me to edit Volume I. It exemplifies the biblical maxim that the first shall be last, but with its publication, the series is now complete. Throughout the long wait, Tim and Mark have provided constant support and expert guidance. Over the past few years, the twenty-three contributors have displayed a range of qualities, including professionalism, patience, enthusiasm, and collegiality. I owe special thanks to those who delivered first and waited longest, and to those who stepped in during the later stages of the project. At OUP, Tom Perridge and Karen Raith have always been on hand to offer prompt and wise advice. Our copy-editor Camille Bramall read the manuscript with great care and attention, and we are also indebted to the team at SPi Global led by Bharath Krishnamoorthy. I have been editing this volume while working with N.H. Keeble, Tom Charlton, and Tim Cooper on the most prolific of all dissenting divines, Richard Baxter. Our major OUP ­edition of Baxter’s memoir, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, has come to completion at the same time as the Oxford History, and I have benefited enormously from discussions with Neil, Tom, and Tim. My Leicester research students have also been valued conversation partners on the history of Dissent. Finally, I am thankful to (and for) my family, especially Cate, who teaches some of this ­history herself, and knows the things that matter. John Coffey Leicester January 2020

Contents List of Contributors Series Introduction by Timothy Larsen and Mark A. Noll

ix xv

Introduction1 John Coffey PA RT I .   T R A D I T IO N S W I T H I N E N G L A N D 1. Presbyterianism in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England Polly Ha


2. Presbyterians in the English Revolution Elliot Vernon


3. Presbyterians in the Restoration George Southcombe


4. Congregationalists Tim Cooper


5. Separatists and Baptists Michael A.G. Haykin


6. Early Quakerism and its Origins Ariel Hessayon


PA RT I I .   T R A D I T IO N S O U T SI D E E N G L A N D 7. The Dutch Republic: English and Scottish Dissenters in Dutch Exile, c.1575–1688163 Cory Cotter 8. Scotland R. Scott Spurlock


9. Ireland Crawford Gribben


10. Wales, 1587–1689 Lloyd Bowen


viii Contents 11. Dissent in New England Francis J. Bremer


12. Colonial Quakerism Andrew R. Murphy and Adrian Chastain Weimer


PA RT I I I .   D I S SE N T A N D T H E WO R L D 13. Dissent in the Parishes W.J. Sheils


14. Dissent and the State: Persecution and Toleration Jacqueline Rose


15. Dissent Empowered: The Puritan Revolution Bernard Capp


16. The Print Culture of Early Nonconformity: From Martin Marprelate to Reliquiæ Baxterianæ  N.H. Keeble


PA RT I V.   C O N G R E G AT IO N S A N D L I V I N G 17. The Bible and Theology John Coffey


18. Worship and Sacraments Susan Hardman Moore


19. Sermons and Preaching David J. Appleby


20. Women and Gender Rachel Adcock


21. Being a Dissenter: Lay Experience in the Gathered Churches Michael Davies, Anne Dunan-Page, and Joel Halcomb




List of Contributors Rachel Adcock is a Lecturer in English at Keele University. Her publications include Baptist Women’s Writings in Revolutionary Culture, 1640–80 (2015), Flesh and Spirit: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women’s Writing (2014), and several articles on women and dissenting culture, particularly women’s textual participation in dissenting networks. She is currently editing The City Heiress and The Roundheads for The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Aphra Behn, and researching a new project on dissent, ritual, and memory. David  J.  Appleby  is a Lecturer in Early Modern British History at the University of Nottingham. He is author of Black Bartholomew’s Day: Preaching, Polemic and Restoration Nonconformity (2007), and has written widely on preaching, audiences, and Nonconformity. David is a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Civil War Petitions project, and (with Andrew Hopper) has recently co-edited Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars (2018). He is an adviser to the National Civil War Centre, and is currently writing a history of the Civil Wars for I.B. Tauris’ Short Histories series. Lloyd Bowen is Reader in Early Modern History at Cardiff University. He has published widely on politics, religion, and society in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Wales, including The Politics of the Principality: Wales, c.1603–42 (Cardiff, 2007). He also works on the culture of British royalism during the civil wars and is a Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project, ‘Conflict, Welfare and Memory During and After the English Civil Wars, 1642–1710’. Francis J. Bremer is Professor Emeritus of History at Millersville University of Pennsylvania and Editor of the Winthrop Papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society. He has published sixteen books on puritanism in the Atlantic World, including John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (2003); Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds (2012); and First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in the Atlantic World (2012). His most recent work is Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism (2015). In 2020 Oxford University Press will publish ‘. . . One Small Candle’: The Story of the Plymouth Puritans and the Beginning of English New England. Bernard Capp is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Warwick, and an FBA. His publications include England’s Culture Wars. Puritan Reformation and its Enemies in the Interregnum, 1649–1660 (2012), The Ties


List of Contributors

that Bind. Siblings, Family and Society in Early Modern England (2018), and ‘The Religious Marketplace: Public Disputations in Civil War and Interregnum England’, English Historical Review, 129 (2013). John Coffey  is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Leicester. He is the author of monographs on the Scottish Covenanter Samuel Rutherford and the English Independent John Goodwin, as well as Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558–1689 (2000), and Exodus and Liberation: Deliverance Politics from John Calvin to Martin Luther King Jr. (2014). He co-edited The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (2008), and with N.H.  Keeble, Tom Charlton, and Tim Cooper has edited Richard Baxter’s Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, 5 vols (Oxford, 2020). Tim Cooper  is Associate Professor of Church History at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He has published widely on the Puritans, especially Richard Baxter and John Owen. He is the author of Fear and Polemic in Seventeenth-Century England: Richard Baxter and Antinomianism (2001) and John Owen, Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity (2011), and he is one of the editors of the forthcoming critical edition of Richard Baxter’s Reliquiæ Baxterianæ (Oxford, 2020). Cory Cotter is currently an independent researcher. His doctoral dissertation (University of Virginia) focused on ‘Anglo-Dutch Dissent: British Dissenters in the Netherlands, 1662–1688’ (2011). His publications include ‘Going Dutch: Beyond Black Bartholomew’s Day’ in N.H. Keeble, ed., Settling the Peace of the Church (2014). Expanding the scope of his scholarship, he is now writing a history of English exiles in the early modern Atlantic world. Michael Davies is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Liverpool. Among his publications is Graceful Reading: Theology and Narrative in the Works of John Bunyan (2002). He has co-edited with W.R. Owens The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan (2018) and, with Anne Dunan-Page and Joel Halcomb, Church Life: Pastors, Congregations, and the Experience of Dissent in Seventeenth-Century England (2019). For Oxford University Press he is currently preparing a critical edition of The Bunyan Church Book, 1656–1710. Anne Dunan-Page  is Professor of Early Modern British Studies at AixMarseille Université, where she directs the Research Centre on the Anglophone World. Her publications include Grace Overwhelming: John Bunyan, ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ and the Extremes of the Baptist Mind (2006), The Cambridge Companion to Bunyan (2010), and L’Expérience puritaine. Vies et récits de dissidents, XVIIe–XVIIIe siècle (2017). She is currently co-editing the correspondence of Sir Thomas Browne for a new edition of his Complete Works (forthcoming).

List of Contributors


Crawford Gribben  is Professor of Early Modern British History at Queen’s University Belfast. He is the author of John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat (2016), God’s Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland (2007), and several other books on early modern religious history, and a co-editor of, among other titles, Cultures of Calvinism in Early Modern Europe (2019) and Dublin: Renaissance City of Literature (2017). He also co-edits the Palgrave series ‘Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World’ and the Edinburgh University Press series ‘Scottish Religious Cultures’. Polly Ha is Reader in Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of English Presbyterianism, 1590–1640 (2011); co-editor, with Patrick Collinson, of The Reception of European Reformation in Britain (2010); and chief editor of The Puritans on Independence (2017). She has been a member of research networks on Freedom and the Construction of Europe, Toleration in the Modern World, and Alternative Religious Settlements in Britain and Ireland. She recently completed another critical edition of sources for Oxford University Press and is currently working on conspiracy and innovation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Joel Halcomb is a Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia and one of the founding members of the ‘Dissenting Experience’ project. His research focuses on religious practice and religious politics in Britain and Ireland during the British civil wars. He was assistant editor for The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643–1652 (2012). With Patrick Little and David Smith, he is co-editing Volume 3 of The Writing and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (forthcoming). He is also preparing a monograph on the Congregational movement during the British civil wars. Susan Hardman Moore  is Professor of Early Modern Religion at the University of Edinburgh. Her publications include Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home (2007), The Diary of Thomas Larkham, 1647–1669 (2011), and Abandoning America: Life-Stories from Early New England (2013). Michael A.G. Haykin, FRHistS, is Chair and Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, which is based at Southern Seminary and Heritage Theological Seminary, Ontario, Canada. His areas of research and writing are early Christianity and British Dissent in the long eighteenth century. He is also the General Editor of a complete and critical edition of the works of Andrew Fuller (De Gruyter, 2016‒). Ariel Hessayon  is a Reader in the Department of History at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of ‘Gold Tried in the Fire’. The Prophet TheaurauJohn Tany and the English Revolution (2007) and co-editor/editor of


List of Contributors

several collections of essays as well as collections of primary sources. He has also written extensively on a variety of early modern topics: antiscripturism, antitrinitarianism, book burning, communism, environmentalism, esotericism, extra-canonical texts, heresy, crypto-Jews, Judaizing, millenarianism, mysticism, prophecy, and religious radicalism. N.H.  Keeble  is Professor Emeritus of English Studies at the University of Stirling, Scotland. His academic and research interests lie in English cultural (and especially literary and religious history) of the early modern period, 1500–1725. His publications include studies of Richard Baxter: Puritan Man of Letters (1982), The Literary Culture of Nonconformity in Later SeventeenthCentury England (1987), The Restoration: England in the 1660s (2002) and a two-volume Calendar of the Correspondence of Richard Baxter (1991; with Geoffrey F. Nuttall). He has edited five collections of original essays, texts by John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, Lucy Hutchinson, Andrew Marvell, and John Milton, and Richard Baxter’s Reliquiæ Baxterianæ (forthcoming; with John Coffey, Tim Cooper, and Thomas Charlton). Andrew R. Murphy is Professor of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has written extensively on the theory and practice of religious liberty in England and America, from his first book, Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America (2001), to his most recent: a biography of William Penn entitled William Penn: A Life (2018). He is the author of Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration: The Political Thought of William Penn (2016); and co-editor of The Worlds of William Penn (2019). Jacqueline Rose  is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of St Andrews and researches and teaches sixteenth- and seventeenth-century religious, political, and intellectual history. She is author of Godly Kingship in Restoration England (2011) and edited The Politics of Counsel in England and Scotland, 1286–1707 (Proceedings of the British Academy, 204, 2016). W.J. Sheils  is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of York and a former President of the Ecclesiastical History Society. His first book was on  Puritans in the Diocese of Peterborough 1558–1610 (1979) and he has subsequently worked across the denominational spectrum, being the recipient of a festschrift, N.  Lewycky and A.  Morton eds, Getting Along? Religious Identities and Confessional Relations in Early Modern England (2012). George Southcombe is Director of the Sarah Lawrence Programme, Wadham College, Oxford. He is the author of The Culture of Dissent in Restoration England: ‘The Wonders of the Lord’ (2019), the editor of English Nonconformist Poetry (2012), and co-author (with Grant Tapsell) of Restoration Politics, Religion, and Culture: Britain and Ireland, 1660–1714 (2010). He is also the

List of Contributors


co-editor (with Almut Suerbaum and Benjamin Thompson) of Polemic: Language as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse (2015), and (with Grant Tapsell) of Revolutionary England, c.1630–c.1660: Essays for Clive Holmes (2017). R. Scott Spurlock is Professor of Scottish and Early Modern Christianities at the University of Glasgow. He is author of Cromwell and Scotland: Conquest and Religion (2007) and co-editor (with Crawford Gribben) of Puritans and Catholics in the Trans-Atlantic World (2015). Currently he is completing Reformed Polity and Church–State Relations in the Atlantic World, 1609–1690 for Palgrave Macmillan and is a Research Associate at the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University. Elliot Vernon  is a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn and the author of a number of articles on the topics of London, the Levellers, and English Presbyterianism during the English Revolution. Currently completing a monograph entitled London Presbyterians and the Politics of Religion, c.1636–1663, he is editor (with Philip Baker) of The Agreements of the People, the Levellers and the Constitutional Crisis of the English Revolution (2013) and (with Hunter Powell) Church Polity and Politics in the British Atlantic World, c.1635–66 (2020). Adrian Chastain Weimer  is Associate Professor of History at Providence College. Her publications include Martyrs’ Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England (2014) and articles on colonial Puritan devotional and political culture, on the Quaker Elizabeth Hooton, and on Huguenots in New England. She has also contributed to the volumes The Worlds of William Penn (2018) and Puritanism and Emotion in the Early Modern World (2016).

Series Introduction Timothy Larsen and Mark A. Noll

There is something distinctive, if not strange, about how Christianity has been expressed and embodied in English churches and traditions from the Reformation era onwards. Things developed differently elsewhere in Europe. Some European countries such as Spain and Italy remained Roman Catholic. The countries or regions that became Protestant choose between two exportable and replicable possibilities for a state church—Lutheran or Reformed. Denmark and Sweden, for example, both became Lutheran, while the Dutch Republic and Scotland became Reformed. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) established the right of ­sovereigns to choose a state church for their territories among those three options: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Calvinist. A variety of states adopted a ‘multi-confessional’ policy, allowing different faiths to coexist sideby-side. The most important alternative expression of Protestantism on the continent was one that rejected state churches in principle: Anabaptists. England was powerfully influenced by the continental Reformers, but both the course and outcome of its Reformation were idiosyncratic. The initial break with Rome was provoked by Henry VIII’s marital problems; the king rejected the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith and retained the Latin mass, but swept away monasteries and shrines, promoted the vernacular Scriptures, and had himself proclaimed Supreme Head of the Church of England. Each of his three children (by three different wives) was to pull the church in sharply different directions. The boy king Edward VI, guided by Archbishop Cranmer and continental theologians like Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr Vermigli, set it on a firmly Reformed trajectory, notably through Cranmer’s second Prayer Book (1552) and the Forty-Two Articles (1553). Mary I reunited England with Rome, instigating both a Catholic reformation and a repression of Protestants that resulted in almost three hundred executions. Finally, Elizabeth I restored the Edwardian settlement (with minor revisions), while sternly opposing moves for further reformation of the kind favoured by some of her bishops who had spent the 1550s in exile in Reformed cities on the continent. In contrast to many Reformed churches abroad, the Church of England retained an episcopal hierarchy, choral worship in cathedrals, and clerical vestments like the surplice. The ‘half reformed’ character of the Elizabethan church was a source of deep frustration to earnest Protestants who wanted to complete England’s reformation, to ‘purify’ the church of ‘popish’ survivals. From the mid-1560s, these reformers were called ‘Puritans’ (though the term was also applied indiscriminately to


Series Introduction

many godly conformists). They represented a spectrum of opinion. Some were simply ‘nonconformists’, objecting to the enforcement of certain ceremonies, like the sign of the cross, kneeling at communion, or the wearing of the surplice. Others looked for ‘root and branch’ reform of the church’s government. (All Dissenting movements would remain expert at employing biblical images in their public appeals, as with ‘root and branch,’ taken in this sense from the Old Testament’s book of Ezekiel, chapter 17.) They wished to create a Reformed, Presbyterian state church, that is, to make over the Church of England into the pattern that ultimately prevailed north of the border as the Church of Scotland. Still others gave up on the established church altogether, establishing illegal separatist churches. Eventually, England would see a proliferation of home-grown sects: Congregationalists (or Independents), General Baptists, Particular Baptists, Quakers (or Friends), Fifth Monarchists, Ranters, Muggletonians, and more. These reforming movements flourished during the tumultuous midcentury years of civil war and interregnum, when the towering figure of Oliver Cromwell presided over a kingless state and acted as protector of the godly. But when the throne and the established church were ‘restored’ in 1660, reforming movements of all sorts came under tremendous pressure. The term ‘Dissent’ came to serve as the generic designation for those who did not agree that the established Church of England should enjoy a monopoly over English religious life. Some of the sects—such as the Ranters, Muggletonians, and Fifth Monarchists—soon faded away. Others, especially Independents/Congregationalists, Baptists, and Quakers survived. Crucially, they were now joined outside the established church by the Presbyterians, ejected from the livings in 1660–62. Although Presbyterians continued to attend parish worship and work for comprehension within the national church, they were (as Richard Baxter noted) forced into a separating shape, meeting in illegal conventicles. In 1689, Parliament confirmed the separation between Church and ‘Dissent’ by rejecting a comprehension bill and passing the so-called Act of Toleration. The denominations of what became known as ‘Old Dissent’—Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Quakers—now enjoyed legally-protected freedom of worship, even as their members remained second-class citizens, excluded from public office unless they received Anglican communion. Over the course of the seventeenth century, all of these Dissenting movements had established a presence in the British colonies of North America. (They became ‘British’ and not just ‘English’ colonies in 1707, after the Union of England and Scotland that created ‘Great Britain’.) In the New World began what has become a continuous history of English Dissent adapting to conditions outside of England. In this instance, Congregationalists in New England set up a system that looked an awful lot like a church establishment, even as they continued to dissent from the Anglicanism that in theory prevailed wherever British settlement extended.

Series Introduction


Complexity in the history of Dissent only expanded in the eighteenth century with the emergence of Methodism. This reforming movement within the Church of England became ‘New Dissent’ at the end of the century when it separated from Anglican organizational jurisdiction. In America, that separation took place earlier than in England when the American War of Independence ruled out any kind of official authority from the established church across the sea in the new nation. In the great expansion of the British Empire during the late eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century, Anglophone Dissent moved out even ­farther and evolved even further. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other imperial outposts in Africa and Asia usually enjoyed the ­service of Anglican missionaries and local supporters. But everywhere that Empire went so also went Dissenting Protestants. The creation of the Baptist Missionary Society (1792) and the London Missionary Society (1795) (which was dominated by Congregationalists) inaugurated a dramatic surge of overseas missions. Nowhere in the Empire did the Church of England enjoy the same range of privileges that it retained in the mother country. Meanwhile, back in England, still more new movements added to the Protestant panoply linked to Dissent. Liberalizing trends in both Anglican and Presbyterian theology in the later eighteenth century saw the emergence of the Unitarians as a separate denomination. Conservative trends produced the (so-called Plymouth) Brethren who replicated the earlier Dissenting ­pattern by originating as a protest against the nineteenth-century Church of England—as well as lamenting the divisions in Christianity and longing to restore the purity of the New Testament church. The Salvation Army (with roots in the Methodist and Holiness movement) was established in response to the challenges of urban mission. Even further complexity appeared during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries when Pentecostal movements arose, usually with an obvious Methodist lineage, especially as developed by the Holiness tradition within Methodism, but also sometimes with a lineage traceable to representatives of ‘Old Dissent’ as well. Historically considered, Pentecostals are grandchildren of Dissent via a Methodist-Holiness parentage. Whether ‘New’ or ‘Old’—or descended from ‘New’ or ‘Old’—all of these traditions have now become global. Some are even dominant in various countries or regions in their parts of the globe. To take United States history as an example, in the eighteenth century Congregationalism dominated Massachusetts. By the early nineteenth century, Methodism was the largest Christian tradition in America. Today, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States is the Southern Baptist Convention. Or with Canada as another example, Anglicans remained stronger than did Episcopalians in the United States, but Methodists and Presbyterians often took on establishment-like characteristics in regions


Series Introduction

where their numbers equalled or exceeded the Anglicans. In different ways and through different patterns of descent, these North American traditions trace their roots to English Dissent. The same is true in parallel fashion and with different results in many parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere, where Pentecostalism is usually the dominant style of Protestantism.

THE FIVE VOLUMES OF THIS SERIES The five-volume Oxford History of Dissenting Protestant Traditions is governed by a motif of migration (‘out-of-England’, as it were), but in two senses of the term. It first traces organized church traditions that arose in England as Dissenters distanced themselves from a state church defined by diocesan episcopacy, the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and royal supremacy, but then follows those traditions as they spread beyond England—and also traces newer traditions that emerged downstream in other parts of the world from earlier forms of Dissent. Second, it does the same for the doctrines, church practices, stances toward state and society, attitudes toward Scripture, and characteristic patterns of organization that also originated in earlier English Dissent, but that have often defined a trajectory of influence independent ecclesiastical organizations. Perhaps the most notable occasion when a major world figure pointed to such an influence came in 1775 when Edmund Burke addressed the British Parliament in the early days of the American revolt. While opposing independence for the colonies, Burke yet called for sensitivity because, he asserted, the colonists were ‘protestants; and of that kind, which is the most adverse to all submission of mind and opinion’. Then Burke went on to say that ‘this averseness in the dissenting churches from all that looks like absolute government’ was a basic reality of colonial history. Other claims have been almost as strong in associating Dissenters with the practice of free trade, the mediating structures of non-state organization, creativity in scientific research, and more. This series was commissioned to complement the five-volume Oxford History of Anglicanism. In the Introduction to that series, the General Editor Rowan Strong engaged in considerable handwringing about the difficulties of making coherent, defensible editorial decisions, beginning with the question of how fitting the term ‘Anglicanism’ was for the series title. If such angst is needed for Anglicanism, those whose minds crave tidiness should abandon all hope before entering here. Beginning again with just the title, ‘Dissenting’ is a term that obviously varies widely in terms of its connotations and applicability, depending on the particular time, place, and tradition. In some cases, it has been used as a self-identifier. In many other cases, groups whom historians might legitimately regard as descendants of Dissent find it irrelevant, incoherent, or just plain wrong. An example mentioned earlier suggests some of the

Series Introduction


complexity. In colonial Massachusetts, ‘Dissenting’ Congregationalists in effect set up an established church supported by taxes and exercising substantial control over public life. In that circumstance, ‘Dissent’ obviously meant something different than it did for their fellow Independents left behind in England. Nevertheless, Massachusetts Congregationalism is still one of the traditions out-of-England that we have decided to track wherever it went—even into the courthouse and the capitol building. Much later and far, far away, Methodism in the Pacific Island of Fiji would also take on some establishmentarian features, which again suggests that ‘Dissent’ points to a history or affinities shared to a greater or lesser extent, but not to an unchanging essence. Indeed, because Dissent is defined in relation to Establishment, it is a relative term. Another particularly anomalous case is Presbyterianism, which has been a Dissenting tradition in England but a state church in Scotland and elsewhere. When one examines it in other parts of the world, a sophisticated analysis is required—for example, in the United States and Canada (where Presbyterianism was once a force to be reckoned with) and in South Korea (where it still is). In these countries one encounters a tradition originally fostered by missionaries and emigrants with both Dissenting and establishmentarian roots. By including Presbyterians in these volumes, we communicate an intention to consider ‘Dissent’ broadly construed. Other terms might have been chosen for the title, such as ‘Nonconformist’ or ‘Free Churches’. Yet they suffer from the same difficulty—that all groups that might in historical view be linked under any one term will include many who never used the term for themselves or who do not acknowledge the historical connection. Yet ‘Dissenting Studies’ is a recognized and flourishing field of academic studies, focussed on the history of those Protestant movements that coalesced as Dissenting denominations in the seventeenth century and on the New Dissent that arose outside the established church in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Still, the problem of fitting terminology to historical reality remains. The further in geographical space that one moves from England and the nearer in time that one comes to the present, the less relevant any of the possible terms becomes for the individuals and Protestant traditions under consideration. Protestants in China or India, for example, generally do not think of their faith as ‘Dissenting’ at all—at least not in any way that directly relates to how that word functioned for Unitarians in nineteenth-century England. Even in the West, a strong sense of denominational identity or heritage has been waning due to increasing individualism and hybridization. Such difficulties are inevitable for a genealogy where trunks and branches outline a common history of protest against church establishment, but very little else besides broadly Protestant convictions. The five volumes in this series, as well as the individual chapters treating different regions, periods, and emphases, admittedly brave intellectual anomalies


Series Introduction

and historical inconsistencies. One defence is simply to plead that untidiness in the volumes reflects reality itself rather than editorial confusion. Church and Dissent, Anglicanism and Nonconformity, were defined by their relationship, and the wall between them was a porous one; while it can be helpful to think it terms of tightly defined ecclesiastical blocs, the reality of lived religion often defied neat lines of demarcation. Many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Anglicans read Puritan works, while many Dissenters imbibed the works of great Anglicans. Besides, an editorial plan that put a premium on tidiness would impoverish readers by leaving out exciting and important events, traditions, personalities, and organizations that do fall, however remotely or obscurely, into the broader history of English Protestant Dissent. Which brings us to the second, more significant justification for this fivevolume series. On offer is nothing less than a feast. Not the least of Britain’s contributions to world history has been its multifaceted impact on religious life, thought, and practice. In particular, this one corner of Christendom has proven unusually fertile for the germination of new forms of Christianity. Those forms have enriched British history, while doing even more to enrich all of world history in the last four centuries. By concentrating only on the history of Dissent, these volumes nonetheless illuminate the extraordinary contributions of some of the greatest preachers, missionaries, theologians, pastors, organizations, writers, self-sacrificing altruists and (yes, also) some of the most scandalous, self-defeating, and egotistical episodes in the entire history of Christianity. Taken in its broadest dimensions, this series opens the story of large themes and new ways of thinking that have profoundly shaped our globe—on the relationships between church and state, on the successes and failures of voluntary organization, on faith and social action, on toleration and religious and civil freedom, on innovations in worship, hymnody, literature, the arts, and much else. It is a story of traditions that have significantly influenced Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and even the Middle East (for example, the founding of what is now the American University of Beirut). Especially the two volumes on the twentieth century offer treatments of vibrant, growing forms of Christianity in various parts of the world that often have not yet received the scholarly attention they deserve. All five volumes present the work of accomplished scholars with widely recognized expertise in their chosen subjects. In specifically thematic chapters, authors address issues of great current interest, including gender, preaching, missions, social action, politics, literary culture, theology, the Bible, worship, congregational life, ministerial training, new technologies, and much more. The geographical, chronological, and ecclesiastical reach is broad: from the Elizabethan era to the dawn of the twentieth-first century, from Congregationalists to Pentecostals, from Cape Cod to Cape Town, from China to Chile, from Irvingite apostles in nineteenth-century London to African apostles in twenty-first-century Nigeria. Just as expansive is the roster of

Series Introduction


Dissenters or descendants of Dissent: from John Bunyan to Martin Luther King, Jr, from prisoner-reformer Elizabeth Fry to mega-mega-church pastor Yonggi Cho, from princes of the pulpit to educational innovators, from poets to politicians, from liturgical reformers to social reformers. However imprecise the category of ‘Dissent’ must remain, the volumes in this series are guaranteed to delight readers by the wealth of their insight into British history in the ­seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, by what they reveal about the surprising reach of Dissent around the world in later periods, and by the extraordinary range of positive effects and influences flowing from a family of Christian believers that began with a negative protest.

Introduction* John Coffey

Four major Dissenting traditions emerged out of the religious and political crises of seventeenth-century England: Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Quakers. By 1715, it has been estimated that there were approximately 180,000 English Presbyterians (comprising more than half of all Dissenters), 60,000 Congregationalists, 60,000 Baptists (with two-thirds being Particular or Calvinistic Baptists, and the other third General or Arminian Baptists), and some 40,000 Quakers. Gathered in almost 2,000 congregations, they comprised at least 6 per cent of the English population, though this may underestimate their strength.1 In Wales, their percentage share of the population was comparable, if a little lower, while in London, Bristol and other cities, they loomed larger. Ireland was anomalous, with a Catholic majority and an Anglican state church; in Ulster, Presbyterian Dissenters were the largest Protestant community, and in some areas the largest religious group. In Scotland, after 1689, Presbyterians formed the Established Church, and Episcopalians were the dissenters. More dramatically still, Protestant Dissent had been exported to England’s New World settlements: New England, the Middle Colonies, Virginia, the Carolinas, and the Caribbean. Congregationalists dominated New England, while in New Jersey and Pennsylvania the most radical of Dissenting denominations, the Quakers, found themselves in power. The contrast with a century earlier is stark. During the reign of Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603), England had no permanent settlements in America, and little Protestant dissent from the Established Church. By 1600, the internal Presbyterian challenge to the episcopal polity of the Church of England appeared to have *  For comments on this Introduction, I am grateful to Neil Keeble, Tim Larsen, Mark Noll, and Rosemary Moore. At an earlier stage, Joel Halcomb and Bob Owens provided valuable advice. 1  Michael Watts, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978), pp. 269–70. Geoffrey Holmes estimates that by 1715 there were at least 400,000 Dissenters in England and Wales, comprising around 7 per cent of the population: The Making of a Great Power: Late Stuart and Early Georgian Britain, 1660–1722 (London, 1993), pp. 353, 459–61. John Coffey, Introduction In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0001


The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I

been foiled. Separatists had been brutally suppressed in the 1590s, and while some breakaway congregations persisted in London, East Anglia, and the Midlands, they were tiny, scattered, and exceedingly vulnerable. As yet, there were no Congregational ‘gathered churches’, no English Baptists, and no Quakers. With the exception of a few thousand Separatists and perhaps 40,000 Catholic recusants, the English (and Welsh) worshipped in the 9,000 or so parishes of the national Church. Indeed, compared to the Dutch republic and other European multiconfessional polities, the religious map of England was remarkably homogeneous. As in Lutheran Sweden, Church and commonwealth were seen as coterminous; Richard Hooker could write that there was not ‘any man a member of the commonwealth, which is not also of the Church of England’.2 England’s century of revolution shook that assumption. The institutional unity of English Protestantism was shattered. In 1600, barely a few thousand Protestants were gathered in isolated congregations beyond the parish churches; by 1700, the Dissenters boasted around 2,000 congregations in England and Wales, many with hundreds of members. Despite determined efforts to force or negotiate reunification, England had become a religiously fragmented society, divided between different denominations, and between ‘Church’ and ‘Dissent’.3 This Oxford History examines the emergence of Protestant Dissenting tra­di­ tions in the post-Reformation era, between the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity in 1559 and the so-called Act of Toleration in 1689 that legalized, within strictly defined limits, the new reality of denominational pluralism. The volume traces the process whereby a national Church that had accommodated ‘the hotter sort of Protestant’, ended up driving most of these ‘Puritans’ into dissent. As Jacqueline Rose notes in her chapter, ‘Dissent was a legal category–those who refused to conform to the Acts of Uniformity’.4 For this reason, ‘Dissent’ and ‘Nonconformity’ can be used as practically synonymous terms. Alternatively, some historians use ‘nonconformity’ to indicate a phenomenon occurring within established churches, whereas ‘dissent’ formed outside or beyond it. In Crawford Gribben’s formulation, the national Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland ‘prevented dissent by allowing space for nonconformity’.5 In due course, however, internal nonconformity was transformed into external dissent, or we might say that ‘dissent’ was transformed into ‘Dissent’, ‘nonconformity’ into ‘Nonconformity’.6

2  Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, ed. A.S. McGrade (Cambridge, 1989), p. 130. 3  See John Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1588–1689 (Harlow, 2000). 4  Jacqueline Rose, ‘Dissent and the State’, Chapter 14 in this volume. 5  Crawford Gribben, ‘Ireland’, Chapter 9 in this volume. 6  Richard Baxter distinguished between ‘the old Non-conformists’ prior to 1640, who had remained Church of England ministers, and Restoration Nonconformists, who had been ejected from their ministry because of ‘the new Conformity’ (see Reliquiæ Baxterianæ (1696), pt II, p. 430; pt III, pp. 130, 137).

Introduction3 This introductory chapter sets the scene. It begins with a thumbnail sketch of the emergence of Protestant Dissent in post-Reformation England. It then introduces the tradition of denominational historiography, before examining how this ‘vertical’ approach to Dissenting history has been challenged by his­ tor­ians who focus on the ‘horizontal’—the politics of religion in a specific era or moment. Early modernists have charged traditional denominational his­tor­ ians with writing Whiggish history: teleological, anachronistic, martyrological, heroic, and partisan. They have proposed instead to write a broader history of the dissenting tradition. In doing so they have transformed the field, forcing a fundamental rethink of the relationship between Anglicanism and Puritanism, Church and Dissent. Increasingly, historians have concluded that Dissent was not an inevitable by-product of Puritanism, but the unintended outcome of a protracted struggle to define and control the Church of England. The Dissenters were the losers in that contest, though they would soon learn to celebrate their outsider status and embrace it as an essential part of their identity. This volume stresses the contingency of Dissent, as well as the fluidity of seventeenth-century denominational identities. At the same time, the contributors recognize that the Stuart era witnessed the formation of Dissenting denominations, as religious communities went to great lengths to sharpen the boundaries of group identity. The chapter ends by reviewing some recent trends in the scholarship, and by explaining how this volume (like the series as a whole) traces the diffusion and migration of Dissent beyond England, Scotland and Ireland, to the Netherlands and the British Atlantic world.

THE RISE OF DISSENT The history of Protestant Dissent can seem bewildering in its complexity, so we will begin with a brief sketch of its rise. We can identify a pre-history, a starting point, and a series of turning points. Later Dissenters liked to trace their origins back to the Lollards, the late medieval movement inspired by the writings of the Oxford theologian John Wycliffe and devoted to searching the Scriptures. Historians are still divided over the influence of Lollardy on the early English Reformation, however much some have sought to construct a genealogy stretching ‘from Lollards to Levellers’.7 As Peter Marshall observes, ‘no important English reformer came from the ranks of the Lollards’, and ‘the first evangelicals tended to come from the heart, not the margins, of the late medieval religious establishment’.8 Nevertheless, Reformers such as John Foxe (in his Acts and Monuments of 1563), as well as later Dissenters, saw Wycliffe as a 7  Compare Christopher Hill, ‘From Lollards to Levellers’, in M. Cornforth, ed., Rebels and their Causes (London, 1978), with Richard Rex, The Lollards (Basingstoke, 2002), ch. 5. 8  Peter Marshall, ‘The Reformation, Lollardy, and Catholicism’, in Kent Cartwright, ed., A Companion to Tudor Literature (Oxford, 2010), pp. 20–1.


The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I

precursor of the Reformation. Lollardy would be used to justify not merely the break with Rome, but various departures from the Protestant mainstream.9 We can identify a fault line running through the early evangelical Reformation: an establishment orientation personified by Thomas Cranmer, and a more radical tendency represented by William Tyndale who repudiated diocesan episcopacy and envisaged a non-hierarchical church. The tensions between these two visions of reformation were to resurface in debates between Elizabethan conformists and their Puritan critics, who itched and agitated for further reformation.10 From the beginning, evangelical Reformers oscillated between the opposite poles of establishment and dissent. Under Henry VIII, Cranmer became Archbishop of Canterbury, whereas Tyndale was burned at the stake. Under Henry’s son, the Protestant King Edward VI (1547–53), erstwhile ­dissenters like John Bale became bishops, as the English reformation shifted rapidly from its Henrician middle way between Rome and Wittenburg towards Lutheranism and then towards the Reformed Protestantism associated with Zurich, Geneva, and Strasbourg. This was reflected in successive versions of Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, authorized by Acts of Uniformity in 1549 and 1552. Radical Protestants dissented from the new Protestant establishment. The Freewillers rejected Reformed teaching on predestination, and two antiTrinitarians were burned at the stake in 1550 and 1551, setting a Protestant precedent for the far more famous execution of Michael Servetus in Geneva under Calvin in 1553. With Edward’s death and the accession of the Catholic Mary I (1553–8), the tables turned once more, and Archbishop Cranmer was himself burned at the stake for heresy in 1556. The English Reformation offered a startling case study in sudden role reversal, as outsiders became insiders, and persecutors became victims. The line between establishment and dissent was not fixed but alarmingly unstable.11 Seventeenth-century commentators and later historians often traced the divide between conformists and nonconformists, Anglicans and Puritans to ‘the troubles at Frankfurt’ in 1554–5, where Protestant exiles split into rival factions led by Richard Cox and the Scottish reformer John Knox: the ‘Coxians’ versus the ‘Knoxians’. Yet the Coxians did not give a free hand to the magistrate to order ‘things indifferent’ (adiaphora, i.e. not determined by Scripture), and both groups had much in common with Elizabethan Puritans.12 What we do see in the mid-Tudor period is a vigorous contest over the shape of English

9  Susan Royal, ‘John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments and the Lollard Legacy in the Long English Reformation’ (PhD thesis, Durham University, 2014). 10  Karl Gunther, Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525–1590 (Cambridge, 2014), ch. 1. 11  On the mid-Tudor reformations and their Elizabethan aftermath, see Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Later Reformation in England, 1547–1603, second edn (Basingstoke, 2000). 12  Gunther, Reformation Unbound, ch. 5.

Introduction5 Protestantism. Over the coming decades, neither the contest nor all the ­contenders could be contained within the bounds of the Established Church. The formal starting point for this volume is the Elizabethan religious settlement, enacted between 1559 and 1563. Building on the Edwardian settlement, this established the royal supremacy, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles as hallmarks of the Reformed national Church. However, historians have long observed that in matters of religion the Elizabethan settlement ‘settled nothing, or at least left much unsettled’.13 Many now write of ‘Reformations’ rather than ‘the Reformation’, and most agree that reformation was a protracted process, a ‘long Reformation’.14 It is common to speak of a ‘post-Reformation’ era marked by a contentious struggle for the hearts of the English people and the soul of the Church of England.15 The English Church suffered from an identity crisis. On the one hand, it was viewed by European Calvinists and Catholics alike as a ‘Reformed’ Church, allied with the Calvinist churches of the continent. Its Thirty-Nine Articles were a recognizably Reformed confession of faith, it had authorized widespread iconoclasm under Edward VI, its parish worship was plain and centred on psalm-singing and sermons, and its leading bishops were in correspondence networks with continental Reformers like Heinrich Bullinger (Zwingli’s successor in Zurich) and Theodore Beza (Calvin’s successor in Geneva). However, the English Church was anomalous in having an episcopal hierarchy, a formal liturgy, traditional clerical vestments, and a choral tradition within cathedrals. From the 1560s, contemporaries began to identify ‘Puritans’ within the Church who were discontented with its ceremonies, and increasingly with its government too. Puritan nonconformist clergy were often in hot water with the authorities, but they also enjoyed significant patronage from leading members of the gentry and aristocracy, and were tolerated by Reformed bishops who shared their Calvinist theology and appreciated their preaching ministry. There was a Presbyterian movement seeking to restructure the Church, as well as Separatists who broke away from it altogether, but the sects were miniscule, and the vast majority of Puritans remained within the religious establishment under Elizabeth and her Scottish successor James I (r. 1603–25).16 It took a series of major shocks to create English Dissent as a force outside the Established Church. The rise of Laudianism under Charles I (r. 1625–49) 13  Patrick Collinson, ‘The Religion of Elizabethan England and its Queen’, in Michelle Cilibretto and Nicholas Mann, eds, Giordano Bruno, 1583–1585 (Florence, 1997), p. 5. For an older example, see J.W. Allen, A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century (London, 1928), p. 180. 14  See Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993); Nicholas Tyacke, ed., England’s Long Reformation, 1500–1800 (London, 1998). 15  John Spurr, The Post-Reformation: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain, 1603–1714 (Abingdon, 2006). 16  See Patrick Collinson’s classic studies, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London, 1967), and The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559–1625 (Oxford, 1982). In this volume, see especially the chapters by Polly Ha and W.J. Sheils.


The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I

was the first watershed, marking the end of accommodation.17 Named after William Laud, Bishop of London from 1628 and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633, the Laudians sought to reform the Church according to ideals of beauty and order derived especially from their reading of the early Church Fathers. In the process, they began to purge Puritanism from the Church of England, thus radicalizing the godly, driving some into separatism, and others into exile, where they established ‘the Congregational way’ in New England and the Netherlands. The Laudian programme also provoked a political backlash. The attempt to impose a formal Prayer Book on the Scottish Kirk gave rise to the Scottish Covenanter movement and the overthrow of bishops in the Church of Scotland in 1638. When Charles failed in his attempts to crush the Covenanters by military means, he was forced to end his period of Personal Rule without parliaments (1629–40), by summoning parliament at Westminster in 1640. The English Revolution that ensued was the second major turning point.18 In 1642, civil war broke out between royalists and parliamentarians. The political and military crisis unleashed an extraordinary wave of Puritan reform and experimentation, and witnessed the abolition of episcopacy in 1646.19 Aiming to forge a new religious settlement, the parliamentarians ended up presiding over the fragmentation of English Protestantism. Parliament had called an Assembly of Divines at Westminster in 1643 to advise on ecclesiastical reform, but although it drew up a new Confession of Faith (1646), as well as a Directory of Public Worship, a Form of Church Government, and a Larger and Shorter Catechism, the Presbyterian drive for religious uniformity was blocked by the triumph of the New Model Army and the Independent coalition, dedicated to the toleration of Separatist, Congregational, and Baptist minorities. The poet John Milton, an ardent supporter of the Independent cause, wrote that ‘New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large’.20 In 1649, the political Independents—led by army commander Oliver Cromwell—executed the king, abolished mon­ archy and the House of Lords, and instituted a republic or ‘free state’. In the midst of this unprecedented political upheaval, England witnessed the rise of the new sects: Diggers, Ranters, Muggletonians, and most significantly, the Quakers. In Cromwellian England, Diggers and Ranters were suppressed, 17  For an introduction to Laudianism and other religious developments under Charles I, see Kenneth Fincham, ed., The Early Stuart Church, 1603–42 (Basingstoke, 1993). 18  The best short introduction to the English Revolution is Blair Worden, The English Civil Wars (London, 2009). For a magisterial history, see Austin Woolrych, Britain in Revolution, 1625–1660 (Oxford, 2002). In this volume, see especially the chapters by Elliot Vernon, Tim Cooper, Michael Haykin, Ariel Hessayon, and Bernard Capp. 19  For a brilliantly detailed study of the emergence of religious and political radicalism between 1640 and 1646, see David Como, Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War (Oxford, 2018). 20  John Milton, ‘On the New Forcers of Conscience under the Long Parliament’, in John Milton: Complete Shorter Poems, ed. John Carey (London, 1971), pp. 293–6.

Introduction7 while Baptists and Quakers thrived. By 1660, there were only a few hundred Muggletonians, but as many as 25,000 Baptists and anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 Quakers.21 Cromwell himself saw Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists as the core elements of his godly coalition. The third great defining moment occurred after the death of Cromwell in 1658 (he had served as Lord Protector since 1653). Within eighteen months, the monarchy was restored and Charles I’s son returned as King Charles II (r. 1660–85). Episcopacy was also re-established, and the Restoration settlement saw a raft of legislation passed against Puritan Nonconformists, the centrepiece being the Act of Uniformity (1662). Altogether, around 2,000 Puritan clergy were removed from their livings in the Established Church between 1660 and 1662, in what was later dubbed ‘the Great Ejection’.22 The majority were Presbyterians, and while they continued to worship in the parishes, many also set up conventicles that increasingly functioned like Congregational gathered churches. The Conventicle Acts (1664, 1670) declared such assemblies illegal, and Dissenters were subjected to waves of repression: fines, arrests, and imprisonments. Quakers suffered more than most. Thousands were gaoled, and hundreds died in Restoration prison cells. Nowhere else in seventeenth-century Protestant Europe were Protestant minorities persecuted on this scale. The Restoration era turned most Puritans into ‘Dissenters’, an identity strengthened rather than eroded by their experience of persecution. The royal Declaration of Indulgence (1672) provided a brief respite, allowing Dissenters to apply for official licences as Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Anabaptists, or Nonconformists. This served to consolidate denominational identities. It also reflected the fact that Dissenters had powerful sympathizers at the highest level of English politics, such as the ‘Puritan Whig’ Denzil Holles, and Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury, patron of the tolerationist philosopher, John Locke. During the Exclusion Crisis (1678–81) and again in the reign of the Catholic King James II (1685–8), Dissenters were brought in from the cold.23 A fourth key moment, the Revolution of 1688–9, confirmed the divergence of Church and Dissent. A comprehension bill, designed to reincorporate Presbyterian clergy into the Established Church, failed. Meanwhile, the socalled Act of Toleration (1689) recognized the legality of registered Trinitarian Dissent. In contrast to Locke’s Letter concerning Toleration (1689), the Act did not set out a principled defence of religious liberty, and it was hotly contested 21  For estimates see, J.F.  McGregor and Barry Reay, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution (Oxford, 1984), pp. 33, 142. See also Christopher Durston and Judith Maltby, eds, Religion in Revolutionary England (Manchester, 2006); Ariel Hessayon and David Finnegan, ‘Introduction’, in Hessayon and Finnegan, eds, Varieties of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century English Radicalism in Context (Farnham, 2011), pp. 17–18. 22  See Geoffrey Nuttall and Owen Chadwick, eds, From Uniformity to Unity, 1662–1962 (London, 1962); N.H. Keeble, ed., ‘Settling the Peace of the Church’: 1662 Revisited (Oxford, 2014). 23  See Mark Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs (Woodbridge, 2016); Scott Sowerby, Making Toleration: The Repealers and the Glorious Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 2013).


The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I

by Tory High Churchmen, but it stood the test of time.24 Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Quakers now enjoyed freedom of worship, and opened thousands of meeting houses across England and Wales. They formed what historians would later call ‘Old Dissent’, to be joined by the ‘New Dissent’ of Methodism in the late eighteenth century.

DENOMINATIONAL HISTORY The history of Anglophone Protestant Dissent has attracted a wealth of ­scholarship. Until recent decades, the bulk of that research was produced by ‘insiders’, denominational historians who set out to trace the history of their own trad­ition. Already in the eighteenth century, they produced some major works: the Presbyterian Edmund Calamy’s Account (1713) of the ejected ministers, expanded in his Continuation, two vols (1727); The History of the Puritans, four vols (1732–8) by the Independent Daniel Neal; a History of the English Baptists, four vols (1738–40), by Thomas Crosby; and Collections of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers, two vols (1753), by Joseph Besse. These works were—either in whole or in part—martyrologies. They depicted Dissenters as victims of episcopal persecution, heroic sufferers whose conscientious resistance had led to the creation of Nonconformity. Anglicans, in turn, produced their own martyrology, John Walker’s The Sufferings of the Clergy of England (1714), a riposte to Calamy that reminded Dissenters of the inconvenient truth that their ancestors had harassed and ejected almost 3,000 episcopal and royalist clergy during ‘the Great Rebellion’ of the 1640s. Such works consolidated distinct denominational identities, and cemented the wall between Church and Dissent.25 The golden age of denominational history was presided over by the Victorians and Edwardians. This was an era of spectacular Dissenting growth, especially among Congregationalists, Baptists, and Methodists; the religious census of 1851 found that almost one in five of the English (and half of all churchgoers) attended a Dissenting chapel. A torrent of histories and biographies poured from the presses, including studies of local congregations and regional surveys of early nonconformity. Among the major achievements of this new wave of denominational scholarship was the production of numerous primary source editions. Between 1846 and 1854, for example, the Hanserd Knollys Society published a series of seventeenth-century Baptist texts, including the church 24  See Ralph Steven, Protestant Pluralism: The Reception of the Toleration Act, 1689–1720 (Woodbridge, 2018). 25  See John Seed, Dissenting Histories: Religious Divisions and the Politics of Memory in Eighteenth-Century England (Edinburgh, 2008).

Introduction9 books of Broadmead, Bristol, and the Fenstanton, Warboys, and Hexham congregation. In the early twentieth century, the enthusiasm for denominational history led to the establishment of organizations and journals devoted to excavating the past. The period from 1898 to 1915 witnessed the creation of seven Nonconformist historical societies in England and Ireland, each with its own periodical. The Wesleyans were first off the mark, and whether in appreciative emulation or as part of an historiographical arms race, the other dissenting denominations followed in quick succession: the Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society launched in 1901, the Journal of the Friends Historical Society in 1903, the Transactions of the Baptist Historical Society in 1908, the Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society of England in 1914, and the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society in 1915.26 Nonconformity also boasted its own denominational archives. Presbyterian records were concentrated in the Dr Williams’s Library, opened in 1730, and relocated to its present location in Bloomsbury in 1890. After 1982, it in­corp­­ orated the Congregational Library (founded in 1831). It is the preeminent Nonconformist repository. Baptist historical materials were eventually collected together in the Angus Library, now at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. Quaker archives were deposited in the Friends Reference Library at Devonshire House in London where Norman Penney was appointed as the first librarian in  1900. The collection was moved in 1926 to Friends House on the Euston Road, and as the Library of the Religious Society of Friends it now contains 80,000 books and pamphlets as well as a major manuscript collection. In Boston, Massachusetts, the Congregational Library and Archives (along with the Massachusetts Historical Society) curates the documentary history of American Congregationalism; in Philadelphia, the Presbyterian Historical Society does the same for American Presbyterianism; at Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, historians of the Quakers can consult the riches of the Friends Historical Library. These (and other) denominational libraries and archives remain indispensable to the historian of Dissent. The research of denominational historians was brilliantly synthesized by Michael Watts in 1978, in the first volume of what became a magisterial trilogy entitled The Dissenters.27 Volume I took the story of English (and Welsh) Protestant Dissent from the Reformation to the French Revolution. In the first 250 pages, Watts covered the emergence of Dissent from 1532 (when three Englishmen and a Scotsman were arrested in London for distributing Anabaptist books) to 1689 (the Act of Toleration). Section I examined ‘The Genesis of Dissent’ in the century before 1640, Section II dealt with the English 26  Herbert McLachlan, Alexander Gordon, 1841–1931: A Biography (1932), p. 76. 27  Michael Watts, The Dissenters; The Dissenters: Volume II: The Rise of Evangelical Nonconformity (Oxford, 1995); The Dissenters: Volume III: The Crisis and Conscience of Nonconformity (Oxford, 2015).


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Revolution as ‘The Liberation of Dissent’, while Section III surveyed ‘The Persecution of Dissent’ during the Restoration era. Watts acknowledged his debts to the tradition of dissenting historiography inaugurated by Edmund Calamy and Daniel Neal. His preface singled out for thanks three leading Dissenting historians: the Congregationalists Tudur Jones and Geoffrey Nuttall, and the Baptist Ernest Payne. Denominational history retains some vigour, despite the long-term decline of the traditional Dissenting denominations, at least in the UK. In Canada, attention to the history of Dissenting traditions declined markedly after the 1925 merger of Congregationalists, Methodists, and a majority of Canadian Presbyterians into the United Church of Canada.28 In Britain, by contrast, strong denominational identities survived into the age of ecumenism, and the Association of Denominational Historical Societies and Cognate Libraries was eventually set up to act as an umbrella group, providing links to different organizations and institutions.29 Among the fruits of this collaboration is the four-volume anthology of Protestant Nonconformist Texts, published under the general editorship of the late Alan Sell.30 In North America, a variety of Reformed and Baptist seminaries foster research into their respective tra­di­ tions, and there are several Centers for Baptist History and Heritage. Another is based at Regent’s Park College, Oxford (a Baptist institution and a permanent private hall of the University of Oxford, as well as the location of the Angus Library).31 Baptists and Presbyterians, both in Europe and America, continue to argue about their identity with reference to their sixteenth- and seventeenthcentury forebears: debates about theology and the sacraments are conducted through historiography.32 By seeking a usable past, denominational historians run the risk of accentuating the congenial, and reading their own preoccupations into the present. Yet they continue to undertake groundbreaking research. In recent years, for example, Larry Kreitzer has embarked on a major project to document the career of the Baptist merchant-pastor William Kiffen. In William Kiffen and his World, six vols to date (Oxford, 2010–), Kreitzer has transcribed and analysed hundreds of unpublished documents, and investigated every aspect of his life and career in unparalleled detail. We learn, for example, of 28  I owe this observation to Mark Noll. 29 30  R.  Tudur Jones with Arthur Long and Rosemary Moore, eds, Protestant Nonconformist Texts: Volume I: 1550–1700 (Aldershot, 2007; Eugene, OR, 2015); Alan P.F. Sell with David J. Hall and Ian Sellers, eds, Protestant Nonconformist Texts: Volume II: The Eighteenth Century (Aldershot, 2006; Eugene, OR, 2015); David Bebbington with Kenneth Dix and Alan Ruston, eds, Protestant Nonconformist Texts: Volume III: The Nineteenth Century (Aldershot, 2006; Eugene, OR, 2015); David Thompson with John H.Y. Briggs and John Munsey Turner, eds, Protestant Nonconformist Texts: Volume IV: The Twentieth Century (Aldershot, 2007; Eugene, OR, 2015). 31 32  See, for example, Matthew C. Bingham, Chris Caughey, R. Scott Clark, Crawford Gribben, and D.G. Hart, On Being Reformed: Debates over a Theological Identity (2018); Paul Fiddes, ed., The Fourth Strand of the Reformation: The Covenant Ecclesiology of Anabaptists, English Separatists and the Early General Baptists (Oxford, 2018).

Introduction 11 Kiffen’s links to Dissenters in the Dutch republic, of his involvement with the wool–silk trade to Aleppo in Syria, and of his investment in a slave ship that sailed to the coast of Guinea in 1664. Kreitzer’s project demonstrates that Dissenters should not be viewed as a race apart, but as immersed in their place and time.

RETHINKING CHURCH AND DISSENT While reports of the death of denominational history have been greatly exaggerated, it has come under sustained challenge. As far back as 1967, Christopher Hill used the forum of The Baptist Quarterly to point out some of its shortcomings.33 In 1975, Patrick Collinson published a major essay—almost a mani­festo— entitled ‘Towards a Broader History of the Early Dissenting Tradition’.34 Here Collinson drew out some of the implications of his magisterial book, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement. He explained that he had been doing a different kind of history to most denominational historians. Theirs was ‘vertical history’, preoccupied with tracing the genealogy of their own denomination from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to the present, and thus written teleologically, with the end in view. But there was another approach that led ‘towards a broader history of the Early Dissenting Tradition’. This was ‘horizontal history’, synchronic rather than diachronic in its focus; it sought to locate Puritans and Separatists not within the long story of Dissent, but within their host societies— in this case, Elizabethan and early Stuart England. According to Collinson, these two approaches produced contrasting pictures of the early Dissenting tradition. For the vertical, denominational historians, Dissenters were outsiders, persecuted insurgents destined to found Separatist congregations. Daniel Neal’s History of the Puritans was explicitly designed ‘to account for the Rise and Progress of that Separation from the National Establishment that subsists to this Day’.35 To period specialists like Collinson, tightly focused on the history of a particular era, the early nonconformists looked more like insiders, part of a dynamic Puritanism that embodied the mainstream of English Protestantism.36 33  Christopher Hill, ‘History and Denominational History’, Baptist Quarterly, 22 (1967), 65–71. 34  Patrick Collinson, ‘Towards a Broader History of the Early Dissenting Tradition’, in Robert Cole and Michael E. Moody, eds, The Dissenting Tradition: Essays for Leland H. Carlson (Athens, OH, 1975), pp. 3–38, reprinted in Collinson, Godly People: Essays on English Protestantism and Puritanism (London, 1983), pp. 527–62. 35  Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans, 4 vols (London, 1732), I, sig. A4. 36  Despite his emphasis on horizontal history, it may be no coincidence that Collinson was an Anglican from a devoutly Dissenting family, and thus well equipped to bridge the divide between Church and Chapel. See his From Cranmer to Sancroft (London, 2006), pp. 25–6; History of a History Man: Or, The Twentieth Century Viewed from a Safe Distance: The Memoirs of Patrick Collinson (Woodbridge, 2011); and Diarmaid MacCulloch, ‘Church and Chapel’, Spectator, 21 September 2006,


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In rethinking Puritanism and Dissent, Collinson was also revising the history of the Church of England. In this he was joined by Nicholas Tyacke whose pioneering research emphasized the Calvinist or Reformed character of the Elizabethan and Jacobean Church.37 Tyacke argued that far from being a via media between Rome and Geneva, the Church of England was firmly aligned with the continental Reformed churches, and deeply committed to Calvinist theology. This challenged the dominant historiographical paradigm shaped by High Churchmen, who saw the genius of Anglicanism in its capacity to preserve patristic and medieval traditions that had been jettisoned by other Protestant churches. For Tyacke and Collinson, this Anglican exceptionalism was an anachronistic construct that obscured the fundamentally Reformed character of the Edwardian, Elizabethan, and Jacobean Church. Puritanism was not an alien growth, destined to be rejected by the Anglican body, but a dynamic expression of mainstream Reformed piety. The real challenge to the Reformed Church of England came from ‘avant-garde conformists’, who were eventually known as Laudians.38 It was these high church clergy who invented Anglicanism as we know it—as a third wing of the magisterial Reformation, quite distinct from Lutheran and Reformed Protestantism, a religious identity requiring its own colour on maps of Reformation Europe. Michael Watts was untroubled by this new historiography. His narrative depended on what was then a conventional understanding of the Church of England: ‘a church that was neither Protestant nor Catholic, but something in between’.39 In due course, however, the revisionism of Collinson and Tyacke would precipitate a full-scale rewriting of the history of Anglicanism and Dissent. Historians would come to see Puritanism as embedded within the Established Church, albeit with ‘moderate’ and ‘radical’ tendencies. Dissent was not the inevitable outcome of Puritanism, but a contingent development. The impact of the Collinsonian revolution can be seen if we turn to the first volume of The Oxford History of Anglicanism, edited by Anthony Milton.40 To read that work is to see how much the ground has shifted under the history of Dissent. Milton and his contributors give us Anglicanism, but not as Watts knew it. Here the emphasis is on the struggle for the Church of England, and its contested identity. The Elizabethan settlement was not definitive, but part of an ongoing process of reformation. The Church that emerged from the Edwardian and Elizabethan reforms was ‘very much more in tune with the Calvinist 37  Nicholas Tyacke, ‘Puritanism, Arminianism, and Counter-Revolution’, in Conrad Russell, ed., The Origins of the English Civil War (London, 1973), pp. 119–43; Nicholas Tyacke, AntiCalvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism, c. 1590–1640 (Oxford, 1987). 38  The term ‘avant-garde conformists’ was coined by Peter Lake in ‘Lancelot Andrewes, John Buckeridge, and Avant-garde Conformity at the Court of James I’, in Linda Levy Peck, ed., The Mental World of the Jacobean Court (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 113–33. 39  Watts, The Dissenters, p. 15. 40  Anthony Milton, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism: Volume I: Reformation and Identity, c. 1520–1662 (Oxford, 2017).

Introduction 13 reformations of the continent than with later “Anglican” ideals’.41 And Puritanism, the movement for further reformation, was not inherently separatist, but a movement led by ordained Church of England clergy with strong connections to the religious, political, and educational establishment. It was (as Peter Lake provocatively puts it) ‘a form of “Anglicanism” ’.42 We know that in the end, the Puritan reformation would fail, and that Puritans (or most of them) would become Dissenters, ranged in de­nom­in­ ations outside the Established Church. Yet even in the mid-seventeenth century, most Puritans sought to control the religious establishment, not to break away from it. Puritan parish ministers like Richard Baxter insisted that the Church of England was alive and well after having been reformed in the 1640s: O say they, where is your Church of England now? why! what’s the matter? Is the Church of England dead? Or is any thing taken down that was essential to the Church of England! was a Prelacy ruling by a lay-Chancelor over many hundred Parishes, chosen and Governing without the body of the Clergy, Essential to the  Church of England? I am confident the most of the sober godly Ministers in  England, are for the Apostolical primitive Episcopacy still. Was the Book of Canons, or the Book of Common Prayer, or the Ceremonies Essential to the Church of England? Sure they were not; And if so, its living still.43

The leading Congregational theologian, John Owen, was also unwilling to relinquish a claim to ‘the Church of England’, though he redefined it more drastically than Baxter. Congregationalists typically rejected the concept of a ‘national Church’, believing that the visible church was found only in voluntary congregations.44 However, Owen (writing as late as 1680) insisted that all English Protestants were part of ‘the Church of England’, whether they worshipped in parish churches or gathered churches: This I say is that Church of England which is the principal Bullwark of the Protestant Religion and Interest in Europe; namely, a Protestant King, a Protestant Parliament, Protestant Magistrates, Protestant Ministers, a Protestant confession of faith established by Law, with the cordial agreement of the Body of the People in all these things; esteeming the Protestant Religion and its Profession their chief Interest in this world.45

Neither Owen nor Baxter thought that ‘the Church of England’ was defined by episcopal hierarchy, the canons, and the Prayer Book. Both believed that the 41  Milton, ‘Introduction’, in Milton, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism, p. 3. 42  Peter Lake, ‘ “Puritans” and “Anglicans” in the Post-Reformation Church’, in Milton, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism, p. 379. 43  Richard Baxter, Catholick Unity (London, 1660), p. 342. 44  See Matthew Bingham, ‘On the Idea of a National Church: Reassessing Congregationalism in Revolutionary England’, Church History, 88 (2019), 27–57. 45  John Owen, Some Considerations about Union among Protestants (London, 1680), p. 8. I am grateful to Esther Counsell for this reference.


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Church of England was flourishing under Puritan rule. This runs counter to a common assumption that the 1640s saw ‘the legal abolition of the Church of England’ so that it ‘no longer officially existed’.46 Following Anthony Milton, it is perhaps better to recognize two ambitious attempts to reform the Church in the middle decades of the seventeenth century: first, in the 1630s, by the Laudians, then in the 1640s and 1650s ‘a yet more dramatic reform of the Church’ by the Puritans.47 Hence, The Oxford History of Anglicanism includes a  chapter on the Westminster Assembly, and another on ‘the Cromwellian Church’, topics traditionally deemed to be part of the history of Dissent (or in the case of the Westminster Assembly, Scottish Presbyterianism).48 On this revisionist view of ‘Anglican’ history, the identity of the Church of England was not fixed, but hotly contested. Puritans were major contenders, and many episcopal clergy were willing to operate within the structures of the Cromwellian establishment. As Christopher Haigh has shown, episcopal divines in the 1650s were deeply divided on the question: where is the Church of England? Some (such James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh) thought that it still subsisted in the national framework of parishes; others maintained that it survived in the form of ministers and parishes that remained faithful to bishops and prayer books; still others (like Henry Hammond) insisted that it was now an underground church of recusants.49 Indeed, during the Cromwellian decade, it was episcopalians of Hammond’s ilk who were the dissenters. Although they claimed to represent ‘the Church of England’, their prospects looked bleak. They returned with a vengeance at the Restoration, and their more exclusive view of Anglican identity won out after almost two years of negotiations and wrangling, with dire consequences for the Puritan clergy, most of whom were ejected from their parishes. Other outcomes were possible, however. The Scottish Episcopalians, who also enjoyed established status during the Restoration era, were ousted in 1689, and only granted toleration after much resistance in 1712. Ever since, they have formed a dis­tinct­ ive ‘Protestant dissenting tradition’, albeit one in communion with the Established Church south of the border.50 ‘Dissent’ and ‘Establishment’ are relative categories, an unstable pairing.

46  Rowan Strong, ‘Series Introduction’, in Milton, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism, xxii. 47  Milton, ‘Introduction’, in Milton, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism, pp. 2, 18–20. 48  Chad van Dixhoorn, ‘The Westminster Assembly and the Reformation of the 1640s’, and Ann Hughes, ‘The Cromwellian Church’, in Milton, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism, chs 23 and 24. 49  Christopher Haigh, ‘Where was the Church of England, 1646–1660’, Historical Journal, 62 (2019), 127–47. 50  See Alasdair Raffe, ‘Scotland’, in Jeremy Gregory, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism: Volume II: Establishment and Empire, 1662–1829 (Oxford, 2017), pp. 150–9; Stewart  J.  Brown, ‘Protestant Dissent in Scotland’, in The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions: Volume II: The Long Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 2018), pp. 142–5.

Introduction 15 The contributors to this volume reinforce the point. They emphasize the contingency of religious outcomes and the fluidity of religious identities. Bill Sheils stresses that the boundary between parochial dissent and the Established Church was a porous one. Whereas earlier historiography accented the sep­ar­ ate­ness of the Lollards and later Dissent, recent scholarship has depicted a more nuanced relationship between Dissenters and the parish.51 Susan Hardman Moore speaks of ‘patterns of evasive conformity’, and notes that for most of the period, ‘the majority of dissenters stayed within the Church of England’.52 David Appleby’s study of Dissenting sermons reminds us that scholars are now much more reticent about drawing ‘stark demarcation lines’ between ‘plain style’ Puritan preaching and Anglican homiletics.53 Polly Ha and Elliot Vernon are at pains to emphasize that the Presbyterians (at least before 1660) did not see themselves as Dissenters.54 Tim Cooper observes that while historians of  American Puritanism have ‘generally emphasized the Congregationalists’ tendency towards separation’, ‘scholars of British Puritanism . . . have drawn out their inclination to belong’.55 Bernard Capp recounts how ‘The Civil Wars transformed Puritans into the new “establishment”, the dominant strand in a purged and radically reformed national Church’. And he reminds us that ‘over three-quarters of the Cromwellian parish clergy conformed, more or less, to the Anglican settlement’ after 1662—including Puritans like Ralph Josselin.56 As for the ejected Puritan clergy, most eschewed separatism, preferring partial conformity. In Restoration parliaments, ‘Puritan Whigs’ like Denzil Holles sought to win back Church and state and enact comprehension, allowing ejected clergy to return to the parishes.57 ‘Overwhelmingly’, remarks Jacqueline Rose, ‘Dissenters wanted to capture rather than to reject the state; they became its opponents by happenstance rather than by default’.58 Even after they had relinquished their ambition to reform the Church of England, Dissenters were not always marginal figures. In some urban areas, especially, they maintained a high profile. In 1697 and 1700, a Presbyterian candidate was chosen as Lord Mayor of London, qualifying by taking the Anglican sacrament, while remaining a proud member of a Dissenting congregation.59 Daniel Defoe described such occasional conformists as ‘playing Bo-peep with God Almighty’, but Defoe’s own success as an author demonstrated the

51  W.J. Sheils, ‘Dissent in the Parishes’, Chapter 13 in this volume. 52  Susan Hardman Moore, ‘Worship and Sacraments’, Chapter 18 in this volume. 53  David J. Appleby, ‘Sermons and Preaching’, Chapter 19 in this volume. 54  Polly Ha, ‘Presbyterianism in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England’, Chapter 1 in this volume; Elliot Vernon, ‘Presbyterians in the English Revolution’, Chapter 2 in this volume. 55  Tim Cooper, ‘Congregationalists’, Chapter 4 in this volume. 56  Bernard Capp, ‘The Empowerment of Dissent’, Chapter 15 in this volume. 57  See Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, ch. 4. 58  Jacqueline Rose, ‘Dissent and the State’, Chapter 14 of this volume. 59  Watts, The Dissenters, p. 265. See also pp. 482–3.


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Dissenting contribution to English cultural life.60 As  N.H.  Keeble observes, ‘nonconformist stationers had become a mainstay of their profession’, with the London Presbyterian bookseller Thomas Parkhurst being elected Master of the Stationers Company in 1703.61 The same ambiguities of establishment and dissent are evident beyond England. In Cromwellian Ireland, as Crawford Gribben demonstrates Baptists and Congregationalists were ‘negotiating their place in a new establishment’, while ‘prayer book episcopalians, like Jeremy Taylor, were being pushed into dissent’. In the later seventeenth century, Presbyterian Dissenters outnumbered members of the Church of Ireland in some parts of Ulster, while Ireland’s Protestant minority governed a nation with a Catholic majority.62 In Scotland, explains Scott Spurlock, ‘Presbyterian and episcopal sympathizers alike competed for the destiny of the entire national Church, not for differentiation or separation from it’. ‘The boundaries between [the episcopal] Established Church and [Presbyterian] nonconformity were permeable’.63 In postRestoration Wales, Densil Morgan has found that ‘in terms of both piety and doctrine, there was a vast amount in common between Anglican and Dissenter’.64 Puritan Dissenters were a tiny minority in Wales, but Lloyd Bowen points out that in the nineteenth century Dissent would become demographically predominant, forming a kind of cultural establishment, so that Welsh Nonconformist history was often ‘fused with patriotic or proto-nationalist agendas’.65 In the case of New England, Frank Bremer describes how Puritan Dissenters created a colonial establishment that generated internal dissent.66 Andrew Murphy and Adrian Weimer introduce us to the two faces of American Quakerism—in New England, Quakers were persecuted insurgents; in Pennsylvania they created ‘a non-coercive Quaker establishment’.67 In contrast to Watts then, the essays in this Oxford History do what Collinson envisaged—they write a ‘broader history of the early dissenting tradition’, moving it closer to the centre of the action. Watts’ Dissenters ‘asked chiefly to be left alone to worship God in their own way’;68 our protagonists fight to define English Protestantism and the nation’s religious settlement, and only become Dissenters (from the Established Church) when they lose that battle. Of course, 60  See John Richetti, The Life of Daniel Defoe: A Critical Biography (Oxford, 2005), quotation at p. 41. 61  N.H. Keeble, ‘The Print Culture of Early Nonconformity’, Chapter 16 in this volume. 62  Crawford Gribben, ‘Ireland’, Chapter 9 in this volume. 63  R. Scott Spurlock, ‘Scotland’, Chapter 8 in this volume. 64  D. Densil Morgan, Theologia Cambrensis: Protestant Religion and Theology in Wales: Volume I: From Reformation to Revival, 1588–1760 (Cardiff, 2018), p. 231. 65  Lloyd Bowen, ‘Wales, 1587–1689’, Chapter 10 in this volume. 66  Francis J. Bremer, ‘Dissent in New England’, Chapter 11 in this volume. 67  Andrew R. Murphy and Adrian Chastain Weimer, ‘Colonial Quakerism’, Chapter 12 in this volume. 68  Watts, The Dissenters, p. 2.

Introduction 17 this means that the history of Puritan dissent can no longer be seen as a self-contained subject, but as part of something larger, ‘one half of a stressful relationship’ (as Collinson memorably put it).69 It also means that the history of dissent is now too important to be left to denominational historians; it belongs to the mainstream. Indeed, when George Southcombe reflects on Mark Goldie’s claim that much of the Presbyterians’ political programme was realized in 1689, and Diarmaid MacCulloch’s quip that Richard Baxter was the first of the Anglicans, he wonders if ‘at points the English have lived with a Church and state defined by Presbyterians after all’.70 If the divide between Church and Dissent now looks porous, so do the boundaries between the various dissenting denominations. Whereas de­nom­ in­ation­al historians studied the history of a tradition, recent historians have often focused on the history of a moment. Colin Davis stressed the anti-formalism of religious radicals, and their powerful antipathy to ecclesiastical structures and institutions; Jonathan Scott was struck by the ‘fluidity’ of religious radicalism, and conceived of the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, and Fifth Monarchists not as ‘organised groups’ but as ‘different stages’ in the revolutionary process.71 In less iconoclastic fashion, research on the Westminster Assembly has questioned the rigid two-party denominational model of Presbyterians versus Congregationalists, showing that the lines of division were much more complex, shifting and realigning from issue to issue, in kal­eido­scop­ic fashion.72 Thus on the question of the authority vested in the congregation (as opposed to the elders), militant Scottish Presbyterians like Samuel Rutherford and George Gillespie were closer to the Congregational ‘dissenting brethren’ than they were to clericalist English Presbyterians.73 The barrier between Baptists and Congregationalists also looks more permeable than it once did. The gathered churches of English Congregationalists displayed remarkable flexibility by incorporating members with baptistic views, and there were prominent Baptists—like Henry Jessey and John Tombes—who worked as Triers in the 1650s, examining candidates for the public ministry alongside Presbyterian and Congregational clergy.74 One scholar proposes that we recategorize 69  Patrick Collinson, The Birthpangs of Protestant England (Basingstoke, 1988), p. 183. 70  George Southcombe, ‘Presbyterians in the Restoration’, Chapter 3 in this volume. 71  J.C. Davis, ‘Against Formality: One Aspect of the English Revolution’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, sixth series, 3 (1993), 265–88; Jonathan Scott, ‘Radicalism and Restoration: The Shape of the Stuart Experience’, Historical Journal, 31 (1988), 453–67, esp. 454–5. 72  The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643–1652, 5 vols, ed. Chad van Dixhoorn (Oxford, 2012), I, pp. 29–31. 73  Hunter Powell, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution, 1638–44 (Manchester, 2015). For a reassertion of the Presbyterian–Congregationalist divide, see Chad Van Dixhoorn, ‘Presbyterian Ecclesiologies at the Westminster Assembly’, in Elliot Vernon and Hunter Powell, eds, Church Polity and Politics in the English Atlantic World, c. 1635–66 (Manchester, 2020). 74  Joel Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice during the Puritan Revolution’ (PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2009).


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Calvinistic Baptists as ‘baptistic congregationalists’, while another questions the neat division between General and Particular Baptists.75 The boundaries around Quakerism were much firmer, but as Ariel Hessayon shows, the Quaker movement had polygenetic origins and eclectic tastes, ‘harvesting support from pre-existing communities of Independents, Baptists and Seekers’, drawing on currents of Behmenism and Familism, and capitalizing on the rise and fall of Levellers, Diggers, and Ranters.76 After the Restoration, Dissenters shared the experience of persecution, something that could create a stronger sense of affinity between them. Even Quakers like Fox and Penn identified themselves as ‘Protestant Dissenters’. As Cory Cotter demonstrates in his analysis of exiled ministers in the Netherlands, persecution drove Scottish Presbyterians and English Congregationalists together, revealing that they ‘shared much more in common than is sometimes supposed’.77 In England, Richard Baxter lamented that Presbyterian con­ven­ ticles were forced into ‘independent and separating shape’, morphing into something akin to Congregational gathered churches.78 In any case, Baxter’s own ‘Presbyterianism’ was a far cry from the jure divino Presbyterianism that had flourished in the mid-1640s. That was now increasingly outmoded, and Presbyterian had become the standard term for the most conservative of Puritan Dissenters, the ones who kept one foot in the conventicle and one foot in the parish. The denominational allegiances of individual clergy and laity were also  often flexible. Following the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, some Nonconformist clergy took out licences to minister to different denominations of Dissenters: Presbyterian and Congregationalist, Congregationalist and Baptist, or even Presbyterian and Baptist.79 And once lingering hopes of comprehension were dashed in 1689, Presbyterians joined the other denominations as beneficiaries of the Act of Toleration. Indeed, if we survey the half-century from the 1640s to the 1690s, we can discern something of a rapprochement, as the four Dissenting denominations moved away from the extremes and clustered closer to each other. Presbyterians, who had once anathematized heresies were by the end of the century inclined to a Baxterian doctrinal latitude. The experience of persecution had also made them much less enthusiastic about the coercive powers of the godly magistrate; they were increasingly inclined to embrace religious voluntarism and tol­er­ ation.80 Meanwhile, Quakers had become more respectable, more sober, and 75  Matthew Bingham, Orthodox Radicals: Baptist Identity in the English Revolution (Oxford, 2019); Stephen Wright, The Early English Baptists, 1603–49 (Woodbridge, 2006). 76  Ariel Hessayon, ‘Early Quakerism and its Origins’, Chapter 6 in this volume. 77  Cory Cotter, ‘The Dutch Republic’, Chapter 7 in this volume. 78  Richard Baxter, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ (1696), pt II, p. 43. 79  See  G.  Lyon Turner, ed., Original Records of Early Nonconformity under Persecution and Indulgence, 3 vols (London, 1911–14). 80  See the landmark works of John Shute Barrington, The Rights of Protestant Dissenters (London, 1704); Edmund Calamy, A Defence of Moderate Nonconformity (London, 1704).

Introduction 19 more restrained. As Rachel Adcock observes, the Restoration era saw ‘moves by Independents, Baptists, and Quakers to curtail women’s more authoritative roles as teachers or prophets’.81 The yawning gulf that had once separated Presbyterians from the sects had narrowed, though it had not disappeared. We  should not envisage Dissenting denominations as rigid and homogeneous blocs.

THE FORMATION OF DISSENTING IDENTITIES This is not to dismiss the achievements of denominational history, or to read the last rites over it. While Patrick Collinson himself did not come to praise that school of scholarship, neither did he come to bury it. Indeed, he expressed admiration for the distinguished Nonconformist historian Geoffrey Nuttall, and suggested that if religious history is ‘too important to be left to the theolo­ gians’, it is ‘too important to be left to the secularists either’. ‘Those who write from within the tradition’, he concluded, ‘with theological awareness and spiritual sensitivity, have much the better chance of getting it right’.82 In Religious Studies, scholars refer to ‘the insider/outsider problem’, but it might be better called an insider/outsider dynamic, because as in the case of Church and Dissent, the border is a porous one.83 More than a few scholars in secular universities hail from the religious traditions they study, while denominational historians (based in religiously affiliated institutions) have often received their training in university history departments. In this volume, and more generally, the study of Dissent is a collaborative enterprise. Moreover, we should not set up a false dichotomy between teleological denominational history and non-teleological secular history. There is a long tradition in British and American historiography of secular historians in­corp­ or­at­ing Protestant Dissent into vertical narratives of their own. For North American scholars such as Perry Miller, there could be ‘no understanding of America’ ‘without some understanding of Puritanism’.84 For liberal scholars 81  Rachel Adcock, ‘Women and Gender’, Chapter 20 in this volume. Despite such restrictions, Naomi Pullin argues that ‘the process of institutionalisation enhanced rather than diminished women’s roles within transatlantic Quakerism’. See Pullin, Female Friends and the Making of Transaltantic Quakerism, 1650–1750 (Cambridge, 2018), p. 2. 82  Collinson, ‘Towards a Broader Understanding’, p. 550. 83  See Russell  T.  McCutcheon, ed., The Insider–Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion (London, 1999). 84  Perry Miller and T.J.  Johnson, eds, The Puritans: A Sourcebook of their Writings, 2 vols (New York, 1938), I, pp. 1–4. For recent studies of the moral significance and legacy of Puritan New England, see James Morone, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History (New Haven, CT, 1993); David D. Hall, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England (New York, 2011).


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writing in the era of European Fascism, radical Puritans such as Roger Williams, John Milton, and John Lilburne were liberal beacons, pioneers of Anglo-American democratic freedoms.85 For historians of the Left, sectarian religion was a vital source of the British radical tradition. Lilburne, Winstanley, Milton, and Bunyan have all been enrolled into the pantheon of radical heroes. Antinomianism, the theological critique of legalism, has been identified as a driver of political dissent from the Ranters to William Blake.86 Millenarianism too, has been viewed as a source of oppositional politics. This strain of radical historiography owes something to the Romantic celebration of radical Dissent during the era of the French Revolution, as well as to the Victorian Nonconformists who lionized the political radicalism of their forebears.87 It is no coincidence that two of the greatest British Marxist historians, Christopher Hill and E.P. Thompson, were ‘exposed by upbringing, residence and study to the Dissenting ambience of the Yorkshire West Riding’.88 Like denominational historiography, the Marxist tradition produced a wealth of valuable ­scholarship. Crucially, it set post-Reformation Dissenters in their social and political contexts, and documented their contribution to a tradition of English political dissent. Yet like denominational historiography, it was not infrequently lured onto the rocks of strong teleology and anachronism. Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers—millenarian prophets of England’s Radical Reformation—were refashioned in the image of the modern social activist.89 Bunyan’s pilgrim became a man burdened by social oppression rather than sin and guilt.90 A process of historiographical alchemy could turn the base metal of Puritan piety into the gold of modern political values.91 85  See, for example, W.K. Jordan, The Development of Religious Toleration in England, 4 vols (London, 1932–40); S. Brockunier, The Irrepressible Democrat: Roger Williams (New York, 1940); A.S.P. Woodhouse, ed., Puritanism and Liberty (London, 1938); D.M. Wolffe, Milton in the Puritan Revolution (New York, 1941); Leveller Manifestoes of the Puritan Revolution, ed. D.M. Wolffe (New York, 1944); The Leveller Tracts, 1647–53, ed. William Haller and G. Davies (New York, 1944). 86  See A.L. Morton, The World of the Ranters: Religious Radicalism in the English Revolution (London, 1970); E.P.  Thompson, Witness against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law (Cambridge, 1993); Christopher Hill, Liberty against the Law: Some Seventeenth-Century Controversies (London, 1996), pt IV; Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh, The Many Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston, MA, 2000); John Donoghue, Fire under the Ashes: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution (Chicago, IL, 2013). 87  Blair Worden, Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity (London, 2001); Daniel White, Early Romanticism and Religious Dissent (Cambridge, 2006); Raphael Samuel, ‘The Discovery of Puritanism, 1820–1914’, in Jane Garnett and Colin Matthew, eds, Revival and Religion since 1700: Essays for John Walsh (London, 1993), pp. 201–47. 88  Alasdair MacLachlan, The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary England: An Essay on the Fabrication of Seventeenth-Century History (Basingstoke, 1996), p. 35. 89  Lotte Mulligan, John K. Graham, and Judith Richards, ‘Winstanley: A Case for the Man as He Said He Was’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 28 (1977), 57–75. 90  Notably in Christopher Hill, A Turbulent, Seditious and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church (Oxford, 1988). 91  The metaphor is taken from C.H. George, ‘Puritanism as History and Historiography’, Past and Present, 41 (1968), 102. For further warnings against anachronistic readings, see William Lamont, Puritanism and Historical Controversy (London, 1996).

Introduction 21 As Alastair MacLachlan observed, the secular historians of the early and ­mid-twentieth century liberated Puritanism from ‘the tunnel vision of so much purely denominational history. But the vertical approach was not so much abandoned as displaced: the overwhelming concern with the end-products of the Puritan ethic diverted attention from the study of religion itself.’92 For all their tunnel vision, denominational historians did appreciate the religious preoccupations of their subjects, including their concern with ecclesiastical polity. Indeed, in reacting against the confinement of denominational history, we may lose its insights. In our postmodern moment, averse to binary thinking and intrigued by hybridity, we are inclined to underplay the sheer intransigence of many post-Reformation Protestants. In the sixteenth century, hundreds were burned at the stake rather than renounce their dogmatic convictions. In the seventeenth century, thousands accepted imprisonment, often for many years, for reasons of conscience. When the contributors to this ­volume discuss religious identities they often describe them as fluid, porous, permeable, and unstable. Yet at the same time, they find the old denominational categories indispensable, and they devote much effort to explaining religious divisions. What remains striking, after the labours of Collinson and other proponents of horizontal history, is the extraordinary lengths to which con­tem­por­ar­ies could go to draw lines, erect walls, and forge separate identities. Although the father of the ‘Brownists’, Robert Browne, would return to the Established Church, many Separatists proved irreconcilable (and Browne would end up being excommunicated and sequestered at the end of his life). Militant Dissenters denounced the Church of England in apocalyptic language as the Second Beast or the Whore of Babylon. A favourite text was 2 Corinthians 6:17: ‘Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.’ Despite the efforts of reconcilers and compromisers, the seventeenth century ended with growing polarization between Church and Dissent, and with a set of sharply delineated denominational groupings. The Association movement of the 1650s, so often conflated with Richard Baxter’s ecumenical vision, included many county associations that were ‘predominantly Presbyterian’, and ‘reinvigorated debates over church polity’.93 All eight comprehension bills of the later Stuart era failed, leaving Presbyterians estranged from the Established Church, even if they still practised partial or occasional conformity.94 As for Presbyterians and Congregationalists, Tim Cooper emphasizes that despite the ‘commonality and overlap’ between them, they did not ‘come to agreement’, partly because ‘the dynamic of religious group identity’ meant that ‘the finest 92  MacLachlan, The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary England, p. 36. 93  Joel Halcomb, ‘The Association Movement and the Politics of Church Settlement during the Interregnum’ in Vernon and Powell, eds, Church Polity and Politics in the English Atlantic World, c. 1635–66. 94  Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, pp. 239–46.


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gradations of sameness and difference became critically important’.95 The ‘Happy Union’ between Presbyterians and Congregationalists foundered in the 1690s over issues of antinomianism and itinerancy.96 While Congregationalists were usually willing to accommodate Baptists, many Baptists did not reciprocate; they placed believers’ baptism ‘at the heart of their theology of church membership’, restricting membership and communion to ‘disciples baptized’.97 Quakers experienced their own internal conflicts, especially over the Nayler controversy of the 1650s, the Perrot ‘hat’ dispute in the 1660s, and the Keithian schism of the 1690s, and they zealously maintained their boundaries. In Ireland, despite a shared Reformed culture and the threatening presence of a Catholic majority, Protestants were ‘unable . . . to bury their ecclesiastical differences’, and most worshipped outside the Church of Ireland.98 Rival ecclesiastical identities were created in various ways. The most emphatic and hostile form of ‘othering’ involved physical coercion. As Jacqueline Rose observes, ‘The category of Dissent was created by the activity of persecution’.99 The Edwardian, Elizabethan, and Jacobean state burned heretics at the stake, and a number of Separatists were hanged in the 1590s. The Presbyterians in the 1640s clamoured for heresy to be made a capital crime, but James Nayler and others were subjected to lesser though still brutal punishments: branding, flogging, and imprisonment. The Blasphemy Ordinance of 1648 would have made anti-Trinitarian teaching a capital offence; secondary errors carried a sentence of imprisonment, but had it been enforced, this would have led to the gaoling of Arminians, mortalists, antinomians, Seekers, and Baptists. The incarceration of Dissenters after the Restoration led to thousands of premature deaths. Even those who escaped physical punishments were often penalized with fines or (in the case of clergy) ejection from their parish livings. Elsewhere in early modern Europe, large-scale persecution had sometimes proved effective in reconciling or expelling dissidents—in Spain, many Jews became conversos (though widely suspected of dissimulation), while in France, thousands of Huguenots returned to the Catholic Church. In England, however, the persecutions of the early Stuart era made Dissent more militant, and the ‘Great Persecution’ of the Restoration did little to erode the number of Dissenters. Its failure made it the last time such a policy would be attempted by the English state. The experience of suffering reinforced Dissenting identities, and the carefully curated memory of persecution would shore up these iden­tities throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Faced by such repression, some 95  See Tim Cooper, ‘Congregationalists’, Chapter 4 in this volume. 96  See C.  Gordon Bolam, Jeremy Goring, H.L.  Short, and Roger Thomas, eds, The English Presbyterians: From Elizabethan Puritanism to Modern Unitarianism (London, 1968), pp. 101–25. 97  See Joel Halcomb, ‘Congregational Church Books and Denominational Formation in the English Revolution’, Bunyan Studies, 20 (2016), 58–61. 98  Gribben, ‘Ireland’, Chapter 9 in this volume. 99  Jacqueline Rose, ‘Dissent and the State’, Chapter 14 in this volume.

Introduction 23 Nonconformists chose to go into exile, putting clear blue water (quite literally) between themselves and the episcopal Church of England. There were other means of forming distinct denominational identities. In the second half of the century, there is clear evidence of institutionalization, what Max Weber called ‘the routinization of charisma’.100 That is most striking among the most charismatic of the sects, the Quakers, but it can be seen elsewhere, not least in a sharper definition of church offices and in the formation of denominational networks by itinerant preachers, correspondence, regional and national gatherings: the Presbyterian classis movement, Congregational conferences and synods, Baptist regional associations in the 1650s and the 1689 national assembly, Quaker monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings. The Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 was a key moment in the process of sep­ar­ ation, as Dissenters took out licences for conventicles often under de­nom­in­ ation­al names. Presbyterians moved cautiously towards ordaining their own clergy and meeting at the same time as the parish churches.101 Denominational identities were firmed up through recordkeeping. Baptist and Congregational gathered churches kept manuscript ‘church books’, now freshly catalogued and examined by scholars involved in the Dissenting Experience Project. As Davies, Dunan-Page, and Halcomb observe, these ‘represented a clear desire to be a formal, ordered, and respectable religious institution of equal status to the parish church and to consolidate its identity as such’. Church books record the condemnation of members who had flirted with ‘rival denominations (such as the national Church or more radical groups, like the Quakers . . .)’. Questions of membership and communal cohesion ‘came to assume vital importance’.102 The sacraments of baptism and communion functioned as further identity markers.103 Presbyterians and the New England Congregationalists insisted on infant baptism, in line with the magisterial Reformation tradition and the Reformed churches of Europe. In Massachusetts, the Cambridge Platform of 1648 deferred to the doctrinal formulations of the Westminster Confession, but also specified where New England Congregationalism differed from the Confession’s assertion of Presbyterian church order. English Congregationalists went further, taking the momentous step of admitting members who disagreed with infant baptism alongside members who had their children baptized. General and Particular Baptists required believers’ baptism as a condition of member­ ship, meaning that baptism was restricted to persons old enough to be deemed accountable for their own profession of faith. Quakers had no ceremony of 100  Max Weber, On Charisma and Institution Building: Selected Papers, ed. S.N.  Eisenstadt (Chicago, IL, 1968), ch. 6. 101  Frank Bate, The Declaration of Indulgence 1672: A Study in the Rise of Organised Dissent (London, 1908); Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, pp. 237–8. 102  Michael Davies, Anne Dunan-Page, and Joel Halcomb, ‘Being a Dissenter: Lay Experience in the Gathered Congregations’, Chapter 21 in this volume. 103  See Susan Hardman Moore, ‘Worship and Sacraments’, Chapter 18 in this volume.


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baptism at all, on the grounds that this was an empty external form. These ­different policies created sharp boundary lines. The Lord’s Supper, or criteria of admission to it, also served to harden divisions. While some Presbyterians were willing to practise occasional communion in the parish churches after the Restoration, Congregationalists and Baptists were not. Many Baptist churches adopted a policy of ‘closed communion’, admitting only members who had undergone believer’s baptism; this policy excluded Congregationalists, but also created an internal division with a minority of ‘open communion’ Baptists.104 New England Congregationalists became sharply divided over whether or not to baptize the children of baptized non-communicants; the principle of independency meant that individual congregations had the flexibility to decide on their local position, but the decision by the 1662 Synod to endorse the ‘Halfway Covenant’ (allowing baptism of the children of baptized non-communicants) was hotly contested. Presbyterian parish clergy often caused division within their parishes in the 1640s and 1650s by their strict admission policies for communion; after the Restoration, the ejected Presbyterian clergy were extremely reluctant to administer communion, because to do so was to set up a separate church. Presbyterians kept one foot in the parishes through the practice of ‘partial’ or ‘occasional’ conformity (including taking communion), but in due course their own congregations would administer communion in separate churches. Quakers were set apart from other Dissenters by dispensing with it altogether. Theological differences consolidated denominational divisions. During the English Revolution, Presbyterian heresiographers like Thomas Edwards were especially active in publicizing and stigmatising the ‘heresies’ of the sects, not­ ably the Baptists. As Haykin shows, the Baptists splintered into factions over a variety of doctrinal issues: open versus closed communion; baptism by immersion versus baptism by affusion; Calvinism versus Arminianism; traditional Sabbatarianism versus Saturday Sabbatarianism.105 Even as the godly were ascendant during the Puritan Revolution of the 1640s and 1650s, they were expending inordinate amounts of time and effort in ‘pursuing denominational rivalries’, not least in public disputations that pitted Presbyterian against Baptist, Congregationalist against Quaker, Calvinist against Arminian. As Bernard Capp demonstrates, England was becoming a ‘fiercely competitive’ religious marketplace.106 And denominational divisions were crystallized in the confessions of faith adopted by Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists. Even those who refused to subscribe to confessions of faith, like Richard Baxter or (for different reasons) the Quakers, were engaged in incessant theological controversy. Under Baxter’s influence, Presbyterians and Congregationalists 104  See Haykin, ‘Separatists and Baptists’, Chapter 5 in this volume. 105  Haykin, ‘Separatists and Baptists’, Chapter 5 in this volume. 106  Bernard Capp, ‘The Empowerment of Dissent’, Chapter 15 in this volume.

Introduction 25 began to drift apart on soteriological doctrines of atonement and justification, with the Presbyterians often following Baxter’s ‘middle way’, while the Congregationalists adhered more closely to Reformed orthodoxy. The Quakers broke decisively with the Reformed tradition, disagreeing with other Dissenters about a raft of doctrines. As for Diggers, Ranters, and Muggletonians, their dissent from traditional theology went deeper still. Dress and speech could also function as identity markers. Satirical prints emphasized the sartorial gulf that separated one variety of English Protestant from another: episcopal priests and bishops in clerical vestments, Puritan clergy in plain black gowns, sectarian lay preachers in jerkins and breeches, and Quakers wearing hats.107 Literary satires, such as Samuel Butler’s Hudibras (1663–78), mocked the scriptural speech styles of Dissenters, their affected use of ‘the language of Canaan’. The Quaker refusal of ‘hat honour’ was another visible provocation, a challenge to social hierarchy and deference that left them exposed to physical attack: ‘O! The blows, punchings, beatings and imprisonments that we underwent’, recalled George Fox in his journal, ‘for not putting off our hats to men’. Yet along with plain clothing, plain speech, silence, and the testimony against oaths, the refusal of hat honour served to consolidate the Quaker movement, functioning as a ‘commitment mechanism’ that severed Quakers from their former lifestyle and wedded them to a new collective identity.108 In the 1650s, Quakers set themselves apart in numerous other ways. They denounced ‘hireling priests’ and ‘steeplehouses’, interrupted parish services, dispensed with an ordained ministry, rejected sacraments, quaked, stripped naked or half-naked as a prophetic sign, claimed miraculous powers, sent out women prophets, avoided militia duty, and embarked on extraordinary missionary journeys to awaken Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims to the light within. It is true that during the later seventeenth century, Quakers curbed their more outlandish gestures, writing sober treatises and becoming respectable magistrates in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Yet while this process made them less confrontational and more conventional, it also consolidated their distinct identity through a centralized leadership, monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings, separate men and women’s meetings, books of sufferings, and the ‘peace testimony’. Quakerism had begun as a sect announcing the imminent apocalypse; by 1700, it was beginning to look more like a settled de­nom­ in­ation.109 Of the four main Dissenting traditions, none differentiated itself more assiduously than the Society of Friends. 107  See John Miller, ed., Religion in the Popular Prints, 1600–1832 (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 74–5, 78–9, 82–3, 90–3, 96–7, 100–1, 134–5. I am grateful to Justin Champion for drawing this point to my attention. 108  Susan Wareham Watkins, ‘Hat Honour, Self-Identity and Commitment in Early Quakerism’, Quaker History, 103 (2014), 1–16, esp. 8–10. See also Richard Bauman, Let Your Words be Few: Symbolism of Speaking and Silence among Seventeenth-Century Quakers (Cambridge, 1983). 109  For an important reconsideration of this process, see Pullin, Female Friends.


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It would not be entirely misleading to suggest that the four denominations operated on a sliding scale from Presbyterian to Quaker, mainstream to marginal, orthodox to heterodox, elitist to populist. Restoration Presbyterians were by far the largest grouping, the one with greatest support from ordained clergy as well as from the gentry and aristocracy, the denomination closest to the establishment. It is no coincidence that after 1660, Presbyterians sought comprehension within the Established Church, while other Dissenters sought tol­ er­ation outside it. In later American Protestantism, Richard Niebuhr would analyse (and bemoan) ‘the social sources of denominationalism’, arguing that denominations were arranged on an ascending social scale, from sectarian ‘religions of the disinherited’ like Pentecostalism, through the increasingly respectable Baptists and Methodists, to elite Presbyterians and Episcopalians, who together had furnished the nation with most of its presidents.110 Such grad­ations were already apparent in seventeenth-century England. Of course, such taxonomies and stereotypes can be an unreliable guide. There were many humble Presbyterians (such as the London woodturner Nehemiah Wallington), just as there were wealthy Baptist merchants (like William Kiffen) and Quaker grandees (notably William Penn, son of an ad­miral). Still, in general the Presbyterians were closest to the social, political, and ecclesiastical establishment, the Baptists and Quakers furthest from it. The sliding scale on the Dissenting spectrum can be observed in relation to women’s public speech and prophesying: the Presbyterians had important female patrons, but in general, female prophecy was discouraged among Presbyterians, more common among Congregationalists and Baptists, and positively flourishing among the Quakers (certainly in the 1650s). Moreover, as Keeble observes, ‘Anonymous and unlicensed publication was commonest among more radical nonconformists, particularly the Quakers; their incidence steadily decreases through Baptists, Independents, and Presbyterians as the distance from sep­ar­at­ist dissent decreases’. So too with personal testimony and spiritual autobiography: it ‘became more pronounced the further the nonconformist moved from episcopalianism and Presbyterianism’.111 Naming was another means of differentiation. Contemporaries worked hard to ‘brand’ the other—to brand was to stigmatize, not to advertise. The Seekers, who were defined by the belief that there were no true churches left on earth, provide an ironic exception, because they seem to have named themselves following the example of Roger Williams.112 But groups who actually organized churches and meetings were more reluctant to adopt a brand name. ‘Independent’, ‘Anabaptist’, and ‘Quaker’ originated as terms of abuse; those stigmatized with these labels typically disowned them. Independents usually 110  H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York, 1929). 111  N.H. Keeble, ‘The Print Culture of Early Nonconformity’, Chapter 16 in this volume. 112  See Como, Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War, pp. 237, 388.

Introduction 27 wished to be known as followers of ‘the Congregational way’ (though the more radical were proud supporters of ‘Independency’). Labelling, whether hostile or promotional, functioned as another way of demarcating one movement from another, and sharpening collective identities. The Baptists offer a particularly interesting case study. The people we call Baptists never self-identified as such, and they were commonly called Anabaptists (i.e. re-baptizers), a name that conjured up the fanaticism of sixteenthcentury German sectaries, particularly the millenarian theocracy of Münster in 1534–35. Only the Quakers labelled them Baptists, presumably in scorn for their fixation on an external ritual, but also in preference to Anabaptist, a term that implied that infant baptism was a true baptism.113 Baptists struggled to name themselves: ‘those CHURCHES which are commonly (though falsly) called ANABAPTISTS’; ‘seven Congregations or Churches of Christ in LONDON, which are commonly (but unjustly) called Anabaptists’; the people ‘(falsely) called Ana-Baptists’.114 Ironically, such rejections of the label served to publicize it, often in capital letters. So Baptists resorted to cumbersome nomenclature, calling themselves: ‘congregations, gathered according to the primitive pattern’, ‘congregations of Christians (baptized upon Profession of their Faith)’, ‘several churches of Christ’, or (most pithily) ‘the baptized churches’.115 The labels that stuck, however, were the memorable ones: ‘Anabaptist’ or ‘Baptist’. As Joel Halcomb has argued, the ‘denominating culture’ of the period testifies to a process of ‘denominational formation’.116 By the Restoration era, con­ tem­por­ar­ies were already using the term ‘Denomination’ to refer to different religious movements identified by a specific name: ‘the denomination of Quakers’, or ‘Protestant-Dissenters from the Church of England, of what Denomination Soever’.117 The emergence of this language both relativized and cemented ecclesiastical differences. ‘Churches’, ‘Christians’, and ‘Dissenters’ existed under different names, disagreeing about matters of real importance but also recognizing other churches and other Christians under other names. 113  Richard Farnworth, To You that are Called by the Name of Baptists, or the Baptized Churches (1654). Other Quaker authors who referred to ‘Baptists’ in book titles published between 1654 and 1660 include John Anderdon, John Crook, Joseph Fuce, Dennis Hollister, Alexander Parker, James Parnell, John Pitman, William Smith, George Whitehead, Thomas Wight, and Humphrey Wollrich. 114  W.L. Lumpkin, ed., Baptist Confessions of Faith, revised edn (Valley Forge, 1969), pp. 153, 224. 115  The Humble Representation and Vindication of Many of the Messengers, Elders, and Brethren Belonging to Several of the Baptized Churches in this Nation (1655); Lumpkin, ed., Baptist Confessions of Faith, pp. 174, 203, 241; Declaration of Several of the People called Anabaptists in and About the City of London (1659); William Kiffin et al., The Humble Apology of Some Commonly called Anabaptists (1660). 116  Halcomb, ‘Congregational Church Books and Denominational Formation’, 51, 68–9. 117  Amongst numerous examples, see Thomas Salthouse, To all the Christian Congregations of the Peculiar People of God now Reproached and Persecuted by the Name, and under the Denomination of Quakers (1662); A Letter of Religion to the Protestant-Dissenters from the Church of England, of What Denomination Soever (1675).


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Yet names also served to consolidate identities. When applying for licences in 1672, most Dissenting ministers opted for (or were assigned) a clear-cut denominational label: Presbyterian, Congregational, Anabaptist. The second half of the seventeenth century witnessed the gradual crystallization of de­nom­in­ations. The process was quicker for sectarian groups like the Baptists and Quakers than for the Presbyterians. For them, as Mark Goldie notes, ‘Denominationalisation was a slow and reluctant process, and its decisive moment was neither 1662 nor 1672, but 1689’.118 The erection of a boundary between Church and Dissent after 1660 was reflected in the dramatic emergence of the term ‘Dissenters’. In the Westminster Assembly, the ‘dissenting brethren’ had been marked out from the Presbyterian majority, but it was the Restoration settlement, or its failure, that gave a new prominence to ‘Dissenters’, a term that gradually superseded ‘Nonconformity’.119 An online search for the term in book titles turns up over 200 records, every one of them after 1660.120 We find it used by Anglicans and Nonconformists alike, by those who demand the suppression of ‘Dissenters’ as well as by tol­er­ ationists. ‘Dissenter’ was a stigma, but also a badge of honour. The convention in this series is to capitalize denominational and party labels: Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist, Quaker, Puritan, Separatist, Dissenter. That does run against a typographical trend among publishers, as well as a trend in Tudor and Stuart historiography, where it has become increasingly common to write of protestants, puritans, presbyterians, baptists, and quakers, with the lower case serving as a warning light to indicate the problematic nature of religious labels. Yet even the most zealous downsizer allows some names to survive the cull (Independents being an obvious example), and historians who follow the early modern convention of capitalizing party names are usually fully alert to the pitfalls of labelling.121 In any case, this volume cannot claim complete consistency. We follow standard practice by using the lower case for conformists and episcopalians (though not for Scottish and American Episcopalians), and we refer to nonconformists and dissenters whose nonconformity and dissent was largely or partly contained within the Established Church. Anyone who employs denominational names must keep their wits about them, and alert readers to the risk of calcifying religious identities that were often evolving rather than fixed, and hybrid rather than pure. Peter Marshall warns that to use a label ‘is implicitly to endorse, sympathetically or otherwise,

118  Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, p. 238. 119  See N.H. Keeble, The Literary Culture of Nonconformity (Leicester, 1987), pp. 41–4. 120  Early English Books Online (EEBO). 121  See for example Milton, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism; and Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, where denominational terms are capitalized. The two volumes differ over ‘puritans’ (Milton) and ‘Puritans’ (Goldie).

Introduction 29 a particular interpretation of Church history’.122 Yet as the chapters in this ­volume indicate, even the most detached historian finds labels indispensable. Names function as signposts in a confusing ecclesiastical landscape, providing basic orientation. Some (such as Puritan or Dissenter) are very non-specific, rather like a road sign to ‘The North’. Others give us much more precise direction: Particular Baptist, Quaker. Even these names disguise a host of com­plex­ ities, but so does any party label; they should be taken as a starting point, not as an answer to all our questions. They are no substitute for studies of individual persons and groups, in all their idiosyncrasy and complexity. The reader of this volume will encounter protagonists who are difficult to pigeonhole, including eminent figures such as William Tyndale, Oliver Cromwell, and John Milton, whose religious identities have been the subject of much debate.

NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE HISTORY OF DISSENT It is precisely the complexity and richness of Dissent that keeps scholars busy. In the four decades since Michael Watts published The Dissenters (1978), much historiographical water has passed under the bridge. Above all, the digital revolution has transformed access to printed sources, especially through Early English Books Online (EEBO). Yet Watts’ monograph still stands as the best single-author overview of early Dissenting history. Such was its success, and such is the scale of the subject and the scholarship it has generated, that no one has attempted to write a comparable synthesis in the meantime.123 Yet the contributors to this volume are able to capitalize on some major advances. Our understanding of Dissent has been transformed by the work of hundreds of historians and literary scholars, published in thousands of articles and books. Recent scholarship has changed our view of Anglicanism and Puritanism, Church and Dissent, but it has also shed light on ‘dark corners of the land’— aspects of Dissent whose existence was known to Watts, but that were barely explored. The history of Protestant Dissent is not what it used to be, but it is still thriving. Some key advances in the study of Dissent have come in the form of major scholarly editions. Polly Ha has recovered and edited the manuscript exchanges that surrounded the formation of Henry Jacob’s ‘Independent’ church in 1616, texts that illuminate the mutually defining relationship between early 122  Peter Marshall, ‘The Naming of Protestant England’, Past and Present, 214 (2012), 87–128. 123  See, however, Michael Winship, Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America (New Haven, CT, 2019), which traces the rise and fall of Puritan political hegemony in England and New England, and the fragmentation of Puritanism into various Dissenting denominations.


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Congregational ecclesiology and its Presbyterian critics.124 Our previously partial picture of the Westminster Assembly (and hence of Presbyterians and Congregationalists) has now been filled out by the first complete edition of its  minutes and papers, transcribed and edited by Chad van Dixhoorn.125 A similar impact has been made on our understanding of Restoration Dissent by The Entring Book of Roger Morrice, edited by a team led by Mark Goldie.126 The correspondence of Richard Baxter has been calendared, and there are plans for a complete edition; meanwhile, his memoir, the Reliquiæ Baxterianæ (1696) has been published in a five-volume scholarly edition.127 A major new edition of the writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell is in preparation under the general editorship of John Morrill. Historians of New England have produced critical editions of the correspondence of John Cotton and Roger Williams.128 The writings of canonical dissenting writers such as Milton, Bunyan, and Marvell have been freshly edited,129 and there are now scholarly editions of the writings of more recently celebrated authors such as Gerard Winstanley and Lucy Hutchinson.130 The Lucy Hutchinson project is emblematic of the uncovering of the lives and texts of Dissenting women. Watts’ book was dominated by the male leadership of Dissent. Twenty years before, in 1958, a young Keith Thomas had published a groundbreaking article on ‘women in the civil war sects’,131 and Watts’ section on the English Revolution bore the title: ‘When Women Preach and Cobblers Pray’. He wrote briefly about Anne Hutchinson, Katherine Chidley, Mrs Attaway, and Margaret Fell, though not about Anna Trapnell or Lucy Hutchinson. The history of Dissent had been a largely male preserve, dom­in­ ated by the researches of male clergy; since the 1980s, it has been transformed by pioneering work on female piety, female patronage, women prophets, clergy wives, women’s scribal and printed publications, and the intellectual culture of 124  The Puritans on Independence: The First Examination, Defence and Second Examination, ed. Polly Ha with Jonathan Moore and Edda Frankot (Oxford, 2018). 125  The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643–1652, ed. Van Dixhoorn. 126  The Entring Book of Roger Morrice, gen. ed. Mark Goldie, 7 vols (Woodbridge, 2007–9). 127  Calendar of the Correspondence of Richard Baxter, ed. N.H. Keeble and Geoffrey Nuttall, 2  vols (Oxford, 1991); Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, gen. ed. N.H.  Keeble, 5 vols (Oxford, 2020); Correspondence of Richard Baxter, gen. eds Alison Searle and Johanna Harris, 9 vols (Oxford, in preparation). 128  The Correspondence of John Cotton, ed. Serjeant Bush Jr (Chapel Hill, NC, 2001); The Correspondence of Roger Williams, ed. Glenn LaFantasie, 2 vols (Hanover, NH, 1998). 129  The Complete Works of John Milton, gen. eds Thomas N. Corns and Gordon Campbell, 11 vols (Oxford, 2008); Prose Works of Andrew Marvell, eds Annabel Patterson et al., 2 vols (New Haven, CT, 2003); The Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan, gen. ed. Roger Sharrock, 13 vols (Oxford, 1976–94). 130  The Complete Works of Gerard Winstanley, eds Thomas N. Corns, Ann Hughes, and David Loewenstein, 2 vols (Oxford, 2009); The Works of Lucy Hutchinson, gen. ed. David Norbrook, 4 vols (Oxford, 2011–). See also ‘Bibliography of Lucy Hutchinson’, https://earlymodern.web.ox. 131  Keith Thomas, ‘Women and the Civil War Sects’, Past and Present, 13 (1958), 42–62.

Introduction 31 Puritan women. Alongside this wealth of monographs and articles, the writings of seventeenth-century dissenting women have been anthologized and edited. Much of this new research is summarized by Rachel Adock.132 Watts did not have the benefit of the great wave of literary study of dissent heralded by Keeble’s book, The Literary Culture of Nonconformity, published in 1987. Of course, Bunyanists, Miltonists, and Marvellians had already produced important books and editions, and students of American literature had rediscovered the verse of the Puritan poets, Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet. But the past generation has seen a dramatic expansion of literary scholarship on dissent, epitomized in Keeble’s chapter on ‘Nonconformist Print Culture’. As Mark Goldie has noted: Older, denominational historiography instinctively looked to seventeenth-century ‘divines’ for sources of Puritan ‘literature’ and discovered spiritual ‘classics’. . . But now the Puritan poets and satirists have come into their own: Robert Wild, Benjamin Keach, George Wither, Ralph Wallis, and above all Marvell.133

Here George Southcombe’s three-volume edition of English Nonconformist Poetry, 1660–1700 is a significant landmark, expanding the canon of dissenting literature beyond the familiar triumvirate of Milton, Marvell, and Bunyan.134 Another literary scholar, Nigel Smith, has edited a wide range of dissenting writing, including Ranter pamphlets, the Journal of George Fox, and the poems of Andrew Marvell.135 Sermons too have come into their own as an object of serious study, though as Ann Hughes and Mark Goldie have noted, we have only just begun to exploit the ‘immense surviving volume of sermon notes’.136 A further ‘dark corner’ now richly illuminated is the experience (and role) of lay Dissenters. We have important studies of how the Puritan gentry sustained the ejected ministers after the Restoration, and how politicians sympathetic to Dissent ‘wielded considerable clout in moving the levers of political, cultural, economic, and social power’.137 Social historians have recreated the everyday lives of ‘ordinary’ Dissenters in local communities across England and Wales. Watts did not ignore the Dissenting laity, and he utilized church books as well as the first wave of doctoral theses on the local and county history of dissent. Yet here again, he was poorly served compared by today’s standards. Margaret 132  Rachel Adcock, ‘Women and Gender’, Chapter 20 in this volume. 133  Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, p. xxxiii. 134  George Southcombe, English Nonconformist Poetry, 1660–1700, 3 vols (London, 2012). 135  A Collection of Ranter Writings from the 17th Century, ed. Nigel Smith (London, 1983); George Fox, Journal, ed. Nigel Smith (London, 1998); The Poems of Andrew Marvell, ed. Nigel Smith (rev. edn, Harlow, 2007). 136  Ann Hughes, ‘Preachers and Hearers in Revolutionary London: Contextualising Parliamentary Fast Sermons’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 24 (2014), 57–77; Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, p. xxxv. 137  J.T. Cliffe, The Puritan Gentry Besieged, 1650–1700 (London, 1993); Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, p. xxxvi.


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Spufford and her students have rediscovered the lost world of rural Dissenters, while others have reconnected the textual with the social worlds of Quakers and other Dissenters.138 Much of that scholarship has argued that Dissenters were surprisingly well integrated into local society. As Bill Sheils concludes in his chapter on dissent in the parish, ‘Parochial dissent in the years before 1640 was a marginal, but not a socially marginalized, phenomenon, which attracted some locally important supporters’; after 1660 Dissent became ‘a ubiquitous feature of the religious landscape’.139 The ‘lived religion’ of Dissenting congregations is also being recovered by the Dissenting Experience Project, which has already produced a remarkable ‘Inventory of Puritan and Dissenting Records from 1640–1714’: ‘a comprehensive, reliable and detailed list of every church book, register, and account book from a Presbyterian, Congregational, or Baptist church in England, Wales, and Ireland which either dates from or copies information relating to the period 1640–1714’. Some of these documents were transcribed, edited, and published by earlier generations of denominational historians, but only now do we have a thorough survey. The findings of the project are summarized by the authors themselves in the final chapter of this volume, on the lay experience.140 The reconstruction of popular religion has gone alongside a renaissance in  the study of Dissenting clergy and their writings. This reflects a wider retrieval of the tradition of Reformed theology, associated especially with the work of Richard Muller.141 The godly clergy—Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist—have been the subject of numerous monographs, in which their thought has been patiently dissected and contextualized. The voluminous writings of Richard Baxter, John Owen, and John Bunyan continue to attract the attention of a steady stream of doctoral students and other scholars working in history, religion, and literary studies.142 The Dissenting Academies Project, led by Isabel Rivers, is reconstructing the educational regime that Dissenters began to set up in the Restoration era, including an online database with information on individual academies, tutors, and students.143 138  Margaret Spufford, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters (Cambridge, 1995); Adrian Davies, The Quakers in English Society, 1655–1725 (Oxford, 2000); Kate Peters, Print Culture and the Early Quakers (Cambridge, 2005). 139  W.J. Sheils, ‘Dissent in the Parishes’, Chapter 13 in this volume. 140  Michael Davies, Anne Dunan-Page, and Joel Halcomb, ‘Being a Dissenter: Lay Experience in the Gathered Churches’, Chapter 21 in this volume; and Davies, Dunan-Page, and Halcomb, eds, Church Life: Pastors, Congregations, and the Experience of Dissent in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 2019). 141  Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols (Grand Rapids, MI, 2003). 142  See Kelly M. Kapic and Mark Jones, eds, The Ashgate Companion to John Owen’s Theology (Farnham, 2012); Mark Burden, ‘John Owen: Learned Puritan’, uk/john-owen-learned-puritan; Michael Davies and W.R. Owens, eds, The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan (Oxford, 2018). 143  Isabel Rivers, ed., and Mark Burden, assistant ed., A History of the Dissenting Academies in the British Isles, 1660–1860 (Cambridge, forthcoming). http://www.qmulreligionandliterature.

Introduction 33 Finally, recent historiography has expanded our geographical horizons. The structure of this volume, and indeed, of the Oxford series, reflects the impact of the new British history, Atlantic history, and the history of diaspora and globalization. In Andrew Murphy and Adrian Weimer’s account of ‘colonial Quakerism’, we see how the Quakers migrated and acclimatized to the very different conditions of New England, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake and the Caribbean. The history of Dissent is now written with ‘the English Atlantic’ in mind, and is increasingly alert to the importance of exile, migration, return, and international networks sustained through travel and correspondence. Its historians are also exploring the cross-cultural encounter between dissenting Protestants, Native Americans, and enslaved Africans. Recent work elucidates the ways in which New England Congregationalists and Quakers in the Caribbean were complicit in the construction of ‘Christian slavery’, while also noting the first glimmerings of an antislavery critique.144 John Eliot’s ‘mission to the Indians’ has received renewed attention, but so have the native converts who assisted, modified, and propagated Reformed Christianity.145 We do well to remember that among seventeenth-century Dissenters there were Algonquian Congregationalists and African Quakers.

DIFFUSION AND MIGRATION This fits with the governing motif of the Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, one that differs markedly from the narrative arc of the trilogy by Michael Watts. Despite its Whiggish accent on the liberation of dissent and the eventual triumph of liberty of conscience, Watts’ work on The Dissenters had a poignancy that undercut its triumphalism. The three volumes were structured around a rise and fall model of the history of English and Welsh Dissent. Volume I recounted the rise: from the tiny, persecuted Separatists of Tudor England, to the triumphs of the English Revolution, the sufferings of the Restoration, and the revival of Dissent in the eighteenth-century evangelical awakening. Volume II documented the heyday of evangelical nonconformity from the 1790s to the 1840s, when Methodists, Congregationalists, and Baptists surged in spectacular style. Volume III showed how amidst the success of 144  Wendy Warren, New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America (New York, 2016); Katherine Gerbner, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (Philadelphia, PA, 2018); Brycchan Carey, From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657–1761 (New Haven, CT, 2012). 145  Richard Cogley, John Eliot’s Mission to the Indians before King Philip’s War (Cambridge, MA, 1999); David J. Silverman, Faith and Boundaries: Colonists, Christianity, and Community among the Wampanoag Indians of Martha’s Vineyard, 1600–1871 (Cambridge, 2005); Edward Andrews, Native Apostles: Black and Indian Missionaries in the British Atlantic World (Cambridge, MA, 2013), ch. 1.


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Dissent in the later nineteenth century, there were portents of its imminent decline. Ironically, Protestant Dissent was eroded by forces the Dissenting ethos had helped to unleash: individualism, liberalism, the nonconformist conscience, and the secularization of the state. By the 1970s, the Dissenting denominations were a shadow of their former selves. Although almost every town centre in England and Wales boasts impressive chapel buildings, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists (now joined in the United Reformed Church) and the Methodists, are in steep decline. In English villages, once thriving Primitive Methodist chapels have been converted into private homes, while in English towns, Nonconformist buildings now serve as furniture warehouses or as mosques, temples, and gurdwaras. Among younger Christians, denominational identities have faded with the rise of charismatic and ‘nonde­ nom­in­ation­al’ churches. The history of English Protestant Dissent can be written as a declension narrative. The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, however, has a very different narrative structure—not rise and fall, but diffusion and migration. In this model, Protestant Dissenting traditions originating in England are on the move, first to Wales and Ireland, and then to the American colonies and beyond. (In the case of Presbyterianism, Scotland rather than England was the point of origin for Presbyterian minorities in Ireland, America, and elsewhere.) The organization of this first volume in the series reflects that governing motif: Part I traces the emergence of Dissenting denominational traditions within England, and Part II explores how traditions of Protestant Dissent developed elsewhere in the British Atlantic world. Later volumes in the series show how traditions of Protestant Dissent were transmitted beyond the West, being reconfigured in Africa, Asia, and South America. There are now more Presbyterians in South Korea than in Scotland, more Baptists in Brazil than in Britain, more Methodists in Zambia than in Wales. While denominational statistics are imprecise, it has been estimated that there are around seventy-five Reformed or Presbyterian Christians worldwide, at least fifty million Baptists, and comparable numbers of Methodists.146 Given the Methodist roots of Pentecostalism, the fastest growing religious movement of the past century, one can even argue that hundreds of millions of non-Anglican Protestants can trace their genealogy back to early modern Britain. Moreover, Protestant Dissent is forever remaking itself, in different contexts. As the cover text for Volume V puts it: ‘While in Europe dissent was often against the religious state, dissent in a globalizing world could redefine itself against colonialism or other secular and religious monopolies.’ This raises difficult questions about what constitutes a tradition, and what connection there is between twenty-first-century global Protestantism and 146  See Mark Hutchinson, ed., The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions: Volume V: The Twentieth Century—Themes and Variations in a Global Context (Oxford, 2018), pp. 20–1.

Introduction 35 early modern English Dissent. Does global Protestantism run on software designed in seventeenth-century England? Here we are in danger of leaving horizontal history far behind, drawing tenuous lines of connection between past and present, and falling prey to the sins of anachronism and teleology. Yet the question of legacy is worth addressing, if only briefly. One way of doing so is by considering textual transmission. Some seventeenthcentury texts have enjoyed an extraordinarily long shelf life among Dissenters. One thinks of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Shorter Catechism, crafted for the national Churches of England and Scotland, but eventually becoming the symbols of Presbyterian Dissenters—in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, America, Canada, Australia, and South Korea. Along the way, they have been adapted by Congregationalists and Baptists, and hotly debated among Presbyterians in a series of subscription controversies in  England, Ireland, Scotland, and North America. In 1789, American Presbyterians doctored certain clauses in the Confession that seemed to teach ‘persecuting principles’, revising the document in line with the sep­ar­ation of church and state. Works by individual theologians have also travelled far— above all, the writings of those two pillars of Restoration Dissent, John Owen and Richard Baxter. Yet no Dissenting text has been more widely disseminated than Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, a book translated into 200 languages, mostly non-European.147 But it wasn’t just texts that outlived seventeenth-century authors, it was also practices. Take, for example, believers’ baptism by immersion. During the Reformation era, the ‘Anabaptist’ critique of infant baptism was flatly repudiated by Lutherans and Calvinists. In Elizabethan England, almost everyone was baptized soon after birth into the national Church. Yet something unprecedented happened over the course of the seventeenth century. Growing numbers of Puritan Dissenters began to have grave doubts about infant baptism—John Milton, John Bunyan, Lucy Hutchinson, Henry Lawrence (President of Cromwell’s Council of State), Henry Dunster (President of Harvard College), even (for a while) the young Richard Baxter. Baptist congregations flourished. Oliver Cromwell took it upon himself to defend them from persecution, and English Congregationalists accommodated members with baptistic beliefs. Baptists gained a foothold within English Protestantism, establishing their legitimacy in a way that had eluded their continental cousins, partly by creating a hybrid form of Protestant identity. This foundational development (facilitated by the English Revolution), was the prerequisite for the Baptists’ later growth and missionary expansion, in Britain, America, and overseas. If we want to explain the curious fact that about half of global Protestant congregations practise believers’ (rather than infant) baptism, and typically do so by complete 147  See Isabel Hofmeyer’s pioneering work, The Portable Bunyan: A Transnational History of Pilgrim’s Progress (Princeton, NJ, 2003).


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immersion (rather than sprinkling or pouring water), we have to consider the impact of British and American Baptists, who trace their origins to the seventeenth century.148 Third, Dissent left an institutional legacy. While Seekers, Diggers, Ranters, and Fifth Monarchists were short-lived movements, the Muggletonians survived as a tiny sect for more than three centuries, only dying out in 1979, on the death of their last remaining member.149 The four major denominational tra­ di­ tions that emerged from the English Revolution—Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Quakers—were of far greater consequence, though they would have a chequered history in England itself. Presbyterians, who started out the largest, would be one of the smaller denominations by the mid-nineteenth century. Quakers, who never amounted to much numerically, had a cultural impact out of all proportion to their size, not least on the antislavery movement.150 Congregationalists and Baptists would grow exponentially with the upsurge of evangelicalism in the long nineteenth century. All four traditions would flourish in North America: Congregationalists forming the establishment in New England, Presbyterians and Quakers predominating in the Middle Colonies, and Baptists eventually overtaking the Methodists to become the largest Protestant denomination in the United States (albeit one divided along racial and sectional lines). The ongoing study of Tudor and Stuart Dissent owes much to the persistence and diffusion of these traditions. Their longevity continues to spark curiosity about their origins. Finally, Dissent played an important role in legitimizing religious diversity and valorizing individual conscience. By their obdurate refusal to conform, Dissenters contributed to the demise of religious uniformity and the rise of denominational pluralism. For most, this was an unintended outcome, not the original plan. The Puritans who became Dissenters had fought hard to seize control of the ship of state. They sought godly rule, not a religious marketplace where individual consumers were free to choose their own religion.151 Yet it was radical Protestant minorities (and their establishment protectors) who developed some of the seminal intellectual defences of religious freedom, and forged the slogans that would resonate down through the eighteenth and nineteenth century: ‘civil and religious liberty’, ‘liberty of conscience is a natural right’.152 148  See John Coffey, ‘From Marginal to Mainstream: How Anabaptists became Baptists’, in Douglas Weaver, ed., Mirrors and Microscopes: Historical Perceptions of Baptists (Milton Keynes, 2015), pp. 1–24. 149  William Lamont, Last Witnesses: The Muggletonian History, 1652–1979 (Farnham, 2006). 150  See G.M. Ditchfield, ‘Abolitionism and the Social Conscience’, in Andrew Thompson, ed., The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions: Volume II: The Long Eighteenth Century, c. 1689–c. 1828 (Oxford, 2018), ch. 14. 151  See the classic work by William Lamont, Godly Rule: Politics and Religion, 1603–1660 (London, 1969). 152  See Blair Worden, God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell (Oxford, 2012), chs 3 and 8.

Introduction 37 It was the founder of England’s first Baptist church, Thomas Helwys, who insisted that each individual should enjoy ‘freedome of religion’ to ‘chuse their religion themselves’. ‘Let them be heretikes, Turcks, Jewes, or whatsoever’, he wrote, ‘it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure’.153 It was the Levellers and other radical parliamentarians, drawing support from Baptist and sectarian congregations, who sought a constitutional ban on religious coercion in an Agreement of the People.154 Although Puritan exiles created their own system of religious uniformity in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it was the New England Dissenter Roger Williams who founded Rhode Island on a principle of separating church and state, and the Quaker William Penn who wrote religious pluralism into the constitution of Pennsylvania.155 In the eighteenth century, liberty of private judgement would become a core principle of Protestant Dissent, articulated by Presbyterians as well as Quakers.156 Claims about the rights of conscience that had once been the preserve of the sectarian fringes of English Protestantism, became conventional wisdom, given an authoritative voice by the heterodox Anglican intellectual, John Locke.157 Here again, we see that the boundary between margin and mainstream, Dissent and Establishment is a porous one. Protestant Dissenting traditions have enjoyed disproportionate cultural influence across the Anglophone world, and were dispersed around the globe by generations of Protestant missionaries and indigenous evangelists. To make sense of the religiously inflected cultures of the English-speaking world, and of late modern global Protestantism, we need to understand the rise and development of post-Reformation Dissent.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Bingham, Matthew, Orthodox Radicals: Baptist Identity in the English Revolution (Oxford, 2019). Bolam, C. Gordon, Goring, Jeremy, Short, H.L., and Thomas, Roger, eds, The English Presbyterians: From Elizabethan Puritanism to Modern Unitarianism (London, 1968). 153  Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mistery of Iniquity (1612), pp. 46, 69; Helwys, Objections Answered by Way of a Dialogue (1615), p. 30. 154  See Rachel Foxley, The Levellers: Radical Political Thought in the English Revolution (Manchester, 2013), ch. 4. On the Levellers’ sectarian and Dissenting milieu, see Gary De Krey, Following the Levellers, 2 vols (London, 2017–18). 155  See The Sacred Rights of Conscience: Selected Readings on Religious Liberty and Church-State Relations in the American Founding, eds Daniel L. Dreisbach and Mark David Hall (Indianapolis, IN, 2009), pp. 42–6, 115–19, 146–55. 156  See John Coffey, ‘Between Reformation and Enlightenment: Presbyterian Clergy, Religious Liberty and Intellectual Change’, in Robert Armstrong and Tadhg Ó’hAnnracháin, eds, Insular Christianity: Alternative Models of the Church in Britain and Ireland, c.1550–c.1750 (Manchester), ch. 13. 157  See Brian Tierney, ‘Religious Rights: An Historical Perspective’, in John Witte, ed., Religious Human Rights in Global Perspective: Religious Perspectives (The Hague, 1996), pp. 17–45.


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Bremer, Francis  J., The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from Bradford to Edwards, rev. edn (Hanover, NH, 1995). Coffey, John, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1588–1689 (Harlow, 2000). Collinson, Patrick ‘Towards a Broader History of the Early Dissenting Tradition’, in Robert Cole and Michael  E.  Moody, eds, The Dissenting Tradition: Essays for Leland H. Carlson (Athens, OH, 1975), pp. 3–38, reprinted in Collinson, Godly People: Essays on English Protestantism and Puritanism (London, 1983), pp. 527–62. Como, David, Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War (Oxford, 2018). Cooper, Tim, John Owen, Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity (Farnham, 2011). Crawford, Patricia, Women and Religion in England, 1500–1720 (London, 1993). Davies, Adrian, The Quakers in English Society, 1655–1725 (Oxford, 2000). Davies, Michael, and Owens, W.R., eds, The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan (Oxford, 2018). Goldie, Mark, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs (Woodbridge, 2016). Gunther, Karl, Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525–1590 (Cambridge, 2014), ch. 1. Jones, R. Tudor with Long, Arthur and Moore, Rosemary, eds, Protestant Nonconformist Texts: Volume I: 1550–1700 (Aldershot, 2007; Eugene, OR, 2015). Keeble, N.H., The Literary Culture of Nonconformity (Leicester, 1987). Keeble, N.H., ed., ‘Settling the Peace of the Church’: 1662 Revisited (Oxford, 2014). McGregor, J.F. and Reay, Barry, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution (Oxford, 1984). Milton, Anthony, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism: Volume I: Reformation and Identity, c. 1520–1662 (Oxford, 2017). Morgan, D. Densil, Theologia Cambrensis: Protestant Religion and Theology in Wales: Volume I: From Reformation to Revival, 1588–1760 (Cardiff, 2018). Murphy, Andrew R., William Penn: A Life (New York, 2018). Nuttall, Geoffrey and Chadwick, Owen, eds, From Uniformity to Unity, 1662–1962 (London, 1962). Sowerby, Scott, Making Toleration: The Repealers and the Glorious Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 2013). Spufford, Margaret, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters (Cambridge, 1995). Steven, Ralph, Protestant Pluralism: The Reception of the Toleration Act, 1689–1720 (Woodbridge, 2018). Vernon, Elliot and Powell, Hunter, eds, Church Polity and Politics in the English Atlantic World, c. 1635–66 (Manchester, 2020). Watts, Michael, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978). Winship, Michael, Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America (New Haven, CT, 2019).

Part I Traditions Within England

1 Presbyterianism in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England Polly Ha

English Presbyterians denied their status as dissenters. In their eyes, it was the officially established Church of England that dissented from mainstream Protestantism. Devising a middle way between conservatives and reformists, the Elizabethan Church adopted central Protestant tenets whilst retaining an episcopal hierarchy and the outward ceremony of traditional religion. This curious concoction, the Presbyterians argued, departed from Continental Reformation, the apostolic tradition, and more fundamentally, from the ­principles of church government and worship prescribed by the Bible. Yet, the Church of England was not only marked by compromise in its external form. It was also characterized by via media more generally in its religious policy. For the Act of Uniformity merely required outward conformity. This leniency initially worked in the favour of zealous Protestants, but it disagreed with their temper.1 The Queen’s supremacy over the Church of England was also problematic. Posing a threat to royal supremacy, the Presbyterians denied that church ­government was an indifferent matter left to the civil magistrate to decide.2 They insisted that rules governing the household of God must only be determined by Scripture, the divinely instituted household guide.3 That model 1  Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London, 1967), pp. 29–44. For the English Presbyterians’ historical method and confessionalism see Polly Ha, English Presbyterianism, 1590–1640 (Palo Alto, CA, 2011), pp. 80–95. 2  Michael Mendle, Dangerous Positions: Mixed Government, the Estates of the Realm, and the Making of the Answer to the XIX Propositions (Tuscaloosa, AL, 1985), and Peter Lake, Anglicans and Puritans? Presbyterianism and English Conformist Thought from Whitgift to Hooker (London, 1988), ch. 4. 3  As Dudley Fenner put it, ‘The Churche of God is the house of God, and therefore ought to bee directed in all thinges, according to the order prescribed by the Housholder himselfe.’ A Briefe and Plaine Declaration (London, 1584), p. ii. See also Walter Travers, A Fvll and Plaine Declaration of Ecclesiastical Discipline (Middleburg, 1617), pp. 3–9. Polly Ha, Presbyterianism in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0002


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c­ onsisted of equality among ministers and the local election of lay elders who assisted in overseeing the church and administering discipline. Such ecclesiastical jurisdiction extended through a hierarchy of ecclesiastical bodies ranging from the local consistory and the provincial classis to the national synod and ecu­men­ic­al council. The danger of this ecclesiastical republicanism, alleged their adversaries, was its threat to the monarchy by application to the state.4 According to the Presbyterians, their aim was simply to complete Protestant reform in England. Indeed, their task of applying a reformed ecclesiastical model to the peculiar circumstances of the English Reformation would shape the nature of Presbyterianism as it emerged publically during the reign of Elizabeth  I.  It would drive Presbyterians in early Stuart England as they ­con­tinued to agitate for reform after their formal suppression. It also ensured that Presbyterianism would exercise a wider influence on religious and political culture in proportion to its size.

ORIGINS The impulse to pursue further reform in England has long been associated with Elizabethan Puritan-Presbyterians. But it was neither Presbyterian nor even Puritan-specific. There were signs, for instance, of such efforts stretching back to reformists under Edward VI. According to the Presbyterians, they were ­simply carrying out the Edwardian Reformation to its logical conclusions. Some invoked Henrician discontents to ground their anti-ceremonial and ­anti-clerical sentiments.5 Notwithstanding the peculiar nature of the Queen’s religion, the character of the national Church was still up for negotiation. Fleeing the restoration of Catholic worship under the reign of Mary I, hundreds of English Protestants had joined the international movement of Protestant refugees dotted throughout Europe at Reformed centres in Emden, the Rhineland and the Swiss cities. It was therefore at the height of Marian persecution that some English Protestants, especially those in Geneva, first cut their teeth on a full-blooded Presbyterian church order. And it was to Geneva, the Rhineland, and the Netherlands, that English Presbyterians later returned when placed under pressure to conform to the episcopal order.6 Sceptical of the Elizabethan Settlement, the more radical of the Reformed initially chose to remain in exile. Among them was William Whittingham, the English translator of the Geneva Bible. Others hesitated to accept ecclesiastical 4  Peter Lake, ‘Presbyterianism, the Idea of a National Church and the Argument from Divine Right’, in Peter Lake and Maria Dowling, eds, Protestantism and the National Church in Sixteenth Century England (London, 1987), p. 197. 5  Karl Gunther, Reformation Unbound (Cambridge, 2014), ch. 7. 6  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 45–55.

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preferment upon their return to England. But those who took up episcopal appointment were not necessarily predisposed to a conservative order. As ­former exiles with first-hand experience of Reformed Protestant practices, many of these prominent churchmen shared in the reformist zeal and intended to sway the church from within. Among the progressive bishops were Edmund Grindal of London and later of York and Canterbury, who was a disciple of Martin Bucer, Calvin’s own ecclesiastical mentor. Others on this list include Robert Horne of Winchester, John Parkhurst of Norwich, James Pilkington of Durham, and Edwin Sandys of Worcester.7 No surprise when clerics balked at adorning themselves in the ceremonial dress prescribed in the Prayer Book. Many refused outright to wear the surplice on the grounds that it was a ‘vestige of popery’ that their consciences ­dis­allowed. The scale of their defiance is indicated by the Queen’s order to enforce uniformity in 1565, which led to the suspension of thirty-seven ministers in London alone. The naturalist and religious controversialist William Turner reportedly trained his dog to ‘leap up and snatch the square caps from the heads of conforming clerics’.8 Strong sentiments against the clerical garb were especially expressed by the laity. As Patrick Collinson put it, ‘the scandal of the “popish rag” was felt more strongly by the godly than by their ministers’.9 It would of course be  mistaken to identify such initial stirrings and zealous Protestants as ­proto-Presbyterian. Eventually all (but three) of the aged ex­patri­ates came to terms with the church as established by law. And reformed-minded prelates would equally find a home in the early Stuart Church. What the initial rumbles over the rubric anticipated was a younger gen­er­ation of reformers who would rise to take up the cudgels. These reformists were led by scholars, bred at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, the nursery ­gardens of reform. Uproar in the universities had already ensued over the ­controversial clerical dress in the mid-1560s, with members of St John’s College, Cambridge, refusing to wear the surplice in chapel. It was allegedly at Thomas Cartwright’s instigation that all but three members of Trinity College, Cambridge, appeared at chapel without their surplices in the late 1560s.10 Cartwright and Walter Travers made their first public appearances when selected to deliver orations before the Queen on her royal visit to Cambridge in 1564. With Cartwright rising as the head, and Travers as the neck, of the Presbyterian movement, these two intellectual leaders took centre stage in the theological controversies that stormed throughout the late Tudor period.11 In addition to gaining traction among learned divines, reform quickly drew strength through a network of powerful lay patrons. That network first became 7  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 61–3. 8  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 73. 9  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 94. 10  A.F. Scott Pearson, Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism (Cambridge, 1925), p. 16. 11  Thomas Fuller, The Church History of Britain (London, 1837), III, p. 26.


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visible during the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, and it was later vital to ­furthering the Presbyterian cause.12 For a class of the country gentry had been recruited to the cause of Protestant reform, including Francis Russel, Earl of Bedford, Sir Francis Knollys, the Queen’s cousin by marriage, Sir Anthony Cook, and Sir Nicholas Bacon. By sending their sons to the universities, they were ensuring that a new generation of godly patrons would be steeped in Reformed principles by their Puritan tutors. Above all, the early reformists and later Presbyterians, including Cartwright and Travers, shared the patronage of the two most powerful men in England: Elizabeth’s favourite, the Earl of Leicester, and her chief adviser, William Cecil, later Lord Burghley.13 Early Elizabethan religious disputes are further instructional by the essential questions they raised. Questions which the Presbyterians later contested that would remain unresolved even after their formal suppression. What was the nature of ecclesiastical authority? What were the respective roles of the clergy and the laity in the church? Should Scripture or the prince determine ‘indifferent matters’? Could the liberty of conscience be reconciled with godly order and uniformity? All these matters were thrown up for discussion, but no sooner suppressed from public disputation by the crown. Yet, it is also here in these early debates that we hear the language of eradicating Roman remnants at its ‘root’. This was a language rehearsed by Puritans in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It was a language which held a prominent future in the later ‘root and branch’ campaign, which successfully abolished episcopacy (even if only temporarily) in the mid-seventeenth century. It was a language that narrowed the gap between moderate reform of abuses and full-scale reform of the church.14

ELIZABETHAN PRESBY TERIANISM Presbyterianism is known to have injected precept into the pragmatism of early nonconformity. To be sure, Presbyterianism proposed to replace the episcopal order with a systemized theology of the church that was as rigorously prin­cipled as it was practical. However, there is a risk in overlooking the radical theological strands of anticlericalism that surfaced before the public emergence of a reformed alternative in England. William Turner, who played a central role in the vestiarian controversy, articulated many of the principles that would 12  For the continuity of puritan patronage from Elizabethan to early Stuart England, see Jacqueline Eales, ‘A Road to Revolution: The Continuity of Puritanism, 1559–1642’, in Christopher Durston and Jacqueline Eales, eds, The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560–1700 (Basingstoke, 1996), pp. 184–209. 13  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 52–5. 14  Ha, English Presbyterianism, pp. 27–36.

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become characteristic of the Presbyterians. Elizabethan Presbyterians latched onto his language of ‘weeding’ out the Romish beast in his ‘animal tracts’ ­(ori­gin­al­ly against Stephen Gardiner) to argue for ‘rooting’ out popery in the later sixteenth century.15 In addition to playing a role in inviting the Polish Reformer John à Lasco to England, he contended for the local election of ­ministers and equality among ministers in his early anti-episcopal arguments directed against Gardiner and Bonner. During the vestiarian controversy, he continued to question the hierarchical nature of episcopacy.16 But of course there is equally the danger of conflating early anticlericalism with a fully explicated Presbyterian polity that could pose as a viable alternative to episcopacy. The younger generation of Elizabethan reformers would be the first to introduce the latter. They consolidated Presbyterianism theologically and practically whilst exploiting powerful patronage that reached up to the highest levels of Elizabethan government. For the Presbyterians, the urgent need for more shepherds to feed starving sheep required more than a practical solution. It could only be remedied by following the divinely appointed means of calling and electing godly preachers. The beginnings of English Presbyterianism are therefore rightly identified with the controversy at Cambridge sparked by the newly appointed Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Thomas Cartwright. It was at the very centre of the University, at Great St Mary’s Church, that Cartwright first engaged in a philosophical refutation of monarchy before Her Majesty and her chief counsellors. And it was here in 1570 that he delivered a series of lectures on the first two chapters of Acts that would throw into question the legitimacy of episcopacy. Although the lectures themselves concerned the nature of the apostolic church, by implication they exposed the Church of England to criticism. For it could hardly escape notice that the present state of the church bore little resemblance to the model outlined by Cartwright’s lectures. These systematic teachings on primitive Presbyterianism marked a de­cisive shift from scruples over ceremony to more fundamental questions about the nature of the church. The lectures were all the more troubling because of their enthusiastic reception by a sizeable population of an impressionable student body. Hauled before the Vice Chancellor and deprived of his chair, Cartwright soon fled with Travers to Geneva, the most perfect school of Christ, and of Presbyterian practice. Welcomed by Theodore Beza, the leader of Genevan Reformation as successor to John Calvin, Cartwright delivered lectures in divinity to students at the Geneva Academy.17 15  M.M. Knappen, Tudor Puritanism (Chicago, IL, 1939), pp. 59–69, and Patrick Collinson, ‘The Puritan Classical Movement in the Reign of Elizabeth I (PhD dissertation, University of London, 1957), p. 80, n. 1. 16  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 113. 17  Pearson, Thomas Cartwright, pp. 46–54.


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If the Presbyterian cause were solely championed by an academic coterie, it might have been more easily diverted with the departure of its two main intellectual leaders. But its reformed roots in England ran deeper. During the reign of Edward VI, England became a home to hundreds of Protestants fleeing persecution on the continent, who established reformed churches in London. The continued presence of French and Dutch Reformed churches in London invited the English to imagine a world where they too might worship in a purified church.18 ‘Is a reformation good for France? And can it be euill for Englande? Is discipline meete for Scotland? And is it vnprofytable for this realme?’ asked John Field and Thomas Wilcox. Together they penned the Admonition to Parliament in 1572, the first printed tract to launch the institutional movement for Presbyterian reform.19 The Admonition was essentially an appeal to parliament for the reform of clerical abuses and adoption of Presbyterian government. But it was as polemical and acerbic in its style as it was political in its purpose, alienating sympathetic bishops by its tone. The Admonition thus marked the emergence of a new movement for reform and spawned a prolix theological debate in print over the nature of the church and the place of Scripture in determining ecclesiastical polity. Having returned to England, Cartwright took up the cudgels against Whitgift, who was now positioning himself as the arch-episcopal defender.20 Travers remained in Geneva in 1572, the year that thousands of Protestants were slaughtered in France during the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. He was soon joined by a number of French Calvinists, including the resistance theorist François Hotman. It was in this context that Travers busied himself writing his  magnum opus on Presbyterian government, Ecclesiasticae disciplinae et Anglicanae ecclesiae ab ill aberrationis, plena E Verbo Dei, & dilucida explicatio, which appeared anonymously in Latin and English editions in 1574.21 This was precisely the sort of circumstances that raised suspicion that Presbyterianism was part of an international Calvinist conspiracy to undermine the English monarchy. But the bulk of Travers’ treatise was to argue for the scriptural and theoretical foundations for English Presbyterianism, refuting the legitimacy of episcopal hierarchy and appointments. In arguing for a popularly elected ­ministry Travers evaded addressing royal supremacy directly. Nonetheless, the implications to Elizabeth and her episcopal defendants were clear. For in this early work Travers anticipated the arguments that would eventually lead to Archbishop Grindal’s suspension and spectacular fall a decade later. ‘Is it not  meet that even Kings and the highest Magistrates should be obedient unto [Scripture]?’ Travers pointed to examples throughout history of princes 18  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 45–55. 19  John Field and Thomas Wilcox, An Admonition to the Parliament (Hemel Hempstead, 1572), sig. Bvii. 20  Lake, Anglicans and Puritans, ch. 1. 21  S.J. Knox, Walter Travers: Paragon of Elizabethan Puritanism (London, 1962), ch. 4.

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who submitted themselves to the divinely appointed order of government, including Theodosius.22 But whilst the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre informed Travers’ Presbyterian treatise, the events that next took place in the Netherlands would leave a mark on his ministry. Following closely after the French religious civil wars, the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule escalated when unpaid and hungry Spanish troops sacked Antwerp in 1576, resulting in the indiscriminate death of several thousand Protestants. Travers’ encounters with mass Catholic persecution of Protestants in France and the Netherlands would have only fed into the paranoia of Elizabeth’s privy councillors, who sought to protect the Queen from international Catholic plots. Not to mention the many conspiracies hatched at home involving the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, a strong claimant to the English throne. Indeed, Travers secured the patronage of those most committed to preserving the Queen, including William Cecil.23 He also took up his post with the English Merchant Adventurers based in Antwerp on the recommendation of the English ambassador William Davison. Here he channelled his zealous anti-Catholicism by converting Presbyterian principles into practice. He received Presbyterian ordination in May 1578, which would become a point of contention on his return to England. He also kept records of the church’s reformed proceedings in his theological notebook, revealing an ex­pert­ise in Presbyterian government that extended beyond the theoretical.24 Despite affinity with Presbyterianism further north, the concern to pursue reformation in England explains why he and Cartwright declined Andrew Melville’s invitation to accept professorial chairs at St Andrews University in 1580.25 Ecclesiastical authorities could suppress Presbyterianism so long as it remained subject to academic censorship. But during the 1580s the godly began to practise more of what they preached. There was no shortage of ways to ­introduce reformed practices in England, breeding what their adversaries later called ‘presbytery under the wing of episcopacy’.26 Former exiles introduced voluntary religious exercises modelled on continental reformed practices called prophesyings. These meetings were devoted to the exposition of Scripture, prayer, and the singing of metrical psalms. The godly also augmented their spiritual diets by gadding to additional sermons and catechizing on 22  Walter Travers, Fvll and Plaine Declaration, p. 103. For a discussion of Travers’s view of the Christian Magistrate, see Ha, English Presbyterianism, ch. 1 and Polly Ha, ‘Why Walter Travers Read Heinrich Bullinger’s De Conciliis’, Sixteenth Century Journal, 42 (2011), 57–76. 23  cf. Travers’s role as chaplain to the Burghley household in S.J. Knox, Walter Travers, pp. 54–8. 24  For examples, see TCD MS 324, fols 4–5, 33, 39. 25  Gordon Donaldson, Scottish Reformation (Cambridge, 1960), pp. 89–93. For an in-depth study of the relations between early English and Scottish Presbyterianism, see his ‘The Relations between the English and Scottish Presbyterian Movements to 1604’ (PhD thesis, University of London, 1938). 26  Peter Heylyn, Aerius Redivivius, or, The History of the Presbyterians Containing the Beginnings, Progress and Successes of that Active Sect (Oxford, 1670), p. 260.


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Sundays and weekday lectures, sometimes travelling at great length to hear a favourite preacher. They also took advantage of regular market-town exercises and occasional preaching fasts. Such activity did not necessarily convert into Presbyterian practices. But the Puritan lectures posed a great-enough threat for Elizabeth to insist that they be suppressed and to suspend Archbishop Grindal when he refused to comply.27 It is tempting to draw a fixed line between Puritan exercises for edification, schism, and Presbyterianism, but historians have called greater attention to overlap and movement between them. Not all Puritan fasts were proto-Presbyterian synods. But some were.28 Such overlap between Puritan piety and more deliberate Presbyterian activity can be seen in the example of Archbishop Grindal in his later career. In addition to defending the Puritan preaching exercises, he advised the English Adventurer Church in Antwerp, which fell under his jurisdiction.29 Encrypted in Travers’s papers is  Grindal’s continued advice on their Presbyterian church order after the Archbishop’s suspension.30 We shall never know how familiar Grindal was with Presbyterian practices in England, but his sympathy for the Presbyterians helps explain the vigour with which his successor sought to suppress them. Whitgift’s election as Grindal’s successor in 1583 has been regarded as a ‘de­cisive climacteric in the history of the reformed Church of England’.31 For even before his election, Whitgift promised to aggressively attack nonconformity by preparing three articles for the greater enforcement of uniformity. This included a clause requiring ministers to affirm that episcopacy and the Book of Common Prayer contained nothing contrary to Scripture. More controversially, he intended to enforce these articles by introducing an ecclesiastical commission whose inquisitorial procedures would raise stiff opposition by common lawyers.32 But Presbyterianism had become a more organized force by the time that Whitgift began his counterattack. As early as 1571 brethren met together in London, eventually agreeing ‘by little and little . . . [to] draw the Discipline into practice, though they concealed the names eyther of Presbytery, Elder or Deacon’.33 Throughout the provinces, ministers sympathetic to Presbyterianism met in conferences that resembled proto-Presbyterian cells. Evidence later presented against the Presbyterians found the most advanced regions of reformed activity to have taken root in East Anglia and the Midlands, 27  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 191–8, 208–21. 28  For example, Travers records a meeting of brothers fasting together in 1581, including John Field, Thomas Edmunds, Richard Crick, and William Chark, to discuss the theological controversy surrounding Peter Baro’s anti-Calvinist teaching in Cambridge. TCD MS 366, fol. 10v. 29  Patrick Collinson, Archbishop Grindal, 1519–1583: The Struggle for a Reformed Church (London, 1979), p. 171. 30  TCD MS 324, fol. 4. 31  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 243. 32  Ethan Shagan, ‘The English Inquisition: Constitutional Conflict and Ecclesiastical Law in the 1590s’, Historical Journal, 47 (2004), 541–65. 33  Richard Bancroft, Dangerous Positions and Proceedings Published and Practised within the Iland of Brytaine (London, 1593), p. 115.

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with presbyteries operating in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.34 There were some within this circuit, such as the Dedham conference, which in practice blurred the line between Presbyterianism and Congregational polity.35 But unlike the radical separatist groups that erected autonomous congregations, most of these bodies were committed to national reform and a centrally organized presbytery, sending delegates to their London headquarters organized by John Field.36 When Whitgift was elevated to Canterbury and began his pursuit of ­nonconformity in earnest, the Presbyterians were prompted to change tactic. By 1584 they began to direct their efforts to lobbying parliament for a reformed ecclesiastical order. Coinciding with the international threat of popery and Catholic plots surrounding Mary Queen of Scots, a flurry of petitions from the provinces were sent to parliament, followed by a series of bills that appeared on the floor of the House of Commons, calling for the adoption of a reformed church order. By February 1587, Anthony Cope presented a ‘bill and book’ that was explicitly Presbyterian in its ecclesiastical vision. Cope proposed a version of the Forme of Prayers used by the English exile congregation, which was essentially an adaptation of the Genevan liturgy.37 Although unsuccessful in parliament, it pointed to a serious effort by the Presbyterians to take reformation into their own hands. For the Presbyterians were busy devising their own definitive directory for reformed worship. Edited by Walter Travers in con­sult­ation with fellow Presbyterian clergy, the Book of Discipline was an adaptation of the Geneva liturgy, but refined through Travers’ experience in  the  Netherlands and tailored to fit the peculiar circumstances of the English Reformation.38 Whilst the Book of Discipline would consolidate the Presbyterian movement in the late 1580s, it would also become the centrepiece of evidence against it. The circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Book of Discipline and the crown’s formal suppression of the Presbyterian movement were lamented by its main leaders. With the demise of parliamentary Presbyterianism, the great matters of religion and state moved into the realm of popular satire and the press. The Marprelate tracts, which appeared under the pseudonym Martin Marprelate, intended to fight the Presbyterians’ corner following the defeat of Cope’s ‘bill and book’. These tracts at once lampooned the character of the episcopate and marked a turning point in English literary history, even if 34  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 323–9. 35  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 318–19. See also introduction to Patrick Collinson, John Craig and Brett Usher, eds, Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church: Dedham and Bury St Edmunds, 1582–1590 (Woodbridge, 2003). 36  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 317–29. 37  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 279–88. 38  For more on the Book of Discipline, see Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 291–302, and Knox, Walter Travers, ch. 6. My emphasis on the importance of Travers’ ministry in Antwerp comes from reading his personal papers dated in the late 1570s in TCD MS 324.


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fore­shadowed in its tone by the Admonition to Parliament. It is hard to exaggerate the Marprelate effect. For the scathing satire of the libellous tracts introduced a new genre of writing that would be put to even greater effect against episcopacy during the English revolution. But they did not win the approval of their protagonists. Nor did they do much to further the Presbyterian cause. For in their efforts to hunt down the Martinists, the authorities uncovered the whole Presbyterian movement, procuring their primary evidence against it after searching the homes of Presbyterian clergy in the vicinity of the Marprelate press. They unearthed evidence of synods taking place as early as 1581, with annual meetings coinciding with University of Cambridge commencement. Furthermore, they found a copy of the Book of Discipline, with subscriptions from clergy.39 By 1591 Cartwright and eight other Presbyterian suspects were brought to trial for their attempt to establish a national Presbyterian church. The engine used to convict the ministers was the High Commission, which required them to take the oath ex officio. Cartwright and his cohorts denied the oath’s legality, refusing to swear an oath to answer articles without known accusers or know­ledge of the particular charges. Cartwright remained obstinately silent, even after the case was sent to the Court of the Star Chamber. But others, such as John Johnson of Northamptonshire, supplied incriminating details of the Presbyterians’ meetings. Cartwright and his collaborators were ultimately incarcerated for refusing to take oath in 1592. Although they were released the following year, the Presbyterian movement had effectively lost momentum and historians have believed that Presbyterianism virtually ceased to exist following their formal suppression. Many of their chief patrons, including the Earl of Leicester and Sir Francis Walsingham, had passed away. Their cause was also discredited by the deranged pseudo-messiah William Hacket, who proclaimed himself to  be the very means by which Christ would judge the world and secure Presbyterianism in England. Although the Presbyterians denied all association with Hacket’s charismatic vision and prophecy, the association played into the hands of their adversaries. For anti-Puritan bishops such as Richard Bancroft and Richard Cosin were preparing their own paper bullets against the Presbyterians wherein Hacket was the logical outcome of their misguided zeal. So severe was their literary assassination during this decade that Patrick Collinson dubbed it the nasty nineties.40 39  Patrick Collinson, Richard Bancroft and Elizabethan Anti-Puritanism (Cambridge, 2013), p. 78. 40  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 403–48. For one discussion of the Marprelate tracts and their literary context, see Joad Raymond, Pamphlets and Pamphleteering (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 27–52. Collinson’s later treatment of the anti-Presbyterian campaign led by conformists can be found in Richard Bancroft, chs 6, 7. For a discussion of the anti-puritan literature of the 1590s, see his ‘Ecclesiastical Vitriol: Religious Satire in the 1590s and the Invention of Puritanism’, in John Guy, ed., The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 159–64.

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LATE ELIZABETHAN AND EARLY STUART PRESBY TERIANISM Given the anti-Puritan assault of the 1590s, the supposed death of Presbyterianism in late Elizabethan and early Stuart England makes sense. With a few exceptions, this death was assumed by the Presbyterians’ relative silence for the remainder of Elizabeth’s reign.41 It was also reinforced by their disappearance from the historical record until their sudden reappearance in the front line of the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century. As W.A. Shaw asserted, ‘there are no traces of any inheritance of the ideas or influence of this Elizabethan Presbyterianism by the English Puritans of the days of James I and Charles I’.42 The only options available to Puritans appeared to be conformity or de facto Congregational autonomy. Above all, the Puritans redirected their efforts to a reformation of manners in the provinces by sanctifying individual households.43 But contrary to this narrative, there is evidence that English Presbyterianism persisted.44 For just as English Presbyterians were part of the wider reformed tradition of refugees on the continent from their first emergence, there remained active English Presbyterian congregations in the Netherlands throughout the seventeenth century.45 Across the Atlantic, Presbyterianism shaped the character of the Bermuda plantation from its early settlement through the seventeenth century, and found some outspoken defendants among the New England colonies. Rather than being isolated individuals and occasional expressions of Presbyterianism, these reformists maintained active intelligence of and identification with Presbyterians in England in the early seventeenth century.46 There is also new evidence of the broader role English Presbyterianism played in shaping the religious and political culture of the early Stuart period. 41  Not all historians insisted on their complete annihilation. Both Jacqueline Eales and Nicholas Tyacke argued for continuities between Elizabethan and early Stuart puritanism before the recovery of Walter Travers’s manuscripts revealed the explicit advocacy of Presbyterian ideas. See Eales, ‘A Road to Revolution’ and Nicholas Tyacke, ‘The Fortunes of English Puritanism, 1603–1640’ in Aspects of English Protestantism (Manchester, 2001), ch. 4. 42  W.A. Shaw, A History of the English Church during the Civil War and under the Commonwealth, 1640–1660, 2 vols (London, 1900), I, p. 6. 43  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 464–5. Tom Webster, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c. 1620–1643 (Cambridge, 1997). Again, Nicholas Tyacke’s stress on broader continuities across Elizabethan and early Stuart puritanism is an important exception to the general historiography that has argued for the redirection of puritanism in the early seventeenth century. Tyacke, ‘The Fortunes of English Puritanism, 1603–1640’. 44  Ha, English Presbyterianism, 1590–1640. 45  Keith Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism: A History of English and Scottish Churches of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden, 1982). For a recent case study on the Amsterdam English Reformed Church and of its relationship to Presbyterians in England, see Ha, English Presbyterianism, chs 6–7. 46  Ha, English Presbyterianism, pp. 59–67, 91–6, and Polly Ha, ‘Godly Globalization: Calvinism in Bermuda’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 66 (2015), 543–61.


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A hitherto unexplored archive of Walter Travers’ papers reveals the Presbyterians’ continued agitation for further reformation and assault upon episcopal ­hierarchy.47 Included in Travers’ papers is a scribal publication en­titled ‘The Reformed Government’ that was written at the tail end of Elizabeth’s reign. Arguing for the abolition of bishops, it offers one of the most robust responses to the slew of conformist allegations of popular political sedition that flooded the late sixteenth century. This includes Richard Hooker’s learned Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity, which itself was prompted by his famous controversy with Travers in the Temple Church in the mid-1580s. Defending royal supremacy, ‘The Reformed Government’ denies that the replacement of bishops with elders would detract from the Queen’s supremacy. It does so by  transposing Presbyterianism onto the English model, creating nominal ­bishops appointed by the crown to close the gap between Presbyterianism and episcopacy. But ‘The Reformed Government’ goes even further. Indicting the bishops as evil counsellors, it claims that they are single-handedly responsible for halting ecclesiastical and moral reform and, by extension, provoking divine wrath and plunging England into its worst years economically.48 Whilst addressing itself to magistrates, judges, and ‘all those that be in authority’, ‘The Reformed Government’ also directs its arguments to ‘all equall and indifferent persons whosoever’.49 Here was an ecclesiastical version of mixed monarchy expounded in both theory and practice, complete with elaborate plans for local implementation.50 Thus, whilst Presbyterians such as Travers remained within the Church of England (and publically silent), they kept the language of ‘root and branch’ abolition of episcopacy in currency before it was discredited by Laudian pol­icies.51 They continued to propose an alternative reformed model of church government as a viable option. They even helped universalize notions of popular sovereignty before they entered into wider public debate during the mid-seventeenth century. During this half century of apparent silence, the Presbyterians also gave further definition to the development of Congregational ‘independency’ by coining the name as a term of abuse. For when the Puritan Henry Jacob erected his independent congregation in Southwark in 1616, a panel of Presbyterians challenged Jacob’s ecclesiology, introducing the phrase ‘independency’ to ­condemn his experiment.52 Here Travers and his Presbyterian colleagues 47  For an overview and analysis of these manuscripts, see Ha, English Presbyterianism, and ‘Reformed Government’, eds. Polly Ha, Jonathan D. Moore, and Edda Frankot (Oxford, 2021). 48  Ha et al., ‘Reformed Government’, ‘Preface’. 49  TCD MS 140, fol. 66. 50  See Collinson, Patrick, ‘The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I’, in his Elizabethan Essays (London, 1994), John Guy, The Second Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (Cambridge, 1995), and Alexandra Gadja, ‘Political Culture in the 1590s: The “Second Reign of Elizabeth” ’, History Compass, 8 (2010). 51  Ha, English Presbyterianism, pp. 27–36. 52  Ha, English Presbyterianism, ch. 3.

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gave extensive argumentation for the legitimacy of ecclesiastical authority beyond the individual congregation. This decidedly challenges those accounts of Congregationalism which contend that it was a natural extension of the Elizabethan Presbyterian and the Reformed tradition. For although the Presbyterians remained relatively silent on the authority of synods and assemblies in their earlier Elizabethan works, they had always operated on the assumption of a national Church and maintained a polity based on representative government. Moreover, when pressed by his adversaries, Jacob himself ­confessed to pushing reform further than Calvin.53 Indeed, by identifying the ­concept of ‘independence’ in the New Testament, he was universalizing the concept and extending its potential reach beyond an elite circle of learned men.54 All this is not to propose a static history of dissenting experiences that directly converted into later denominational parties. For the Presbyterians continued to adapt their practice and emphasis based on their changing circumstances from the late sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. Nor is it to suggest that the only two viable dissenting traditions in early modern England were Presbyterian and Congregational polities. For it was through rigorous debate between the Presbyterians and their interlocutors that ecclesiastical variations emerged over the course of the seventeenth century, including moderate episcopacy and alternate forms of Congregational polity.55 However, it was precisely because the Presbyterians continued to consider themselves at one with their episcopal and Congregational brethren that they sustained their engagement with them and refused to accept the idea of a dissenting tradition.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Collinson, Patrick, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London, 1967). Collinson, Patrick, ‘Ecclesiastical Vitriol: Religious Satire in the 1590s and the Invention of Puritanism’, in John Guy, ed., The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 150–70. Collinson, Patrick, Richard Bancroft and Elizabethan Anti-Puritanism (Cambridge, 2013). Collinson, Patrick, Craig, John, and Usher, Brett, eds, Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church: Dedham and Bury St Edmunds, 1582–1590 (Woodbridge, 2003). 53  For the novelty and radical implications of Jacob’s independency, see Polly Ha, ‘Ecclesiastical Independence and the Freedom of Consent’, in Quentin Skinner and Martin van Gelderen, eds, Freedom and the Construction of Europe (Cambridge, 2013), ch. 4. For the full text, see Polly Ha, Jonathan D. Moore, and Edda Frankot, eds, The Puritans on Independence (Oxford, 2017). 54  Ha, The Puritans on Independence, pp. 19–25. 55  Ha, English Presbyterianism, pp. 67–73, 91–6.


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Eales, Jacqueline, ‘A Road to Revolution: The Continuity of Puritanism, 1559–1642’, in Christopher Durston and Jacqueline Eales, eds, The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560–1700, (Basingstoke, 1996), pp. 184–209. Gunther, Karl, Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525–1590 (Cambridge, 2014). Guy, John, ‘The Elizabethan Establishment and the Ecclesiastical Polity’, in The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 126–49. Ha, Polly, English Presbyterianism, 1590–1640 (Palo Alto, CA, 2011). Ha, Polly, Moore, Jonathan  D., Frankot, Edda, eds, The Puritans on Independence (Oxford, 2017). Ha, Polly, Moore, Jonathan  D., Frankot, Edda, eds, Reformed Government (Oxford, 2021). Knox, S.J., Walter Travers: Paragon of Elizabethan Puritanism (London, 1962). Lake, Peter, ‘Presbyterianism, the Idea of a National Church and the Argument from Divine Right’, in Peter Lake and Maria Dowling, eds, Protestantism and the National Church in Sixteenth Century England (London, 1987), pp. 193–224. Lake, Peter, Anglicans and Puritans? Presbyterianism and English Conformist Thought from Whitgift to Hooker (London, 1988). Lake, Peter, ‘The Elizabethan Puritan Movement’ in ‘Patrick Collinson and his Historical Legacy’, History, 100 (2015), 517–34. Mendle, Michael, Dangerous Positions: Mixed Government, the Estates of the Realm, and the Making of the Answer to the XIX Propositions (Tuscaloosa, AL, 1985). Pearson, A.F. Scott, Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism (Cambridge, 1925). Pearson, A.F. Scott, Church and State: Political Aspects of Sixteenth Century Puritanism (Cambridge, 1928). Peel, Albert, ed., The Seconde Parte of a Register (Cambridge, 1915). Shagan, Ethan, ‘The English Inquisition: Constitutional Conflict and Ecclesiastical Law in the 1590s’, Historical Journal, 47 (2004), 541–65. Sprunger, Keith, Dutch Puritanism: A History of English and Scottish Churches of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden, 1982). Tyacke, Nicholas, ‘The Fortunes of English Puritanism, 1603–1640’, in his Aspects of English Protestantism (Manchester, 2001), pp. 111–31. Walsham, Alexandra, ed., ‘Special Issue: Patrick Collinson and His Historiographical Legacy’, History, 100 (2015), 507–625. Webster, Tom, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c. 1620–1643 (Cambridge, 1997).

2 Presbyterians in the English Revolution Elliot Vernon

The position of the Presbyterians in the English Revolution (the period 1640–1660) in a volume on the history of English Dissent is perhaps somewhat anomalous. The Presbyterians in this period were not, and did not see themselves as, Dissenters. Indeed, arguably after 1645 they perceived themselves as the representative clergy of the Church of England as established by law (or at least by parliamentary ordinance). Presbyterianism developed, as Edmund Calamy would put it, as a movement from within the Church of England to ‘reform the Reformation itself ’. Presbyterians sought to realize the long-term moderate Puritan ambitions of godly rule, evangelical religion in the parishes, and the alignment of the Church of England with polity of the post-1638 Church of Scotland and the continental Reformed churches.1 Yet despite these reformist and establishmentarian ambitions, by 1662 the English Presbyterians would be amongst the principal leaders of the newly emerging Dissent against a Church of England they had defended, and to some degree in the chaos of 1659–60, helped to restore.

THE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF MIDSEVENTEENTH-CENTURY PRESBY TERIANISM One of the major problems for historians has been to decide when in the early 1640s Presbyterianism emerged in England. As Tom Webster has put it, in relation to the period 1641–43: ‘Where, then, are the Presbyterians to be found?’2 A.P. Martinich states that it would be ‘wrong to think that prior to the opening 1  Edmund Calamy, England’s Looking Glasse (London, 1642), p. 46. 2  Tom Webster, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c.1620–1643 (Cambridge, 2003), p. 327. Elliot Vernon, Presbyterians in the English Revolution In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0003


The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I

of the Assembly of Divines, the members knew what system of church governance they were for. They were clear or unified in their thoughts only about what system they were against.’3 This position can, in part, be traced back to the memoirs of Richard Baxter. For Baxter, Presbyterianism was ‘but a stranger’ to the English clergy, who were called ‘Presbyterian’ by the ‘vulgar’ but opposed the office of ‘lay’ elders and hankered after a reformed episcopacy.4 Despite being an obvious self-projection of his own position, few historians have questioned Baxter’s account. It is clear that the term ‘Presbyterian’, in the religious sense, was often applied by contemporaries to those who believed in a national Church of England teaching Reformed doctrine and purged of the remaining elements of medieval Catholic worship. As it became clear that the parliaments of the 1650s would not impose the Presbyterian legislation of the late 1640s, this position became the de facto position of majority of godly ministers. William Shaw, in the late nineteenth century, took up the tradition of Baxter to argue that mid-seventeenth-century calls for Presbyterian church government was an unwelcome Scottish import whose principles sat ill with the English character.5 By the twentieth century, this argument had reached a level of orthodoxy, so that citation of an uncritical quotation from Baxter was often enough to dismiss the existence of English Presbyterianism before the Long Parliament’s need for Scottish military aid in 1643.6 Nevertheless, recent research has challenged some aspects of this historiographical orthodoxy. It is now clear that in addition to those who sought godly doctrine and practice, but were willing to accept a prudential approach to matters of church polity, there were English Puritans who can be described as Presbyterians in the more restrictive sense. In the 1630s a group of nonconformists led by the minister John Ball developed important distinctions that would form the bedrock of English Presbyterian theory in the mid-seventeenth century.7 Ball argued that the ordained ministry received the ‘power of the keys’ to administer churches immediately from Christ. This broke with ‘nonseparating Congregationalist’ thought, which saw the keys as being given directly to the church as a whole and only used by ministers with the consent of the ­people. Ball’s circle also argued that many of the churches in the cities of the New Testament era were collections of congregations governed by a single

3  A.P.  Martinich, ‘Presbyterians in Behemoth’, in Tomaž Mastnak, ed., Hobbes’s Behemoth: Religion and Democracy (Exeter, 2009), p. 118. 4  Richard Baxter, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, ed. Matthew Sylvester (London, 1696), Part II, p. 146. 5  William Shaw, A History of the English Church during the Civil Wars and under the Commonwealth (London, 1900), pp. 6–7. 6  See for example, Robert  S.  Paul, The Assembly of the Lord: Politics and Religion in the Westminster Assembly and the ‘Grand Debate’ (Edinburgh 1985), ch. 4. 7  Lesley Ann Rowe, ‘The Worlds of Arthur Hildersham 1563–1632’ (PhD thesis, University of Warwick, 2009), pp. 154–5, 206–8.

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common presbytery.8 Although Ball died in 1640, members of his group, particularly the Westminster Assembly divines Simeon Ashe and William Rathband, would be prominent in the early 1640s in advancing arguments for Presbyterianism. Another nonconformist connected to Ball’s conference was Thomas Paget of Blackley, who in summer 1641 published his brother John Paget’s influential posthumous treatise for Presbyterian church government.9 Paget’s treatise would join a number of English works advocating a Presbyterian reformation of the Church of England published as early as January 1641.10 The most important group in the early 1640s to advance Presbyterian arguments, however, were the ministers writing under the acronym Smectymnuus: Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William Spurstowe. This group, who met at Edmund Calamy’s house in Aldermanbury, London, was acting in coordination with the parliamentarian junto peers and gentlemen centred around the Earl of Warwick. They had been integral to the national clerical campaign against the Laudian canons of 1640.11 By early 1641 the Aldermanbury group was working alongside Scottish Covenanter ministers such as George Gillespie and Alexander Henderson as well as Congregationalists such as Jeremiah Burroughes. Tom Webster has recently argued that Smectymnuus were, in the round, not Presbyterians but rather advocated primitive episcopacy.12 It is clear that the Smectymnuus group emerged out of a period of reflection concerning the nature of the earliest episcopacy. In 1639 Thomas Young had written a Latin treatise defending the role of a presidential bishop and Cornelius Burges claimed in 1659 that the Aldermanbury circle had never spoken a word ‘tending to the extirpacion of all Episcopacy; but only to reduce it to the Primitive’ during meetings with the parliamentary opposition leaders in 1640–1.13 Despite Burges’ later assertions, Smectymnuus’ March 1641 pamphlet An Answer to a Booke Entitled An Humble Remonstrance, a critique of Bishop Joseph Hall’s defence of divine right episcopacy, advocates, as Carol Schneider puts it, a ‘latitudinarian’ Presbyterianism that could accommodate different 8  The thought of Ball and his circle is analysed in Carol Geary Schneider, ‘Godly Order in Church Half-Reformed: The Disciplinarian Legacy, 1540–1641’ (PhD thesis, Harvard University, 1986), chs 5 and 6; Polly Ha, English Presbyterianism, 1590–1640 (Stanford, CA, 2011), pp. 60–2; Michael P. Winship, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, MA, 2012), p. 291. 9  John Paget, A Defence of Church Government Exercised in Presbyteriall . . . Assemblies (London, 1641). 10  English Presbyterian tracts in this period include [John Bernard?], A Short View of the Praelaticall Church of England (n.p. 1641); [Anon], The Beauty of Godly Government in a Church Reformed (n.p. 1641); Richard Byfield, The Power of the Christ of God (London, 1641), [Anon.], A Forme of Ecclesiastical Government (London, 1642). 11  John Adamson, The Noble Revolt: The Overthrow of Charles I (London, 2007), pp. 79–80. 12  Webster, Godly Clergy, pp. 320–1, 323, 327. 13  Thomas Young, Dies Dominica (1639), pp. 89–92. Published in English as The Lords Day (London, 1672), pp. 277–80.


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‘godly’ positions on church polity.14 Smectymnuus’ key argument was that the words ‘presbyter’ and ‘bishop’ were synonymous terms in the New Testament for the office of the ministers of a single church. The earliest churches, for example the seven churches of Revelation 2–3, were churches governed by a collective presbytery rather than a singular bishop.15 Following Jerome and Theodore Beza, Smectymnuus argued that the office of the single ruling bishop came into the early church as a response to schism and heresy. The emergence of the bishop as a distinct governing office was therefore of human and not divine institution.16 This primitive presidential episcopacy had ultimately served as ‘a stirrup for Antichrist to get into his saddle’ of riding the Church into popery.17 Smectymnuus called on parliament to ‘abrogate’ episcopacy and to apply a model of church government that was based on ‘Scripture, the Sanctuary of the Lord’.18 The Smectymnuans’ Presbyterianism can be seen by their reference to the confessions of the continental Reformed churches on church officers, their defence of the divine institution of the ruling elder, and their advocacy of consociations of congregations into provincial and national synods.19 In a second work, published in June 1641, the Smectymnuans developed their arguments further, asserting that the house congregations of the larger cities during the New Testament era worshipped under the oversight of a common city-wide presbytery.20 The existence of such Presbyterian ideas in 1641, however, should not be taken to signify that Presbyterianism in England was widespread or that it was an entirely coherent position. Many godly ministers and almost all members of the Long Parliament looked for a settlement that reformed the bishops in the direction of an idealized pastoral episcopate. More importantly, speeches in the House of Commons in 1641 illustrated that the retention of the royal supremacy was a primary concern of the Long Parliament, particularly in its ‘king-in-parliament’ guise. The reticence to abolish episcopacy outright was also noted by the Scottish minister Robert Baillie, who in February 1641 wrote that while English ministers were ‘for the erecting of a kind of Presbyteries, and for bringing down the Bishops in all things’ they could not reach consensus on the total abolition of episcopacy.21 Nevertheless, the idea of a fully fledged Presbyterian reformation grew amongst many clergy as 1641 progressed. In around November 1641 an accord was agreed at Edmund Calamy’s house in Aldermanbury to maintain godly unity by not publicly publishing differing opinions on church government. 14  Carol Geary Schneider, ‘Godly Order in Church Half-Reformed’, pp. 462, 465. 15  Smectymnuus, An Answer to a Booke entitled An Humble Remonstrance (London, 1641), pp. 58–60. 16  Smectymnuus, An Answer, pp. 27–35, 91. 17  Smectymnuus, An Answer, pp. 29–30. 18  Smectymnuus, An Answer, p. 23. 19  Smectymnuus, An Answer, pp. 53–8, 69–75. 20  Smectymnuus, A Vindication of the Answer to the Humble Remonstrance (London, 1641), p. 152. 21  The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, ed. David Laing, 3 vols (Edinburgh, 1841–2), I, p. 303.

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The  effect of the accord was to largely close down debate on alternative forms  of church government to episcopacy in the public sphere until the winter of 1643/4. However, this did not stop private proselytizing for Presbyterianism and, by July 1642, the London ministers could assure the General Assembly of the Kirk in Edinburgh that ‘the desire of the most godly and considerable part . . . is, that the Presbyterian government . . . may be established amongst us’.22

THE WESTMINSTER ASSEMBLY The cause of English Presbyterianism was further advanced by parliament’s poor military showing against the royalists in the first years of the Civil War.23 Parliament’s need for military aid from the Scottish Covenanter army in the latter half of 1643 meant that the parliament could no longer hold off its promise, made in the Grand Remonstrance of December 1641, for an assembly of divines to settle matters of ecclesiastical government. The fruit of the parliamentarian and Covenanter alliance was the Solemn League and Covenant, a pact that promised to bring the churches ‘in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction’. English Presbyterian divines, such as Thomas Case, however, made it clear that the Covenant did not bind the English to establish a facsimile of the Scottish system.24 Both English and Scottish Presbyterians stressed the distinction between those parts of church polity that were essential and set by Scripture, and those aspects that were circumstantial. These circumstantials’ allowed for local variation according to reason and the rule of ‘just and necessary consequence’.25 This was particularly important in England, as it was hoped that the Congregationalist’s desires for relative autonomy at the congregational level could be accommodated within the national Church settlement.26 The Assembly first met in July 1643. Its composition was made of those English ministers who were already convinced of Presbyterianism, such as the Smectymnuus circle or old nonconformists such as Simeon Ashe, and a handful of respected Congregationalists. Some English delegates were more recent converts to the Presbyterian position. For example, the Wiltshire minister 22  T. Pitcairn, ed., Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1638–1842 (Edinburgh, 1843) pp. 66–7. 23  David Scott, Politics and War in the Three Stuart Kingdoms, 1637–49 (Basingstoke, 2003), ch. 2. 24  Thomas Case, The Quarrel of the Covenant (London, 1643), pp. 40–4. 25  G. Gillespie, An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1641), p. 160; London Provincial Assembly, A Vindication of the Presbyteriall-Government and Ministry (London, 1650), p. 4. 26  This is one of the main topics of Hunter Powell, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution, 1638–1644 (Manchester, 2015).


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Thomas Bayley explained on 30 November 1643 that he had been satisfied with Elizabethan justifications for episcopacy until 1642, when he began to study the ‘Geneva discipline’.27 It is probable, however, that the largest group in the Assembly were undecided ‘Puritan’ clergy who were leaning towards a Presbyterian settlement as a fait accompli in the face of the parliamentarian animus against the bishops. Only Daniel Featly represented traditional episcopalianism and he was formally expelled from the Assembly on 23 October 1643 for corres­ ponding with Archbishop Ussher in royalist Oxford.28 Likewise, in September 1643, Cornelius Burges and William Price suffered temporary suspension for protesting that the Covenant locked out the possibility of a ‘primitive’ or ‘reduced’ episcopacy. From October 1643 the Assembly was dominated by the arguments of the Presbyterian leadership, the Congregationalist ministers, and those who would later be termed Erastians.29 It is clear that the many of the English Presbyterian clergy owed a substantial intellectual debt to the Scottish commissioners who joined the Assembly at the end of October 1643. The Calvinist two kingdoms theory drawn from the theology of Calvin, Thomas Cartwright, and Andrew Melville had been deployed in 1641 by the Surrey Presbyterian Richard Byfield. However, it was the works of Scottish Covenanter theologians such as Samuel Rutherford and George Gillespie that argued for a two kingdom theory perspective in a systematic way.30 This political theology held that Christ ruled the secular world as one of the divine persons of the trinity, but ruled his spiritual kingdom in his human capacity as the mediator between God and fallen humanity.31 One of the consequences of this position was the clericalist argument that Christ-as-mediator held direct kingship over the spiritual kingdom, which Presbyterians associated with the visible church. It followed that the kingly mediator’s earthly ministers, who for Presbyterians were the Church eldership, ruled the Church by divine right. The Christian magistrate possessed no ‘internal’ power over the doctrine and discipline of the Established Church, holding only an ‘external’ ius circa 27  Chad Van Dixhoorn, ed., The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly (Oxford, 2012), II, pp. 386–7. 28  Paul, The Assembly of the Lord, p. 105. For Featley’s Westminster assembly speeches in defence of Episcopacy, see [Daniel Featley], Sacra Nemesis: The Levites Scourge (Oxford, 1644), pp. 12–44. 29  ‘Journal of the Proceedings of the Assembly of Divines’ in The Whole Works of the Rev. John Lightfoot, ed. J.R. Pitman (London. 1824), XIII, pp. 11–13, 15. 30  Richard Byfield, The Power of the Christ of God (London, 1641). For a comprehensive study of Calvin’s two kingdom political theology, see Matthew J. Tuininga, Calvin’s Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church (Cambridge, 2017), esp. ch. 4. For an example of Scottish deployment of Cartwright, see Samuel Rutherford, A Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbyterie in Scotland (London, 1642), pp. 294–5. 31  For the Scottish Covenanter’s use of two kingdoms theory, see W.D.J. McKay, ‘George Gillespie and the Westminster Assembly: The Defence of Presbyterianism’, Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, 13 (1995), 51–71; David McKay, ‘Samuel Rutherford on Civil Government’, in Samuel Vogan, ed., Samuel Rutherford: An Introduction to his Theology (Edinburgh, 2012) pp. 261–4.

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sacra to require the ministry to perform their duties and to assist the Church by lending the civil sword to its aid.32 One the key issues that pervaded the Presbyterian debate in the 1640s and 1650s was the question of the proper location of power in the Church. The Presbyterians were anxious to avoid giving any concession to the separatist position that power in the Church was reposed collectively in the members of the congregation. In an early debate in the Westminster Assembly on the power of the keys, the majority decided, in the face of strong Congregationalist opposition, that Christ had given the keys of Church power to Peter as representative of the Apostles and thus to their successors, the presbyters.33 On this line of argument, the ‘church’ was taken to signify the ‘ecclesiastical senate’ of presbyters acting together in a consistorial court to exercise church censures. In line with much early modern thought on the nature of polity, the Presbyterians drew on classical and civic notions of a mixed constitution to describe the government of the Church. The Presbyterian theory of ecclesiastical polity therefore neatly mirrored the 1640s parliamentarian theory of limited or mixed monarchy in the civil state.34 In terms of the Church’s constitution, Christ reigned as king, with the ministers holding the place of the ‘aristocracy’ or ‘senators’, and the people giving their democratic consent to rule by their choice in the election of their representative elders.35 This view had a number of consequences that were never fully resolved by the Assembly. The first issue was whether the primary ‘unit’ of the church was the congregational presbytery or the local classis consisting of the elders of number of congregations. For example, in February 1644 Herbert Palmer told the Assembly ‘It may be . . . that, in such towns as London or Cambridge, there should be no fixed distinct congregations, but only one church’, a position that Lazarus Seaman would revive in May to the chagrin of the Scottish commissioner George Gillespie.36 A connected debate, one that would rumble on throughout the 1640s and 50s through the writings of Samuel Hudson and his opponents, was whether power in the Church ascended upwards from particular congregations to synods and assemblies, or whether Church power derived from the universal visible Church to be exercised in particular assemblies by

32  A clear expositions of this theory is found in Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici (third edn,London, 1654), a work initially published in 1646. 33  Van Dixhoorn, The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, II, pp. 231–333; Powell, The Crisis of British Protestantism, pp. 63–75. 34  Michael Mendle, Dangerous Positions: Mixed Government, the Estates of the Realm and the Making of the Answer to the xix Propositions (Alabama, 1985). 35  Daniel Cawdrey, Vindiciae Clavium (London, 1645), sig.A3v, p. 28, George Walker, A  Modell of the Government of the Church under the Gospel by Presbyters (London, 1646), pp. 3–8. 36  George Gillespie, Notes of the Debates and Proceedings of the Assembly of Divines (Edinburgh, 1846), pp. 9 (Palmer), 56 (Seaman).


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church officers.37 The majority in the Assembly ultimately chose the latter position, seeing Church power as the exclusive preserve of presbyters. The issue of the proper location of Church power was not the only issue that English Presbyterians disagreed about amongst themselves. As the comment from Richard Baxter cited above shows, many English divines rejected the scriptural warrant for the ruling elder. Faced with an internal rebellion against the office of ruling elder, the Assembly voted it to be ‘prudential’ and discernible from Scripture rather than fully divinely commanded.38 However, Baxter’s view can be taken too far; many key English Presbyterians both inside and outside of the Westminster Assembly did advocate a divine warrant for the ruling elder.39 A further concern of English Presbyterians was the desire to protect the distinction between the ordained ministry and the laity by denying that any but the ordained ministry could preach.40 In order to preserve the ministry, the established Presbyterian classes in the late 1640s and 1650s imposed stringent requirements on those seeking ordination and Presbyterians would engage in a decade-long controversy with advocates of lay preaching.41 For many English Presbyterian divines, however, the key instrument of the Presbyterian system was the elders’ power to have oversight over admission to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Westminster Assembly therefore set about making the Lord’s Supper an instrument for reformation and a marker of the godly within the parish system.42 It was hoped that these measures would undermine the arguments of Separatists against the Church of England and draw them back into a fully Reformed national Church.43 In terms of theology, the Westminster divines and others, particularly the controversialist Roger Drake of St Peter, Westcheap in London, held to the position that the Lord’s Supper was an ordinance instituted by Christ that acted as a seal or sign of the covenant of grace. As such the Lord’s Supper confirmed the faith of the converted, 37  Powell, The Crisis of British Protestantism, pp. 75–80; Sungho Lee, ‘All Subjects of the Kingdom of Christ: John Owen’s Conceptions of Christian Unity and Schism’ (PhD thesis, Calvin Theological Seminary, 2007), pp. 62–4, 133–5. 38  Paul, The Assembly of the Lord, pp. 163–74. 39  See, for example, Smectymnuus, An Answer, pp. 69–75; London Provincial Assembly, A  Vindication of the Presbyterial Government (London, 1651), pp. 34–56; First Classis of the Province of Lancashire, The Censures of the Church Revived (London, 1659), pp. 81, 101–21. 40  Paul, The Assembly of the Lord, pp. 143–5. 41  For examples, see London Provincial Assembly, Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici (London, 1654). See Rosemary O’Day, ‘Immanuel Bourne: A Defence of the Ministerial Order’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 27 (1976), 101–14. 42  Elliot Vernon ‘A Ministry of the Gospel: The Presbyterians during the English Revolution’, in Christopher Durston and Judith Maltby, eds, Religion in Revolutionary England (Manchester, 2006), pp. 115–36. 43  Chad Van Dixhoorn, ‘Politics and Religion in the Westminster Assembly and the “Grand Debate” ’ in Robert Armstrong and Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin, eds, Insular Christianity: Alternative Models of the Church in Britain and Ireland, c.1570−c.1700 (Manchester, 2013), pp. 131–8.

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but did not convert sinners, which was the proper role of the preached Word. The consequence of this was that the Lord’s Supper was to be kept away from the scandalous and profane, as well as those too ignorant of basic Christian doctrine to follow the  Apostle Paul’s injunction of self-examination before coming to the Lord’s Supper.44 This doctrine proved to be controversial and led to a substantial debate throughout the 1640s and 50s with those, such as William Prynne or John Humphrey, who believed that participation in the Lord’s Supper had the power to bring about the conversion of sinners and should be freely administered.45 The Westminster Assembly’s demands for ecclesiastical autonomy in vetting admission to the Lord’s Supper conflicted with the dominant anti-clericalist political current in parliament. This view saw parliament as wielding ecclesiastical supremacy and thus made parliament the competent body to determine the doctrine and discipline of the Church within its national boundaries.46 The clash flared up in 1644 over the issue of ordination and became overtly conflictual in 1645–6 when the Westminster Assembly demanded an autonomous jurisdiction for the Church over admission to the Lord’s Supper.47 Led by common lawyers such as John Selden, parliament finally quelled the Assembly’s clericalism by threatening it with praemunire on 30 April 1646.48 In 1645 the Scottish commissioners had coined the neologism ‘Erastian’, after the midsixteenth-century Zwinglian Thomas Erastus, to describe the position of the English parliament and those clergy, such as Thomas Coleman, who criticized Presbyterian clericalist ambitions in the debate. The struggle over control of the Church spilt out into the public sphere, where it contributed to the characterization of post-Civil War parliamentarian factions as ‘Presbyterian’ and ‘Independent’. The result of the struggle, which ran alongside the falling out of the Westminster ‘war party’ with their Scottish Covenanter allies, was that parliament’s legislation produced what English and Scottish Presbyterians considered ‘a lame Erastian presbytery’ lacking the necessary power to effect reformation.49

44  1 Corinthians 11:28–29 (KJV): ‘But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.’ 45  See  E.  Brooks Holifield, The Covenant Sealed: The Development of Puritan Sacramental Theology in Old and New England, 1570–1720 (New Haven, CT, 1974), pp. 109–26. 46  On this topic, see D. Alan Orr, ‘Sovereignty, Supremacy and the Origins of the English Civil War’, History, 87 (2002), 474–90. 47  Paul, The Assembly of the Lord, pp. 492–515. 48  Johann  P.  Sommerville, ‘Hobbes, Selden, Erastianism and the History of the Jews’, in G. A. J. Rogers and Tom Sorell, eds, Hobbes and History (London and New York, 2000), pp. 160–88; Ofir Haivry, John Selden and the Western Political Tradition (Cambridge, 2017), ch. 6; Van Dixhoorn, The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, IV, pp. 83–97. 49  Baillie, Letters and Journals, II, p. 362.


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TOLERATION Religious toleration and liberty of conscience have been seen as amongst the key touchstones of the rise of modernity in the Western world.50 Consequently, the English Presbyterians’ opposition to toleration, a corollary of their commitment to the post-Reformation Calvinist model of the confessional state and Church, has won them the disdain of many historians.51 However, like the majority of European theologians, English Presbyterians have to be understood within the Augustinian background of Reformation thought, which saw a degree of religious coercion as necessary to maintain the peace and unity of the Church and Commonwealth.52 From the early 1640s, Presbyterians perceived that the toleration of heresy and schism represented a threat similar to that which popery had previously posed under the Tudors and early Stuarts. The Presbyterian heresiographer Thomas Edwards complained in 1641 that after the Long Parliament’s vanquishing of popery, England had ‘fallen from Scylla to Charibdis, from popish Innovations . . . to damnable Heresie . . . our evils are not removed . . . one disease and Devil hath left us, and another as bad is come in their room’.53 The answer to the rise of the sects, which threatened both individual souls and the social order, was the establishment of a uniform Presbyterian polity operating in coordination with the godly magistrate. Many English Presbyterians, however, were eager to find means to accommodate those confessionally orthodox Calvinists who could not agree with them on issues of church government. In particular, the ‘magisterial’ strand of  Congregationalists and those ‘primitive’ episcopalians who believed in a Presbyterian system under the oversight of a presidential bishop were courted for accommodation.54 Efforts at accommodation were made through parliament’s Committee for Accommodation, which met in two sessions in autumn 1644 and winter 1645–6. In the final session, the Presbyterian leadership went as far as offering a ‘forbearance’ to Congregationalist churches to practise outside of the national Church. However, the condition for this offer was that such churches subscribe to the Westminster confession of faith and directory of 50  The classic study being W.K. Jordan, The Development of Religious Toleration in England, 4 vols (Gloucester, MA, 1965). 51  See, for example, Richard L. Greaves, ‘The Ordination Controversy and the Spirit of Reform in Puritan England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 21 (1970), 233; Murray Tolmie, The Triumph of the Saints: The Separate Churches of London, 1616–1649 (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 131–6, 187, 191. 52  John Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558–1689 (Harlow, 2000), ch. 2. 53  Thomas Edwards, Gangraena (London, 1646), Part 1, sig. A3. 54  For a Presbyterian statement concerning desire for broad accommodation, see London Provincial Assembly, Jus Divinum Ministerii Evangelici (London, 1654), ‘To The Reader’, sigs. B2v–B3. For discussions between the London Presbyterian leadership and the godly episcopalian John Gauden for Presbyterianism with a fixed president, see A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, ed. Thomas Birch (London, 1742), V, pp. 597–601; G. Abernathy Jr, ‘Richard Baxter and the Cromwellian Church’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 24 (1961), 224–5.

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worship. This went too far for the Congregationalist leadership, who wished to see a broader settlement around basic Trinitarian fundamentals.55 Although English Presbyterians had bemoaned the sects since 1641, the notorious anti-toleration campaign of 1646–8, exemplified by Thomas Edwards’s Gangraeana, resulted from this failure to reach accommodation. This campaign drew on the national Presbyterian network, with many ministers in the counties supplying information to Edwards. Likewise, in 1648, 902 ministers from thirteen counties signed a series of printed Testimonies supporting a strictly Reformed confessional settlement in England.56

PRESBY TERIANISM IN PRACTICE As a result of these difficulties, the Presbyterian system in England was developed in a piecemeal fashion through a series of parliamentary ordinances that came into force between 1645 and 1648. The legislation was generally unsatisfactory and the initial parliamentary ordinance of 19 August 1645 for the election of elders came at the height of the struggle between the Westminster Assembly and parliament over admission to the Lord’s Supper. Consonant with parliament’s claim to wield the functions of the royal supremacy, the ordinance made a parliamentary committee, rather than the national synod, the final court of appeal on excommunication for sins not enumerated in the legislation. Further insult to the Assembly and other Presbyterians was offered by parliament by the ordinance of 14 March 1646, which made local committees of laymen the arbiters of what constituted sins worthy of suspension from the Lord’s Supper.57 The Assembly and the London clergy resisted parliament’s determination to retain final control of ecclesiastical affairs in England by refusing to establish Presbyterianism in the parishes until the system was granted full jurisdiction. Ultimately, compromise was reached in June, with parliament resorting to its initial scheme of a parliamentary committee acting as a final court of appeal. As Rosemary Bradley has pointed out, this led to a year of ‘fatal delay’ for the establishment of the Presbyterian system.58 With the political and religious crisis of the later 1640s, the projected Presbyterian reformation of the Church of England was largely rendered a dead letter. 55  Youngkwon Chung, ‘Parliament and the Committee for Accommodation’, Parliamentary History, 30 (2011), 289–308. 56  A.G. Matthews, Calamy Revised (Oxford, 1988), pp. 553–8; Ann Hughes, Gangraena and the English Revolution (Oxford, 2004), pp. 373–8. 57  For a narrative of this legislation and the struggles surrounding it, see George Yule, Puritans in Politics: The Religious Legislation of the Long Parliament 1640–1647 (Abingdon, 1981), ch. 7. 58  Rosemary Bradley, ‘ “Jacob and Esau Struggling in the Wombe”: A Study of Presbyterian and Independent Religious Conflicts 1640–1648’ (PhD thesis, University of Kent, 1975), ch. 8.


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The Presbyterian church discipline established in England was therefore incomplete and ramshackle. There are few records of Presbyterians actively using the power of suspension from communion or excommunication in the period. Richard Baxter appears to have excluded around five members of his Kidderminster congregation from communion during his ministry, but even this small number appears quite exceptional.59 In practice, ministers and parochial presbyteries obtained their desire for control over admission by either refusing admission to all but the known godly or suspending the celebration of the Lord’s Supper altogether.60 Few Presbyterian classes were formed and only London and Lancashire established provincial assemblies. Even where the functioning classes and provincial assemblies existed, the Presbyterian system was imperfect in operation. While the London Provincial Assembly assumed the mantle of leadership for English Presbyterianism after 1647, only eight out of twelve classes in the metropolitan area were formed in the late 1640s.61 One of these was to collapse in the mid-1650s, although two ‘classes’ made up solely of clergymen did form in the late 1650s.62 In Lancashire seven out of nine classical presbyteries met regularly.63 In the rest of England only a few classical presbyteries were set up. It has been discerned that individual classes more or  less operated in fourteen of the forty English counties.64 The extent of operations in these classes is unclear. For example, the Wirksworth classis in Derbyshire operated as a full classical presbytery, but it is probable that many of the other operating ‘classes’ may have existed solely as a presbytery for ordin­ ation and for local clerical fellowship.65 Ordination was an important function in maintaining the quality of the ministry, with Presbyterian classes administering around 700 ordinations in the period 1646–60.66 In areas where classes 59  Baxter, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, Part I, pp. 91–2. 60  Derek Hirst, ‘The Failure of Godly Rule in the English Republic’, Past and Present, 132 (1991), 38–41. 61  Lambeth Palace MS Sion L40.2/E64 (Minutes of the London Provincial Assembly 1647–1660); Charles E. Surman, ed., The Register-Booke of the Fourth Classis in the Province of London, 1646–59 (London, 1953). 62  Tai Liu, ‘The Founding of the London Provincial Assembly 1645–47’, Guildhall Studies in London History, 3 (1978), 119–29; Philip J. Anderson, ‘Sion College and the London Provincial Assembly, 1647–1660’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 37 (1986), 68–90. 63  W.A.  Shaw, ed., Material for an Account of the Provincial Synod of the County of Lancaster (Manchester, 1890); W.A. Shaw, ed., Minutes of the Manchester Presbyterian Classis, 3 vols (Manchester, 1890–1); W.A. Shaw, ed., Minutes of the Bury Presbyterian Classis, 2 vols (Manchester, 1896 and 1898). 64  Shaw, A History of the English Church, II, pp. 24–5; Charles E. Surman, ‘Classical Presbyteries in England, 1643–1660’ (MA thesis, University of Manchester, 1949), pp. 35–59. 65  J. Charles Cox, ed., ‘Minute Book of the Wirksworth Classis, 1651–1658’, Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 2 (1880), 135–222; Charles Surman, ‘Presbyterianism under the Commonwealth: The Wirksworth Classis Minutes, 1651–58’, Transactions of the Congregational History Society, 15 (1945–8), 163–176; and 16 (1949–51), 39–47; Stephen Orchard, Nonconformity in Derbyshire: A Study of Dissent, 1600–1800 (Eugene, OR, 2009), pp. 27–33. 66  Philip James Anderson, ‘Presbyterianism and the Gathered Churches in Old and New England, 1640–1662’ (DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 1979), p. 80. For a contemporary account of ordination by classis, see M.H. Lee, ed., Diaries and Letters of Philip Henry(London 1882), pp. 34–9.

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were not formed individual parishes with functioning elderships still existed. An example of this is the Shropshire town of Shrewsbury, where resistance to the election of ruling elders in outlying parishes prevented the critical mass of parishes necessary for the formation of a classis, but where the town church of St Chad’s had a functioning eldership led by the minister Thomas Paget.67 Why did Presbyterianism fail so dramatically in practice? English Presbyterians always saw the Presbyterian settlement as the reformation of the national Church of England rather than as a denomination amongst other denominations. This establishmentarian position put them in the potentially contradictory position where they envisaged parliament declaring and enforcing the Presbyterian church settlement in law, but legislating that the presbyteries operated by divine right. This meant that the Presbyterian settlement was essentially reliant on parliamentary will to effect a reformation from above. By the time of the establishment of the classes and provinces, parliament was unwilling to enforce the exclusive national Church settlement that the Presbyterians desired, and the Presbyterian system essentially was left to the whim of local ministers and supporting laity. This ‘vacuum at the centre’, as William Lamont has described it, meant that the Presbyterian system was fragile wherever it encountered local resistance.68 As John Morrill has shown, such resistance was widespread, scuppering the Presbyterian reformation of the Church of England.69 In addition the impoverished state of many of England’s churches also hampered the construction of the classical system, as many parishes could not afford a permanent minister. In 1648 a petition from the London Provincial Assembly found that forty parishes within the London area were too impoverished to afford the salary of a minister without financial augmentation or resorting to the pluralism common in the Laudian period.70

THE PRESBY TERIANS AND THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION Probably the fundamental reason for the failure of the English Presbyterianism was the revolutionary turn of political events that began in late 1648. Presbyterian ministers and laity actively opposed the army’s revolution, campaigning for a personal treaty with Charles I and condemning the New Model 67  Barbara Coulton, ‘The Fourth Shropshire Presbyterian Classis 1647–1662’, Shropshire History and Archaeology, 73 (1998), 34–5. 68  William Lamont, Godly Rule: Politics and Religion 1603–60 (London, 1969), pp. 136–58. 69  John Morrill, ‘The Church in England, 1642–1649’, in The Nature of the English Revolution: Essays by John Morrill (London, 1993), pp. 148–75. 70  Elliot Vernon, ‘The Sion College Conclave and London Presbyterianism during the English Revolution’ (PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 1999), pp. 99–107.


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Army’s putsch of the Long Parliament, the regicide, and the new Republic’s Engagement. As with previous mobilizations, the campaign against the army’s military intervention was led by the London ministers but received support from Presbyterian ministers and laity throughout the country.71 For example, the Presbyterian ministers of Lancashire and Cheshire met in conference at Warrington and issued A Plea for Non-Scribers counselling those who had taken the Covenant to refuse the Engagement as it was ‘in way of Competition’ with the defining oaths of the parliamentarian cause.72 Resistance to the regime led to the defining and fatal confrontation between the Commonwealth and the English Presbyterians in the form of the events known as Love’s Plot. With Charles II being crowned as King of the Scots in January 1651 according to the Solemn League and Covenant and with war breaking out between the two nations, the new Republic had every reason to fear a pro-Covenanter Presbyterian ‘fifth column’ in England. This fear became a reality when a communication network between London Presbyterians, Scottish Covenanters, and Presbyterian-royalists in the exiled royal court was uncovered. While the exiled conspirators asked for money and arms, the evidence suggests that the English conspirators were rather non-committal about supporting such an insurrection. Nevertheless, the discovery of Love’s Plot provided the Commonwealth with the reason to crush Presbyterian pulpit resistance to the regime, executing the minister Christopher Love and John Gibbons, a layman, and imprisoning a number of London and Lancashire ministers in the process.73 The Commonwealth’s actions were largely successful, with vocal anti-Commonwealth ministers such London’s William Jenkyn and Manchester’s Richard Heyrick taking the Engagement and remaining relatively quiet for the duration of the Rump Parliament.74 The establishment of the Cromwellian Protectorate and the legal removal of necessity for subscription to the Engagement brought some relief for English Presbyterians. Many found themselves employed by the Protectorate in central or local roles, serving on committees for the scheme of Triers and Ejectors. In addition they assisted Cromwellian attempts to reconcile the split between Protestors and Resolutioners in the Church of Scotland.75 Under the direction 71  For Presbyterians and the regicide, see Elliot Vernon, ‘The Quarrel of the Covenant: The London Presbyterians and the Regicide’, in Jason Peacey, ed., The Regicides and the Execution of Charles I (Basingstoke, 2001) pp. 202–24; Sean Kelsey, ‘The Death of Charles I’, The Historical Journal, 45 (2002), 735–9. 72  For this incident and Presbyterian opposition to the Engagement in Lancashire generally, see Alex Craven, ‘ “For the Better Uniting of this Nation”: The 1649 Oath of Engagement and the People of Lancashire’, Historical Research, 83 (2010), 83–101. 73  Vernon, ‘The Sion College Conclave’, ch. 7. 74  Blair Worden, The Rump Parliament, 1648–53 (Cambridge, 1974), pp. 247–8. 75  Ann Hughes, ‘ “The Public Profession of these Nations”: The National Church in Interregnum England’, in C. Durston and J. Maltby, eds, Religion in Revolutionary England (Manchester, 2007), pp. 93–112; Ann Hughes, ‘ “The Remembrance of Sweet Fellowship”: Relationships between English and Scottish Presbyterians in the 1640s and 1650s’, in R. Armstrong and T. Ó hAnnracháin, eds., Insular Christianity (Manchester, 2013), pp. 170–89.

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of the Congregationalist leader John Owen, the opening of the Protectorate saw attempts by leading Presbyterians and Congregationalists to put aside their former differences and settle a confession of faith in response to the challenges of Socinianism and Arminianism. This attempt, as Tim Cooper has shown, was largely scuppered by the opposition of Richard Baxter, whose star as the voice of moderate Puritanism had been rising since the early to mid-1650s.76 Nevertheless, the mid- to late 1650s saw a rapid decline in the classical presbyteries established in the 1640s. The London and Lancashire provinces made valiant efforts to fix their infrastructure, and to focus their efforts on evangelizing through a renewed focus on preaching and catechizing. By the later 1650s, however, the presbyteries began to crumble owing to chronic absenteeism and a loss of purpose.77 The declining fortunes of the classical presbyteries was matched by the rise of around fifteen unofficial county clerical associations in England, as well as at least one in Wales and two in Ireland. These largely clerical associations were variously composed of Presbyterians, parochial Congregationalists, and episcopalians, as well as the category of non-partisan ministers that Baxter called ‘mere Christians’.78

TOWARDS THE RESTORATION Many of these ecumenical but ultimately quasi-Presbyterian associations specifically aimed at uniting Calvinists in the face of threat of Quakers and other exponents of anti-formalist religion. The associations ultimately suffered from the same divisions that had divided the godly throughout the mid-seventeenthcentury crisis and they failed to establish themselves as regional church bodies (if that ever was the intention). By the later 1650s Presbyterianism had largely been discredited in practice in the eyes of the emerging generation of clergy. Many, like Simon Patrick, the future bishop of Ely, sought ordination both from a classis and from the remaining bishops still living from the Laudian period. Suspicion of Presbyterianism was assisted by the growing international acceptance of Archbishop Ussher’s scholarship on the early second-century letters of Ignatius of Antioch, which demonstrated the historicity of at least some kind of episcopacy in the early second-century Church.79 Henry Hammond’s mid76  Tim Cooper, John Owen, Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity (Farnham, 2011), pp. 179–95. 77  Shaw, A History of the English Church, II, pp. 98–126. 78  For the associations, see Shaw, A History of the English Church, II, pp. 152–65. See also Simon Burton, ‘The Heavenly Pattern of the Church: Trinitarian and Covenantal Themes in Richard Baxter’s Association Ecclesiology’, Ecclesiology, 10 (2014), 53–75. 79  Hugo de Quehen, ‘Politics and Scholarship in the Ignatian Controversy’, The Seventeenth Century, 13 (1998), 69–84; Sarah Mortimer, ‘Kingship and the “Apostolic Church”, 1620–1650’, Reformation and Renaissance Review, 13 (2011), 225–46.


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1650s use of Ussher’s scholarship to remount the case for diocesan episcopacy further challenged the intellectual basis of the Westminster Assembly’s model of divine right Presbyterianism.80 In the late 1650s, few English Presbyterians, save those in London and Lancashire, would defend the Assembly’s model of Presbyterianism in print.81 Richard Baxter explicitly abandoned the Westminster Assembly’s Presbyterian model, particularly the notion that a classis or provincial assembly should govern a number of congregations collectively. Baxter instead focused on a model of church government that identified the Ignatian bishop with the English parish minister.82 Baxter therefore retreated from the Westminster Assembly’s classical Presbyterianism to a pre-Civil War Puritan model that focused on the work of a single pastor. For the generation of Presbyterian ministers who began their careers bereft of any effective institutional settlement, such as Thomas Wadsworth or Oliver Heywood, Baxter’s thinking provided a practical solution for the continuing imperative of godly reformation.83 Baxter’s paradigm, therefore, would be the dominant model amongst the religious societies of Restoration Presbyterians. Mid-seventeenth-century Presbyterianism, like its Elizabethan predecessor, had always been a movement to reform the Church of England. After the fall of Richard Cromwell’s Protectorate and the chaotic series of military revolutions of 1659, England’s Presbyterians warmed to the re-establishment of the Stuart monarchy. Faced with the choice of advancing a toleration of the sectaries and Roman Catholics they had always opposed or the re-establishment of episcopacy in the Church of England, they chose to accept episcopacy. Following Baxter’s lead, the leading Presbyterian theorists Edmund Calamy and Simeon Ashe finally abandoned the Presbyterianism of the past twenty years. They declared to their Scottish counterparts in August 1660 that the only chance of retaining any aspect of Presbyterian discipline in the Restoration Church of England was by conceding to the re-establishment of episcopacy. The English ministers prayed that the Scots would look at this compromise as a practical necessity until God ‘be pleased to prepare the hearts of the People for his beautiful work’ rather than a ‘tergiversation from our principles or apostacy from

80  John W. Packer, The Transformation of Anglicanism, 1643–1660 (Manchester, 1969), pp. 108–28. 81  One such defence, however, was First Classis of the Province of Lancashire’s The Censures of the Church Revived (1659). 82  See, for example, Richard Baxter, Five Disputations of Church Government and Worship (London, 1659), pp. 77–91; J. William Black, Reformation Pastors: Richard Baxter and the Ideal of the Reformed Pastor (Milton Keynes, 2004), pp. 73–8. 83  For Wadsworth, see Eamon Duffy, ‘The Long Reformation: Catholicism, Protestantism and the Multitude’, in Nicholas Tyacke, ed., England’s Long Reformation, 1500–1800 (Abingdon, 1998), p. 47; Geoffrey Nuttall and Neil Keeble, eds, Calendar of the Correspondence of Richard Baxter, 2 vols (Oxford, 1991), I, pp. 172–3, 175–6, 190, 200–2, 213–16. For Hayward, see Samuel S. Thomas, Creating Communities in Restoration England: Parish and Congregation in Oliver Heywood’s Halifax (Leiden, 2013), pp. 38–41, 44–5.

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the Covenant’.84 The Presbyterian’s prayers for the people’s change of heart would never be answered.

CONCLUSION For English Presbyterians the Long Parliament opened the prospect of a second reformation of the Church of England, aligning it not only with the Church of Scotland but also the majority of European Reformed churches. This ambition, however, would be frustrated by the rapid and revolutionary political and religious currents of the period. Historians, often embarrassed by the Presbyterians’ Reformation rather than Enlightenment values, have tended to cast the English Presbyterians as bigoted and wrong-headed men of yesterday. Yet Presbyterians were active participants in most of the debates that interest historians of the midseventeenth century and were sufficiently influential to remain an active voice throughout the period. Although Presbyterians failed in their ambition to reform the Church, they provided a continual voice in favour of a Puritan settlement in the British revolutions and the bedrock of future nonconformity.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Abernathy, George, ‘Richard Baxter and the Cromwellian Church’, Huntington Library Quarterly 24 (1961), 215–31. Anderson, Philip  J., ‘Sion College and the London Provincial Assembly, 1647–1660’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 37 (1986), 68–90. Armstrong, Robert and Ó Hannrachain, Tadhg, eds, Insular Christianity: Alternative Models of the Church in Britain and Ireland, c.1570−c.1700 (Manchester, 2013). Baxter, Richard, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, ed. Matthew Sylvester (London, 1696). Bolam, C. Gordon, Goring, Jeremy, Short, H.L. and Thomas, Roger, eds, The English Presbyterians: From Elizabethan Puritanism to Modern Unitarianism (London, 1968). Coldwell, Christopher and Hall, David W., eds, Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, or The Divine Right of Church Government (Dallas, TX, 1995). Cooper, Tim, John Owen, Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity (Farnham, 2011). Coulton, Barbara, ‘The Fourth Shropshire Presbyterian Classis 1647–1662’, Shropshire History and Archaeology, 73 (1998), 34–5. Drysdale, A.H., History of the Presbyterians in England: Their Rise, Decline and Revival (London, 1889).

84  Robert Wodrow, The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1721–2), I, p. lxiii.


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Durston, Christopher and Maltby, Judith, eds, Religion in Revolutionary England (Manchester, 2006). Edwards, Thomas, Gangraena, 3 volumes ([1646] Ilkley, 1977). Ha, Polly, English Presbyterianism, 1590–1640 (Stanford, CA, 2011). Hirst, Derek, ‘The Failure of Godly Rule in the English Republic’, Past and Present, 132 (1991), 33–66. Hughes, Ann, Gangraena and the English Revolution (Oxford, 2004). Lamont, William, Godly Rule: Politics and Religion, 1603–60 (London, 1969). Liu, Tai, ‘The Founding of the London Provincial Assembly 1645–47’, Guildhall Studies in London History, 3 (1978), 119–29. Mackenzie, Kirsteen M., The Solemn League and Covenant and the Cromwellian Union 1643–1663 (London, 2017). Matthews, A.G., ed., Calamy Revised (Oxford, 1988). Paul, Robert  S., The Assembly of the Lord: Politics and Religion in the Westminster Assembly and the ‘Grand Debate’ (Edinburgh, 1985). Powell, Hunter, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution, 1638–1644 (Manchester, 2015). Scott, David, Politics and War in the Three Stuart Kingdoms, 1637–49 (Basingstoke, 2003). Shaw, William, A History of the English Church during the Civil Wars and under the Commonwealth (London, 1900). Van Dixhoorn Chad, ed., The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 5 vols (Oxford, 2012). Watts, Michael  R., The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978). Webster, Tom, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c.1620–1643 (Cambridge, 2003). Winship Michael  P., Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, MA, 2012). Yule, George, Puritans in Politics: The Religious Legislation of the Long Parliament, 1640–1647 (Abingdon, 1981).

3 Presbyterians in the Restoration* George Southcombe

In the period that saw the Earl of Clarendon’s and Gilbert Burnet’s different historical endeavours come to fruition, one of the great histories remained largely unwritten.1 The Presbyterian Roger Morrice planned a history of the Puritans on a grand scale. His vast manuscript collections—used by other historians since John Strype and Daniel Neal—point to the seriousness with which he undertook research, and the deep importance that he attached to the project, but he was unable to transform his desires into a complete narrative. He was constrained throughout by a historiographical schizophrenia that made it unclear what a history of Puritanism should be. Most Puritans had, before the  Civil Wars, considered themselves the voices of true Reformation— sometimes heard, sometimes muffled—within the Church of England. But in the Restoration the most vocal clerical exponents of the Puritan tradition found themselves ejected from that Church’s ministry. How was it possible to write the history of a group that conceived of itself as the committed ministry of a national Church when that national Church had rejected it?2 The crisis in identity that Morrice found so limiting was one that was more generally felt amongst the Presbyterians. This was a period in which Presbyterianism was reluctantly refashioned, and this chapter is concerned with the processes by which this refashioning was enabled and the stages through which it occurred. *  I would like to thank Dr Grant Tapsell for his comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. 1  Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, 3 vols (Oxford, 1702–4); Gilbert Burnet, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England, 3 vols (London, 1679–1715); Gilbert Burnet, Bishop Burnet’s History of his Own Time, 2 vols (London, 1724–34). 2  Both the content and the argument of this paragraph are deeply indebted to Mark Goldie, gen. ed., The Entring Book of Roger Morrice 1677–1691, 7 vols (Woodbridge, 2007–9), I, ch. 7. (Volume I of The Entring Book comprises a monograph by Mark Goldie, which has also been published as a standalone volume: Mark Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs (Woodbridge, 2016)). A description of Morrice’s remaining manuscript collections—housed at Dr Williams’s Library—can be found in Goldie, gen. ed., Entring Book, I, appendix 1. George Southcombe, Presbyterians in the Restoration In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0004


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RESTORATION The crisis of Restoration Presbyterianism was born out of two intertwined ­failures: one political and one religious. Following the brief reign of Richard Cromwell, and the return of the Rump Parliament, fears of social anarchy drove forward schemes to return England to some form of constitutional stability.3 The rising led by Sir George Booth in Cheshire in the August of 1659 was the largest of the Presbyterian-royalist attempts to assert militarily these demands. It was soon put down, but the published materials issued during it are nonetheless suggestive of the principles motivating those who would play a key role in the moves leading to Restoration. Booth’s rising aimed not simply, or even primarily, at a Restoration of the Stuart line. Central to its purposes were the readmission of members of parliament excluded by Pride’s Purge in 1648, and a reengagement with the terms for settlement that were at that point being put to the king.4 As Blair Worden has demonstrated, it was this political Presbyterianism that drove many who led and organized the campaign for a free parliament that took on the features of a national movement in late 1659 and 1660. It was this campaign in turn that shaped the thinking of the man who more than any other determined events: the taciturn General George Monck.5 Political Presbyterianism had considerable strengths at this stage. Unlike the royal court its proponents were able to disseminate its views with ease in public forums, and royalists recognized that it was necessary to be parasitic upon a Presbyterian-led movement if their ends were to be obtained.6 Hopes for a Presbyterian political future remained when the Convention Parliament of April 1660 was called. The ‘Presbyterian knot’—veteran parliamentarians like the Earl of Manchester, Denzil Holles, and Sir Harbottle Grimstone—attempted to secure control of the Houses in order to push through a settlement that would have put considerable fetters on kingship.7 Why did they fail? The movement that had been spearheaded by political Presbyterians slipped from their control. The logic of calls for a free parliament led to one that was inhabited by those who had no time for what were seen as disloyal attempts to place bonds upon a lawful king. Presbyterian voices had seemed loudest only in a context 3  The best single account of this turbulent period remains Austin Woolrych, ‘Historical Introduction’, in D.M. Wolfe et al., eds, Complete Prose Works of John Milton, 8 vols (New Haven, CT, 1952–83), VII (rev. edn), pp. 1–228. 4  John Morrill, Cheshire 1630–1660: County Government and Society during the English Revolution (Oxford, 1974), ch. 8. 5  Blair Worden, ‘1660: Restoration and Revolution’, in Janet Clare, ed., From Republic to Restoration: Legacies and Departures (Manchester, 2018), pp. 23–52; Blair Worden, ‘The Campaign for a Free Parliament, 1659–60’, Parliamentary History, 36 (2017), 159–84; Blair Worden, ‘The Demand for a Free Parliament, 1659–60’, in George Southcombe and Grant Tapsell, eds, Revolutionary England, c. 1630–c. 1660: Essays for Clive Holmes (London, 2017), pp. 176–200. 6  Worden, ‘Campaign’; Worden, ‘1660’. 7  Ronald Hutton, The Restoration: A Political and Religious History of England and Wales 1658–1667 (Oxford, 1985), pp. 105, 117–18.

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where others had been suppressed.8 The reality of the situation became clear and the king was welcomed back on terms that suited the gentry interest but did little to circumscribe his effective field of action.9 The hopes for a Presbyterian political settlement died quickly; hopes for a Presbyterian religious settlement were kept alive much longer. In the declaration of Breda (1660) Charles had promised ‘a liberty to tender consciences’ and to ‘be ready to consent to such an Act of Parliament as upon mature deliberation shall be offered to us for the full granting that indulgence’.10 The words were studiedly vague, and responsibility for their implementation was  left to parliament, but Presbyterians believed that there was the real ­possibility of the Church of England being re-established on a broad basis. John Milton had warned them that the return of monarchy would mean the return of episcopacy. Any son of Charles I ‘will most certainly bring back [episcopacy] with him, if he regard the last and strictest charge of his father, to ­persevere in not the doctrin only, but the government of the church of England; not to neglect the speedie and effectual suppressing of errors and schisms’.11 But many Presbyterians were prepared to accept an episcopal system if they could continue to minister within the national Church. The intellectual underpinnings of the system of reduced episcopacy they favoured had been provided by Archbishop James Ussher in the mid-century, and they sought to proceed on those grounds.12 In October 1660 the Worcester House Declaration held out the possibility of a limited episcopal system being set up, and made certain controversial practices—kneeling to receive communion, for example— a matter for the conscience of individual ministers. However, this was not passed into legislation, and the Savoy House Conference of 1661, called to discuss the religious settlement, ended without constructive agreement in part because of Richard Baxter’s intransigence on the necessity of fundamental reform of the liturgy.13 It is therefore possible to trace an apparent series of roads not taken from 1660 to 1662—a set of moments that might, counterfactually, have led to the formation of an inclusive Church of England. This may, though, be to indulge in even more wishful thinking than counterfactuals usually require. Certainly 8  Worden, ‘1660’. 9  George Southcombe and Grant Tapsell, Restoration Politics, Religion and Culture: Britain and Ireland, 1660–1714 (Basingstoke, 2010), ch. 1. 10  Andrew Browning, ed., English Historical Documents: Volume VIII: 1660–1714 (London, 1966), p. 58. 11  John Milton, The Readie and Easie Way (second edn), in Complete Prose Works, VII (rev. edn), p. 457. 12  James Ussher, The Reduction of Episcopacie (London, 1656); Goldie, Entring Book, I, pp.  232–3; John Spurr, The Restoration Church of England, 1646–1689 (New Haven, CT, and London, 1991), pp. 31–2. 13  Southcombe and Tapsell, Restoration Politics, Religion and Culture, pp. 24–25. See also N.H.  Keeble, ed., ‘Settling the Peace of the Church’: 1662 Revisited (Oxford, 2014); Geoffrey F. Nuttall and Owen Chadwick, eds, From Uniformity to Unity, 1662–1962 (London, 1962).


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the religious defeat of Presbyterianism had its roots in its early political defeat. The actions of the ‘Presbyterian knot’ were seen within the context of a long history of attempts to place limitations on monarchy. The arch-Restoration polemicist Roger L’Estrange wrote that ‘the Factious and Schismatical Clergy are but (with reverence) Bawds to a State-faction. A Tumult for Religion, is within one step of Rebellion’.14 Presbyterians were bound by their history. They could only emphasize their loyalty convincingly by obscuring their Presbyterianism or emphasize their Presbyterianism at the expense of appearing disloyal. Presbyterian protestations of loyalty could easily be portrayed in hostile literature as simply duplicitous. As L’Estrange explained, his writing ‘is directed to the People, and the Design of it is onely to lay open the Presbyterian Juggle, that in one Age they be not twice deluded by the same Imposture’.15 L’Estrange was a vehement writer, whose anti-Presbyterianism was to rumble on throughout the religious and political debates of the late seventeenth century, but his attitude clearly aligned with a number of those in the Cavalier Parliament. It was this parliament that was ultimately responsible for the restrictive religious settlement. On 19 May 1662 Charles II gave his assent to the Act of Uniformity. Before St Bartholomew’s Day (24 August) ministers had to declare their agreement with all in the Prayer Book and episcopal ordination, and deny the lawfulness of resistance and the Solemn League and Covenant. Only those who had been episcopally ordained themselves would be recognized. These strictures ensured that over 2,000 were deprived in England and Wales (some before 1662) out of a total clerical body of c.9,000. For Richard Baxter the historical parallels were clear: ‘This fatal Day called to remembrance the French Massacre, when on the same Day 30000 or 40000 Protestants perished by Religious Roman Zeal and Charity’.16 The Act of Uniformity was followed by a series of legislative measures—misleadingly known as the ‘Clarendon code’—intended to suffocate Dissent.17 It remains difficult to establish with any assuredness the numbers of those who, despite persecution, formed the Dissenting communities. The best ana­ lysis remains that conducted by M.R. Watts, which took as its starting point the list assembled by Dr John Evans between 1715 and 1718. What is clear from these figures is that Presbyterians formed by far the largest group of nonconformists—Watts estimates that they constituted 3.3 per cent of the population

14  Roger L’Estrange, Interest Mistaken (London, 1661), sig. A*v. 15  L’Estrange, Interest Mistaken, sig. A*. 16  Richard Baxter, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ (London 1696), Part II, p. 384. 17  On Clarendon’s religious attitudes, see Paul Seaward, ‘Circumstantial Temporary Concessions: Clarendon, Comprehension, and Uniformity’, in Keeble, ed., ‘Settling the Peace of the Church’, pp. 57–84. For a discussion of the penal code, see Southcombe and Tapsell, Restoration Politics, Religion and Culture, p. 27.

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in comparison to the 1.1 per cent of their nearest rivals, the Independents.18 In fact, this is in all probability an underestimate of their total strength.19 This then was the situation of Restoration Presbyterianism. It had been a driving force behind the Restoration; it had been involved in discussions concerning the religious settlement in which the prospect of comprehension had seemed real; and it had obtained nothing. Ministers for whom the notion of a national Church was axiomatic were thrust outside it, and a number of the laity continued to identify with them (even if, as many did, they also attended their parish church). These paradoxes were both deeply damaging to old ways of thinking and the creative impetus for new formulations that would allow Presbyterian survival.

D ONS AND DUCKLINGS? The complexity of the situation faced by the Presbyterians was neatly captured in a letter an Independent minister wrote to a minister in New England, intercepted by the authorities in 1663: The Presbyterians are very much hated & reproached by the Episcopal party, far more than the Congregational, because these are contented to enjoy their Churchway among themselves, & not allotrioepiskopein [to busybody]; whereas the other, espousing a National Church interest, will call the highest to an account.20

Following the ejection it might seem that the choice available was stark and clear: either Presbyterians could continue to hold out for comprehension within the national Church or they could redefine themselves to exist as a Dissenting group and to seek toleration. The Secretary of State Sir Joseph Williamson recognized these two positions amongst them and named the factions ‘Dons’ and ‘Ducklings’ (signalling those who would take to the waters of Dissent).21 This binary might, however, oversimplify the situation. Positions adopted may have been strategic, and to write in terms of hard identities obscures the overlap in thinking and practice between the leading figures. 18  M.R. Watts, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978), p. 509. 19  Mark Goldie works with a total figure for Dissenters of ‘no more than ten per cent of the population’. See Goldie, Entring Book, I, p. 22. 20  A.G. Matthews, ‘A Censored Letter. William Hooke in England to John Davenport in New England, 1663’, Congregational Historical Society Transactions, ix (1924–6), 274. Matthews prints TNA, SP 29/69, fols 6–9 with modernized spelling. The Greek, transliterated by Matthews, is a verb derived from the Greek of 1 Peter 4:15: ‘busybody in other men’s matters’. See Matthews’s note (which gives an incorrect Biblical reference). The folio in the original manuscript (fol. 8) from which the quotation is taken now appears to be missing. I am grateful to Tomasz Gromelski for his help in seeking to establish its current status. 21  TNA, SP 29/294, fol. 223.


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The exigencies of survival necessitated the adoption of practices that could evolve into a structure independent of the national Church, while, even to those who espoused most strongly the legitimacy of separation, comprehension could remain a desirable goal that seemed obtainable at specific political movements. The Presbyterian modes of survival, necessary in the context of the 1660s but drawing on practices developed in the 1650s, are identifiable in an intelligence note probably dating from 1664. The note, while—as is the nature of such texts—it undoubtedly exaggerates the threat of political violence emanating from the Presbyterians, contains enough plausible detail to mean that its author had been the recipient of some genuine information. The Presbyterians were said to hold regular conventicles in private houses—including the Countess of Exeter’s—and a number of those who preached at their meetings were named (including Richard Baxter, William Whitaker, and Matthew Poole). They also met in specific coffeehouses—those hubs of political discussion in the late seventeenth century—and they organized collections for those ‘in distresse’ (Edmund Calamy had recently received 500l. for distribution). Those sympathetic to Presbyterians who had risen to be aldermen in City government were identified.22 All this points to a Presbyterian underground that continued to function during the early period of persecution, and in which different generations of Presbyterians participated. Ultimate hopes for comprehension did not preclude such activities.23 Indeed, there was a long tradition within Puritanism of continuing religious exercises outside of a formal Church structure—the prophesyings that had caused such conflict between Queen Elizabeth and Archbishop Grindal provided a key precedent.24 Presbyterian meetings could supplement worship within the national Church, and throughout the period, outside London, it seems that there are few references to the celebration of communion within these groups. Partial conformity—attendance at both a parish church and a nonconformist meeting—was therefore widespread.25 As the rector of Adderbury in the 1680s wrote to the Bishop of Oxford about the Banbury Presbyterian meeting: ‘many of ’em, will stragle one part of the day thither, when they duely attend the public worship of God on the other . . . they seem to be like the borderers betwixt two kingdoms one can’t well tell what Prince they are subject to’.26 It is important, though, to recognize the exasperated tone of this statement, and the intimation 22  TNA, SP 29/109, fol. 72. The note records surnames only, so the specific identifications of preachers are mine. 23  I am very grateful to Elliot Vernon for discussion of these points. He extends this analysis, and particularly elaborates on the ways in which London Presbyterians continued practices developed in the 1650s in his forthcoming book. 24  Goldie, Entring Book, I, p. 231. 25  John D. Ramsbottom, ‘Presbyterians and “Partial Conformity” in the Restoration Church of England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 43 (1992), 249–70. Discussion of communion is on pp. 259–60. 26  Quoted in Ramsbottom, ‘Presbyterians and “Partial Conformity” ’, 262.

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of disloyalty (of course, Elizabeth had assumed the political danger inherent in prophesyings—and she may even have been right). To Presbyterians their practices may not have been mutually exclusive with worship in a national Church, but to their enemies they were necessarily subversive. In a context where the attitudes of their enemies had been given legislative teeth, even partial conformity required the establishment of mechanisms and justification that could produce a distinct and separate religious identity as an unintended consequence. The irony is then that the very actions of the persecutory Church forced Presbyterians into novel ways of thinking. As Michael Winship has made clear ‘The consequence of an unprecedentedly severe form of Anglican aggression was an unprecedentedly aggressive form of moderate puritanism’.27 Joseph Alleine, one of those who engaged first in nonconformist ordinations in 1665 or 1666, could write stridently of how post the ejections of 1662 ‘we continue still but in the same station, and the same work, watching over our Flocks, and administring according to our Office, with no other difference, but only that the place is altered’.28 Richard Baxter, despite his cautious phrasing, and his explicit critique of what he saw as the excesses and errors of Independency, nonetheless shared in Alleine’s analysis.29 This development in Presbyterian thinking was disseminated through a wide range of cultural forms, and despite the continuation of a vibrant manuscript culture, and the attempts by the regime to impose strict censorship, Presbyterians embraced print as an essential medium for pursuing controversy.30 The intelligence note discussed above also recorded details of two booksellers ‘intrusted’ by Presbyterians (Francis Tyton and Samuel Gellibrand), and noted ‘Doctor Wild is their poett’.31 One commentator has seen this last statement as a rather desperate scrabbling for useful intelligence by the note’s writer, but while the information may not have been surprising to its original readers its significance has been generally overlooked by later historians.32 Robert Wild, ejected clergyman of Tatenhill, Staffordshire, maintained a substantial presence in the world of printed poetry until his death in 1679. Some analysis of his work illuminates much about the process of identity formation discussed in this chapter.

27  Michael  P.  Winship, ‘Defining Puritanism in Restoration England: Richard Baxter and Others Respond to A Friendly Debate’, Historical Journal, 54 (2011), 705. 28  Winship, ‘Defining Puritanism’, 703–4. Winship quotes Joseph Alleine, A Call to Archippus (London, 1664), p. 23. 29  Winship, ‘Defining Puritanism’. 30  Southcombe and Tapsell, Restoration Politics, Religion and Culture, pp. 11–13; George Southcombe, ed., English Nonconformist Poetry, 1660–1700, 3 vols (London, 2012), I, pp. xiii–xiv. 31  TNA, SP 29/109, fol. 72v. 32  David J. Appleby, Black Bartholomew’s Day: Preaching, Polemic and Restoration Nonconformity (Manchester, 2007), p. 78.


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In his The Loyal Nonconformist—a poem of 1666 occasioned by the Five Mile Act and its requirement that ejected ministers take the ‘Oxford Oath’ in order to come within five miles of corporations returning members to parliament or any place where they had ministered or preached since the Act of Oblivion—Wild wrote in pungent terms of what he could in conscience swear.33 He protested his loyalty to the monarch, but drew attention to those he saw as the true enemies of the state: The Royal Oak I swear I will defend;     But for the Ivy which doth hug it so, I swear that is a Thief, and not a Friend,     And about Steeples fitter for to grow.34

The favoured symbol of the Restoration monarchy—the oak tree in Boscobel that had shielded Charles during his flight after Worcester—was here imagined as strangled by persecutory Anglicans. The hopes for a reduced episcopacy along Ussher’s model remained (‘the Bishops might / Do better, and be better than they are’; ‘Where we have one, I wish we might have ten’35) but these co-existed in the poem with strong anti-prelatical sentiment: I owe assistance to the King by Oath;     And if he please to put the Bishops down, As who knows what may be, I should be loth     To see Tom Beckets Mitre push the Crown.36

Wild’s poem encoded a hope for comprehension at the same time as developing an image of the leaders of the Church that made the fulfilment of that hope seem increasingly unlikely. This darkening of the reputation of central figures within the Anglican Church is the negative of the creative developments in Presbyterian thought discussed above. The actions of Anglicans at the Restoration thus propelled forward thinking that would justify nonconformist meetings and created a powerful ‘other’ against which Presbyterian identity could be defined. Both made the ultimate separation of Presbyterians from the Church possible but they did not of themselves make it necessary. The developments in Presbyterian thought, 33  The ‘Oxford Oath’ was ‘I, A.B., do swear that it is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever to take arms against the king, and that I do abhor that traitorous position of taking arms by his authority against his person, or against those that are commissionated by him, in pursuance of such commissions, and that I will not at any time endeavour any alteration of government either in Church or State.’ For the Act see Browning, English Historical Documents 1660–1714, pp. 382–4. Further discussion of Wild’s poem may be found in George Southcombe, ‘Dissent and the Restoration Church of England’, in Grant Tapsell, ed., The Later Stuart Church, 1660–1714 (Manchester, 2012), pp. 200–2. 34  Robert Wild, The Loyal Nonconformist, in Southcombe, ed., English Nonconformist Poetry, p. 223. 35  Wild, Loyal Nonconformist, pp. 224–5. 36  Wild, Loyal Nonconformist, p. 225.

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traceable in hindsight, were played out in shifting political contexts. The ­distinction between Dons and Ducklings may break down when practices and habits of thought shared amongst different generations of Presbyterians are highlighted, but when political manoeuvres at the centre required Presbyterians to make a public choice concerning how they represented their relationship with the national Church clearly different responses might be identified. The issue was forced in 1672 when on 15 March Charles II produced his Declaration of Indulgence. Working through the royal prerogative the king suspended the penal laws against Dissent and allowed nonconformists to apply for licences to hold conventicles.37 Presbyterian consciences were pricked by two issues. First, whether accepting this non-parliamentary initiative meant giving legitimacy to the king’s arbitrary tendencies, and secondly whether accepting toleration meant abandoning the claims of Presbyterians to be encompassed within the national Church. For some these issues were too much to bear, and they rejected the opportunity that had opened up. But for others an acceptance—however grudging—of the Declaration was the best way of ministering to their flocks. Even some of those who were initially unsettled by the implications of acceptance took out a licence. Philip Henry, who was concerned that the Declaration would erode ‘our Parish-order which God hath own’d’ was one, and in the most celebrated case Richard Baxter overcame his anxieties sufficiently to be licensed as ‘a Nonconforming Minister’ with exceptional rights to preach ‘in any licensed or allowed Place’. In fact the majority of those licensed under the Declaration were Presbyterians, and in a number of places a greater degree of congregational organization amongst them can be dated from this point.38 Some of the processes already traced quickened at this stage. Robert Wild— who was licensed to preach at his house in Oundle, Northamptonshire—in a published letter to his friend the City politician John Jekyll wrote of those who would oppose Presbyterian action under the Declaration: Doubtless, Sir, upon the opening of this wide Door to us, we shall have many Adversaries on the right hand and on the left; and many from amongst our selves will rise up and speak perverse things: I wish we may endure the Sun as well as we did the Wind. The Patriarchs (we must expect) will be moved with Envy; especially at this Coat of divers colours (the Indulgence) which our Father hath given us. However, they are our Elder Brethren, and we must honour and love them, though they will watch for our halting, and lay (it may be) stumbling blocks in our way.39 37  Browning, ed., English Historical Documents 1660–1714, pp. 387–8. 38  Goldie, Entring Book, I, pp. 236–8; Richard L. Greaves, ‘Philip Henry’, ODNB; N.H. Keeble, ‘Richard Baxter’, ODNB; N.H. Keeble, The Literary Culture of Nonconformity in Later SeventeenthCentury England (Athens, GA, 1987), pp. 57–9; Frank Bate, The Declaration of Indulgence 1672: A Study in the Rise of Organised Dissent (London, 1908). 39  Robert Wild, A Letter from Dr Robert Wild to his Friend Mr J.J. (London, 1672), p. 15. The identification of Mr J.J. as John Jekyll is Elizabeth Clarke’s see her ‘John Jekyll’, ODNB.


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Wild recognized the antipathy of some within Presbyterianism to the acceptance of the terms of the Declaration, but his ire remained fixed on the intolerant Anglicans—figured here as the jealous brothers of Joseph. The ‘honour’ and ‘love’ due to them was made clear in an accompanying poem. The dire warnings issued by churchmen about the impact of the Declaration were mercilessly satirized: But now they tole their Bells, and wring their hands, Religion (that is to say, their Lands) The Protestant Religion now will fall; Bell and the Dragon will devour us all. The Children of the Church are frighted: oh! The POPE’s Raw-head-and-bloody-bones cry Boh! Behind the door a License without stint! This bitter Cup hath Roman Wormwood in’t. O tender zealous hearts! O sad Condition! Idolatry will eat up Superstition. The Calf at Bethel fears the Calf at Dan; The Gridiron grumbles at the Frying pan.40

Wild’s anti-prelatical attacks were one part of a savage discourse that took hold within Presbyterianism against those who maintained the narrow Church settlement. A unifying theme in Roger Morrice’s Entring Book lies in his continued attacks on this persecutory interest. The ‘Hierarchists’ are painted as ungrateful, untrustworthy and cruel: . . . it is congreous enough to the nature and practice of some kinde of creatures to hate and implacably seeke the ruin of those that have done them a kindnese that they are never able to recompence as the Bishop did the Presbyterians – after they had brought in the King and their Lordshipps notwithstanding all the Solemne promises and vows . . . made them to the contrary.41

If comprehension were going to come then it was not to be the result of a friendly dialogue.

RESTORATION CRISES AND THE FAILURE OF COMPREHENSION Roger Morrice’s great hopes, despite his analysis of the attitudes of the clerical hierarchy, however, remained embedded in comprehension. The same was true of others. The Declaration of Indulgence proved a short-lived measure when 40  Wild, A Letter, pp. 26–7. 41  Goldie, Entring Book, III, p. 237. See also the discussion of this theme in Grant Tapsell, ‘ “Weepe Over the Ejected Practice of Religion”: Roger Morrice and the Restoration Twilight of Puritan Politics’, Parliamentary History, 28 (2009), 279–81.

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parliament in 1673 reminded the king that he did not enjoy a suspending power in ecclesiastical affairs (a point it had already made in 1663).42 But for many of those who had taken out licences the brief moment of toleration did not send them towards simply seeking another. From 1673–5 Baxter and other Presbyterians engaged in discussions with leading Anglicans concerning schemes for comprehension, and certain amelioratory measures were introduced into parliament but not passed into legislation.43 The crisis of 1678–81, in which fears of popery in a domestic and European context heightened desires for Protestant unity, sparked a further round of discussions. The international context was a key to the Presbyterian position. In the face of the threat posed by aggressive forces of counter-Reformation, and particularly Louis XIV’s France, how could the persecution of Reformed Protestants by a national Protestant Church be justified? In 1680 bills for both comprehension and toleration were introduced, although again ultimately neither made it on to the statute book.44 The coming of an unimpeachably Protestant monarch in the revolution of 1688–9 significantly raised hopes, and a Toleration Act was passed in May 1689 but plans for comprehension faltered never to be convincingly resurrected. In all, eight bills for comprehension can be identified as being prepared for parliamentary deliberation from 1667–89.45 How is their failure to be explained? The Presbyterians’ own analysis of the situation was perceptive. Vincent Alsop, writing in 1680, made clear what to that point had precluded reconciliation: And most men have noted, that within these twenty years Providence offer’d them three seasons, wherein with great ease, they might have healed our Breaches; the first, after His Majesties happy Restauration; the second, after the Plague, Fire, and War; the third, after the Discovery of the late Horrid and Popish Plot: but yet it pleased not God to give them, with the opportunities, to see the things that belong’d to our Peace.46

42  John Spurr, England in the 1670s: ‘This Masquerading Age’ (Oxford, 2000), pp. 35–8. 43  John Spurr, ‘The Church of England, Comprehension and the Toleration Act of 1689’, English Historical Review, 104 (1989), 935–6; Spurr, Restoration Church of England, pp. 67–9. 44  H.  Horwitz, ‘Protestant Reconciliation in the Exclusion Crisis’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 15 (1964), 201–17; Gary S. De Krey, ‘Reformation in the Restoration Crisis, 1679–1682’, in Donna B. Hamilton and Richard Strier, eds, Religion, Literature, and Politics in Post-Reformation England, 1540–1688 (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 231–52. For debates over the status and nature of the foreign reformed Churches in this period, see Tony Claydon, Europe and the Making of England, 1660–1760 (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 284–313. Morrice’s internationalism, and his understanding of the existence of a powerful Catholic conspiracy for the extirpation of Protestantism in the later 1680s is discussed by Stephen Taylor, ‘An English Dissenter and the Crisis of European Protestantism: Roger Morrice’s Perception of European Politics in the 1680s’, in David Onnekink, ed., War and Religion after Westphalia, 1648–1713 (Farnham, 2009), pp. 177–95. 45  Goldie, Entring Book, I, pp. 238–46. 46  Vincent Alsop, The Mischief of Impositions (London, 1680), p. 5.


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Alsop’s anger is palpable, but underlying it is a justifiable sense of the inflexibility of the Anglican position. As John Spurr has demonstrated it is all too easy to mistake the charitableness of some Anglicans for sentiment that would support comprehension. Toleration itself was eventually adopted as a tactical necessity to keep those outside the Church who would be destructive if they were within it. Comprehension far from sustaining the Church of England would endanger it. As Benjamin Laney, Bishop of Ely, said it was ‘a dragnet, that will fetch in all kinds of fish, good or bad, great or small, there will be room enough for Leviathan’.47 Vincent Alsop’s understanding of the situation also led him to proceed further with the lines of thought that could justify separation. He expressed them in a peculiarly powerful written style that could appeal in the growing public forum for political debate. When faced with the further test to the Presbyterian conscience provided by the Catholic James’s Declaration of Indulgence in 1687 Alsop was one of those who accepted it. Indeed, he was central to the production of the address of thanks for the Declaration issued from Westminster and in obtaining signatories to it. The travails of the late seventeenth century had led him to a position from which he could accept positively the possibility of separation. The active role he played in the Presbyterian ministry of the 1690s had its roots in these turbulent years.48

CONCLUSION The key moment in Presbyterianism’s transition to denominational status was the revolution of 1688–9 and the Toleration Act passed in its aftermath. On one level this was the last episode in a series of failures that had begun in 1660. Presbyterians were required to accept that their dreams of being part of a national Church were over. It is very easy therefore to depict the late seventeenth century as a period in which Presbyterians were consistently undone by their Anglican enemies: courted only to be jilted at any point when union seemed possible. Certainly for those living through that painful era the tenor of the times was resoundingly bleak. For Roger Morrice, a conspiracy of ‘Hierarchists’ and papists posed a relentless threat to the survival of Protestant England.49 The despair of the defeated should be respected, but it is also necessary to understand the ways in which responses to defeat shaped the later survival of the movement and meant that the triumph of Anglicanism in 1662 47  Spurr, ‘The Church of England, Comprehension and the Toleration Act’, quotation on p. 941. 48  R.A.  Beddard, ‘Vincent Alsop and the Emancipation of Restoration Dissent’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 24 (1973), 161–84. 49  Tapsell, ‘ “Weepe Over the Ejected Practice of Religion” ’, pp. 289–94.

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was not, in the long term, the triumph of the Church over Dissent. The ­challenges of the Restoration period had prepared Presbyterianism for the denominational moment. The process by which this occurred was fundamentally dialogic. In response to a fiercely exclusionary Anglicanism, Presbyterianism was reshaped.50 This reshaping occurred within a context where the continuation of the Presbyterian movement was based on the art of the possible. (Nowhere was it clearer than in responses to the declarations of indulgence that while Presbyterians sought to make their own history they did not do so in circumstances of their own choosing.) Ideas that could sustain separation were strengthened, and while plans for reunion continued they ran alongside an increasing contempt for key members of the Anglican establishment that could enhance binary modes of thinking. Teleology must be avoided—hopes for comprehension remained and the tensions in this early period of identity formation are apparent—but if the events of the late seventeenth century did not lead ineluctably to a Presbyterian denomination then they provided the circumstances in which the emergence of that denomination was made more likely. It might be possible to go further in challenging the characterization of this period as one of failure. This chapter started by detailing the early failures of Presbyterianism in settling both the Restoration Church and state. Two recent historiographical interventions have questioned how far these failures were sustained. Mark Goldie has pointed to the continuation of the Presbyterian political vision throughout the late seventeenth century and written: ‘That it was the Presbyterian vision which finally came to pass in 1689 is obscured, especially by the optical illusion of the term “Whig” and supposing that the “first Whigs” were something wholly new.’51 A more controversial claim concerns Richard Baxter. Baxter’s political importance, his centrality to negotiations for comprehension, and his theological influence have meant that he has rightly been at the heart of accounts of Restoration Presbyterianism, and, while this chapter has deliberately sought not to privilege his account, the Reliquiæ Baxterianæ remains of the utmost importance for scholars of the period.52 Baxter’s significance within Presbyterianism is undoubted, but his own religious identity was complex. He famously wrote: ‘You could not (except a Catholick Christian) have trulier called me, than an Episcopal-Presbyterian-Independent’.53 50  Mark Goldie, ‘The Theory of Religious Intolerance in Restoration England’, in O.P. Grell, Jonathan Israel, and Nicholas Tyacke, eds, From Persecution to Toleration: The Glorious Revolution and Religion in England (Oxford, 1991), pp. 331–68; Southcombe, ‘Dissent and the Restoration Church’; Winship, ‘Defining Puritanism’. 51  Goldie, Entring Book, I, p. 161. 52  See the forthcoming edition of Richard Baxter’s Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, ed. N.H. Keeble, John Coffey, Tom Charlton, and Tim Cooper, 5 vols (Oxford, 2020). Placed alongside Roger Morrice’s Entring Book this is likely to transform our understanding of the period and the significance of Presbyterianism within it. 53  Richard Baxter, A Third Defence of the Cause of Peace (London, 1681), Part I, 1, p. 110.


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Diarmaid MacCulloch has seen in this, and in Baxter’s Hookerian emphasis on probabilities, the roots of a modern tradition that goes by a very different name from Presbyterian. When the Church of England thrust Richard Baxter aside it removed an exponent of a way of thinking that it now seeks to claim. ‘Richard Baxter’, MacCulloch claims, ‘was the first of the Anglicans’.54 Perhaps at points the English have lived with a Church and state defined by Presbyterians after all.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Appleby, David  J., Black Bartholomew’s Day: Preaching, Polemic and Restoration Nonconformity (Manchester, 2007). Bate, Frank, The Declaration of Indulgence 1672: A Study in the Rise of Organised Dissent (London, 1908). Beddard, R.A., ‘Vincent Alsop and the Emancipation of Restoration Dissent’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 24 (1973), 161–84. De Krey, Gary  S., ‘Reformation in the Restoration Crisis, 1679–1682’, in Donna B. Hamilton and Richard Strier, eds, Religion, Literature, and Politics in PostReformation England, 1540–1688 (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 231–52. Goldie, Mark, gen. ed., The Entring Book of Roger Morrice 1677–1691, 7 vols (Woodbridge, 2007–9). Goldie, Mark, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs (Woodbridge, 2016). Horwitz, H., ‘Protestant Reconciliation in the Exclusion Crisis’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 15 (1964), 201–17. Keeble, N.H., Richard Baxter: Puritan Man of Letters (Oxford, 1982). Keeble, N.H., ed., ‘Settling the Peace of the Church’: 1662 Revisited (Oxford, 2014). Matthews, A.G., ed., Calamy Revised (1934; Oxford, 1988). Nuttall, Geoffrey F. and Chadwick, Owen, eds, From Uniformity to Unity, 1662–1962 (London, 1962). Ramsbottom, John  D., ‘Presbyterians and “Partial Conformity” in the Restoration Church of England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 43 (1992), 249–70. Southcombe, George, ‘Dissent and the Restoration Church of England’, in Grant Tapsell, ed., The Later Stuart Church, 1660–1714 (Manchester, 2012), pp. 195–216. Southcombe, George, ed., English Nonconformist Poetry, 1660–1700, 3 vols (London, 2012). Spurr, John, ‘The Church of England, Comprehension and the Toleration Act of 1689’, English Historical Review, 104 (1989), 927–46. Spurr, John, The Restoration Church of England, 1646–1689 (New Haven, CT, and London, 1991).

54  Diarmaid MacCulloch, ‘The Latitude of the Church of England’, in Kenneth Fincham and Peter Lake, eds, Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England (Woodbridge, 2006), pp. 58–9 on p. 59.

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Taylor, Stephen, ‘An English Dissenter and the Crisis of European Protestantism: Roger Morrice’s Perception of European Politics in the 1680s’, in David Onnekink, ed., War and Religion after Westphalia, 1648–1713 (Farnham, 2009), pp. 177–95. Watts, M.R., The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978). Winship, Michael P., ‘Defining Puritanism in Restoration England: Richard Baxter and Others Respond to A Friendly Debate’, Historical Journal, 54 (2011), 689–715. Worden, Blair, ‘The Campaign for a Free Parliament, 1659–60’, Parliamentary History, 36 (2017), 159–84. Worden, Blair, ‘The Demand for a Free Parliament, 1659–60’, in George Southcombe and Grant Tapsell, eds, Revolutionary England, c. 1630–c. 1660: Essays for Clive Holmes (London, 2017), pp. 176–200. Worden, Blair, ‘1660: Restoration and Revolution’, in Janet Clare, ed., From Republic to Restoration: Legacies and Departures (Manchester, 2018), pp. 23–52.

4 Congregationalists* Tim Cooper

In 1944 the great Congregationalist historian, Geoffrey Nuttall, declared that ‘the early Congregationalist churches arose by way of protest and dissent’.1 That statement remains precisely true. He also proposed that the ‘early Congregationalists were confessedly Separatists’, though when he published Visible Saints thirteen years later he was much less clear-cut. Few seventeenthcentury Congregationalists, he said then, were directly influenced by sixteenthcentury Separatists; none of those earlier groups was ‘in any real sense Congregational’.2 That ambiguity has persisted as subsequent historians have sought to trace not just the early origins of Congregationalism but also its continued development and demarcation.3 Yet as even Nuttall warned, the search for something labelled ‘Congregationalism’ before even 1640 risks anachronism.4 Much more recently, Michael Winship cautions us against prejudging things and his careful language is designed to avoid reading back into the sixteenth century clear dividing lines that became fixed only decades later.5 With those warnings in mind, this chapter offers a short survey of the emergence and development of Congregationalist convictions, starting with those first Separatists.6 *  I am very grateful to Michael Winship, Hunter Powell, and Elliot Vernon for reading a draft of this essay and offering such valuable feedback. 1  Geoffrey F. Nuttall, ‘The Early Congregational Conception of the Church’, Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society, 14 (1944), 197. 2  Geoffrey F. Nuttall, Visible Saints: The Congregational Way 1640–1660 (Oxford, 1957), pp. 8, 9. 3  For a brief summary, see Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978), pp. 94–9. 4  Nuttall, Visible Saints, p. 9. Patrick Collinson makes the same point in Godly People: Essays on English Protestantism (London, 1983), p. 539. 5  Michael Winship, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, MA, 2012), pp. 45–6. 6  In briefly relating this story I will frequently rely on the work of Michael Watts in The Dissenters. But there are other useful accounts in R.W. Dale, History of English Congregationalism (London, 1907); Champlin Burrage, The Early English Dissenters in the Light of Recent Research (1550–1641), 2 vols (New York, 1912); R. Tudur Jones, Congregationalism in England 1662–1962 Tim Cooper, Congregationalists In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0005

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EARLIEST CONGREGATIONALISM From the beginning England experienced a reluctant reformation. Henry VIII had little interest in the theology of the reformers. It suited his purposes merely to assume supremacy in the Church of England, otherwise leaving its elaborate episcopal hierarchy, its system of church courts, and its canon law largely unchanged. Throughout the remainder of the sixteenth century there was never any genuine prospect of England’s monarchs overturning episcopacy, a truth evidenced most clearly in James I’s abiding conviction: ‘No bishop, no king’. While the pope himself had been dispensed with, it could be said— and it was said—that much that was papal still remained. Antichrist had not been entirely banished. Even so, the form of the Church of England—one national Church structured around provinces, dioceses, and parishes—seemed here to stay. That left a great deal of room for frustration and disappointment among those who envisaged alternatives. As Polly Ha has made clear in Chapter 1, they looked to the Continent for inspiration, to Emden, the Rhineland, and the Swiss cities, especially Geneva. But Geneva was a compact city state, and even then it took John Calvin many years to shape the Church in the mould he wanted. Translating Geneva’s Church structure into an English context with its much larger population, its extensive network, and complex geography of counties was going always going to be difficult, if not impossible, even without the reluctance of England’s monarch. Still, they tried. Led principally by Thomas Cartwright and Walter Travers, these Presbyterians agitated for a national Church that replaced episcopal hierarchy with a system of local classes and regional and national synods. This was one response to a disappointed reformation: subversion from within; a belonging, but one that never ceased yearning for more. A second response was to cut the ties completely. As Michael Haykin also explains in this volume, Separatist congregations appeared in England from the late 1560s, coming to particular notoriety in the 1580s in such figures as Robert Browne, Robert Harrison, Henry Barrow, John Greenwood, Francis Johnson and his brother George, John Robinson, and William Brewster.7 Their worldview was stripped down, black-and-white, all-or nothing. In particular, their authority really was Scripture alone, and in the pages of the New Testament there was nothing like the monstrosity that was the Church of England with its (London, 1962); Edmund S. Morgan, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (New York, 1963); Nuttall, Visible Saints; B.R. White, The English Separatist Tradition: From the Marian Martyrs to the Pilgrim Fathers (Oxford, 1971); Murray Tolmie, The Triumph of the Saints: The Separate Churches of London 1616–1649 (Cambridge, 1977); and Stephen Brachlow, The Communion of Saints: Radical Puritan and Separatist Ecclesiology 1570–1625 (Oxford, 1988). 7  See Chapter 7 in this volume.


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bloated prelacy; Henry Barrow hardly knew where to begin describing it.8 As he pointed out, only pure stones were used in the building of the temple: not a single ‘cōmon or vile thinge was vsed towardes yt’, not ‘anie pinne or hooke (evē the least thing)’. So there was no ‘middle course’; the tree was either good or evil.9 The Church of England—improperly constituted from the roots up; a bedraggled specimen even on the brightest day—could never withstand such severe scrutiny. For these Separatists, it was merely ‘the eldest daughter of the Church of Rome’; its bishops were the ‘popes bastardes’ who ‘sit in the seat of Antichrist’; its priests were ‘the ministers of Sathan of Antichrist, sent of God in his wrath to deceaue & destroie such as are ordeined to death’. And if that were the case, ‘then ought al Christs true sheepe to flee & auoide them’.10 The only option was to leave. They were sinners against God’s Word who chose not to do so. It would be a mistake to think of these two groups as clear-cut, self-evident, and obvious. There were important differences within each group and their ideas remained inchoate and in development. It would certainly be wrong to read back modern denominations into these early alliances. We should also recognize that both groups proceeded from a shared set of assumptions: the Bible was the ultimate authority that gave a timeless pattern of a true Church; the first century mirrored that pattern most perfectly; subsequent history followed a broad path of declension as Antichrist—the concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands, ultimately (but not only) those of the pope—came to dominance; and the present task was to sweep all of that away and return to that primitive purity of the apostolic Church, or face God’s judgement and disapproval. Generally speaking, any distinctions between the two groups were a difference of degree, not a difference in kind. Also operating from precisely those convictions, a third conceptual alternative emerged in the early seventeenth century that would in time come to be known as Congregationalism. While sharing the same broad principles as Presbyterians and Separatists, it offered a different answer to the central question of ecclesiology: What is a true Church? That question was no idle curiosity: bound up within it was a host of sub-questions with significant practical and political implications. Who should comprise the Church? Who had the power of ordination, discipline, and excommunication? How did one church acknowledge another? What was the place of the magistrate? As we shall see,

8  Henry Barrow, A Brief Discoverie of the False Church (Dort?, 1591?), p. 46. 9  Barrow, Brief Discoverie, pp. 7–8, 215, 112. 10  Barrow, Brief Discoverie, p. 121; Robert Harrison, ‘A Treatise of the Church and the Kingdome of Christ’, in Albert Peel and Leland H. Carson, eds, The Writings of Robert Harrison and Robert Browne (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1953), p. 32; Robert Browne, A Trve and Short Declaration, Both of the Gathering and Ioyning Together of Certaine Persons (Netherlands?, 1583?), sig. A3r.

Congregationalists 91 those questions would create enduring dissension even among the godly, who agreed on so much else. In 1605 William Bradshaw, who had been closely involved in efforts towards reform in the wake of the 1604 Hampton Court Conference, published English Pvritanisme: Containeing the Maine Opinions of the Rigidest Sort of Those that are Called Puritanes. Its foundational claim was that every Companie, Congregation or Assemblie of men, ordinarily joyneing together in true worship of God, is a true visible church of Christ, and that the same title is improperlie attributed to any other Conuocations, Synods Societies, combinations, or assemblies whatsoeuer.11

Bradshaw’s definition did more than repudiate the present episcopal structure of the Church of England; it also denied what would become the Presbyterian view that a true Church could comprise a number of distinct congregations bound up in one presbytery. If a single congregation met the definition of a true Church then it was improper to think of the Church of England as one Church; technically, there could be no national Church, either Presbyterian or episcopal. There might be a national framework of churches, but even then ‘Christ Jesus hath not subjected any Church or Congregation of his, to any other superior Ecclesiasticall Iurisdiction’.12 Each church possessed its own spiritual officers who were elected by the congregation.13 An officer in one church had no power in another church.14 Every church was equal and alike in status. There were no national, provincial, or diocesan officers with jurisdiction over a pastor in his congregation,15 though ‘the Civil Magistrate hath and ought to haue Supreāe power over all the Churches within his Dominions, in all causes whatsoever’, and only the magistrate had the power to ‘controule and correct’ an erring congregation.16 All this did not leave the pastor in complete control of the congregation: there were checks and balances built into the system, lest ‘any Minister should be a Sole Ruler and as it were a Pope so much as in one Parrish’.17 The pastor was to rule jointly with the elders, serving ‘as Monitors & Overseers of the manners & Conversation of all the Congregation & of one another’.18 Together they possessed ‘the spirituall keyes of the Church’ (i.e. the power of government and discipline) though excommunication required ‘the free consent of the whole congregation’.19

11  William Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme: Containeing the Maine Opinions of the Rigidest Sort of Those that are Called Puritanes (London, 1605), p. 5. The italics are converted to Roman type in all quotes from English Pvritanisme. 12  Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme, p. 5. 13  Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme, p. 6. 14  Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme, p. 7. 15  Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme, pp. 9, 13, 15. 16  Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme, p. 6, 7. 17  Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme, p. 22. 18  Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme, p. 22. 19  Bradshaw, English Pvritanisme, pp. 24, 31. For the keys of the kingdom, see Matthew 16:18–19, 18:15–18.


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Of course, the Separatists had been saying this all along, but Bradshaw went to great lengths to show he was not one of them. Where they denied that the Church of England was a true Church, he did not. Essentially, like the Presbyterians, he rejected the Donatist view that the Church should, and could, be a model of perfection. In The Unreasonablenesse of the Separation, published in 1614, Bradshaw took a more Augustinian line: light is mingled with darkness even in the best of us, even in the best congregations.20 Within the Church of England—or, as he also termed it, ‘the Church Assemblies of England’—there were both sound parishes and poor ones, but there remained enough patches of goodness with which the conscientious could communicate.21 Once again Bradshaw offered his high view of the magistrate that served to justify even something in the nature of prelacy. The magistrate might create higher officers such as archbishops and bishops, chaplains, proctors, sidemen, clerks, sextons, and any number of other offices even if Christ himself did not appoint them; and he might divide the Church within his realm into administrative units such as provinces and dioceses.22 The point is that the magistrate was the guiding mind of such forms and structures, not Antichrist; and it was shrewd strategy for the godly to ‘yeald to some things in appearance Antichristian, that they might with more libertie fight against Antichrist’.23 None of this denied that the particular congregation was complete within itself,24 yet this was a remarkable and strained defence of prelacy, one that struggles to sit comfortably with his earlier disavowal of Presbyterian synods in English Pvritanisme. Peter Lake helps to account for this. He argues that in abandoning that national hierarchy within Presbyterianism, Bradshaw was seeking to remove the challenge to royal supremacy that had always seemed inherent within it. It made sense, then, for him to emphasize the power of the magistrate, who had nothing to fear from a collection of individual congregations.25 His position also demonstrates a determination not to repudiate the Church of England and the contorted effort involved in avoiding the slide into outright separatism. This is a point worth making early on: Congregationalism looked in two opposite directions at the same time—one towards belonging, one towards separation—which can make the task of disentangling and enunciating its internal dynamics (and establishing its placement alongside other groups) difficult, elusive, and frustrating. Bradshaw was not the only one to promote this point of view. His great ally was William Ames, who in 1610 published a Latin edition of English Pvritanisme with his own applauding preface. In that year he had left England for Holland, 20  William Bradshaw, The Unreasonablenesse of the Separation (Dort, 1614), sig. C1r–v. 21  Bradshaw, Unreasonablenesse of the Separation, sig. A4v, B1r–B2r, I3v, K2v. 22  Bradshaw, Unreasonablenesse of the Separation, sig. D3v, F1v, O2v–O4r. 23  Bradshaw, Unreasonablenesse of the Separation, sig. G1v, K1r. 24  Bradshaw, Unreasonablenesse of the Separation, sig. G1v. 25  Peter Lake, Moderate Puritans and the Elizabethan Church (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 268–71.

Congregationalists 93 joining other likeminded figures such as Robert Parker and Henry Jacob in the Leiden congregation of John Robinson. In the view of Michael Winship, ‘Robinson’s was no ordinary separatist congregation’ since it was prepared to  communicate with other Reformed congregations on the Continent; Robinson even praised their ‘holy presbyterial government’. As for the Church of England, while it was a false Church there were thousands of true Christians within.26 So the Leiden congregation provided a ready home for Congregationalist convictions, and much of its early development would take place in the Dutch Republic. Clearly England itself was no safe environment for those who actively agitated for significant reform; they faced fines, imprisonment, exile, and even execution. The Dutch territories provided at least relative freedom without travelling too far from home. As a result, Separatism and Congregationalism both found a more ready audience within the eastern counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex.27 With a sizeable Dutch population, important trade connections, and obvious geographical proximity (it was easier to reach Middelburg than London)28 parts of these counties were closely linked to the Netherlands. Henry Jacob took these convictions one practical step further. He was one of those Puritan leaders who tried to influence the new King James by means of the Millenary Petition in 1603, which he helped to frame. Five years earlier he had published A Defence of the Churches and Ministry of England against the Separatist Francis Johnson. The awkward and unconvincing nature of that defence demonstrates again just how vulnerable these early Congregationalists were to many of the Separatists’ arguments. His Reasons . . . Proving a Necessitie of Reforming Our Churches in England, published in 1604, denied any national, provincial, or diocesan Church (along with the authority of diocesan bishops) and argued that the only valid and scriptural form of a church is a ‘Particular ordinary constant Congregation of Christians’ with power of government in itself.29 The genius of his particular insight is indicated in the title of that book, which speaks to the need to reform ‘Our Churches in England’, not ‘the Church of England’. Jacob recognized that in repudiating the Church of England as a true Church the Separatists were buying into the very notion they so disliked. One could dismiss the Church of England as a whole only if it were a whole Church. But if a Church consisted of only one congregation, as the Separatists surely believed, then each one should be judged on its merits. Among the thousands of parish churches throughout England there were some, certainly, that were hopelessly corrupt. But there would be many that were not, with which the sincere believer could have some communion. In 1611 Jacob categorically 26  Winship, Godly Republicanism, pp. 94–5. 27  Nuttall, Visible Saints, pp. 19–23. 28  Winship, Godly Republicanism, p. 50. 29  Henry Jacob, Reasons Taken Ovt of Gods Word . . . Proving a Necessitie of Reforming Our Churches in England (Middelburg, 1604), p. 5.


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denied being a Separatist even though he made that declaration from Middelburg and even while defending the Separatists as not nearly as evil as they were made out to be. The difference: ‘I acknowledge therefore that in England are true Visible Churches and Ministers . . . such as I refuse not to communicate with.’30 Polly Ha locates the novelty of Jacob’s ecclesiology in his definition of freedom as independence.31 Working from Scripture itself, rather than from classical theorists, Jacob argued that the choice to join one particular congregation over another, the power to form a new congregation, and the power to elect officers and discipline members all lay directly in the free consent of the ­people.32 This was freedom of choice without external constraint or interference, a powerful idea with broad, enduring implications that were horrifying to moderate Puritans who gave this new ecclesiology the label of ‘Independency’.33 Ha has produced a critical edition of the manuscript debates between Jacob and his Presbyterian protagonists, led by Walter Travers, that reveal these emerging tensions within Puritan ecclesiology. Those debates began around 1610 and ended in 1620. They did nothing to deter Jacob, who returned to England in 1616 to became the pastor of a self-covenanting and self-forming congregation in Southwark, but he did not at the same time repudiate the Church of (that is, the churches in) England. Thus he offered ‘something new, an irenic congregationalist third way between the separatists and the Church of England’.34 In 1623 he moved to the colony of Virginia, where he died the following year. He may have passed away; his ideas most decidedly did not.35

NEW ENGLAND CONGREGATIONALISM Removing oneself from England to the Netherlands or to New England was by definition a step of separation, one that might be interpreted as a dissenting act. In his lively and provocative interpretation, Michael Winship details the earliest beginnings of what came to be known as the New England Way. In doing so he particularly emphasizes its near-Separatist elements. The first settlement of 30  Henry Jacob, A Declaration and Plainer Opening of Certain Points . . . Contained in a Treatise Intituled, The Divine Beginning (Middelburg, 1612), pp. 5–6. This declaration is dated 4 September 1611 (p. 45). See also, Henry Jacob, An Attestation of Many Learned, Godly, and Famous Divines . . . Justifying this Doctrine, viz. That the Church Government Ought to Bee Alwayes with the Peoples Free Consent (Middelburg, 1613), pp. 249–50. 31  Polly Ha, ed., The Puritans on Independence: The First Examination, Defence and Second Examination (Oxford, 2017), p. 11. 32  Ha, ed., Puritans on Independence, pp. 12–15. 33  Ha, ed., Puritans on Independence, p. 11. 34  Winship, Godly Republicanism, p. 100. 35  For a statement of his beliefs, see [Henry Jacob], A Confession and Protestation of the Faith of Certaine Christians (Amsterdam, 1616).

Congregationalists 95 Plymouth was the fruit of a conversation held in 1617 between John Robinson and his ruling lay elder, William Brewster. Dissatisfied with their circumstances in Leiden they developed a plan to move their congregation to the eastern seaboard of North America. Robinson never made it to New England and only thirty-five members of the congregation arrived in 1620, led by Brewster and augmented by friends, relatives, and fellow travellers. The total body of settlers numbered around a hundred; about half of them died during the winter but numbers were restored by the arrival of a further ninety immigrants in 1623.36 All that time the settlement lacked a minister and, therefore, the sacraments. John Lyford’s arrival in 1624 was intended to fill that gap but before he took up his ministry the Plymouth Separatists demanded that he renounce his calling by the Church of England. This he refused to do, at least on terms that would satisfy them. The issue, then, was a familiar one: whether or not the Church of England was a true Church. When the Separatists refused to compromise on that point, Lyford began to offer the sacraments to a cluster of settlers who did not share those strict Separatist scruples. This group soon dispersed to other new settlements.37 But Plymouth’s influence endured, not least in Salem. One of Winship’s innovations is to argue that Salem drew its model of church government directly from Plymouth, if only because the ministers who arrived to lead the church at Salem (Francis Higginson and Samuel Skelton) did so without any clear form of ecclesiology in their own minds and without the experience that might have exposed the red flags for what they were. With the enthusiastic support of Salem’s governor, John Endicott, they chose to follow Plymouth’s lead. On 20 June 1629 the church at Salem came into being: thirty people assented to a covenant and a confession of faith, and elected Higginson and Skelton as their pastors.38 The taking of a covenant borrowed a practice pioneered by the Separatists.39 It signalled that the congregation comprised only voluntary and visible saints whose faith was assured, not the mixed bag that was found in most English parishes; it said everything about their conception of what the Church should be. The election of officials communicated the self-governing nature of congregational authority and the dispersal of power in more than one set of hands. The near-Separatist colour of the Salem church became more apparent a year later when John Winthrop arrived as governor of the new colony of 36  Winship, Godly Republicanism, pp. 112–23; Francis J. Bremer, The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from Bradford to Edwards, rev. ed. (Hanover, NH, 1995), pp. 32–3. 37  Winship, Godly Republicanism, ch. 5. 38  Winship, Godly Republicanism, pp. 134–45. 39  For an example of a Separatist covenant, see Albert Peel, The First Congregational Churches: New Light on Separatist Congregations in London 1567–81 (Cambridge, 1920), p. 23; White, The English Separatist Tradition, p. 27; and Williston Walker, ed., The Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism (New York, 1893), pp. 28–74 (repr. Boston, MA, 1960). See also, Morgan, Visible Saints, pp. 36–8.


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Massachusetts. Skelton declined to offer the sacraments to Winthrop or the other new arrivals, nor would he baptize the child of the immigrant William Coddington even though he had been a member of John Cotton’s parish church back in Boston in England. The reason was that they had been members of the Church of England, not members of a true Church like Skelton’s. Even ‘Cotton’s parish church did not make the cut’.40 Thus it became standard practice in Massachusetts not to admit new arrivals to the sacraments,41 and, without intending to, the Massachusetts Bay Company created ‘something never seen before: a successful, militant, inflexible congregationalist network of churches’.42 If they fell short of outright Separatism, says Winship, it was only by the most ghostly of margins.43 Behind all of that was another familiar issue: the fear of Antichrist—‘the dread of unchecked power’—and the sense that, with the ascension of Charles I, Antichrist appeared to be winning.44 Laudian persecution in England during the 1630s brought a rising tide of Puritan emigrants to the shores of New England. There they found Congregationalist churches that, to borrow from the work of James  F.  Cooper, generally ran along four broad principles: the authority of Scripture with its ‘perfect rule’ should govern all matters of faith and practice; congregations should comprise only voluntary members and visible saints, and operate on the basis of free consent; no other human authority could claim jurisdiction over such a congregation; and the laity should participate in all processes of election, admission, discipline, and excommunication.45 Cooper argues that these convictions, especially that of lay participation, remained deeply entrenched for a very long time. Ministers like John Cotton repeatedly and extensively instructed their people in the responsibilities that came with lay privilege to such an extent that they became ingrained.46 Even the Anne Hutchinson affair did not give rise to increased clerical control or truncate lay freedoms.47 Likewise, the formalization of those principles in A Platform of Church Discipline (1649) had to be ratified by the laity; it arguably bound ministers more than the laity; and both ‘lay people and ministers referred to it as the religious “constitution” of Massachusetts, a set of higher laws that contained written guarantees of the rights and liberties of members and church officers’—even then it was merely a description of Church practice, not a set of 40  Winship, Godly Republicanism, p. 146. 41  Winship, Godly Republicanism, p. 153. 42  Winship, Godly Republicanism, p. 137. 43  Winship, Godly Republicanism, pp. 174, 177. 44  Winship, Godly Republicanism, pp. 166–73, 193. 45  James F. Cooper, Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial Massachusetts (Oxford, 1999), pp. 12–13. For other descriptions of New England’s Congregationalism in practice, see Susan Hardman Moore, Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home (New Haven, CT, 2007), ch. 2. 46  Cooper, Tenacious of Their Liberties, pp. 3–4, 7–8. 47  Cooper, Tenacious of Their Liberties, ch. 3. The details of this affair are related in Francis J. Bremer, ‘New England’, Chapter 11 of this volume.

Congregationalists 97 binding rules.48 New England Congregationalism certainly had its dangers: the risk of tyranny from a lay minority or an individual exercising his right of veto, though that rarely presented itself in practice; and the lack of mechanisms to bring an erring congregation back into line, a more frequent (though not impossible) difficulty. Cooper goes on to explain how the difficulties increased and these convictions eroded as time went on. But any shift towards clerical control was ‘gradual, complex, and silent’, ‘less significant than it initially appears’, and it occurred much later than historians have supposed.49 The development of New England Congregationalism aroused anxiety, ­suspicion, and hostility among those Puritans who had chosen to remain in England.50 An exchange of letters that began in 1636 illustrates the nature of those tensions. In the first letter, thirteen English Puritan ministers identified a cluster of ten ‘new opinions’ apparently practised in New England that looked unnervingly like Separatism. They included the conviction that it was not lawful to sit under a set liturgy or receive the sacraments in the context of a set liturgy; that infants should not be baptized except their parents be members of ‘some particular congregation’; that the power of excommunication resides in the body of the congregation; and that ministers have no power or ministry outside of their own congregation. The problem was that these ideas were now being picked up in England, with many leaving their parish churches. These English ministers sought reassurance this was not the New England Way, ‘Or will you plead for Separation’?51 In reply, the New England ministers admitted that they had changed their minds: what had seemed lawful, indifferent, and, anyway, beyond their ability to change, they now considered sinful in the New England context where they had every freedom to construct a form of church government ‘according to the patterne set before us in the Scripture’. Churches ‘need to grow from apparent defects to puritie . . . till the Lord have utterly abolished Antichrist’. Yet they offered soothing words. They had no intention of justifying ‘the ways of rigid separation’. Where Separatists rejected the Church of England as no true Church and those who remained within it as no true Christians, they did no such thing, refusing to ‘separate from your Congregations, as no Churches’.52 Thus they stuck to their guns, demonstrating once more that the New England 48  Cooper, Tenacious of Their Liberties, pp. 81–7; A Platform of Church-Discipline Gathered Out of the Word of God and Agreed Upon by the Elders and Messengers of the Churches Assembled in the Synod at Cambridge in N.E. (Cambridge, MA, 1649). 49  Cooper, Tenacious of Their Liberties, p. 111. 50  For an examination of church polity in New England and its impact in England, see Francis J. Bremer, Shaping New Englands: Puritan Clergymen in Seventeenth-Century England and New England (New York, 1995), ch. 5. 51  Simeon Ashe and William Rathband, A Letter of Many Ministers in Old England Requesting the Judgement of Their Reverend Brethren in New England Concerning Nine Positions (1643), first letter (n.p.). 52  Ashe and Rathband, Letter of Many Ministers, second letter (n.p.).


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Way was certainly Congregationalist, closely adjacent with Separatism, and deeply worrying to those back home in England.53 Those concerns did not subside: it is telling that this series of correspondence was published in 1643, in a period of national trauma and unprecedented religious and political turmoil back home in England.

ENGLAND IN THE 1640S Those Puritan settlers who had risked a trans-Atlantic crossing during the 1630s did so more under the pressure of Laudian persecution than from an idealistic desire to create a ‘city on a hill’.54 So when circumstances appeared to reverse themselves in England a lot of them headed for home. Susan Hardman Moore estimates that as many as one in four Puritan settlers made the return journey before 1660.55 On the whole, they accommodated themselves to English parish ministry rather well. Even in New England every town had to maintain a church—and only one church—supported by taxes imposed on all the householders; the law required all inhabitants to attend Sunday services and mid-week lectures, though communion and baptism were reserved only for an inner core of members (or their infants) who could offer an account of their own conversion; and transfer between churches required letters of admission, even if actual practice struggled to match intention.56 The English parish model was different again, but not so different that returning New England ministers could not find a place.57 But New England was not the only source of returning Congregationalists. The Netherlands had not stopped providing shelter, not least in ‘the Congregationalist church at Rotterdam, which proved the nursery of so many future leaders’.58 A  new wave of exiles arrived during the 1630s that included five men who would become influential Congregationalist leaders in England during the 1640s: in 1636 William Bridge succeeded John Davenport as minister to the English church at Rotterdam (after Davenport had set his own course for New England); Jeremiah Burroughes and Sidrach Simpson soon joined the church as pastor and teacher, respectively; Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye together 53  For a full discussion of this correspondence and its implications for intra-Puritan r­ elations, see Michael P. Winship, ‘Straining the Bonds of Puritanism: English Presbyterians and Massachusetts Congregationalists Debate Ecclesiology, 1636–40’, in Crawford Gribben and R.  Scott Spurlock, eds, Puritans and Catholics in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1600–1800 (Houndmills, 2015), pp. 89–111. 54  Hardman Moore, Pilgrims, pp. 23–6. 55  Hardman Moore, Pilgrims, p. 145. 56  Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America (New York, 2012), pp. 179–80; Hardman Moore, Pilgrims, pp. 98–9. 57  Hardman Moore, Pilgrims, ch. 7. 58  Nuttall, Visible Saints, p. 15.

Congregationalists 99 gathered a church at Arnhem in association with the Rotterdam church.59 All of them had been removed from ministry in England, voluntarily or otherwise, and all of them returned to England between 1640 and 1642. For reasons we will soon come to, they became known as the ‘Dissenting Brethren’. There were other important Congregationalist leaders beyond them and these five men did not share the same point of view on every issue,60 but they generally moved as one and they quickly became the most significant collective Congregationalist voice in England’s affairs during the 1640s. At the beginning of that decade all those seeking a thorough reform in the Church of England faced a common enemy—so they closed ranks. These five men worked constructively with leading Presbyterian figures, above all Edmund Calamy, Curate of St Mary Aldermanbury, London. Under his leadership (and literally in his house, late in 1641) Congregationalist and Presbyterian leaders committed themselves to the ‘Aldermanbury Accord’.61 If Thomas Edwards is to be believed (he was one of the most vehement critics of the Congregationalists) both sides agreed not to advertise their differences over church government in the pulpit, in print, or even in private conversation.62 Even as late as December 1643 they could publish Certaine Considerations to Dis-swade Men from Further Gathering of Churches. Its main point is selfevident in the title, but it also offered assurances that the ‘rights of particular Congregations’ and the sensitivities of tender consciences would be protected in any eventual religious settlement. That suggests a continued concern to balance the interests of both Presbyterians and Congregationalists and a shared determination to check the growth of the sects.63 Chad van Dixhoorn calls it a ‘truce’,64 though on occasion the two parties were not above using New English or Scottish proxies to defend their views for them. But by then the Westminster Assembly, first convened in July 1643, had raised the stakes. For the first time the Puritans had the positive opportunity to bring about the reformation they desired, and the questions they had avoided 59  Nuttall, Visible Saints, pp. 11–14, Watts, Dissenters, pp. 64–5. For their Dutch experience, see Berndt Gustafsson, The Five Dissenting Brethren: A Study of the Dutch Background of their Independentism (Lund, 1955). 60  Nuttall, Visible Saints, pp. 11–12, 17–18. 61  For a useful account of the Accord, see Francis  J.  Bremer, Congregational Communion: Clerical Friendship in the Anglo-American Puritan Community, 1610–1692 (Boston, MA, 1994), pp. 131–3. 62  Thomas Edwards, Antapologia: Or, a Full Answer to the Apologeticall Narration (London, 1644), pp. 240–41. See also, John Vicars, The Schismatick Sifted (London, 1646), pp. 15–17; and M[archamont] N[edham], Independencie No Schisme (London, 1646), pp. 6–7. Hunter Powell is not convinced the accord was quite so specific or limiting (Hunter Powell, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution, 1638–44 (Manchester, 2015), p. 29; Hunter Powell, ‘The Dissenting Brethren and the Power of the Keys, 1640–1644’ (PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2011), p. 19, n.12). 63  Watts, The Dissenters, pp. 100–1. 64  Chad Van Dixhoorn, ed., The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643–1652, 5 vols (Oxford, 2012), II, p. 488.


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until now could be put off no longer. Hunter Powell casts the Assembly as a ‘disruptive moment that broke into the effort to unite the Godly’.65 Where a broad agreement might have sustained goodwill and overlooked differences, the level of detail demanded of the Assembly drew attention to those differences with excruciating precision at the same time as it generated increasingly detailed and complex ecclesiological options over which individuals and alliances might disagree. The recent publication of all the Assembly’s extant minutes and papers—a remarkable work of scholarship in itself—has already begun to deepen our understanding of those debates.66 Hunter Powell has used those Minutes, together with a careful reading of English, Scottish, and Continental publications, to offer a striking and important departure from previous scholarship. His work complicates any simple, reductionist, binary opposition between ‘Presbyterians’ and ‘Congregationalists’. He demonstrates that there were significant differences within the Presbyterian majority, so one of the major dynamics of the Assembly was to engineer events to prevent those intra-Presbyterian divisions ever being exposed. There were also differences among the Scottish commissioners—men like Robert Baillie, Samuel Rutherford, and George Gillespie—who arrived in September 1643 with the right to join in the Assembly debates but not vote.67 Far from uniformly driving the reluctant English into rigid Presbyterianism, the likes of Gillespie and Rutherford shared an affinity with the Congregationalists. ‘Scottish views of church government were far more congregational [in 1640] than they would be three years later at the Westminster Assembly’, and later still when, under pressure from home, and making strategic moves to ally themselves with the Presbyterians (moves that did not help them in the end) they chose not to support the Congregationalist minority.68 By the autumn of 1644, English military forces seemed to be winning the  war all on their own and the Scottish army was increasingly seen as redundant—the Scots were losing their political clout.69 The best way to maximize what leverage they had was to work through the Assembly to achieve a Presbyterian settlement in England. In late October the Scots ­dramatically boosted their military and political credibility by taking Newcastle. Immediately they demanded that parliament require of the Assembly its conclusions on church government even if they were incomplete.70 The Assembly had little choice but to send up all that it had voted on, which included what is called the 65  Powell, Crisis of British Protestantism, p. 53. 66  Van Dixhoorn, ed., Minutes and Papers. 67  Van Dixhoorn, ed., Minutes and Papers, I, pp. 23–7, 175. 68  Powell presents this new interpretation in great detail in The Crisis of British Protestantism; for the quote, see p. 37. 69  Powell, Crisis of British Protestantism, p. 210. 70  Powell, Crisis of British Protestantism, pp. 220–1, 323–3.

Congregationalists 101 ‘third proposition’: ‘That divers churches may be under one presbyteriall government’.71 At that point the Congregationalists lost any hope of accommodation. They publicly dissented from the proposition, thus earning their epithet as the Dissenting Brethren.72 So the Presbyterian settlement offered up by the Assembly was, as Elliot Vernon explains elsewhere in this volume, ‘incomplete and ramshackle’ and badly delayed, implemented only in piecemeal fashion in a series of ordinances from 1645 to 1648.73 In the meantime, other political developments moved in favour of the Congregationalists. In April 1645 parliament reorganized its military forces. The New Model Army was much more efficient and focused in taking the fight to the king. Many of the regiments within the army took on the nature of gathered congregations; many of the soldiers began to demand religious toleration for divergent ideas. In political terms this new modelling displaced those whose interests might be seen to support the Presbyterians and who continued to pursue a negotiated settlement with Charles. If nothing else, it reduced England’s reliance on Scottish military support, and Charles’ alliance with the Scots in the Second Civil War in the summer of 1648 embarrassed the Presbyterians, even if they and some Scottish Presbyterians had not supported the arrangement.74 On 6 December that year Colonel Thomas Pride purged all those members of parliament who the day before had voted for continued negotiations with Charles. In January 1649 a parliamentary court found the king guilty of treason and executed him, an act that always horrified the Presbyterians.75 If any one man stood behind the Regicide it was Oliver Cromwell, soon to become the dominant political figure in England and the most important political patron of the Congregationalists. All of this, therefore, brought about the ascendency of the Congregationalists over the Presbyterians, at the cost of great bitterness between them; but what  about the Separatists? It had been clear throughout the 1640s that the Congregationalists were only reluctant fellow travellers with the Separatists and only while the political situation required allies, even uncomfortable ones. Following Pride’s Purge and the Regicide, that need all but vanished.76 This freed the Congregationalists to acknowledge their willingness to allow the magistrate a role in overseeing the framework of England’s religious life, and their support of toleration only so far as it would encompass the ‘orthodox 71  Powell, Crisis of British Protestantism, p. 181. 72  [Westminster Assembly], The Reasons of the Dissenting Brethren Against the Third Proposition Concerning Presbyterial Government (London, 1645); [Westminster Assembly], The Reasons Presented by the Dissenting Brethren . . . Together with the Answer of the Assembly of Divines to those Reasons of Dissent (London, 1648). 73  See Chapter 2 in this volume. 74  Watts, The Dissenters, pp. 115, 116. 75  Elliot Vernon, ‘The Quarrel of the Covenant: The London Presbyterians and the Regicide’, in Jason Peacey, ed., The Regicides and the Execution of Charles I (Basingstoke, 2001), pp. 202–24; Mark Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs (Woodbridge, 2007 and 2016), pp. 154–7. 76  Watts, Dissenters, p. 126.


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godly’. Many of these themes would play out during the 1650s, but in 1649 the Leveller leader William Walwyn was disgusted. The Congregationalists had demanded toleration as sharply as any from both bishops and the ‘new raised . . . Puritan Presbyter’. But now that they had ‘gained abundance of love and respect from all men: their Congregations multiplied, and . . . gained much countenance from authority’ they had turned on their former allies, denying them any toleration in their turn.77 The sense of betrayal was palpable and irreversible. It is dangerous and misleading to lump all Separatists together, but, speaking generally, the alliance between the Congregationalists and the Separatists had ‘dissolved’.78

THE 1650S The Interregnum brought Congregationalism into a spacious place in which it could grow, and grow it did, helped along by two related factors. First, the dismantling of the old national structures and hierarchies of the Church of England together with the failure to construct a viable religious settlement in their place left individual parishes largely free to go their own way. The result was ‘de facto congregationalism’.79 As Joel Halcomb puts it, the ‘puritan revolution was defined by a series of voluntary local and personal reformations’.80 Second, though the Congregationalists remained a small minority they gained from the patronage of Oliver Cromwell, who would become Lord Protector from December 1653 until his death in September 1658 and who was in turn supported by the army, which had become a significant political player in its own right. The instability of a regime that relied on holding together both civilian and military interests was never far from the surface and it did not last much beyond Cromwell’s passing, but for a time the Congregationalists flourished under significant political patronage. In his excellent study of Congregationalism, Halcomb identifies two distinct phases of growth: 1643–4 and 1650–3. The ‘pinnacle of revolutionary congregationalism’ came in those early years of the Interregnum: ‘the vast majority of churches gathered between 1650–3’.81 He also identifies regional networks that supported this growth. Not surprisingly, much of it took place in precisely those counties that had long histories of Puritan networks: Essex, 77  [William Walwyn], The Vanitie of the Present Churches (1649), p. 2. 78  Blair Worden, The English Civil Wars 1640–1660 (London, 2009), p. 116. 79  J. William Black, Reformation Pastors: Richard Baxter and the Ideal of the Reformed Pastor (Bletchley, 2004), p. 141. 80  Joel Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice during the Puritan Revolution’ (PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2009), p. 39. 81  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, p. 22.

Congregationalists 103 Norfolk, and Suffolk; ‘by the Restoration these three counties would be home to almost 50 churches’.82 The next largest network outside London developed in Kent, where twenty-five churches had gathered by the Restoration.83 After that came Cheshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, which gathered around thirteen congregations, the same number as the West Midlands.84 London and Middlesex added in at least twenty-five churches.85 Similar growth occurred outside England as well, in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland (notably in Edinburgh, around Aberdeen, and around Glasgow).86 ‘Between them the Congregationalists and Baptists had perhaps 80,000–100,000 actively covenanted members, less than 2 per cent of the population.’87 Lack of evidence means we cannot be certain of the total number of gathered congregations, but, in sum, ‘[a]pproximately 250 churches had been gathered across Britain and Ireland by the Restoration’.88 These were gathered congregations, to be sure, but all this growth was not disconnected from existing parish life and structures. To return to Susan Hardman Moore and those New England ministers who came back home during the 1640s and 1650s, their ‘presence in parish pulpits . . . underlines the tenacity of the parish ideal. Let loose on English soil, they still wanted to preach to the community at large, as well as to gather saints for closer fellowship.’89 A Congregationalist minister could serve the parish and also gather a congregation that would meet at a different time and even include members of other parishes. Halcomb asserts that most of the newly gathered churches ‘existed within a parish format’; some even met within the precincts of cathedrals.90 By the Restoration, four out of five Congregational churches were led by a minister who also held a state living; the vast majority of those held a parochial living.91 Around 10 per cent of ministers ejected from parish ministry in 1662 were Congregationalists.92 Thus the altered landscape offered a ‘new freedom to

82  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, p. 39. 83  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, p. 42. 84  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, pp. 44, 48. 85  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, p. 48. 86  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, pp. 50–3. For the full story of Congregationalism in Wales, see R. Tudur Jones, Congregationalism in Wales, ed. Robert Pope (Cardiff, 2004). See also, Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Welsh Saints: Walter Cradock, Vavasor Powell, Morgan Llwyd (Cardiff, 1957). 87  John Morrill, ‘The Puritan Revolution’, in John Coffey and Paul C.H. Lim, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (Cambridge, 2008), p. 79. 88  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, p. 54. 89  Hardman Moore, Pilgrims, p. 139. 90  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, pp. 102, 110. 91  Halcomb, ‘A Social History of Congregational Religious Practice’, p. 104. 92  Geoffrey  F.  Nuttall, ‘Congregational Commonwealth Incumbents’, Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society, 14 (1943), 155. See also, A.G.  Mathews, ed., Calamy Revised: Being a Revision of Edmund Calamy’s Account of the Ministers and Others Ejected and Silenced, 1660–2 (Oxford, 1934).


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define the relation between the parish population at large and the saints within it’.93 Congregationalists seized that opportunity with both hands. In various ways, then, ‘many communities had developed a functional settlement in their local religious life’ during the 1650s,94 but the search for an enduring national settlement continued. Here the Dissenting Brethren took the lead in developing a national framework for England’s churches. They were joined by a younger man who would, after the Restoration, assume the leadership of the Congregationalist movement in England: John Owen.95 After reading Cotton’s Keyes of the Kingdom in the mid-1640s he came over to Congregationalism. While still serving as parish minister at Coggeshall, Essex, he gathered a congregation within the parish. An astute politician, he smoothly navigated the mechanisms of patronage to rise to national prominence, preaching to parliament the day after the Regicide and coming under the wing of Cromwell, with whom he travelled as chaplain during the Irish and Scottish campaigns from late 1649 to July 1651, continuing thereafter as chaplain to the Council of State. He became Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and, from 1653 to 1657, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.96 Owen had quickly become ‘the chief architect of the Cromwellian Church’.97 Therefore, well placed to influence policy, the Dissenting Brethren-plusOwen set about to engineer a religious settlement that would be conducive to Congregationalist principles and practice as well as being acceptable to all the moderate godly, notwithstanding the post-Regicide tension between them (which, certainly by 1654, they were seeking to ameliorate). This involved a search for the ‘fundamentals of the faith’: those orthodox, Trinitarian beliefs that were necessary to salvation. Any group that adhered to those fundamentals would enjoy toleration on any other matters of doctrine and practice in which they differed (like church government). Indeed, any Christian who believed the fundamentals was a member of the one true, invisible Church; doctrine held that Church in unity, not structure. This helped Owen to defend the Congregationalists against the ancient accusation of schism: as long as these fundamentals were shared there could be no schism, no matter how many distinct congregations they gathered.98 93  Hardman Moore, Pilgrims, p. 127. 94  Halcomb, ‘Congregational Religious Practice’, p. 101. 95  Crawford Gribben, John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat (New York, 2016), chs 5 and 6. 96  For a summary of Owen’s personality and career, see Tim Cooper, John Owen, Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity (Farnham, 2011), pp. 102–24. See also, Martyn Cowan, John Owen and the Civil War Apocalypse: Preaching, Prophecy and Politics (Abingdon, 2017). 97  Blair Worden, ‘Toleration and the Cromwellian Protectorate’, in W.J. Sheils, ed., Persecution and Toleration (Oxford, 1984), p. 204. The point is repeated in Blair Worden, God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell (Oxford, 2012), p. 67. 98  John Owen, Of Schisme: The True Nature of It Discovered and Considered (Oxford, 1657), pp. 134–7, 192–6.

Congregationalists 105 On 10 February 1652 Owen, Goodwin, Nye, and Simpson petitioned ­ arliament. The petition itself is no longer extant, but the fruit emerged later p that year in two documents: The Humble Proposals signalled the system of Triers and Ejectors that would be implemented in 1654; the Proposals for the Furtherance and Propagation of the Gospell in this Nation offered a list of sixteen fundamentals, but Cromwell dissolved parliament in April 1653 before it could authorize them. A further attempt followed late in 1654 when Owen was an influential member of a small assembly of Presbyterian and Congregationalist divines to advise parliament on the fundamentals. It compiled a list of fundamentals that once again went nowhere: Cromwell dissolved parliament in January 1655 before it could debate the assembly’s work.99 Subsequent attempts during the Second Protectorate Parliament also came to nothing, though the 1657 Humble Petition and Advice called for a national confession.100 In fact, that long-sought-for settlement would never come. The Association movement offered a different approach to achieving unity, one that was based not on shared principle but on shared practice. Richard Baxter, who undertook an effective reformation of the parish of Kidderminster during the 1650s, pioneered this alternative approach. He established the Worcestershire Association, whose membership was open to nearby ministers who would meet once a month for mutual edification and counsel on difficult cases of discipline.101 Even if they started from different points of principle they agreed on broad practices, which offered a practicable basis for unity. But no nearby Congregationalist chose to join the Association, ‘though two or three honest ones said nothing against us’.102 The Congregationalist minister at  Cockermouth, Thomas Larkham, joined the Association of Ministers in Cumberland and Westmoreland,103 but he was the exception rather than the rule. Baxter was no Congregationalist, but in conciliatory moments he bent over backwards to point out the broad commonality between the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. In 1658 he assessed ten fundamental issues under debate: he thought the two parties could find a practical agreement on nine out of ten. Only on the tenth, the practice of gathering a new congregation in an existing parish, could Baxter give no ground. He thought such exclusivity on the part of the Congregationalists nourished spiritual pride and blunted the 99  For an assessment of this assembly, see Cooper, Formation of Nonconformity, ch. 6. 100  Samuel Rawson Gardiner, ed., The Constitutional Documents of the English Revolution 1625–1660, third edn (Oxford, 1906), 454; Worden, God’s Instruments, p. 85. 101  [Richard Baxter], Christian Concord: or the Agreement of the Associated Pastors and Churches of Worcestershire (1653). See also Black, Reformation Pastors, esp. ch. 6; and Geoffrey F. Nuttall, ‘The Worcestershire Association: Its Membership’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 1 (1950), 197–206. On p. 203, Nuttall notes that four members were licensed as Congregationalists after the 1672 Declaration of Indulgence. 102  Richard Baxter, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, or, Mr Richard Baxter’s Narrative of the Most Memorable Passages of his Life and Times, ed. Matthew Sylvester (1696), Part I, p. 97, §140. 103  Hardman Moore, Pilgrims, p. 132.


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evangelistic edge of the national Church; it removed the best of the flock, selfishly leaving the straggling remnant to their own devices.104 His assessment illustrates once again that tension in Congregationalism between separation and belonging. At the same time as they were proximate to the Presbyterians on so many issues, they were worlds apart. The Savoy Conference might be seen in part as one last attempt by leading Congregationalists to bring about a national unity. On 12 October 1658 some 200 messengers from 120 congregations throughout England and possibly Wales met at the Savoy palace in London.105 They met in two groups. The larger group produced advice to Congregationalist minsters about discipline and organization. The smaller group worked up a confession of faith. This comprised a general confession in thirty-two chapters; a declaration of thirty chapters concerning Congregationalist church polity; and a long preface. Published late in 1658 as A Declaration of the Faith and Order Owned and Practised in the Congregational Churches in England, it supplied an enduring charter for Congregationalist faith and practice over subsequent centuries.106 But it may have been intended to do more than that. By 1658 political fortunes were shifting once again. The new Lord Protector, Richard Cromwell, lacked his father’s army experience (and support) and tended to favour the Presbyterians. Owen’s removal as Vice-Chancellor in October 1657 was just one indication of the declining political fortunes of the Congregationalists. A year later they feared the Presbyterians might seek to impose the Westminster Confession as England’s doctrinal standard, perhaps in response to the Humble Petition and Advice. They would have no trouble accepting most of the Westminster Confession, but not all of it, and perhaps their own confession was offered as a suitable substitute to the Westminster Confession: it was very similar in content and exactly the same length (thirty-two chapters). Given that the key personnel involved in the Savoy had been a part of every attempted settlement since the Humble Proposals, and given the role of Henry Scobell, Clerk to the Council of State, in organizing the Savoy Conference, it is at least plausible that the Savoy was of broader interest to the regime, not just of narrow interest to the Congregationalists.107 But by 1659 their moment was over. Leading army officers, almost certainly in collusion with John Owen, brought about the end of the Protectorate in an 104  Baxter published this in 1691 as Church Concord: Containing a Disswasive from the Unnecessary Division and Separation, and the Real Concord of the Moderate Independents with the Presbyterians, Instanced in Ten Seeming Differences. See esp. pp. 42ff. See also, Michael Winship, ‘Defining Puritanism in Restoration England: Richard Baxter and Others Respond to A Friendly Debate’, Historical Journal, 54 (2011), 705. 105  Halcomb, ‘Congregational Religious Practice’, p. 45. 106  For a modern edition and introduction, see A.G. Matthews, ed., The Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order 1658 (London, 1959). 107  For a fuller discussion of all this and the historiography, see Cooper, Formation of Nonconformity, ch. 8.

Congregationalists 107 effective coup d’état.108 In the months of chaos that followed the resignation of Richard Cromwell in late May, momentum ran away from the Congregationalists and their political and military allies.109 In the following year, of course, King Charles II was restored. The Presbyterians rightly claimed much of the credit for bringing him back—the spring of 1660 was ‘the apogee of Presbyterian power’110—and they, not the Congregationalists, were invited to negotiate the terms of a restored Church of England. Yet even they lost out: those terms would be harsh indeed, for both parties.

THE RESTORATION PERIOD The religious settlement that followed the Restoration ended any opportunity for Presbyterians and Congregationalists to reshape the national Church. In various negotiations the restored bishops ‘crushed hopes for a moderate religious settlement’.111 Parliament enacted legislation that removed from ministry, municipal corporations, schools, and universities anyone who could not subscribe to the Book of Common Prayer. No group of five or more could meet together for a religious service; no ejected minister could reside within five miles of his former living. In the end, ‘not a corner was left in which a nonconformist could hide’.112 This is, technically speaking, the birth of Dissent, but we might note two things. First, most of those now labelled ‘Dissenters’ did not see themselves as Dissenters; they argued that the latest iteration of the Church of England, shaped according to the wishes of a particular and narrow group of bishops, was itself in dissent from its own traditions. Both Mark Goldie and Michael Winship have recently argued that the Restoration settlement was, in Winship’s words, merely ‘a fragile statutory coup’ built upon ‘present legal arrangements’.113 Second, 1662 was not the birth of denominations. Goldie rightly reminds us that there was enormous continuity in the preferences and personnel of those we call Puritans (before 1660) and Dissenters (after 1660). Presbyterians still yearned for a comprehensive Church in which the terms of inclusion were moderated to such a degree that they could find a welcome place within it. We know now that never happened, but that was not a foregone conclusion at 108  See Cooper, Formation of Nonconformity, pp. 243–57. 109  Jones, Congregationalism in England, pp. 41–5. 110  Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, pp. 157, 158–9. 111  Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, p. 234. 112  Jones, Congregationalism in England, p. 59. For a description of each piece of legislation, see pp. 57–9, 66–8, and also Neil Keeble, The Literary Culture of Nonconformity in Later SeventeenthCentury England (Leicester, 1987), ch. 1. 113  Winship, ‘Defining Puritanism’, pp. 709, 710.


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the time: between 1667 and 1689 eight bills for Comprehension appeared before parliament. But over that time there was a growing trend especially among younger Presbyterians to accept their place outside the national Church and to prefer a policy of toleration to comprehension, since toleration implicitly affirmed their new (if unwanted) stance as reluctant Separatists.114 Of course, Congregationalists from the beginning were content with toleration. They do not feature prominently in Goldie’s analysis,115 but its effect is to posit a greater distance between Presbyterians and Congregationalists for much of the Restoration period than between Presbyterians and those we may now call Anglicans. The agenda for Comprehension became entangled in the agenda for Toleration: they continually worked against each other to the advantage of a common opponent. Despite their shared experience of persecution, therefore, and their enduring commonality of conviction, the gap between the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians never looked like closing. Persecution was no uniform phenomenon during the Restoration period. It ebbed and flowed in accord with national political developments, becoming notably worse in three periods, 1662–6, 1670–2, and the 1680s.116 The Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 called a temporary halt to persecution, one that gave vital breathing space for Congregationalists to take stock and rebuild. The licensing of Congregationalist ministers and premises showed that its main strength ‘lay in London and East Anglia with strong outposts in Devon and Yorkshire’.117 And the implementation of persecution adjusted to local conditions, not least the posture of local magistrates. One of the most striking examples is Yarmouth in Norfolk, where in 1667 the Congregationalists were able to call their former minister and one of the Dissenting Brethren, William Bridge, to serve among them. Thus Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk remained relatively strong; Coventry, Newcastle, and Bridgwater provide similar examples of resilience.118 Other places were not so lucky. The removal of their ministers left numerous congregations weakened and exposed; some vanished altogether.119 Congregationalists evaded the authorities by meeting in the woods; in cleverly concealed structures; during the night; even on a rock at low tide ‘in Kingsbridge estuary, a point that was believed to be a kind of no-man’s-land outside the jurisdiction of the three neighbouring and equidistant parishes’.120 The constant threat of spies, informers, raids, fines, and imprisonments took a steady toll over a very long time. Just before his death in 1683, Owen felt that he was 114  Goldie, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs, p. 239. 115  They are notably absent in the discussion on pp. 226–8. 116  Jones, Congregationalism in England, pp. 74, 97. For another more detailed account of persecution, see Watts, The Dissenters, section III. 117  Jones, Congregationalism in England, pp. 92–3. 118  Jones, Congregationalism in England, pp. 73, 75. 119  Jones, Congregationalism in England, p. 73. 120  Jones, Congregationalism in England, p. 79. See also, Keeble, Literary Culture of Nonconformity, pp. 72–8.

Congregationalists 109 ‘leaving the ship of the church in a storm’.121 He and other Congregationalists had been implicated in the Rye House plot to assassinate King Charles II and his brother James, the Duke of York. That inflamed once more the paranoia of the authorities and intensified the persecution they brought to bear.122 In 1688 King James II fled London, fearing his head might go the same way as his father’s; William and Mary ascended the throne. A year later parliament passed the Toleration Act—not, to the great disappointment of many Presbyterians, the Bill for Comprehension. Congregationalists welcomed the Toleration Act warmly enough even if it granted only exemption from the penal code (not its dismantling) and still left them as second-class citizens in their own country. Still, this was preferable to any attempt to comprehend them within the Church of England. They finally owned the separatism that was always latent in the near-Separatism of their forebears. Even so, that did not stop the Presbyterians and Congregationalists from trying to forge a ‘happy union’. In 1690 they formed a common fund to provide education and financial support to their ministers. They also began a series of joint lectures at Pinners’ Hall, London. In 1691 they signed and published the Heads of Agreement Assented to by the United Ministers In and About London, Formerly Called Presbyterian and Congregational. But the linguistic leap signalled in that title was too big a jump to hope for; longstanding differences did not disappear quite as easily as that. The two groups began a decade-long debate over soteriology: Presbyterians accused Congregationalists of Antinomianism, while they accused the Presbyterians of Arminianism. This debate, along with the innovative, effective, and (to Presbyterians) entirely unwelcome itinerant methods of the Congregationalist minister of Rothwell, Northamptonshire, Richard Davis, served to wreck the Union. In 1694 the two groups began to hold their own respective lectures at different venues at competing times. In 1695 the Congregationalists established a separate fund to support their own ministers. All of this ‘broke up the Happy Union and created a rift between Presbyterians and Congregationalists which was never closed’.123

CONCLUSION There has been a notable trend within recent scholarship to move away from  treating dichotomies (such as Congregationalist/Presbyterian or Congregationalist/Separatist) as straightforward, clear-cut, self-evident binaries 121  Peter Toon, ed., The Correspondence of John Owen (1616–1683) (Cambridge, 1970), p. 174. 122  Jones, Congregationalism in England, pp. 98–100. 123  For these developments in the 1690s, see Jones, Congregationalism in England, pp. 109–19, and for that final quote, see p. 118.


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and to consider what these groups had in common as much as what held them apart. To offer just one example, Ann Hughes lays aside the main patterns of previous scholarship that were ‘based on boxes, linear developments, or factions’ and that reflected both ‘a drive to fit people into hard and fast categories’ and the ‘search for a clearly defined turning point, the time when once and for all religious and political divisions emerged, party alignments were fixed, or adversary politics sprang into life’. Instead, fathoming out these complex developments ‘requires a more sophisticated understanding of political identities, both individual and collective, as more fragmentary, contradictory, and contingent than dominant modes of analysis imply’.124 This is a welcome recognition of the overlapping, fluid complexity within early modern discourse and identity. It has been necessary in a brief survey such as this to employ easy short-hands—‘Presbyterian’, ‘Congregationalist’, ‘Separatist’—but they mask a great deal of underlying complexity and divergence even within those labels. A second and more enduring pattern within the scholarship is the different point of view adopted by scholars of American Puritanism, who have generally emphasized the Congregationalists’ tendency towards separation, and scholars of British Puritanism, who have drawn out their inclination to belong.125 The recent scholarship of Michael Winship and Hunter Powell might be seen to continue precisely that pattern. Once again, in a brief essay such as this it is impossible to arbitrate between these different points of view, much less settle the matter (if that were even possible). I hope it will not seem too faint-hearted or banal to suggest that there is truth in both perspectives. We have seen within Congregationalism the tendency to look in both directions, sharing so much in common with both Presbyterians and Separatists whilst also seeking to stand apart on principled points of conviction. But I agree with Powell that those Congregationalist leaders of the early 1640s genuinely desired a way of accommodation even if in the end that proved impossible, for reasons that were not entirely their fault. Forty years later John Owen measured the distance between Presbyterians and Congregationalists: ‘their Practice, so far as I can observe, is one and the same, and therefore their Principles must be also, though they choose several ways of expressing them’.126 We should not take that statement at face value, but it does raise an awkward question: if there was so much commonality and overlap between these two groups, why did they not come to agreement? What is it that accounts for the fragmentation of the Puritans—a fragmentation that was there, if not always publically visible, from the very beginning? 124  Ann Hughes, Gangraena and the Struggle for the English Revolution (Oxford, 2004), p. 330. 125  I am grateful to Susan Hardman Moore for pointing out this pattern. 126  John Owen, A Brief Vindication of the Nonconformists From the Charge of Schisme (1680), p. 20.

Congregationalists 111 This is one more question that is far too large to answer here, but surely any answer will comprise a number of layers or elements.127 First, there is the dynamic of religious group identity in which the finest gradations of sameness and difference become critically important as similar groups compete for what might be called ‘market share’. It is their very commonality, then, that invested minor differences with major aggravation, a dynamic hardly unknown among other groups at other times. Second, we are dealing with people who were nothing if not conscientious—they were not called Puritans for nothing, with all the connotations that word can bring. God had prescribed a right way, and only one right way, with serious consequences for error. Ecclesiology may not matter much to us but it mattered a great deal to them. God’s judgement hung poised over England should the Reformation go awry, as it seemed to do time after time. Getting it right, and getting it precisely right, lent urgency to the issues under debate. Third, there were a cluster of human and social tendencies. Personality came into play, not least serious relational dysfunction between the leaders of various groups, especially between Richard Baxter and John Owen. It is all too easy for what I have elsewhere called ‘fatal memory’ to do its work:128 a long remembrance of accumulating slights and offences that provides a filter of hurt through which one group now perceives the actions of the other, making trust and mutual understanding all the more unattainable. And there were the political and social pressures brought to bear upon those groups. True, those forces (like persecution) could have bound them together more tightly, but they tended to have a separating effect. This is apparent in the Restoration period when in matters of national political concern the Presbyterians and Congregationalists could not be seen to be working together,129 or when the agenda for Toleration frustrated the agenda for Comprehension, and vice versa. We might bear in mind, too, that there were moments of agreement between the two groups but they were frustrated by the need to get any religious settlement approved by parliament—the transitory nature of those parliaments (during the 1650s, when settlement lay within reach) proved most unhelpful. For all these reasons and more, the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists never attained a happy union, despite the best hopes of many to achieve it. As it happened, permanent denominational divisions marked the Church in England as it emerged from the seventeenth century. And those divides, of course, are with us still.

127  For a fuller discussion, see Cooper, Formation of Nonconformity, pp. 301–7. 128  Cooper, Formation of Nonconformity, ch. 9. 129  For an example, see Baxter, Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, Part III, p. 62, §141; III, p. 64, §143.


The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y

Brachlow, Stephen, The Communion of Saints: Radical Puritan and Separatist Ecclesiology 1570–1625 (Oxford, 1988). Bremer, Francis J., Shaping New Englands: Puritan Clergymen in Seventeenth-Century England and New England (New York, 1995). Cooper, James  F., Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial Massachusetts (Oxford, 1999). Cooper, Tim, John Owen, Richard Baxter and the Formation of Nonconformity (Farnham, 2011). Goldie, Mark, Roger Morrice and the Puritan Whigs (Woodbridge, 2007 and 2016). Gribben, Crawford, John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat (New York, 2016). Ha, Polly, ed., The Puritans on Independence: The First Examination, Defence and Second Examination (Oxford, 2017). Hardman Moore, Susan, Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home (New Haven, CT, 2007). Jones, R. Tudur, Congregationalism in England 1662–1962 (London, 1962). Jones, R. Tudur, Congregationalism in Wales, ed. Robert Pope (Cardiff, 2004). Lake, Peter, Moderate Puritans and the Elizabethan Church (Cambridge, 1982). Matthews, A.G., ed., The Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order 1658 (London, 1959). Morgan, Edmund S., Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (New York, 1963). Nuttall, Geoffrey F., Visible Saints: The Congregational Way 1640–1660 (Oxford, 1957). Powell, Hunter, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution, 1638–44 (Manchester, 2015). Watts, Michael  R., The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978). Winship, Michael, ‘Defining Puritanism in Restoration England: Richard Baxter and Others Respond to A Friendly Debate’, Historical Journal, 54 (2011), 689–715. Winship, Michael, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, MA, 2012). Winship, Michael  P., ‘Straining the Bonds of Puritanism: English Presbyterians and Massachusetts Congregationalists Debate Ecclesiology, 1636–40’, in Crawford Gribben and R.  Scott Spurlock, eds, Puritans and Catholics in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1600–1800 (Houndmills, 2015), pp. 89–111. Worden, Blair, God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell (Oxford, 2012).

5 Separatists and Baptists* Michael A.G. Haykin

‘Origins are elusive things’, the English Baptist historian Ernest A. Payne once remarked with regard to the beginnings of English Dissent. As he went on to elaborate, it is not clear where those beginnings of the Dissenting tradition in England are to be placed—with the early Tudor Reformer John Hooper and his dispute about vestments, with Richard Fitz, who was arrested for leading unauthorized worship in Plumbers’ Hall in London in June of 1567, or with Robert Browne and his transformation of St Helen’s in Norwich into a Separatist congregation in 1581?1 What is patent, though, is that the bulk of English Separatism had its main source in Elizabethan Calvinistic Puritanism.2 After Elizabeth I ascended the throne in the late autumn of 1558 Protestants were delighted that England was now firmly within the orbit of the Reformation. When Katherine Bertie, née Willoughby, the Duchess of Suffolk, for example, heard the news of Elizabeth’s accession she wrote at once to her from exile in *  I am grateful to Dr Adam Winters, the Archivist of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library at the Southern Baptist Seminary, for help in obtaining sources for this chapter. 1  Ernest A. Payne, The Free Church Tradition in the Life of England (London, 1944), p. 22. On Fitz and his congregation, see Albert Peel, The First Congregational Churches: New Light on Separatist Congregations in London 1567–81 (Cambridge, 1920); Michael  R.  Watts, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978), 19–20, 23–4; Timothy George, John Robinson and the English Separatist Tradition (Macon, GA, 1982), 27–31. See also the helpful overview of R.  Tudur Jones, Congregationalism in England 1662–1962 (London, 1962), 13–14. More recently, Michael R. Watts has argued for the roots of Separatism within late medieval Lollardy. See The Dissenters, pp. 7–14. For partial corroboration of Watts’ argument in this regard, see especially Nesta Evans, ‘The Descent of Dissenters in the Chiltern Hundreds’, in  Margaret Spufford, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters, 1520–1725 (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 288–308. 2  Watts, Dissenters, p. 14; J.F. McGregor, ‘The Baptists: Fount of All Heresy’, in McGregor and B. Reay, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution (Oxford, 1984), p. 26; Stephen Brachlow, ‘Puritan Theology and General Baptist Origins’, The Baptist Quarterly, 31 (1985–1986), 179–94; Stephen Wright, The Early English Baptists, 1603–1649 (Woodbridge, 2006), pp. 4–7.

Michael A.G. Haykin, Separatists and Baptists In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0006


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what is now Lithuania and told her, ‘if the Israelites might joy in their Deborah, how much we English in our Elizabeth’.3 The question that arose, though, was to what extent would the Elizabethan Church be reformed, especially given Elizabeth’s innate conservatism, well summed up by her motto semper eadem, ‘always the same’.4 A few months after the above-cited letter, for instance, Katherine Bertie was concerned that things were not moving fast enough in terms of reform, an attitude typical of many of the returning Marian exiles.5 As she impatiently told Elizabeth’s main confidante and chief adviser, William Cecil: ‘To build surely is first to lay the sure cornered stone, today and not tomorrow; there is no exception by man’s law that may serve against God’s. . . Christ . . . hath left his Gospel behind him a rule sufficient and only to be followed.’6 Within a handful of years the mindset typified by these words had crystallized into a distinct ecclesial position, namely, Puritanism. Initially defined in response to Elizabeth’s ecclesial ‘settledness’, the Puritans began to labour and lobby for reform within the Elizabethan Church after the model of the Reformed churches in Protestant Switzerland, especially that in Geneva. By the 1580s, though, a number of the more radical Puritans, despairing of reformation within the Church of England, organized their own congregations independent of episcopal control. As English Baptist historian B.R. White has noted: For many it was but a short step from impatient Puritanism within the established Church to convinced Separatism outside it. So close in many ways were the ideals of the two groups that for many the step from Puritanism into Separatism was often but the step between yearning and fulfilment.7

3  Katherine Bertie to Elizabeth I, January 25, 1559 in Georgina Bertie, Five Generations of a Loyal House (London, 1845), I, pp. 34–5. 4  Peter Marshall, ‘Settlement Patterns: The Church of England, 1533–1603’, in Anthony Milton, ed., The Oxford History of Anglicanism: Volume I: Reformation and Identity, c.1520–1662 (Oxford, 2017), p. 53. 5 B.R. White, The English Separatist Tradition from the Marian Martyrs to the Pilgrim Fathers (London, 1971), pp. 20–1. This work is still an excellent guide to mapping the development of the Separatists. 6  Katherine Bertie, Letter to William Cecil, March 4, 1559 in ‘Elizabeth: March 1559, 1–10’, Calendar of State Papers Foreign: Elizabeth, Volume 1, 1558–1559, ed. Joseph Stevenson (London, 1863), pp. 152–70 (British History Online pp.152–170). The spelling and capitalization have been modernized for this and other quotations in this chapter. For a study of the Duchess of Suffolk, see Melissa Franklin Harkrider, Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England. Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, and Lincolnshire’s Godly Aristocracy, 1519–1580 (Woodbridge, 2008). It is noteworthy that one of the Duchess’ protégés, John Browne, was involved in the Separatist movement in the late 1560s and 1570s. See Peel, First Congregational Churches, pp. 24–30; White, English Separatist Tradition, pp. 28–9; George, John Robinson and the English Separatist Tradition, pp. 25–6; Harkrider, Women, Reform and Community, pp. 117–18. 7 White, English Separatist Tradition, p. 84.

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‘WITHOUT TARYING FOR ANIE’: THE ELIZABETHAN SEPARATISTS If there is a clarion-call of the Separatist movement it would be A Treatise of Reformation without Tarying for Anie (1582) by Robert Browne, or ‘Troublechurch’ Browne, as one of his opponents nicknamed him.8 During his undergraduate years at Cambridge University, Browne had become a thoroughgoing Puritan, and after graduation sought mentoring by Richard Greenham, a pioneer of Puritan pastoral care, who was ministering in Dry Drayton, just north of Cambridge.9 Over the course of two years, from 1578 to 1579, Browne lived with Greenham, likening his home to the Old Testament school of the prophets mentioned in 1 Samuel 18. But Greenham informed Browne that ‘without leave & special word from the bishop, he was to suffer none to teach openly in his parish’. Although Greenham did not adhere to this ruling and allowed Browne to teach in the parish, Browne became convinced that ‘the bishops’ feet were too much set in every place, & that spiritual infection too much spread even to the best reformed places’.10 In part, this experience led Browne to the conviction that each local congregation had the right, indeed the responsibility, to elect its own elders. At the beginning of the next decade Browne moved to Norwich, fertile ground for radical Puritanism. Here he ministered with a Cambridge friend Robert Harrison, who was the Master of St. Giles’ Hospital in Norwich from 1580 to 1582.11 By 1581 Browne and Harrison shared the opinion that the establishment of congregations apart from the Established Church and its parish churches was a necessity for, as Browne wrote that year, ‘God will receive none to communion & covenant with him, which as yet are at one with the wicked’.12 The two men transformed the hospital chapel, St Helen’s, into a Separatist congregation of sorts. Matters of doctrine and practice were decided by Browne and Harrison in consultation with the church members though the church was still technically a parish church. Not surprisingly, state authorities sought to 8 White, English Separatist Tradition, p. 44. On Robert Browne, see White, English Separatist Tradition, pp. 44–66; Watts, The Dissenters, pp. 27–34; George, John Robinson and the English Separatist Tradition, pp. 35–44; Michael Winship, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, MA, London, 2012), pp. 46–51. 9   Robert Browne, A True and Short Declaration, Both of the Gathering and Ioyning Together of Certaine Persons: and also of the Lamentable Breach and Division which fell amongst them ([1583]), sig. A1v. For publication details of this tract, see Leland H. Carlson and Albert Peel, eds, The Writings of Robert Harrison and Robert Browne (London, New York, 1953), p. 396. On Greenham, see John H. Primus, Richard Greenham: Portrait of an Elizabethan Pastor (Macon, GA, 1998). 10 Browne, True and Short Declaration, sig. A1v. 11  On Harrison, see Carlson and Peel, eds, Writings of Robert Harrison and Robert Browne, pp. 1–3; Jones, Congregationalism in England, pp. 15–16. 12 Browne, True and Short Declaration, sig. B2v.


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shut them down, and Browne, Harrison, and their Norwich congregation left England in 1582 for the freedom of the Netherlands. What attracted the Separatists to the Netherlands was its geographical proximity to England, its policy of religious toleration, its phenomenal commercial prosperity—the early seventeenth century witnessed such a flowering of Dutch literary, scientific, and artistic achievement that this period has often been called ‘the golden age of the Netherlands’—and the Reformed nature of its churches. It was there that Browne published his Treatise of Reformation. In this tract and subsequent writings, Browne set forth views that, over the course of the next century, would become common property of all the theological children of the English Separatists, including the Baptists. Over against what passed for standard English ecclesial wisdom, Browne had to demonstrate both his obedience to secular authorities as well as his rejection of their right to intervene in the life of a local church, a given for many since the fourth-century Constantinian revolution. Browne willingly conceded the right of civil authorities to rule and to govern.13 However, he drew a distinct line between their powers in society at large and their power with regard to local churches. As citizens of the state the individual members of these churches were to be subject to civil authorities, but, he emphasized, these authorities had no right ‘to compel religion, to plant churches by power, and to force a submission to ecclesiastical government by laws and penalties’.14 Browne conceived of the local church as a company of Christians who had covenanted together to live under the rule of Christ, whose will was made known through his Word and his Spirit.15 Therefore, pastors and elders of the church, though they ultimately received their authority and office from God, were to be appointed to their office by ‘due consent and agreement of the church’.16 For Browne, the kingdom of God cannot be brought about by the decrees of state authorities for ultimately Christianity is ‘a matter of private conscience rather than public order’ and ‘the church is a fellowship of believers rather than an army’ of conscripts.17 When Browne returned to the British archipelago in 1584 he ended up recanting his views after suffering imprisonment for them, but his mantle and that of Harrison, who appears to have died in Middleburg in 1585, fell to three men—John Greenwood, Henry Barrow, and a Welshman, John Penry. All three of these men would be hanged in 1593 for what the state regarded as 13  Robert Browne, A Treatise of Reformation without Tarying for Anie, and of the Wickednesse of those Preachers which will not Reforme till the Magistrate Commaunde or Compell Them (1582), sig. A2r–v. 14 Browne, Treatise of Reformation, sig. B3v–B4r. 15  Robert Browne, A Booke which Sheweth the Life and Manners of All True Christians (1582), sigs A1v–A2r and C2v–C3r. 16 Browne, The Life and Manners of All True Christians, sig. K1r. 17 Watts, Dissenters, p. 34.

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seditious writings advocating secession from the Established Church. Before their respective deaths, though, their preaching and writings had led a number in London to adopt Separatist principles. Barrow, ‘a spokesman of great fire and genius’,18 was vitriolic in his denunciation of the state Church. English parish churches were totally unfit for worship, for they received the ungodly as members in good standing. Barrow was convinced that it was improper to even use the buildings that had once witnessed the idolatry of the medieval church: ‘the idolatrous shape so cleaveth to every stone, as it by no means can be severed from them whiles there is a stone left standing upon a stone’. Such church buildings needed to be ‘utterly razed & destroyed’.19 Alongside such ferocious invective there was also profound courage in the face of state terror: prior to his death Penry emphasized to the state authorities that ‘imprisonments, indictments, arraignments, yea, death itself, are no weapons to convince the conscience grounded upon the Word of the Lord’.20 In April 1593 a law was passed that required everyone over the age of sixteen to attend their local parish church. Failure to do so for an entire month meant imprisonment. If, after three months following the individual’s release from prison, he or she still refused to conform, the person was to be given a choice of exile or death. The Elizabethan Church and state was hoping to rid itself of the Separatist problem by sending those who were recalcitrant into exile. Understandably, when faced with a choice of death or exile, most Separatists chose the latter. About forty of them ended up in Amsterdam, where they were later joined by their pastor, a former Puritan named Francis Johnson. It is noteworthy that Francis Johnson had been arrested at the same time as Greenwood and Barrow. Though they were executed, he was kept in prison till 1597, when he was released on the condition that he go into exile to Canada. Needless to say, Johnson did not end up in Canada, but in Amsterdam, where his Separatist congregation was residing. Though the Separatists now had freedom to worship, their troubles were not at an end. First, Francis’ brother George Johnson caused problems for the congregation. George gave voice to a veritable litany of complaints about his sister-in-law: her expensive clothing that exposed her breasts to an immodest degree, her use of whalebones in her petticoats so that, according to George, she was hindered in bearing children, and the fact that she stayed in bed till nine o’clock on Sunday mornings, among other things.21 To such criticisms, George 18  Paul Christianson, Reformers and Babylon: English Apocalyptic Visions from the Reformation to the Eve of the Civil War (Toronto, ON, 1978), p. 73. 19  Henry Barrow, A Brief Discoverie of the False Church (1590), pp. 138–9. On Barrow, see especially Winship, Godly Republicanism, pp. 51–60. 20  Cited William Pierce, John Penry: His Life and Writings (London, 1923), p. 402. 21  Champlin Burrage, The Early English Dissenters in the Light of Recent Research (1550–1641) (Cambridge, 1912), I, 160–1. See also Martha L. Finch, ‘ “Fashions of Worldly Dames”: Separatist Discourses of Dress in Early Modern London, Amsterdam, and Plymouth Colony’, Church History, 74 (2005), 494–533.


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added one considerably more substantial: his brother was power-hungry, and he was the centre of power, not the congregation.22 The congregation, though, sided with Francis Johnson and his wife, and George Johnson, when he refused to withdraw his charges, was excommunicated around 1599/1600. But the troubles of this congregation were not over. In 1608 John Smyth, a Puritan acquaintance of Francis Johnson, arrived in Amsterdam along with his Separatist congregation. Initially, there was a considerable amount of unanimity between the two congregations—they were both Separatist in theology and both composed of expatriate English men and women—but within a year significant differences between the two groups appeared, differences that eventually led the Smyth congregation to becoming the first Englishspeaking Baptists.

‘LIKE MEN SET UPON THE ICE’: JOHN SMY TH AND THE GENERAL BAPTISTS John Smyth’s exact origins are unknown, though he may well have grown up at Sturton-le-Steeple in Nottinghamshire.23 Our first definite sight of Smyth is when he was at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he obtained a BA in 1590 and an MA three years later. During this period Cambridge University was a nursery of Puritanism, and among Smyth’s tutors was Francis Johnson. It is not surprising, therefore, to find Smyth in trouble for his Puritan views a few years after his departure from Cambridge. He had been ordained as a minister in the Church of England in 1594, but within three years he was voicing strong disagreement with certain aspects of that Church’s liturgy. Appointed lecturer in the town of Lincoln by its Puritan-leaning town council in 1600, he stayed till 1602. Some sermons that he gave at this time—later published as The Bright Morning Starre (1603) and A Paterne of True Prayer (1605)—reveal a man who was Puritan in theology, but a loyal member of the Church of England.24

22 White, English Separatist Tradition, p. 102. See also Michael E. Moody, ‘A Critical Edition of George Johnson’s A Discourse of Some Troubles and Excommunications in the Banished English Church at Amsterdam, 1603’ (PhD dissertation, Claremont Graduate School, 1979). 23  B.R. White, ‘Smyth, John’ in Richard Greaves and Robert Zaller, eds, Biographical Dictionary of British Radicals in the Seventeenth Century, 3 vols (Brighton, 1982–4), III, p. 186; James Robert Coggins, John Smyth’s Congregation: English Separatism, Mennonite Influence, and the Elect Nation (Waterloo, ON, Scottdale, PA, 1991), p. 32. For Smyth’s theological journey, see White, English Separatist Tradition, pp. 116–41; Stephen  M.  Johnson, ‘The Soteriology of the English General Baptists to 1630: A Study in Theological Kinship and Dependence’ (PhD thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1988), pp. 198–250; Jason  K.  Lee, The Theology of John Smyth: Puritan, Separatist, Baptist, Mennonite (Macon, GA, 2003); Wright, Early English Baptists, pp. 13–44. 24 White, English Separatist Tradition, pp. 117–18; Coggins, John Smyth’s Congregation, p. 32.

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By the autumn of 1607, however, Smyth had definitely become convinced of the rectitude of the Separatist position and had gathered a Separatist congregation in the town of Gainsborough in Lincolnshire on the ­ Nottinghamshire border. The critical factor in convincing Smyth that he should leave the Church of England was the promulgation in late 1604 of a series of church decrees by James I requiring complete conformity of all Church of England ministers to The Thirty-Nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer, as well as allegiance to the episcopacy. Although James has been raised in the environment of Scottish Presbyterianism, he was ‘heartily sick of a lifetime of listening’ to the promulgations of Scottish elders about ‘the limits of his power’ and thrilled to be in episcopalian England where he could rule as he deemed a true monarch should.25 Smyth met with a number of other Puritan leaders, including John Robinson and John ‘Decalogue’ Dod, to discuss what course of action they should take. Most decided to remain within the bosom of the Established Church. Smyth, though, along with Robinson, was convinced that they had to leave, for, in their view, the Church of England was now beyond hope.26 During the course of 1607 and 1608, the Smyth congregation was harassed by the state, and the congregation made the difficult decision to leave England for the free winds of Amsterdam. Once established in Amsterdam, they naturally looked for fellowship with the other English Separatist congregation in the city, that pastored by Francis Johnson. Differences, though, soon appeared between the two congregations. In a book that Smyth published in the year of his arrival in the Netherlands, The Differences of the Churches of the Separation (1608), he outlined a number of areas of disagreement between his congregation and that of Johnson.27 The most significant of these differences had to do with ecclesial leadership. In the Johnson congregation, there was a pastor—responsible for preaching, discipline, and leading the congregation in the observance of the sacraments—a teacher, who primarily taught, and two ruling elders, who helped the pastor with the exercise of discipline. This differentiation of leadership had its roots in John Calvin’s understanding of the church officers listed in Ephesians 4:11.28 Smyth, however, believed that pastors, teachers, and elders were actually indistinguishable, and that every congregation should have a plurality of these officers. The net result of these differences was a rupture of fellowship between the two congregations as well as a split within the Smyth congregation. John Robinson and about one hundred members found that they could not agree 25 Winship, Godly Republicanism, p. 67. See Winship’s discussion of James I’s ecclesiastical handling of the Puritans: Godly Republicanism, pp. 67–72. 26  On Robinson, see especially George, John Robinson and the English Separatist Tradition. 27  For a discussion of these differences, see James R. Coggins, ‘The Theological Positions of John Smyth’, The Baptist Quarterly, 30 (1983–4), 250–2; Coggins, John Smyth’s Congregation, pp. 50–5. 28  See White, English Separatist Tradition, p. 63.


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with the direction in which Smyth was moving, and they separated from Smyth to relocate in Leiden.29 Robinson’s congregation, at its height some 300 believers, eventually left the Netherlands for America, landing at Plymouth in southeastern Massachusetts in 1620. Robinson intended to follow, but died in Leiden in 1625. Smyth’s congregation, on the other hand, was down to about fifty members, about a third of its original size. In 1609, Smyth’s thinking took another significant step as he came to accept believers’ baptism. The issue of baptism had been something of an embarrassment to the Separatists. According to their way of thinking, the Church of England was a false Church. Yet, all of them had been baptized as infants by this church. Was not the efficacy of their baptism in doubt, therefore? The Separatists, though, shrank from asking, let alone answering, this question. The events associated with the revolutionary Anabaptists of Münster were still etched firmly in the memory of European Christians: believers’ baptism could only lead to social and political disorder.30 But where others feared to tread, Smyth, ever the independent thinker, forged ahead. If, he reasoned, the Church of England is not a true Church, then neither is her baptism a true baptism. As Smyth studied the Scriptures, he became convinced that the New Testament Church knew only of believer’s baptism and that paedobaptism was a post-Apostolic development. He outlined this position in a treatise entitled The Character of the Beast, which was published in 1609. Baptism, Smyth argued, typifies the baptism with the Spirit and follows upon one’s verbal confession of Christ, but infants cannot receive the baptism of the Spirit, nor can they confess Christ with their mouths. Furthermore, are infants incapable of repentance, which again must precede baptism?31 Smyth thus concluded that the practice of infant baptism among the Separatists tarred them with the same brush of ‘heresy’ as Rome and the Church of England: ‘Be it known therefore to all the Separation that we account them in respect of their constitution to be as very an harlot as either her Mother England, or her grandmother Rome is, out of whose loins she came.’32 Smyth felt that he and his congregation were surrounded by a sea of apostasy. He recognized that he needed to be baptized, but in such a situation of total apostasy to whom could he turn for a proper baptism? The question of the correct administrator of baptism was as important as that of the proper subject of the rite. Consequently, he took the radical—and to his contemporaries, shocking—step of baptizing himself and then baptizing his congregation.33 29 Coggins, John Smyth’s Congregation, pp. 56–61. 30 Watts, The Dissenters, p. 44. 31  John Smyth, The Character of the Beast (1609), sig. A3r. Spelling modernized. For an edition of his writings, see The Works of John Smyth, ed. W.T. Whitley, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1915). 32 Smyth, Character of the Beast, sigs. A2r, A4r. 33  See the discussion of Smyth’s thinking at this point by White, English Separatist Tradition, pp. 137–8.

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In the controversy that ensued, Smyth was asked by his Separatist c­ ontemporaries how he could take such a step, for if self-baptism were permissible, then churches could be established of solitary men and women, which was ridiculous. Smyth’s response was that he knew of no church that practised believers’ baptism. But, Smyth’s critics pointed out, there was in the Netherlands a Mennonite group known as the Waterlanders, from whom he could have received baptism. By the time that Smyth approached the Waterlanders to investigate where they stood theologically, he had abandoned his Calvinism and had adopted a view similar to that of the Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, namely, that predestination was conditional and dependent upon a person’s response to the Gospel and that God’s saving grace could be resisted successfully. Arminius’ theological position was being heavily debated at the time in the Netherlands, and it is therefore quite understandable how Smyth might have come under the influence of this position.34 From the vantage-point of his newly adopted Arminianism, the Waterlanders were orthodox, and Smyth now came to regard his self-baptism as a premature and hasty step. Thus, together with thirty-one other members of his congregation, he applied to join the Waterlander church. This meant another baptism at the hands of these Mennonites, and consequently an admission on the part of the Smyth congregation that their baptism by Smyth was invalid. But there were some in the Smyth congregation who refused to admit this. Led by Thomas Helwys, they decided in 1612 to return to England.35 Smyth died the same year and his congregation, eventually received into the Waterlander church, was assimilated into Dutch Anabaptist culture. At some point after the emigration of Smyth, Helwys, and their congregation to the Netherlands, Smyth commented that ‘we being now come into a place of liberty, are in great danger, if we look not well to our ways; for we are like men set upon the ice, and therefore may easily slide and fall’.36 Helwys might well have seen Smyth’s words as a self-fulfilling prophecy after the latter gave his allegiance to the Mennonites. The Helwys congregation retained the Arminianism that they had adopted under Smyth’s leadership, and thus became known as General Baptists for their commitment to general redemption. Helwys also retained Smyth’s dire 34 White, English Separatist Tradition, p. 139. Though, cf. Coggins, ‘Theological Positions of John Smyth’, 257–8. 35  For the history of the congregation after Smyth’s break with Helwys and the former’s death, see Coggins, John Smyth’s Congregation, pp. 107–14. On Helwys, see Ernest  A.  Payne, Thomas Helwys and the First Baptist Church in England (second edn; London, 1966); B.R. White, ‘Helwys, Thomas’ in R. Greaves and R. Zaller, eds, Biographical Dictionary of British Radicals, II, pp. 76–7; Johnson, ‘Soteriology of the English General Baptists’, 250–86; Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity (1611/1612), ed. Richard Groves (Macon, GA, 1998), pp. xi–xxxiv; Marvin Jones, The Beginning of Baptist Ecclesiology: The Foundational Contributions of Thomas Helwys (Eugene, OR, 2017); Wright, Early English Baptists, p. 8: ‘Thomas Helwys has rightly been identified as a pioneer of the English Baptists, co-equal with . . . John Smyth’. 36  Cited Young, Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, p. 450.


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vision of the larger Christian world. In A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity (1612), a copy of which was sent personally to James I,37 Helwys denounced both the Puritan leaders within the Church of England and the Separatist elders who had exited that body as alike ‘false prophets’, for neither group possessed ‘the seal of the Spirit’ that was given by God only to those who both believed and were baptized as believers. With regard to the Separatist leaders especially, Helwys found clear proof of their being ‘deceitful hearted’ from the fact that they had not stayed in England and suffered persecution for the sake of the truth.38 Undergirding Helwys’ critique of both Puritan and Separatist was his apocalyptic conviction that a key mark of the Antichrist was the use of religious coercion by the state. The irony of Helwys’ argument is that, like the Separatists, he assumed that ‘ecclesiology was not adiaphora, but a matter of salvation which demanded careful obedience’.39 Helwys’ tract almost definitely landed its author in jail not long after the congregation returned to England, and he died there around 1616. Helwys’ small congregation—which must have consisted of no more than ten or so  members when they first returned to England—survived their leader’s imprisonment and death, and became the seedbed of the General Baptist denomination. By 1626 they had established congregations in London, Coventry, Lincoln, Salisbury, and Tiverton, with roughly 150 members.40 Despite the fact that these congregations were the first English-speaking Baptists, it was the Particular Baptists who would become the main conduit of future Baptist witness.41

‘WE REFUSE NOT ON O CCASION TO COMMUNICATE’: THE JACOB-LATHROP-JESSEY CHURCH The community that stands at the fountainhead of the Particular Baptists was the London-based congregation known as the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church, so-called because of the names of its first three pastors: Henry Jacob, John 37  Helwys included a handwritten plea with the copy sent to the king in which he boldly called James I to remember that he was ‘a mortal man & not God, therefore hath no power over the immortal souls of his subjects, to makes laws & ordinances for them, and to set spiritual lords over them’ (Helwys, Mystery of Iniquity, ed. Groves, p. vi; spelling modernized). 38 Helwys, Mystery of Iniquity, ed. Groves, pp. 65, 91, 127–8, 149–54. See also the reflections of Wright, Early English Baptists, pp. 50–4 on Helwys’ critiques. 39  Brachlow, ‘Puritan Theology and General Baptist Origins’, p. 180. 40  On the history of the Helwys congregation after its return to England, see Watts, Dissenters, pp. 49–50; Coggins, John Smyth’s Congregation, pp. 104–7; Wright, Early English Baptists, pp. 58–64. 41  See Ian M. Randall, ‘ “The Low Condition of the Churches”: Difficulties Faced by the General Baptists in England—the 1680s to the 1760s’, The Pacific Journal of Baptist Research, 1 (2005), 3–19.

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Lathrop, and Henry Jessey. With a group of like-minded believers in London, Jacob, ‘a shadowy figure’,42 had established the congregation in 1616. To what extent Jacob and his congregation were influenced by Separatists like Francis Johnson and John Robinson remains an open question,43 but Jacob’s congregation was determined not to cut itself off from all fellowship with Puritans who had stayed within the Church of England. In the statement of faith that this congregation published when it was first established, it was openly stated, ‘we refuse not on occasion to communicate’ with local parish churches as long as ‘neither our assent, nor silent presence is given to any mere human tradition’.44 Unlike the Separatists, Jacob and his congregation refused to deny that the Church of England still possessed ‘true visible churches’, and thus it was not at all wrong to continue fellowshipping with them where this did not involve countenancing what Jacob’s congregation regarded as definite error. It is not surprising that the authorities in the Church of England harassed the congregation as a Separatist body, and that the Separatists dubbed them idolaters. Due to harassment and persecution, Jacob decided to leave England for Virginia in 1622, where he died two years later. During the pastorate of his successor, John Lathrop, at least two groups amicably withdrew from the church to found Separatist congregations, one of which came to be pastored by a certain Samuel Eaton. Eaton had problems with the legitimacy of the baptism of infants by ministers in the Church of England, though it does not appear to be the case that he had actually come to embrace believers’ baptism as the only basis for membership in the church.45 When William Laud, the Arminian Archbishop of Canterbury, was using violence to curb the influence of Puritanism in the 1630s, Lathrop also decided to emigrate to the New World. He left in 1634, and it was not until 1637 that a new pastor was found in the person of Henry Jessey.46 Jessey had been priested 42 Winship, Godly Republicanism, p. 81. 43  On Henry Jacob, see especially Robert  S.  Paul, ‘Henry Jacob and Seventeenth-Century Puritanism’, Hartford Quarterly, 1 (1967), 92–113; Stephen Brachlow, ‘The Elizabethan Roots of Henry Jacob’s Churchmanship: Refocusing the Historiographical Lens’, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 36 (1985), 228–54. On the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church, see [W.T. Whitley, ed.] ‘Records of the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church 1616–1641’, Transactions of the Baptist Historical Society, 1 (1910), 203–25; Murray Tolmie, The Triumph of the Saints. The Separate Churches of London 1616–1649 (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 7–27; Winship, Godly Republicanism, pp. 81–4, 99–102. 44  Henry Jacob, A Confession and Protestation of the Faith of Certaine Christians in England ([London,] 1616), sig. A2v–A3v. 45 Paul Linton Gritz, ‘Samuel Richardson and the Religious and Political Controversies Confronting the London Particular Baptists, 1643 to 1658’ (PhD thesis, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1987), pp. 25–9. 46  On Jessey, see especially B.R. White, ‘Henry Jessey in the Great Rebellion’, in R. Buick Knox, ed., Reformation Conformity and Dissent. Essays in Honour of Geoffrey Nuttall (London, 1977), pp. 132–53; Jason G. Duesing, Henry Jessey: Puritan Chaplain, Independent and Baptist Pastor, Millenarian Politician and Prophet (Mountain Home, AR, 2015).


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in 1626 after having embraced Puritanism while studying at Cambridge in the early 1620s. Over the next eight years or so, though, he grew increasingly uneasy with the liturgy and worship of the Established Church. In 1635 he came into contact with the Jacob-Lathrop Church, presumably began to worship with the congregation, and two years later was called to be the church’s pastor. An irenic individual, Jessey continued to uphold the ‘Jacobite’ tradition, that is, the policy established by Henry Jacob of keeping in fellowship with Puritans within the Church of England.

‘ THAT ORDER LAID D OWN BY CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES’: JOHN SPILSBURY, WILLIAM KIFFEN, AND THE FIRST PARTICULAR BAPTIST CHURCHES A year or so after Jessey became the pastor of this church, the question of the validity of infant baptism arose within the congregation. In a document drawn up at this time, the so-called Kiffin Manuscript, we read that in 1638 ‘Mr Tho: Wilson, Mr Pen & H. Pen, & 3 more being convinced that Baptism was not for Infants, but professed believers joined wth Mr Io: Spilsbury the Churches favour being desired therein’.47 John Spilsbury was probably a cobbler by trade, and may have been a member of the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church at one point.48 His church appears to be the first that can be assigned the designation ‘Particular Baptist’. For many years the congregation met in Wapping and by 1670 around 300 regularly attended services. Spilsbury wrote a number of small works that reveal high Calvinist soteriology. For example, in God’s Ordinance, The Saints’ Priviledge (1646) Spilsbury sounded forth one of the distinctive notes of the Particular Baptist movement when he stated that ‘Christ hath not presented unto his Father’s justice a satisfaction for the sins of all men; but only for the sins of those that do or shall believe in him, which are his elect only.’49 It is vital to note that the Spilsbury congregation, which was probably little larger than a small house church when it began, maintained a good relationship with its mother church. There is evidence of joint gatherings for prayer and members of the Spilsbury congregation continued to attend meetings at 47  This text may be conveniently found in Burrage, Early English Dissenters, II, pp. 302–5. The text cited is from p. 302. 48  On Spilsbury, see R.L. Greaves, ‘Spilsbury (or Spilsbery), John’ in Greaves and Zaller, eds, Biographical Dictionary of British Radicals, III, pp. 193–4; Robert W. Oliver, From John Spilsbury to Ernest Kevan. The Literary Contribution of London’s Oldest Baptist Church (London, 1985), pp. 8–9; B.R. White, ‘The London Calvinistic Baptist Leadership 1644–1660’, in J.H.Y. Briggs, ed., Faith, Heritage and Witness (London, 1987), pp. 37–8. 49  John Spilsbury, God’s Ordinance, The Saints’ Priviledge (London: Benjamin Allen, 1646), p. 39.

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the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church. Of all the various groups that eventually left this church, B.R. White has observed that ‘there were no high walls of bitterness between them and even the withdrawals are recorded as brotherly’.50 Moroever, Michael Winship sees in this ecclesial ‘fecundity’ on the part of the JacobLathrop-Jessey Church ‘dramatic testimony to the electric instability of the boundary’ between the Puritans and the Separatists.51 By May of 1640 the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church had grown to the point that it was too large to meet in one place. The decision was thus taken to split the congregation into two, one half to continue under the pastoral leadership of Jessey and the other half under that of Praise-God Barebone (c.1596–1679). That same year Jessey’s congregation was physically assaulted by the Lord Mayor of London. According to one source, his officers ‘came violently on them, beat, thrust, pinched, and kicked men or women as fled not his handling’. Among those who were beaten was a pregnant woman named Mrs Berry, who, as a result of her ill treatment, not only lost her baby in a miscarriage but also her own life.52 Illustrative of the spiritual journey of many of these early Particular Baptists is that of William Kiffen.53 By 1638 Kiffen had come to reject Anglican arguments for the idea of a state Church and had joined the body of believers that had once been pastored by Samuel Eaton, what he termed ‘a company of saints in a congregational way’.54 When Kiffen joined this congregation, Eaton was in prison, where he would die the following year. Kiffen accepted an invitation to preach to the congregation, which would later be known as Devonshire Square Baptist Church in the 1680s though it met in a variety of places between the 1630s and 1680s. At some point over the course of the next three or four years after joining this congregation Kiffen was chosen as their pastor. During this entire period, Kiffen continued to study the Bible for direction with regard to the constitution and form of a local church. When, over forty years later, he recalled this period of his life, what stuck out in his memory was his diligent examination of the Bible to find the ‘right way of worship’,55 which entailed discovering the ecclesial blueprint embedded in the New Testament. By the fall of 1642 he and his congregation had arrived at what they believed to  be such a blueprint, namely, what would later be described as a 50  White, ‘Henry Jessey in the Great Rebellion’, p. 135. 51 Winship, Godly Republicanism, p. 110. 52 Burrage, Early English Dissenters, II, p. 301. 53  On Kiffen, see especially William Orme, Remarkable Passages in the Life of William Kiffin (London: Burton and Smith, 1823); Barrie R. White, ‘William Kiffin—Baptist Pioneer and Citizen of London’, Baptist History and Heritage, 2 (1967), 91–103, 126; Larry J. Kreitzer, William Kiffen and his World, 6 vols to date (Oxford, 2010–). 54  William Kiffen, ‘The Epistle to the Christian Reader’ in A Glimpse of Sions Glory: or The Churches’ Beautie specified (1641), sig. A1r. 55  William Kiffen, ‘To the Christian Reader’ in his A Sober Discourse of Right to ChurchCommunion (1681), sig. A2r.


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Particular Baptist congregation. As he wrote in 1681 about his search: he came to the conclusion that ‘the safest way was to follow . . . that order laid down by Christ and his Apostles’, namely, ‘after conversion they were baptised, added to the church, and continued in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer’.56

‘RESEMBLING BURIAL & RISING AGAIN’: THE REDISCOVERY OF IMMERSION In the early 1640s the question of baptism once again surfaced in the JacobLathrop-Jessey Church. Richard Blunt, who had left the congregation in 1633 with Samuel Eaton, began to fellowship with the church once again in 1640. Blunt soon aired the question of whether or not the baptism of believers by immersion was the only type of baptism to actually correspond to that practised in New Testament times. It would appear that up until this point Spilsbury’s congregation had baptized believers by affusion. According to the Kiffin Manuscript, ‘Mr Richard Blunt . . . being convinced of baptism that also it ought to be by dipping ye body into ye water, resembling burial & rising again . . . Col: 2.12. Rom: 6.4. had sober conference about in ye Church.’57 The texts that especially convinced Blunt that the baptism of believers should be by immersion are named here as Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:4, both of which relate baptism to the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. But Blunt and those who were like-minded knew of no congregation in England who baptized believers by immersion and thus had no one close at hand to whom they could turn for instruction. Enquiries were made and it was discovered that there was a group of believers in the Netherlands who baptized by immersion, a Mennonite body known as the Collegiants. Blunt, who spoke Dutch, thus went to Holland to discuss the issue with them and presumably see a baptism at first hand. The Kiffin Manuscript indicates that upon his return Blunt baptized a certain ‘Mr Blacklock that was a teacher amongst them, & Mr Blunt being baptized, he & Mr Blacklock baptized ye rest of their friends that were so minded’, forty-one in all.58 Two Particular Baptist churches were subsequently formed: one pastored by Richard Blunt; the other by Thomas Kilcop.59

56  Kiffen, ‘To the Christian Reader’, in Sober Discourse of Right to Church-Communion, sigs A2r–v. 57 Burrage, Early English Dissenters, II, pp. 302–3. 58 Burrage, Early English Dissenters, II, pp. 303–4. See also Wright, Early English Baptists, pp. 75–99, for a somewhat different reconstruction of events. 59  On Kilcop’s successionism, see Wright, Early English Baptists, pp. 104–10.

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‘LIFTING UP OF THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS’: THE FIRST LOND ON CONFESSION OF FAITH Among those baptized after Blunt’s return from Holland was Mark Lucar, who played a significant role in the spread of Particular Baptist principles in New England.60 Soon after Blunt’s return, Spilsbury and his congregation also adopted immersion as the proper mode of baptism, though there is no ­evidence that Spilsbury required those previously baptized by affusion to be immersed.61 A fourth London Particular Baptist congregation had also been planted by this time—in Crutched Fryers by John Green, a hat-maker and John Spencer, a coachman.62 In all, there were seven congregations by mid-October, 1644, when they issued a small twenty-four-page tract entitled The Confession of Faith, Of those Churches which are commonly (though falsly) called Anabaptists. Its authors were not named on the title page, though at the foot of the introductory letter there did appear fifteen names—the pastoral leadership of the seven Particular Baptist churches then in existence, all of them located in the capital. As to which of these leaders were the actual authors of this Confession, later known as The First London Confession of Faith, John Spilsbury, William Kiffen, and Samuel Richardson probably played the most prominent role in drawing it up.63 The Confession was issued mainly in response to various false charges that were being circulated in the capital. These Baptists had been depicted as men and women ‘lying under that calumny and black brand of heretics, and sowers of division’. From the pulpits and in the writings of fellow Puritans, they had been accused of ‘holding free-will, falling away from grace, denying original sin, disclaiming of magistracy, denying to assist them either in persons or purse in any of their lawful commands, doing acts unseemly in the dispensing the ordinance of baptism, not to be named amongst Christians’.64 From the first three of these charges it would appear that the Particular Baptists were being confused with the General Baptists. The next two charges are ones relating to political subversion and rebellion. Such accusations were probably levelled on the misunderstanding that the Particular Baptists were akin to the revolutionary, 60  David  J.  Terry, ‘Mark Lucar: Particular Baptist Pioneer’, Baptist History and Heritage, 25 (1990), 43–9. 61  John Spilsbury, A Treatise concerning the Lawfull Subject of Baptisme (1643), p. 34: ‘I do not approve of rebaptizing’. See also Wright, Early English Baptists, pp. 107–8. 62  W.T. Whitley, ‘The Seven Churches of London’, The Review and Expositor, 7 (1910), 387–8. 63  B.R. White, ‘The Doctrine of the Church in the Particular Baptist Confession of 1644’, The Journal of Theological Studies, ns, 19 (1968), 570; William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (second edn, Valley Forge, 1969), 145–6. See also the discussion of the Confession by Wright, Early English Baptists, pp. 129–38, 148–52. 64  ‘To All that Desire the Lifting Up of the Name of the Lord Jesus in Sinceritie’ in The Confession of Faith, Of those Churches which are commonly (though falsly) called Anabaptists (1644).


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continental Anabaptists of the previous century. It is noteworthy that in the title of the Confession, it was emphasized that these Baptists were ‘commonly (though falsly) called Anabaptists’. The final charge—that of sexual immorality in the administration of baptism—was pure slander, but one frequently made against the early Baptists. For example, Daniel Featley, an influential, outspoken minister devoted to the Church of England, penned a scurrilous attack on the Baptists entitled The Dippers dipt. Or, The Anabaptists duck’d and plunged Over Head and Eares (1645). In it he maintained that the Baptists were in the habit of stripping ‘stark naked, not only when they flock in great multitudes, men and women together, to their Jordans to be dipped; but also upon other occasions, when the season permits’!65 The upshot of such charges—charges that the authors of this preface vehemently asserted were ‘notoriously untrue’—was that many godly believers wanted nothing at all to do with the Particular Baptists and others were encouraged, ‘if they can find the place of our meeting, to get together in clusters to stone us, as looking upon us as a people . . . not worthy to live’.66 Spilsbury, for example, mentioned in 1643 that his convictions regarding believer’s baptism had made his opponents ‘so incensed against me, as to seek my life’.67 The issuing of the Confession was accompanied by the hope that it would demonstrate once and for all the fundamental solidarity of these Baptists with the international Calvinist community. B.R. White has pointed out that there is a jealous concern for congregational autonomy within the Confession, which, in turn, was motivated by a deep desire to be free to obey Christ, and not to be bound by the dictates of men and human traditions.68 At the same time, though, Article XLVII insisted that since the individual congregations all ‘walk by one and the same rule’, they should ‘by all means convenient to have the counsel and help of one another in all needful affairs of the Church, as members of one body in the common faith under Christ their only head’. Here is the genesis of what would later become a characteristic feature of Particular Baptist life, namely, their regional associations that linked together local congregations in specific geographical areas of the British archipelago. Undoubtedly the ecclesial experience that many of these first Particular Baptists had had in the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey congregation shaped their thinking about the necessity of associations, for that church was anything but isolationist and had consciously striven to nurture bonds between

65 Cited Gordon Kingsley, ‘Opposition to Early Baptists (1638–1645)’, Baptist History and Heritage, 4 (1969), 29. For the charge of sexual immorality, see also McGregor, ‘The Baptists: Fount of All Heresy’, pp. 41–2. 66  ‘To All that Desire the Lifting Up of the Name of the Lord Jesus in Sinceritie’, in The Confession of Faith. 67  White, ‘Doctrine of the Church’, 571, n. 1. 68  White, ‘Doctrine of the Church’, 584.

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itself and other congregations.69 The important place that these first-generation Baptists accorded to their associations is well expressed by White when he states that ‘they no more believed that an individual congregation should be free to go its own way than that an individual believer could be a serious Christian without commitment to a local, visible congregation’.70 These associations, along with the Baptist Confession, which was reprinted a  number of times in the 1640s and 1650s, undergirded the growth of the Particular Baptists from seven churches in 1644, all based in London, to around 130 throughout England, Wales, and Ireland in 1660.71 And although a few members of these congregations were wealthy, like William Kiffen or the Abingdon maltster John Tomkins who left £6,000 in his will, the majority of them were composed of ‘small craftsmen and tradesmen’, such as ‘weavers, shoemakers, tailors, ironmongers, bakers, glovers, and buttonmakers’.72

‘IN HEARING OF MOSES WE HEAR GOD’: THE SEVENTH-DAY BAPTISTS To Anglican and Presbyterian eyes, the radical religion of the Baptists exacerbated the social and political tumult of the 1640s and 1650s. And to make matters worse, in the early 1650s a variant of the Particular Baptists emerged who challenged a key element of the Puritan ethos, namely the Sabbatarian interpretation of the Lord’s Day. James Ockford’s The Doctrine of the Fourth Commandment, Deformed by Popery; Reformed & Restored to its Primitive Purity (1650), the earliest of a number of Seventh-day Baptist treatises, argued that Saturday, not Sunday, is ‘the Sabbath which Christians ought to keep holy to the Lord’.73 One of the most vociferous advocates of Seventh-day Baptist distinctives was Edward Stennett, who adopted Sabbatarian convictions in the late 1650s and was the first of a distinguished line of Stennetts who pastored Seventh-day congregations.74 It is noteworthy that his sons were gifted scholars 69 R.  Dwayne Conner, ‘Early English Baptist Associations. Their Meaning for Baptist Connectional Life Today’, Foundations, 15 (1972), 167–8, 172–7. 70  B.R. White, ‘The Origins and Convictions of the First Calvinistic Baptists’, Baptist History and Heritage, 25, no.4 (October, 1990), 47. See also McGregor, ‘The Baptists: Fount of All Heresy’, pp. 33–5. 71  White, ‘Doctrine of the Church’, 570; White, ‘The Origins and Convictions of the First Calvinistic Baptists’, Baptist History and Heritage, 25 (1990), 45; Watts, Dissenters, pp. 160–1. 72  McGregor, ‘The Baptists: Fount of All Heresy’, pp. 36–7. 73  James Ockford, The Doctrine of the Fourth Commandment, Deformed by Popery; Reformed & Restored to its Primitive Purity (1650), 62. I am indebted to David W. Bebbington for drawing my attention to this text in his Baptists Through the Centuries: A History of a Global People (Waco, TX, 2010), p. 51. 74  On Edward Stennett, see Ernest A. Payne, The Baptists of Berkshire Through Three Centuries (London, 1951), pp. 47–51; R.L. Greaves, ‘Stennett (or Stennet), Edwards (d.1705)’ in his and Zaller, ed.,


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as well as his only daughter, who mastered both Greek and Hebrew to the extent that she could read ‘the scriptures in their originals, with ease and pleasure’.75 Stennett contended that congregational worship on any other day but the one appointed in the Old Testament, namely the seventh day, was tantamount to man-made worship.76 From Stennett’s perspective, the ‘great design’ of the devil in his day was ‘to deprive us of the Scriptures of the truth, because they are the sword of the Spirit by which we must resist him’. Some, and he has the Quakers in mind, ‘forsake them all as a rule, and betake themselves to a dark lantern, or blind nature’s light, which they call the light within them’. Others argued that ‘nothing must be their rule but what is given forth in the New Testament’, and so seek a way to discard the fourth commandment as it was actually given. Stennett, though, was adamant that ‘it is the duty of all men to keep the seventh-day-Sabbath’ as part of the new covenant, for ‘God commanded all that Moses commanded’ in the Decalogue, and ‘in hearing of Moses we hear God, and in hearing of Christ we do no more’.77 There were only around twenty Seventh-day Baptist congregations by 1690, and some of them quite small,78 yet the volume of literature against them by such authors as Richard Baxter, John Owen, John Bunyan, and Thomas Grantham is a tacit admission of their perceived influence.79

‘ THOUGH WE STO OD IN THE SNOW THE SUN SHONE UPON US’: THE BAPTISTS PERSECUTED During the British Civil Wars, many Baptists had been ardent Republicans, though during the Commonwealth, the London Particular Baptist leadership had supported the Cromwellian regime against more radical elements like the Levellers and the Fifth-Monarchy movement.80 The Plymouth Baptist Abraham Cheare’s tract Sighs for Sion (1656) is typical in this regard. Cheare urged the tract’s recipients in the West Country not to be encumbered with tertiary Biographical Dictionary of British Radicals, III, pp. 204–5. On the Seventh-day Baptists, see especially Bryan  W.  Ball, Seventh-Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600–1800 (Oxford, 1994). 75  “Memoir of the Rev. Edward Stennett’, The Baptist Magazine, 10 (1818), 282. 76  See Edward Stennett, The Royal Law Contended For (1658) and Stennett, The Seventh Day is the Sabbath of the Lord (1664). 77 Stennett, The Seventh Day is the Sabbath of the Lord, sig. A3r, pp. 27, 32–3. 78  Ernest  A.  Payne, ‘More about the Sabbatarian Baptists’, The Baptist Quarterly, 14 (1951), 164–5. 79  R.J. Bauckham, ‘Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition’, in D.A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation (1982; repr. Eugene, OR, 1999), p. 333. 80 Wright, Early English Baptists, pp. 143–227.

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matters such as millenarianism—the Fifth Monarchists are in view here—but rather to pursue ‘the advancement of that Name, Interest, and Glory of God, that should be upon our hearts’.81 Following the collapse of Puritan rule in 1659–60, Charles II sought to reassure the godly by issuing the Declaration of Breda (April 1660), in which the new king guaranteed ‘liberty to tender consciences’ and that none ‘shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matter of religion, which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom’.82 The Anglican hierarchy who came to power with Charles II, however, were not as favourably disposed towards the Puritans, for they viewed the various religious groupings outside of the Established Church as disturbers of the peace. This view seemed to find confirmation in January 1661, when Thomas Venner, a lay-preacher attached to a congregation in Swan Alley, London, and a cooper by profession, led an armed revolt to overthrow Charles II. Parts of London were terrorized for three days by Venner and his violent FifthMonarchist followers, who were convinced that Christ’s kingdom was to be ushered in by such bloody means. Over forty people were killed in street fighting, with Venner himself killing at least three or four people. Unrepentant to the end—he was hanged, drawn, and quartered on January 19, 1661—Venner affirmed his allegiance to ‘King Jesus’ and that what he had done had been for ‘the propagation of his [i.e. Christ’s] government and rule, and for the advancement of his kingdom’.83 Venner had links through the Swan Alley congregation with a number of Baptist leaders, and it is not surprising that one immediate consequence of the uprising was the imprisonment of a large number of Baptists, who, despite their attempts to distance themselves from Venner, were now regarded as dangerous to the peace of Charles II’s kingdom along with others, like the Quakers and Independents.84 A more far-reaching consequence of the Venner uprising was its strengthening the hand of the Cavalier Parliament that was bent on the destruction of religious Dissent and to this end, between 1661 and 1665, passed the series of acts known as the Clarendon Code.85 Between 1661 and 1688, the year of the so-called Glorious Revolution when Charles II’s younger brother 81  Sighs for Sion (1656), p. 5. See further B.S. Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men (London, 1972). 82  Charles II, The Declaration of Breda in Gerald Bray, ed., Documents of the English Reformation (Minneapolis, MN, 1994), p. 545. 83  The Last Speech and Prayer with other Passages of Thomas Venner (1660 [1661]), p. 5. For the life and thinking of Venner, see Richard L. Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660–1663 (Oxford, 1986), pp. 50–7; Bernard Capp, ‘A Door of Hope Re-opened: The Fifth Monarchy, King Charles and King Jesus’, Journal of Religious History, 32 (2008), 16–30. 84 Anonymous, Behold a Cry! Or, a True Relation of the Inhumane and Violent Outrages of divers Souldiers, Constables, and others, practised upon many of the Lord’s People, commonly (though falsly) called Anabaptists, at their several Meetings in and about London (London, 1662), pp. 1–5; B.R. White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century (second edn, London, 1996), pp. 98–102. 85  For the actual acts, see Andrew Browning, English Historical Documents, 1660–1714 (New York, 1953).


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James II was removed from power by an Anglican coup d’état and religious toleration finally secured, hundreds of Baptists along with equal numbers of Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Quakers were incarcerated. Pastors were especially targeted and many of them emerged from prison with their health deeply impaired. On occasion, full-fledged attacks were carried out on the rank and file of congregations. On June 29, 1662, for example, a squad of soldiers came to the Baptist congregation in Petty France, ‘full of rage and violence, with their swords drawn; they wounded some, and struck others, broke down the gallery, and made much spoil’.86 The following month, when another London Baptist meeting was subjected to a similar attack, one of the attackers whose name was Brown punched a number of pregnant women in the congregation, ‘striking . . . them with his fists such blows that made them reel’.87 Although there were periods of respite—for example, in 1672, when Charles issued a Declaration of Indulgence and then again in 1687 when his brother made a similar declaration—there was no lasting peace from persecution till 1688. Ironically, by silencing the preaching of the Baptist leaders and other Nonconformist preachers, the state gave many of these men time to attend to writing: ‘eloquent preachers [thus] became gifted authors’.88 After John Bunyan, a Congregationalist who favoured believer’s baptism rather than a ‘big-B Baptist’, was arrested on November 12, 1660, as he was about to preach in Lower Samsell, a hamlet near Harlington, Bedfordshire, he spent twelve years in prison. Bunyan’s imprisonment proved to be the catalyst for developing his gifts as an author. Here he wrote his powerful apology for nonconformity, I will Pray with the Spirit (1662), as well as a rebuttal of antinomianism, Christian Behaviour (1663), along with his classic Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666), which went through six editions in his lifetime. But a good number of the Baptist leaders did not survive the ordeal of imprisonment. Two notable Baptists, for example, who were in London’s Newgate Prison in the mid-1680s perished there: Francis Bampfield, a leading pastor among the Seventh-day Baptists, and the learned Thomas Delaune, an Irish Baptist author who came from Cork, where a Baptist congregation had been established around 1651. The worst and darkest bout of persecution was just before the dawn of toleration, in the early 1680s, when a number of Dissenters supported an attempt by the Whig party in parliament to prevent Charles II’s brother, the future James II, from ever becoming king. Angered by this act against his brother, Charles dissolved parliament in 1681 and turned his wrath on the Dissenters.89 In Bristol, for example, the Broadmead congregation was forced 86 Anonymous, Behold a Cry!, p. 7. 87 Anonymous, Behold a Cry!, p. 8. 88  Raymond Brown, Spirituality in Adversity: English Nonconformity in a Period of Repression, 1660–1689 (Milton Keynes, 2012), p. 335. 89 Watts, The Dissenters, pp. 252–4.

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to meet in nearby fields or woods to escape detection by the authorities. When Samuel Buttall preached to this congregation in a field on March 12, 1682, the church minutes record that there were close to 1,000 people present.90 On one occasion when the Broadmead Baptists met in December of the following year, the church minutes noted that as they met outside there was ‘a hard frost, and snow on the ground, . . . and though we stood in the snow the sun shone upon us, and we were in peace’.91 Meetinghouses in the West Country— at Lyme Regis, Dorset, and Taunton, Somerset—were physically attacked, with pulpits and pews being destroyed by mobs loyal to the state Church. Similar oppression occurred in Bedfordshire. The Bedford congregation of John Bunyan, for instance, appears to have held few meetings between August 1684 and December 1686 due to the harshness of persecution. Most Baptists, during this time of persecution, embraced an apolitical stance. However, when some West Country Baptists took up arms in the revolt of James Scott, the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate Protestant son of Charles II, to overthrow his uncle James II, they may well have been hoping to relive the halcyon days of the 1640s and 1650s when Dissent was in the ascendancy. The rebellion was soon crushed, however, at the Battle of Sedgemoor in Somerset on July 6, 1685. Baptists executed in the wake of this defeat included two of William Kiffen’s grandsons, William and Benjamin Hewling, as well as Sampson Clarke, minister of the Particular Baptist church in Lyme. Andrew Gifford, pastor of the Pithay Baptist Church in Bristol, had also actively supported the uprising by securing funds and ammunition for Monmouth’s men. Fortunately for Gifford, his links to the rebellion were not discovered until much later.

‘ THE PRACTICE OF THE PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANS’: CONTROVERSY, CONFESSION, AND CONCORD Despite the persecution, the Baptists still had the energy to carry on various controversies. Thomas Grantham, the leading General Baptist theologian, engaged in a lengthy debate over infant baptism with John Connould, the Anglican vicar of St Stephen’s, Norwich. Like a number of other Baptist writers, Grantham also took the time to refute the pneumatological claims of the Quakers: ‘When the Quakers tell us they have the Holy Ghost, and that what they speak they speak as they are moved by the Holy Ghost, etc. Then indeed we say we are to try what they thus tell us, by what the Spirit hath said in the 90 J.M. Cramp, Baptist History: From the Foundation of the Christian Church to the Present Time (London, 1875), pp. 308–9. 91  Cited Cramp, Baptist History, p. 310.


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Scripture; and when we find them contradict what the Spirit saith in the Scripture, or wrest and abuse those Scriptures, etc. then we reject them as vain boasters, led by fancies, and not by the Spirit of God.’92 The controversy with the most far-reaching implications, though, was an internal one, among the Particular Baptists over the relationship between baptism and the Lord’s Supper. When John Bunyan was released from prison in 1672, he published A Confession of my Faith, A Reason of my Practice in which he rejected the standard Particular Baptist argument that believers’ baptism must precede membership in the local church or any of the privileges of that membership, in particular, participation in the Lord’s Supper. Not surprisingly this sparked a response and Bunyan published a second tract the following year, Differences in Judgment About Water–Baptism, No Bar to Communion (1673). Bunyan’s position was shared by a small number of Baptist figures, including Henry Jessey.93 The most notable response to Bunyan was William Kiffen’s A Sober Discourse of Right to Church-Communion (1681), which is characterized by ‘clear logic and crisp presentation’.94 It is undoubtedly aimed at Bunyan, although the Bedford pastor is never explicitly named in the work. From Kiffen’s perspective, the practice of open communion and open ­membership ‘flatly contradicts the practice of the Primitive Christians’. The ‘right gospel order’ is laid down in Acts 2:41–2, where believers are first baptized, then ‘received into church–fellowship’, and only then share in the Lord’s Table.95 What is fascinating, however, is that any insistence on closed communion is absent from the Second London Confession (1677/1688), destined to become the most important confessional document in Baptist history. In an appendix attached to the Confession when it was first issued in 1677, the differences among the Particular Baptists as to baptism as a prerequisite of ­communion was noted and as such ‘we have purposely omitted the mention of things of that nature, that we might concur, in giving this evidence of our agreement, both among ourselves, and with other good Christians, in those important articles of the Christian Religion’.96 Nehemiah Coxe, who was closely involved in drawing up the Second London Confession, had been called to the ministry in 1672 by Bunyan’s Bedford 92  Christianismus Primitivus: or, The Ancient Christian Religion (1678), IV, p. 50. For these debates between the Baptists and the Quakers, see especially T.L.  Underwood, Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb’s War: The Baptist-Quaker Conflict in Seventeenth-Century England (New York/Oxford, 1997). 93  As Richard L. Greaves notes, ‘Bunyan is rightly regarded as an open-membership Baptist’ (‘Conscience, Liberty, and the Spirit: Bunyan and Nonconformity’, in N.H.  Keeble, ed., John Bunyan: Conventicle and Parnassus. Tercentenary Essays (Oxford, 1988), p. 35). 94  T.L.  Underwood, ‘ “It Pleased Me Much to Contend”: John Bunyan as Controversialist’, Church History, 57 (1988), 468. 95  William Kiffen, A Sober Discourse of Right to Church-Communion (London, 1681), pp. 16–17. 96  Second London Confession of Faith, appendix 4 in W.J. McGlothlin, ed., Baptist Confessions of Faith (Philadelphia, PA, 1911), p. 287.

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congregation. Even more significant was the fact that by 1677, both open- and closed-communion Particular Baptist churches had a shared experience of seventeen years of persecution. As Robert W. Oliver has put it, ‘disunity was a luxury that they could ill afford’.97 The Second London Confession was adopted as the denomination’s confessional standard at the 1689 national assembly in London. This gathering was  the first of its kind for Baptists, a direct result of the passage of the Toleration Act under William III, who brought to an end nearly three decades of persecution. Little wonder Baptists at the time and well into the eighteenth ­century were confident that the ‘Most High sent the glorious King William the Third, and saved us’.98 The Toleration Act specifically exempted ‘dissenting Protestants’ who ‘scruple in the baptising of infants’ from having to agree to those paragraphs of the Thirty-Nine Articles that concerned infant baptism. The assembly also passed a resolution to the effect that their churches be given the liberty to follow their own judgement when it came to open or closed communion.99 A.C. Underwood and Joshua Thompson have understood this resolution to mean that while fellowship and recognition was to be extended to open communion churches with closed membership, it was not to be extended to those churches which, like Bunyan’s, held to both open communion and open membership.100 Yet, as B.R. White has pointed out, there was at least one open-membership church that sent a representative to this Particular Baptist Assembly in 1689; namely, Broadmead Church in Bristol.101 Believer’s baptism and a personal profession of faith before the church were the normal requirements for admission to membership in this church, but on occasion some were received into membership solely on the basis of a personal testimony.102 Broadmead was unusual in other ways: Dorothy Hazzard, the wife of a Puritan minister, was key to the church’s founding and when Thomas Hardcastle was called to be the church’s pastor in 1671, of the ninety-eight members who signed the letter calling him, seventytwo were women.103

97  Robert W. Oliver, ‘Baptist Confession Making 1644 and 1689’ (unpublished paper presented to the Strict Baptist Historical Society, March 17, 1989), p. 20. 98  Benjamin Wallin, The Joyful Sacrifice of a Prosperous Nation (London, 1760), p. 26. 99  Joseph Ivimey, A History of the English Baptists (London, 1811), I, p. 490. 100 A.C. Underwood, A History of the English Baptists (London, 1947), p. 129; Joshua Thompson, ‘The Communion Controversy and Irish Baptists’, Irish Baptist Historical Society Journal, 20 (1987–8), 29–30. 101  ‘Open and Closed Membership among English and Welsh Baptists’, The Baptist Quarterly, 24 (1971–2), 332. 102  The Records of a Church of Christ in Bristol, 1640–1687, ed. Roger Hayden (Bristol, 1974), pp.  52–3. Kiffen’s relationship with the Broadmead Church appears to have been cordial; see White, English Baptists, pp. 113–15. Kiffen was the second of the signatories to this confession. 103 White, English Baptists, pp. 150–1. White devotes a chapter to ‘Women in SeventeenthCentury Baptist Churches’ (White, English Baptists, pp. 134–58).


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‘CHRIST DIED FOR ALL MEN’: THOMAS GRANTHAM AND THE GENERAL BAPTISTS A year after the first appearance of the Second London Confession, the General Baptists also issued what some of them hoped would become their doctrinal standard, An Orthodox Creed (1678). This sophisticated confession devoted the first eight of its articles to a detailed explication of the Trinity and orthodox Christology, an explicit refutation of the unorthodox views of the General Baptist Matthew Caffyn.104 As a footnote to the confession’s preface stated, ‘We are sure that the denying of baptism is a less evil, than to deny the divinity, or humanity of the Son of God’.105 Despite the best efforts of the framers of this creedal text, though, heterodox views of Christ proved to be a perennial problem among General Baptists in the following decades. The confession also staked out a position between Arminianism and Calvinism. While it affirmed that ‘Christ died for all men’, it also confessed that ‘those that are effectually called, according to God’s eternal purpose, being justified by faith, do receive such a measure of the holy unction, from the Holy Spirit, by which they shall certainly persevere unto eternal life’.106 The foremost General Baptist leader during this period was undoubtedly Thomas Grantham, ‘a born organizer’,107 who was involved in planting General Baptist churches in Lincolnshire, Warwickshire, and throughout East Anglia. Grantham wrote what can be best described as the first systematic theological treatise by a Baptist, the four-volume Christianismus Primitivus: or, The Ancient Christian Religion (1678). Similar to An Orthodox Creed, Grantham’s theology remained distinctively Arminian, but he disagreed with many of his Arminian contemporaries by affirming total depravity, a penal substitutionary view of the atonement, justification by faith alone, and the perseverance of the saints. Grantham’s theology cannot be neatly aligned with either consistent Calvinism or the mainstream Arminianism of his day.108 Grantham’s theological convictions may also account for the fact that he longed for a union of all the English Baptists: ‘Let some pillar or monument of our love and unity in general be erected in this generation, which may give

104  Yet, see the revisionist article by Alex Carver, ‘Matthew Caffyn Revisited: Cooperation, Christology, and Controversy in the Life of an Influential Seventeenth-Century Baptist’, The Baptist Quarterly, 47 (2016), 44–64. 105  An Orthodox Creed: or, A Protestant Confession of Faith (1679), sig. A6r. 106  An Orthodox Creed, articles XVIII and XXXVI. 107  Charles Boardman Jewson, The Baptists in Norfolk (London, 1957), p. 32. On Grantham, see especially John Inscore Essick, Thomas Grantham: God’s Messenger from Lincolnshire (Macon, GA, 2013) and Clint Bass, Thomas Grantham (1633–1692) and General Baptist Theology (Oxford, 2013). 108  J.  Matthew Pinson, ‘Thomas Grantham’s Theology of the Atonement and Justification’, Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, 8 (2011), 7–21.

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evidence to posterity that we were one people.’109 Grantham’s plea went unheeded by the Particular Baptists. When he died in 1692, though, his ­one-time theological interlocutor, the Anglican John Connould, conducted Grantham’s funeral within St Stephen’s parish church and eleven years later, when he was dying, asked to be buried in the same tomb in the Anglican sanctuary.110 Most of Grantham’s Separatist and Baptist forebears probably would not have approved, but Grantham well knew of the provisional character of all historical judgements.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Ball, Bryan  W., Seventh-Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600–1800 (Oxford, 1994). Bass, Clint, Thomas Grantham (1633–1692) and General Baptist Theology (Oxford, 2013). Brachlow, Stephen, ‘The Elizabethan Roots of Henry Jacob’s Churchmanship: Refocusing the Historiographical Lens’, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 36 (1985), 228–54. Burrage, Champlin, The Early English Dissenters in the Light of Recent Research (1550–1641), 2 vols (Cambridge, 1912). Carlson, Leland H. and Albert Peel, eds, The Writings of Robert Harrison and Robert Browne (London/New York, 1953). Coggins, James Robert, John Smyth’s Congregation: English Separatism, Mennonite Influence, and the Elect Nation (Waterloo, On/Scottdale, PA, 1991). Duesing, Jason  G., Henry Jessey: Puritan Chaplain, Independent and Baptist Pastor, Millenarian Politician and Prophet (Mountain Home, AR, 2015). Essick, John Inscore, Thomas Grantham: God’s Messenger from Lincolnshire (Macon, GA, 2013). George, Timothy, John Robinson and the English Separatist Tradition (Macon, GA, 1982). Greaves, Richard L., Deliver Us from Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660–1663 (Oxford, 1986). Gritz, Paul Linton, ‘Samuel Richardson and the Religious and Political Controversies Confronting the London Particular Baptists, 1643 to 1658’ (PhD thesis, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1987). Jones, Marvin, The Beginning of Baptist Ecclesiology: The Foundational Contributions of Thomas Helwys (Eugene, OR, 2017). Jones, R. Tudur, Congregationalism in England 1662–1962 (London, 1962). Kreitzer, Larry J., William Kiffen and his World, 6 vols to date (Oxford, 2010–). Lee, Jason  K., The Theology of John Smyth: Puritan, Separatist, Baptist, Mennonite (Macon, GA, 2003). 109 Grantham, Christianismus Primitivus, III, pp. 36–7. 110 Jewson, Baptists in Norfolk, p. 36.


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Lumpkin, William L., Baptist Confessions of Faith (second edn; Valley Forge, 1969). McGregor, J.F., ‘The Baptists: Fount of All Heresy’, in McGregor and B. Reay, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution (Oxford, 1984), pp. 23–63. Paul, Robert S., ‘Henry Jacob and Seventeenth-Century Puritanism’, Hartford Quarterly, 1 (1967), 92–113. Payne, Ernest A., The Free Church Tradition in the Life of England (London, 1944). Peel, Albert, The First Congregational Churches: New Light on Separatist Congregations in London 1567–81 (Cambridge, 1920). Randall, Ian M. ‘ “The Low Condition of the Churches”: Difficulties Faced by the General Baptists in England—the 1680s to the 1760s’, The Pacific Journal of Baptist Research, 1 (2005), 3–19. Spufford, Margaret, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters, 1520–1725 (Cambridge, 1995). Tolmie, Murray, The Triumph of the Saints. The Separate Churches of London 1616–1649 (Cambridge, 1977). Underwood, T.L., Primitivism, Radicalism, and the Lamb’s War: The Baptist-Quaker Conflict in Seventeenth-Century England (New York/Oxford, 1997). Watts, Michael  R., The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978). White, B.R., The English Separatist Tradition from the Marian Martyrs to the Pilgrim Fathers (London, 1971). White, B.R., ‘Henry Jessey in the Great Rebellion’, in R. Buick Knox, ed., Reformation Conformity and Dissent. Essays in honour of Geoffrey Nuttall (London, 1977), pp. 132–53. White, B.R., The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century (second edn, London, 1996). Wright, Stephen, The Early English Baptists, 1603–1649 (Woodbridge, 2006).

6 Early Quakerism and its Origins* Ariel Hessayon

Of all the new religious movements that emerged during the English Revolution of 1641–60 the Quakers were the largest, most successful and enduring. Barry Reay, for example, estimated that by the early 1660s there were certainly between 35,000 and 40,000 Quakers, and perhaps as many as 60,000 out of a population numbering some 5.28 million.1 Naturally the importance of early Quakerism means that it is an extremely well-studied subject so my intention here is to present an overview, informed by my own interpretation, of what is largely familiar evidence. Accordingly, this chapter begins with some historical background followed by a summary of the main scholarly literature on early Quakerism, with an assessment of its merits. I will then examine the origins of the name, comparing it with the ways in which polemicists used other terms of abuse, before suggesting that Quakerism had multiple, loosely interlinked beginnings rather than a singular basis. Other aspects of early Quakerism that will be discussed briefly include its defining characteristics, social composition, and the beliefs of its adherents: namely the supremacy of individual experience over religious traditions and dogma; their anti-sacramentalism, anticlericalism, hostility to tithes, pleas for toleration, concern for social justice, and calls for legal and medical reform; as well as their attitude towards the Bible, Apocrypha, extra-canonical texts, and the ‘occult’. In addition, I will look at Quaker preaching, literary style, modes of speech, use of silence, prophetic behaviour, and attempted miracle working within the context of a widespread belief in an imminent apocalypse and the re-emergence of Christian primitivism. Finally I will suggest some reasons for early Quakerism’s success. *  Earlier versions of this chapter were read at the Quaker History Meeting at Friends House, London and the Institute of Historical Research. I would like to thank the participants for their helpful comments and suggestions. In addition, I have profited from the advice of Gerard Guiton, Diego Lucci, and Phil Smith. I alone remain responsible for any mistakes or shortcomings. 1  Barry Reay, The Quakers and the English Revolution (Hounslow, 1985), pp. 11, 26–9. Ariel Hessayon, Early Quakerism and its Origins In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0007


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CONTEXTS AND HISTORIO GRAPHICAL DEVELOPMENTS The emergence of Quakerism must be situated within wider contexts: the breakdown of pre-publication censorship in 1641; rebellion in Ireland and widespread fear of popery; a recently concluded yet devastating Civil War that had spread through many regions of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, during which an estimated 80,000 soldiers were killed or maimed; the execution of the Archbishop of Canterbury, abolition of episcopacy and emasculation of the Church of England; the unprecedented trial and public beheading of a reigning monarch; the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords; the imprisonment, disarmament, and occasional execution of defeated royalists; the seizure and sequestration of a number of royalists’ estates together with the state’s confiscation and redistribution of property that had belonged to the crown, bishops, dean, and chapters; the growing belief among all sides in the conflict that the sinful shedding of innocent blood was a pollutant that had defiled the land; harvest failure; murrain, famine, destitution, and localized outbreaks of plague; army mutinies over arrears of pay; sick and maimed soldiers together with the widows and orphans of slain combatants in need of charity; as well as campaigns to release people imprisoned for debt, introduce liberty of conscience, initiate ecclesiastical, educational, electoral, legal, medical, and taxation reforms, abolish the maintenance of ministers by tithes, and promote free trade. Then there was the political transition from the English Commonwealth inaugurated in 1649 to the Cromwellian Protectorate of 1653–9. Here the new republic failed to fully legitimate itself. Partly this was through some missed opportunities; partly through the absence of systematic brutality. Indeed, the old world was turned upside down but never eradicated as the ruling majority sought moderation, compromise, and restraint—the quest for settlement. Consequently an oligarchic republic was eventually supplanted by an uncrowned Lord Protector presiding with the aid of his council and successive parliaments over a perpetual Reformation implemented by an unsteady alliance of magistracy, ministry, and military power. Like other Protestant nonconformists that survived the restoration of the monarchy, the Quakers’ refashioning of their history and identity began early and in earnest. Unsurprisingly, while several of their enemies provided a genealogy for them that stretched from the mystics and spiritual reformers of sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century continental Europe such as Hendrik Niclaes and Jacob Boehme to their immediate forerunners—Grindletonians, Levellers, Diggers, Baptists, Seekers, and Ranters—Quakers themselves preferred to concentrate upon the sufferings of their founding fathers and ­mothers. Coupled with this established tradition of martyrology were biographical studies of the leadership and their more prominent followers. There was also a related

Early Quakerism and its Origins


emphasis on genealogy, regional and local history, and bibliography that chimed with antiquarian research interests. From William Sewel’s early-eighteenthcentury history of the rise of the Quakers to William Braithwaite’s earlytwentieth-century account of the beginnings of Quakerism these narratives had common elements. Thus Quaker origins were explained as a long-term development of the Reformation and contextualized against the backdrop of Puritan Separatists, continental and native Baptists, Civil War, regicide, and revolution. The major personality was George Fox, although there were other ‘first publishers of truth’—supposedly a ‘valiant sixty’—including James Nayler, Edward Burrough, Francis Howgill, George Whitehead, Margaret Fell, and Elizabeth Hooton. These pioneer evangelists followed in the Apostles’ footsteps, boldly preaching their message of the revelation of Jesus Christ as an indwelling presence—the light within. Despite religious persecution they remained steadfast in their opposition to clerical authority, church worship, infant baptism, tithes, and oath taking, refusing to take the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or remove their hats, and using plain speech. Gathered primarily from pre-existing northern communities of Independents and Seekers, these Quakers, as they were scornfully called, engaged in theological disputations with various groups: notably Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists, as well as ‘some of the less stable products of Puritanism’, i.e. Ranters and Muggletonians.2 Itinerant preaching spread their ideas from the fertile soil of the northern counties to the midlands, eventually reaching London, Norwich, Bristol, and beyond—thereby fulfilling, in lawyer William Prynne’s eyes, Jeremiah’s prophecy ‘That out of THE NORTH AN EVILL SHALL BREAK FORTH UPON ALL THE INHABITANTS OF THE LAND’.3 Thereafter they crossed the sea westward to Ireland, the West Indies, and North America; eastward to the Dutch Republic, German territories, and Ottoman Empire; southward to France, Spain, the Italian states, Malta and North African ports (Algiers). While there is no watershed in Quaker historiography, there was a gradual shift from a predominantly self-serving denominational version that venerated the founders towards a more critical appraisal of their role within the movement and its broader contribution to the English Revolution. The bulk of this work, as before, was biographical and regional, concentrating on the leadership’s itinerant preaching combined with Quaker sufferings in local and national context. Yet there was also renewed interest in old questions. Hence Geoffrey Nuttall rejected Rufus Jones’s suggestion that Quaker origins could be traced to continental Anabaptism, spiritualism, and mysticism, insisting rather that Quakerism was indigenous, having evolved from English Puritanism. Further studies examined the early Quakers’ interests in law, medicine, Hermeticism, 2  William Braithwaite, The Beginnings of Quakerism to 1660 (1912; second edn, revised Henry Cadbury, Cambridge, 1955; reprinted, York, 1981), p. 18. 3  William Prynne, The Quakers Unmasked (second edn, London, 1655), p. 36.


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Hebrew, and Jews, as well as their attitudes towards the Bible, Apocrypha, and extra-canonical texts. Others considered the meaning of the Quakers’ prophetic gestures, attempts at faith healing, and the symbolism of silence, together with their understanding of eschatology and apocalyptic belief that they were the children of light called to fight the Lamb’s war with spiritual weapons in the last days. The social origins of the early Quakers, their relationship with their neighbours, and attitudes towards them generally also received attention, as did their customs, costume, and manners. So too did their opposition to tithes, and controversies with rival religious groups—notably Baptists, Ranters, and Muggletonians. In addition, scholars explored early Quaker speech, testimonies, and self-representation, noting the emergence of a distinctive literary style. At the same time a number of books and articles extended our knowledge of women Quakers, focusing on their activities as prophetesses, preachers, pamphleteers, prisoners, publishers, missionaries, and letter writers. The sources from which these studies of early Quakerism were constructed are well known. Like Baptists and Muggletonians, Quakers carefully collected, collated, and copied manuscripts, which, together with bound volumes of printed tracts, constitute the majority of the group’s archives. Although a number of documents were lost as a result of the Great Fire of London of 1666, and although it has been convincingly demonstrated that Fox and the editor of his Journal—possibly in collusion with an ‘official board of censorship’ (the Morning Meeting)—suppressed or distorted unwelcome evidence so as to magnify and sanitize his foundational role within the movement,4 there are still important collections surviving from this period and today held at Friends House Library: particularly the Abram Rawlinson Barclay, William Caton, and Swarthmore manuscripts. There are also calendars available of George Fox’s papers by Henry Cadbury and the Swarthmore Manuscripts to 1660 by Geoffrey Nuttall, as well as Norman Penney’s Extracts from State Papers relating to Friends, 1654 to 1672. In short, historians of the Quaker movement tread on well-worn ground. Among the first to stress the radical nature of early Quakerism was Alan Cole, whose seminal work of the mid-1950s on Quakers and politics between 1652 and 1660 rejected the largely denominational view that early Quakers were pacifists aloof from political life; if anything ‘it was forced upon them by the hostility of the outside world’.5 Barry Reay agreed: ‘from the start, the Quaker movement was a movement of political and social as well as religious protest’; it was ‘very much a creature of its age, part of the radicalism and enthusiasm of the revolutionary years’.6 Likewise, in a lecture delivered at Friends House in 1991 Christopher Hill speculated about the nature of the Quakers’ pre-Restoration 4  W.S. Hudson, ‘A Suppressed Chapter in Quaker History’, Journal of Religion, 24 (1944), 110. 5  A. Cole, ‘The Quakers and the English Revolution’, Past and Present, 10 (1956), 42. 6  Reay, Quakers, pp. 9–10, 32.

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political programme: they ‘expected the rule of the saints’ and ‘expected that rule to bring about a better society’.7 James Nayler’s entry into Bristol on horseback in October 1656, however, in imitation of Christ’s messianic entrance into Jerusalem, exposed divisions among the leadership in what was undoubtedly the most dramatic and damaging schism in the history of early Quakerism; a ‘parting of the ways’ that suited Fox’s preference for discipline, law, and order. For Hill the failure of English radicalism—including by implication the radical aspects of early Quakerism—was partly attributable to duplicity. This was the betrayal by the propertied bourgeoisie of the plebeian revolution that never happened; what he termed the ‘revolt within the Revolution’. With the triumph of the ‘protestant ethic’ and the Stuart Restoration the Quakers became part of a nonconformist remnant forced to adapt or perish in an unreceptive environment. In the immediate aftermath of Thomas Venner’s bloody and disastrous Fifth Monarchist insurrection of January 1661 they therefore adopted the ‘peace principle’ as a means of ensuring their survival.8 Relatively recently, a new generation of Quaker students of their own history has emerged. Usually drawing on Hill and other conceptually outmoded studies of the period for their historical framework, often asking the same sort of questions as their predecessors, they have tended not so much to challenge or even reframe our existing picture as to coat certain aspects in new varnish. Nonetheless, interesting work has still been produced. And while space precludes discussion, mention should be made of Douglas Gwyn’s exploration of Quaker apocalyptic thought, particularly within Fox’s message, together with Gerard Guiton’s focus on Jesus’s proclamation of the ‘Kingdom of God’ within early Quaker theology. Both are good examples of innovative—if not entirely unproblematic—approaches.

REPRESENTATIONS AND PERCEPTIONS OF EARLY QUAKERISM Scripture states that God favours those of a contrite spirit who tremble at his word.9 Nonetheless, Quakers were so called in order to mock their actions. Moreover, although a newsletter from London dated 14 October 1647 referred

7  Christopher Hill, ‘Quakers and the English Revolution’, Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society [hereafter J.F.H.S.], 56 (1992), 173. 8  Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down. Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (1972; Harmondsworth, 1984 edn), pp. 14–15, 241–58; Hill, ‘Quakers and English Revolution’, 165, 175. 9  Isaiah 66:2.


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to ‘a sect of women . . . from beyond sea called Quakers’,10 Fox recalled that the term was first used of his group in 1650 by Justice Gervase Bennett of Derby.11 This defining feature of the formative years of the movement was variously interpreted by polemicists as evidence of diabolic possession, witchcraft, or epileptic seizures. Thus disparaging relations of Quaker assemblies narrated how certain adherents would lie on their bellies or backs, their expressions distorted, mouths contorted, ‘strangely whining, squealing, yawling, groaning’ as if in a trance. Others were said to be suddenly taken with fits, falling down to the ground as if in a swoon: while the Agony of the fit is upon them their lips quiver, their flesh and joynts tremble, their bellies swell as though blown up with wind, they foam at the mouth, and sometimes purge as if they had taken Physick.12

Quick to defend their behaviour, the early Friends explained their ecstatic posturing as a benign affliction, as an affirmation of their prophetic calling. Their worldly critics, however, were disdainful. While some mocked, ridiculing the self-regarding children of light for shivering with fear before the secular authority of magistrates, others pointed to the malefic origins of their unseemly gestures, suggesting that it was not the Holy Spirit but the Father of Lies that possessed their rapturous bodies. A few detractors looked not to diabolic pacts but to natural causes, detecting melancholic temperaments and a predisposition to apoplectic or epileptic fits behind the pretended trances of the Quakers. Long considered a sacred disease, associated with prophecy, divination, hallucination, intelligence, and even lunacy, the falling sickness or epilepsy was a readily believable explanation for the ecstasies experienced by the Quakers. Even so, that all the quaking Quakers suffered from recurrent seizures appears improbable. It is more likely that the manner in which the early Friends trembled was indicative both of their immersion in the Bible and their belief that collectively they constituted an elect nation, an uncorrupted remnant speaking a pure language in the last days initiated with the coming of Christ. In addition to their trembling, early Quakers were depicted as of low social standing—‘the dregs of the common people’ to quote one heresiographer;13 ignorant lying blasphemers puffed up with malice and pride; presumptuous dissimulators; railing fanatical disrupters of organized religious services; disrespecters of ministry and magistracy; flouters of the law; fomenters of sedition; even papal agents bent on undermining the foundations of the Reformation. 10  R. Scrope and Thomas Monkhouse, eds, State Papers Collected by Edward, Earl of Clarendon, 3 vols (Oxford, 1767–86), II, p. 383; H.J. Cadbury, ‘Early Use of the Word “Quaker” ’, J.F.H.S., 49 (1959), 3–5. 11  John Nickalls, ed., Journal of George Fox (Cambridge, 1952; reprinted, 1986), pp. 22, 58. 12  Donald Lupton, The Quacking Mountebanck or The Jesuit Turn’d Quaker (London, 1655), pp. 16–17; Francis Higginson, A Brief Relation of the Irreligion of the Northern Quakers (London, 1653), p. 15. 13  Ephraim Pagitt and continuators, Heresiography (London, 1662 edn), p. 244.

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Besides often being defamed as sufferers from mental illness, even as people willing to sacrifice children (the charge was by no means unique), there were, moreover, lampoons depicting their engagement in bestial sexual practises— not to mention, as Reay has outlined, ‘allegations of incest, buggery and general immorality’.14 These textual and visual representations of Quakers, it must be emphasized, resonated with distorted portrayals of oppositional social and political movements, as well as with other religious communities mostly real but occasionally imagined—that had separated from or refused to reach an accommodation with the Church of England. Hence the Catholic recusant minority, who probably numbered more than 60,000, were accused of licentiousness, idolatry, and superstition, as well as being suspected of conspiracy, disloyalty, and treason. Against a background of alarming stories warning of foreign intervention and widespread fear of popish plots, the pope became increasingly identified with Antichrist, while Jesuit became a byword for casuistry. Similarly, just as medieval Jews had been associated with leprosy and accused of spreading the Black Death, so Anabaptism was compared to a contagion, canker, or gangrene that had infected several limbs of the body politic. Shocking accounts of adult baptism rituals contained lurid allegations that young women were immersed naked in rivers, afterwards indulging their carnal appetites with those who had dipped them. As for a handful of Anabaptist splinter groups’ adoption of communism, their enemies purposefully conflated communal ownership of property and possessions (community of goods) with polygamy (community of women). In the same vein, Levellers were accused of seeking to abolish social distinctions and private ownership of property, of levelling men’s estates and introducing anarchy. They were also defamed as atheists, devils, mutineers, rebels, and villains. Another group, though much smaller in size and envisaging themselves as both a spiritual and temporal community of love and righteousness, were regarded as new-fangled, distracted, crackbrained, and tumultuous. These were the Diggers, one of whose leaders was accounted a blasphemous, violent mad man and reputed sorcerer. Then there were those whom heresiographers categorized as new sect of Seekers or Expecters. These people sought and awaited a return to the primitive Christianity of the Apostles questioning the validity of outward gospel ordinances such as baptism, yet were likened to libertines that had scandalously defected from the bosom of the Church. More infamous still were the Ranters, who were regularly demonized as a lustful, ungodly crew given to all manner of wickedness. Their allegedly filthy lascivious practises and sinful theatrical antics (cursing, excessive drinking, revelling, roaring, smoking, whoring, and parodying of religious ceremonies) were envisaged as a threat to patriarchal norms and societal order, their teachings 14  B. Reay, ‘Popular Hostility towards Quakers in Mid-Seventeenth-Century England’, Social History, 5 (1980), 391.


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denounced by Presbyterian moralists and scandalized former co-religionists alike as detestable doctrines inspired by the Devil. John Reeve and Lodowick Muggleton meanwhile, a pair of London artisans who believed they were the two witnesses foretold in Revelation 11, were frequently abused and derided by their contemporaries as wild, impudent, railing madmen who vented strange senseless blasphemies and other ridiculous opinions. Then there were Jews, whose pleas for readmission to England in autumn 1655 were accompanied by the circulation of pernicious stories that recycled prevailing negative stereotypes. These dwelt on horrible accusations revolving around the appalling if familiar themes of deicide, blasphemy, superstition, spiritual blindness, diabolism, magic, and blood, together with an imagined Jewish predisposition towards avarice, clannishness, conspiracy, criminality, cruelty, dishonesty, disloyalty, and stubbornness. Finally, it is noteworthy that from the late Elizabethan period Christian converts to Islam were derogatorily called renegados—especially on stage—while Islamic customs such as circumcision, polygamy, concubinage, and divorce scandalized the majority of English Protestants. Muhammad, moreover, was typically regarded as an impostor, pseudo-prophet, and instrument of Satan who had spread a pernicious heresy enshrined in a book of falsehoods; not to mention an ambitious, bloodthirsty, epileptic, plundering rapist. Taken together these distasteful representations suggest a number of provisional ways in which we can contextualize and explain predominantly hostile perceptions of, and reactions to, early Quakerism. First, there were the compilers of early modern English heresy catalogues. These heresiographers tended to position themselves within a long line of anti-heretical writing that stretched from Paul, Irenaeus, and Augustine to Luther, Calvin, and the Presbyterian controversialist Thomas Edwards’s notorious Gangraena (1646). As Ann Hughes has shown, heresiographies should be read cautiously—less as accurate guides to what they denounced, more as exaggerated and self-serving accounts. Their purpose was to represent doctrinal and behavioural errors as inversions of truths so as to facilitate their extirpation.15 Second, those engaged in constructing damaging portrayals of Protestant Dissenters were constantly alert to precedents. They attached labels (sometimes borrowed from their predecessors) to aid categorization, thereby providing loosely connected individuals with a sectarian identity and genealogy that may have deliberately obscured or ignored subtle doctrinal distinctions. Third, in mobilizing political opinion, primarily through the medium of print, they illustrate not only the effectiveness with which well-financed, organized polemical campaigns were able to damage the religious and sexual reputations of their actual and supposed enemies, but also how imagined types of heretical, blasphemous, and sectarian ‘Others’ were disseminated, popularized, and received at moments of tension and conflict. 15  Ann Hughes, Gangraena and the Struggle for the English Revolution (Oxford, 2004).

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These constructed ‘Others’—in the sense of that which lay outside or was excluded from the group with which someone identified themselves—had some obvious differences yet also shared several significant features. Among them were an emphasis on blasphemous religious beliefs and rituals, diabolic inspiration, sinful conduct (especially sexual immorality), mental instability, dissimulation, disloyalty, and disorder. By preying upon individual and collective fears they combined to create panics centred on perceived threats to the progress of the Reformation, national security, good government, a hierarchical social system, the maintenance of law and order, property ownership, and patriarchal authority. Furthermore, because contemporaries envisaged these ‘Others’ as the antitheses of perfect models (divine truths, religious orthodoxy, constant devotion, sexual probity, virtuous conduct, faithfulness) their inverse reveals constructed notions of idealized individual and communal selves. Resemblances between perceived Quakers and some of their immediate contemporaries—particularly Baptists, Familists, Diggers, and Ranters—therefore suggest that these were not interchangeable static stereotypes but rather a blurring of notional boundaries between different types of ‘Others’. This noticeable degree of fluidity was partly a consequence of the readily available repertoire of constantly evolving tropes from which they derived as well as the common functions they served. It also highlights the type of problems associated with sources of this nature together with the need to be wary of unsympathetic explanations of the antecedents and origins of Quakerism.

ANTECEDENTS AND ORIGINS During a night-time meeting in 1660 at a Dorchester inn, Fox had his hat removed and his head carefully inspected for signs of the ‘Jesuit’s shaven crown’.16 By then William Prynne’s allegation that Quakers were Jesuit or Franciscan agents despatched from Rome ‘to seduce the intoxicated Giddy-headed English Nation’ had become widespread.17 Thus Edward Terrill, compiler of an account of the Broadmead Baptist Church, identified the doctrine of the light within together with the Quakers’ ‘affected Sanctity, manner of speaking, and Brutish deportment’ towards magistrates as marks of a Jesuitical design.18 These charges were vigorously refuted by, among others, Margaret Fell in an unpublished rebuttal of seven supposed similarities.

16  Nickalls, ed., Journal of George Fox, p. 362. 17  Prynne, Quakers Unmasked, title page. 18  Roger Hayden, ed., The Records of a Church of Christ in Bristol, 1640–1687, Bristol Record Society, 27 (1974), pp. 107–9.


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Yet the muck stuck. Indeed, the Presbyterian minister Richard Baxter essentially concurred with Prynne. Baxter linked the Quakers to their ‘German Brethren’, the Paracelsians and Behmenists, assuming that with their forerunners—‘Seekers, Ranters, and Anabaptists’—they were part of a popish confederacy let loose by the Devil to undermine the pillars of the Reformation.19 Hence in The Quakers Catchism (1655) he recounted the ‘abundance’ of popery that the Quakers and Behmenists maintained.20 Likewise, the heresiarch Lodowick Muggleton supposed that Boehme’s writings ‘were the chief Books that the Quakers bought’, insisting that the ‘Principle or Foundation of their Religion’ was to be found there.21 Although Muggleton’s ability to observe subtle doctrinal distinctions was impaired, and although he seems to have associated Behmenism with a conception of God as immanent in direct opposition to his own view of him as corporeal, he was still right to emphasize Boehme’s Quaker readership—even if many Friends eventually repudiated the so-called Teutonic Philosopher. Elsewhere I have suggested that both the Quakers’ engagement with Boehme’s difficult, inconsistent ideas and their association in contemporaries’ minds with his teachings was more extensive than has usually been acknowledged.22 And while it is clear that only a minority of early Quaker printed texts and extant manuscripts show familiarity with Boehme’s terms or doctrines, nonetheless among those that were influenced by Boehme were several important figures in the British Isles, Europe, the West Indies, and North America at a time when Quakerism was taking shape. It is also significant that some of Boehme’s Quaker readers became schismatics; a few were also active outside England; while others were foreigners. Yet many who became convinced of Quakerism turned away from the Teutonic Philosopher—as they did from other authors too. Partly this was due to a preference for Friends’ plain style over Boehme’s abstruse notions. But the crucial sticking point in this instance was that, unlike the Behmenists, Quakers denied the validity of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well as the Lord’s Prayer. Moreover, the minor postRestoration controversy between Quakers and Behmenists that flared up over these issues illustrates in miniature the extent to which certain Quaker leaders were able to transform their followers into an organized, disciplined, doctrinally coherent group, particularly by shunning what Quakers held in common with their sectarian opponents and instead accentuating doctrinal differences between Friends and others. Whereas Baxter, who was influenced by the Calvinist heresiographer Christian Beckmann, had focused on Germany, the Cambridge Platonist Henry More 19  Richard Baxter, One Sheet against the Quakers (London, 1657), pp. 1, 2. 20  Richard Baxter, The Quakers Catchism (London, 1655), sig. C3v. 21  Lodowick Muggleton, A Looking-Glass for George Fox (London, 1668), p. 5. 22  A. Hessayon, ‘Jacob Boehme and the Early Quakers’, J.F.H.S., 60 (2005), 191–223.

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looked to Holland. Writing in September 1670 to Anne, Viscountess Conway (who eventually converted to Quakerism), More indicated it would take too long to explain why the Quakers were ‘descended’ from Hendrik Niclaes, a merchant active in Amsterdam and Emden, who in the 1540s had founded the Family of Love. Represented by polemicists as a Nicodemist mystical sect who allegorized the Scriptures and stressed the immanence of Christ, not to mention being rebuked for seeking to attain perfectibility on earth, More believed that Familists had entered England through the wiles of popish priests and their emissaries.23 Having met with the Scottish Quaker George Keith, Lady Conway asked More to reconsider his judgement: ‘I hope we may believe the account they give of themselves, that they never were infect’d with what you call Familisme’.24 Although unwilling to pronounce upon the ‘generality of their Sect’, More responded that Lady Conway was overconfident that from the beginning the Quakers had ‘nothing to do with Familisme’. He cited the example of James Nayler as a ‘demonstration’ of how many Quakers had been ‘tinctured with Familisme’. Furthermore, he had been informed in London by a purported associate of about twenty Familists that they were ‘downright’ Quakers. Indeed, More confessed that he had always regarded Quakers as ‘Familists onely armed with rudenesse and an obstinate Activity’. That the Quakers had ‘emerged into a greater nearnesse to the true Apostolick Christianity’ was a cause for good Christians to rejoice, ‘but that they are hardly come off from all points of Familisme, is plaine’.25 Henry Hallywell’s An Account of Familism As it is Revived and Propagated by the Quakers (1673) developed this argument, which was swiftly refuted by William Penn. The Quaker reception of works by Hendrik Niclaes and indeed Hendrik Jansen van Barrefelt, a prominent member of the Family of Love who broke from Niclaes and used the name Hiël (the ‘Life of God’), requires detailed examination. This was recognized long ago by William Braithwaite, who, following Rufus Jones, pointed to common elements between Familism and Quakerism (rejection of oaths, war and capital punishment; waiting in silence; attitudes towards the Bible and sacraments) as well as between Niclaes’s and Fox’s experiences of spiritual illumination. In the same vein, Geoffrey Nuttall’s reassessment of Nayler explored the milieu in which a ‘struggle . . . took place in the soul of infant Quakerism: the struggle between Familism and Apostolic Christianity’.26 And while Familism was as much a polemical construction as  some of the other disreputable labels we have noted, there is evidence indicating individual engagement with the teachings of Niclaes and Hiël. Thus in April 1658 Richard Hickock reported disputing not just with Ranters at 23  Marjorie Nicolson and Sarah Hutton, eds, The Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More, and their Friends, 1642–1684 (Oxford, 1992), pp. 512, 513. 24  Nicolson and Hutton, eds, Conway Letters, p. 408. 25  Nicolson and Hutton, eds, Conway Letters, pp. 416, 417–18. 26  G.F. Nuttall, ‘James Nayler: A Fresh Approach’, J.F.H.S., supplement 26 (1954), 1–8.


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Leek, Staffordshire, but also encountering a ‘woman of ye familie of loue’.27 Furthermore, Robert Dring owned a large manuscript containing a number of works by Niclaes in Low German to which he prefixed a table of contents identifying individual titles by their more familiar Latin equivalents and a list in English of other important writings excluded from the collection—including several secret texts meant only for ‘fellow-elders’. Dring knew Giles Calvert, the leading publisher of both Niclaes and Quaker authors in the mid-1650s, and also hosted Fox at his London home.28 Fox himself possessed a copy of Niclaes’s Den Spegel der Gerechticheit [The Glass of Righteousness] in Low Dutch.29 In addition, between 1687 and 1690 Jacob Claus of Amsterdam, a Quaker who had published Robert Barclay in Dutch, issued German translations of the complete works of Hiël. Turning next to Grindletonians, whom the Puritan minister Stephen Denison regarded as but a northern offshoot of Familism, Braithwaite, Jones, Theodor Sippell, and Nuttall all detected significant antecedents. David Como, who has produced a fine and detailed study of this religious community—which takes its name not from an activity or founder but a village in the West Riding of Yorkshire—agrees: ‘Quakerism was almost certainly the unwitting progeny of Grindletonian divinity’.30 Here modern scholarship accords with opponents of Quakerism. Thus Roger Williams thought it probable that Quakers, an ‘upstart party or Faction’ lately risen up in Lancashire, were the ‘Offspring of the Grindletonians’. Williams supposed that the Grindletonians derived from Familism and identified their two chief doctrines as those also espoused by Quakers: that they could not sin since they were perfect, and that the Holy Spirit was responsible for their actions.31 The Church of England polemicist Thomas Comber repeated the charge, drawing on Denison for his knowledge of Grindletonian teaching. Although Fox denied a genealogical connection, insisting the Grindletonians knew otherwise, this appears disingenuous. For it was atop Pendle Hill—less than five miles from Grindleton—that Fox claimed he had received a vision in 1652 of a ‘great people’ to be gathered.32 Moreover, since it is commonly accepted that the Pennine valleys had ‘provided safe places for the holding of unorthodox assemblies’, and that Fox thereafter made several converts in the region, it seems likely that the sermons of the Grindletonian progenitor Roger Brereley—subsequently circulated and amplified by his 27  FHL, MS Swarthmore I 148; FHL, MS Swarthmore IV 208. 28  L .Monfils, ‘Family and Friends: Hendrik Niclaes’s “Low German” Writings, Printed in England during the Rise of the Quakers’, Quaerendo, 32 (2002), 257–83. 29  J.L.  Nickalls, ‘George Fox’s Library’, J.F.H.S., 28 (1931), 4, 9; H.J.  Cadbury, ‘George Fox’s Library Again’, J.F.H.S., 30 (1933), 9. 30  David Como, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford, CA, 2004), p. 324. 31  Roger Williams, George Fox Digg’d out of his Burrowes (Boston, 1676), pp. 42, 204. 32  Nickalls, ed., Journal of George Fox, pp. 103–4.

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followers—created a receptive environment for Quakerism.33 Indeed, on turning Quaker the cloth merchant Thomas Barcroft of Colne wrote a brief treatise intended mainly for those with whom he had once enjoyed: sweet society and union in spirit in the days of that glimmeringe Light under the Ministry of Breerely . . . and some few more whose memories I honnor, called then by the p[ro]fessors of the world, Grinletonians, Antinomians, Hereticks, Sectaries, and such like names of reproach.34

More problematic is the Quakers’ relationship to Seekers—particularly in light of J.F. McGregor’s contention that they should not be regarded as approximating to ‘a movement, let alone a sect, professing a particular doctrine’. Moreover, as McGregor notes, the traditional narrative of Fox’s progress through northern Seeker heartlands preaching to receptive communities is not only triumphalist in tone, but also based on retrospective evidence.35 All the same, it has proved difficult to dislodge the established orthodoxy. Thus Douglas Gwyn claimed in Seekers Found that ‘nearly all of the earliest Friends underwent classic Seeker phases before becoming Friends, and the earliest Quaker preachers found their most receptive audiences among those mournful “travellers after Sion” ’.36 Certainly Presbyterian critics frequently grouped Quakers with Seekers and other undesirables, identifying them—as we saw with Baxter—as one of several Quaker forebears. In addition, there are a couple of significant references in contemporary Quaker sources, notably to ‘many honest hearts . . . among the Waiters’ and ‘an assembly of people called Seekers’ at London in summer 1654.37 So if we discount polemically constructed notions of Seekers and instead understand the term as denoting a collective if variegated spiritual state rather than a distinct sect, it is unsurprising to find Quaker accounts that looked back to encounters with a ‘seeking’ and religious people sometimes called ‘Seekers’.38 Just as contentious is the Quakers’ connection with former Levellers. Thus Henry Brailsford thought it a ‘natural development’ that ‘many of the Levellers found a spiritual refuge in the Society of Friends’, while Hill assumed that ‘many former Levellers became Quakers’.39 These appear to be overstatements, how33  Ronald Marchant, The Puritans and the Church Courts in the Diocese of York 1560–1642 (London, 1960), pp. 39–43, 127. 34  FHL, MS Swarthmore I 174. 35  J.F. McGregor, ‘Seekers and Ranters’, in J.F. McGregor and Barry Reay, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution (Oxford, 1984), pp. 123, 128–9. 36  Douglas Gwyn, Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience (Wallingford, PA, 2001), p. 13. 37  A.R. Barclay, ed., Letters, & c., of Early Friends (London, 1841), pp. 13–14. 38  Norman Penney, ed., The First Publishers of Truth (London, 1907), pp. 55, 56, 106, 158, 235, 243, 244. 39  H.N. Brailsford, The Levellers and the English Revolution (1961; second edn, ed. Christopher Hill, Nottingham, 1983), pp. 637–40; Christopher Hill, The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries (London, 1984), p. 131.


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ever, and Reay was doubtless closer to the mark when he found ‘no evidence of any substantial continuity’ between Levellers and Quakers.40 For although the Leveller leader John Lilburne became a Quaker towards the end of his life, other documented Leveller adherents turned Quaker are few and far between.41 Even so, hostile observers perceived Quakers as the scummy residue of Levellers, Diggers, Seekers, Ranters, atheists, and whatnot. Hence John Ward, vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon, concluded that ‘severall levellers setled into Quakers’.42 More specifically, Quakers were accused of promoting community of goods and being ‘downright Levellers’ who ‘affirmed that there ought to be no distinction of Estates, but an universall parity’.43 ‘Magistrate, People, Husband, Wife, Parents, Children, Master, Servant’: all were supposedly alike for the Quakers.44 Accordingly an MP denounced Quakers as a ‘growing evil’ espousing a ‘plausible way; all levellers against magistracy and propriety’.45 In the same vein, a senior army officer writing in April 1657 explained that he had discharged one of his subordinates because he had become a Quaker. This ‘sottish stupid generation’ were ‘blasphemous herritickes’ who would corrupt the rank-and-file with their ‘levellinge principle’ since they neither valued the Scriptures, ministry, magistracy, nor anything else.46 Little wonder that Fox was keen to disassociate Quakers from Levellers, condemning those ‘who goe under a colour of Levelling’.47 Disassociation has also long marked Quaker reactions towards Ranters. Indeed, even allowing for polemical exaggeration and distortion, an earlier generation of Quaker scholars frequently denounced the Ranters as a dangerous pantheistic aberration and disorganized degenerate movement whose extreme mystical doctrines and immoral excesses had threatened to spread like a contagion across the nation had it not been for the spiritual antidote afforded by Fox’s ministry and Quakerism. The verdicts of Robert Barclay, Rufus Jones, and William Braithwaite, however, merely echoed contemporary Quaker antipathies. Thus, Edward Burrough denounced the Ranters as a viperous generation deceived by Satan in the guise of an angel of light and corrupted by the Whore of Babylon. Similarly, Margaret Fell reproved them for asserting several blasphemous doctrines: notably that God is darkness as well as light; that all 40  Reay, Quakers, pp. 19–20. 41  A. Hessayon, ‘The Resurrection of John Lilburne, Quaker’, in John Rees (ed.), John Lilburne and the Levellers. Reappraising the Roots of English Radicalism 400 Years on (Abingdon, 2017), pp. 95–116. 42  Charles Severn, ed., Diary of the Rev. John Ward (London, 1839), p. 141. 43  Higginson, Irreligion of Northern Quakers, p. 10. 44  Thomas Collier, A Looking-Glass for the Quakers (London, 1656), p. 12. 45  John Rutt, ed., Diary of Thomas Burton, 4 vols (London, 1828), I, p. 169. 46  Thomas Birch, ed., A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, 7 vols (London, 1742), VI, pp. 167–8. 47  George Fox, A Declaration Against All Profession and Professors (London, 1653), p. 4; George Fox and James Nayler, A Word from the Lord, unto All the Faithless Generation of the World ([London?], 1654), p. 13.

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acts were good in God’s eyes; and that to the pure even unclean or unlawful acts were pure. Nor were these isolated voices, for other Quaker authors condemned the Ranters in manuscript, print, and person, including Fell’s future husband Fox, who rebuked them for their blasphemous expressions, cursed speaking, swearing, drunkenness, tobacco smoking, dancing, and unbridled lust.48 Forged in the heat of religious controversy this vitriolic if largely one-sided exchange demonstrated the early Quakers’ evident concern to distinguish between the Ranters’ sinful behaviour and their own upright conduct, since a variety of critics—Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Baptists, and Muggletonians among them—tarred Ranters and Quakers with the same brush. And for good reason, because despite the Quakers’ ‘outward austere carriage’,49 there appeared to hostile observers little theological difference between them: Fox accused the Ranters of claiming they were God and boasting of their communion with God and Christ, yet was himself charged with affirming that he had the divinity essentially within him and that he was equal with God. Moreover, both were attacked for maintaining that the Light (Christ) was within everyone, denying the validity of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, antiscripturism, anticlericalism, falling into trances, and public nakedness. Fox even conceded that the Ranters had experienced a ‘pure convincement’ (religious awakening), before straying from the path of righteousness and becoming enemies of Christ’s doctrine.50 Indeed, he admitted some Quakers had been Ranters, the most notable being the former Baptist evangelist John Chandler, who wrote a tract urging all Ranters to examine their conscience and turn to the light of Christ. Speaking of Ranters, according to Muggleton their ministry had mainly proceeded from the Baptists’, while the bulk of the Quakers’ doctrines—but not their proud, conceited, sanctimonious conduct—derived from the Ranters. In contrast to this derivation of Quakerism, several critics suggested that it was not the Ranters but the Diggers, and especially the works of their chief ideologue Gerrard Winstanley, that were instrumental in shaping the formation of Quaker thought. Though the extent of this connection is still vigorously debated, Winstanley’s teachings do seem to have served as a bridge between the Quakers and their predecessors. Winstanley, formerly a General Baptist and buried as a Quaker, reportedly recognized this himself, claiming that the Quakers were ‘sent to perfect that worke which fell’ in the Diggers’ hands.51 And certainly the resemblances between his heterodox notions and ‘the very draughts and even Body of Quakerism’ were, as several contemporaries remarked, startling.52 This can be seen most vividly by highlighting some suggestive parallels between Winstanley’s and Fox’s tenets. 48  Ariel Hessayon, ‘Abiezer Coppe and the Ranters’, in Laura Knoppers, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Literature and the English Revolution (Oxford, 2012), pp. 346–74. 49  Collier, Looking-Glass for Quakers, p. 7. 50  Fox and Nayler, Word from the Lord, p. 13. 51  FHL, MS William Caton, III 147. 52  Thomas Comber, Christianity no Enthusiasm (London, 1678), p. 5.


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Winstanley maintained that he had been given the gift of the manifest ‘light of Christ within’. This belief in the revelation of Jesus Christ as an indwelling illuminating presence, the light within, became the battle cry of the early Quakers who regarded themselves as the children of light called to fight the Lamb’s War in the last days. Nor was the Lamb’s War to be a bloody struggle since in Fox’s mind it was an inward conflict between flesh and spirit, Fox’s refusal to bear arms echoing the pacifist principles of the Schleitheim Articles (1527) enunciated by some early Anabaptists and mirroring Winstanley’s opposition to using weapons in self-defence. Again, both Winstanley and Fox made frequent reference to the verse concerning enmity between the woman’s and the serpent’s seed and bruising the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15): Winstanley interpreting it as a prophecy of the killing of the flesh by the rising spirit or indwelling Christ, Fox understanding it to speak of Christ’s coming within. Furthermore, Winstanley’s writings were characterized by deep-seated anticlericalism: he censured proud learned scholars as ‘enemies’ to the ‘Spirit of truth’ that had inspired the Prophets and Apostles (John 14:17). For by exercising a monopoly on preaching they prevented humble fishermen, shepherds, husbandmen, and tradesmen—latter-day Apostles—from speaking about their spiritual experiences and revealing ‘truths’ that they had ‘heard and seen from God’ (Acts 4:20). Fox too insisted that he was required to obey Christ’s command and preach the everlasting gospel (Revelation 14:6), as the Apostles had done before him, because he was sent by God to turn people from darkness to light.53 And in the same vein, Fox regarded parish ministers as hirelings possessed by a ‘black earthly spirit’, who collectively had made vast sums of money by selling the Scriptures and preaching in steeple-houses: stone temples of God where the Lord did not dwell since he lived in people’s hearts.54 Although the surviving evidence is uneven, the most plausible explanation for the Quakers’ origins is therefore to conceive of it as polygenetic rather than monogenetic; that is, they had multiple instead of singular beginnings. Those who became prominent early Quakers came from different parts of the country (but predominantly the Midlands, Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Westmorland); were generally quite young, with an average age of twenty-eight; of low social status; engaged in humble artisanal or agricultural occupations and thus either relatively poor or of modest means; and—with the exception of a few university-educated converts—either meagrely schooled or autodidacts. In short, it might be better to reconceptualize the Quakers as initially consisting of an assortment of spiritual and temporal communities that, while occasionally overlapping, were nonetheless given added cohesion by their enemies. When Fox, Nayler, and other pioneer itinerant evangelists proclaimed their message they sometimes cast their seed on ploughed ground, harvesting support from 53  A. Hessayon, ‘Early Modern Communism: The Diggers and Community of Goods’, Journal for the Study of Radicalism, 3 (2009), 28–9. 54  Nickalls, ed., Journal of George Fox, p. 39.

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pre-existing communities of Independents, Baptists, and so-called Seekers who had passed beyond the outward observance of gospel ordinances. Quakerism then was, ultimately, one of the main beneficiaries of the fragmentation of Puritanism. All the same, it should be emphasized that its antecedents were not exclusively English.

BELIEFS Besides believing in the light within, early Quakers denied the validity of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well as the Lord’s Prayer. Denouncing university-trained preachers as hirelings and objecting to the forced maintenance of ministers by tithes, Quakers were steadfast in their opposition to clerical authority and church worship conducted in ‘steeplehouses’. Instead they attended largely silent meetings where they spoke as they were ‘moved by the holy Ghost’ (2 Peter 1:21), and ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’ (Acts 2:4). Turning from modes of worship to attitudes towards the Bible, Apocrypha, extra-canonical texts, and occult learning more generally, here the pioneering work was undertaken by Henry Cadbury.55 While few Quakers—except for a notorious schismatic—were accused of publicly burning their Bibles, a more common charge was that Quakers denied the Scriptures to be the word of God. Certainly Fox was accused of dissuading people from reading the Scriptures, telling them the outward letter was ‘carnal’ and that the Scriptures were Antichrist. Similarly, on being indicted for blasphemy Nayler explained that there was no written word of God; there was only the word of Christ, which was spiritual and not to be apprehended with carnal eyes. These views of the Bible were part of a broader, generally millenarian, outlook that privileged the spirit over flesh, inner illumination over outward ordinances, divinely revealed knowledge over university-trained scholarship, latter-day Apostles (in the guise of humble tradesmen) over Pharisees (ordained ministers).56 As regards the Apocrypha, Quakers seem to have been largely unfamiliar with these writings and seldom cited from them; that is, Jewish texts omitted from the Hebrew Bible but found in certain copies of the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures) and together with 2 Esdras included in the Vulgate.57 55  H.J.  Cadbury, ‘Early Quakerism and Uncanonical Lore’, Harvard Theological Review, 40 (1947), 177–205. 56  Ariel Hessayon, ‘ “Not the Word of God”: The Bible in the Hands of Antiscripturists during the English Revolution’, in Robert Armstrong and Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin, eds, The English Bible in the Early Modern World (Leiden, 2018), pp. 161–82. 57  Ariel Hessayon, ‘The Apocrypha in Early Modern England’, in Kevin Killeen, Helen Smith, and Rachel Willie, eds, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530–1700 (Oxford, 2015), pp. 146–7.


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Nonetheless, a few Quakers were concerned with the fate of ‘those Scriptures mentioned, but not inserted in the Bible’. In about 1659 a catalogue of these writings appeared in Something concerning Agbarus, Prince of the Edesseans. Reminiscent of extra-canonical compositions identified by certain early Christian heretics and later Christian Kabbalists, this list included the prophecy of Enoch (Jude 14); the book of Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34); the book of the battles of the Lord (Numbers 21:14); the book of Jasher (2 Samuel 1:18); the first epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:3); the epistle to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16); and the Revelation of Peter. Occurring verbatim in a work by Edward Billing and afterwards placed in some Bibles owned by Quakers, it may have been compiled by the controversialist Samuel Fisher. In Rusticus ad Academicos (1660) Fisher defended Quakers from the calumny that they slighted the Scriptures. Examining the bounds of the canon he enumerated ‘inspired’ writings cited in Scripture but missing from the Bible, observing in addition that the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs was still extant. All the same, the most infamous example of engagement with these sources was James Nayler, who wore his hair long not only in the manner of the Nazarites, but also provocatively imitated the likeness of Christ as outlined in the apocryphal account of Publius Lentulus.58 While Nayler knew the forged epistle spuriously attributed to Lentulus, the Quaker schismatic George Keith and perhaps also George Fox were familiar with some of the corpus of Greek writings written from about the third century bce to about the fourth century ce either ascribed to or written under the name of Hermes Trismegistus, an Egyptian deity. Thus Fox was said to have spoken with a deep and wonderful understanding of ‘the Egiptian Learning, & of the Language of the birds’. Suggestively, his illuminative experience when ‘the creation was opened to me’ resembles a phrase in the English translation of The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus (1649) when ‘all things were opened unto me’.59 For his part, Keith cited both Pymander and a variation of a saying attributed to Hermes that ‘God is a circle, whose centre is everywhere, and is nowhere circumscribed’.60

BEHAVIOUR Following the execution of Charles I there were, in Muggleton’s estimation, many ‘false Christs, false Prophets, and false Prophetesses’ in the world. Yet this was only to be expected by those who yearned for the establishment of Christ’s 1,000-year monarchy since it was interpreted as a warning that the Scriptures 58  Hessayon, ‘ “Not the Word of God” ’, pp. 176–9. 59  Penney, ed., First Publishers of Truth, p. 278; Nickalls, ed., Journal of George Fox, p. 27; The Divine Pymander, trans. John Everard (London, 1649), p. 14. 60  Cadbury, ‘Early Quakerism and Uncanonical Lore’, 195.

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were being fulfilled. Invariably these charismatic figures of revolutionary England, who claimed to be forerunners of Christ’s second coming, fashioned aspects of their identity from scriptural sources. Among this profusion of ­people who professed themselves ‘to be God, or Christ, or Prophets, or Prophetesses, or Virgin Maries, or the Lords high Priest’ were several who went ‘about the Streets, and declared the Day of the Lord, and many other wonderful Things’.61 Significantly, prophetic performances warning of impending divine judgement and other comparable symbolic actions were also a feature of certain Quakers’ behaviour. Gesture was a powerful, dramatic medium that enabled the prophet to transmit God’s message in visual form. Through a repertoire of signs, the meaning of which was sometimes unclear, the prophet involuntarily simulated in miniature God’s future intent at large. Though many Quaker signs transgressed accepted codes of conduct they usually had an authority vested in Scripture. Thus, some Quakers such as James Nayler, George Fox, and Richard Hubberthorne undertook extraordinary fasts; a few like Solomon Eccles even challenged their opponents to public trials of fasting, believing that such ordeals would vindicate the purity of their faith. There were also attempts by George Fox to perform miracles—including faith healing and, it seems, raising from the dead—while others engaged in prophetic behaviour by eating their own dung; becoming silent; trembling; dispensing with items of clothing; going barefoot, bareheaded, and partly or entirely naked; blackening their faces; donning sackcloth; and casting ash upon their heads. Moreover, during a dialogue with Cromwell in 1655 Thomas Aldam removed his cap and tore it to pieces, informing the Protector ‘so should his kingdom be rent from him’. Similarly, Elizabeth Adams ‘was moved to go to the Parliament that was envious against Friends and to take a pitcher in her hand and break it to pieces, and to tell them so should they be broken to pieces’. In the same spirit Solomon Eccles passed through Bartholomew Fair naked with a pan of coals on his head ‘burning with Fire and Brimstone’ saying, ‘Repent speedily, for God will not be mocked. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah, who are your Examples; they do endure the vengeance of Eternal Fire’.62 Another characteristic Quaker gesture was refusing to ‘put off ’ one’s hat to anybody, ‘high or low’. Disregarding this ‘Heathenish Custome’, however, provoked criticism. For while Quakers asserted that there was no scriptural justification for honouring ‘mens persons’, their critics charged them with disrespectful behaviour and flouting the magistrate’s authority (it was even maintained that they imitated the precedent set by Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits).63

61  Ariel Hessayon, ‘Gold Tried in the Fire’: The Prophet TheaurauJohn Tany and the English Revolution (Aldershot, 2007), p. 164. 62  Hessayon, ‘Gold’, pp. 96, 377. 63  Hessayon, ‘Gold’, pp. 377–8.


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WRITING Recent scholarly interest in the construction, dissemination, and reception of manuscripts (scribal publication) and books (print publication) has brought to the fore an important question: which was more important in spreading the Quakers’ message, the spoken or written word? There is no straightforward answer but a few observations can be made. As we have noted, early Quaker worship was largely silent, while prophecies were generally enacted through a combination of speech and symbolic gestures. Moreover, Quaker ministers walked up and down the land and even sailed across the sea to spread their message. If these men and women believed that writing had made itinerant preaching redundant they could have stayed at home instead of feeling inspired to follow scriptural precedents. Writing was clearly important, especially for the leadership, but it must be seen as operating in conjunction with other factors in facilitating the spread of Quakerism. It is not known how many Quakers were literate, nor how many read Quaker publications but writing cannot have been an integral feature of Quaker identity since less than 0.3 per cent of Quakers were published authors. Nonetheless, Kate Peters has maintained that writing ‘played an important practical role in the establishment and maintenance of the Quaker ministry’. She estimates that about one hundred Quaker authors had their works published by 1656, contributing to a total of 291 publications. The most prolific was James Nayler, whose name is attached to almost one-fifth of all Quaker publications between 1652 and 1656. Peters also notes that papers, letters, or printed tracts could be ‘more widely dispersed than oral preaching’ and indeed writing enabled the leadership to disseminate their message more widely, to have their activities and sufferings commemorated more effectively, and to replace their absence with a textual trace. Furthermore, Peters has persuasively argued that the Quaker leadership had a strategy for spreading their faith by targeting urban centres with a proselytizing campaign. This in turn would create martyrs for the movement whose experiences and sufferings could then be publicized to a wider audience through the medium of print. Writing was also essential in vigorously refuting calumnies and Quakers were quick to use this medium—notably through printed addresses to parliament—to stress both their lack of involvement in anti-government plots and simple desire for liberty of conscience. In conjunction with disputation, writing, moreover, was vital to winning or at least protracting beyond reasonable measure intra-sectarian disputes. Here as we noted earlier, a key aspect was accentuating doctrinal differences.64

64  Kate Peters, Print Culture and the Early Quakers (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 16–18, 21–3, 26, 29, 31, 42.

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DISCIPLINE, ORGANIZATION, AND REASONS FOR THE QUAKERS’ LONGEVIT Y Beyond devising and coordinating evangelizing strategies, there is a great deal of evidence indicating the highly organized nature of early Quakerism, at least at leadership level. Thus, Quakers corresponded extensively and held regular meetings that developed into institutional mechanisms for imposing doctrinal uniformity. Moreover, they collected funds nationally for a common treasury that was variously disbursed relieving prisoners and sufferers, buying clothing and books, and subsidizing printing. Like other emerging sects and religious movements, early Quakerism was not immune to schism or free from personal rivalry. And while splinter groups increasingly used printed tracts to rally support, after the Restoration effective institutional mechanisms were developed for disciplining and—where necessary—expelling dissidents and troublemakers. For reasons of space, this brief overview of early Quakerism and its origins has a number of omissions: notably Quaker customs and costume, modes of speech and distinctive literary style, as well as calls for legal and medical reform and concomitant schemes for alleviating the sufferings of the poor—not to mention their attitudes towards the Cromwellian Protectorate and New Model Army. Moreover, for the same reason I have stressed certain distinguishing features of the emerging movement while glossing over others. These caveats aside, I will conclude by suggesting some reasons for the success of early Quakerism: the appeal of its message and charisma of those who preached it—notably George Fox and James Nayler; an organized programme of evangelism wedded to contemporary political concerns; the willingness of believers to undergo sufferings and even martyrdom for their faith; the resilience of those engaged in pamphlet wars with competing sects and other detractors; the effective manner in which money was raised to finance and distribute these publications; the ability of the leadership to impose doctrinal uniformity and overcome rivalry and schism; and the ways in which Quakerism was able to evolve and adapt so as to survive the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 and the changed political and religious landscape that came in its wake.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Bailey, Richard, New Light on George Fox and Early Quakerism (San Francisco, CA, 1992). Barbour, Hugh, The Quakers in Puritan England (New Haven, CT, 1964). Bauman, Richard, Let your Words be Few: Symbolism of speaking and silence among Seventeenth-Century Quakers (Cambridge, 1983).


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Braithwaite, William, The Beginnings of Quakerism to 1660 (1912; second edn, Cambridge, 1955; reprinted, York, 1981). Cadbury, H.J., ‘Hebraica and the Jews in Early Quaker Interest’, in Howard Brinton, ed., Children of Light: In Honor of Rufus M. Jones (New York, 1938), pp. 135–63. Cadbury, H.J., ‘Early Quakerism and Uncanonical Lore’, Harvard Theological Review, 40 (1947), 177–205. Cole, A., ‘The Quakers and the English Revolution’, Past and Present, 10 (1956), 39–54. Cope, J.I., ‘Seventeenth-Century Quaker Style’, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 71 (1956), 725–54. Corns, Thomas and Lowenstein, David, eds, The Emergence of Quaker Writing: Dissenting Literature in Seventeenth-Century England (London, 1995). Guiton, Gerard, The Early Quakers and the ‘Kingdom of God’ (San Francisco, CA, 2012). Gwyn, Douglas, Apocalypse of the Word: The Life and Message of George Fox, 1624–1691 (Richmond, IN, 1984). Gwyn, Douglas, Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience (Wallingford, PA, 2001). Hessayon, Ariel, ‘Jacob Boehme and the early Quakers’, Journal of the Friends Historical Society, 60 (2005), 191–223. Hill, Christopher, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (1972; Harmondsworth, 1984 edn). Hill, Christopher, ‘Quakers and the English Revolution’, Journal of the Friends’ Historical Society, 56 (1992), 165–79. Ingle, H.L., First Among Friends: George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism (New York and Oxford, 1994). Mack, Phyllis, Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England (Berkeley, CA, 1992). McGregor, J.F., ‘Ranterism and the Development of Early Quakerism’, Journal of Religious History, 9 (1977), 349–63. Monfils, L., ‘Family and Friends: Hendrik Niclaes’s “Low German” Writings, Printed in England during the Rise of the Quakers’, Quaerendo, 32 (2002), 257–83. Moore, Rosemary, The Light in Their Consciences: The Early Quakers in Britain 1646–1666 (University Park, PA, 2000). Nuttall, G.F., ‘James Nayler: A Fresh Approach’, Journal of the Friends Historical Society Supplement, no. 26 (1954), 1–20. Peters, Kate, Print Culture and the Early Quakers (Cambridge, 2005). Reay, Barry, ‘Popular Hostility towards Quakers in Mid-Seventeenth-Century England’, Social History, 5 (1980), 387–407. Reay, Barry, The Quakers and the English Revolution (Hounslow, 1985). Trevett, Christine, Women and Quakerism in the Seventeenth Century (York, 1991).

Part II Traditions Outside England

7 The Dutch Republic English and Scottish Dissenters in Dutch Exile, c.1575–1688 Cory Cotter

Religious heterodoxy was a political crime across much of post-Reformation Europe. In the Dutch Republic, however, religious diversity was tolerated.1 Leiden University, founded in 1575 and built upon a Protestant foundation, welcomed students of all faiths, including Catholics and Jews. Forced from their homelands, a flood of refugees poured into the Low Countries—perhaps 100,000 by 1600. Among them were English Pilgrims, Puritans (those who later came to be known as Congregationalists or Independents), and Scottish Presbyterians. Substantial numbers of Separatists fled to escape execution in Elizabethan England (1558–1603); Puritans fled to escape the government’s crackdown on Protestant Dissent after the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England (1603–25); Presbyterians fled to escape the Episcopal persecutions of Laudian England (1633–45); and boatloads of ejected ministers fled in the wake of the Restoration (1660–2). Persecution drove them together. Recent historiography has argued that ‘it is unlikely’ that the English and Scottish exile communities in the Dutch Republic ‘would have had much in  common’. In her recent Scottish-centred monograph The Scottish Exile Community in the Netherlands, 1660–1690 (2004), Ginny Gardner ac­know­ ledges that the Dutch ‘played host to English exiles during the Restoration period’, but shortsightedly concludes that ‘there is little evidence that there was much contact between them and the Scots’.2 Contemporary accounts tell a different story. Stretching traditional historiography both temporally and 1  Recent scholarship has uncovered the Janus-faced image of Dutch tolerance/intolerance: R. Po-Chia Hsia and H.F.K. Van Nierop, eds, Calvinism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age (Cambridge, 2002). 2  Ginny Gardner, The Scottish Exile Community in the Netherlands, 1660–1690 (East Linton, 2004), p. 207. Cory Cotter, The Dutch Republic: English and Scottish Dissenters in Dutch Exile, c.1575–1688 In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0008


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spatially, this chapter follows the ebb and flow of more than one hundred English and Scottish exiled ministers who migrated (back and forth) from the British Isles to the United Provinces of the Netherlands during the Tudor–Stuart period. Exploring their intellectual networks, this chapter will, first, map out their cross-channel connections. Second, it will argue that contrary to ­current historiography, national boundaries proved irrelevant to intellectual and social exchanges between the two communities. And finally, focusing on a small but tightly knit community of ejected ministers in Dutch exile during the post-Restoration period, it will suggest that the ‘two groups’ shared much more in common than is sometimes supposed.3

AMSTERDAM Amsterdam’s oldest and largest Separatist congregation, the so-called Ancient Church, was founded by Francis Johnson, as ‘Pastor of the banished English Church’, and by Henry Ainsworth, as teacher.4 As a suspected ringleader of the Separatist movement, Johnson had been arrested, committed to the Fleet Prison in London, where he spent more than four years, deprived of his living, ejected from his fellowship at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and expelled from the university. Henoch Clapham, one of Johnson’s contemporaries at Cambridge and fellow prisoners in the Fleet, established himself as pastor of a small congregation of near-Separatists (in several cases, ex-Separatists) in the late 1590s, independent from that served by Johnson and Ainsworth. John Smyth, who had been tutored by Johnson at Cambridge before being deprived of his lectureship at Lincoln, led a flock of Separatists from Gainsborough to Amsterdam in 1608. John Robinson, ejected fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and silenced curate of St Andrew’s, Norwich, led another group of Separatists (Pilgrims) from Scrooby to Amsterdam in 1608, and thence to Leiden in 1609. By 1610 there were at least five English-language churches in Amsterdam, four of them Separatist.5 The fifth was the non-Separatist English Reformed Church, pastored by John Paget, ejected rector of Nantwich, Cheshire.6 Paget served as the church’s first pastor (1607–37). Four future New Englanders (Hugh Peter, Thomas Hooker, John Davenport, and Thomas Weld) 3  Gardner, The Scottish Exile Community, p. 207. 4  George Johnson, A Discourse of Some Troubles and Excommunications in the English Church at Amsterdam (Amsterdam, 1603), p. 4. 5  Keith  L.  Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism: A History of English and Scottish Churches of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden, 1982), pp. 45–70. 6  Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism, pp. 91–122; Alice C. Carter, The English Reformed Church in Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century (Amsterdam, 1964), pp. 69–89; Polly Ha, English Presbyterianism (Cambridge, 2010), pp. 47–73.

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preached there in the 1630s.7 Succeeding seventeenth-century ministers were Thomas Potts (co-pastor 1617–31); Johannes Rulice (1636–9); Julius Hering (1637–45); Thomas Paget (1639–46); Richard Maden (1647–68); William Price (1648–59); Richard Woodward (1660–99); Alexander Hodge (ziekentrooster: 1665–8; co-pastor: 1669–89); and Adriaan Oostrum (1691–2). Seven of them had been either sequestered or ejected from their English benefices before taking up their posts in Amsterdam (the Pagets, Potts, Hering, Maden, Prince, and Hodge). The ministers were typically supported by four elders, three deacons, a reader, a coster (custodian), a ziekentrooster (someone to pray with and care for the sick), a deaconess, and a schoolmaster.8 English Quakers, during the post-Restoration period, held monthly meetings in Amsterdam. William Penn, who helped organize the Society’s meetings with Quaker founder George Fox, recorded their proceedings in his travel journal. Embarking upon a ‘Religious Voyage’ from London to Brielle via Harwich, Penn (accompanied by Fox and several other Friends) travelled through Rotterdam, Leiden, and Haarlem before reaching Amsterdam.9 On 2 June 1677 Penn and his travelling companions attended the General Meeting of Quakers in Amsterdam, ‘where men & women Preach, as thire Spiret moves them’.10 Penn, who was imprisoned several times for writing and preaching about Quakerism, including an eight-month confinement in the Tower of London, subsequently sailed across the Atlantic to lay the groundwork for his ‘holy experiment’ in the Province of Pennsylvania. As proprietor-governor, he drafted his colony’s Frame of Government (1682). Article XXXV guaranteed that all law-abiding ‘persons living in this province, who confess the one almighty & eternal god, [. . .] shall [in] no wayes be molested or prejudiced for his [or her] religious perswasion or practice in matters of faith & worship, nor shal [sic] they be compelled at any time, to frequent or maintaine any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever’.11

DELFT The city’s English-language church, established in 1636, was pastored by the following seventeenth-century ministers: Robert Park (1636–41); Patrick Forbes (1641–2); Edward Richardson (1643–5); Alexander Petrie Jr (1645–68; 1669–83); 7  Carter, The English Reformed Church in Amsterdam, p. 19. 8  Carter, The English Reformed Church in Amsterdam, pp. 218–22 (Appendix IV: List of Officers). 9  William Penn, An Account of W. Penn’s Travails in Holland and Germany [in 1677] (1694), pp. 1–8. 10  Carr to Sancroft, 20 August 1680, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Tanner MS Vol. 37, fol. 123v. 11  ‘A draught of government framed by William Penn’, 25 April 1682, BL Sloane MS 79, fols 193–9.


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Alexander Hodge (1668–9); John Sinclair (1684–7); Thomas Hoog (1689–94); and Wilhelm van Schie (1694–1724). Petrie, Sinclair, and Hoog were Scots; Hodge was an Anglo-Scot (Scottish father, born in England); and Van Schie was Dutch.12 The church’s leather-bound ‘Booke of Records’ indicates that it was a small congregation of less than fifty members. Members, both English and Scottish, represented a wide range of professions, including shoemakers, brewers, merchants, and military officers.13 Edward Richardson’s highly mobile career illustrates well the cross-cultural connections between the two communities. Richardson, who had studied theology at and graduated from Cambridge, received his letter of calling to Delft in July 1643; he was appointed in August and subscribed to the Belgic Confession on 10 October.14 On 29 July, before taking up his post in Delft, he had married Dorcas, daughter of Julius Hering, minister of the English Reformed Church at Amsterdam.15 Soon after his arrival in Delft, Richardson began crossing swords with the Dutch consistory, the Classis of Delft en Delfland, and the Synod of South Holland regarding the consistory’s subordinate role to the city’s civil and ecclesiastical authorities.16 The Dutch Reformed Church of Delft, as elsewhere in the Republic, claimed a supervisory responsibility over the city’s English Reformed Church. The Delft consistory, as Sprunger has shown, was one of the  most diligent in attempting to impose control over the English church, which ‘acted rather independently’.17 In fact, the Dutch consistory was chagrined to learn that after Forbes’s departure, the consistory called and installed Richardson ‘without the knowledge of this church council’.18 De kerkenraedt did, however, agree to approve his appointment ex post facto, after Richardson pointed out, in the form of a letter, that ‘not all of you were completely ignorant of this matter’.19 In approving Richardson’s call, the magistrates, at the urging of the consistory, laid down conditions intended to regularize the system of calling and installing public preachers. Henceforth, all state-sponsored ministers (English-Scottish or otherwise) were to be approved by both the city magistrates and classis, subscribe to the Belgic Confession, and apply for membership in the Classis of Delft en Delfland. Richardson subscribed to the Dutch Reformed confession, but never became a member of the classis.20 12  Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism, pp. 157–8, 423. 13  Gemeentearchief Delft, CR 14/102. 14  Richardson’s papers (‘5 stuks’), Gemeentearchief Delft, 445/325. 15  Richardson published his marriage banns on 10 July 1643, Stadsarchief Amsterdam, Doopregisters, Trouwregisters en Begraafregisters (DTB) 459/296; and was married on 29 July 1643, Huwelijksregister, 318/120. 16  Richardson’s letter to the Dutch consistory of Delft, 28 August 1643, Gemeentearchief Delft, 445/325. 17  Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism, p. 160. 18  Minutes from the city’s Dutch consistory, 24 August 1643, Gemeentearchief Delft, Acta Kerkeraad, V, 232v. 19  Richardson’s letter to the city’s Dutch consistory, 28 August 1643, Gemeentearchief Delft, 445/325. 20  Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism, pp. 160–1.

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Richardson’s ministerial responsibilities were spelled out in his letter of c­ alling. He was to expound the Word of God, administer the holy sacraments, visit the sick, exercise ecclesiastical discipline, and do ‘all things which are required in a faithful Pastor [. . .] to the Glory of God, the welfare of the Church and the salvation of many Soules’.21 ‘A Catalogue of the Children’s names that have been baptized in our English Church in Delft’, which Richardson himself had begun, records only five names, including that of his own son, Edward Jr, who was christened on 3 July 1644.22 Five days later, on 8 July, Richardson matriculated at Leiden University. He was inscribed with the honorific title of ‘Nobilis ac generosus vir’ and identified as twenty-six years old, a student of philology, and living with Petrus Pauw ‘op de Papengraft’.23 Richardson’s initial Dutch sojourn ended in April 1645, when he accepted the call to return to England as minister at Deighton, Yorkshire.24 He was appointed by the Long Parliament to officiate at Ripon Minster;25 was a co-signatory of Vindiciae Veritatis . . . by the Ministers of the Gospel within the West-Riding of the Countie of York, in favour of Presbyterian government;26 was dean of Ripon during the Interregnum; and was ejected at the Restoration.27 In August 1663, exactly one year after the Act of Uniformity came into force, Richardson launched a holy crusade against the English government and its supposed breach of faith. As chief architect of the Yorkshire conspiracy, Richardson drafted their revolutionary manifesto, ‘A Door of Hope Opened in the Valley of Achor for the Mourners in Sion out of the North’.28 Armed with the sword of the Lord, it began by declaring, in the name of God, that it was the Gospel duty of true believers, as soldiers in the Lamb’s army, to ‘beate’ their ‘plowe shares into swords and fight’ for their faith.29 ‘Their numbers were small, but their faith strong’, confessed Richardson, who ‘believed miracles would attend their godly design’.30

21  Richardson’s letter of calling to Delft, July 1643, Gemeentearchief Delft, 445/325. 22  Baptismal Register of the city’s English Reformed Church, 3 July 1644, Gemeentearchief Delft, 14/101, fol. 1. 23  ‘Archieven van Senaat en Faculteiten der Leidsche Universiteit’, 1575–1877 (ASF), Inv. No. 9, fol. 475. 24  Notification of Richardson’s call to England, 14 April 1645, Gemeentearchief Delft, Acta Kerkeraad, VI, 3. 25  A.G. Matthews, Calamy Revised (Oxford, 1934), p. 410. 26  Vindiciae Veritatis (1648), p. 11. 27  In the preface of his Anglo-Belgica (Amsterdam, 1677), Richardson identifies his successor as Doctor Wilkins, who, after the Restoration, was installed as dean of Ripon, and was also made a prebendary of York Minster. 28  Richardson’s manifesto, BL Add. MS 38856, fols 79r–80v; On Richardson’s cabal, see Richard L. Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660–1663 (Oxford, 1986), pp. 178–9. 29  Richardson’s manifesto, BL Add. MS 38856, fol. 80r. 30  Custis to Bennet, 18/28 March 1664, The National Archives, Kew (TNA), State Papers (SP) 29/94/112.


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Fifth Monarchists failed to conquer the world for Christ. They ‘often showed more enthusiasm for uprooting Babylon than for planting Jerusalem’.31 On 6 August 1663 the crown captured over one hundred of Richardson’s co-conspirators. Twenty-two of them were hanged, drawn, and quartered.32 Richardson, chief contriver of the conspiracy, was seized and sent to York under ‘great security’.33 But he and his sureties escaped execution by fleeing to Holland.34 Between November and early December, Richardson was reported at Rotterdam, Delft, and Amsterdam before arriving in Leiden, where he graduated MD on 3 April 1664.35 The ‘doctor of plotters’ then moved to Haarlem, where he preached, practised physic, and prudently purchased citizenship (poorterschap).36 Dr Richardson served as minister-physician first in Haarlem (1664–70) and then in Leiden (1670–4). There, if not before, he joined forces with fellow Fifth Monarchists Sir Johannes Rothe.37 Empowered by the sword of the spirit, many Fifth Monarchists believed that Christ’s millennial kingdom ought to be ushered in, if necessary, by forcible means. The only hope of salvation, they believed, lay in the sword of the Lord. Alexander Petrie Jr, Richardson’s Scottish successor, provides further evidence of the cross-cultural connections between the two communities. After graduating from St Andrews (MA) and a short-term preaching post at Brielle, Petrie served as reader for the Scots Church of Rotterdam (where his father was the incumbent minister) before accepting the call to Delft. In March 1668, in the wake of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, Petrie ‘made known to the members of this consistorie his accepting of a call to the charge of a congregation in Scotland’.38 Petrie agreed to remain at his post, however, until a suitable replacement could be found. In the Dutch fashion the church board (consistory composed of elders and deacons elected by the congregation) was first required to  petition the Court (burgomasters and magistrates), who were the true governors of Delft, for their approval to call a new minister; and after a formal election by the consistory (which began under Petrie’s ministry), his name 31  Bernard Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men (London, 1972), p. 142. 32  Deposition from the Castle of York, Relating to Offences Committed in The Northern Counties in the Seventeenth Century, Surtees Society, 40 (1861), p. xix; Cf. plotters’ confessions, BL Add. MS 33770, fols 1–48v. 33  Gower to Bennet, 6 August 1663, TNA SP 29/78/53. 34  Custis to Bennet, 18/28 March 1664, TNA SP 29/94/112. 35  Leiden University’s ‘Catalogus eorum qui examinati et promoti’, 25 March 1664, ASF Inv. No. 414, fols 72–73; Richardson matriculated in medicine on 2 April 1664, ASF Inv. No. 11, fol. 90; and graduated MD on 3 April, Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek (UB), De Dolore Nephritico, 236 B 1:59. 36  Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem, ‘Burgemeestersresolutien’, 6 May 1666, fol. 335. 37  Johannes Rothe, Some Prophecies and Revelations of God (Amsterdam?, 1672), translated from Dutch into English by E[dward] R[ichardson], who concluded his dedicatory epistle, dated 18 November 1672, by declaring that he does not ‘fear’ the ‘terrour’ of any ‘Earthly King or Potentate’. ‘They can kill me, [but] they cannot hurt me’, said Richardson quoting Epictetus. 38  Gemeentearchief Delft, 9 March 1668, CR 14/102, fol. 35v.

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required final approval by the De Burgemeesteren ende Regieders der Stadt (the burgomasters and regents of the city), who financially supported the Reformed congregation with a provincial stipend of 500 guilders (c.£50) for a preacher, ‘which the States allow for maintenance’.39 On 9 March 1668, as required by custom, the consistory petitioned the municipal authorities for ‘liberty to choose another pastor’. On 16 March Alexander Hodge, ejected out of Exeter by the Act of Uniformity, was elected ‘by unanimous consent of all’; he was called on 19 March and installed on 8 April.40 Hodge’s ministry in Delft was short-lived. Called back to Amsterdam, Hodge, in January 1669, gave notice of his resignation, was ‘dismissed’ of his duties by the deputies of Delft, preached his farewell sermon, and (after magisterial approval) announced the return of his ‘Beloved Brother Mr Alexander Petrie unto the Pastorall charge of this place’. He ‘accordingly resigned up the Flocke of Christ of ye English (or British) Congregation unto his particular inspection, and so ended his Ministeriall relation to this Congregation’.41 Petrie returned to his post in February 1669 and continued as pastor until his death fourteen years later; his passing was recorded in the church’s consistory register, which he himself had begun in 1645, under the date of 2 June 1683.42

HAARLEM Haarlem had a short-lived English church in the mid-1660s. Its only pastor was Edward Richardson, whom we have already met as a former minister at Delft and ejected dean of Ripon. Turning to medicine, he was admitted an extralicentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London on 10 November 1662 and received his medical degree from Leiden on 3 April 1664.43 On 11 April he requested permission from the burgomasters of Haarlem to preach at the Orphan Church (Weeskerkje); received approval on 11 May; and advertised for sale ‘two sermons preached by him on the inner love and life power’ in the Oprechte Haerlemse Saterdaegse on 5 July.44 From May 1664 through December 1669 the burgomasters modestly supported him. The financial records refer to Richardson as ‘preacher of the English Church in this city’ and the money was paid ‘as a gratuity for good service and for the progress he is making in the 39  Gemeentearchief Delft, 16 March 1668, CR 14/102, fol. 35v. 40  Gemeentearchief Delft, 9 March 1668–8 April 1668, CR 14/102, fol. 35v. 41  Gemeentearchief Delft, 27 January 1669, CR 14/102, fol. 34v. 42  Gemeentearchief Delft, 2 June 1683, CR 14/102, fol. 30r. 43  William Munk, The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London (London, 1861), Vol. I, p. 307. 44  Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem, ‘Burgemeestersresolutien’, 11 April 1664, fol. 48; ibid., 11 May 1664, fol. 64v; Joh. Enschedé Museum, Oprechte Haerlemse Saterdaegse, 5 July 1664, no. 27.


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English Church’.45 He also practised medicine there, making ‘1500 guilders on average per annum’, according to his own account.46 In 1666, during the second Anglo-Dutch war, Richardson was named in yet  another royal proclamation recalling home those who have ‘treasonably engaged themselves in actual service of this war’ with the Republic.47 On 6 May 1666, two weeks after his name appeared in print, Richardson ‘bought his ­citizenship & made the required oath’ of allegiance, a legal means by which to avoid extradition, should the Dutch government authorize his arrest.48 On 16 August he wrote a letter to his brother-in-law, Edmund Custis, an English merchant operating out of Bruges (present-day Belgium), informing him that he was ‘of no party but that of righteousness against unrighteousness, for Jesus Christ against every way of wickedness among whomsoever it is practiced’, and that he concerned ‘not myself in the trickeries on either side, onely tis my duty to pray & praise god for the safety of the places and people where I enjoy the just freedom which few left on earth are willing to give’; but he added: ‘I see grander things upon the wheel’, and hoped soon to be ‘found on Mount Zion sharing in song of prayers with those who follow & take part with the Lamb, when the grandeurs of the Earth shall lye wringing their hands’ in blood.49 The threat of an alliance between Richardson’s cabal and the Dutch persuaded the restored regime of Charles II (r. 1660–85) to re-issue earlier pro­clama­tions. A placcaet (proclamation) had to be published before the English government could request their banishment from the Netherlands. Articles VI and VII of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty (1662) stipulated that ‘notice shall be given or declaration made’ before either country could demand the banishment of a rebel.50 The proclamation dated 21 April 1666 contained fourteen names, including those of former army officers John Desborough and Thomas Kelsey, both of whom spent time in Dutch exile after the Restoration as Independents, and Dr Edward Richardson, against whom an act of attainder had been issued.51 Nor was Richardson the only ejected minister whose name appeared on the English government’s list of most-wanted fugitives. His co-religionists, exiled ministers Matthew Newcomen and Henry Hickman, were also included on the list of ‘traitorous conspirators’ who were ordered home to stand trial and punishment. All were suspected to have ‘treasonably engaged themselves in actual service in the said war’.52 The government struck the names of several suspects, 45  Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem, ‘Burgemeestersresolutien’, 11 April 1664, fol. 48; ibid., 11 May 1664, fol. 64v; ibid., 17 November 1665, fol. 281; ibid., 9 September 1666, fol. 355; ibid., 23 December 1669, fol. 494v. 46  Richardson’s petition to the Leiden magistracy, 27 October 1674, Regionaal Archief Leiden (RAL), SA II 3375. 47  Proclamation dated 21 April 1666. 48  Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem, ‘Burgemeestersresolutien’, 6 May 1666, fol. 335. 49  Richardson to Custis, 16 August 1666, TNA SP 29/167/159. 50  Articles of Peace and Alliance (1662). 51  Proclamation, 21 April 1666. 52  ‘A Draught of a Proclamation’, 9 April 1666, TNA SP 29/153/57.

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including Newcomen and Hickman, whose names were initially inserted but afterwards removed from the list.53 Newcomen, minister of the English Reformed Church at Leiden, died during an outbreak of plague in 1669; Richardson succeeded him in his pastorate; and Hickman, who lodged with Newcomen whilst a student at Leiden, sailed back to England after the second Anglo-Dutch war and returned to Leiden to replace Richardson after the third. Their intellectual centre of gravity was located in the university town of Leiden, to which we now turn.

LEIDEN Leiden had two English-language churches in the seventeenth century: the Pilgrim Church (for the Separatists) and the English Reformed Church (for the non-Separatists). Leiden’s English Reformed Church, unlike the city’s Pilgrim congregation (1609–c.1644), lasted for 200 years (1607–1807) and was pastored by the following seventeenth-century ministers: Robert Durie (1610–16); Hugh Goodyear (1617–61); James Simpson (1662); Matthew Newcomen (1663–9); Edward Richardson (1670–4); Henry Hickman (1674–92); William Carstares (co-pastor, 1688); Robert Fleming Jr (1692–5); and John Milling (1696–1702). The church, although known as the English Church, was officiated by both English and Scottish ministers, sometimes simultaneously, as was the case with Hickman and Carstares. Four of them were deprived of their benefices by the restored regime for religious nonconformity: Simpson, silenced from his ministry in Stirlingshire; Newcomen, ejected from his lectureship in Essex; Richardson, removed from his ministry at Ripon; and Hickman, ousted from his fellowship at Oxford. Simpson, like Durie before him, fled to Leiden after having been imprisoned in and banished from Scotland, where Carstares was tortured for his complicity in the Rye House Plot of 1683, a foiled attempt to assassinate King Charles II and his brother (and heir to the throne) James, Duke of York. And all of these predikants were supported (financially) and protected (politically) by the Dutch, who, in the Glorious Revolution, invaded England, overthrew its king, seized its crown, and delivered the people from ‘POPERY and SLAVERY’.54 Exiled minister Matthew Newcomen (the ‘mn’ of Smectymnuus)55 played an important role in connecting the two wings of Anglo-Dutch Dissent. Ejected 53  Sir John Webster to King Charles II, 5 March 1666, TNA SP 29/193/48. Webster’s letter is mis-calendared in the State Papers (SP) as 5 March 1667. Webster appears to have used his powerful connections to have the names of Newcomen and Hickman removed from the list, 9 April 1666, SP 29/153/58. 54  A Letter from William Henry Prince of Orange, TNA SP 8/2, fol. 29. 55  Smectymnuus, or an antiprelatical Answer to a Book Entitled An Humble Remonstrance (1641), was an acronym for Steven Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and


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from his lectureship at Dedham in Essex when the Act of Uniformity came into force on 24 August 1662 (St Bartholomew’s Day), Newcomen accepted his call to Leiden on 23 October and was invested as minister of the city’s English Reformed Church on 1 May 1663. The provincial authorities (States of Holland) paid him an annual salary of 750 guilders (£75), plus an additional 400 guilders (£40) for moving expenses.56 His wife Hannah and their five ‘sickly’ children accompanied him into ‘ye Land of my Pilgrimage’.57 Newcomen was neither the first nor the last pilgrim to pitch his tent in Leiden.58 As pastor of the city’s sole surviving English-speaking church, he ministered to a highly mobile community of religious refugees, who, like the Pilgrims before them, sought sanctuary in Leiden. Twelve of them, some with families to support, are known to have lodged with him during the course of their studies at Leiden; six of them were fellow Bartholomeans. At the heart of Newcomen’s intellectual network were his co-religionists Hickman and Hill—the only two Bartholomeans to matriculate in theology at Leiden after their ejections.59 From 1663 to 1666 they assisted Newcomen with preaching at one of the three weekly services.60 Alexander Hodge, ejected fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, and silenced vicar of St Thomas the Apostle, Exeter, matriculated in medicine at Leiden on 30 June 1665. Hodge, an Anglo-Scot, identified himself as ‘Scoto-Brittannus’, thirty-five years old, a student of medicine, and living on the centrally located Langebrug: a long, vaulted-over canal that runs perpendicular to the Papengracht, the street upon which Newcomen lived.61 Hodge practised in both fields. First as ziekentrooster at Amsterdam (1665–8) and then as minister-physician in Delft (1668–9) and Amsterdam (1669–89), where he became a burgher and served as co-pastor of the city’s English Reformed Church.62 Hodge’s peregrinatio medica was fairly typical. John Oxenbridge, who was subsequently deprived by Laud, silenced at the Restoration, and ejected by the Act of Uniformity, also matriculated in medicine at Leiden.63 Richard Abbott, William Spurstowe. They were all subsequent members of the Westminster Assembly (1643), the gathering of clergy called by the Long Parliament to lay the foundations of a new state Church. 56  Resolutien Raeckende de Kerkelijke Zaken, 29 July 1662–23 October 1663, RAL SA II 3377, fols 50–2, including 51Ar–51Av; Register van Kerkelijke Zaken, SA II 3364, 1 May 1663–2 July 1663, fol. 156r–156v. 57  Sir John Webster to King Charles II, 5 March 1666, TNA SP 29/193/48; M[atthew] N[ewcomen] to Mr Alefounder, at Dedham, July 1666, SP 29/162/60.viii. 58  Keith L. Sprunger, ‘Other Pilgrims in Leiden: Hugh Goodyear and the English Reformed Church’, Church History, 41 (1972), 46–60. 59  ASF Inv. No. 11, 13 July 1663 (Hickman), fol. 50; ibid., 29 March 1664 (Hill), fol. 90. 60  Sermon notes from Hill, Hickman, and Newcomen (Leiden, 1664) are in BL Sloane MS 608. 61  ASF Inv. No. 11, 30 June 1665, fol. 126. 62  On 26 July 1685 Hodge was identified as a burgher of Amsterdam, Stadsarchief Amsterdam, Poorterboek. 63  ASF Inv. No. 9, 19 September, 1631, fol. 28. Following his ejections, Oxenbridge then spent some time in Surinam and Barbados before settling in Boston, Massachusetts as minister at the First Church (1670–4).

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one of the seven fellows ejected from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, at the Restoration, graduated MD on 17 January 1662; John Wilkinson, ejected vicar of Ansty, Warwickshire, on 8 September 1662; Robert Thomas, ejected rector of Gelligaer, Glamorgan, Wales, on 14 August 1663; Edward Richardson, ejected dean of Ripon, on 3 April 1664; Francis Crosse, another ejected fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, on 19 May 1664; Josias Lane, ejected fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on 27 May 1664; Gilbert Rule, ejected curate of Alnwick, Northumberland, on 2 October 1665; Henry Sampson, ejected fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and silenced rector of Framlingham, Suffolk, on 12 July 1668; George Long, one of the fifteen fellows ejected from Trinity College, Cambridge, at the Restoration, also on 12 July 1668; Robert Brinsley, ejected fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 13 July 1668; Edward Hulse, another ejected fellow from Emmanuel, on 14 July 1668; and Samuel Morris, of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, on 16 July 1668. Morris had matriculated together with his travelling companions, Hulse and Long, with whom he also lodged in Leiden.64 Sampson and Brinsley, friends and former colleagues from Cambridge, lived around the corner with Newcomen, who died soon after their departure during an outbreak of plague that struck Leiden at the end of the decade.65 After Newcomen’s death in August 1669,66 the congregation’s consistory ­controversially appointed Richardson as their new pastor, without magisterial approval. Leiden’s city council did, however, agree to approve his appointment ex post facto, accompanied by a stern warning that such ‘ignorance’ would not be allowed to happen again.67 Richardson became a burgher on 4 July 1670.68 On 23 February 1671, ‘Eduardus Richardson, Eboracensis [of York], Verbi dei in Ecclesia Anglicana Minister’, who evidently moved into Newcomen’s former parsonage op de Papengracht with his wife and several of their children, became an honorary member of Leiden University, which, among other fringe benefits, entitled him to tax-free beer and wine.69 The honeymoon, however, proved short-lived. Censured by the Court, for seditious preaching, Richardson suffered ‘severe consequences’ for causing ‘great commotion and confusion, both within and outside this City’. In November 1674 Leiden’s civil authorities, at the urging of the consistory, ‘stopt’ his salary, ejected him from his pastoral charge, seized his belongings, and declared him 64  All three of them matriculated together at Leiden, ASF Inv. No. 11, 4 July 1668, fol. 250. 65  ASF Inv. No. 11, 30 December 1667 (Sampson), fol. 234; ibid., 28 June 1668 (Brinsley), fol. 249. 66  RAL Iventaris van het Archief van de Kerkvoogdij van de Nederlands Hervormde Gemeente te Leiden (1669–72), p. 39. 67  Resolutien Raeckende de Kerkelijke Zaken, 24 and 30 June 1670, RAL SA II 3377, fol. 78; Register van Kerkelijke Zaken, 20 October 1670, RAL SA II 3365, fol. 95. 68  Poorterboek, 4 July 1670, RAL SA II 1269. 69  ASF Inv. No. 11, 23 February 1671, fol. 350.


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an enemy of the state and disturber of the public peace.70 Richardson, aged fifty-five, sought refuge in Amsterdam.71 Here he reconnected with Rothe, a radical millenarian, who, in December 1676, was arrested, ‘rigorously punished’ (rigoureusement puni),72 and imprisoned for spreading anti-government propaganda during the third Anglo-Dutch war.73 Richardson was replaced by Hickman, who had served as one of the church’s elders under Newcomen’s ministry.74 Hickman served as pastor at Leiden from 1674 until his death in 1692. William Carstares assisted him before accompanying the prince (and his army) out of Holland.75 After the Revolution, Carstares was appointed royal chaplain for Scotland, minister at St Giles’ in Edinburgh, and principal of the University. His Anglo-Dutch career provides further evidence of the crosscultural connections between the two communities.76

MIDDELBURG The history of Anglo-Dutch dissenters in Middelburg dates back to 1582. One of the early exiles to pass through town in the late sixteenth-century was Henoch Clapham. Clapham frequently travelled back and forth between Scotland and the Low Countries (preaching for a time in Amsterdam) before returning to England around the turn of the century.77 The English Reformed Church of Middelburg, founded in 1623, had its own building, the Engelse Kerk, behind the Stadhuis, and was pastored by the following seventeenth-century ministers: John Drake (1623–42); Petrus Gribius (1642–52) and while he was absent, Johannes Teellinck (1646–7) and John Skase (1648); William Spang (1652–64); David Anderson (1664–6); Joseph Hill (1667–73); Nicholas Shepheard (1674–9); John Quick (1680–1); William Spang Jr (1682–3); Robert Tory (1683–91); and John Leask (1692–7). William Spang, former minister at Flushing, was the 70  The evidence concerning this case has been pieced together from a number of archives: Richardson’s petition to the Leiden magistracy, 27 October 1674, RAL SA II 3375; Carr to Williamson, 29 October 1674, TNA SP 84/196/201; RAL Acta of the Leiden Kerkeraad, 5 October 1674–23 November 1674; Temple to Coventry, 6 November 1674, Coventry Papers at Longleat (from the archives of the Marquess of Bath), Vol. 41, fol. 127. 71  The city’s notarial archives shed some light on Richardson’s Anglo-Dutch business ventures, Stadsarchief Amsterdam, Not. Arch. 4777/78 (21 July 1676) and 4777/327 (28 April 1677). 72  Placcaet, 1 December 1676, TNA SP 119/354/796; L’Imprimeur de libelles de Rothe, 29 December 1676, TNA SP 101/60/118; Report of Rothe’s arrest by the Amsterdam Gazette, 31 December 1676, TNA SP 119/23/164. 73  Rothe’s Works, Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), The Hague, KB 514 G 29. 74  Register van Kerkelijke Zaken, 9 December 1674, RAL SA II 3366, fol. 42. 75  Register van Kerkelijke Zaken, 30 January 1688, RAL SA II 3367, fol. 55; King William III’s letter to the burgomasters of Leiden, 15 July 1689, regarding Carstares, RAL SA II 278. 76  A. Ian Dunlop, William Carstares and the Kirk by Law Established (Edinburgh, 1964). 77  Henoch Clapham, Antidoton (1600), p. 6.

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first state-supported Scottish minister at Middelburg. Spang began calling it a ‘British Church’ and even the ‘Scottish Church’ because, he explained, ‘the church is equally consisting of English and Scots’.78 Four of them were Bartholomeans (Anderson, Hill, Quick, and Tory). After his ejection, David Anderson, silenced vicar of Walton on Thames, Surrey, immediately retired with his family into Zealand, & settled himself at Middelburg with his wife & five small children. Here he spent about two years without any imployment, in wch time he had quite consumed that little stock of money, wch he brought over with him, & stood indebted for one year’s rent for ye house in wch he lived.79

After the burial of Spang, who had been laid to rest on 17 June 1664, the church council appointed Anderson, also a Scotsman, to serve as interim minister ‘till ye election of a Pastor’. On 9 July 1664 the consistory concluded, ‘after serious deliberation’, to go and speak with Petrus Laccher, minister of the Dutch congregation at Middelburg, for ‘his Assistance to the Consistory’ and ‘ye good of ye Congregation’ in the calling ‘of a Minister to this Church’. Dominie Laccher, acting as prefect, followed the customary provincial procedure of calling in the governing authorities to form a Collegium Qualificatum, a distinctive Zeeland committee composed of both ministers and magistrates that acted on min­is­ter­ial elections. On 24 July Anderson ‘was chosen with unanimous consent’ by the committee, who prayed that ‘ye Lord of ye Harvest & the great Shepherd of our soules vouchsafe his grace & approbation to this Election’; he received ‘full approbation’ by the Dutch Classis of Walcheren on 28 July and ‘was Solemnly Confirmed & Settled’ by Dominie Laccher in his ministerial office on 17 August, two years after his ejection.80 Anderson ‘grew sickly & died’ on 27 March 1667, leaving ‘five orphans’ behind him.81 On 19 June 1667 the Collegium Qualificatum ‘resolved to proceed to the ­election of a new pastor in the place of Mr David Anderson deceased’. After nom­in­at­ing ten candidates, from whom the committee selected two finalists, they ‘then elected unanimously, nemine contradicente, Joseph Hill, B.D. formerly fellow of Magdalene College in Cambridge, & then residing as a Travellor & Student in the University of Leyden in Holland’; he was approved by the Classis of Walcheren on 30 June, called on 1 July, and installed on 7 August; ‘thence declaring his weakenes for the worke, want of their prayers, [and] desire to serve his Lord as a minister of Christ in the service of their soules’.82 78  Zeeuws Archief, Middelburg, 20 February 1642, CR 1721/1, fol. 91, cited in Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism, pp. 189–90. 79  John Quick, ‘Icones Sacrae Anglicanae’, Dr Williams’s Library, London (DWL), Vol. I, p. 271. 80  Zeeuws Archief, Middelburg, CR 1721/1, fols 228–31. 81  John Quick, ‘Icones Sacrae Anglicanae’, DWL, Vol. I, pp. 275–6. 82  Zeeuws Archief, Middelburg, 7 August 1667, CR 1721/2, fols 23–5.


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Hill’s religious rhetoric became increasingly politicized during the Rampjaar, or ‘disaster year’ of 1672, when England and France joined forces against the Dutch. The outbreak of the third Anglo-Dutch war in 1672 forced Hill to fight for his faith: ‘with a pen as well as a pike’.83 His ‘dangereuse en erroneuse’ Interest of these United Provinces (published anonymously, translated into Dutch, and printed in both Amsterdam and Middelburg in 1673) was declared by the provincial authorities to be ‘false, calumnious and criminal’.84 Deposed from his pulpit for meddling in politics, he was ‘ordered and commanded’ by the magistrates of Middelburg ‘to absent himself ’ from Zeeland.85 ‘Whereupon he retreated into Holland and was called unto the ministry of the English Church of Rotterdam, in which he is still living, a most learned and laborious pastor’,86 wrote the exiled minister John Quick, who succeeded Hill in his pastorate at Middelburg.87

ROT TERDAM ‘The Toleration and Liberty of Religion in Rotterdam is as open as their Ports’, observed a seventeenth-century traveller.88 Quakers held their religious meetings in the home of English merchant Benjamin Furly, in whose house the ‘Gospel was Preached, the Dead was Raised, and the Living Comforted’, according to Penn’s own Account.89 Bayle, Burnet, Fox, Limborch, Locke, Penn, and Sidney all either lodged in or gathered at Furly’s home on the Wijnstraat, ‘the epicentre of the early Enlightenment’.90 Furly operated as Penn’s agent for the emigration of Quaker (and non-Quaker) colonists from the Rhineland, and prepared for publication Dutch and German editions of Penn’s Accounts of the Province of Pennsylvania.91 He also contributed a ten-page preface to his Dutch translation of Penn’s Truth Exalted (De Waarheyt Ontdekt), defending Quakers against charges by Rotterdam ministers that they were Fifth Monarchists.92 Rotterdam had two, sometimes three or four, English-language churches. The Engelse Kerk was founded in 1619, the Merchant Adventurer church in 83  [Joseph Hill], The Interest of these United Provinces (Middelburg, 1673), p. [100]. 84  Reported by the Res. States of Holland, August 1673, no. 106, p. 95. 85  Zeeuws Archief, Middelburg, 19 August 1673, CR 1721/2, fol. 58. 86  John Quick, ‘Icones Sacrae Anglicanae’, DWL, Vol. I, p. 276. 87  Zeeuws Archief, Middelburg, 5 January 1681, CR 1721/2, fol. 137. 88  John Northleigh, Topographical Descriptions (1702), p. 11. 89  Penn, An Account of W. Penn’s Travails in Holland and Germany [in 1677], pp. 4–5. 90  John Marshall, John Locke, Resistance, Religion and Responsibility (Cambridge, 1994), p. 331. 91  Gemeentearchief Rotterdam, Not. Arch. 1126/299–301 (21 June 1683) and 954/549–51 (24 June 1683). 92  William Penn, De Waarheyt Ontdekt, en Verhoogt (Amsterdam, 1675).

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1635, and the Schotse Kerk in 1643. The city’s English Reformed Church, which closed down in 1876, was pastored by the following seventeenth-century ministers: Thomas Barkely (1620–9); Hugh Peter (1629–35); William Ames (1633); John Davenport (1636–7); William Bridge (1636–41); John Ward (1636–41); Jeremiah Burroughes (1639–41); Sydrach Simpson (1639–41); Joseph Symonds (1641–7); Robert Park (1641–9); Thomas Cawton (1651–9); Richard Maden (1660–80); Joseph Hill (1678–1705); John Spademan (1681–98); and Joseph Hill Jr (1699–1717). Distinguished Puritan theologian William Ames, former fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge, joined a sizeable Anglo-Scottish community in the Netherlands after his ejection from the university. He reconnected with Robert Parker, Henry Jacob, and John Robinson in Leiden (1610–11), ministered at The Hague (1611–19), and tutored students in theology at Leiden University (1619–22) before taking up his post as professor at the University of Franeker (1622–33). Ames returned to Holland in the autumn of 1633 to become co-pastor with Peter, but died of pneumonia soon after his move. Peter, subsequent minister at Salem, Massachusetts, preached his funeral sermon in November 1633.93 The church split apart soon after Ames’s death and Peter’s departure. In the late 1630s the congregation rose up and deposed Ward for opposing Bridge (over the issue of prophesying) and for recycling some of his old sermons. Half sided with Simpson-Symonds, deprived of their livelihoods in London by Archbishop Laud; half sided with Burroughes-Bridge, deprived in Norwich by Bishop Wren. A conference of the two Independent congregations was called, a ‘solemne assembly’, and Ward was reinstated. By the end of 1641 Bridge, Burroughes, Simpson, and Ward had returned to England to serve Congregational churches.94 Bridge, Burroughes, and Simpson, along with two other recently returned exiles, Thomas Goodwin and Philip Nye, were the Five Dissenting Brethren in the Westminster Assembly of Divines (1643), an Independent faction in opposition to the Presbyterian majority. The next wave of exiles came over after the Restoration. Nathaniel Mather, who had been schooled in New England Congregationalism at Harvard in the 1640s, crossed over after having been driven from Devon.95 Writing from Rotterdam in the wake of the Restoration, Nathaniel invited his younger brother Increase to come over and join the ‘many English [that] are of late come over into these parts’. Those of us that are of the Congregational Way ‘have joyned in a peticon to the Magistrates that they would allow us a publique meeting place’, which I doubt not that ‘wee shall obtayne’.96 Increase, having 93  Keith Sprunger, The Learned Doctor William Ames (Champaign, IL, 1973). 94  Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism, pp. 168–72. 95  He subsequently settled in Dublin as successor to his brother Samuel, ejected curate of Burtonwood, Lancashire. 96  Nathaniel to Increase, 1661, Boston Public Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, published in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 4th series, 8 (Boston, MA, 1868), pp. 5–6.


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been ‘persecuted out of two places, Glocester and Guernsey’, by the restored regime, chose to return to Massachusetts, where he went on to become minister in Boston and president of Harvard.97 In Rotterdam, Nathaniel congregated with Richard Lawrence, ejected rector of Trunch with Swafield, Norfolk; Nicholas Lockyer, expelled provost of Eton College; John Reyner, ejected rector of Rollesby, Norfolk; Edward Richardson, ejected dean of Ripon; Edward Riggs, ejected vicar of St John’s, Isle of Thanet; and George Thorne, ejected rector of Radipole, Dorset.98 Rotterdam ‘is ye general azile of all ye sectaries, & discontented persons, or to all them by their own approbation, of all yt are persecuted’ for conscience’s sake, reported Colonel Joseph Bampfield in August 1663.99 Most notorious among them was Richardson, who escaped execution by fleeing to the Netherlands, where Bampfield, operating as an agent for the crown, tried to have him captured.100 ‘Providence hath now cast me my lot in these Lands’, Richardson wrote from Rotterdam, ‘where through mercy I find such employment as preserves mee, & yt wth such a freedom to my Conscience as England would not afford mee’.101 On 10 November 1663 Richardson (along with several other ejected ministers) was proclaimed a fugitive.102 Protected by the Dutch, for whose freedom he claimed to have fought in all three AngloDutch wars,103 Richardson was ‘advised secretly’ by the municipal authorities of Rotterdam ‘to absent himselfe from thence for a while’, lest he should be seized and ‘carried on board one of the English ships, with which the river swarms’.104 Ambassador Downing, sometime scoutmaster general of the English army in Scotland, spent the rest of the decade trying to catch him, but confessed to Clarendon (who had been made Lord Chancellor in 1658) that ‘it is a most difficult enterprise in such a Countrey as this to take a man by fource & carry him away’.105 So he vainly offered a £50 reward, plus all expenses, to have him kidnapped.106 Both Richardson and Hill operated as ‘geheime agenten’ (secret agents) for the Dutch government.107 Hill’s activities led to his 97  Increase Mather, Autobiography, ed. Michael G. Hall (Worcester, MA, 1962), p. 285. 98  Examination of George Thorne, ejected rector of Radipole, Dorset, 27 March 1663, TNA SP 29/70/38. 99  Bampfield to Williamson, 16 August 1663, TNA SP 84/167/240. 100  Custis to Bennet, 18/28 March 1664, TNA SP 29/94/112. 101  Richardson to Jennings, 4 November 1663, TNA SP 29/84/65.1. 102  Downing to Bennet, 20 November 1663, TNA SP 84/168/125–6; Proclamation, 10 November 1663. 103  Richardson’s petition to the Leiden magistracy, 27 October 1674, RAL SA II 3375. 104  Bampfield to Bennet, 12 February 1664, TNA SP 84/169/63; Custis to Bennet, 21 March 1664, SP 29/94/67. 105  Downing to Clarendon, 1 February 1664, Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Clarendon Vol. 107, fol. 72. 106  Downing to Bennet, 22 January 1664, TNA SP 84/169/51. 107  ‘Engelse geheime agenten’, within which are found several letters from Richardson and Hill to Pierre du Moulin, the prince’s spymaster, Nationaal Archief, The Hague, Collectie Fagel (1513–1927), 1.10.29/547.

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arrest and brief imprisonment in England on charges of treason during the second Anglo-Dutch war.108 After having been imprisoned in England and banished from Zeeland (during the third Anglo-Dutch war), Hill ‘was unanimously chosen’ second minister of the English Reformed Church at Rotterdam; he was approved by the city’s civil authorities on 14 October 1678, called on 16 October, and installed on 4 January 1679. Under that date in the church’s consistory register the senior pastor, Richard Maden Jr, Hill’s brother-in-law, inscribed the following letter to the ‘Scotch Consistory in this city’. We underwritten, Revds Maden and Hill, by order of our consistory desire you for the preventing of confusion & disorder yt you would admit none of our Members to the Lord’s Supper in your congregation, but such onely as bring a certificate under our hands. As we have not, & shall not admit any of yours, without a certificate from you, God being the God of order & not of confusion’.109

The minister of the Scots Church at that time was Robert Fleming (1677–94), ejected minister of Cambuslang, on the south-eastern outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland, who had recently received his call to Rotterdam after the banishment of his covenanting colleague, Robert MacWard (1676–7), from the Republic.110 At the Restoration, MacWard, sometime minister of the Outer High Church in Glasgow, had been silenced, imprisoned, and banished from Scotland ‘for sedition and treasonable preaching’.111 With many of the earlier generation of religious radicals such as Richardson and MacWard dead by the early 1680s, the life of the exile community entered a new phase. Following the discovery of new plots in Britain (Rye House, Argyll’s, Monmouth’s), waves of ‘Rebells & factious Reformers’ flooded the Low Countries.112 There are ‘swarms’ of them, Ambassador Skelton told Secretary Middleton.113 Included in the stream of refugees pouring into Holland (Utrecht and Cleves) were Walter Cross, Robert Ferguson, John Howe, Matthew Meade, and Thomas Woodcock—Bartholomean brothers all!114 By the end of the decade most of the exiles (having been pardoned by the king’s prerogative power) chose to return home, shortly before the Protestant prince seized the English crown from the Catholic king. Ferguson, excluded from the royal act of clemency, accompanied the prince (and his army) out of Holland. He was

108  Hill’s confiscated papers, 10 July 1666, TNA SP 29/162/60.i–viii. 109  Gemeentearchief Rotterdam, 4 January 1679, CR 993/1, fol. 4. 110  On MacWard, see Gardner, The Scottish Exile Community, pp. 108–13, 140–3. 111  William Steven, The History of the Scottish Church, Rotterdam (Edinburgh, 1833), p. 28. 112  Everard to Jenkins, 20 November 1685, BL Add. MS 41818, fols 125–6. 113  Skelton to Middleton, 20 November 1685, BL Add. MS 41812, fol. 229v. 114  For the exile community in the Low Countries during the 1680s, see Richard Ashcraft, Revolutionary Politics and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (Princeton, NJ, 1986), especially chapters 9 and 10.


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the only Bartholomean to join the Dutch invasion of England.115 Only three ejected ministers remained at their posts in the Republic after the Revolution: Hodge, Hickman, and Hill. Writing after the Revolution, Hill predicted that it would be difficult to procure ministers to come over and preach in Holland because ‘There being liberty granted by law, for the Presbyterians to preach publiquely now in England’.116 The legalization of Dissent restored Presbyterianism in Scotland, granted toleration for Dissenters in England, and significantly reduced the refugee population in the Republic. Of the more than thirty English and Scottish Reformed churches of the early seventeenth century, only twelve survived to 1700.117 Nonconformist ministers such as Carstares, Ferguson, Howe, and Mead (to name only a few of the more high-profile members of the recently returned exile community) helped win popular support for the new regime. They helped their compatriots understand and accept the new order brought by the Stadholder-King, an order that very much reflected the conditions of William’s Dutch rule. Catholics, they insisted, should be barred from holding public office, a notion incorporated into the Toleration Act of 1689, itself based upon the long-standing Dutch Reformed model, within which the devout Calvinist prince had been indoctrinated.118

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Appleby, David  J., Black Bartholomew’s Day: Preaching, Polemic and Restoration Nonconformity (Manchester, 2007). Ashcraft, Richard, Revolutionary Politics and Locke’s Two Treatises of Government (Princeton, NJ, 1986). Bangs, Jeremy Dupertuis, Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners: Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation (Plymouth, MA, 2009). Capp, Bernard, The Fifth Monarchy Men (London, 1972). Carter, Alice C., The English Reformed Church in Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century (Amsterdam, 1964). Gardner, Ginny, The Scottish Exile Community in the Netherlands, 1660–1690 (East Linton, 2004). Greaves, Richard  L., Deliver Us from Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660–1663 (Oxford, 1986). Ha, Polly, English Presbyterianism, 1590–1640 (Cambridge, 2010). 115  ‘Lyste van Heren Engelsche, Schotte, Fransen, gaande als Voluntarien’, TNA SP 8/6, fols 223–5. 116  Gemeentearchief Rotterdam, 14 August 1690, CR 993/1, fol. 20. 117  Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism, p. 456. 118  As Carswell has noted, the religious constitution of the United Provinces ‘corresponded exactly to what William was now offering England: no persecution, but a monopoly of office for the adherents of the state church’, John Carswell, The Descent on England (New York, 1969), p. 110.

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Hsia, R. Po-Chia and Van Nierop, H.F.K., eds, Calvinism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age (Cambridge, 2002). Marshall, John, John Locke: Resistance, Religion and Responsibility (Cambridge, 1994). Sprunger, Keith  L., ‘Other Pilgrims in Leiden: Hugh Goodyear and the English Reformed Church’, Church History, 41 (1972), 46–60. Sprunger, Keith L., Dutch Puritanism: A History of English and Scottish Churches of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden, 1982). Spurr, John, English Puritanism, 1603–1689 (London, 1998).

8 Scotland R. Scott Spurlock

Dissent is a problematic term not easily accommodated in the history of Scottish Protestantism before the late seventeenth century. More frequently nonconformity described Presbyterian reactions against episcopacy. Scotland’s reputation for fragmentation and dissent thus rests largely on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1560 Scotland’s parliament established a Protestant state Church emphasizing religion’s political role: ‘true religion and the common welfare of this realm are . . . to be entreated, ordered and established to the glory of God and maintenance of the commonwealth’.1 John Knox had promulgated the political importance of unity in religion even before his return to Scotland and continued to preach it throughout the Reformation.2 The rapid and largely ‘bloodless’ nature of Reformation reinforced the theory and William Maitland, addressing the 1567 parliament, declared Scotland’s reform as ‘a singular testimony of God’s favour and a peculiar benefit granted only to the realm of Scotland’.3 The inseparable link between nation and right religion became even more explicit in the subscription of the 1581 Negative Confession or ‘King’s Confession’, which rejected all forms of Catholicism and bound the whole nation together in its right religion.4 Subscription of the confession came to be understood by many as a covenanting or bonding, and the Negative Confession as a ‘National Covenant’.

1  Sir John Skene, The Lawes and Acts of Parliament maid be King James the First and his Successors Kings of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1597), section 6, ff. 3r–9v. 2  John Knox, The Works of John Knox, ed. David Laing, 6 vols (Edinburgh, 1846–64), IV, p. 505. 3  Keith M. Brown et al., eds, The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707, A1567/12/50 (date accessed throughout: 7 June 2013). Hereafter Brown, RPS. 4  Gordon Donaldson, ed., Scottish Historical Documents (Edinburgh, 1970), p. 151.

R. Scott Spurlock, Scotland In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0009

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NATIONAL CHURCH These processes set the expectation for national unity in religion, although the pattern of ecclesial government remained contested. Even in the early days of Protestant Scotland the schismatic impulses evident among English Puritans were emphatically rejected due to two important principles in Scottish Protestantism: (i) an ecclesiology established at the national level, as demonstrated above, and (ii) a high regard for local congregation and its endowment with particular rights, particularly the rights of elders to rule.5 These endowed the Reformed Kirk with a sense of national unity and local autonomy, whereas the impetus in English Puritanism from the 1580s gravitated towards covenanting at the congregational level. While the latter eventually underpinned Puritan ecclesiologies in England and New England’s locally gathered and covenanted churches, Scottish Protestants (Episcopal and Presbyterian) held the church to  be constituted/covenanted nationally and expressed locally. As a result the arrival of the English separatist Robert Browne in Scotland in 1584 elicited a cold response.6 While supporters of episcopacy and Presbyterianism vied for control over the national Church during the decades that followed, there is little evidence of godly minorities gathering to the exclusion of all others. In fact, Scotland is notable for its lack of Protestant sectarianism alongside aims for a comprehensive national settlement. Not even the Swiss or Dutch pursued full comprehension of national populations. However, tensions did run high over church polity. By the 1580s two competing jure divino theories led to serious dissension. Andrew Melville and his supporters advocated a Presbyterian system appointed in Scripture, while the Archbishop of St Andrews, Patrick Adamson, credited as architect of the Black Acts (1584), linked episcopacy to the divine nature of the crown and Eusebius’s description of Constantine as ‘Bishop of Bishops and universall Bishop in his realme’.7 In the wake of the 1582 Ruthven Raid, in which hard-line Protestants seized the young James VI to ensure he would be influenced by Presbyterianthinking lairds, James Stewart, Earl of Arran, became regent. Arran carried out an aggressive policy against proponents of Presbyterianism through the implementation of the Black Acts, which set the king as the ultimate authority in both political and spiritual matters, limited ecclesiastical courts, raised episcopal authority, and established legal grounds for removing ministers on ‘just causes’.8 5  For the rights of the congregation, see James Cameron, The First Book of Discipline (Edinburgh, 1972), passim. For the increased emphasis on elders, see James Kirk, ed., The Second Book of Discipline (Edinburgh, 1980), pp. 163–79. 6  David Calderwood, The History of the Kirk of Scotland, 8 vols (Edinburgh, 1843), IV, pp. 2, 3. 7  Ibid., IV, pp. 263–4; Patrick Adamson, A Declaration made by King James, in Scotland; concerning Church-Government, and Presbyters (London, 1646), pp. 7–8. 8  Brown, RPS, 1584/5/7–12, 75–6.


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He banished Melville in 1584 and enforcement of the acts caused several other leading Presbyterians into self-exile. When Arran’s regency fell apart in 1585, exiled Presbyterians returned and rose to a dominant position. By 1592 support for Presbyterianism ran high, forcing James to pass the so-called ‘Golden Act’, fully establishing a Presbyterian polity, although he retained the power to call (or not call) General Assemblies.9 While the contest over church polity led to competing traditions, by and large it did not lead to dissenting traditions. Presbyterian and episcopal sympathizers alike competed for the destiny of the entire national Church, not for differentiation or separation from it. Instead Presbyterians simply refused to conform. In fact, the weak implementation of the Black Acts meant that ‘before 1606 there was no meaningful episcopate or objectionable polity against which to organise’.10

REJECTION OF LITURGICAL INNOVATION The generally accepted sea change occurred with the implementation of the Articles of Perth in 1618, whereby James strong-armed the General Assembly into significant liturgical innovations including kneeling at communion, the observance of high feast days, and confirmation by a bishop at age eight, while permitting private communion for the infirm and private baptism.11 Dissatisfaction had bubbled away during the previous decade with the reestablishment of diocesan episcopacy in 1606 and the appointment of bishops as permanent moderators of presbyteries, the crown’s assertion of authority over clerical dress in 1609, and, more importantly, the full restoration of bishops’ secular and ecclesiastical jurisdiction in 1610. But the Articles of Perth represented fundamental innovations many Protestant Scots perceived to be moves back towards Rome. As a result, ministers and their parishioners began meeting in secret gatherings, particularly in Edinburgh, for the first time since before 1560.12 The grounds of dissatisfaction were largely liturgical, although exacerbated by polity. Theologically, however, the Kirk had unilaterally affirmed its Reformed pedigree in 1616 with the General Assembly confirming the doctrine of double predestination by eternal decree.13 Kneeling at communion generated the greatest opposition of all the inno­v­ ations and many resisted. For instance, a 1620 report claimed only twenty of 9  Ibid., 1592/4/26. 10  Alan MacDonald, The Jacobean Kirk, 1567–1625 (Farnham, 1998), p. 174. 11  Robert Blair and William Row, The Life of Mr Robert Blair, Minister of St Andrews, ed. T. M’Crie (1848), pp. 12–13, 35. 12  D. Stevenson, ‘Conventicles in the Kirk, 1619–37: The Emergence of a Radical Party’, Records of the Scottish Church History Society, 18 (1972), 99–114. 13  D. G. Mullan, ‘Theology in the Church of Scotland 1618–c.1640: A Calvinist Consensus?’, The Sixteenth Century Journal, 26 (1995), 595–617 (597).

Scotland 185 1,600 communicants in one Edinburgh church knelt as instructed. As conformity came to be pushed more aggressively, parishioners refused to go forward for communion or even attend communion services. Alternatively, they attended other parishes that refused to introduce kneeling, which as late as 1622 several country parishes did.14 Ultimately, alternative religious gatherings began to take place. Critics accused nonconformists of meeting in ‘conventicles’ during time of public worship and of calling themselves congregations, which resulted in accusations of being ‘Brownists, Anabaptists, Shismaticks, Separatists’.15 A few scholars have taken these claims to indicate schismatic tendencies within these private gatherings. However, as John Coffey has demonstrated, conventicling did not represent a move towards separation akin to what developed in England.16 Scottish nonconformists of the 1620s remained thoroughly committed to the principle of a national Church, the traditional liturgy of the Reformed Kirk and gathering for private prayer and worship with the intention of reforming the national Church, and avoiding corruption through liturgical innovations. Nevertheless their opponents did call this ‘rebellion, arrogance and schism’ to the shock of all other Reformed Churches.17 The claim that meetings regularly took place during Sunday public worship is probably a misinterpretation of evidence. Those missing from Edinburgh’s communion services may have instead attended nearby parishes where kneeling had yet to be imposed. Certainly a number of Edinburghers made their way across the Firth of Forth to Kinghorn and ministers in Dunbar, Duns, Haddington, Kirkcaldy, and Lasswade refused to introduce kneeling.18 Samuel Rutherford, known to have participated in 1620s nonconformity in Edinburgh, sheds light on the subject. Writing in 1640 he emphatically denied the lawfulness of choosing private worship during the time of public worship, calling it ‘Brownism . . . the act of separation’.19 It is therefore unlikely that this is what happened during the 1620s. Moreover, since the primary issue remained kneeling at communion, the infrequency of the Eucharist in Scottish churches meant abstention might only have been an issue as infrequently as once a year—usually at Easter— although royal policy sought to increase its regularity to a minimum of four times a year in burgh parishes and twice in rural ones.20 Therefore reports from the king’s informants claiming thousands missing from communion services 14  The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, XII, pp. lxiv, 707. Hereafter RPCS. 15  Calderwood, History, VII, p. 449, 614. 16  John Coffey, Politics, Religion and the British Revolution: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge, 1997), p. 192. 17  John Forbes of Corse, The First Book of the Irenicum, trans. and ed. E.G. Selwyn (Cambridge, 1924), pp. 107, 111. 18  RPCS, XII, pp. 186, 200. 19  Samuel Rutherford, The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, ed. A.A. Bonar (Edinburgh, 1904), pp.  578–9. 20  Calderwood, History, VII, p. 229.


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did not necessarily mean poor attendance the rest of the year.21 For many the norm meant partial conformity with attendance at public worship supplemented by private meetings for prayer and scriptural exposition. A number of factors could affect the experience of nonconformists. Often bishops required a lesser degree of conformity than the king demanded. William Row argued persecution for nonconformity was lax in the 1620s compared with the Restoration. Bishops attempted to moderate royal policies, resisted liturgical innovations, ‘deposed very few of the nonconformists’ (only two in Fife), and permitted deposed ministers to preach publicly and assist with communion services.22 Yet David Lindsay, Bishop of Brechin, denied that different practices could be ‘tollerat in the same Kirk’.23 Some nonconformists expressed equally intolerant attitudes. Although Thomas Sydserff offered a compromise whereby communion could occur with a mixture of standing and kneeling depending on individual consciences, a 1624 pamphlet (probably by David Calderwood) argued it would be unsafe for believers to take communion alongside kneeling communicants.24 Due to the conflict’s intractable nature the king prohibited private meetings for religious worship in 1624.25 James’s policies prompted many nonconformists to leave Scotland for Ulster. By 1622 sixty-four Scots ministers served Irish parishes. While not uniform, the experiences of Robert Blair and John Livingstone are indicative. They worked within the established episcopal Church of Ireland and allowed bishops to attend ordinations on the agreed understanding they represented the equivalent of presbyters or elders. They were also permitted to edit the service book to suit their consciences. Some historians have referred to this system as ‘prescopalian’, but the situation was less clearly defined than such a term might suggest.26 Scots ministers worked reasonably well under Andrew Knox, Bishop of Raphoe, and James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh from 1625, but jarred with other bishops and had little time for the English Separatists they encountered in Ireland because ‘they did not come to public worship’.27 Like their colleagues in Scotland, Presbyterians in Ulster rejected schism. However, in 1636 a group probably funded by Sir John Clotworthy attempted to join the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony, but bad weather prevented their crossing. Blair and Livingstone, leading figures in the enterprise, interpreted this as a providential 21  David Laing and Beriah Botfield, eds, Original Letters Relating to the Ecclesiastical Affairs of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1851), II, p. 599. 22  Blair and Row, Life of Robert Blair, p. 137. 23  Robert Wodrow, Selections from Wodrow’s Biographical Collections, ed. R. Lippe (Aberdeen, 1890), p. 168. 24  J.D. Ford, ‘Conformity in Conscience: The Structure of the Perth Articles Debate in Scotland, 1618–38’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 46 (1995), 256–77, 264. 25  Calderwood, History, VII, pp. 611–14. 26  A.F.S. Pearson, Origins of Irish Presbyterianism (Belfast, 1947), p. 1. 27  Patrick Adair, A True Narrative of the Rise and Progress of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, ed. W.D. Killen (Belfast, 1866), pp. 27–8.

Scotland 187 judgement against abandoning the Church of Scotland. In conjunction with increasing pressure against nonconformity to the Church of Ireland under Thomas Wentworth, Lord Deputy of Ireland, they soon returned to Scotland to support the growing Presbyterian reaction against Charles I’s policies. Charles initially did not pursue religious conformity with any great vigour. However, in 1633—the eighth year of his reign—the king visited Scotland for his first royal visit and coronation. Supporters of Presbyterianism took the opportunity to present a list of grievances to the monarch including the liturgical innovations and the alteration to the role of bishops during his father’s reign.28 Charles’s disposition changed and his desire for religious uniformity across his kingdoms led him to appoint new Scottish bishops friendly to Laudian-style reforms. These bishops reinvigorated the pressure on nonconformist ministers. In 1636, after debating with the recently appointed Bishop of Galloway Thomas Sydserff, Samuel Rutherford was deposed from Anwoth and removed to Aberdeen. Though geographically displaced, Rutherford continued to encourage churches to ‘conference and prayer at private meetings’, but rejected the claims of Separatists and Brownists in other places (beyond Scotland) who ‘make a kirk in private homes of their own’.29 Charles pushed liturgical change through the publication of a Scottish Booke of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Parts of Divine Service imposed through royal and episcopal authority. Its introduction in St Giles on 23 July 1637 resulted in the outbreak of carefully contrived public riots. In October, nobles, lairds, burgesses, and ministers signed a supplication against the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer and by year’s end established an opposition government. ‘The Tables’ represented the represented traditional constituencies asserting their historic rights and opposed Charles’s innovations.

COVENANTED UNIFORMIT Y? Once established politically, the Tables sought to solidify popular support and affirm the religious foundations of their actions. They commissioned Alexander Henderson, a minister, and Sir Archibald Johnston of Wariston, a lawyer, to produce a new National Covenant. Besides reasserting the Negative Confession and Scotland’s historical anti-Catholic legislation, the document sets out three imperatives: (i) the maintenance of Reformed religion, (ii) the rights of the Stewart monarchy, and (iii) the political sovereignty of Scotland. These 28  John Rushworth, ‘Grievances of the Scottish ministers, 1633’, in Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume III: 1639–40 (London, 1721), pp. 143–55. 29  Coffey, Politics, p. 197; Rutherford, Letters, pp. 561, 564.


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represented the three constitutional (albeit unwritten) pillars upon which nation stood. As such, the document served as ‘a band against innovations’.30 From February 1638 public subscription began, often accompanied by ­emotive sermons. In total an estimated 300,000 Scots signed the covenant. Its broadly inclusive language facilitated widespread subscription—except in the Highlands and the north-east. Opposition to subscription rested primarily in questions raised by early critics, such as John Strang, Principal of Glasgow University. Before eventually signing the National Covenant, Strang raised ­concerns over the legal status of bishops established by parliamentary legislation and the covenant’s prejudicial impact on royal authority. More nuanced and sustained opposition came from the Aberdeen Doctors, who queried the legality of mutual bands of defence, the risk the rejection of episcopacy posed to scandalizing other Reformed churches, the limitations placed on the ­monarchy, and the authority the Covenanters had to interpret the Negative Confession as stringently as they had done.31 The north-east of Scotland became a contested space, with both the Aberdeen Doctors and Covenanting leaders printing texts setting out their positions. King Charles sought to ­capitalize on the groundswell of support for covenanting, and to frame his own  claims to royal supremacy in similar fashion. He authorized the production of an alternative document for subscription, which upheld royal authority. The King’s Covenant, as it was known, received an estimated 28,000 signatures, ­primarily in the north-east. Among its subscribers were the Aberdeen Doctors. However, this level of subscription paled in comparison with that of the National Covenant.32 For William Row, reflecting back years later on the success of the National Covenant, the widespread subscription equated to the whole of the nation. He explains: through the whole kingdom or kirk of Scotland, except the Secret Councill and some of the nobility, and except Papists and some few who for base ends adhered to the prelates, the people universally entered into Covenant with God for a reformation of religion against prelates and ceremonies.33

His claims raise two important issues. First, despite his assertion no explicit denunciation of episcopacy existed in the original document. This was added at the General Assembly in December 1638—ten months after subscription began—and became known as the ‘Glasgow determination’. The Assembly ‘abjured and removed’ bishops. Only Robert Baillie registered dissent on the 30  Peter Donald, ‘The Scottish National Covenant and British Politics, 1638–40’, in John Morrill, ed., The Scottish National Covenant in its British Context, 1638–51 (Edinburgh, 1990), 90–105, p. 91. 31  D. Stewart, ‘The “Aberdeen Doctors” and the Covenanters’, Records of the Scottish Church History Society, 22 (1984), 35–44; G.D. Henderson, Religious Life in Seventeenth-Century Scotland (Cambridge, 1937), pp. 168–9.
 32  David Stevenson, The Scottish Revolution 1637–44 (Edinburgh, 1973; repr. 2003), pp. 108–12. 33  Blair and Row, Life of Robert Blair, p. 155.

Scotland 189 grounds that episcopacy should be removed but not abjured.34 As Alexander Campbell’s recent work demonstrates, Baillie held a distinctly nuanced view of episcopacy, but his opposition to abjuring the role of bishops no doubt rested in concerns about how such a complete denunciation would be received by other Protestant churches. The Assembly deposed all Scotland’s bishops and excommunicated eight (including both archbishops) and renounced all General Assemblies since 1606 as illegal—including the Articles of Perth. In relation to the National Covenant, the General Assembly ordered the universal adoption of the Glasgow determination, demanded all existing copies be amended and resubscribed with the additional text, and ordered all other copies to be destroyed. However, surviving copies without the alteration indicate this did not always happen. Hence some subscribers to the Covenant may not have understood or accepted their commitment to include opposition to episcopacy. Second, although Row glosses over the significant number of Scots who refused the Covenant, he reveals the Covenanters’ ecclesiology had developed to view the nation and the visible church as coterminous. In many respects the Covenanting tradition represented the fruition of a long process of ecclesiological development. Rooted in Knox’s belief that Scotland represented a nation elected and covenanted to God, the nation now represented a visible church. Thus, just as Jews born into the Abrahamic covenant were subject to particular religious and political obligations, so too Covenanters understood Scots to be born into covenant promises and obligations. Ironically, whereas opposition to liturgical innovations and aggressive royalist policies in previous decades had not led to separation, the developments under the Covenanters did sow seeds of division. Fusing a belief in national election with a Reformed doctrine of limited election to salvation created difficult theological and social expectations. For Walter Mathieson, this fundamental tension in Knox’s Reformed theology made him the ‘parent of schism’ in Scotland.35 David Mullan, too, argues that Knox ‘unwittingly, embraced two distinct covenanting ideas: one, a national, corporate, sociological construct absent from Calvin, the other very much focused on the individual salvation of those elected to grace from eternity’.36 However, Knox took this two-fold model of individual (internal) and corporate (external) covenanting directly from Calvin. But it was in Scotland that the enormous tensions created by the theological commitment to uphold external holiness corporately, in the face of a largely reprobate and unregenerate population, came to be tested.37 34  Alexander D. Campbell, The Life and Works of Robert Baillie (1602–1662): Politics, Religion and Record-Keeping in the British Civil Wars (Woodbridge, 2017), pp. 43–4. 35  William Mathieson, Politics and Religion: A Study in Scottish History from the Reformation to the Revolution, 2 vols (Glasgow, 1902), I, p. 115. 36  David Mullan, Scottish Puritanism, p. 179. 37  R.  Scott Spurlock, ‘Polity, Discipline and Theology: The Importance of the Covenant in Scottish Presbyterianism, 1560–c.1700’, in Elliot Vernon and Hunter Powell, eds, Church Polity and Politics in the British Atlantic World, c. 1635–1666 (Manchester, 2020).


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The rapid removal of Scotland’s bishops left little space for galvanized episcopal resistance. Eight of Scotland’s fourteen bishops fled to England within the months that followed. Four died in England before they could secure new appointments: John Spottiswood (St Andrews) and James Wedderburn (Dundee) in 1639, David Lindsay (Edinburgh) in 1641, and Patrick Lindsey (Glasgow) in 1644 being noted to have fallen into great poverty. Two took up English parishes (Walter Whitford, Brechin, and Adam Bellenden, Aberdeen), while John Maxwell (Ross) moved to Ireland as Bishop of Killala and Ackenry and later Archbishop of Tuam. Of the bishops that fled, only Thomas Sydserff (Bishop of Galloway) survived until the Restoration to be appointed Bishop of Orkney in 1662. While clearly a recognition of his loyalty, it was the most remote of all Scotland’s dioceses, which may indicate something about Restoration policy. Only John Guthrie (Moray) sought to resist his removal by force, although only briefly, and after a period of house arrest he retired to his private estates until his death in 1649.38 Scotland’s five other bishops submitted to the covenanting regime and renounced their episcopal offices. George Graham (Orkney) retired and John Abernethy (Caithness) died in 1639, while Neil Campbell (Isles), Alexander Lindsey (Dunkeld), and James Fairlie (Argyll) all returned to parish ministry. Thus, there were no leading figures remaining to galvanize behind. Despite the dismantling of the episcopal infrastructure, fears began to grow by 1641 that ‘lately deposed episcopall ministers beganne to crowde so thickte at this wicket into ther owne pulpitts againe, by the assistance of ther parishoners, that the following Assemblyes this latitude was restrained’.39 Authorities were less concerned about resurgent claims of the old polity than about the undermining of the Kirk and responded by establishing travelling committees appointed by the General Assembly to carry out visitations. Between 1638 and 1651 these led to the deposition of 236 ministers, some for scandal, but at least 90 per cent for failing ‘to support enthusiastically enough, the predominant faction in the Kirk—which might include a lingering affection for episcopacy’.40 Ministers as well as academics, like John Forbes of Corse and the Aberdeen Doctors, were among those deposed. By 1640 subscription of the National Covenant had become obligatory by act of parliament, and this required the renunciation of episcopacy. Evidence from Fife and Orkney, however, suggests some deposed ministers and their congregations simply ignored these depositions and continued in open defiance of the Kirk.41 William Watson, Minister 38  Mullan, Scottish Puritanism, pp. 190–4. 39  James Gordon, History of Scots Affairs, ed. J. Robertson and G. Grub, 3 vols (Aberdeen, 1841), III, p. 54. 40  David Stevenson, ‘Deposition of Ministers in the Church of Scotland, 1638–1651’, Church History, 44 (1975), 321–35 (324). 41  R. Scott Spurlock, Cromwell and Scotland: Conquest and Religion, 1650–1660 (Edinburgh, 2007), pp. 101–4.

Scotland 191 of Duthil, expressed his frustration with Covenanting rule in 1646 declaring before the Synod of Moray: ‘How can we speak against Sects seing we are the most abominable sect in all the world because of our government’.42 But those who continued in local ministry did not vocally advocate episcopacy; they simply refused to abrogate their charges, spinning the intervention of the national Church as invasive. Such an interpretation could be based on the precepts set out in the First Book of Discipline, and need not be interpreted as anti-Presbyterian. Ministers continued to serve within parishes and did not seek to establish alternatives. Thus no dissenting episcopal tradition galvanized in Scotland under the Covenanting regime like the non-juring tradition of the eighteenth century. The efficiency of Covenanter governance, and antipathy of the Interregum regime, precluded this. Gradually it became clear early in the Covenanting years that the risk to Covenanted Scotland came not from a resurgent episcopacy, but rather from fragmentation within. Robert Baillie identified Brownist-like tendencies among the parishioners of Glassford, who in 1639 refused a minister tried by the presbytery before the congregation had called him. However, he noted their claims to be attempting to uphold obligations to the Covenant and discipline of the Kirk.43 In 1640 he more specifically identified Scots returning from Ulster perpetuating private meetings and espousing Brownist principles, particularly in Stirling.44 Two years later Baillie reported small numbers of ‘Brownists’ in Kilwinning as well as Ayr and Aberdeen in 1643.45 The Aberdeen reports are corroborated by John Spalding, who, like Baillie, made a direct Irish connection. Spalding identifies Othro Ferrendail, ‘an Irishman, and ane skynner’ as the source and reports his imprisonment for preaching ‘Nocturnall doctrein, or Brownism’ in private homes.46 Under pressure Ferrendail appeared in the local kirk, affirmed the national Church, denied Brownist doctrines, and signed the Covenant.47 Baillie and Spalding’s accounts both indicate Ireland as a conduit for new schismatic impulses, albeit returning Scots ministers seem to have been unaffected. Another of Spalding’s Brownists, Gilbert Gordon or Gairdin, of Tullifrosky (Tilliefroskie), faced excommunication and later sources identified him as a Baptist.48 Except for these notable aberrations, the impression at the national level remained that ‘heresy and schism’ derived from outside Scotland and remained a largely English problem.49 In fact the term ‘dissenter’ only entered Scottish theological discourses in the mid-1640s in relation to events in England, 42  William Cramond, ed., Extracts from the Records of the Synod of Moray (Elgin, 1906), p. 100. 43  Robert Baillie, Letters and Journals, ed. D. Laing, 3 vols (Edinburgh, 1841–2), I, pp. 237–41. 44  Ibid., I, pp. 249–50. 45  Ibid., II, pp. 28, 54. 46  John Spalding, History of the Troubles and Memorable Transactions in Scotland, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1829), II, p. 81. 47  Ibid., pp. 94, 95, 107, 114, 126. 48  Ibid., pp. 94–5, 151. 49  Brown, RPS, 1648/3/83.


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through Robert Baillie and George Gillespie. Both men related the term to the heterodoxy of Revolutionary England and their experiences of the Westminster Assembly.50 Their concerns pertained to maintaining unity and what constituted the difference between dissent and schism. Gillespie articulated dissent as being limited to disagreements over principles not practices, so as not to create separation. In particular this related to the Dissenting Brethren who sought to formulate a national Church settlement of independently gathered congregations, influenced by experiences of some of their number in the Netherlands.51 While a number of the Scots representatives at Westminster sympathized with their position, they could not reconcile how such a divesting of the national Church could produce anything but schism. Scotland’s involvement in English political and theological discussions came to be rooted in the Solemn League and Covenant entered into by both nations in 1643. The document committed Scotland to advancing the covenanted obligations, already established at home in the National Covenant, into England and Ireland. For David Stevenson, the Solemn League and Covenant represented Scottish ambitions for a federal union with England under the conditions of religious uniformity.52 In Scottish minds, however, this meant a renewed commitment to maintaining the purity of religion and church government at home, alongside a covenanted obligation to support the furthering of reform in England and Ireland. This process was expressed theologically in Scottish contributions to the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and politically through ongoing military involvement in England’s Civil Wars—although the latter were hotly disputed and divisive. Thus Mathieson, critical of the fruits of the pan-British covenant, argued: ‘Instead of the union of three churches, the Solemn League and Covenant effected only the disunion of one’.53

COVENANTING DIVISIONS By 1648 serious fissures began to form in the Kirk, which found an expression in the Engagement Crisis of 1648. Leading Scottish nobles agreed to assist the king against the English parliament in exchange for a seven-year trial period of Presbyterianism being introduced in England. Outraged by this, and aided by 50  George Gillespie, Wholsome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty (London, 1645), p. 36; Robert Baillie, Satan the Leader in Chief to All Who Resist the Reparation of Sion (London, 1644), sig. A4r. 51  Hunter Powell, The Crisis of British Protestantism: Church Power in the Puritan Revolution, 1638–44 (Manchester, 2015). 52  David Stevenson, ‘The Early Covenanters and the Federal Union of Britain’, in Roger A. Mason, ed., Scotland and England 1286–1815 (Edinburgh, 1987), pp. 163–81. 53  Mathieson, Politics and Religion, II, p. 63.

Scotland 193 Oliver Cromwell, the extreme wing of the Covenanters willing to prioritize religious obligations over support for the king, seized control of the Scottish government in the Whiggamore Raid. This Radical Kirk Party, whose roots David Stevenson firmly rooted in the conventicling traditions of Dumfries and Galloway, passed the Act of Classes excluding all participants in the Engagement from government. By 1649 the Radical Kirk Party controlled Scotland and pushed through further religious reforms, including the abolishment of patronage—an issue long contentious for usurping the rights of the congregation. After Charles I’s execution in 1649, compelled by covenant obligations to support the Stewart line, Scotland proclaimed Charles II king of all three kingdoms. In response, an English army led by Cromwell crossed the Tweed on 22 July 1650. The Radical Kirk Party, attempting to maintain the purity of their cause, purged the army of all men deemed to be ungodly thereby reducing it by at least 5,000. The devastating defeat that followed at Dunbar on 3 September brought about an internal crisis within the Kirk over the interpretation of God’s apparent abandonment of the Covenanting cause. The moderate majority moved a public resolution to relax and eventually rescind the Act of Classes in January 1651. The populist position became known as the Resolutioners. Opponents from the Radical Kirk Party submitted a remonstrance arguing for the reinstatement of the Act of Classes and the rejection of Charles II. When the Resolutioner-dominated General Assemblies of 1651 and 1652 rejected the remonstrances, formal protests were submitted and the hard-line Covenanting faction became known as Protesters. Divisions between the two factions lasted until the Restoration and became manifest in several ways, including whether or not to pray for the king. However, the primary issue was who should govern the Kirk. Protesters struggled with submitting to a Presbyterian government they believed had been usurped by an ungodly majority. Resolutioners responded by condemning their opponents’ position as sectarian, stressing—as the Second Book of Discipline explains—the power to rule the Kirk is bestowed directly from Christ to those appointed to rule the church (ministers, elders, and deacons).54 The division persisted throughout the Interregnum and took its toll. By the end of the 1650s Samuel Rutherford struggled to come to terms with how a national Church could be submitted to if it remained under the rule of an ungodly majority.55 At the Restoration, Robert Baillie suggested the Protesters be banished to Orkney.56 It seems inconceivable the divisions between Protesters and Resolutioners could have been resolved without the Restoration.

54  James Wood, A Declaration of the Brethren Who Are for the Established Government and Judicatories of this Church (Edinburgh, 1658), p. 8. 55  Coffey, Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions, p. 224. 56  Baillie, Letters and Journals, III, p. 459.


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THE FRUITS OF TOLERATION While Protesters and Resolutioners debated how Scotland failed to uphold the Covenants, a number of Scots instead rejected the Covenants themselves as the root problem. In Aberdeen, Alexander Jaffray, John Menzies, John Row, and a number of faculty members from Aberdeen’s two colleges formed an Independent congregation, arguing the Covenants were idols for Scotland and the national model of the Church corrupted the sacraments by distributing them to the godly and reprobate alike. They separated in October 1652, no longer willing to accept a bare confession of faith as sufficient for membership in the visible church. While critics accused the Aberdeen Independents of falling under the influence of New England’s Congregationalists, John Row denied ever reading any works on Independency.57 Jaffray had, however, conversed with John Owen while in English custody after the Battle of Dunbar and the English Independent Nicholas Lockyer corresponded with the group. Ultimately, the Aberdeen Independents seem to have been principally disillusioned by the fruits of the Covenants and the failures of a comprehensive state Church, rather than won over by imported ideas. As such, they should probably be understood as an indigenous response to the failures of the Covenants. The church carried on for an uncertain period of time, but by the Restoration all its members either returned to the Kirk or moved on to other separatist traditions.58 Further Independent congregations formed in Edinburgh, Fenwick, Stirling, Kirkintilloch/Lenzie, Fenwick, Stonehouse, East Kilbride, Perth, Linlithgow, possibly Birse, Durris, and Kinkellar, and probably elsewhere. In other circumstances, English Independent ministers entered Scottish parishes through a deal brokered by Patrick Gillespie, Principal of Glasgow University, with Cromwell’s regime known as ‘Gillespie’s Charter’. The arrangement established regional commissions for filling vacant charges. Baillie and other Resolutioners bitterly protested against this infringement on the Kirk because a quorum of known Independents gained the power to fill all vacant charges ‘north of Angus’, while Gillespie’s faction controlled the west of Scotland.59 Such collusion raised questions about Gillespie’s Protester credentials and he purportedly declared the Covenants ‘had served their turn’, but ‘now it was at an end, and no more obligatory’.60 Certainly Gillespie’s Protester colleagues feared his links with English sectarians. As in England, the religious milieu of Interregnum Scotland is probably better summarized as a series of moments rather than movements.61 Even among Scots Presbyterians the lines between traditional conventicling and Independency could become blurred. In Skirling, Peeblesshire, the minister 57  Row, History of the Kirk, p. 533. 58  Spurlock, Cromwell and Scotland, pp. 121–37. 59  Ibid., 116–21, 145–7. 60  Ibid., p. 230, n. 298. 61  Jonathan Scott, ‘The English Republican Imagination’, in John Morrill, ed., Revolution and Restoration: England in the 1650s (London, 1992), pp. 35–54.

Scotland 195 attempted to prevent meetings for private worship in 1654 claiming they were against the commands of the General Assembly. The parishioners retorted they would not neglect their ‘dewtie’, since in 1647 the Kirk commanded: ‘Besides the publick worship in congregations, mercifully established in this land in great purity, it is expedient and necessary that secret worship of each person alone, and private worship of families, be pressed and set up’.62 Independency could develop in Interregnum Scotland because the Commonwealth regime introduced religious toleration in 1652 to all who would worship in a ‘Gospel way’.63 This represented a complete innovation in Scotland. In this environment occupying English soldiers eagerly preached their preferred religious alternatives and debated with Kirk ministers, viewing Scotland as a ‘field white for harvest’.64 Baptist congregations formed in Leith, Edinburgh, Ayr, Perth, Cupar, Aberdeen, Inverness, probably Dundee, and likely elsewhere.65 These were all in close proximity to English garrisons and, while Scots did join them, they never developed indigenous infrastructures. As a result, when military authorities lost trust in Baptists—due to their links with Fifth Monarchist unrest—and purged them from the army Scots converts quickly fell prey to Presbyterian opponents. By the Restoration it is unlikely any Baptist gatherings continued to meet in Scotland.66 Quakers also made inroads during the Interregnum, with Quaker activity centred in Edinburgh, Lesmahagow, Douglas, Lenzie, Glassford, and Aberdeen.67 English missionaries poured into the country, with at least fifty visiting Scotland between 1654 and 1657.68 Experiences varied widely from one location to another, depending on the disposition of the local population and minister, the proximity of an English garrison, the English commander’s disposition, and the outlook of the local Justice of the Peace. However, as the Scots Quaker George Weir of Lesmahagow described it, Friends experienced ‘Club Law’ at the hands of Scots Presbyterians.69 As a result, convincement always brought the risk of persecution, which ensured the commitment of proselytes. A number of prominent Scots were convinced including Lady Margaret Hamilton (possibly the daughter of the Duke of Hamilton), John Swinton of Swinton, and Sir Walter Scott of Raeburn—Sir Walter Scott’s great-great-grandfather.70 Whereas Independents and Baptists failed to survive the Interregnum, Quakers became a permanent fixture of the religious landscape. In fact, after the Restoration their numbers increased 62  Christopher R. Langley, ‘Times of Trouble and Deliverance: Worship in the Kirk of Scotland, 1645–1658’ (PhD thesis, University of Aberdeen, 2012), p. 148. Church of Scotland, Directory of Public Worship (Edinburgh, 1647), p. 1. 63  C. Innes and T. Thomson, eds, The Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, 11 vols (Edinburgh, 1814–44), VI, ii, p. 809. 64  B. Evans, The Early English Baptists, 2 vols (London, 1862–4), II, p. 190. 65  Spurlock, Cromwell and Scotland, p. 161. 66  Ibid., 160–73. 67  Ibid., pp. 174–5. 68  G.B. Burnet, The Story of Quakerism in Scotland 1650–1850 (London, 1952), p. 15. 69  George Weare, The Doctrins & Principles of the Priests of Scotland (London, 1657), pp. 79–83. 70  Spurlock, Cromwell and Scotland, p. 184.


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significantly, especially in Aberdeenshire where they secured an important foothold with the Barclays of Ury. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of these dissenting traditions in Scotland is not the rapidity of sects in a land unfamiliar with toleration, but rather the mutual support they demonstrated. Just as dissenting traditions turned on one another in late Interregnum England, Scottish Baptists, Quakers, and Independents jointly petitioned Westminster to secure their religious toleration. They asked ‘for ourselves, and several others in this Nation, That you will take care to provide for our just Liberties; that we may share in those Gospel Priviledges that the truly Godly in England contend for. . . And that any Laws or Acts of Parliament of this Nation [Scotland] contrary hereunto may be abolished.’71 Approximately 200 men and one woman signed the petition, from as far afield as Orkney.72 In a nation with a population of over 1 million, the signatories represented a drop in the bucket; however, they should not be understood to represent a complete list of religious dissenters. The evidence from the period suggests women probably outnumbered men in most of the traditions represented.73 A more realistic estimate might be attested in James Guthrie’s claim that ‘scarce’ one in 1,000 Scots joined sects.74 Although small in number, their joint action terrified Scots into supporting the Restoration in hopes of reinstating Presbyterianism and ending toleration.

RESTORATION Despite widespread hopes for the reestablishment of Presbyterianism, the 1661 Act Recissory rolled the Church of Scotland back to 1618, thereby re-establishing the episcopacy of James VI’s reign. By 1661 new bishops consecrated in London filled the sees of St Andrews, Glasgow, Dunblane, and Galloway, and all ministers entered into charges after 1649 (when patronage was abolished) were required to secure the support of the local patron and be collated by the bishop of their diocese by 20 September 1662 or face deprivation.75 While the historiography of the period heralds widespread resistance and nonconformity, recent work has demonstrated the reality was much more complex. In total approximately 270 ministers—one-quarter to one-third of the total number in the country—were deprived of their charges by 1662–3, with others hounded out

71  National Library of Scotland (NLS), Wod.Fol.XXX.(27). 72  Spurlock, Cromwell and Scotland, pp. 189–94. 73  Ibid., p. 191. 74  James Guthrie, Some Considerations Contributing Unto the Discoverie of the Dangers That Threaten Religion and the Work of the Reformation in the Church of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1660), pp. 65, 66. 75  Robert Wodrow, The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, 4 vols (Glasgow, 1828–30), I, p. 283; Brown, RPS, 1662/5/15; 1663/6/19.

Scotland 197 in subsequent years.76 Yet the majority of ministers and laypeople conformed. Andrew Honyman, a Covenanter who became Bishop of Orkney in 1664, argued the original National Covenant lacked any renunciation of episcopacy and therefore the added Glasgow determination could not be binding. He implored his fellow ministers to consider the rashness of abandoning ministerial work ‘for the good and salvation of [God’s] people’ rather than accept collation (not ordination) from a bishop.77 Not all his colleagues agreed, but his fellow Covenanter Robert Leighton accepted the bishopric of Dunblane. Leighton could conform because the Covenants needed ‘to be repented for’, since ‘we placd mor religion in opposing ther [episcopal] ceremonies then in the weightiest matters of the law of God’. Moreover, he did not consider liturgy or discipline as weightier matters of faith.78 Another conforming minister was James Sharp, the great apostate Resolutioner turned Archbishop of St Andrews. According to Julia Buckroyd, Sharp recognized the inevitably of episcopal restoration and conformed to ensure Scots maintained some control over their Church.79 These men may not have been the norm, but it seems likely their positions give a broad range of opinions to help explain why the majority of ministers opted to continue their ministries rather than abandon their charges. This conformity was eased in Scotland by the lack of re-ordination and the haphazard imposition of liturgical standards, as compared with England. Moreover, the legal requirement to repudiate the Covenants was ameliorated by diverse practices in administering oaths among Restoration bishops. While ministers continued to be hounded out for their dissatisfaction with the shape of the Episcopalian settlement in the early years of the Restoration, the policies of John Maitland, Secretary of Scotland, sought to bring nonconforming clergy into the national Church by extending indulgences. These required ministers to be collated by a bishop and attend kirk sessions, presbyteries and synods.80 The latter point is important. Despite some historians claiming Presbyterian church courts were abolished, this is not the case. In fact, the Restoration reaffirmed sessions, presbyteries and synods, albeit they were temporarily suspended until reorganized by the local bishop.81 The traditional structure at a local level persisted with the parish church being defined by the  roles of the minister, elders, and kirk session. Moreover, they resumed their traditional role as the base unit of the national Church with legislation 76  Gordon Donaldson, Scotland: James V to James VII (Edinburgh and London, 1965), pp. 365–6. 77  Andrew Honyman, The Seasonable Case of Submission to the Church-Government as Now Re-Established by Law (Edinburgh, 1662), pp. 8, 36. 78  David Laing, ed., Correspondence of Sir Robert Kerr, First Earl of Ancram and his Son William, Third Earl of Lothians, 2 vols (Edinburgh, 1885), II, p. 456. 79  Julia Buckroyd, The Life of James Sharp (Edinburgh, 1987), p. 71. 80  Wodrow, History of the Sufferings, I, p. 305. 81  Brown, RPS, 1662/5/9; RPCS, Third Series, I, pp. 130–1.


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forbidding separation from the Church or absence from the local parish during time of divine worship for either ‘popery or other disaffection to the present government of the church’.82 Crimes such as slander, adultery, and witchcraft, as well as poor relief, remained the jurisdiction of the kirk session.83 These continuities no doubt aided the conformity of many ministers and aided the success of the indulgences in bringing ministers back into the Kirk: forty-three in 1669 and ninety in 1672. Perhaps more importantly than clerical responses, however, are those of the laity. The complexity of dealing with the dramatic changes of the previous decades cannot be oversimplified. The promises of being a blessed nation under the Covenants, the shock of the Cromwellian conquest and occupation, and the reestablishment of episcopacy made for a challenging interpretation of providence. The wholesale and rapid transformation of the church in 1662–3, according to Alexander Brodie, left men wrestling to come to terms by ‘ther oun light’.84 According to the most recent study of the period, the overwhelming majority (at least two-thirds) of the laity conformed to some degree. In fact, according to Alasdair Raffe, ‘only a small number of lay people consistently refused to recognise the episcopalian church’ and as such he questions whether any Scots who attended episcopal churches, even occasionally, should be considered Presbyterian. Moreover, he suggests partial conformity in Scotland ‘was typically a product of pragmatism, rather than of principle’.85 This view, as yet untested in Scottish historiography, does not adequately take into account similar experiences in England, where analysis of partial conformity is much more nuanced and underappreciates the evidence provided in Brodie’s comments, which imply a deep concern for principles.86 In this respect the situation in Scotland is more difficult to unpick than in England, Wales, or Ireland. In Scotland it appears many people attended their local churches and supplemented this with occasional participation in conventicles. Brodie described his conformity as ‘complying by titles, fair words, and the lyke’ but hoped ‘this complacency be no snare to me, nor may it be to others’—albeit he refused to take communion.87 This may typify a large portion of the Scottish population, who could not embrace episcopacy wholeheartedly, but neither could he deny—despite its faults—the Kirk remained the legitimate national Church. Mark Mirabello helpfully divides Restoration Presbyterian dissent into three phases: 1663–8, 1668–79 and 1680–7. From 1663 to 1668 very few conventicles formed and instead a widespread dissatisfaction with the covenanting cause

82  Brown, RPS, 1663/6/19. 83  RPCS, Third Series, I, pp. lvi, 542, 550, 649. 84  Alexander Brodie, Diary of Alexander Brodie of Brodie, 1652–80 (Aberdeen, 1863), p. 266. 85  Alasdair Raffe, The Culture of Controversy: Religious Arguments in Scotland, 1660–1714 (Woodbridge, 2012), pp. 34, 181. 86  John D. Ramsbottom, ‘Presbyterians and “Partial Conformity” in the Restoration Church of England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 43 (1992), 249–70. 87  Brodie, Diary, p. 277.

Scotland 199 led to overwhelming conformity.88 Between 1668 and 1679 a gradual growth of conventicles occurred and these expressed increasingly militant leanings.89 To a significant extent the growth owed to the mobilization and leadership of a younger generation who lacked any first-hand experience of the Covenanting Revolution’s failure or the Cromwellian occupation, but which was reared on the radicalized ideology epitomized in James Stewart’s Naphtali which emphatically espoused ‘this whole Nation is perpetually joyned unto the Lord’ and ‘almost as to the number of persons, the Church of Scotland was of equal extent with the Nation’.90 Yet Stewart stepped beyond corporate responsibility using the Old Testament figure Phineas to justify the individual serving as God’s implement for punishing evil.91 These developments found further support from an exile community in the Netherlands.92 The most significant aspects of this period were the assassination of James Sharp in 1679, the mobilization of an estimated 5–7,000 men in the wake of the Battle of Drumclog (1679) and the 1680 Sanquar Declaration in which Richard Cameron and other covenanting leaders denounced the king as an enemy and excommunicant. In response, James, Duke of York, replaced Maitland as the crown’s representative in Scotland. He  brought both an uncompromising policy against radical Presbyterians and a willingness to extend toleration to Catholics, Quakers, and moderate Presbyterians. According to Mirabello, 1680–7 witnessed an overall reduction of conventicles and widespread conformity due in part to the violent and schismatic tendencies of the Cameronians and United Societies.93 In 1681 James coerced the Scottish parliament into passing the Test Oath, which required all public officials and ministers to swear to the crown’s supremacy in both political and ecclesiastical matters. This marginalized not only Presbyterians, but also some Episcopalians like James Blair, who was deprived from his charge, moved to England, and eventually became commissary to the Virginia Colony and the College of William and Mary’s founder.94 However, this is not what has typified the period in popular memory. Instead, with the help of Robert Wodrow (1679–1734) and Thomas M’Crie (1772–1835), the period between 1681 and 1688 is popularly remembered as the Killing Times. Hagiographical accounts estimate as many as 18,000 Covenanters died.95 This number is certainly 88  Mark Mirabello, ‘Dissent and the Church of Scotland, 1660–1690’ (PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, 1988), pp. 168–80. 89  Ibid., pp. 185–206. 90  James Stewart, Naphtali (1667), sigs A2r–A3, pp. 183–4. Mark Jardine, ‘The United Societies: Militancy, Martyrdom and the Presbyterian Movement in Late-Restoration Scotland, 1679 to 1688’ (PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2009), I, p. 42. 91  Stewart, Naphtali, pp. 20–5; Coffey, Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions, p. 177. 92  Ginny Gardiner, The Scottish Exile Community in the Netherlands, 1660–1690 (East Linton, 2004). 93  Mirabello, ‘Dissent’, pp. 215–30. 94  RPCS, VII, pp. 296–7. 95  ‘Covenants’, in Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland (London, 1994); Andrew N.T. Muirhead, Reformation, Dissent and Diversity: The Story of Scotland’s Churches, 1560–1960) (London, 2015), p. 23. J.K. Hewison in his The Covenanters, 2 vols (Glasgow, 1913) interpreted 18,000 as including all those who suffered: death, persecution, transportation, and banishment (II, p. 512).


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an overestimation—no precise figure is possible to confirm. What is certain is approximately one hundred men and women faced trial and execution, while another eighty or so were cut down in the fields.96 Others faced imprisonment or banishment and others chose self-exile in Ireland or the Netherlands. Yet not all who adhered to the Covenants through the period were as radical as Cameron’s followers. In 1684 the Privy Council examined George Smith as to whether he owned the Covenants, opposed the king, or condoned violence. Smith replied he held ‘all the covenants’, rejected violence desiring to live and peace, and would only take up arms in self-defence. He was banished for not swearing off resistance to the crown.97 Like earlier periods, Restoration nonconformity needs to be understood as diverse and variable. Despite its numerical minority, it proved fundamental for the development of Scottish identity and at times may have exceeded rates of nonconformity estimated in England in the period of 3–5 per cent, but not consistently. Instead the boundaries between the Established Church and nonconformity were permeable, and nonconforming networks spanned large geographical areas, though were particularly strong in the west. Moreover, nonconformity should not be limited to Presbyterian traditions, nor should all Scots be understood to have viewed the Restoration in the same way. Despite Quakers being banned by a 1661 Act of Parliament, they tended to see the Restoration as a day of reckoning for their Presbyterian oppressors. Andrew Robeson posited, ‘Who shall turn it backwards? Tho breirs, & thorns may now spring up, their comes a day of burning. Hath he not washt away thy laite oppressors [Presbyterians] as with a flood?’98 He expected the same would eventually happen to the Episcopalian regime. Yet, Quakers did not fare well in the first decades of the Restoration, facing public ridicule, dispossession of goods, and extended periods of imprisonment without trial. However, James worked to ease their situation from 1681. He used connections at court to support colonial projects, including East New Jersey, which although largely bankrolled by Quakers also found support from the Catholic Earl of Perth. The proprietors elected the Aberdonian Robert Barclay as the colony’s first governor, though he never visited the colony. Quaker numbers increased throughout the Restoration—especially in Aberdeenshire—and meetinghouses were secured or built in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kelso, Gartshore, and elsewhere.99 In 1687 they benefited from a toleration by James VII’s royal decree—having succeeded his brother in 1685—extended to Catholics, Quakers, and ‘moderate’ Presbyterians on condition of an oath upholding the crown’s supreme power and authority.100 96  Rosalind Mitchison, A History of Scotland (London and New York, 2002), p. 207. 97  RPCS, Third series, IX, p. 210.    98  NLS, MS. 2201, f. 100. 99  Burnet, The Story of Quakerism, pp. 51–5, 92–108, 134, 173. 100  Wodrow, History of the Suffering, IV, p. 418.

Scotland 201 Despite his leniency in matters of religion, the ascendency of James c­ onsolidated opposition to the Stuart monarchy. A flood of high-profile conversions to Catholicism—including the Earl of Perth—the establishment of a Jesuit school at Holyrood, and toleration of the Mass provoked riots in Edinburgh. Moreover, toleration proved largely unwelcome to many Presbyterians as it put them on equal footing with Quakers and Catholics. Nevertheless, Presbyterians did take advantage and established seventy-two meetings, mostly in eastern and central Scotland.101 These represented a distinct expression from the United Societies and proved important. When James fled the following year, the Glorious Revolution brought the possibility of restoring Presbyterianism. The Synod of Aberdeen wrote to William of Orange, expressing their hope he would be ‘the instrument of our deliverence’ for union between ‘our Protestant brethren who differ . . . only in matters of church government’ so that they might ‘tolerate one another in these things wherein we may still differ’.102 Importantly, the path chosen rejected the tradition maintained by the radical Covenanters. The 1690 settlement made no mention of the Covenants and instead re-established Presbyterianism on the doctrinal grounds of the Westminster Assembly. This marginalized the small number vehemently supporting the covenanted position and they remained outside what they perceived to be an erastian form of Presbyterianism. The settlement also excluded supporters of episcopacy and those who refused an oath of loyalty to William and Mary— including all the Scottish bishops—became known as non-jurors and were outlawed. Five hundred ministers were removed in 1688 and a further 664 between 1689 and 1719, numbers far exceeding the Restoration period.103 In 1695 Scotland’s parliament did extend an indulgence to Episcopalian ministers allowing them to become qualified upon taking the oath of allegiance, albeit they also reenssured Presbyterian supremacy by passing an act against irregular marriages and baptisms.104 The increasingly British nature of Scottish politics by the late seventeenth century heightened the need for legal parity between England and Scotland, especially after England established religious toleration in 1689. The catalyst for change in Scotland came not from English Dissenting traditions, but rather from English Episcopalians and the crown. A draft act of toleration for all forms of Protestant was read before the Scottish parliament in 1703 at the instigation of Queen Anne, but opposition from the Kirk scuppered it.105 The 1707 Act of Union made the matter even more urgent, but since both kingdoms retained separate legal and ecclesiastical structures the new united parliament was understood to have had no remit in religious matters. The issue came to a head in 1711. After being imprisoned for conducting episcopal worship in Scotland James Greenshields petitioned parliament. In response, Westminster moved to 101  Jardine, ‘The United Societies’, I, p. 173.    102  Brown, RPS, A1689/6/8. 103  Stevenson, ‘Deposition of Ministers’, p. 334.    104  Brown, RPS, 1695/5/118. 105  Ibid., 1703/5/52, 1703/5/56.


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extend the rights of toleration granted to Protestant Dissenters in England to ‘North-Britain’ through a 1712 Act of Toleration.106 Despite many Scots viewing this as a fundamental breach of the Union, in May the General Assembly of the Kirk rescinded the 1695 act against irregular marriage and baptism, ratified the Act of Toleration and reintroduced patronage so Episcopalian heritors could present sympathetic candidates. Although primarily intended to grant religious freedom to juring-Episcopalians, these acts signalled a sea change by removing the means for preventing schism. Religious diversity increased with the establishment of Glasite churches (1730), the return of Baptists from 1750, and Presbyterian secessions in 1733 and 1761. While Scottish Protestantism came to be typified by secession and division, that represented a marked change. What typified Protestant Scotland from the Reformation until 1712 were (i) an overarching desire for a united national Church, and (ii) resistance to authoritarian church governance that usurped congregational rights. Both these principles stretched back to the Reformation. Conflict erupted in Scottish Protestantism when the equilibrium between local rights and national governance became imbalanced—as can be seen in both opposition to jure divino episcopacy and the fragmentation of hard-line Covenanting—but this rarely drifted to the extreme of a congregation challenging a national ecclesiology.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Buckroyd, Julia, Church and State in Scotland 1660–1681 (Edinburgh, 1976). Campbell, Alexander  D., The Life and Works of Robert Baillie, 1602–1662: Politics, Religion and Record-Keeping in the British Civil Wars (Woodbridge, 2017). Coffey, John, Politics, Religion and the British Revolution: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge, 1997). Dawson, Jane E.A., Scotland Re-Formed, 1488–1587 (Edinburgh, 2007). Donaldson, Gordon, ‘The Emergence of Schism in Seventeenth-Century Scotland’, in Gordon Donaldson, Scottish Church History (Edinburgh, 1985), pp. 204–19. Foster, Walter R., The Church Before the Covenants. The Church of Scotland 1596–1638 (Edinburgh, 1975). Graham, Michael F., The Uses of Reform. ‘Godly Discipline’ and Popular Behaviour in Scotland and Beyond, 1560–1610 (Leiden, 1996). Greaves, Richard, Theology and Revolution in the Scottish Reformation (Grand Rapids, MI, 1980). Jackson, Clare, Restoration Scotland, 1660–1690 (Woodbridge, 2003). Kirk, James, ed., The Second Book of Discipline (Edinburgh, 1980). MacDonald, Alan, The Jacobean Kirk, 1567–1625 (Farnham, 1998). Makey, Walter, The Church of the Covenant, 1637–1651 (Edinburgh, 1979). Mullan, David G., Scottish Puritanism, 1598–1638 (Oxford, 2000). 106  Collection of the Laws in Favour of the Reformation in Scotland, pp. 244–5.

Scotland 203 Raffe, Alasdair, The Culture of Controversy: Religious Arguments in Scotland, 1660–1714 (Woodbridge, 2012). Spurlock, R.  Scott, Cromwell and Scotland: Conquest and Religion, 1650–1660 (Edinburgh, 2007). Stevenson, David, The Scottish Revolution, 1637–44 (Edinburgh, 1973; repr. 2003). Stevenson, David, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Scotland, 1644–1651 (London, 1977; repr. 2003). Stewart, Laura  A.M., Urban Politics and the British Civil Wars: Edinburgh, 1617–53 (Leiden, 2006). Stewart, Laura A.M., Rethinking The Scottish Revolution: Covenanted Scotland, 1637–1651 (Oxford, 2016). Todd, Margo, The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland (New Haven, CT, 2002).

9 Ireland Crawford Gribben

Protestant nonconformity and dissent in early modern Ireland was both energized and enervated by its relationships to the Established Church, the majority Catholic population, and the changing political environments of the neighbouring island and the religious loyalties of its governments and royal families.1 The Irish reformation had legal beginnings that reflected its distinctive political culture: in 1537, three years after the equivalent English act, the Irish parliament passed its Act of Supremacy, which it renewed in 1560, though, as throughout the three kingdoms, the Protestant reformation that was thus initiated was not secured until the early eighteenth century and the accession of the House of Hanover. The community of Irish Protestants that was created by this legislation existed in a distinctive context at the heart of a European and increasingly trans-Atlantic nexus of institutions, ideas, and personnel.2 But the Irish reformation was not a success. Unusually, in European terms, the island’s majority population did not adhere to the religious determination of its ­governments. The principle of cuius regio, eius religio, which was established in 1  For standard accounts of Protestant dissent and nonconformity in sixteenth- and s­ eventeenth-century Ireland, see J.C. Beckett, Protestant Dissent in Ireland, 1687–1780 (London, 1968); Aidan Clarke, ‘Varieties of Reformation: The First Century of the Church of Ireland’, in W.J. Shiels and  Diana Wood, eds, The Churches, Ireland and the Irish: Studies in Church History, Studies in Church History 25 (Oxford, 1989), pp. 105–22; Phil Kilroy, Protestant Dissent and Controversy in Ireland, 1660–1714 (Cork, 1994); Alan Ford, ‘The Church of Ireland, 1558–1641: A Puritan Church?’ in Alan Ford, James McGuire, and Kenneth Milne, eds, As By Law Established: The Church of Ireland Since the Reformation (Dublin, 1995), pp. 52–68; Alan Ford, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland, 1590–1641 (Dublin, 1997); Richard L. Greaves, God’s Other Children: Protestant Nonconformists and the Emergence of Denominational Churches in Ireland, 1660–1700 (Stanford, CA, 1997); Crawford Gribben, God’s Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland (Oxford, 2007); and Robert Whan, The Presbyterians of Ulster, 1680–1730 (Woodbridge, 2013); Alan Ford, ‘Scottish Protestant Clergy and the Origins of Dissent in Ireland’, in David Edwards with Simon Egan, eds, The Scots in Early Stuart Ireland: Union and Separation in Two Kingdoms (Manchester, 2015), pp. 116–40; and the essays contained in Kevin Herlihy’s invaluable edited collections, The Irish Dissenting Tradition, 1650–1750 (Dublin, 1995); The Religion of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800 (Dublin, 1996); The Politics of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800 (Dublin, 1997); and Propagating the Word of Irish Dissent (Dublin, 1998). 2  Ford, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland, pp. 7–20. Crawford Gribben, Ireland In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0010

Ireland 205 the Peace of Augsburg (1555) as a method of settling the question of national religious adherence, gave way in Ireland in the face of the practical difficulty of imposing the new faith, without its failure ever raising suggestions that religious pluralism might serve as an appropriate alternative. This alternative was explored elsewhere: in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, after the Warsaw Confederation (1573), Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Bohemian Brethren, Unitarians, and Jews were provided with legal recognition.3 In Ireland, only the most minor Dissenting groups appealed for any policy of toleration, and that from the middle of the seventeenth century, while throughout most of the period churchmen and politicians of competing religious loyalties remained committed to the ideal of a single national religious community. Irish churchmen and politicians expected to realize the formation of this single national religious community by political, legal, administrative, and doctrinal means. The efforts of the changing personnel of the Church of Ireland hierarchy to identify a doctrinal centre, to manage nonconformity, and then to enforce conformity, provided their community with a privileged, if perpetually unsettled, position. In securing the rights of the Church by law established, the bishops were unable to prohibit the worship of the most important groups of Protestant nonconformists, who seemed continually to grow in numbers, wealth, and influence; and, in requiring these nonconformists to adhere to the establishment, they were creating the conditions for dissent. By the early eighteenth century, one of these Dissenting groups, the Presbyterians, had so grown in terms of membership and political clout, by reason of its close association with the Church of Scotland and its numerical consequence as a necessary ally in the face of Irish Catholic danger, seriously to threaten the privileges of the Established Church. And so the legal position of these Dissenters remained ambiguous. On the one hand, the act of uniformity (1665) brought education under episcopal oversight, by requiring schoolteachers to conform to the Church of Ireland, and imposed a £100 fine on anyone overseeing the administration of the Eucharist without having been episcopally ordained; on the other hand, three decades later, in 1697, Irish MPs formally approved the long-standing habit of not enforcing the provision of the 1560 act that required attendance at parish worship.4 Throughout the seventeenth century, like other Dissenters, Presbyterians suffered social, educational, legal, and political inequalities, even as attendance at Catholic worship was forbidden, under the penal laws, then connived at, until, in the reign of James II, it was, briefly, rewarded and made fashionable. The Irish history of religious nonconformity, dissent, and toleration is therefore distinctive.5 The English Toleration Act (1689) made little difference to the circumstances of Irish Protestant Dissenters, and although they benefited from 3  C. Scott Dixon, The Church in the Early Modern Age (London, 2016), p. 89. 4  Beckett, Protestant Dissent in Ireland, p. 40. 5  Compare, for example, John Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558–1689 (London, 2000).


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James’s Declaration of Indulgence (1687) and the granting of limited rights for Dissenters under the Toleration Act (1719), their access to the opportunities of public service was only guaranteed with the removal of the sacramental test in 1780, as Andrew Holmes’s chapter in a subsequent volume observes.6 For much of the period under discussion in this chapter, Presbyterian marriages were not subject to the legal liabilities that became increasingly problematic in the first half of the eighteenth century, when, in different political contexts, representatives of the establishment grew increasingly frustrated with the government’s indulgence of their most significant rivals. The continuity of popular Catholicism is therefore not the only evidence for the frustration of magisterial Protestantism: the management of nonconformity in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the emergence of organized Dissent in the mid-seventeenth century, and the perpetual growth of its community offer additional evidence of popular resistance to the principle of cuius regio, eius religio. Catholic resilience and the consequent need for the government to rely on the intransigence of Protestant nonconformity and dissent were both reasons for the failure of the Irish reformation. This chapter will survey the emergence and evolution of Irish Protestant nonconformity and dissent in the period before 1689. It will consider the changing circumstances of nonconformists and dissenters, and the changing utility of these descriptors, in the contexts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. During this period, the Irish establishment moved from theological ambiguity towards two different confessional standards and methods of subscription, and through the structural tensions caused by Laudian reform and Wentworth’s insistence upon liturgical conformity, Cromwellian revolution with its associated ecclesiastical pragmatism and valuing of difference, and the new allegiances of the ‘Protestant interest’ after the Restoration. Dissenters, meanwhile, moved from being the tolerated allies of a sympathetic establishment to become the victims of Laudian reform, the constituents of Cromwellian innovation, to become ineffectually marginalized during the Restoration and the most serious threat to the stability of the Protestant Ireland after the Williamite wars. This chapter will consider the emergence and evolution of Irish dissent with reference to attempts at confessionalization; the impact of the migration of ideas and individuals to and from Scotland, England, the American colonies, France, and the Palatinate; the functions and occasional absences of confessions of faith, and the different purposes they served; the negotiation of law, power, and finance within a colonial situation; and the development of distinctive denominational communities through the 1650s alongside the emergence of a ­pan-denominational ‘Protestant interest’ after the Restoration that could not overcome the denominational loyalties of Dissent, even in the context of the early Jacobite exile, the renewal of war across the three kingdoms, and the expectations of religious and constitutional change that followed. 6  Andrew R. Holmes, ‘Protestant dissent in Ireland’, in Andrew C. Thompson (ed.), The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Vol II: The Long Eighteenth Century, c.1689–c.1828 (Oxford, 2018), pp. 119–38.

Ireland 207 Throughout this period, as Irish dissent absorbed personnel and ideas from the established Church of Scotland, the new religious movements that emerged during the English Revolution, the established churches of American colonies, and, eventually, the Reformed churches of France and the Palatinate, it developed a numerical strength greater in proportion than that of Dissenters in England and Scotland, and claimed, in the north-east of the island, a number of adherents larger than that of the Church of Ireland. The significance of the Dissenting community was recognized in the early 1670s, when Charles II began the programme of providing state funding for Presbyterian ministers, and was confirmed at the Glorious Revolution, when William III consolidated this regium donum and repealed a great deal of discriminatory legislation—a financial policy that divided the Presbyterian denomination even as it recognized its social standing and, effectively, admitted the significance of its link to an Established Church elsewhere in the three kingdoms. The regium donum privileged one Dissenting group above the others—in contrast to England, where Congregationalists, Baptists, and Quakers remained a significant presence—and identified Presbyterians as the ‘most equal’ of those who would not conform. By the end of the seventeenth century, other Protestant Dissenting communities had suffered serious decline, in parallel with the Cromwellian networks by which they had been supported, and the tiny number of surviving Baptist and Independent congregations were hovering on the verge of extinction, hardly warranting a reference in J.C.  Beckett’s standard account of Protestant Dissent in Ireland, 1687–1780 (1968). But the Presbyterians, the earliest and largest of Irish Dissenting movements, retaining strong links to the Church of Scotland and its educational institutions, while expanding into the American colonies, emerged from the ambiguity of the late reformation and the instability of the Cromwellian interlude to be officially recognized as an Established Church in waiting. Politically marginal while numerically superior, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, Dissent had come to be recognized as the dominant expression of Protestantism in the most Protestant parts of Ireland. Its significance was structural: the failure of the Irish reformation was both a cause and consequence of Protestant nonconformity and Dissent, and the inability of the establishment to control it. Paradoxically, Dissent dominated, if it did not denominate, the Irish Protestant experience.

REFORMATION, NONCONFORMIT Y, AND THE EMERGENCE OF DISSENT The failure of the Irish reformation made possible the emergence of Protestant nonconformity. Historians have struggled to explain the extent to which and the reasons why the reformation failed, despite the fact that this question was


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regularly debated at the end of the twentieth century.7 This debate may not have paid sufficient attention to the fact that the failure of Protestant confessionalization was represented not only by an enduring popular Catholicism, but also by the existence of a community of Protestant Dissenters, which through much of this period, as we have noted, was growing in numbers, wealth, influence, and confidence.8 Despite their divisions, Irish Protestants had much in common. They tended to share the same religious-discursive method, drawing on the Reformed theology that had become normative in the Established Churches of the three kingdoms, while offering different accounts of church government and, later, the sacraments. Irish Protestants also tended to share a conspiratorial and apocalyptic worldview, agreeing that the old faith represented a serious threat to their security. Their apologists substantiated this claim by reference to Spanish and Italian incursions in Smerwick (1580) and Kinsale (1601), by the widely publicized Ulster rebellion (1641), and by fears that its enormities could be repeated following the reinstatement by James II of Catholics in civil society in the late 1680s, and by the simultaneous return to its former owners of land confiscated as a consequence of the Cromwellian settlement. Irish Protestants located their apocalyptic and conspiratorial concerns at the heart of their festive culture, with commemorations of the 1641 rebellion held each 23 October to reiterate the binary division of the Irish population.9 In the later seventeenth century, these similarities allowed members of different communities to work together in defence of ‘the Protestant interest’. But this substantial similarity of belief, and the shared conviction about the perfidy and peril represented by the Catholic majority, was unable to encourage Irish Protestants to bury their ecclesiastical differences under the oversight of the Church by law established. Nonconformity became evident early in the history of Irish Protestantism. Throughout the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the Protestant population, while wielding considerable political, financial, and military power, consolidated around (and occasionally against) an often weak establishment, drawing support from a tiny minority of the population except in those areas where policies of ‘plantation’ had been or were being pursued, in the midlands, Munster, and the north-east, as well as in the Pale, the immediate vicinity 7  B.I. Bradshaw, ‘Sword, Word and Strategy in the Reformation in Ireland’, Historical Journal, 21 (1978), 475–502; N.P. Canny, ‘Why the Reformation Failed in Ireland: Une question mal posée’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 30 (1979), 423–50; K.S.  Bottigheimer, ‘The Failure of the Reformation in Ireland: Une question bien posée’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 36 (1985), 196–207; S.G. Ellis, ‘Economic Problems of the Church: Why the Reformation Failed in Ireland’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 41 (1990), 239–65. 8  Elizabethanne Boran, ‘Introduction’, in Elizabethanne Boran and Crawford Gribben, eds, Enforcing Reformation in Ireland and Scotland, 1550–1700, St Andrews Studies in Reformation History (Aldershot, 2006), pp. 1–13. 9  T.C.  Barnard, ‘The Uses of the 23rd October and Irish Protestant Celebrations’, in Irish Protestant Ascents and Descents, 1641–1770 (Dublin, 2004), pp. 111–42.

Ireland 209 of Dublin.10 Outside these centres of English and Scottish cultural, financial, and political influence, Protestant reform was stymied by the barriers of language: for the greater part of this period, the Established Church lacked clergy and a Bible translation appropriate to the needs of the Irish-speaking majority. Throughout most of the island, the Established Church was slow to pursue a programme of confessionalization, clerical appointments did not seem to require clear commitment to reformist or anti-reformist ideals, and the ideological leaders of both Protestant and Catholic reformations lamented the financial, architectural, theological, and moral poverty of the Irish Church.11 The number of Protestants was, initially, small. In the 1590s, Presbyterian ministers seeking refuge from the Church of England found safe havens in the recently founded Trinity College Dublin. This fluidity may have permitted the emergence of a small number of religious communities of Separatists similar to those that were emerging in late sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-century England. Alan Ford has suggested that Henry Ainsworth was the Separatist who, in 1594, condemned the Established Church as being ‘in bondage’ and bearing ‘the yoke of antichrist’: Ainsworth was certainly operating in Ireland in the early 1590s, en route to his becoming leader of the Separatist congregation in Amsterdam. Several Separatist congregations from London moved en masse to Ireland: one church arrived with its minister in Carrickfergus in the early 1620s, and in the early 1630s another church settled in the nearby town of Antrim.12 In the same period, John Winthrop was one of a number of English Puritans who explored the possibility of joining a plantation project near Mountrath, county Laois, hoping to find an environment in which he could create ex nihilo the godly society he had so far found elusive. The Mountrath project was one of several to benefit from organized migration, this time from the Stour Valley, in the Puritan heartland of Essex.13 For many of these nonconformists, Ireland represented a final destination, but for others, including Henry Ainsworth, the island was a staging post in a journey to religious freedoms elsewhere. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, religious refugees were attracted to Ireland by the theological rigour and ecclesiological pragmatism of the Established Church. The settlement of refugee Calvinists and the formation of a shadowy nonconformist underground should not obscure the reality that, pursuing a very conservative tendency to include rather than exclude existing clergy, the Church that consolidated English power in Ireland was becoming Protestant at a much slower pace than that of the Church of England. Nevertheless, in 1615, enthusiasts for further reformation encouraged the Convocation of the 10  Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, 1580–1650 (Oxford, 2001). 11  Boran, ‘Introduction’, pp. 1–13. 12  Ford, ‘Scottish Protestant Clergy and the Origins of Dissent in Ireland’, p. 118. 13  Francis J. Bremer, John Winthrop: American’s Forgotten Founding Father (Oxford, 2015), pp. 138–40.


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Church of Ireland to move beyond the theological ambiguity of the previous decades formally to adopt a confession of faith that in its doctrinal rigour went far beyond the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England (1563). The new statement of faith, the Irish Articles, overwhelmed the theological constitution of the English Church in terms of length and controversial precision. Its 104 theological statements advanced a robust Calvinism alongside an apocalyptic view of the situation of the Irish Church, which, following a small number of European confessions of faith, including the Hungarian Confessio Catholica (1562), identified the pope as the antichrist. This zealotry emphasized the clear blue water that lay between the Established Churches of Ireland and England. For the Irish Articles included a number of theological claims that had featured in the Lambeth Articles (1595), a statement of Puritan grievance that had been repudiated by the English bishops, a situation that suggests that the Church of Ireland was closer to the ideology of the hotter sort of English Protestants than to that of the establishment they sought to reform.14 It is for this reason that historians have debated whether the Church of Ireland might best be described as ‘Puritan’.15 Even as in the early seventeenth century the Established Church grew more theologically rigorous, however, it continued to offer security to Protestants who could not accept its preferred model of episcopal government. This ­balance of soteriological precision and ecclesiological pragmatism proved attractive to Puritans in the other two Stuart kingdoms. The Irish Church was projecting in emphatic terms its new Puritan identity at exactly the time that the godly in the Established Churches of Scotland and England were looking for a new home, and as large-scale plantation projects brought around 10,000 settlers from south-west Scotland into counties Antrim and Down. These Puritan refugees were welcomed into the Irish Reformed church, and helped to supply its pastoral needs, with clergy from the highlands and islands sometimes engaging in evangelistic preaching in Irish-speaking areas and occasionally being given opportunities to disseminate their radical opinions by means of teaching positions in the church’s new seminary, Trinity College Dublin.16 But the loyalty of these English and Scottish Puritans was conditional. As the plantations in Antrim and Down increased in size, Scottish clergy found themselves serving congregations that were dominated by their fellow countrymen, and who retained many of their Scottish Presbyterian preferences, even as some of their Gaelic-speaking countrymen began to assimilate into the Catholic

14  Clarke, ‘Varieties of Reformation’, pp. 105–122; Alan Ford, ‘Dependent or Independent: The Church of Ireland and its Colonial Contexts, 1536–1647’, The Seventeenth Century, 10 (1995), 163–87; Ford, ‘The Church of Ireland, 1558–1641: A Puritan Church?’ pp. 52–68. 15  See, particularly, Ford, ‘The Church of Ireland, 1558–1641: A Puritan Church?’ 16  See, generally, Ford, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland.

Ireland 211 cultures of the north-east.17 In 1622, Scottish ministers accounted for ten of the eighteen clergy in the diocese of Down, and thirteen of the twenty-one clergy in Connor. Between 1613 and 1635, as many as two-thirds of clerical appointees within Down and Connor may have been Scots,18 and their congregations may have numbered as many as 1,500 members.19 The bishops of the Church of Ireland were eager to facilitate this sudden influx of Presbyterians, whose numbers would bolster the religious settlement of a province that had long been the subject of Protestant complaint.20 Seizing the opportunity, ecclesiastical authorities in the north-east of Ireland turned a blind eye to the liturgical delinquency of some of the Scottish ministers. It did not take long for some of this delinquency to become established. When John Livingstone was ordained, for example, the Bishop of Raphoe, Andrew Knox, asked him to score out any part of the service that he found objectionable; but, Livingstone noted, ‘I found that it had been so marked by some others before that I needed not mark anything.’21 Inevitably, this modus operandi required compromise on both sides. The bishops’ liturgical flexibility—if not negligence—was made possible by the fact that the Irish Articles had concentrated upon soteriological rather than ecclesiological themes, and could not be used to push these hotter sorts of Protestants into formal ecclesiastical dissent. For their part, the Presbyterians had resisted the temptation to establish a fully functioning disciplinary system, for which they had been struggling in Scotland. Neither the bishops nor the émigré Presbyterians were insisting on the details of their competing systems, and the result was that the church prevented dissent by allowing space for nonconformity. This situation changed in the early 1630s, as Thomas Wentworth, lord deputy of Ireland, sought to solidify the Irish establishment by pushing forward the liturgical reforms and doctrinal emphases that were being associated with Laudian reform in England. He attempted to divide the Ulster Presbyterians from their brethren in Scotland, many of whom were then engaged in the delinquency that would consolidate into military action at the beginning of the Bishops’ Wars (1639–40), by introducing a controversial oath as a test of fealty to the Established Church.22 His clumsy attempt to advance the uniformity of the Established Church had the effect of breaking up its fluid and ambiguous character: he seemed to be more committed to full-scale confessionalization than had been several generations of Irish Calvinists. In 1634, Wentworth had 17  John Richardson, A Proposal for the Conversion of the Popish Natives of Ireland to the Establish’d Religion (London, 1712), pp. 13–14. 18  Ford, ‘Scottish Protestant Clergy and the Origins of Dissent’, p. 120. 19  Ford, ‘Scottish Protestant Clergy and the Origins of Dissent’, p. 128. 20  See, for example, the complaints about Ulster made in John Derrick, The Image of Ireland (1581), and Edmund Spenser, A View of the Present State of Ireland (1596). 21  Ford, ‘Scottish Protestant Clergy and the Origins of Dissent’, p. 122. 22  For more on this context, see John McCafferty, The Reconstruction of the Church of Ireland: Bishop Bramhall and the Laudian Reforms, 1633–1641 (Cambridge, 2007).


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the Irish Convocation agree that clergy had now to subscribe to a statement of faith. This was an unwelcome innovation. For all the Puritan zealotry of the earlier decades, ministers in the Irish Church had not been required to submit to its Articles—they had merely to agree not to preach against them. Wentworth’s intervention required Irish clergy to subscribe both to the Thirty-Nine Articles and to the Book of Common Prayer. The doctrinal commitment required of ministers within the Irish Church had been suddenly extended to include episcopal government. But these tools that had been provided to establish conformity also worked to create dissent. Bishop Bramhall led a crusade against intransigent clergy, and many of those who scrupled at the new requirements returned to the Church of Scotland.23 Wentworth’s activities pushed many formerly pragmatic Presbyterians to elevate the significance of ecclesiology with the support of another Established Church on the other side of the narrow Irish channel—and, as a consequence, to move from nonconformity into dissent. It is important to note that the emergence of religious dissent in Ireland was delayed because of a widely shared sense of the threat of the Catholic majority population, as well as by the cementing effect of widely shared commitment to Reformed ideas, and, crucially, a willingness to suspend ecclesiological belief. The success of the Church of Ireland in preventing dissent was based on its recognition that Irish Protestants required a limited space for disagreement. Dissenting groups emerged not because of theological differences about the Trinity, soteriology, or eschatology, for example, but because of differences in understanding church government and the sacraments. And it was Wentworth’s demand for ecclesial uniformity in the early 1630s that gave Irish Protestants the language to articulate these differences. The immediate impact of the religious and political crises engendered by Wentworth’s poorly planned efforts were experienced alongside the energizing of the Ulster Scots by the Scottish National Covenant (1638) and the subsequent Bishops’ Wars, as well as the sectarian violence fomented by the rebellion of large sections of the native population in 1641: these were all important catalysts in the fragmentation of the Protestant population into competing religious communities. The attempt by James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, to propose in The Reduction of Episcopacy (drafted in 1641, but printed in 1656) a design for the formal combination of episcopal and Presbyterian government came as too little, too late. The Church of Ireland could not continue to contain its nonconformists. This fragmentation began with the Presbyterians. Those Ulster Scots who survived the atrocities of the rebellion appealed to the Scottish government for help. They obtained the defence for which they hoped, but this intervention facilitated the undoing of the Irish Church. For when a Covenanter army landed at Carrickfergus in 1642, its soldiers organized themselves into a distinctly Presbyterian body, following the discipline of the Church of Scotland, in a 23  Ford, ‘Scottish Protestant Clergy and the Origins of Dissent’, p. 127.

Ireland 213 move towards militarization that was rapidly replicated elsewhere in the north-east, which defended the Protestant interest by dividing the Protestant Church. Drawing on the resources of an Established Church in a neighbouring country, the Ulster Scots established distinctive institutions and defined their theological convictions, expanding through Ulster, formalizing links between congregations that would evolve into a regular Presbyterian system with concomitant disciplinary and educational provision, while drawing a small amount of support from the native population.24 The theologically advanced cultures of the Church of Ireland had provided accommodation for Scottish Puritan refugees, and then, in the 1630s, provided them with something to resist. Over one century after the legislative beginnings of Protestant reformation, and in circumstances that confirmed rather than denied the necessity of a state Church, many Scots abandoned the habit of nonconformity, and Irish dissent was born.25

THE CONSOLIDATION OF DISSENT The founding of Presbyterian institutions in Ulster in 1642 illustrated the broader patterns that would characterize the emergence of other expressions of Irish dissent in the period before 1660. Like other religious movements that would be established in the 1650s, the new Presbyterian community was not, in the main, indigenous: it was formed, principally, of those Scottish settlers who had become involved with plantation projects in the north-east of the island, and expanded only very slowly to include members of the native population.26 This reflected a broader trend in religious change in the period. While revolutionary England provided fertile ground for the development of new religious movements, the Dissenting groups that gained significant traction in Ireland were all imported, until, perhaps, the emergence of the so-called ‘Plymouth’ Brethren movement among an Anglo-Irish elite in county Wicklow in the 1820s. The new Presbyterian community, therefore, was not the result of a large-scale programme of evangelization. The plantation projects in north-east Ulster and elsewhere had not been designed to promote conversion: planters did not arrive with aspirations to bear cross-cultural witness to the native population, and neither is there evidence that those planters regularly witnessed movement into their religious communities, with the possible exception of those involved in the preaching meetings held in Antrim and along the Six Mile Water in the mid-1620s, memories of which may have been elaborated upon to provide a 24  The Minutes of the Antrim Ministers’ Meeting, 1654–8, ed. Mark S. Sweetnam (Dublin, 2012). 25  Alan Ford, ‘The Origins of Irish Dissent’, in Herlihy, ed., The Religion of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800, pp. 9–30. Herlihy’s four collections of essays on Irish dissent, which include some of the most valuable work in this area, focus on the period after 1650. 26  See, generally, The Minutes of the Antrim Ministers’ Meeting.


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founding myth for the new community, and the narratives of conversions, which may sometimes have been editorially adapted, reported in Independent churches in Cromwellian Dublin. Instead, the Presbyterian community in Ulster was largely formed as a by-product of the economic aspiration of the settlers and those substantial landowners who promoted their migration. In addition, the Presbyterian institutions, like the new religious communities of the following decade, were established with armed backing. The informal proto-Presbyterian networks that had existed within the confines of the Established Church for several decades before the 1640s had not sought to establish a distinctive ecclesiastical infrastructure. But these networks of clergy and parishioners gained new confidence with the arrival of the Scottish army. This army landed in Carrickfergus with the stated aim of defending the safety of their co-religionists, but also provided for their forming a denomination. Similarly, in the 1650s, English Dissenting groups would be established with the backing of the parliamentary army, but this force sought to defend its religious dependents as part of the much broader war aim of the subjugation of the island. Significantly, the decision of the Scottish Presbyterian soldiers to formally establish an ecclesiological structure similar to that with which they had been familiar in Scotland was not a decision to imagine a multi-denominational Ireland, a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the European west—their intention and expectation was to supplant the ambiguity of the establishment with the doctrinally specific infrastructure that would be required by the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) and facilitated by the publications of the Westminster Assembly (1643–52), which were used gradually to refine the worship patterns and theological convictions of Irish Presbyterian communities. Other Dissenting groups would make similar plays for power, through the 1650s and beyond: Baptists and Quakers were perhaps the only Dissenting groups to articulate a critique of the religious establishments of traditional Christendom, even as members of the former community took active part in staffing and overseeing the state-funded preachers in the Cromwellian ‘civil list’, and engaged in an ineffective coup on the eve of the Restoration. Dissenters were divided on the question of whether their congregations should form a new state Church—but there were few voices that did not argue that the erstwhile Dissenting congregations should enjoy state support. Further, despite this aspiration to reform the national Church, the new Presbyterian community was geographically limited and regionally varied. The location of those congregations that made their first advances in the 1640s tracked the dispersion of Scottish migrants in the north-east counties. One decade later, a community of English Presbyterians emerged independently in the vicinity of Dublin, and made common cause with a rebranded community of former episcopalian clergy in Munster, but they made little impact in extending their influence beyond the Pale and the southern plantation. This geographical division made it difficult to maintain doctrinal cohesion. As the Ulster Scots adopted and continued to uphold the Westminster Confession,

Ireland 215 their southern counterparts permitted a latitude of creedal interpretation that expanded as the decades progressed. Both groups existed within a single ecclesiological infrastructure, but struggled to overcome uneasy cultural differences, and began noticeably to diverge in theological emphasis, with some of the southern Presbyterians developing sentiments that would eventually be seen as being at variance, for example, with traditional thinking about the Trinity. And neither party within the emerging Presbyterian denomination secured large numbers of native converts. The Scots were of course better equipped to grapple with the linguistic barriers that such evangelism involved, and there is evidence of Gaelic-speaking ministers from the highlands and islands engaging in the evangelism of native Catholics in Connacht. Yet, in this pastoral neglect, Presbyterians were typical of other Irish Dissenters: throughout this period, Protestant Dissenting groups were less likely than the clergy of the Church of Ireland to engage in evangelism among Irish Catholics, though Presbyterian communities in the north-east did include adherents with Gaelic names. Nevertheless, like most of the Dissenting groups that were introduced into Ireland in the 1650s, Presbyterians did manage to organize around a series of documents and institutions that survived the period, allowing the community to emerge as a fully fledged denomination, the structures of which could for several decades effectively conceal the extent of regional theological diversity. The Presbyterian experience in Ulster would prove to be typical. Irish Dissent was born in 1642, and it did not take long to consolidate: its theological variety could not obscure sociological similarities between the communities of Dissent. The formation in 1642 of a Scottish Presbyterian organization in County Antrim presented a growing number of Irish Protestants with a choice between two rival organizations, therefore, each of which expected to be identified as a national Church, and each of which claimed a right to governmental support. As the new Presbyterian infrastructure consolidated, as meetings of ministers were convened and disciplinary structures enacted, the reach of the new Presbyterian organization extended across the northern counties. Both the new Presbyterian movement and the Established Church competed for the allegiance of Irish Protestants.27 But Irish Protestants did not long continue as a bi-denominational community.

‘DISSENT ’ AND CROMWELLIAN RELIGION In the summer of 1649, the appearance of Irish Protestantism suddenly changed. A series of new religious movements were imported into Ireland by the 30,000 27  Robert Armstrong, ‘The Scots of Ireland and the English Republic, 1649–60’, in David Edwards with Simon Egan, eds, The Scots in Early Stuart Ireland: Union and Separation in Two Kingdoms (Manchester, 2015), pp. 251–78.


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invading soldiers of the New Model Army.28 Many of these soldiers had experienced the excitement and danger of civil war in England—a conflict that John Morrill has described as the last of the European wars of religion29—and had witnessed the debates about theology of which the wars had been both cause and consequence. For over a century, Irish Protestantism had been identifiable with the church by law established. The nonconformity that had existed had been largely localized in the north-east and north-west of the island, and was largely limited in appeal to Scottish settlers. But the abolition of episcopacy in 1646 shattered the traditional order of the Church of Ireland. The state Church continued to exist, but its creed and constitution were rapidly forgotten, as the soldiers of the London parliament introduced a range of new religious movements that would spread throughout the island to fundamentally alter the religious environment of Irish Protestantism and the geographical centre of Dissent, and this, often, with varying degrees of official support. This range of religious movements cannot properly be described as dissenting, for the episcopal national Church was not quickly replaced by any alternative, and these groups were often, in effect, negotiating their place in a new establishment. In Ireland, in the 1650s, the Dissenters were those who could not worship within the limits of the non-episcopal evangelical Protestantism outlined in the two Cromwellian constitutions—those, that is, who promoted non-Trinitarian views, or who continued to use the prayer book after it had been proscribed. One of the significant features of the ‘world turned upside down’ was its inversion of the relationship between the old establishment and those it sought to contain. In the 1650s, it was prayer book episcopalians, like Jeremy Taylor, who were being pushed into dissent. The new religious movements took full advantage of the inchoate character of the Cromwellian religious settlement. During and after their campaign of conquest, English soldiers carried their religious convictions throughout Ireland, establishing centres of influence in garrison towns along the southern and eastern coasts. The most important of these new religious movements were Independents, also known as Congregationalists, some of whom remained agnostic on the proper mode and subjects of baptism; Baptists, who argued that baptism should be reserved for those able to make a confession of faith, and whose congregations were often closely associated with the military; and Quakers, who argued against any form of sacramental observation, developed looser networks of association, often disrupting the public worship of other groups, and, consequently, falling foul of the law, except in locations where influential members of the military could offer some degree of protection. Just as the Ulster Presbyterians capitalized on their connections with the Church of Scotland, so the southern networks, as they were evolving into new religious movements, 28  See, generally, Gribben, God’s Irishmen. 29  John Morrill, The Nature of the English Revolution: Essays by John Morrill (New York, 1993), p. 68.

Ireland 217 developed close links with their co-religionists in England, with Dublin Baptists, for example, receiving admonitions from London. The boundaries between these movements were often porous. Many individuals moved between movements in search of their religious ideal. Baptists lost members to Quakers, while some radicals pursued more idiosyncratic religious practices, sometimes claiming prophetic gifts, and others dallied with antinomianism or mysticism outside any formal congregational context.30 One preacher worried about radical preachers who had travelled to Ireland to ‘vaunt themselves to be God . . . in the open streets with detestable pride, atheism, and folly’.31 Only a tiny handful of individuals explored the possibilities of atheism. But for some observers, the situation was out of control. The situation was certainly ripe for religious radicalization. Outside Dublin, five independently controlled armies, in a shifting series of alliances, were waging total war in free-fire zones of almost apocalyptic brutality. Inside the city, the population was being ravaged by disease and was experiencing acute shortages of food. One English observer recalled seeing ‘poor parentless children that lie begging, starving, rotting in the streets, and find no relief; yea, persons of quality . . . seeking for bread, and finding none’.32 English preachers could not appeal for help to the Presbyterians in the north of the island. The army that had entered Ireland to protect the interests of the Scottish settlers as ‘Covenanted Protestants’, and who had ‘sworn, in the presence of the great God to extirpate Popery and prelacy’, had joined forces with the army of the Irish royalists, led by James Butler, first Duke of Ormond, who ‘counted themselves under no less sacred bond for the maintenance of prelates, service books, and the like’, and native Catholics, ‘a mighty number that had for eight years together sealed their vows to the Romish religion with our blood and their own’. The Scottish Presbyterians had made an alliance with ‘that party which themselves had laboured to render most odious and execrable, as most defiled with innocent blood’, to conceal evidence of the atrocities committed in 1641 and to defend the Catholic faith.33 In the chaos of the invasion, and in the face of the overwhelming Catholic threat, the religious divisions that had formed in and after the 1630s were reflected in the formation of rival armies. The members of the new religious movements, and those of the establishment they sought to replace, were being militarized. Ecclesiology was weaponized, and dissenters were fighting each other. As these Protestant armies engaged, apologists for rival religious bodies sought to capture the hearts and minds of individuals under their control. The Cromwellian army took pains to provide its soldiers with appropriate reading 30  Crawford Gribben, ‘Angels and Demons in Cromwellian and Restoration Ireland: Heresy and the Supernatural’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 76 (2013), 377–92. 31  John Owen, Works, 16 vols, ed. William H. Goold (Edinburgh, 1850–5), VIII, p. 236. 32  Owen, Works, VIII, p. 237. 33  Owen, Works, VIII, pp. 232–3.


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material. It purchased 4,000 Bibles just before the invasion, and was still organizing their distribution three years later.34 Some of these Bibles had enthusiastic readers. John Rogers, who led an Independent congregation in Dublin with strong links to the army, recorded a series of conversion narratives, offered by prospective church members, which illustrate the role of Bible reading and the development of introspective piety among the godly in this period.35 The conversion narratives he collected reveal the idiosyncratic spirituality of the members of his important Congregational church: one membership applicant, Dorothy Emett, remembered that ‘[John] Owen was the first man by whose means, and Ministry I became sensible of my condition’, adding that God had assured her of salvation in a voice that she heard in her sleep.36 Owen, who was preaching in Dublin as Cromwell’s chaplain in the early 1650s, would have regarded this claim to extraordinary revelation as entirely spurious. But Emett’s claims to spiritual experience reveal that religious communities could agree on church polity without necessarily signing up to a broader set of expectations about the Christian life: Emett shared Owen’s views on church government without necessarily subscribing to his views on the doctrine of revelation. If the Church of Ireland had pursued a Puritan consensus by refusing to divide on ecclesiological issues, religious movements in Cromwellian Ireland that were dividing on the basis of ecclesiological differences were not necessarily participating in a broader culture of agreement. Cromwellian administrators took advantage of the religious divisions. Members of the new religious movements jockeyed for influence within the administration, and the most astute politicians, including Charles Fleetwood and Henry Cromwell, played off religious movements against each other, securing their own interests, rather than those of any particular religious group. After all, the Cromwellian reformation of the Irish Church continued in the absence of any national confession of faith, with some networks continuing to use the Westminster Confession that had fallen out of favour in official circles in England: the Commonwealth and Protectorate parliaments were pursuing the formation of a new confession of faith, to replace that which had been drawn up by the Westminster Assembly, which had been only partially adopted 34  W.M. Clyde, The Struggle for Freedom of the Press: From Caxton to Cromwell (Oxford, 1934), p. 225, 281–2; John P. Prendergast, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland (New York, 1868), p. 78. See Crawford Gribben, ‘The Commodification of Scripture, 1640–1660: Politics, Ecclesiology and the Cultures of Print’, in Kevin Killeen et al., eds, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, 1530–1700 (Oxford, 2015), pp. 224–36, and Crawford Gribben, ‘Bible Reading, Puritan Devotion and the Transformation of Politics in the Puritan Revolution’, in Robert Armstrong and Tadhg Ó hAnnrachain, eds, The English Bible in the Early Modern World, St Andrews Studies in Reformation History (Leiden, 2018), pp. 141–60. 35  Crawford Gribben, The Puritan Millennium: Literature and Theology, 1550–1682 (Dublin, 2000), pp. 149–71; Gribben, God’s Irishmen, pp. 55–78. 36  John Rogers, Ohel or Bethshemesh (1653), p. 412. Note the errors in pagination in this part of the book.

Ireland 219 by the Long Parliament. In England, drafts of new confessions of faith extended from the sixteen sentences of The Humble Proposals (1652) and the twenty sentences of A New Confession of Faith (1654) to the full-scale revision of the Westminster Confession in the Savoy Declaration (1658). But no similar project was pursued in Ireland. The Scottish Presbyterian communities in the north-east of the island continued to refer to the Westminster Confession as an authoritative text.37 And this confession was recommended in publications of individual associations of ministers, like that in Dublin and Leinster. It is not clear whether the confession of faith published by Particular Baptists in London in 1644 was circulated in Ireland, as it was in Scotland, where it was reprinted in Leith. But these efforts at creedal expression were developed in isolation from the government. The Irish parliamentary commissioners and lords deputy developed a state-backed religious administration that drew heavily on the methods of Triers and Ejectors that had been developed in England and that depended entirely on the orthodoxy of the persons doing the trying and ejecting. Throughout the 1650s, therefore, there was no church by law established, but a long ecclesiastical experiment, for the state Church, insofar as it can be said to exist, operated without reference to a particular ecclesiological theory or confession of faith. In that context, the only Protestant Dissenters were those whose consciences could not tolerate such ambiguity, or those who could not find a place in any of the state-approved religious communities: as the world was turned upside down, a new community of dissent encompassed prophetic individualists who steered clear of all congregational life, such as Walter Costello, as well as members of the erstwhile party of prayer book conformists, including Jeremy Taylor, who moved to County Antrim in 1658 with a pass from the Lord Protector to function as a household chaplain. Some Irish preachers grew tired of this constitutional experimentation, the endless proliferation of religious novelty, and the debate that inevitably escalated. Faithful Teate, who in the late 1650s was preparing to return to Ireland from a brief pastoral career in England, lamented that an individual could not declare himself ‘Congregationall, but must presently be Schismaticall, nor Presbyterian, but presently Antichristian’. The discussions had become so heated that ‘a man cannot follow Peace with all men, no not with all good men . . . but . . . hee becomes an Heteroclitall Erasitan, and is almost Anathematized, or severall hands, by some lesse charitable Zelots, for a Neutralizing Merozite’.38 Irish ministers were certainly concerned to police the boundaries of their ecclesiological communities: in April 1658, Irish Presbyterians enquired of their counterparts in London why they ‘owne no such thing as a Ruling Elder by Divine Right’, compelling the London Provincial Assembly to reiterate their commitment to A Vindication of the Presbyterial 37  See, generally, The Minutes of the Antrim Ministers’ Meeting. 38  Faithful Teate, The Character of Cruelty in the Workers of Iniquity (1656), p. 93. The Merozites were cursed by God for failing to assist the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan (Judges 5:23).


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Government and Ministry (1650).39 By the end of the decade, as the revolution and its experiment in religious novelty failed, the Cromwellian administration turned to prefer the more conservative religious communities, setting the stage for the formation of ‘the Protestant interest’ that would, later in the century, combine their political, if not their ecclesiastical, interests.

DISSENT AFTER THE RESTORATION Despite their bargaining for power at the end of the Richard Cromwell administration, Irish Dissenters found themselves at the mercy of the restored king, Charles II, and, at least initially, his less than sympathetic parliaments.40 In England, the provisions of the so-called Clarendon Code created the conditions for the emergence of distinctive Dissenting communities, which, in the early 1660s, were gathered around the memory of martyred leaders by means of a vigorous and innovative culture of print.41 In Ireland, the situation was, as ever, more ambiguous, as governments remembered that the threat of Protestant Dissent was outweighed by the menace of Catholic rebellion.42 For the number of Dissenters continued to increase. In 1670, Sir William Petty estimated that the total number of Presbyterians equalled the membership of the Established Church, though the membership of other Dissenting bodies likely declined throughout the later part of the century. This Dissenting population was clustered into one province. By the end of the seventeenth century, Presbyterians made up the majority of Protestants in Ulster, and dominated religious life in Antrim and Down.43 For all the strength of numbers, the quality of the religious life of Presbyterians may have significantly varied: William King recorded that his Presbyterian childhood in the 1650s and 1660s had done very little to provide him with Christian instruction, but he may have made this case to justify his conversion into the establishment, in which he was elevated to become Archbishop of Dublin.44 Presbyterian commitment was likely replenished by a wave of migration from Scotland after the defeat of the Covenanter force at Bothwell Bridge (1679).45 The community was, in some 39  Lambeth Palace Library, Sion College MS Arc L40 2/E17 (2), [244r]—25 April 1658. I am grateful to Elliot Vernon for providing this reference. 40  See, generally, Kilroy, Protestant Dissent and Controversy in Ireland. 41  Neil Keeble, The Literary Culture of Nonconformity in Later Seventeenth-Century England (Leicester, 1987). 42  Raymond Gillespie, ‘Dissenters and Nonconformists, 1661–1700’, in Herlihy, ed., The Irish Dissenting Tradition, 1650–1750, pp. 11–28; Jacqueline R. Hill, ‘Dublin Corporation, Protestant Dissent, and Politics, 1660–1800’, in Herlihy, ed., The Politics of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800, pp. 28–39; James McGuire, ‘Ormond and Presbyterian Nonconformity, 1660–63’, in Herlihy, ed., The Politics of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800, pp. 40–51. 43  Whan, The Presbyterians of Ulster, p. 1. 44  ODNB, s.v. 45  Beckett, Protestant Dissent in Ireland, p. 23.

Ireland 221 senses, expanding beyond its ability to sustain itself—though that expansion was not necessarily to its disadvantage. Francis Makemie, from Donegal, could not find a pastoral charge after his graduation from the University of Glasgow in 1682, and moved to Maryland, and thence to Virginia and Barbados, to establish Ulster Presbyterianism as a trans-Atlantic faith. The rapid improvement of his financial situation in new world plantations paralleled his rise through a consolidating denomination, in which he became its first American moderator.46 By the 1680s, therefore, the Irish Presbyterian community was being renewed and growing in confidence. Unlike their fellow travellers in Scotland and England, Irish Presbyterians were not involved in any significant way with the Rye House Plot (1683), the Monmouth rebellion (1685), or other potential acts of anti-governmental violence. Instead, their growing confidence was expressed in a new commitment to evangelize Catholics and in the development of a culture of serious theological enquiry that would facilitate structural challenges to conventional assumptions about orthodoxy, and, later, the division of the community into confession (and Trinitarian) and non-confessional (and eventually non-Trinitarian) denominations.47 But after 1685, as James II became the first Catholic monarch since the mid-sixteenth century, and began to formulate his principles of religious toleration, these Presbyterians became alarmed. Their united front included a significant number of adherents who had recent experience of fighting against an episcopal hierarchy and a supportive national government, and who were ‘little likely to welcome an indulgence, when they thought themselves entitled to an establishment’.48 They may not have realized how much they stood to gain from James’s indulgence. For, throughout this period, Dissenters were also, in unusual ways, protected. In 1662, the Duke of Ormond introduced into parliament ‘An Act for Encouraging Protestant Strangers and Others to Inhabit Ireland’, encouraging the tradition of immigration from those whose religious scruples often hesitated at conforming to the establishment.49 Refugees from France and, later, the Palatinate settled in communities such as Portarlington, county Laois, building an infrastructure that would create a distinctive society, which even in its conformity to the Established Church continued to advertise difference from its norms.50 (It is notable that, in the early nineteenth century, the growth 46  ODNB, s.v. 47  Terence McCaughey, ‘General Synod of Ulster’s Policy on the Use of the Irish Language in the Early Eighteenth Century: Questions about Implementation’, in Herlihy, ed., Propagating the Word of Irish Dissent, pp. 46–62; R. Finlay Holmes, ‘The Reverend John Abernethy: The Challenge of New Light Theology to Traditional Irish Presbyterian Calvinism’, in Herlihy, ed., The Religion of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800, pp. 100–11. 48  Beckett, Protestant Dissent in Ireland, p. 24. 49  Toby C. Barnard, ‘Identities, Ethnicity and Tradition among Irish Dissenters, c. 1650–1750’, in Herlihy, ed., The Irish Dissenting Tradition, 1650–1750, pp. 29–48. 50  Ruth Whelan, ‘Sanctified by the Word: The Huguenots and Anglican Liturgy’, in Herlihy, ed., Propagating the Word of Irish Dissent, pp. 74–94; Raymond Pierre Hylton, ‘The Less-favoured


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of the congregations linked to Thomas Kelly, and the earliest assemblies of larger and more significant community of ‘Plymouth’ Brethren, was strongest in those areas where, in the 1660s, there developed nonconformity and conformity combined with significant cultural difference.) In 1663, Charles II banned John Wilson’s play, The Cheats, which had been performed in Dublin, on account of its negative portrayal of a Dissenting minister.51 In 1665 new legislation threatened non-episcopal clergymen with a fine of £100 for administering the Eucharist, but reservations appear to have been made for those ministers serving the French congregations, who were likely using the French translation of the Book of Common Prayer that was published in Dublin in 1665.52 Throughout the period, those French Protestants who could not conform to the Church of Ireland were treated with much greater leniency than those Presbyterians who defended very similar theological commitments and ecclesiological structures in English. The ‘stranger’ churches benefited from this flexibility, and by 1696 had established two congregations in Dublin, with others in Cork, Waterford, Carlow, Portarlington, and Castleblaney.53 Quakers were also afforded special accommodation by successive Restoration governments. Like the French Protestants, they represented no significant political or military threat to the regime, and while some Quakers were imprisoned for refusing to pay tithes, they benefited from an accommodation that was formalized in 1715 in an act of the Irish parliament concerning militia service, and from the beginnings of de facto toleration in 1719. The position of Irish Dissenters was therefore not substantially changed by the Act of Toleration of 1689. By the time of the ‘Glorious Revolution’, the circumstances of Irish Dissent had become quite distinct. Almost all Dissenters agreed that the government should support a single national religious community, and argued only over its character. Hardly any Irish Dissenters argued for toleration: there is no evidence for the widespread reading of pro-toleration literature, including work by John Milton and Roger Williams, or even Jeremy Taylor’s early interventions, which might have been expected to circulate around his base in county Antrim. No Protestant was executed for heresy in Ireland, Refuge: Ireland’s Nonconformist Huguenots at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century’, in Herlihy, ed., The Religion of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800, pp. 83–99; G. Andrew Forrest, ‘Religious Controversy within the French Protestant Community in Dublin, 1692–1716: An Historiographical Critique’, in Herlihy, ed., The Irish Dissenting Tradition, 1650–1750, pp. 96–110; Vivien Hick, ‘ “As Nearly Related as Possible”: Solidarity Amongst the Irish Palatines’, in Herlihy, ed., The Irish Dissenting Tradition, 1650–1750, pp. 111–25. 51  Stephen Austin Kelly, ‘Anglo-Irish Drama? Writing for the Stage in Restoration Dublin’, in Kathleen Miller and Crawford Gribben, eds, Dublin: Renaissance City of Literature (Manchester, 2017), pp. 206–27. 52  Mary Ann Lyons, ‘Foreign Language Books, 1550–1700’, in Raymond Gillespie and Andrew Hadfield, eds, The Oxford History of the Irish Book: Volume III: The Irish Book in English, 1550–1800 (Oxford, 2006), pp. 347–67, at p. 359. 53  Beckett, Protestant Dissent in Ireland, p. 127.

Ireland 223 and the state was less systematically persecutory than elsewhere in the Stuart kingdoms. And yet, whatever the claims of later mythologies, it was James’s Declaration of Indulgence, in 1687, rather than William’s Toleration Act, in 1689, that ‘marked the end of large-scale religious persecution’ in England and Ireland.54 As James abandoned his throne, and the three kingdoms entered a new period of civil war, Irish Presbyterians threw their weight behind the claims of the Dutch usurper. But, as Andrew Holmes’ chapter in another volume illustrates, they could hardly have anticipated how little their position would be changed by his ‘Glorious Revolution’.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Armstrong, Robert, ‘The Scots of Ireland and the English Republic, 1649–60’, in David Edwards with Simon Egan, eds, The Scots in Early Stuart Ireland: Union and Separation in Two Kingdoms (Manchester, 2015), pp. 251–78. Beckett, J.C., Protestant Dissent in Ireland, 1687–1780 (London, 1968). Boran, Elizabethanne and Gribben, Crawford, eds, Enforcing Reformation in Ireland and Scotland, 1550–1700, St Andrews Studies in Reformation History (Aldershot, 2006). Canny, Nicholas, Making Ireland British, 1580–1650 (Oxford, 2001). Ford, Alan, ‘The Church of Ireland, 1558–1641: A Puritan Church?’ in Alan Ford, James McGuire, and Kenneth Milne, eds, As By Law Established: The Church of Ireland since the Reformation (Dublin, 1995), pp. 52–68. Ford, Alan, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland, 1590–1641 (Dublin, 1997). Ford, Alan, ‘Scottish Protestant Clergy and the Origins of Dissent in Ireland’, in David Edwards with Simon Egan, eds, The Scots in Early Stuart Ireland: Union and Separation in Two Kingdoms (Manchester, 2015), pp. 116–40. Gillespie, Raymond, Devoted People: Belief and Religion in Early Modern Ireland (Manchester, 1997). Greaves, Richard L., God’s Other Children: Protestant Nonconformists and the Emergence of Denominational Churches in Ireland, 1660–1700 (Stanford, CA, 1997). Gribben, Crawford, God’s Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland (Oxford, 2007). Herlihy, Kevin, ed., The Irish Dissenting Tradition, 1650–1750 (Dublin, 1995). Herlihy, Kevin, ed., The Religion of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800 (Dublin, 1996). Herlihy, Kevin, ed., The Politics of Irish Dissent, 1650–1800 (Dublin, 1997). Herlihy, Kevin, ed., Propagating the Word of Irish Dissent (Dublin, 1998). Kilroy, Phil, Protestant Dissent and Controversy in Ireland, 1660–1714 (Cork, 1994). Whan, Robert, The Presbyterians of Ulster, 1680–1730 (Woodbridge, 2013).

54  Coffey, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, p. 191.

10 Wales, 1587–1689 Lloyd Bowen

HISTORIO GRAPHY In 1862 the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control, a nonconformist pressure group that campaigned for the disestablishment of the Church in England and Wales, held a major conference at Swansea. It was a propitious moment and a shrewd choice of venue. The 1851 census had shown the numerical superiority of nonconformists in Wales, and the patriotic energies of the increasingly confident Dissenting community were connecting powerfully with new currents of Liberal political activism. 1862 was, of course, the 200th anniversary of the great ejection of nonconformist ministers on ‘Black Bartholomew’s Day’, and historical resonances echoed in the proceedings of the Swansea conference as well as through the principality more generally.1 Welsh nonconformists published tracts and pamphlets in memory of the ejected; mass commemorative meetings were held; memorial chapels were built. The Welsh Dissenters of 1862 saw their seventeenth-century forebears as heroes, originators, and carriers of a type of national spirit that they looked to mobilize and celebrate in the political and spiritual struggles of the nineteenth century. Recognizing the tremendous influence of nonconformist culture in modern Wales is essential for understanding the dominant and enduring approach to Dissenting history that emerged from this context. While not the simple hagiographies of chapel polemic, much of the literature on early nonconformity in Wales betrayed the influence of a patriotic culture searching for its spiritual origins. One canonical text was Thomas Rees’s History of Protestant Nonconformity in Wales, first published in 1861 and again in a much expanded edition in 1883. A Congregational minister and twice chairman of the Union of Welsh Independents, Rees dedicated his volume to four other nonconformist ­ministers, hoping that they would ‘advance the good work commenced two 1  The Cambrian (26 September 1862); Ryland Wallace, Organise! Organise! Organise!: A Study of Reform Agitations in Wales, 1840–1886 (Cardiff, 1991), p. 126. Lloyd Bowen, Wales, 1587–1689 In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0011

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hundred and fifty years ago [i.e. in 1633] by the worthy FATHERS OF WELSH NONCONFORMITY’.2 His volume, although deeply researched, charted an alternative progressive narrative to the Whig version of English national history. The Welsh story told how a few persecuted heroes in the seventeenth century helped drag Wales from ‘the depths of degradation, ignorance, and superstition, to the highest rank amongst the enlightened Protestant nations of the world’, without the assistance of the state or the local gentry.3 The popularity of Congregationalism in modern Wales favoured the history of seventeenthcentury Independency, and many histories such as Rees’s located the fountainhead of Welsh Dissent in the formation in 1639 of an Independent congregation at Llanfaches, Monmouthshire, under the leadership of William Wroth. Rees’s History is emblematic of a vigorous trend of historical enquiry in modern Welsh nonconformity, and its influence has informed the research agenda into the era of professional history. Religious history in Wales, then, has been unusually susceptible to the influence of Dissenting traditions and interpretations, and these often fuse with patriotic or proto-nationalist agendas. Without a separate state and political system to panegyricize, many historians, often themselves from nonconformist backgrounds, celebrated instead the distinctive successes of Welsh Dissent. The towering twentieth-century scholar of early Welsh nonconformity, Thomas Richards, for example, was deacon at a Baptist chapel and onetime president of the Baptist Union of Wales.4 It was less than the strict empirical enquiry for which he is often fêted that led him to the conclusion that Congregationalism prevailed in mid-seventeenth-century Wales because the Westminster Assembly could not ‘make a people Presbyterian who had no Presbyterian traditions’.5 The authoritative Welsh biographical textbook produced by the London Welsh Cymmrodorion Society in 1959 (a Welsh language version had appeared in 1953) carried extensive entries on minor nonconformist figures, but dealt only fleetingly with their Anglican and gentry contemporaries.6 The leading modern historian of Congregationalism in Wales, R. Tudur Jones, was himself a Congregationalist minister and Welsh nationalist.7 Denominational periodicals were, and indeed remain, important venues for religious history.8 Academics can still write freely of the period

2  Thomas Rees, History of Protestant Nonconformity in Wales, from its Rise in 1633 to the Present Time (London, 1883 edn), dedicatory epistle. 3  Ibid., p. 2. 4  Geraint H. Jenkins, ‘Doc Tom’: Thomas Richards (Cardiff, 1999). 5  Thomas Richards, A History of the Puritan Movement in Wales (Liverpool, 1920), p. 200. 6  In one review, Penry Williams noted its ‘predilection for dissenting preachers’: English Historical Review, 75 (1960), 706. 7  Robert Pope, ‘R. Tudur Jones 1921–98: Congregational Minister, Church Historian and Welsh Nationalist’, The Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society, 6 (2000), 529–51. 8  Eryn M. White, ‘Welsh Dissent and the Bible, c.1750–1850’, in Scott Mandelbrote and Michael Ledger-Lomas, eds, Dissent and the Bible in Britain, c.1650–1950 (Oxford, 2013), p. 119.


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1662–89 that it ‘has rightly been called “the heroic age” of Dissent. . . . Here, indeed, were an enormously sincere and courageous people.’9 This is not to suggest that there is some kind of Dissenting conspiracy within the Welsh academy that silences opposing voices, but is rather to draw attention to the particular texture of the historiographical landscape here and the kinds of emphases that have shaped the literature. As a result of these prevailing interests, a good deal of early modern Welsh history has been (pre)occupied with the early history of nonconformity and the forebears of the ‘national’ religion of modern Wales. It is thus an extremely well-researched and ­well-documented field, with a good deal of agreement over the main dramatis personæ and the narrative arc of the performance. However, there has also been a tendency to overstate nonconformity’s precociousness and influence, as well as sometimes isolating it from the extra-national (i.e. non-Welsh) contexts in which it should be situated. One can also discern a propensity to impute ‘Puritan’ and ‘Dissenting’ characteristics to individuals and developments that are better located within the mainstream of the Established Church.10 Another issue that should be mentioned is nonconformity’s relationship with the Welsh language and ideas of Welsh nationhood. Since the mid-nineteenth century there has been a tendency to construct ‘genuine’ Welshness as residing in a powerful amalgam of patriotism, dissent, and a Welsh language culture. These features have on occasion been read back anachronistically into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at the expense of a close historicization of nonconformity in context. Although issues of language and culture were clearly central to religious causes in an early modern Wales where some 90 per cent of the population only spoke Welsh, scholars nevertheless need to be careful about blurring the lines between contemporary and modern concerns.

THE REFORMATION AND JOHN PENRY One of the most salient features of the Reformation in sixteenth-century Wales was its slow and halting progress. Despite the absence of Catholic revolt and rebellion, many viewed the country as half-reformed; cold and slow in responding to the call of Protestantism. This hesitant and tentative progress of the reformed faith was connected closely to issues of language. It was not until 1563 that the crown officially acknowledged the need for a Bible and Prayer Book in Welsh, and a full translation of the Scriptures had to wait until 1588. Given the 9  Geraint H. Jenkins, ‘The Friends of Montgomeryshire in the Heroic Age’, Montgomeryshire Collections, 77 (1988), 17. 10  John Gwynfor Jones, ‘Some Puritan Influences on the Anglican [sic.] Church in Wales in the Early Seventeenth Century’, Journal of Welsh Religious History, New Series, 2 (2002), 19–50.

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preponderance of monolingual Welsh speakers in the country, reformers lacked even the basic apparatus to advance the cause of Protestantism. As one Welsh bishop observed, God’s Word was closed up ‘from [the Welsh people] in an unknown tongue’.11 It was thus largely bilingual elite figures, who had usually been educated in England, who accessed the tenets of the reformed faith easiest and earliest, while bilingual market towns such as Carmarthen, Cardiff, and Wrexham seem to have been important entrepôts for the new faith. Moreover, the kind of bibliocentrism and close scriptural study associated with a good deal of Puritanism in England was hampered by the absence of cheap printed texts in Welsh. The Welsh Bible was, until 1630, only available in a large and expensive folio volume and remained beyond the means of most men and women. Given the social and linguistic dynamics prevailing in sixteenth-century Wales, then, it is unsurprising that the seeds of Elizabethan Puritanism found fallow ground there. A major exception, however, was John Penry. Hailing from a minor gentry family in rural Breconshire, Penry was educated at Cambridge and Oxford in the mid-1580s, and it was almost certainly here that he encountered a more forward form of Protestantism than was to be found in Wales. Penry burst onto the scene in February 1587 when he persuaded the Carmarthen MP, Edward Donne Lee, along with Job Throckmorton, to present to parliament a tract Penry had written on the state of religion in Wales, The Aequity of an Humble Supplication . . . in the Behalfe of the Countrey of Wales.12 A plea for planting a preaching ministry in Wales, Penry’s tract was a red-blooded critique of the ecclesiastical establishment that landed him in prison, but still articulated broadly a position from within the Established Church. This, however, was the beginning of a brief but remarkable pamphleteering career that saw Penry adopt Presbyterianism and latterly semi-separation from the Church. Largely responsible for the press that produced the Martin Marprelate tracts, three of Penry’s own publications dealt specifically with the spiritual plight (as he saw it) of Wales, which he attributed in no small part to the neglect of its bishops, ‘butchers and stranglers of souls’ in the country.13 His increasingly radical writings saw him captured and executed in 1593: Wales’s first nonconformist martyr. The view he pedalled of a spiritually destitute principality was influential at the time. One seventeenth-century author felt the need to combat the ‘heavie aspersion of a Galilaean barrennesse’ that he had placed upon the country.14 It has also been influential among modern historians, who have perhaps given rather too much credence to Penry’s polemical fireworks in their portrayal of the Church of England as an ineffective and somewhat alien 11  David Matthew, ed., ‘Some Elizabethan Documents’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 6 (1953), 77. 12  T.E. Hartley, ed., Proceedings in the Parliaments of Elizabeth I, 3 vols (Leicester, 1981–92), II, pp. 390–1. 13  David Williams, ed., Three Treatises Concerning Wales (Cardiff, 1960), pp. 61–6. 14  Thomas Thompson, Antichrist Arraigned (London, 1618), sig. ¶4r.


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presence in early modern Wales. In fact Protestantism established secure roots in the country during Elizabeth’s reign, but Wales remained largely isolated from the Anglophone networks of Puritan controversy and publication.

THE HARLEY CONNECTION AND THE COMING OF CIVIL WAR Most scholars concur that the early Stuart period was one of comparative quiet and slow improvement for the Church of England in Wales. The Welsh Bible and Prayer Book were complemented by a number of other translations such as Maurice Kyffin’s 1595 rendering of John Jewel’s Apologia, Deffynniad Ffydd Eglwys Loegr, while the general standard of clerical appointments and spiritual provision, particularly in the Welsh language, was making steady progress.15 This was a broadly conservative religious culture, as seen by the muted response to the introduction of Laudian reforms during the 1630s.16 Muted, but not entirely absent. The first glimmerings of something like a Puritan network in Wales emerged during Charles I’s Personal Rule, principally in areas bordering England, and among a group of individuals connected with the godly Herefordshire gentleman, Sir Robert Harley of Brampton Bryan.17 Harley had a particular concern for Wales’s spiritual welfare, seeing the country as mired in a semi-popish darkness. The trope of Wales as a benighted country requiring spiritual enlightenment, often from without, had been employed by Penry and would remain a powerful image legitimating many of the godly initiatives in the country throughout the early modern period.18 For Harley, this ‘vaile of darknesse’ was to be lifted by supporting Puritan preaching and godly ministers in the Welsh Marches, and his household, ‘the center where the saints met to seek God’, attracted several figures during the Personal Rule who would be crucial in establishing an enduring nonconformist presence in the principality in the 1640s and 1650s.19 The most important of these were William Wroth, Walter Cradock, and William Erbery. William Wroth was the minister of Llanfaches in Monmouthshire, and was brought before the Court of High Commission in 1635, possibly for opposing 15  Glanmor Williams, Wales and the Reformation (Cardiff, 1997), pp. 361–96; R.G. Gruffydd, ‘Anglican Prose’, in R.G. Gruffydd, ed., A Guide to Welsh Literature, c.1530–1700 (Cardiff, 1997), pp. 176–89. 16  Lloyd Bowen, The Politics of the Principality: Wales, c.1603–42 (Cardiff, 2007), pp. 207–34. 17  Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Welsh Saints, 1640–1660 (Cardiff, 1957), pp. 1–17; Jacqueline Eales, Puritans and Roundheads: The Harleys of Brampton Bryan and the Outbreak of the English Civil War (Cambridge, 1990). 18  Lloyd Bowen, ‘Representations of Wales and the Welsh during the Civil Wars and Interregnum’, Historical Research, 77 (2004), 358–76. 19  Thomas Froysell, Yedidyah, or, the Beloved Disciple (London, 1658), pp. 100, 102.

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the Book of Sports.20 He abandoned his living around 1638, and shortly thereafter formed the first Welsh Separatist church at Llanfaches ‘according to the New England pattern’, although one contemporary account had it that he and his followers ‘give out that they will have the govern[en]t of Scotlande’.21 Llanfaches was a key focus for the first wave of Welsh nonconformity, and even before Wroth’s death in 1641 a fairly substantial cluster of dissent seems to have accreted in south-east Wales. One commentator claimed ‘many of that country’ were ‘adheringe unto him [Wroth]’, while a petition emerging from the group in February 1641 possessed some 300 signatures, although this probably also included reformers from Cardiff and the surrounding area.22 From 1633 Cardiff was the location for the ministry of William Erbery, a local man who had come under Wroth’s influence. He too fell afoul of the Laudian authorities, and was reported to High Commission for having ‘preached very schismatically and dangerously to the people’.23 Like Wroth he resigned his living in 1638, and established links with the Llanfaches group while becoming an unlicensed preacher. Erbery had adopted some highly unorthodox positions by mid-1640, when he was accused of preaching that the church only consisted of the ‘saints by calling’, who should choose their own pastors and separate from the ‘antiChristian synagogue’ of the Church of England.24 Walter Cradock, meanwhile, was Erbery’s curate at Cardiff in the early 1630s but was suspended and went on to acquire a curacy in Wrexham, where he converted the future littérateur and mystic Morgan Llwyd. Cradock too was close to Harley (who sheltered him in 1639) and Wroth, and helped the latter establish the Llanfaches community.25 There does not seem to have been a theological ‘party line’ among this fairly compact group of Puritan separatists, and indeed their differences would be imprinted in the DNA of early Welsh nonconformity and produce splits and differences among later progeny. But there was a unity of purpose around the need to reform the Church in Wales and oppose the Laudians that fused them together in the later 1630s and early 1640s. Their close connections speak to the comparatively circumscribed nature of Puritanism in pre-Civil War Wales, but these foundational figures would be enormously important in the critical political and religious developments of the 1640s and 1650s. 20  R.G.  Gruffydd, ‘In That Gentile Country . . .’: The Beginnings of Puritan Nonconformity in Wales (Bridgend, 1976); Thomas Richards, ‘Eglwys Llanfaches’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1941), 150–84. 21  William Erbery, Apocrypha (London, 1652), p. 8; British Library (BL), Add. MS 35,331, fol. 74. 22  BL, Add. MS 35,331, fol. 74; Add. MS 70,109, no. 69. 23  Kenneth Fincham, ed., ‘Annual Accounts of the Church of England, 1632–1639’, in Melanie Barber, Gabriel Sewell and Stephen Taylor, eds, From the Restoration to the Permissive Society (Woodbridge, 2010), p. 99. 24  Somerset Heritage Centre, D/D/Ca 334, fols 104, 105v. 25  Nuttall, Welsh Saints, pp. 18–36; M.  Wynn Thomas, ‘Disgybl a’i Athro: Morgan Llwyd a Walter Cradoc’, in J.G. Jones, ed., Agweddau ar Dwf Piwritaniaeth yng Nghymru yn yr Ail Ganrif ar Bymtheg (Lampeter, 1992), pp. 111–27.


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The calling of the Long Parliament and the concomitant assault on the Laudian ascendancy offered this coterie of Welsh Puritans an important opportunity to circumvent the obstructive conservatism of local secular and religious elites and give wider currency to their appeals for religious change.26 In December 1640 Erbery presented a petition to parliament that lamented the lack of preaching and the absence of an able ministry, arguing that Wales was a land of ‘gross ignorance, idolatry, superstition’ where ‘all manner of sins abound every where; the people led by blind guides & the sheepe having dumb doggs to be their shepheards’.27 Calling for a ‘seconde reformacon’, he argued that the removal of bishops and the prayer book would allow the people to seek new means for their salvation. A subsequent petition of February 1641 was more substantial. Presented in the name of seven ministers, including Wroth, Erbery, and Cradock, it was supported by a large number of signatories, and aligned itself more firmly with the aggressive anti-episcopal language of the contemporaneous ‘Root and Branch’ campaigns.28 The petition survives among Sir Robert Harley’s papers, and it seems that the core of Welsh Puritanism, centred on Llanfaches and the Harley enclave, was operating as a sophisticated political lobby. The petitioners won the concession that they be allowed to preach wherever they wished in Wales, but beyond this their successes were meagre. There seems to have been little sympathy for their position among the majority of Welsh governors, clergy, or laity, or, indeed Welsh MPs at Westminster, which was one reason the reformers turned to men like Harley.29 With the outbreak of Civil War the hopes of the Welsh nonconformists were dashed as the prevailing royalism of the principality scattered them to places like Bristol and London. Writing in the early 1660s, the Fifth Monarchist Vavasor Powell recalled ‘the late war coming suddenly on, there could be no redresse obtained [by the Welsh Puritans]; but on the contrary most (if not all) of those preachers and professors [in Wales] were forced, through violence of their persecutors, to leave their habitations and country’.30 Men like Erbery would minister in the New Model Army, but it was only after the final pacification of Wales in 1648 that the advocates of Welsh reform could become activists, able to translate theory into action.

PURGATION AND PROPAGATION: 1646–60 The narrowness of the parliamentary state’s support base in Wales meant that its attempts to secure compliance in Church and government represented a 26  Lloyd Bowen, ‘Wales and Religious Reform in the Long Parliament, 1640–42’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, New Series, 12 (2005), 36–59. 27  BL, Harleian MS 4,931, fol. 90. 28  BL, Add. MS 70,109, no. 69. 29  BL, Add. MS 70,106, fol. 155. 30  Vavasor Powell, The Bird in the Cage, Chirping (London, 1661), sig. A8.

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genuine revolution as individuals and groups outside traditional governing elites were thrust into places of authority. The piecemeal efforts at remodelling the Welsh pastorate through parliament’s committee for plundered ministers were overtaken by a step-change in reforming impulses with the introduction by the Rump Parliament in 1650 of the Commission for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales. Although the cause of political and religious Presbyterianism had some notable supporters in Wales such as the parliamentarian general Sir Thomas Myddleton of Chirk Castle and the pamphleteer John Lewis of Glasgrug, the cause of Independency meshed more closely with the interests and outlooks of men like William Erbery, Walter Cradock, Morgan Llwyd, Vavasor Powell, and the congregations associated with them in south-east and north-east Wales. Moreover, Independency’s loose association of gathered believers provided a more flexible and practical means of bringing together the comparatively small and scattered nonconformist populations of rural Wales than the Presbyterian model. An important intervention came in December 1649 when a petition was presented to the Rump in the name of the well-affected of north Wales. It called for the relief of ‘the souls and bodies of our poor brethren and country men’ by the appointment of godly commissioners who could examine and displace ‘ignorant and scandalous ministers, who have been and still are the greatest enemies to religion and reformation’, and replace them with ‘pious, sound and able men’.31 This was to be the germ of the Propagation Act, which was passed on 22 February 1650. The petitioners were probably connected with the Wrexham congregation of Morgan Llwyd, while in parliament the regicide John Jones of Maesygarnedd, Merioneth, and his millenarian army associate Colonel Thomas Harrison seem to have been key point men for the scheme.32 It was thus a project closely associated with the radical Independents, and it bore the impress of this genealogy in its design and personnel. However, as Stephen Roberts has argued, the Presbyterians could support its aims of purging unworthy ministers and the fact that the Act never exempted Wales from the other instruments of national ecclesiastical policy. However, they were largely side-lined when it came to implementing the scheme.33 The Propagation Act appointed empowered seventy-one lay commissioners to examine ‘scandalous’ clergymen and dismiss them if found unworthy or politically suspect. In their place they could install godly ministers to a settled living or to become itinerant preachers; this was subject to the approbation of a further commission of twenty-five clerical ‘approvers’. Among these were Walter Cradock as well as three of his fellow Puritan petitioners from 1641, Ambrose Mostyn, Henry Walter, and Richard Symonds, as well as Morgan 31  Severall Proceedings in Parliament, 12 (14–21 December 1649), p. 149. 32  Stephen Roberts, ‘Propagating the Gospel in Wales: the Making of the 1650 Act’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmorodrion, New Series, 10 (2004), 72–5. 33  Ibid., 74.


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Llwyd. The scheme was to be supported by the confiscated tithes of ejected clergy and sequestered impropriators. It is important to note that the geographical origins of the commissioners reflected the dynamics of Puritan power in mid-seventeenth-century Wales, as many hailed from established centres like Wrexham and Cardiff, while there were hardly any representatives from the counties of Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire, Caernarvonshire, Merioneth, or Anglesey, which were the most thoroughly Welsh in culture. By contrast, many of the commissioners were Englishmen, several of whom had come to have an interest in Wales during the war as military commanders, while the Commission itself was dependent on the support of enthusiasts in the Rump Parliament in London. This has led some to suggest that propagation was an essentially English scheme for the spiritual regeneration of Wales.34 Given the tenuous nature of Welsh Puritanism in the pre-war years, this should not surprise us, but neither should the alien nature of the commission be overstated. Many of the most active propagators were native Welshmen who were passionately concerned with the spiritual wellbeing of their countrymen, while at parish level humble yeomen and husbandmen discharged the daily business of collecting its tithe revenues.35 Moreover, there was a real effort to attract godly ministers who could serve the needs of the monoglot majority, although one of the chief propagators later admitted to being unable to furnish a sufficient number proficient in Welsh, a major failing in the whole enterprise.36 The Commission functioned officially between 1650 and 1653, but its personnel and legacy dominated Welsh religious life down to the Restoration and was enormously important for providing a context in which self-sustaining enclaves of nonconformity established themselves. It was envisaged as the agent for transforming the religious landscape of the country ‘which heretofore abounded in ignorance and profaneness’.37 Its work devolved largely to a compact group of enthusiasts, the most prominent of whom emerged as Vavasor Powell, styled by one opponent as the ‘metropolitan of the itinerants’.38 A native of Cnwclas (Knucklas) on the Radnorshire–Shropshire border, Powell had been an acolyte of Walter Cradock and became a thoroughgoing Independent firebrand, adopting a millenarian fifth monarchism which brought him into the circle of Thomas Harrison. The Propagation Commission gave Powell a conduit for his enormous energy and zeal, for he was an impressive communicator 34  Richards, Puritan Movement, p. 93. 35  Stephen Roberts, ‘Godliness and Government in Glamorgan 1647–1660’, in Colin Jones, Malcolm Newitt, and Stephen Roberts, eds, Politics and People in Revolutionary England: Essays in Honour of Ivan Roots (Oxford, 1986), pp. 225–51. 36  Powell, The Bird in the Cage, sig. B1v. 37  An Act for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales (London, 1650; reprinted Cardiff, 1908), p. 13. 38  Strena Vavasoriensis: A New Years Gift for the Welsh Itinerants, or, A Hue and Cry After Mr Vavasor Powell (London, 1654), title page.

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who supported itinerancy as a means of communicating God’s Word and the imminence of the apocalypse most effectively in a ‘darke country where there is want of the Gospell’.39 His biographer portrayed Powell as an indefatigable preacher who held forth in many ‘churches, chappels, town halls . . . upon the very mountains and very frequent in fairs and markets . . . preaching in two or three places a day . . . he would ride a hundred miles in a week . . . speaking and praying sometimes 3, 4, nay 6 and 7 hours together’.40 His particular area of influence was Breconshire, Radnorshire, and Montgomeryshire, and his impact was the greater because of his facility to preach in both Welsh and English. However, Powell’s dynamism and millennial radicalism also made him the lightning rod for an organized pamphleteering campaign against the Commission organized principally by the sequestered minister, Alexander Griffith. His publications portrayed the Commission as an unbridled vehicle for the most extreme opinions and heresies, arbitrary proceedings, and financial improprieties.41 One of the key criticisms of the Commission was that it was much more successful in knocking down than in building up. Some 278 clergymen were ejected by the propagators, with nearly three-quarters of the ejections occurring in south Wales. However, the problems of attracting qualified clergy to replace them, particularly those who could speak Welsh, led to a reliance on a system of itinerant preachers who were vilified by opponents as low-born and ill-educated. As a result, many communities were left destitute of spiritual leadership or had inadequate provision by English-speaking minsters or occasional itinerants. Nevertheless, under the aegis of the propagators, who retained a good deal of control and influence in Welsh religious and political matters even after the Commission’s formal discontinuation in April 1653, this was a period in which Dissenting communities established a durable presence in the principality. The powerful missionary efforts of men like Powell bore fruit in ways that were recognized by supporters of the Propagation Commission, including Oliver Cromwell.42 Looking back from the Restoration, the Bishop of St David’s believed that the propagation era had encouraged a wide dissemination of heterodox religious ideas and republican opinions in his diocese, those ‘evill principles formerly instilld during the late rebellion . . . [when] they were governed by itinerants’.43 Vavasor Powell himself claimed that whereas there had only been one gathered church in Wales (at Llanfaches) at the beginning of Civil War, by 1660 he estimated there were more than twenty such congregations

39  John Goodwin, Truths Conflict with Error (London, 1650), p. 111. 40  Edward Bagshaw, The Life and Death of Mr Vavasor Powell (London, 1671), pp. 107–8. 41  Lloyd Bowen, ‘ “This Murmuring and Unthankful Peevish Land’: Wales and the Protectorate’, in Patrick Little, ed., The Cromwellian Protectorate (Woodbridge, 2007), 144–64. 42  Ivan Roots, ed., Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (London, 1989), pp. 15–16. 43  Bodleian Library (Bodl.), Tanner MS 146, fol. 138.


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‘in some two, in some three, some four hundred members’.44 The rule of the commissioners was long after seen as a decisive point in the spread and growth of nonconformist opinion in Wales. For example, a clerical visitation of 1763 in Merthyr and Gelligaer, Glamorgan, reported that ‘before the grand rebellion’ the nonconformists were ‘not so many, but in those unhappy times of usurpation [they] multiplied apace, took firme footing, and overspread this part of the country in every way.’45 Although there was not a single theological ‘party line’ for the propagators, the initiative was clearly hostile to Presbyterianism and much more amenable to radical Independency and the sects. However, as Thomas Richards noted long ago, ‘references to the discipline and government of the new “gathered” churches in Wales are exceptionally few’, and much of the organizational coherence between the various congregations was often provided by personal connections as much as any institutional congruity.46 Perhaps the community closest approximating the formal organization of the Presbyterians was the Baptists. The sect had gained a foothold on Wales’s eastern borders during the Civil Wars but was given a major boost under the propagation regime. John Miles, a Herefordshire man and propagation approver, was a Particular Baptist who established the first Welsh Baptist community in 1649 at Ilston in the English-speaking area of the Gower peninsula in Glamorgan, adding four more associated congregations in south Wales by 1652. Sharing preachers among these communities, as well as the institution from 1650 of general meetings, helped sustain a sense of common fellowship and a degree of institutional robustness.47 However, despite these advances, by 1656 Miles was moved into print to denounce a new sect that was challenging the territories of the Welsh Baptists: the Quakers.48 The anti-formalist and antinomian strains found in early Quakerism echoed positions adopted by two influential figures in republican Wales: William Erbery and Morgan Llwyd. Erbery has been categorized as a ‘Seeker’ for rejecting all forms of church membership from the early 1650s.49 By 1653, a year before his death, he was discussing the importance of Christians responding to God’s message within them, which overlapped with the Quaker emphasis on the ‘inner light’. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that his wife and daughters became Quaker missionaries.50 One opponent actually described Erbery as 44  Powell, Bird in the Cage, sig. B3v. 45  National Library of Wales, LL/QA/1. 46  Richards, Puritan Movement, p. 195. 47  B.G. Owens, ed., The Ilston Book: Earliest Register of Welsh Baptists (Aberystwyth, 1996); D. Rhys Phillips, ‘Cefndir Hanes Eglwys Ilston, 1649–60’, Trafodion Cymdeithas Hanes Bedyddwyr Cymru (1928), 1–99. T.M. Bassett, The Welsh Baptists (Swansea, 1977), ch. 1. 48  John Miles, An Antidote Against the Infection of the Times (London, 1656). 49  Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (London, 1972), pp. 154–8; Christopher Hill, The Experience of Defeat (London, 1984), pp. 84–97. 50  Lloyd Bowen, ‘The Seeds and Fruits of Revolution: The Erbery Family and Religious Radicalism in Seventeenth-Century Glamorgan’, Welsh History Review, 25 (2011), 346–73.

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‘a forerunner and preparer of the way for these deceivers [i.e. Quakers]’.51 Morgan Llwyd, whose ministry centred on Wrexham, was initially attracted to the millenarianism of Fifth Monarchists like Vavasor Powell, but from around 1653 his theology moved to focus on the inner spirit and the mysticism of Jacob Boehme.52 In July 1653 Llwyd sent emissaries to Swarthmoor Hall to better understand the emergent Quaker doctrine that was paralleling his own ­spiritual development, although he himself never joined the sect. The kinds of experimental spirituality associated with propagators like Erbery and Llwyd, as well as the millennial strain that ran through the teachings of Vavasor Powell, may have prepared the way for the sympathetic reception Quakerism received in parts of the principality.53 John ap John of Ruabon in Denbighshire, a member of Llwyd’s Wrexham congregation and one of the emissaries he sent to Swarthmoor, was convinced there and became the first Quaker missionary in Wales.54 Many more followed including such luminaries of the movement as Thomas Holme, Francis Howgill, and even George Fox himself. They had particular successes in south and east Wales, but also in Merioneth in the west. Yet although new enthusiasm accompanied these conversions, Quakerism met stiff resistance among many of the Welsh Independent congregations. For example, it united in opposition Vavasor Powell and Walter Cradock, who had themselves become estranged by the debate over whether or not the saints should be reconciled with Cromwell’s Protectorate. And there was also, of course, the usual catalogue of opposition to Quaker activity from orthodox clergy and magistrates. The period of the Civil Wars and Interregnum, then, was crucial in establishing not only sectarian congregations, but a nonconformist presence more generally in Wales. The impetus offered by the Propagation Commission and the protection afforded by sympathetic local gentry, such as Colonel Philip Jones in Glamorgan, succoured pockets of dissent where previously there had been none. The landscape was variegated: Independent congregations predominated but clusters of Baptists and Quakers were locally significant, while Presbyterian sympathies were sustained in some places, as at Emeral and Worthenbury, Flintshire, under the notable preacher, Philip Henry. Dissent remained, however, very much a minority concern in Wales, and was sometimes portrayed as antipathetic to the Welsh language and Welsh culture. Morgan Llwyd was the only propagator who published in Welsh during this period, while conservative Welsh language poets such as John Griffith of Llanddyfnan, Anglesey, claimed to be representing more faithfully Welsh religious convictions in compositions such as Bustl yr Eglwys, sef erlidiaû Eglwys Loegr Anno 1653 (‘Bile of the church, 51  Ralph Farmer, Sathan Inthron’d in his Chair of Pestilence (London, 1657), p. 18. 52  M. Wynn Thomas, Morgan Llwyd (Cardiff, 1984); Nuttall, Welsh Saints, pp. 52–4. 53  Nuttall, Welsh Saints, pp. 63–6. 54  W.G. Norris and N. Penney, eds, John ap John and the Early Records of Friends in Wales (London, 1907).


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namely persecutions of the Church of England, 1653’), which lamented the loss of familiar services and the proliferation of ‘a hundred faiths, all abhorrent’ (‘ffyddiau gant ffiaidd i gyd’).55 Major General Charles Fleetwood’s appraisal of the Welsh in 1654 was bracing: ‘There are some precious good people in Wales though very few. The generality of people in those parts, I fear, are little better than the Irish. They have envenomed hearts against the ways of God.’56 The return of monarchy and the structures of the Church of England in 1660, then, promised a difficult period fighting for survival in the face of a hostile lay and clerical elite and a majority of unsympathetic neighbours.

RESTORATION TO TOLERATION After a spasm of fearful retribution by the authorities shortly after the Restoration, which saw many Quakers and republican activists such as Vavasor Powell incarcerated, an important period in the history of Welsh Dissent came with the clerical ejections of 1660–2.57 In all some 130 ministers were removed in Wales, and the pattern of their ejection gives us some indication of the geographical inroads made by the nonconformists in the previous two decades. Glamorgan was in advance of other areas with twenty-three ministers removed, while Breconshire (fourteen), Montgomeryshire (thirteen), Cardiganshire (thirteen), Denbighshire (eleven), and Monmouthshire (ten) also experienced some significant disruption. Notably, these were often areas open to influences from across the border, and were also regions in which the Propagation Commission had been most active. In the heartland of Welsh language culture, the three north-western counties of Caernarvonshire, Merioneth, and Anglesey, however, only nine ministers were displaced. This general pattern of nonconformist weakness in the north-west and relative strength in the south-east is further confirmed by the licences requested under the Indulgence of 1672 and a report on Welsh Dissent compiled by the Independent minister Henry Maurice in 1675. The predominance of the Independents in Wales is also confirmed in these accounts.58

55  D.W. William, ‘Traddodiad Barddol Môn yn yr XVII Ganrif ’ (PhD thesis, Bangor University, 1983), pp. 1501–5; Gwyn Thomas, ‘John Griffith, Llanddyfnan, Bardd o’r Ail Ganrif ar Bymtheg’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, New Series, 6 (1999), 22–5. 56  Thomas Birch, ed., A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, 7 vols (London, 1742), II, p. 256. 57  R.  Tudur Jones and B.G.  Owens, ‘Anghydffurfwyr Cymru, 1660–1662’, Y Cofiadur, 32 (1962), 3–93. 58  Thomas Richards, Wales under the Indulgence, 1672–1675 (London, 1928); Edward Bean Underhill, ed., The Records of a Church of Christ Meeting in Broadmead, Bristol, 1640–1687 (London, 1847), pp. 511–18.

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The panoply of measures designed by the Restoration authorities to suppress Dissent collectively known as ‘The Clarendon Code’ was enforced fitfully and with considerable variation across Wales. In periods of political upheaval and religious strife such as the early years of the Restoration and during the Popish Plot and Exclusion Crisis, the authorities appear to have implemented the provisions against Dissenters more thoroughly than at other times, but generally the period is characterized by sullen resentment and sporadic harassment as much as concerted and sustained persecution. The attitude of the diocesan was important in calibrating the response. Bishop Lloyd of St Asaph initially tried to win over nonconformists by argument and disputation (although he later adopted a more repressive line), while William Lucy of St David’s epitaph at Brecon read ‘averruncator strenuus schismatis et haeresium’ (‘a vigorous opponent of schismatics and heretics’).59 The temper of local gentry and magistrates could also be important in determining whether Dissenting groups were indulged or harassed. The gentry of eastern Glamorgan, for example, complained in 1664 that conventicles ‘abound in the western parts [of the county], and that we could not well remedy the same without giving some disgust to the deputy lieutenants and justices of the peace of those limits’.60 They probably had in mind Swansea and the surrounding area where John Miles’s Baptist community had been influential. Bishop Lucy would note a decade later that a Dissenting school had been established in the town and that the Independent minister Stephen Hughes was also prominent there, and was ‘countenanced by the leading men of the country’.61 Swansea was representative of a concentration of Dissenting sympathies in the small urban centres of south Wales, which included Carmarthen, Brecon, Cardigan, and Haverfordwest. It has been suggested that trading contacts with radical communities in Bristol helped reinforce and nurture these urban nonconformist enclaves.62 The dynamics of Welsh nonconformity in this period is difficult to chart given its necessarily clandestine nature, but Congregationalists continued to represent the dominant strain of Welsh Dissent, followed by Baptists and Quakers. That said, denominational boundaries were often permeable, with different Dissenting groups not infrequently pooling resources and worshipping together in straitened and difficult circumstances. Henry Maurice recorded twelve Independent churches in Wales in 1675, which were spread across the country from Caernarvonshire to Pembrokeshire, but strongest in Glamorgan 59  Richard Davies, An Account of the Convincement . . . of . . . Richard Davies (London, 1710), pp. 207–10; National Library of Wales, Facsimiles 125, nos 20–1; Penrice and Margam MS L.97; Bodl., Tanner MS 35, fol. 162; MS 136, fols 33v, 113, 138; Edward Parry, ‘Prelates and Preachers: Anglicanism and Dissent in Breconshire, 1621–1721’, Brycheiniog, 35 (2003), 49. 60  Philip Jenkins, The Making of a Ruling Class: Glamorgan, The Gentry, 1640–1790 (Cambridge, 1983), p. 121. 61  Bodl., Tanner MS 146, fol. 138. 62  Philip Jenkins, ‘ “The Old Leaven”: The Welsh Roundheads after 1660’, Historical Journal, 24 (1981), 820–2.


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and Monmouthshire. Their arrangements were flexible, with members often dispersed over quite wide areas, not infrequently across county boundaries, but coming together at agreed locations. There were evidently differences of degree in terms of their internal organzation. There seemed to be greater authority placed in the elders of the churches in Carmarthenshire and Llanbadarn Fawr in Cardiganshire, while a more egalitarian Congregationalism prevailed at places like Wrexham and Haverfordwest.63 The Baptists were not infrequently associated with these Independent churches, and a significant moment for the sect came in 1663 when John Miles emigrated to Massachusetts (where he established the town of Swansey), and the Baptist cause suffered a major downturn in west Glamorgan. However, his successor, William Jones, established an important new centre of the faith at Rhydwilym in Pembrokeshire in 1667, which served as the Baptist hub for south-west Wales.64 Another Baptist enclave centred on Llanigon and Merthyr Tydfil, where the Vavasorian influence was kept alive by church elders such as Thomas Gwyn, Lewis Prytherch, David Williams, and Henry Williams, the last a former itinerant preacher under the Propagation Commission and acolyte of Powell.65 In numbers, the Baptists were a distant second to the Congregationalists and were also largely confined to south Wales. By contrast, during the 1660s and 1670s significant inroads were made by the Quakers in Merioneth, Montgomeryshire, and Radnorshire, often at the expense of older congregational groupings, one scholar noting that in these areas ‘the old Puritanism was almost completely subsumed in the new quakerism’.66 George Fox’s structures of regular meetings, including, from 1682 a Welsh yearly meeting, helped the Quakers endure in the face of some bitter maltreatment. However, the Quaker cause suffered a severe blow from the early 1680s with the decision of some 2,000 adherents, particularly from Merioneth, to escape persecution by establishing a community that became known as ‘The Welsh Tract’ in Pennsylvania.67 Importantly, it seems that the generational shift from the era of propagation to that of persecution was accompanied by a more thoroughgoing inculturation of nonconformity within a Welsh language milieu. Henry Williams, the leader of a large mixed congregation in Merthyr Tydfil, for example, was a  monoglot Welsh speaker, while the Quaker advance into places such as Merioneth necessitated an accommodation with a largely Welsh-speaking 63  R. Tudur Jones, Congregationalism in Wales, ed. Robert Pope (Cardiff, 2004), pp. 73–4. 64  Thomas Richards, Wales under the Penal Code (London, 1925), pp. 106–14. 65  R. Tudur Jones, ‘Religion in Post-Restoration Brecknockshire, 1660–1668’, Bryncheiniog, 8 (1962), 41–3. 66  Jenkins, ‘ “The Old Leaven” ’, 813. 67  Richard Allen, ‘In Search of a New Jerusalem: A Preliminary Investigation into the Causes and Impact of Welsh Quaker Emigration to Pennsylvania, c.1660–1750’, Quaker Studies, 9 (2004), 31–53; Geraint H. Jenkins, ‘From Ysgeifiog to Pennsylvania: The Rise of Thomas Wynne, Quaker Barber-Surgeon’, Flintshire Historical Society Journal, 28 (1977–8), 39–61.

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population.68 The historian of Welsh Congregationalism has even claimed that ‘[o]ne of the greatest blessings of the persecution was that it made Welsh Puritanism thoroughly Welsh-speaking’.69 The publication of religious texts in Welsh was important in this development, and a principal figure in this regard was Stephen Hughes of Meidrim, ‘The Apostle of Carmarthenshire’. Hughes had acted as an approver under Cromwell, but was ejected from his living in 1661. As Bishop Lucy indicated, however, he continued to operate and live in Swansea and ministered to a number of local congregations. As part of his ministry, Hughes was concerned to encourage Welsh literacy among his flock and also promote the availability of edifying texts in the Welsh language. He produced popular editions of the religious poems of the Carmarthenshire minister, Rees Prichard, partly to foster literacy among a population who were already fairly familiar with Prichard’s verse from oral performance. From 1675 Hughes also became involved with an important initiative, the Welsh Trust. Although an ecumenical project, the Trust was closely associated with the ejected London clergyman, Thomas Gouge, and the Bishop of Bangor for one saw it as a stalking horse for ‘sectaries’ intent on spreading factious principles among the gentry and people.70 A chief aim of the Trust was the publication and distribution of Welsh language religious texts, and Hughes was instrumental in their translation, editing, and printing.71 With the backing of Gouge and another Dissenting Welsh minister and author, Charles Edwards, sufficient capital was raised to allow Hughes to produce a new edition of the Welsh Bible in 1678; 8,000 were printed, and 1,000 of these were to be distributed gratis. He was also closely involved in producing Welsh translations of English devotional literature, including an edition of Pilgrim’s Progress (Taith neu Siwrnai y Pererin). At the end of his publications Hughes often added a Welsh alphabet and instructions on how to read, and in many of his sermons he ‘exhorted the illiterate to learn to read their own language, which great numbers did’.72 Hughes’s efforts, then, were important in bringing together nonconformity, the Welsh language, and the technologies of print culture, although none of the texts produced were themselves outside of moderate Anglican opinion. This was a countervailing force to the Anglicizing tendencies of a nonconformist tradition that had been largely articulated in English. Indeed, one criticism of the Welsh Trust was that its laudable efforts to establish charity schools in the principality were undercut by the decision to conduct lessons in English; as one patron had it, so that learning English would allow Welsh 68  G. Lyon Turner, Original Records of Early Nonconformity under Persecution and Indulgence, 3 vols (London, 1911–14), I, p. 46; G.H. Jenkins, The Foundations of Modern Wales, 1642–1780 (Oxford, 1993), p. 190. 69  Tudur Jones, Congregationalism, p. 75. 70  Bodl., Tanner MS 40, fols 18r–19v. 71  G.H. Jenkins, ‘Apostol Sir Gaerfyrddin: Stephen Hughes, c.1622–1688’, Y Cofiadur, LIV (1989). 72  Edmund Calamy, An Account of the Ministers . . . Ejected or Silenced after the Restoration, 2 vols (London, 1713), II, p. 719.


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children to be ‘more serviceable to their country and live more comfortably in the world’.73 Hughes retorted to such sentiments in a manner which echoed the original Elizabethan translator of the Bible into Welsh, Bishop William Morgan: ‘yn barnau nad do printio math yn y byd o lyfrau cymraeg i gynnal y iaith i fynu; one ei fod yn weddus i’r bobl golli ei iaith, a dysgu saesneg. Digon da. Ond cofied y cyfryw, mai haws dywedyd “mynydd” na myned trosto’ (‘some people think that printing Welsh books to sustain the language is not a good thing and that it is becoming for the people to lose their language and learn English. Very good. But let us remember that it is easier to say “mountain” than to cross it’).74

CONCLUSION Hughes died shortly before the passing of the Toleration Act in May 1689. Although he had lived among a fairly dynamic nonconformist community in Swansea, this was very much the exception rather than the rule in late-Stuart Wales. Dissenters remained a small minority in a population which was still largely wedded to an Established Church that had long been a cornerstone of both Welsh elite and popular culture.75 Moreover, Welsh nonconformity was geographically circumscribed, being largely confined to south Wales with the north, apart from the notable exception of Wrexham, largely an ultima thule for Dissent. The structural weaknesses of the Church of England, and a rather high-handed attitude towards the Welsh language by its diocesans and elements among the clergy, would in time encourage the drift towards nonconformity, particularly in the large and scattered parishes of the uplands. Yet we should not overstate these problems, nor be too eager to fold them into a linear narrative that connects seventeenth-century Dissent with the growth of Welsh Methodism in the mid-eighteenth century and the explosion of nonconformist numbers in the nineteenth. Many of these issues did not rear their head until the mid-eighteenth century, and the strength of the Anglican Church in Wales and the strength of lay loyalty helped curb the influence and expansion of nonconformity. The Welsh Methodists themselves were eager to portray Tudor and Stuart Wales as languishing in a long spiritual darkness that their evangelical 73  M.G. Jones, ‘Two Accounts of the Welsh Trust, 1675 and 1678’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 9 (1937–9), 72. 74  Stephen Hughes, ed., Gwaith Mr Rees Prichard (London, 1672), sig. A3v, quoted in Geraint H.  Jenkins, Richard Suggett, and Eryn White, eds, The Welsh Language before the Industrial Revolution (Cardiff, 1997), p. 86. 75  Philip Jenkins, ‘The Anglican Church and the Unity of Britain: The Welsh Experience, 1560–1714’, in Steven G. Ellis and Sarah Barker, eds, Conquest and Union: Fashioning a British State, 1485–1725 (London, 1995), pp. 115–38; Philip Jenkins, ‘Church, Nation and Language: The Welsh Church, 1660–1800’, in Jeremy Gregory and Jeffrey S. Chamberlain, eds, The Local Church in National Perspective (Woodbridge, 2003), pp. 265–84.

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revival helped illuminate. This Methodist vision of the Puritan past profoundly informed the Victorian historical view of a benighted Wales awaiting the ­forward-looking shock troops of a precocious national nonconformity to rescue it from the mire of spiritual ignorance and moral turpitude. As a result the historical reputation of the Established Church suffered, with the criticisms of the Dissenters and Methodists being taken rather too much at face value.76 Nevertheless, when properly historicized and contextualized it remains clear that the mid-seventeenth century was a crucial time in establishing nonconformity in the principality, shaping its character, and accommodating it with the prevailing cultural landscape. Connections with English Dissent were continuous and vital, from the patronage of Sir Robert Harley and down to the involvement of metropolitan Dissenters like Thomas Gouge in the 1670s. The ‘foreignness’ of nonconformity is suggested by its initial hold in the eastern fringes of Wales and its strength in bilingual urban centres like Swansea and Cardiff. We should be wary, however, of seeing such processes as only operating in one direction. It is clear, for example, that the Erbery clan were exporting novel strains of radicalism into Bristol and south-west England in the early 1650s, and often the dynamics of Welsh nonconformity are best understood as a web of reciprocal interconnections between Welsh and English groupings. Scholars should take care not to simply reproduce the Puritan trope of English enlightenment being brought to Welsh spiritual darkness.77 In addition, the Anglophone or bilingual profile of early Puritanism was increasingly counterbalanced by Welsh-speaking nonconformist communities such as that in Llanigon and Merthyr Tydfil. Moreover, men like Morgan Llwyd and Stephen Hughes suggest the ways in which efforts were made in this period to adjust, or naturalize, nonconformity to a Welsh language environment. Llwyd and William Erbery also argued that the developments of the 1640s and 1650s showed God’s particular favour for the Welsh, who were said to have been in the vanguard of religious reform down the ages.78 This attempt to suggest that nonconformity, and in particular Independency, was somehow the ‘natural’ faith of the Welsh was to be influential, especially when later commentators looked back to the resilience of embattled saints in the seventeenth century. As one Welsh author observed in 1912 on the eve of Welsh disestablishment (and the 250th anniversary of the 1662 ejections), ‘the future of Welsh religion found its clearest voice in Morgan Llwyd. . . From the first, Nonconformity in Wales was Welsh . . . from the first, the Independents

76  For example, Richards, Wales under the Penal Code, pp. xii–xii, 132–60. 77  Bowen, ‘Seeds and Fruits of Revolution’. 78  Stephen Roberts, ‘Religion, Politics and Welshness, 1649–1660’, in Ivan Roots, ed., ‘Into Another Mould’: Aspects of the Interregnum (Exeter, 1998 edn), pp. 30–46; Lloyd Bowen, ‘The Battle of Britain’, in Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin and Robert Armstrong, eds, Celtic Christianities: Adapting and Interpreting the Faith in Celtic Britain and Ireland 1450–1750 (Basingstoke, 2014), pp. 135–50.


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and Baptists of Wales preached in the Welsh language and were Welsh at heart.’79 The picture may be more fragmented and disjointed than such denominational histories allow, but there remains a sense that the seeds of nonconformity that germinated in Wales in the mid-seventeenth century produced robust shoots. The modern varieties of Welsh Dissent may have developed from different cuttings, but the importance of memorializing the advances made in the early modern period was grafted deeply into them and helped shape their character and growth.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Allen, Richard  C., Quaker Communities in Early Modern Wales: From Resistance to Respectability (Cardiff, 2007). Bassett, T.M., The Welsh Baptists (Swansea, 1977). Bowen, Lloyd, ‘Wales and Religious Reform in the Long Parliament, 1640–42’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, New Series, 12 (2005), 36–59. Gruffydd, R.G., ‘In That Gentile Country . . .’: The Beginnings of Puritan Nonconformity in Wales (Bridgend, 1976). Hill, Christopher, ‘Puritans and “the Dark Corners of the Land” ’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, 13 (1963), 77–102. Jenkins, Geraint H., Literature, Religion and Society in Wales, 1660–1730 (Cardiff, 1978). Jenkins, Geraint H., Protestant Dissenters in Wales, 1639–1689 (Cardiff, 1992). Jenkins, Philip, ‘ “The Old Leaven”: The Welsh Roundheads after 1660’, Historical Journal, 24 (1981), 807–23. Jones, John Gwynfor, Crefydd, Cenedlgarwch a’r Wladwriaeth: John Penry (1563–1593) a Phiwritaniaeth Gynnar (Cardiff, 2014). Jones, R. Tudur, Vavasor Powell (Leominster, 1971). Jones, R. Tudur, Congregationalism in Wales, ed. Robert Pope (Cardiff, 2004). Nuttall, Geoffrey F., The Welsh Saints, 1640–1660 (Cardiff, 1957). Richards, Thomas, A History of the Puritan Movement in Wales (London, 1920). Richards, Thomas, Religious Developments in Wales, 1654–1662 (London, 1923). Roberts, Stephen, ‘Godliness and Government in Glamorgan 1647–1660’, in Colin Jones, Malcolm Newitt, and Stephen Roberts, eds, Politics and People in Revolutionary England: Essays in Honour of Ivan Roots (Oxford, 1986), pp. 225–51. Roberts, Stephen, ‘Religion, Politics and Welshness, 1649–1660’, in Ivan Roots, ed., ‘Into another Mould’: Aspects of the Interregnum (Exeter, 1998 edn), pp. 30–46. Roberts, Stephen, ‘Propagating the Gospel in Wales: the Making of the 1650 Act’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmorodrion, New Series, 10 (2004), 57–75. 79  D.  Brynmor Jones, The Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of England in Wales (London, 1912), pp. 68–9.

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White, Eryn M., ‘The Established Church, Dissent and the Welsh Language, c.1660–1811’, in Geraint  H.  Jenkins, ed., The Welsh Language before the Industrial Revolution (Cardiff, 1997), pp. 235–87. White, Eryn M., ‘From Ejectment to Toleration in Wales, 1662–89’, in Alan P.F. Sell, ed., The Great Ejectment of 1662: Its Antecedents, Aftermath and Ecumenical Significance (Eugene, OR, 2012), pp. 125–81. Williams, David, ed., Three Treatises Concerning Wales (Cardiff, 1960).

11 Dissent in New England Francis J. Bremer

New England was founded in the early seventeenth century by men and women of faith who in conscience could no longer conform to what was demanded of members of the Church of England. But in establishing new societies they were themselves challenged by the task of establishing boundaries to define what ideas and practices were to be allowed and those that were intolerable. As the century progressed, the one-time dissenters earned a reputation for their lack of tolerance for Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, Baptists, and Quakers. In examining these issues a distinction should be drawn between dissent from doctrinal teachings and non-conformity to liturgical practices, and to understand both in terms of New England requires that we start by trying to understand what Puritanism was and how it developed in England.

DEFINING PURITANISM The difficulty of identifying Puritans stems largely from the fact that prior to 1630 those we are accustomed to apply that label to did not have a distinct identity but considered themselves members of the Church of England. Rather than seeing themselves as Dissenters they claimed that their labours were designed to keep the Church of England anchored to standards they believed had been established by Edwardean and Elizabethan reformers.1 Those 1  Supporting this view are the works of Nicholas Tyacke, in particular Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of Arminianism, c.1590–1640 (Oxford, 1990), where he argued that Puritans were seeking to preserve the best in the Elizabethan Church, particularly its Calvinist theology, and that it was Laudian bishops who were the innovators. Tyacke’s views have been questioned by Peter White in Predestination, Policy and Polemic: Conflict and Consensus in the English Church from the Reformation to the Civil Wars (Cambridge, 1992), but most scholars have found that Tyacke has the better of the argument. See Tyacke’s further reflection in Aspects of English Protestantism, c.1530–1700 (Manchester, 2011). Francis J. Bremer, Dissent in New England In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0012

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standards included a Calvinist theology, a strong anti-Catholic posture regarding church practices and foreign policy, and a commitment to placing educated preachers in all the nation’s pulpits. But these criteria are problematic as a means of definition. There were clearly men and women who adhered to one or all of these goals who were not viewed as Puritans by their contemporaries or as Dissenters or nonconformists by later scholars. Furthermore, the relative importance of each of these criteria themselves (and the specific agenda that led from them) regularly shifted with the changing circumstances of the times and the policies being pursued by England’s monarchs and bishops. As the momentum for change slowed, some Englishmen determined not to tarry for the magistrate in making the changes God demanded in their practice. Separatists may not have initially dissented from the teachings of the Church of England (though some later did), but their disdain for its practices led to their decision to separate from the institution of the Church, establishing their own independent congregations of believers. Faced with arrest, fines, and imprisonment, many such dissenters left England and relocated in the Netherlands. Members of one of these groups, originating in Scrooby, England, and settling first in Amsterdam and then in Leiden, eventually decided to move on yet again. Popularly known to posterity as the Pilgrims, they founded the Plymouth Colony in New England in 1620.2

SET TLING NEW ENGLAND After Charles I became king in 1625 the price for Puritans seeking to remain in the Church of England became steeper. The new monarch was sympathetic to a faction of bishops who were perceived by Puritans as seeking to move the national Church back towards Catholic doctrine and practice. Following William Laud’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 conformity was imposed with increasing vehemence, with attention paid not only to what had been nominally required in prior decades, but to new policies that Puritans found dangerous. Even before this campaign for conformity was fully ramped up, many Puritans had perceived the looming threat. Some followed the example of Separatists and moved to the Netherlands. Others planned the establishment of a Puritan refuge in New England. In June of 1628 the Puritan dominated New England Company sent John Endecott to take charge of a number of small fishing villages 2  For general discussions of Separatists, see Stephen Brachlow, The Communion of the Saints: Radical Puritan and Separatist Ecclesiology, 1570–1625 (Oxford, 1988) and Stephen Wright, The Early English Baptists, 1603–1649 (Woodbridge, 2006). For the Pilgrims in particular, see Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners: Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation (Plymouth, MA, 2009).


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along the coast of New England that fell under the company’s jurisdiction. Following contacts with the Plymouth settlers to the south, Endecott and fellow settlers at Naumkeag (which he renamed Salem), organized a church in the spring of 1629. That church was virtually identical in its organization and practices to the Plymouth congregation and its Separatist predecessors in England and the Netherlands.3 At the same time the New England Company achieved sounder legal footing with a new royal charter and reorganization as the Massachusetts Bay Company. Leaders of that group, including the new governor John Winthrop, determined to emigrate themselves, bringing their charter with them, thus establishing full control over the colony’s affairs in New England.4 Addressing the large group of colonists ready to sail from Southampton in April 1630, Winthrop called upon them to live exemplary lives when they arrived in New England. They would be ‘as a City upon a Hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.’ Drawing on the social gospel commonly preached by Puritan ministers, Winthrop reminded his fellow colonists to be that they were to ‘delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together – always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body’.5 Before examining the Puritan experiment Winthrop and his fellow colonists engaged in, how they defined their religious culture, and the role of dissent in New England, a few words need to be said about how the original colonial churches related to the Church of England. The very act of migrating to the New World and establishing churches different from anything to be found in England at the time could be considered a blatant expression of non-conformity, and it is certainly reasonable to depict the New England venture in its entirety as nonconformist. Yet the Massachusetts colonists loudly proclaimed that they were not Separatists in principle. In the Humble Request they asserted that they remained ‘members of the same body’ as the English Church and that ‘such hope and part as we have obtained in the common salvation we have received

3  The degree to which the Salem congregation, and by implication, the subsequent churches established in Massachusetts were influenced by Plymouth, has long been a matter of controversy. For a discussion of that historiography and an important new contribution, see Michael Winship, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, MA, 2012). 4  This story can be followed in Francis J. Bremer, John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (New York, 2004), pp. 147–70. 5  John Winthrop, ‘A Model of Christian Charity’, Winthrop Papers: Volume II: 1623–30 (Boston, MA, 1931), p. 282. The sermon, when and where it was preached, and an analysis of its content is to be found in Bremer, John Winthrop, pp. 173–84. An alternative reading of the sermon’s origins is to be found in Daniel T. Rodgers, As a City on a Hill: The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon (Princeton, NJ, 2018), pp. 13–30. References to the sermon will be to the edition in the Winthrop Papers, though the best edition of the sermon is that newly transcribed and printed in Rodgers, City on a Hill, pp. 289–308.

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in her bosom and sucked it from her breasts’.6 This was not merely for an English audience. Roger Williams, referred to by Winthrop as ‘a godly minister’ when he arrived in Boston in 1631, soon left Massachusetts for Plymouth because the Boston church ‘would not make a public declaration of their repentance for having communion with the Churches of England while they lived there’.7 As men and women seeking to provide an example to fellow Christians in England, the colonial leaders believed that it was essential that they remain engaged with the Church of their homeland. That engagement manifested itself in various ways over the decades that extended to the Restoration of 1660. In the 1630s colonial ministers regularly responded to questions about New England church practices sent to them by friends who continued to serve in the English ministry.8 When the conflict between parliament and the king developed into war in 1642 colonists were quick to identify with and assist the Puritan cause in England. William Hooke’s New England’s Tears for Old England’s Fears (1641) captured the colonists’ sense of identity with their homeland. The noted colonial clergymen John Cotton, John Davenport, and Thomas Hooker were invited to join in the deliberations of the Westminster Assembly to reform the Church of England. Though those individuals declined the invitation, over the following decades many colonists returned to England and took up livings in reformed parishes and independent congregations.9 Clergy who remained in the colonies participated fully in the print debates over the future of England’s Church. Only when the hope of a Puritan national Church in England ended with the Restoration can the colonial churches be truly considered a separate Dissenting entity, allied primarily with England’s Congregational Dissenters. But the question of dissent is more complicated, for even in the period when New Englanders did not see themselves as distinct from the national Church there were colonists who dissented from the New England Way. The nature of that dissent and the way it was dealt with by the colonial authorities will be examined in the following pages.

ERECTING A PERIMETER FENCE The story of dissent in New England is often simplified as one of intolerant Puritans seeking to suppress various pioneers of religious freedom. To understand it properly it is important to understand that New England Puritanism 6  The “Humble Request”, Winthrop Papers, II, p. 232. 7  The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630–1649, eds Richard S. Dunn, James Savage, and Laetitia Yeandle (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 44, 50. 8  These exchanges are discussed in Francis  J.  Bremer, Congregational Communion: Clerical Friendship in the Anglo-American Puritan Community, 1610–1692 (Boston, MA, 1994), pp. 117–20. 9  The most recent treatment of colonists who returned to England at this time is to be found in Susan Hardman Moore, Abandoning America: Life-Stories from Early New England (Woodbridge, 2013).


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was for a long time a work in progress. When they sailed for America the founders did not have a blueprint for how either state or Church was to be constructed. Rather, Winthrop advised them that if they lived godly lives God would ‘command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of his wisdom, power, goodness and truth than formerly we have been acquainted with’.10 Implicit in this was an acceptance of the fact that, like all Christians, the colonists were searching for truth by looking through a glass darkly, and that through the inspiration of the spirit they might see more clearly and grow incrementally in knowledge and thus godliness. As they struggled to erect a perimeter fence that would define the boundary between beliefs and practice that were acceptable and those that were intolerable, some of the colonial Puritan leaders were aware enough of their own frailties as fallen men that they were willing to engage in discussion of such matters with those who advanced differing views, so long as they were presented with humility.11 Thus, as a representative of the Boston church John Winthrop travelled to Watertown to discuss with that church’s pastor George Phillip the latter’s belief that the Church of Rome was a true Church. After discussion, Phillips abandoned that position.12 Differences focused attention on disputed points, leading to debate and potentially new insights. Where differences remained all were to live with them pending further light, unity being more important in such instances than uniformity. Whether issues were resolved or not, dissent could be constructive. In his important study of radicalism in New England during the period between 1620 and 1660 Philip F. Gura pointed out how much of ‘the ecclesiastical and doctrinal underpinnings of New England’s theology evolved as a result of a constant dialectic between nonseparating Congregationalists and those in the population who argued for more radical reorganization of seventeenth-century society’.13 Some leaders, however, were more certain of knowing the answers to questions about faith and practice, and they led efforts to suppress views that differed from what they were certain of. In examining how New Englanders treated dissent it is important to recognize that decisions that seem straightforward— such as to banish Roger Williams or hang the Quaker Mary Dyer—were actually contested between those who were more open to discussion of controversial ideas and those who were convinced of the need for limiting debate. It was a conflict over whether unity was enough or uniformity required. Three factors are important in establishing the framework for these debates—the congregational 10  Winthrop, ‘Christian Charity’, p. 294. 11  I have found the concept of a perimeter fence, as discussed by Alexandra Walsham in Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England, 1500–1700 (Manchester, 2006), to be a useful tool in dealing with the question of how much latitude of opinion and practices Puritans allowed in the public spheres that they created. A similar idea can be found in Kai Ericson’s Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance (New York, 1966), in which he discusses conflict as a means of settling boundaries. 12  Bremer, John Winthrop, pp. 221–2. 13  Philip F. Gura, A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory: Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620–1660 (Middletown, CT, 1984), p. viii.

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nature of the Church order, the role of the state, and the awareness that New England was a land of immigrants. All of them affected the debates over different ideas. The church established by John Endecott and his fellow believers in Salem in 1629 became the model for all of New England. Townsmen would identify a small number of their neighbours as particularly godly and those ‘pillars’ would draw up a covenant. Individuals desiring to join the church were tested as to their beliefs and behaviour, the colonists believing that the faith and conduct of those infused with saving grace were discernibly different from those of individuals who were not of the elect. Membership having been extended to those who sought it and met the criteria, the lay members would then elect clerical and lay elders. As in the choice of ministers, so too in all other matters, decisions were made by the congregation.14 This included matters of discipline, so that while decisions to censure or excommunicate dissenters from a congregation were declared by the clergy, they were actually made by the lay members of the church. The very nature of this congregationalism, with its emphasis on the au­ton­ omy of the individual congregation, explains why there was less uniformity in New England than is often assumed. Peter Hobart, the pastor of Hingham, Massachusetts and the Newbury, Massachusetts clergymen Thomas Parker and James Noyse believed in a more Presbyterian polity that featured broader membership criteria and rejected lay ordination of clergy. Their ideas were rejected by a gathering of area clergy in 1643, but there was no effort to impose a more thorough congregationalism on the two towns.15 In 1653 Hartford’s Samuel Stone, famously known for having characterized New England church practice as ‘a speaking aristocracy in the face of a silent democracy’, asserted the right to reject his congregation’s choice of a candidate to join him in the ministry.16 Years later, Samuel Willard would similarly assert the right of a pastor to exercise a negative voice over the deliberations of his congregation.17 In part because congregations were independent, over time the civil authorities took steps intended to ensure religious order. In many respects, the spheres of church and state in New England were more separate than elsewhere in the western world. Those holding religious office could not hold civil posts. Action 14  The standard account of church membership requirements is Edmund S. Morgan, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (Ithaca, NY, 1963). I have offered a different perspective of what was required for membership in ‘ “To Tell what God hath Done for thy Soul”: Puritan Spiritual Testimonies as Admission Tests and Means of Edification’, New England Quarterly, 87 (2014), 625–65. The governance of these congregations is the subject of James  F.  Cooper’s Tenacious of their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial Massachusetts (New York, 1999). 15  David  D.  Hall, The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the New England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill, NC, 1972), p. 209. 16  I have discussed the resulting dispute in the Hartford church in Francis J. Bremer, Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds (New Haven, CT, 2012), pp. 258–62. See also Baird Tipson, Hartford Puritanism: Thomas Hooker, Samuel Stone, and Their Terrifying God (Oxford, 2015). 17  Hall, Faithful Shepherd, p. 212.


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against an individual by a church had no civil consequences. The colony governments had no authority that would have enabled them to define or approve doctrines. Yet the magistrates were expected to be nursing fathers and mothers to the churches, and in the 1630s the Massachusetts General Court sought to put a limit on lay empowerment and establish greater uniformity by stipulating that any new congregation needed to be approved by the magistrates and the ministerial ‘elders of the greater part of the churches in this jurisdiction’.18 In 1646 the General Court ordered that every person must attend services on the Lord’s Day and on all public fast days and days of thanksgiving, though making clear that it was not compelling individuals to join the churches, nor forcing them to participate in the ceremonies of worship. On various occasions the civil authorities invited the churches to send representatives to assemblies that were asked to address matters of religious concern and make recommendations to the congregations. Even as they advised their allies in England during the years of the Civil Wars, Commonwealth, and Protectorate, New Englanders showed an awareness of their unique situation as a society of immigrants. Thomas Shepard, the minister at Cambridge, Massachusetts, was one of the less flexible colonists. At one point he called for ‘axes and wedges . . . to hew and break through this rough, uneven, bold, yet professing age’.19 Yet in writing about the English situation, in 1645 Shepard acknowledged that ‘the case may be such as a state may tolerate all, because of necessity they must, the numbers being so many and the hazard more’.20 Transforming a nation where many had been raised in error was a different task from ensuring orthodoxy in a society of men and women who had moved there knowing the principles New England stood for.

DISSENTERS BEYOND THE PALE: RO GER WILLIAMS With these factors in mind, it is worth reviewing the major controversies that involved the definition and treatment of unacceptable dissent. The first of those members of the society whose protests put them beyond the pale was Roger Williams. 18  Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, ed. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (Boston, MA, 1853), I, pp. 142–3. The term ‘nursing mothers’ is from Isaiah 49:23: ‘And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers.’ 19  Shepard’s role in the Free Grace Controversy is well described in Michael P. Winship, Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636–1641 (Princeton, NJ, 2002). Shepard and his ally Thomas Dudley are discussed in Francis J. Bremer, First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World (Hanover, NH, 2012), pp. 63–78, where the statement about axes and wedges is quoted. 20  ‘Thomas Shepard to Hugh Peter, 1645’, American Historical Review, 4 (1898), 105–6.

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The first incident involved the formation of the Salem church. That c­ ongregation having been formed, the chosen ministers, Samuel Skelton and Francis Higginson, dispensed with the use of the English Prayer Book and adopted practices such as allowing laymen to ask questions and offer their own insights during services. This offended some of the members of the community, who, led by John and Samuel Browne, began to meet separately and conduct readings from the Prayer Book. The Brownes accused the congregation of separatism and Anabaptism. When they would not desist, Governor Endecott deemed that their complaints threatened the unity of the community and shipped them back to England.21 After having criticized the Boston church for refusing to explicitly separate from the Church of England after his arrival in Massachusetts in 1631, Roger Williams had settled in Plymouth. But despite being recognized as a man of deep piety, he soon, according to the colony’s Governor William Bradford, ‘began to fall into some strange opinions, and from opinion to practice, which caused some controversy between the church and him’.22 Among those opinions were ‘that it is not lawful for an unregenerate man to pray, nor to take an oath, and in special not the oath of fidelity to the civil government; nor was it lawful for a godly man to have communion, either in family prayer, or in an oath, with such as they judged unregenerate’.23 Disappointed when the Plymouth church would not accept his views, Williams moved again and settled in Salem, where he was soon preaching by way of prophesying. There he advanced some other positions that stirred controversy, namely that the red cross in the English ensign was a symbol of papist idolatry, that women should wear veils during church services, and that the king had no true claim to the land he granted to the Massachusetts Bay Company. The Massachusetts leaders were divided on how to deal with Williams. John Endecott and John Winthrop, along with some clergy, had some success in getting him to temper his views. But, following Thomas Dudley’s election to the governorship in May 1634, the Court of Assistants (the colony magistrates) was dominated by a faction that held a more restrictive view on what was tolerable. Dudley himself was later memorialized by his daughter, the poet Anne Bradstreet, as being ‘to sectaries, a whip and maul’, and he was convinced that Williams’ views posed a threat to the civil order.24 While rooted in his religion, Williams’ positions on the validity of oaths and of the king’s right to grant the charter had strong implications for the colony’s survival, and John Endecott’s 21  Massachusetts Records, I, pp. 51–69. 22  William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647, ed. Worthington  C.  Ford, 2 vols (Boston, MA, 1912), II, p. 162. 23  Nathaniel Morton, New England’s Memorial (Boston, MA, 1855 [originally published 1669]), pp. 102–3. 24  Anne Bradstreet, ‘To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honoured Father’, in Jeannine Hensley, The Works of Anne Bradstreet (Cambridge, MA, 1967), p. 203.


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action in cutting the cross from the ensign used by the Salem train band in November 1634 highlighted how incendiary Williams’s views might be. Even with this action, the most the court was willing to do was to order Williams in April 1635 to desist from promulgating his controversial views. This was in keeping with the practice of not seeking to dictate what one must believe, but rather prohibiting the proselytization of what the majority deemed to be error. When there was evidence that Williams was violating the order, in October 1635 the magistrates decided that he was to be sent out of the colony. John Winthrop warned Williams of the impending action, prompting the dissenter to travel through the winter snows to settle in what was to be Providence, Rhode Island. Over the following decades Williams became further convinced of the futility of creating a truly reformed church prior to Christ’s second coming. This did not, however, mean that he was unsure of his own religious beliefs—indeed, he was as insistent on his views as those who banished him were of theirs. He did not seek to force uniformity on the settlers of Rhode Island, which colony became notable for broad toleration. On his journeys to England to secure a charter for his colony, Williams jumped into the polemics of the time, writing against the intolerance of Massachusetts and that colony’s treatment of him in The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (1644). John Cotton responded to this in The Bloudy Tenent, Washed, and Made White in the Bloude of the Lambe (1647), to which Williams replied in The Bloudy Tenent Yet More Bloudy (1652), the latter published following Cotton’s death. Cotton’s position—and in general that of New Englanders—was that toleration could be granted to those who differed on matters of polity and on nonfundamental religious beliefs, but not to those who differed on fundamentals. This was also essentially the position of England’s Congregationalists, but the difficulty with implementing it was how to define ‘fundamentals’.25 Williams, for his part, wanted no state interference in religion, not because he deemed separation of church and state necessary for the good of the state, but because he had experiences that led him to fear the effect that the state might have in dictating religious belief and practice. In his famous ‘ship of state letter’ of 1655 he asserted that ‘it hath fallen out sometimes, that both Papists and Protestants, Jews, and Turks [Muslims] may be embarked on one ship’. In such a case, he affirmed, that ‘all Liberty of Conscience that I ever pleaded for, turns upon these two hinges, that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, and Turks be

25  Most historians have accepted at face value Williams’s depiction of the colonial position and sided with the Rhode Islanders. But a more nuanced view of the debate, with greater sympathy for Cotton’s position, is to be found in Conrad Wright, ‘John Cotton Washed and Made White’, in F. Forrester Church and Timothy George, eds, Community and Discontinuity in Church History (Leiden, 1979), pp. 338–50. The most recent biography of Roger Williams, covering his entire life, is John M. Barry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty (New York, 2012).

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forced to come to the ship’s prayers or worship, nor, secondly, compelled from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practice any’.26

DISSENTERS BEYOND THE PALE: ANNE HUTCHINSON While the Massachusetts magistrates were still deliberating what to do with Roger Williams, in 1634 the seeds of another conflict were being sown, when Anne Hutchinson arrived in Boston. Hutchinson became a prominent member of the godly community there. John Cotton later recalled that she ‘readily fell into good discourse with the women about their spiritual estates’, and that she ‘found loving and dear respect from both our church-elders and brethren, and so from myself ’. Soon men as well as women turned to her for advice. According to John Winthrop ‘her ordinary talk was about the things of the Kingdom of God’, and ‘her usual conversation was of righteousness and kindness’.27 There were other centres of lay religiosity in the town, but the meetings in her home were special. Cotton acknowledged that ‘[all] the faithful embraced her conference and blessed God for her fruitful discourses’.28 Among those who were drawn to her meetings was Henry Vane Jr, the son of a prominent member of the king’s council but a devout Puritan who was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1636. Some of the religious ideas raised by Hutchinson and other Boston saints in the mid-1630s tested the limits of orthodox Puritan belief (to the extent we can define what was ‘orthodox’). Yet, as Michael Winship has pointed out, while ‘the Boston church was certainly a potential agent of disorder, yet it was at the same time a striking example and capacity for containing and avoiding doctrinal conflict that gave Puritanism its rough, practical coherence’.29 Among the ideas that were being discussed were what happened to the soul after death, whether sanctification provided evidence of salvation, the resurrection of the body, whether Christ had descended into hell after his death on the cross. Many of these would have been recognized as issues debated in the London underground in the previous decades.30 It would be a mistake to underestimate the theological sophistication and charisma of Anne Hutchinson, but it would also be a mistake (which some have 26  The Correspondence of Roger Williams: Volume II: 1654–1682, ed. Glenn  W.  LaFantasie (Providence, RI, 1988), p. 424. 27  Marilyn Westerkamp discusses Hutchinson in this context in ‘Anne Hutchinson: Sectarian Mysticism and the Puritan Order’, Church History, 59 (1990), 487–8. 28  Quotes in Winship, Making Heretics, pp. 41–3. 29  Winship, Making Heretics, p. 44. 30  David Como provides an excellent treatment of these English controversies in Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford, CA, 2004).


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made) to depict her as the sole force behind the challenge to the establishment that emerged. There were certainly other laymen and women who engaged vigorously in the discussion that was going on, and some were more radical than her. Those who gathered at Hutchinson’s for conference would, according to the clergyman Thomas Welde, ‘appear very humble, holy, and spiritual Christians, and full of Christ; they would deny themselves far, speak excellently, pray with such soul-ravishing expression and affections’.31 For well over a year following her arrival neither of the congregation’s ministers—John Cotton and John Wilson—nor its most prominent layman, John Winthrop, saw anything amiss in the discussions going on in her home.32 It was Thomas Shepard, the new minister of the church at Newtown (soon to be renamed Cambridge), who first raised questions about what was happening, first in a letter he sent to John Cotton, and then raising concerns in a ministerial meeting in October 1636. Towards the end of 1636 the situation became more explosive. An effort to call Anne’s brother-in-law John Wheelwright, closely affiliated with Hutchinson and Vane, to join the ministry of the Boston church failed to gain the unanimous support required. Members of the Hutchinson circle, branded by others as opinionists, began to publicly assert more extreme positions and to challenge those who questioned them. Fuel was added to the fire when Wheelwright, delivering a fast-day sermon in January 1637, lashed out at those who were critical of his faction, calling on his supporters to prepare for spiritual combat and be prepared to suffer martyrdom. Eventually Wheelwright would be banished for what the magistrates viewed as the insurrectionary nature of the sermon. With Thomas Shepard wielding his rhetorical axe, a process of polarization began that developed a life of its own, with individuals of various opinions gradually abandoning dialogue and beginning to hurl negative labels at one another, and soon each side came to believe the categorization they had shaped to define their opponents. John Wilson told church members that attending the conference in Hutchinson’s home would ‘rob you of your ordinances, rob you of your souls, rob you of your God’, and forbade members of his household from participating.33 Thomas Welde recorded that the clergy ‘must have dung cast on their faces, and be no better than legal preachers, Baal’s Priest, Popish factors, Scribes, Pharisees, and Opposers of Christ himself ’, and that the opinionists would claim that ‘a church officer is an ignorant man, and knows not Christ; . . . such a pastor is a proud man, and would make a good persecutor; such a teacher is grossly popish’. Opinionists were seeking out clergymen at weekday lectures, and Welde wrote how ‘after our sermons were ended at our public lectures, you might have seen half a dozen pistols discharged in the face of the preacher, I mean so many objections made by the opinionists in the open 31  Welde quoted in Winship, Making Heretics, p. 59. 32  Winship, Making Heretics, p. 62.    33  Quoted in Winship, Making Heretics, p. 117.

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assembly against our doctrine delivered’. And, in Boston, ‘you might have seen many of the opinionists rising up, and contemptuously turning their backs upon the faithful pastor [John Wilson] of that church, and going forth from the assembly when he began to pray or preach’.34 Following the colony elections in March 1637 the ‘orthodox’ party gained control of the situation. John Winthrop had been elected governor. The General Court condemned Wheelwright’s fast-day sermon as seditious but deferred his sentencing till a later meeting. The Court also issued a call for representatives of the churches of New England to gather to address the controversy. The meeting convened in the Newtown meetinghouse at the end of August, 1637. Rather than identifying and condemning specific ideas broached in the colony in recent years, the Synod discussed and eventually condemned a list of eighty-two opinions without specifying that they were actually upheld by anyone in the colony.35 In November the General Court tried and sentenced to banishment some of Wheelwright’s more aggressive supporters and Hutchinson herself. Those trials, while carrying religious overtones, were civil proceedings and, the decision were based on the threat the divisions posed to the political order. In March 1638 Anne Hutchinson was brought to trial before the Boston congregation, with outside ministers also present. She was allowed to engage in theological discourse with those who had doubts about her positions. Declining to admit that she had embraced particular errors, Hutchinson was willing to acknowledge that on some points she may have been mistaken. This wasn’t enough for her clerical critics. After considerable debate over more than one day, the congregation decided that she was guilty and with all but a few abstaining, voted to excommunicate her.36 The Sunday following the verdict one of Hutchinson’s supporters, William Dyer, was called before the church to explain his view that Adam was not made in God’s image. He defended his position against John Cotton and was admonished by the church. Together with other members of the Hutchinsonian group, Dyer and his wife Mary moved to Rhode Island and settled in the town of Aquidneck.

DEBATING BAPTISM The next defining debate over dissenting views developed in the 1640s and involved those who questioned the practice of infant baptism. There is little question but that many of those we identify as New England Baptists began 34  Welde quoted in Winship, Making Heretics, p. 116. 35  Winthrop quoted in Winship, Making Heretics, p. 157. 36  The transcript of Hutchinson’s church trial is in David  D.  Hall, ed., The Antinomian Controversy, 1636–1638: A Documentary History (Middletown, CT, 1968), pp. 349–88. The sentence of excommunication is on p. 388.


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their spiritual progress as Puritans and the case can be made that many of those who opposed infant baptism remained Puritan in all other respects. And colonists were well aware at the time of the fact that many of their English Congregational friends and allies hesitated to define infant baptism as a fundamental of faith, allowing into their congregations godly men and women who had conscientious scruples about the baptizing of infants. One of the first New Englanders to espouse Baptist views was John Clarke, an Englishman who had received some university education and studied medicine for a time, perhaps in Leiden. He emigrated to Massachusetts in November 1637, when the Free Grace controversy was at its height. Clarke sided with the dissidents and moved with them to Rhode Island, settling eventually in Newport. Like other Puritan churches without a trained clergyman, the congregations in those towns functioned without an ordained minister, allowing laymen to preach by way of ‘prophesying’.37 Clarke viewed prophesying as ‘a plain, and brief declaration of the mind and counsel of God, in words significantly and easily understood . . . and brought forth for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the whole’. He believed that spiritual discussions in church or separate conferences promoted greater understanding, writing that the Spirit would lead members ‘from truth to truth, until they be brought to all truth’.38 None of these position distinguished Clarke from the mainstream of Puritan Congregationalism. But by 1644 he and his Newport congregation had come to the conclusion that infant baptism was unscriptural. While Roger Williams had briefly embraced Baptist views in 1639, the Newport church led by Clarke is properly considered the first true Baptist church in America. Over the following decades Clarke would assist other New Englanders seeking to worship as Baptists, and join with English advocates of toleration, travelling to Massachusetts on more than one occasion, where he was arrested and fined. In December 1642 it became evident that Lady Deborah Moody, a ­well-regarded English gentlewoman who had joined the Salem church two years previously, and whom John Winthrop referred to as ‘a wise and anciently religious woman’, had come to doubt the validity of infant baptism, though she did not insist that the practice was clearly wrong. After various individuals failed to persuade her of the validity of the sacrament she decided to voluntarily leave the colony to avoid further controversy, settling on Long Island, in the Dutch colony of New Netherland, where she eventually became a Quaker.39 While en route to New Netherland, Lady Moody stopped in New Haven to visit her friend, Anne Eaton, the wife of Theophilus Eaton, governor of the 37  Thomas Lechford, Plain Dealing, or News from New England (1642), edited with an introduction by J. Hammond Trumbull (Boston, MA, 1867), p. 94. 38  Sydney V. James, John Clarke and His Legacies: Religion and Law in Colonial Rhode Island 1638–1750, ed. Theodore Dwight Bozeman (University Park, PA, 1999), pp. 21–42, where Clarke is quoted. 39  For Lady Moody, see Francis J. Bremer, First Founders, pp. 91–3.

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New Haven colony. The two women may first have encountered Baptist teaching when they knew each other in London, but they clearly discussed the ideas in New Haven, and Moody lent her friend a copy of Andrew Ritor’s A Treatise of the Vanity of Child-Baptism (1642). Shortly thereafter, as New Haven’s pastor John Davenport prepared to conduct an infant baptism in the New Haven church, Eaton rose up and left the congregation. Over the following weeks Davenport sought to dissuade her from her position, reviewing with her and (to his mind) refuting Ritor’s arguments. While these discussions were ongoing, separate charges were levelled against Anne, asserting that she had treated members of her household—from her mother-in-law to servants—in an abusive fashion. She was eventually censured and excommunicated for that behaviour. In the end neither the church nor the civil authorities dealt with her Baptist views and, while excluded from church services for her abusive behaviour, she was allowed to continue as a member of the community and provided a seat just outside the meetinghouse where she could listen to sermons and prayers.40 A sentence of excommunication such as those voted against Anne Hutchinson and Anne Eaton was the ultimate weapon employed by the New England churches against those who were intransigent in refusing to desist from unacceptable beliefs or practice, but it was only used when counselling and censure had failed and was intended to bring the offender back to the fold. The laity who voted to cast a fellow member out of the church were not consigning them to the outer darkness forever. In the 1640s the Boston church sent messengers to Rhode Island to persuade Anne Hutchinson and those who had left with her to rejoin their communion. Hutchinson rejected these overtures, but most laymen who were excommunicated were eventually reunited with the church. Other less noteworthy individuals also embraced Baptist views. Thomas Painter was a labourer and member of the Hingham church when he refused to allow his wife to bring their child to be baptized in 1644. William Witter of Salem was first presented to the county court for claiming that it was sinful to baptize infants and calling the sacrament the ‘badge of the whore’ in February of 1644.41 In response to the evidence that Baptist views were spreading (or perhaps due to the movement’s appeal to lower classes), the Massachusetts General Court passed a law in November 1644 against those who maintained the position, basing their decision on the potential disruption to civil order and allowing for their banishment. Citing how ‘experience hath plentifully and often proved since the first rising of the Anabaptists about a hundred years 40  Anne Eaton and her views are discussed in Francis J. Bremer, Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, A Puritan in Three Worlds (New Haven, CT, 2012), pp. 220–5. 41  William G. McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 1630–1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State, 2 vols (Cambridge MA, 1971), I, pp. 16, 18.


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since, they have been the incendiaries of commonwealths, and the infectors of persons in the main matters of religion, and the troublemakers of churches in all places where they have been’, the court ordered that if any person openly condemned ‘or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the administration of the ordinance’, they should be banished if they do not repent.42 Implied in the law was the association of Anabaptism with the effort to establish a communal sectarian government in the German city of Munster in the 1530s. While the authorities were hoping to suppress the Baptists, John Cotton contended that he knew of many who silently had doubts about infant baptism but did not espouse them publicly.43 There is a danger in judging all or even most of New England by what was done in Massachusetts. It may be noted that New Haven, where John Davenport was more willing to consider Anabaptism something to be discussed, never passed a law against it. Nor did Connecticut.44 There is no evidence that Plymouth passed legislation against Baptists and this roused the ire of Massachusetts, the Bay’s General Court sending a letter to the Plymouth authorities in 1649 complaining that they had ‘heard heretofore of divers Anabaptists arisen up in your jurisdiction’, and that recently ‘there have been at Seekonk thirteen or fourteen persons rebaptized’ without the authorities doing anything about it. They feared that ‘the infection of such diseases, being so near us, are likely to spread into our jurisdiction’. Plymouth ignored the complaint.45 Some Baptists were won back to orthodoxy, while others persisted in their views or went on to embrace more radical positions. Perhaps the most famous of those who did express and retain an opposition to infant baptism was Henry Dunster. A member of the Cambridge, Massachusetts church whose ‘confession’ was carefully recorded by Thomas Shepard, Dunster was the president of Harvard College who put that institution on the right path after a rocky beginning. But, having come to question the practice of infant baptism, he consequently refused to present an infant son for the sacrament. Despite the Massachusetts law allowing for the banishment of Baptists, many of New England’s Puritan leaders were willing to tolerate those who had adopted these views so long as they did not try to proselytize. Clerical friends tried to persuade Dunster of the error of his ways, or at least to avoid espousing them. Because he was not willing to go that far, he resigned in October 1654. He settled in the town of Scituate, in the Plymouth Colony, where he preached on occasion until his death in 1659, having no problems with the other Plymouth churches, though they espoused infant baptism.46 42  Massachusetts Records, II, p. 85. 43  McLoughlin, New England Dissent, I, p. 9, n.2. 44  Bremer, Building a New Jerusalem, p. 269. 45  Massachusetts Records, III, pp. 173–4. 46  Francis  J.  Bremer, ‘Dunster, Henry (bap. 1609, d. 1659)’, ODNB. See also Jonathan Den Hartog, ‘ “National and Provinciall Churches are Nullityes”: Henry Dunster’s Puritan Argument

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Earlier, in 1638, Charles Chauncy, formerly lecturer in Hebrew and Greek at Trinity College, Cambridge and a respected member of the East Anglian Puritan brotherhood, had settled in the town of Plymouth in the colony of that name. Chauncy raised different issues regarding the sacraments. He believed that baptism should be by full immersion, not sprinkling (as most Puritans practised), and that the Lord’s Supper should only be celebrated in the evening. While the Plymouth colonists accepted immersion as lawful they were not willing to practise it, believing—as Governor Bradford expressed it—that it was not convenient in the cold climate of New England. In 1641 Chauncy moved on to Scituate, in the same colony. There was no effort to suppress or restrict his expression of his views, though the Scituate congregation was divided over them.47 It is interesting that when Dunster resigned as Harvard president he was replaced by Chauncy while Dunster settled in Scituate. The 1644 law against the Baptists represented the triumph of those Bay colonists who believed in a more rigid definition of what was acceptable to discuss. But it also revealed how conflicted the New Englanders were over how Baptists should be treated. Stephen Winthrop, John’s son, who was in England, where Congregationalists were not as convinced that infant baptism was a fundamental of faith, wrote that there was ‘great complaint against us for our [New England’s] severity against the Baptists’. John Winthrop’s nephew George Downing added his own observation on ‘the law of banishment for conscience which makes us stink everywhere’.48 In October 1645 a petition by various lay leaders requested that the law be repealed, citing the ‘offence taken thereat by many godly in England’. Many members of the colony’s General Court, likely including John Winthrop, were in favour of at least suspending the law for a time, but a group of the clergy, protesting the ‘advantage it would give to the Anabaptists (who began to increase very fast through the country here), and much more in England (where they had gathered divers churches, and taught openly, and published a confession of their faith)’ petitioned that the law be kept in force. And in May 1646 ‘seventy seven inhabitants of this colony’ petitioned the court, ‘humbly requesting all due strengthening and keeping in force such laws’ against the Anabaptists.49

against the Puritan Established Church’, Journal of Church and State, 56 (2014), 691–710. I would like to thank Dr Den Hartog for sharing a copy of his essay. 47  Chauncy’s stay in Scituate and the split in that congregation are carefully analysed in Jeremy Dupertius Bangs’ introduction to his edition of The Seventeenth-Century Town Records of Scituate, Massachusetts, Vol. I (Boston, MA, 1997), pp. 31–44. 48  Winthrop and Downing quoted in Bremer, John Winthrop, p. 339. 49  Winthrop’s Journal, pp. 611–12, 629; Massachusetts Records, II, p. 141; Massachusetts Records, III, pp. 51, 64.


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THE QUAKER CHALLENGE Unlike the Baptists, who were, in essence, fellow church members who had become convinced of the error of infant baptism, the early Quakers who came to New England were for the most part strangers.50 This meant that any action against them would be taken by the civil authorities, since the churches only exercised jurisdiction over their members. Justification for acting against the Quakers rested on their perceived threat to social order and public peace. Sarah Gibbons and seven other English Friends arrived in Boston in August 1656. They were questioned, placed in prison, and banished. While Daniel Boorstin’s characterization of the Quakers as individuals who had come to Massachusetts ‘in quest of punishment’ is too simple and too harsh, there is no denying that Quakers accepted suffering not only as a witness to Christ but as a means of gaining sympathy and support for their cause.51 Whereas previous exiles from Massachusetts had stayed away once banished, Quakers came back. There was a steady arrival of Quaker missionaries moving between Barbados, New Amsterdam, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. As was the case in England, they disrupted church meetings by interrupting sermons and confronting clergymen. One report claimed that Gibbons and Dorothy Waugh confronted John Norton during a service, smashing a bottle as a sign of Norton’s spiritual emptiness.52 If true it is hardly surprising that Norton became one of the most vociferous critics of the Quakers. Faced with the Quaker refusal to accept simple banishment, the colonial authorities passed further legislation against the sect. Massachusetts enacted a law in 1656 stipulating that Quakers were to be whipped and incarcerated while awaiting deportation. New Haven passed a law in 1657 that ‘no Quaker, Ranter, or other heretic of that sort be suffered to come into nor abide in this jurisdiction’. But this did not mean that colonial clergy were not willing to engage Quakers and attempt to persuade them of the errors of their way. Humphrey Norton, an English Quaker, arrived in the New Haven colony in 1658 and disrupted a church service in Southold, ‘slandered and reproached’ the clergyman, John Youngs, ‘together with his ministry and all our ministers and ordinances’. He was arrested and tried in New Haven, where John Davenport debated him, but failed to shake his views. Norton was whipped, branded on his hand with an ‘H’ for heretic, and sent out of the colony. Shortly thereafter New Haven’s General Court moderated its laws, allowing Quakers to come into the colony on business and prohibiting only efforts to proselytize.53 50  For the Quakers in New England, see Arthur J. Worrall, Quakers in the Colonial Northeast (Hanover, NH, 1980), pp. 1–58. See also Jonathan Chu, Neighbors, Friends, or Madmen: The Puritan Adjustment to Quakerism in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts Bay (New York, 1985). 51  Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New York, 1958), p. 38. 52  Catie Gill, ‘Gibbons, Sarah (1634/5–1659)’, ODNB. 53  Bremer, Building a New Jerusalem, pp. 271–4.

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As the Quaker challenge continued, the Commissioners of the United Colonies (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Haven, and Plymouth) recommended that the individual colonies consider the death penalty for members of the sect who kept returning from banishment. Massachusetts, urged on by John Wilson and John Norton, was the only colony to enact such legislation. In October 1659 Marmaduke Stevenson, William Robinson, Nicholas Davis, and Mary Dyer—who had been a follower of Anne Hutchinson before being convinced of Quaker beliefs—were sentenced to death, though Dyer was given a reprieve at the last moment. But she too was executed when she challenged the law again in 1660. William Ledra became the last Quaker hung in the Bay in 1661. This was a landmark in the history of New England dissent, because shortly thereafter the newly restored English monarch, Charles II, ordered a halt to executions. Even before executions were prohibited, there were some Puritans who questioned the harshness employed by Massachusetts. The Boston merchant John Hull observed that ‘in those parts of the country [New England] where they might with freedom converse (as in Rhode Island . . .) they take no pleasure to be’, whereas in Massachusetts ‘they seemed to suffer patiently, and take a kind of pleasure in it’. Learning of the execution of the three Quaker men in Boston in 1659, John Davenport expressed the wish that the authorities had accepted an offer made by Thomas Temple to carry the Quakers away at his own expense. ‘The Quakers’, he wrote, ‘would have feared that kind of banishment more than hanging, it being a real cutting themselves off from all opportunities and liberty of doing hurt in the colony by gaining proselytes, which would have been more bitter than death to them’.54 The story of the influx of aggressive Quakers into New England and their treatment there accentuates the differences between the two groups. But attention to the external relations between Quakers and Puritans can obscure the real inner relationship that existed between the two groups.55 Various contemporaries pointed to connections they saw between the spiritist views of Anne Hutchinson and her followers and the Quaker reliance on the Inner Light. Mary Dyer was a living example of the progression that could take place from Puritan to Hutchinsonian, to Quaker. Similarly, many of the leaders of English Quakerism had been raised in Puritan households. And the evolution of Puritanism into Quakerism can be examined in the cases of two members of the colonial establishment. Samuel Winthrop was one of the sons of John and Margaret Winthrop. He studied at Harvard, apprenticed briefly with a merchant in the Canary Islands, then settled as a sugar planter and merchant on Antigua. 54  Bremer, Building a New Jerusalem, pp. 272–6. 55  J.F. Maclear, ‘ “Heart of New England Rent” The Mystical Element in Early Puritan History’, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 42 (1956), 622. The inner relationship between Puritans and Quakers is also made by Geoffrey F. Nuttall in The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience, with a new introduction by Peter Lake (Chicago, IL, 1992).


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Without an adequate ministry on the island, Samuel was forced to nurture his faith and that of his family through private readings of Scripture and household devotions. Appeals to New England friends for help in securing a competent clergyman were unsuccessful. At some point in the 1660s he encountered a Quaker missionary, perhaps Jonas Langford, and found in his teachings an expression of the piety and reliance on the Spirit comparable to and compatible with the faith he had been raised in. Winthrop became a leader of the Quaker community in that part of the West Indies. Despite his embracing of Quakerism he never lost his affection for New England and his ties with his family and friends there remained intact.56 In England in the 1620s William Coddington had been a prosperous member of John Cotton’s English parish who had gone to prison for refusing to contribute to Charles I’s so-called ‘Forced Loan’. He emigrated to Massachusetts, where he became a prominent merchant, an assistant in the Bay Colony ­government, and the colonial treasurer. Coddington was a supporter of Anne Hutchinson and voluntarily left the Bay when she was banished. He helped found the Rhode Island town of Portsmouth, and then moved on to Newport. After the various towns in the region combined to form Rhode Island, he was elected governor of that colony. By that time he had, like some others who had followed Hutchinson, become a Quaker. Despite this, he had maintained strong relations with some of the Puritan leaders of the region, and engaged in correspondence with Connecticut’s John Winthrop Jr, among others. Reflecting on the harsh treatment of Quakers by the Massachusetts authorities, Coddington in 1672 wrote a letter to three of his former friends in the Massachusetts leadership—Richard Bellingham, William Hathorne, and Simon Bradstreet—in which he accused them of abandoning their early principles. He lamented how they had ceased to possess the ‘tenderness in you (for I have known you both long, . . . above this forty five years)’ and gone ‘so far to degenerate from Christianity to hardnesss and cruelty’. He reminded Hathorne of how when they sailed together for America ‘in the ship I know thou wast tender, serious and retired, as became the Gospel of Christ (for I had speech with thee many times.)’ ‘Then and afterward’, he recalled, Hathorne had given ‘testimony against persecution, and stinting or limiting the spirit of prophecy in any, viz., to refrain from preaching but by allowance of certain persons’. According to Coddington, at the time Hathorne had argued that ‘if that should take place in New England thou lookest at it as one of the most horrid acts as ever was done in New England’. And yet, now, decades later Hathorne was among those who sought to suppress the prophets.57 56  See Francis J. Bremer, First Founders, pp. 169–94. 57  William Coddington, A Demonstration of True Love Unto You the Rulers of the Colony of the Massachusetts in New England (London, 1674), pp. 6, 10. This tenderness towards those who disagreed was characteristic of many Puritans. It is a central theme in Abram  C.  Van Engen, Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (New York, 2015).

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Coddington reminded his old friends of how John Cotton had spoken of grace and the need to magnify it. He was harsh in his recollection of how ‘a persecuting Spirit arose’ among the majority of the clergy, who he referred to as ‘priests’, who demanded that ‘Anne Hutchinson and John Wheelwright must be banished, and all that stood in their way must remove, and the unclean spirit like frogs came out of the mouth of the false prophet, so that persecution was ushered in’. Coddington, ‘as a man and a Christian, . . . would have no hand in it’ and left the colony. He had particularly harsh words for John Norton, whom he saw as a key figure in urging harsh treatment of Quakers in the 1650s and 1660s. Towards the end of his letter he asked his former friends to ‘consider that forty five years past thou didst own such a suffering people, that now thou dost persecute; they were against Bishops and ceremonies and the conformable priests; they were the seed of God that did serve him in spirit, then called Puritans, now called Quakers’.58 It is hard to see a Humphrey Norton or a Marmaduke Stevenson as part of the New England Puritan community. But the lives of Samuel Winthrop and William Coddington serve to remind us of what Puritans and Quakers shared, and the shifting boundaries of what was tolerable.

REACTING TO REVOLUTION AND RESTORATION During the 1640s and 1650s some New Englanders expressed concerns about aspects of England’s Puritan Revolution, but on the whole the colonists saw events back home as advancing the godly kingdom that they had long sought and prayed for. Many returned home to contribute directly to that cause through service in the army, the Church, and the government, while others who remained in Americas offered prayers and advice.59 The colonies profited from positive relations with England’s Interregnum government, and particularly from the support of Oliver Cromwell.60 All this changed with the fall of the Protectorate and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Though no longer the beneficiary of a ‘Great Migration’ such as had swelled the population in the 1630s, New England did remain a refuge for English Puritans who were displaced and marginalized by the Restoration. Some colonists, notably Increase Mather, who had journeyed to England in the 1640s and 1650s, returned home. But others came to New England for the first time, 58  Coddington, Demonstration, pp. 12, 13, 19–20. 59  I have discussed these subjects in Francis J. Bremer, Congregational Communion: Clerical Friendship in the Anglo-American Puritan Community, 1610–1692 (Boston, MA, 1994). Further treatment of those who returned to England can be found in Susan Hardman Moore, Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home (New Haven, CT, 2007) and Moore, Abandoning America. 60  See Francis J. Bremer, ‘The View from America: New England, the Civil Wars, and Oliver Cromwell’, Cromwelliana, Series II, 1 (2004), 87–99.


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including a number of clergy who would play important roles in the colonies, such as James Allen, Charles Morton, Samuel Lee, John Oxenbridge, and Edward Taylor. Thomas Goodwin and John Owen considered, but eventually declined invitations to New England pulpits. Individuals such as these, with experience on both sides of the Atlantic, formed key roles in a network that enabled Puritans to continue to exchange ideas and material support.61 In the 1660s colonial members of this Atlantic network of Puritan Dissenters raised money and offered prayers on behalf of English clergy ejected from their livings as well as for Londoners afflicted by the effects of the plague and the Great Fire. In the 1670s Thomas Jollie and other English ministers raised funds for the relief of New Englanders dispossessed by a fire that destroyed much of Boston’s North End, and then by the ravages of Indian war. Advice also regularly crossed the Atlantic. Jollie, Robert Mascall, and other English supporters of New England encouraged Increase Mather to push for the convening of what became known as the Reforming Synod of 1679 in Boston. Other English Congregationalists warned colonial leaders about what they perceived to be New England’s drift towards Presbyterianism, raising questions in particular about the expansion of church membership (the ‘Half-Way Covenant’) and the promotion of the consociation of churches recommended in the Synod of 1662.62 Ultimately, however, the shared identity of New Englanders and English Dissenters eroded, partially because of the different circumstances they faced. The evolution of the New England Way saw that region’s religious culture increasingly differ from the situation of English Puritans. Recommendations of a series of colonial synods, beginning with the Cambridge Assembly of 1648, increasingly fostered the distinct and independent identity of the colonial churches. New laws banned believers without university training from being called to the ministry, required candidates for such posts to be approved by neighbouring clergy, and required townsmen to provide appropriate financial support for their ministers. The ministry was increasingly perceived as a profession with superior skills in interpreting the Scriptures and the understanding of the Spirit-inspired lay reader called into question.63 New England Congregationalism steadily took on the character of a church with controls beyond the individual congregation. At the same time Baptists and Quakers, though not free from efforts to control their practices, gained a limited degree of toleration as dissenters from that established order.

61  One of the most significant such networks is charted in Francis J. Bremer, ‘Increase Mather’s Friends: Personal Relations and Politics in the Trans-Atlantic Congregational Network of the Seventeenth Century’, American Antiquarian Society Proceedings, 94 (1984), 59–96. 62  I have discussed these interactions in Bremer, Congregational Communion, pp. 220–52. 63  I have argued for a strong emphasis on the importance of lay understanding of Scripture early in the history of Puritanism and the assertion of greater clerical authority during the late seventeenth century in Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism (Basingstoke and New York, 2015).

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While the crown consistently sought to curtail the relative autonomy of the colonies, not until the revocation of the Massachusetts charter in 1684 and the subsequent merger of all the region’s colonies into the Dominion of New England was this Puritan establishment seriously threatened. The colonial counterpart of England’s Glorious Revolution brought back an unofficial restoration of the power of the Congregational churches, albeit in a less formal fashion. Meanwhile, during the same time period the situation of English Dissenters was far different, with nonconformists denied access to the universities and to political office, and their freedom to worship as they chose with ministers they chose severely restricted. Increasingly, those who corresponded across the Atlantic were known to each other by reputation alone, as opposed to previous face-to-face contacts. These differences, as well as theological challenges not experienced by New Englanders, weakened English Dissenting ties with colonial Puritans. Furthermore, the colonists did not experience and found it hard to identify with the divisions that in the 1690s disrupted the efforts of English Congregationalists and Presbyterians to form a ‘Happy Union’ and conflict between Socinians and Hyper-Calvinists in the years that followed. As the eighteenth century progressed the colonists would call on the Dissenting Deputies to lobby for their interest in London, but the unity that had characterized the Puritan movement for much of the seventeenth century ceased to exist.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Bangs, Jeremy, Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners: Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation (Plymouth, MA, 2009). Barry, John M., Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty (New York, 2012). Bozeman, Theodore Dwight, The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2004). Brachlow, Stephen, The Communion of the Saints: Radical Puritanism and Separatist Ecclesiology (Oxford, 1989). Bremer, Francis J, John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (New York, 2003). Bremer, Francis J., Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds (New Haven, CT, 2012). Bremer, Francis  J., First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World (Hanover, NH, 2012). Chu, Jonathan, Neighbors, Friends, or Madmen: The Puritan Adjustment to Quakerism in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts Bay (New York, 1985). Coffey, John, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England 1588–1689 (Abingdon, 2000). Como, David, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford, CA, 2004).


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Cooper, James  F., Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in Colonial Massachusetts (New York, 1999). Fisher, Linford, Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island’s Founding Father (Waco, TX, 2014). Foster, Stephen, The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570–1700 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1991). Hall, David D., The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the New England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill, NC, New York, 1972). Hall, David D., The Puritans: A Transatlantic History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019). Hall, Timothy D., Anne Hutchinson: Puritan Prophet (Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2009). James, Sydney V., John Clarke and His Legacies: Religion and Law in Colonial Rhode Island 1638–1750, ed. Theodore Dwight Bozeman (University Park, PA, 1999). Juster, Susan, Sacred Violence in Early America (Philadelphia, PA, 2016). McLoughlin, William  G., New England Dissent, 1630–1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State, 2 vols (Cambridge, MA, 1971). Pestana, Carla, Quakers and Baptists in Colonial Masschusetts (New York, 1991). Tipson, Baird, Hartford Puritanism: Thomas Hooker, Samuel Stone, and Their Terrifying God (Oxford, 2015). Van Engen, Abram, Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (New York, 2015). Weimer, Adrian, Martyrs’ Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England (Oxford, 2011). Winship, Michael  P., Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636–1641 (Princeton, NJ, 2002). Winship, Michael  P., Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, MA, 2012). Winship, Michael P., Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America (New Haven, CT, 2019). Worrall, Arthur J., Quakers in the Colonial Northeast (Hanover, NH, 1980).

12 Colonial Quakerism Andrew R. Murphy and Adrian Chastain Weimer

English Friends arrived in the American colonies as early as 1655, as missionaries aiming to convince settlers and Native Americans of the Light of God within every human being, and of the possibility of a more just social order. These itinerant ‘publishers of Truth’ travelled along a route from Barbados to Massachusetts and back again, with Rhode Island and Maryland serving as bases for their work in the north-east and south. They usually arrived in dramatic fashion: upon entering a town, Quakers often interrupted the local Anglican or Congregationalist services, refusing rituals of social deference such as hat honour and prophesying doom on a ‘hireling’ ministry (clergy who received a salary) and lifeless, formalistic worship. In prophetic language, Quaker missionaries declared that the Light, or presence, of Christ within, unleashed the power to defeat sin and injustice in the hearts of believers as well as throughout society. Quakers were dramatic, they were controversial, and they often found themselves on the receiving end of punitive sanctions ranging from fines and whippings to banishment and even death at the hands of governing authorities. ‘How does thou think to expect any thing from the Lord, but a Sore Destruction, a Famine, and a Plague, which is hastening upon thee, if thou continue still in Rebellion?’ asked the Quakers William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson of their New England persecutors in 1659.1 The two men were hanged later that year on Boston Common when they returned after banishment; two more Quakers, Mary Dyer and William Leddra, later suffered the same fate. But there was another face of colonial Quakerism, exemplified by the emergence of the first ‘Quaker colony’ in West Jersey during the 1670s and, early in the next decade, the colonial endeavour undertaken by William Penn. In this scenario, Quakers were far from the bane of established governments, anything but radically subversive insurgents; rather, they represented the forces of order and stability wielding political authority and playing an increasingly influential 1  William Robinson, An Appendex [sic] to . . . New England Judged being Certain Writings, (Never Yet Printed) of those Persons which were there Executed (1661), p. 180. Andrew R. Murphy and Adrian Chastain Weimer, Colonial Quakerism In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0013


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role in the seventeenth-century British empire, which David Armitage has described as ‘a political community encompassing England and Wales, Scotland, Protestant Ireland, the British islands of the Caribbean and the mainland colonies of North America’.2 Penn wrote to Irish Quaker Robert Turner upon receiving his colonial charter that ‘[T]his day my country was confirmed to me under the great seal of England, with large powers and privileges, by the name of Pennsylvania . . . it is a clear and just thing; and my God that has given it me . . . will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation.’3 Friends had, of course, held public office before New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But these two were proprietary colonies, in which Quakers functioned not simply as one group in a diverse religious landscape but rather as direct possessors of political power (in Penn’s case, with a direct grant from the crown). These two pictures of colonial Quakerism are not mutually exclusive, nor do they divide neatly along chronological lines. Dissenters in England became magistrates in America, and often had to manage conflict within their own communities, where they found themselves in the unfamiliar role of enforcing social order (e.g. the Keithian controversy in early 1690s Pennsylvania, to which we return at the end of this chapter). At the same time, Quakers continued to face hostility in many colonial locales well into the eighteenth century, long after the relatively safe zones of New Jersey and Pennsylvania had become thriving settlements. But the two faces of colonial Quakerism introduced here do highlight different aspects of the broader history of the Society of Friends. In what follows, we emphasize George Fox’s visit to America during the early 1670s—which provided a link with Friends in England, bolstered ties among colonial Quakers, and encouraged uniformity in Quaker discipline, while upholding the ideal of ecstatic religious experience and prophetic encounter with the world—along with William Penn’s involvement with West Jersey and Pennsylvania, as crucial to the transition from Friends as itinerant insurgents and martyrs to wielders of political power.

QUAKERS AND THE COLONIAL RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE Even among the diverse array of believers that populated the early colonial landscape, Quakers were distinct. Eschewing such outward forms of ritualized piety as sacraments, elaborate liturgies, and formal creeds, colonial Friends gathered in silence until any member of the group, male or female, offered spontaneous prophecies and prayers for the benefit of all. Without professional 2  David Armitage, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Cambridge, 2000), p. 7. 3  William Penn to Robert Turner, 5 March 1681; Papers of William Penn, eds Richard S. Dunn et al., 5 vols (Philadelphia, PA, 1981–6), II, p. 83 (hereafter PWP).

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clergy, meetings were led informally by respected Friends unless a travelling missionary was present; most seventeenth-century Quaker Meetings outside of Pennsylvania did not own property, and so met in the homes of wealthier members. Prominent Friends also acted as financial administrators and arbiters of intra-Quaker disputes. Shocked by their heterodox views and willingness to publicly curse ministers and magistrates, many colonists considered Quaker beliefs and behaviours to be incompatible with the common good of well-ordered communities. Though their religious heterodoxy was a concern, it was most often Quakers’ refusal to take loyalty oaths and join in the civic duty of defence that undermined their relationships with other colonists. Most American colonies quickly passed anti-Quaker laws, or used laws against vagrancy or public disorder to prosecute Friends.4 Steeped in an apocalyptic understanding of suffering as a crucial weapon in the end-times battles, Quakers were eager to demonstrate their ability to suffer cheerfully, using a prison cell or whipping block as a platform for witness. Given Friends’ zeal and thirst for martyrdom, colonies with the strongest anti-Quaker laws often became magnets for missionaries. Up and down the eastern seaboard, Quakers were fined, imprisoned, or whipped. Often they refused to pay fines or jail fees, thereby lengthening their own sentences. These episodes were quickly printed in collections of sufferings or hagiographic pamphlets, the narratives of suffering serving to reinforce ties of sympathy and affection. Though pressured by other New England colonies, Rhode Island magistrates deliberately did not legislate against Quakers in hopes that they would then bypass Rhode Island on their journeys.5 It was a singularly unsuccessful strategy: when George Fox visited Rhode Island in the summer of 1672, he discovered that the colony’s ‘leading officials, from governor and lieutenant governor and judges down through local justices, were all Friends’.6 But not all was radicalism and disruption. Quakers in early colonial America creatively struggled with the tension between caring for their families and maintaining a prophetic, reforming stance towards the societies in which they lived.7 Though embracing a plain style in decoration as well as dress, colonial Quaker homes and workplaces looked much like those of other English settlers. Friends preferred each other in trade, but also did business with non-Quakers. Quaker parents were concerned for their children’s piety, and especially the 4  Opposition to anti-Quaker legislation was the animating impulse behind the 1657 Flushing Remonstrance. See Evan Haefeli, New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty (Philadelphia, PA, 2012), chs 5–6. 5  Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, ed. John Russell Bartlett (Providence, RI, 1856), I, p. 377. 6  H. Larry Ingle, First among Friends: George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism (New York, 1996), p. 238. 7  J. William Frost, The Quaker Family in Colonial America: A Portrait of the Society of Friends (New York, 1973), pp. 1–5.


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conduct of young adults, just like other English families. Advice literature directed at children and parents developed during the 1680s, to support British and American Quakers striving to nurture the younger generation in the faith. Colonial Quakers also built strong ties with fellow Friends, viewing themselves as part of an international network and corresponding regularly with Friends in England.8 During the 1660s and 1670s, Maryland Friends began to take responsibility for support and discipline for communities further south. After 1684 Pennsylvania gradually emerged as the centre of American Quakerism. Early colonial Quarterly and Yearly Meetings, drawing together representatives from a county and region, reported to the London Yearly Meeting and read letters of encouragement and discipline from England. They also contributed to the maintenance of itinerant missionaries.

NEW ENGLAND If the Massachusetts Bay Colony—with such Puritan luminaries as John Winthrop, John Cotton, and several generations of Mathers—has long occupied a central role in the mythos of American founding, it has also played an outsized role in Quaker martyrology. (When dissenting Quaker George Keith was looking for a title for his 1693 tract denouncing Pennsylvania Quaker magistrates, he settled on New England’s Spirit of Persecution Transmitted to Pennsilvania.9) Mary Fisher and Ann Austin were the first itinerant Friends to reach the Bay Colony, ministering initially in Barbados and arriving in Boston in July of 1656.10 Having heard reports from England indicating that Quakers would pose a serious threat to their colony, Massachusetts authorities had legislated against Quakers two years earlier. Deputy Governor Richard Bellingham quarantined Fisher and Austin on their ship, fined its captain, and burned their books; the women spent five weeks in prison before they were banished from the colony. While in prison, local Boston residents brought the women food, either out of sympathy or because they were reluctant to play the role of cruel persecutors.11 Fisher and Austin were followed the next year by Josiah Coale and Mary Clark, and then by an almost continual stream of Quaker missionaries to New England over the 8  Jordan Landes, London Quakers in the Trans-Atlantic World: The Creation of an Early Modern Community (Basingstoke, 2015). 9  New-England’s Spirit of Persecution Transmitted to Pennsilvania [sic] and the Pretended Quaker found Persecuting the true Christian-Quaker (New York, 1693). 10  Henry Bowden, History of the Society of Friends in America (London, 1850), pp. 32–6, 108–9; William  C.  Braithwaite, Beginnings of Quakerism (London, 1912), pp. 402–3; Stefano Villani, ‘Fisher, Mary’, ODNB. 11  Adrian Chastain Weimer, Martyrs’ Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England (New York, 2011), ch. 5.

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next two decades. After an initial period in which Puritan ministers tried to dissuade Quakers from their errors, Friends were prosecuted with increasing vigilance, and three of them (John Copeland, Christopher Holder, and John Rous) suffered ear-croppings in late 1657.12 The Quaker message of an egalitarian social order and immediate assurance of salvation was attractive to people especially on the social and geographic periphery in New England. The major exception to this pattern was Salem, Massachusetts, long a hotbed of religious radicalism, where a Quaker community took root in 1657. Convinced largely through the missionary work of William Brend, William Leddra, Christopher Holder, and John Copeland, the Salem Quaker community grew to around fifty individuals by 1660. Many of these converts came from several extended families or were linked to them through economic relationships; the core of the Salem Quaker community was not itinerant missionaries, but rather well-established families, many of whom had been members of Salem’s Congregational church. Their convincements tested Massachusetts Bay’s commitment to prosecution.13 Although colonial charters included the prerogative of regulating who could and could not settle within a colony’s jurisdiction (and so deporting non-resident Quakers was within colonial rights), banishing longtime, upstanding residents was another matter, and local Quaker converts on the whole received milder sentences. Even local converts often refused to pay fines and so ended up in prison, with non-Quakers frequently stepping in to pay fines on their behalf. Only in Boston were Quakers executed. Fines, brandings, whippings, banishments, and prolonged imprisonments seemed only to strengthen Quakers’ resolve. In October 1658, a group of merchants in Boston asked the Massachusetts General Court for stronger anti-Quaker laws. The Court responded with a law for banishment upon pain of death. Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson, Mary Dyer (a Rhode Island resident), and William Leddra were all  banished and subsequently returned to continue their missionary work. Predictably arrested, Stephenson, Robinson, and Dyer wrote letters from prison that were later featured in Quaker martyrologies. Comparing herself to the biblical Queen Esther, Dyer wrote, ‘if through the enmity [to Quakers] you shall declare yourselves worse than Ahasuerus, and confirm your law, though it  were but by taking away the life of one of us . . . the Lord will overthrow both your law and you, by his righteous judgments and plagues poured justly 12  Bowden, History of the Society of Friends, pp. 121–2. 13  Carla Gardina Pestana, Quakers and Baptists in Colonial Massachusetts (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 25, 28–9; Bowden, History of the Society of Friends, pp. 87–9; Rachel Love Monroy, ‘From Puritan to Quaker: Mary Dyer and Puritan-Quaker Conversion in the Seventeenth-century Atlantic’, in Andrew R. Murphy and John Smolinski, eds, The Worlds of William Penn (New Brunswick, NJ, 2019), pp. 303–30.


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upon you’.14 Fearing a violent Quaker uprising at the site of the execution, Boston selectmen set up a military patrol and escort, including drums to overpower the Quakers’ final speeches. Released at the last minute through the petitions of her son, Dyer had to be dragged off the scaffold, expressing intense disappointment at having to delay her martyrdom. She returned to the colony yet again and was sent to the scaffold in June of 1660, this time with no reprieve. The last Boston martyr, William Leddra, was hanged in March 1661. Charles II had returned to the throne in 1660, and Quaker petitioners in London persuaded him to intervene on their behalf. Another banished Quaker, Samuel Shattock, arrived in Boston the next year with the king’s letter forbidding the death penalty against Quakers. Concerned about their relationship to the Restoration monarchy, the General Court had already ceased to enforce banishment upon pain of death, releasing missionary Wenlock Christenson along with at least two dozen other Quakers held in the Boston jail. The Massachusetts Court then instituted the more lenient Cart and Whip Act in 1661, whipping Quakers to the edge of the colony. Although the king soon retracted his leniency towards Quakers, the colony continued to weaken prosecution by deferring it to local county courts. Salem Quakers took part in one of the most important disputes within the international Quaker community during the 1660s. These disputes arose in response to George Fox’s reforms, which included separating Men’s and Women’s Meetings and instituting higher standards of discipline and uniformity across global Quakerism.15 Like other Quaker radicals such as John Perrot, Salem Quakers resisted any centralized authority that might quench the Spirit, and spurned routinized practices like taking off hats in worship.16 New England converts attracted to the ecstatic and anti-formalistic nature of the Quaker message struggled with the English-led movement towards a more centralized faith with clear mandates and uniform practices. When prominent English Quaker missionary John Burnyeat visited Massachusetts in 1672, he found the community strongly opposed to Fox’s insistence on separate Men’s and Women’s Meetings. Burnyeat disciplined the Salem community, exhorting them ‘to condemn that spirit, by which they had been led aside, and to wait for the universal Spirit of life’. The Quaker women of Salem led the resistance to Burnyeat, alarmed about the shift to an overly formalistic faith as well as the likelihood 14  Mary Dyer, ‘To the General Court in Boston’, 1659, in Joseph Sewel, History of the Rise, Increase, and Progress of the People Called Quakers, Vol. I (Philadelphia, PA, 1811), p. 395; Bowden, History of the Society of Friends, pp. 180–93, 201–2; Braithwaite, Beginnings of Quakerism, pp. 403–4. 15  For more details see Rosemary Moore, The Light in their Consciences: Early Quakers in Britain, 1646–1666 (University Park, PA, 2000), ch. 15; Carla Gardina Pestana, ‘The Conventionality of the Notorious John Perrot’, in Stephen W. Angell and Pink Dandelion, eds, Early Quakers and Their Theological Thought, 1647–1723 (Cambridge, 2015), pp. 173–89; Bowden, History of the Society of Friends, pp. 285–6. 16  Arthur Worrall, Quakers in the Colonial Northeast (Hanover, NH, 1980), p. 30.

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that separate Women’s Meetings would weaken their leadership.17 Fox did not travel to Connecticut or Massachusetts on his journey to America, though he did hold a meeting in Narragansett for the people of Connecticut. He also sent books to the Governor of Connecticut, John Winthrop, Jr, who was known for his moderation. Fox may have hoped Winthrop Jr would be influenced by his brother Samuel Winthrop, who had converted to Quakerism in Barbados.18 Quakers who met openly or who disrupted church services or court sessions were fined, whipped, and imprisoned sporadically in New England through the 1670s. Elizabeth Hooton, Fox’s first convert and a major figure in the international Quaker movement, visited New England several times during the 1660s and received severe whippings. A well-to-do matron, she went directly to Charles II in order to argue that Massachusetts Bay was seditious. He gave her a royal licence to buy property anywhere in the English colonies. Her attempts to set up a Quaker refuge in Boston were denied, contributing to the tensions between Massachusetts Bay and the Restoration government. Fewer Quaker missionaries came to Massachusetts Bay in the 1670s, and in 1681 the colony suspended all anti-Quaker legislation.19

QUAKERS IN RHODE ISLAND Through banishment or choice, Massachusetts Quakers had found their way to Rhode Island by 1656. English missionaries came directly to Rhode Island in 1657 and found a willing audience among other radical Protestants. Rhode Island did not prosecute Quakers, and Friends quickly became leading members in colonial society and government. The prominent Newport men William Coddington and Nicholas Easton joined the movement, and Quakerism became the dominant religion in Portsmouth. The Newport Yearly Meeting, held in Coddington’s home, served as the central business meeting for all New England Quakers.20 In the early 1670s Quakers organized themselves for political action 17  Journal of John Burnyeat, eds William Evans and Thomas Evans, Friends’ Library, XI (Philadelphia, PA, 1847), pp. 147–8; Jean Soderlund, ‘Burnyeat, John’, American National Biography [Online]. 18  Francis Bremer, First Founders: American Puritans and Puritanism in an Atlantic World (Durham, NH, 2012), p. 181. 19  Adrian Chastain Weimer, ‘Elizabeth Hooton and the Lived Politics of Toleration in Massachusetts Bay’, William and Mary Quarterly, 3d Ser., 74 (2017), 43–76; Emily Manners, Elizabeth Hooton, First Quaker Woman Preacher (1600–1672) (London, 1914), pp. 18–54; Jonathan  M.  Chu, Neighbors, Friends, or Madmen: The Puritan Adjustment to Quakerism in Seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay (Westport, CT, 1985), p. 162. 20  Sydney James, Colonial Rhode Island, A History (New York, 1975), p. 39; Braithwaite, Beginnings of Quakerism, p. 403; Bowden, History of the Society of Friends in America, p. 153. Quaker meetinghouses were constructed in 1672–1673 in Newport and Sandwich, but they were not large enough for the Yearly Meeting. Rufus Jones, Quakers in the American Colonies (New York, 1966), p. 137, n. 2.


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and were overwhelmingly successful in Rhode Island’s general elections. When Fox arrived in 1672, as mentioned above, he discovered that most of the Rhode Island magistrates, including Governor John Easton and Deputy Governor John Cranston, were Friends. Many of these magistrates attended when Fox called a General Meeting for Quakers in New England. Fox’s 1672 visit had a significant influence on the organizational practices of Rhode Island Quakers, who for the most part submitted to Fox’s reforms. In addition to higher standards of discipline and scrupulous recordkeeping, they developed committees for poor relief, marriage, and petitioning the civil government. Though Rhode Island offered the greatest degree of toleration to early Quakers, it also proved among the most difficult of Fox’s mission fields, since he had to compete in a lively religious marketplace with other sects. Regarding a large meeting at Providence, Fox wrote that he had a difficult time keeping the diverse sects ‘quiet and bringing the truth over them & in them for they were above the priests in high notions’.21 Fox also directly disputed with local radicals he labelled ‘Ranters’, who were disrupting Quaker meetings. Quakers also attracted hostility from Rhode Island’s founder Roger Williams, who proposed a debate with Fox. Because Fox departed before he received Williams’s invitation, their debate took place in print rather than in person. Williams decried Quakers as dangerous and duplicitous in George Fox Digg’d Out of his Burroughs, to which Fox and John Burnyeat responded in their 1678 A New-England Fire Brand Quenched. Williams had read Fox’s Great Mystery and debated Burnyeat, William Edmundson, and John Stubbs in person soon afterwards, arguing for the authority of the Bible and traditional Christology.22 The Quaker peace testimony was sorely tested during King Philip’s War, a devastating conflict between English colonists and Wampanoag and allied tribes in the north-east between 1675 and 1676. Rhode Island Quakers, who had maintained relatively strong relationships with local tribes through the mid-seventeenth century, saw those relationships begin to deteriorate in the late 1660s due to conflicts over land and livestock.23 The Friend John Easton tried without success to set up peace negotiations between Philip and the English colonists in June of 1675. There is little evidence that Quaker Governor William Coddington was himself a pacifist, though out of respect for pacifists among Quakers and Baptists in Rhode Island he tried to stay neutral in the conflict. He did, however, assist the neighbouring English colonies by providing supplies, intelligence, scouts, and ammunition. This assistance came as a shock 21  ‘The American Journey of George Fox’, Journal of the Friends Historical Society, 9 (1912), 11. 22  Edmundson printed his version of the debate as A Narration of a Conference (London, 1676). For the larger context of this debate, see Adrian Chastain Weimer, ‘Quakers, Puritans, and the Problem of Godly Loyalty in the Early Restoration’, in Andrew R. Murphy and John Smolenski, eds, The Worlds of William Penn (New Brunswick, NJ, 2019), pp. 283–302. 23  Joshua Micah Marshall, ‘ “A Melancholy People”: Anglo-Indian Relations in Early Warwick, Rhode Island, 1642–1675’, The New England Quarterly, 68 (1995), 402–28.

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to local tribal leaders. Narragansetts demanded why ‘Rode Island rose, and joined with Plymouth against Phillip’.24 Coddington said his help for Plymouth stemmed from ‘all of us being Englishmen and subjects of our King’.25 In wartime, it seems, English identity prevailed. Rhode Island magistrates did allow for conscientious objection, and there was less social stigma for pacifists in Rhode Island than in other colonies.

MARYLAND, AND FOX’S ENCOUNTERS WITH NATIVE AMERICANS The Quaker population of Maryland grew rapidly over the second half of the seventeenth century, with at least two dozen active meetings.26 There was no Established Church in Maryland under the Catholic Lord Baltimore, and after the suppression of Catholics in 1654 religious institutions in rural Maryland remained weak. Quaker missionary Elizabeth Harris preached successfully throughout Maryland beginning in 1655 or 1656. Those convinced included William Fuller, acting governor from 1654 to 1658, and the wealthy planter Robert Clarkson.27 Harris remained free to continue preaching largely through their personal influence. She continued to support Chesapeake Quakers after her return to England (c.1657) by sending letters and Quaker literature. One Maryland Quaker wrote of his appreciation to Harris in late 1657: ‘the measure of God in us was abundantly refreshed in reading of the motions of the fathers love in you towards us’.28 Friends were often caricatured as theologically unsophisticated, but in reality they relished a lively theological debate. Preaching in Maryland in the late 1650s, missionary Josiah Coale debated a Jewish colonist, Jacob Lumbrozo. (Pressed on his views of God and the trinity, Lumbrozo ended up arrested for blasphemy.29) Maryland magistrates’ concerns seem not to have been 24  The Correspondence of Roger Williams, ed. Glenn W. LaFantasie, 2 vols (Hanover, NH, 1988), II, p. 694; Meredith Weddle, Walking in the Way of Peace: Quaker Pacifism in the Seventeenth Century (Oxford, 2009), p. 147. 25  Roger Williams responded in a similar way as Coddington. The same Narragansett leaders also demanded to know why Massachusetts rose against them, perhaps a reflection of the close ties forged by John Eliot’s mission. Letter from Governor Coddington to Governor Winslow, 23  June 1675, in Emily Coddington Williams, William Coddington of Rhode Island: A Sketch (Newport, RI, 1941), p. 72; Weddle, Walking in the Way of Peace, pp. 144, 147. 26  Thomas Story, A Journal of the Life of Thomas Story (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1747), pp. 226–37; Kenneth L. Carroll, Quakerism on the Eastern Shore (Baltimore, MD, 1970), pp. 23–57; 221–4. 27  Kenneth  L.  Carroll, ‘Elizabeth Harris, The Founder of American Quakerism’, Quaker History, 57 (1968), 96–101; Steven C. Harper, ‘Harris, Elizabeth’, ODNB. 28  Robert Clarkson to Elizabeth Harris, transcribed in Carroll, ‘Elizabeth Harris’, 105. 29  Edward D. Neill, Founders of Maryland (Albany, MD, 1876), p. 132; Stephen Weeks, Southern Quakers and Slavery: A Study in Institutional History (Baltimore, MD, 1896), pp. 13–14.


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theological, but rather political, citing Quakers’ contempt for magistrates, their ‘seducing’ the people away from loyalty oaths, and their neglect of ‘complying with the Military discipline’. Along with another travelling preacher, Thomas Thurston, Coale was imprisoned in 1658 for insolence at court and refusing to swear a loyalty oath. In July 1659, Maryland’s legislature passed a law calling for any known Quakers to be ‘whipped from Constable to Constable until they be sent out of the Province’.30 Colonists who hosted or assisted Quakers were also subject to fines and whippings, though the laws were sporadically enforced. As in Salem, so also in Maryland: during the 1660s, several prominent Maryland Quakers sympathized with the spontaneous, anti-institutional side of Quakerism over Fox’s emphasis on standardized practices, including regular meetings for discipline and separate Men’s and Women’s Meetings.31 When John Burnyeat travelled to the Chesapeake between 1665 and 1666, and again in 1671, he laboured to return the Chesapeake community to Foxian Quakerism. Perhaps because of these controversies, or because of the substantial local Quaker population, Fox chose Maryland as his first mainland stop on his 1672 preaching tour. (Fox’s freedom to preach in America stood in stark contrast to his recent fourteen-month imprisonment in England.) Upon their arrival, Fox and his companions led two four-day meetings of Quakers from the northern Chesapeake region. The meetings attracted a broad audience, including local magistrates, and resulted in even more local converts. For a second Maryland meeting, Fox sent out invitations to local native sachems. At least one accepted and lodged with Fox himself, responding positively (by Fox’s account) to Quaker preaching. After this initial success, Fox attempted to include native communities along the rest of his preaching tour, and he and other Quaker missionaries enjoyed native hospitality as they travelled up and down the east coast. Fox continually urged Friends not to preach only to Europeans, insisting in a 1679 letter that ‘All Friends, everywhere, that have Indians or Blacks, You are to preach the Gospel to them, and other Servants, if you be true Christians . . . for David saith, that saw Christ in his New Covenant, Let all Nations Praise the Lord.’32 Quakers and Algonquians had some overlapping practices, which may have facilitated these interactions. Quakers were more comfortable with silence than other colonial groups, entering and leaving each other’s homes without elaborate greetings. Quakers shared with Algonquian, Lenape, and Iroquois a similar emphasis on divine revelation through dreams and prophecy. Also, Quakers were unusual among colonists in that they were likely to lend credence to native dreams and prophetic messages 30  W.H. Browne, ed. Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, 1636–1667 (Baltimore, MD, 1885), pp. 349, 362. 31  Journal of John Burnyeat, pp. 136, 144. 32  ‘George Fox from Swarthmore 10th Month 1679’, in A Collection of Many Select and Christian Epistles, Vol. II (London, 1698), p. 426.

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rather than assuming they were false or satanic.33 One north-eastern sachem admitted that he liked the Quakers best of all, but if he converted to Quakerism ‘then the professors [Puritans] would hang him and put them to death and banish them as they did the Quakers, and therefore he thought it was the best to be as he was’.34 While Native Americans did not often join Quaker communities, they occasionally asked Quakers to serve as mediators in their disputes with colonial authorities.

NEW NETHERLAND Dutch magistrates were no less concerned about Quakers than their English counterparts. Quakers in New Netherland faced continually shifting political circumstances as the government changed hands during the 1660s and 1670s. The first Quaker missionaries to Dutch New Netherland, Dorothy Waugh and Mary Witherhead, began preaching in the streets of New Amsterdam in August 1657. The Dutch magistrates quickly banished them to Rhode Island. However, their companion Robert Hodgson continued missionary work less overtly among the English residents of Long Island. Arrested by local English magistrates, Hodgson was brought before the Dutch authorities. When the Dutch confiscated his books, papers, and knives, and put him under house arrest, Hodgson continued to preach through the prison window. He was then tied to the back of a cart and dragged to a prison in New Amsterdam. Hodgson again tried to preach through the prison window, for which he was flogged almost to the point of death before Dutch authorities decided they would rather deal with a prisoner than a martyr. After a few weeks’ further labour, he was sent to Rhode Island.35 Dutch Reformed ministers considered Quakers dangerous and perhaps even diabolical, and many Dutch magistrates (including Governor Peter Stuyvesant) shared the English belief that Quakers’ contempt for authority would undermine civil order. In late 1657 New Netherland legislated a £50 fine for those who hosted Quakers, with an incentive to informants. At least one English sympathizer living in Dutch territory was imprisoned for refusing to pay the fine. In protest, other Long Islanders drafted a petition to the Dutch magistrates, which became known as the Flushing Remonstrance, asking for leniency towards Quakers. Some of the signers were associated with the Baptist Lady Deborah Moody or with the late Anne Hutchinson, and some would later 33  Carla Gerona, Night Journeys: The Power of Dreams in Transatlantic Quaker Culture (Charlottesville, VA, 2004), ch. 3. 34  George Fox, Journal of George Fox, ed. John L. Nickalls (Cambridge, 1952), p. 624. 35  Haefeli, New Netherland, pp. 159–68; Bowden, History of the Society of Friends, pp. 311–16.


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become Quakers.36 Stuyvesant and his council considered the authors of the pro-Quaker remonstrance seditious and arrested several of them. They were mindful, however, of the economic imperative of open trade and ongoing settlement, and were probably more influenced by the West India Company than the Flushing Remonstrance in their decision to look the other way as Quakers continued to preach on Long Island and in other pockets of English settlement in New Netherland. The Dutch had also come to see the futility of corporal punishment as a deterrent to people like Hodgson, who returned within a few years to resume his missionary work. Although after 1657 Quakers refrained from preaching publicly in New Amsterdam, they continued to work elsewhere, and were continually subject to imprisonments and banishments if they tried to hold large meetings. In 1662 a group of local Quakers were banished on ‘payne of corporal punishment’.37 After the English conquest of New Netherland in 1664, the Duke of York’s milder laws granted limited rights to all Christians so long as they did not disturb the worship of others. Quakers were now free to hold their own meetings. In the late 1660s and 1670s, though, they were still interrupting others’ church services and thus facing prosecution. When a group of Flushing men refused to serve in the militia in 1667 they were banned from New York as potentially seditious.38 Arriving in 1672, George Fox was intent on turning Long Island Quakers back towards loyalty and discipline. At the six-day long Half-Yearly Meeting at Oyster Bay on Long Island, he clashed with ‘hatt spirits which was Judged Downe & condemned and the truth was sett over all’.39 After rebuking the ‘hatt spirits’ (those who resisted his reforms, including removal of hats in prayer), Fox turned his attention to dialogue with outsiders, debating a young Dutch Reformed man on ministerial ordination, women’s roles, and worship practices. As elsewhere, Fox also tried to ensure Quakers’ political rights. The new Governor Francis Lovelace may have personally attended one of Fox’s New York meetings, and under Lovelace’s administration Quakers worshipped freely. However with the reestablishment of the Dutch Reformed Church during the Dutch reconquest of 1673–4, Quakers were again briefly deprived of full political rights.40 A small meeting that had begun in the city of New York seems to have scaled back in the later 1670s. Writing after her visit to this struggling meeting in 1680, the English missionary Joan Vokins declared, ‘I laboured to settle it  again, and God’s eternal power wrought wonderfully in me, in several

36  Lady Moody worked to protect Quakers before her death; she may have become convinced herself. Bowden, History of the Society of Friends, pp. 322–3; Carol Berkin, ‘Moody, Lady Deborah’, ODNB. 37  Haefeli, New Netherland, pp. 159–71, 183, 224. 38  Haefeli, New Netherland, p. 261. 39  ‘The American Journey of George Fox’, 10; Ingle, First among Friends, p. 238. 40  Haefeli, New Netherland, p. 269.

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meetings with his people, and we were well refreshed.’ Vokins ministered in the still-thriving Quaker community on Long Island into the 1680s.41

QUAKERS IN THE CHESAPEAKE The Quaker community in Virginia was much smaller than in Rhode Island or Maryland, with about a dozen meetings for worship by 1700.42 Most Virginians who converted to Quakerism were already nonconformists, and so Quakerism was strongest in south-eastern Virginia where nonconformists had settled. As in Massachusetts, Quakerism tended to spread within extended families and those with economic and social connections to those families. There was an active meeting at Nansemond as early as 1661 and a Yearly Meeting at Chuckatuck by 1674. Quakers in Anglican-controlled Virginia were initially prosecuted according to a 1643 law against nonconformist preachers; in the early 1660s, Governor William Berkeley’s government legislated directly against Quakers. Anyone not willing to take a loyalty oath faced a prison sentence.43 Known Quakers were imprisoned, whipped, fined, and banished; Virginia’s Quaker converts experienced enormous loss of property. The records for Norfolk County list fines of £100 and 20,750 lb of tobacco in 1663 alone. Associating with Quakers could also mean loss of office. In 1663 the Virginia Assembly expelled one of its own members, John Porter, for his  Quaker sympathies. Virginia Quakers were understandably drawn to the relative freedom of Maryland and some migrated to the area around the Annemessex River.44 Though some Quaker preachers kept to the Virginia backwoods and avoided conflict with authorities, William Robinson was sent to prison in 1658, and George Wilson was arrested, severely whipped, and imprisoned at Jamestown. Wilson died in prison in 1662, probably from an infection resulting from the whippings.45 Two of the most ardent missionaries in Virginia, Mary Tompkins and Alice Ambrose, arrived in 1663. The women focused on strengthening the local Quaker community and on disrupting Anglican services. Their ministry,

41  Bowden, History of the Society of Friends, p. 332. 42  Weeks, Southern Quakers and Slavery, p. 46, Appendix III. 43  Babette Levy, ‘Puritanism in the Southern Colonies’, Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 70 (1960), 154; Weeks, Southern Quakers and Slavery, pp. 7, 16–19. 44  Kenneth Carroll, ‘Quakerism on the Eastern Shore of Virginia’, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 74 (1966), 174; Levy, ‘Puritanism in the Southern Colonies’, 155; Weeks, Southern Quakers and Slavery, p. 22. 45  Carroll, ‘Quakerism on the Eastern Shore of Virginia’, pp. 171–3; Warren  M.  Billings, ‘A Quaker in Seventeenth-Century Virginia: Four Remonstrances by George Wilson’, The William and Mary Quarterly, 33 (1976), 127–40.


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however, was short-lived; they were arrested, whipped, and forcibly banished from Virginia.46 When travelling Friend William Edmundson arrived in 1671 he found that ‘things were much out of Order’ in Virginia’s Quaker community (probably a reference to their spontaneous rather than ordered schedule of meetings and lack of set practices).47 He established a meeting in order to discipline wayward Friends, just in time for Fox’s visit in 1672. Fox spent just ten days in Virginia, holding three smaller meetings, though the Quaker community at least doubled as a result.48 Fox was especially concerned to make sure that Quakers were not paying tithes to the Anglican church, that they were supporting families of imprisoned Friends, and that sufferings were recorded and sent to London. There was another bout of prosecution in 1674–5, directed at Quaker meetings in Nansemond County, though local magistrates who were either converts or sympathizers impeded enforcement. By the 1680s magistrates were less interested in suppressing Quakers, and esteemed travelling Friend John Copeland (recipient of a Boston ear-cropping) made his home in Virginia and helped to lead the Quaker community there.49 Quakers in Carolina lived mostly in the north-east of the colony, and were closely connected to the Virginia communities. The Carolina context was different, however, because the colony emphasized liberty of conscience in its promotional materials and its early Anglican establishment was relatively weak. William Edmundson came to Albemarle in 1671 and was surprised to discover former New Englander Henry Phillips and his family still practising the Quaker faith in religious isolation. Edmundson stayed only three days, but other Carolinians converted and a small Quaker meeting began. Fox also visited Carolina during his American tour, preached to native tribes, and debated a doctor on theological points. Edmundson visited Virginia and Carolina again in the mid-1670s hoping to maintain these disciplinary reforms.50 Of Carolina he wrote approvingly, ‘People were tender and loving, there was no room for the Priests . . . for Friends were finely settled.’51 Friends held high offices in the Carolina government from the 1670s. The Quaker John Archdale became a proprietor of the colony in 1678 and worked assiduously to protect Quaker rights, migrating in 1683 and assuming the governorship in 1694.

46  Weeks, Southern Quakers and Slavery, pp. 21–3. 47  William Edmundson, Journal of the Life, Travels, Sufferings (London, 1715), p. 57. 48  Ingle, First Among Friends: George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism, pp. 240–1. 49  Weeks, Southern Quakers and Slavery, pp. 25–6, 43–4; Levy, ‘Puritanism in the Southern Colonies’, 156. 50  Michelle Lise Tarter, ‘ “Varied Trials, Dippings, and Strippings”: Quaker Women’s Irresistible Call to the Early South’, in Mary Carruth, ed., Feminist Interventions in Early American Studies (Tuscaloosa, AL, 2006), p. 81. 51  Edmundson, Journal, pp. 101–2.

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QUAKERS IN BARBAD OS AND JAMAICA Many Quaker missionaries travelled to Barbados either before or after their trips along the eastern seaboard of North America. Mary Fisher and Henry Fell worked alongside local convert John Rous as early as 1655 or 1656. From the conversion of planter Thomas Rous (John Rous’s father) around 1657, Quakerism spread rapidly on the sugar islands. By 1672 Barbados Friends had five meetinghouses and were the second largest religious group in the colony. Barbados colonists were some of the wealthiest Quakers in the movement.52 After an initial period of prosecution they gathered a thriving community. Openly scorning what they saw as the moral laxity of Anglican planters, Quakers were initially subject to assaults and imprisonments. But Governor Daniel Searle was sympathetic to Quakers, personally paying their fines and opposing Anglicancrafted legislation requiring inhabitants to bear arms. One of the few English colonies to actively recruit Quakers, Jamaica also had a substantial Quaker population. In 1662 the Jamaican government pledged that Quaker colonists would not have to serve in the local militia (though this policy was not consistently implemented). Fox’s meetings on Barbados and Jamaica in 1671 and 1672 drew significant crowds. Though experiencing some initial opposition from local clergy, Fox expressed surprise at the respect accorded him by planters and even by the governor. He set to work organizing Men’s and Women’s Meetings and instructing local Quaker communities. Fox laboured diligently, if not entirely successfully, to counteract the anti-institutional teachings of John Perrot, who had lived on Barbados and Jamaica from 1662 to 1665. Fox and his co-labourers encouraged strict order within Quaker households and meetings, and encouraged plantation owners to oversee the morality of both blacks and whites on the island. Fox had long insisted that Quakers preach to all races, yet in Barbados he was the first Quaker to hold meetings among slaves and had more of these meetings than any subsequent missionaries.53 Even so, Fox’s larger priority was to convince local magistrates that Quakers would not foment rebellion among their slaves, and that they would be loyal citizens even if they refused to bear arms. Quakers in this era participated in the slave trade. While Friends had substantial freedom of worship in the West Indies they still experienced informal persecution throughout the 1670s, 52  Ingle, First Among Friends, p. 233; Larry Gragg, The Quaker Community on Barbados: Challenging the Culture of the Planter Class (Columbia, SC, 2009), pp. 38–9; Braithwaite, Beginnings of Quakerism, p. 402. 53  Ingle, First Among Friends, p. 232. For a careful study of Quaker writings about slavery in Barbados, see Brycchan Carey, From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657–1761 (New Haven, CT, 2012), pp. 40–69. For a discussion of Quaker understandings of the body and bodily performance in relation to slavery, see Heather Miyano Kopelson, Faithful Bodies: Performing Religion and Race in the Puritan Atlantic (New York, 2014), pp. 141–8, and for the longer history see Jean Soderlund, Quakers and Slavery: A Divided Spirit (Princeton, NJ, 1985).


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often relating to their refusal of military service. One of the earliest Quakers to condemn slavery as an institution, William Edmundson initially preached freely on Antigua and Nevis in 1671, though when local converts started refusing to bear arms the Governor of Nevis refused him re-entry. When Edmundson ministered in Barbados in 1675, local Anglicans decided to interrupt the Quaker worship service, though Edmundson and the Anglican priest later agreed to a debate.54 Except for Rhode Island, where Quakers were elected to positions of authority and their security was maintained by longstanding practices of toleration, the prospects for Quakers varied widely from colony to colony and across time. In most early colonies, the decision to join a Quaker meeting involved significant risk. English missionaries travelled thousands of miles through difficult terrain to support and instruct these colonial Quaker meetings, and often continued their support by sending letters, pamphlets, and books. While London remained the hub of colonial Quakerism, local meetings developed variations in religious practice that often came into conflict with metropolitan impulses towards uniformity.55

QUAKERS IN POWER (I): NEW JERSEY Although William Penn’s ‘Quaker colony’ of Pennsylvania receives the lion’s share of scholarly attention, it was hardly the first such undertaking. A new phase in the history of colonial Quakerism came with the Dutch surrender of Fort Amsterdam to the English in 1664. The English colony of New Jersey grew out of that conquest, and its proprietors, Sir George Carteret and Lord Berkeley, issued the February 1665 Concession and Agreement, which guaranteed that ‘no person . . . shall be any ways molested, punished, disquieted or called in question for any difference in opinion or practice in matter of religious concernments’, and promised all residents the right to ‘freely and fully . . . enjoy . . . their judgments and consciences in matters of religion’. The Concession and Agreement also contained incentives aimed at inducing settlers to bring slaves with them when they settled in New Jersey. The simultaneous protection of religious liberty and chattel slavery—guaranteeing one species of liberty while simultaneously rewarding the deprivation of another—falls outside the narrower focus of this chapter on colonial Quakerism, though it does illustrate, with stark clarity, the enduring paradoxes of American colonization and American history more generally.56 54  Soderlund, Quakers and Slavery, pp. 3–4; Gragg, Quaker Community on Barbados, p. 44; Edmundson, Journal, pp. 54–5, 73. 55  Landes, London Quakers. 56  For the text of the Concession and Agreement, see nj02.asp

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A number of Quakers moved from Long Island to central New Jersey in the years that followed. New Jersey and (later) Pennsylvania were proprietary colonies, in which the king devolved ruling authority onto an individual or individuals. Although the proprietary history of New Jersey is more complicated than that of Pennsylvania,57 the presence of Quakers as proprietors or their trustees meant that Friends had attained a level of political power in the Americas that they could only have dreamt of in Britain, where they continued to face fines, corporal punishment, imprisonment, and distraint of goods. Five years before he first petitioned the king for his own territory in America, William Penn was asked to serve as mediator for an intra-Quaker dispute between John Fenwick (a soldier under Oliver Cromwell who had joined the Society of Friends in 1665) and Edward Byllinge, an English Quaker, which involved a share of the West Jersey proprietorship that the two had purchased from Lord Berkeley.58 The experience added a new and unexpected dimension to Penn’s activism, which heretofore had been directed against persecution in England and Europe: despite Penn’s claims, twenty years after the fact, of ‘an opening of joy’ towards America during his teenage years at Oxford, the editors of his Papers refer to him as ‘a colonizer by accident’ and add that ‘there is no evidence that he had any interest in America before he was suddenly drawn into the settling of a dispute between two Quakers over land in West New Jersey’.59 After some tense negotiations, Penn brought Fenwick and Byllinge to agreement. Fenwick travelled to America in 1675, founding the first English settlement on the Delaware River’s eastern shore, at Salem. Fenwick guaranteed civil and religious liberty to settlers in his territory, though he soon found himself imprisoned by the Governor of New York due to conflicting territorial claims along the Delaware.60 Byllinge’s portion of the West Jersey lands passed to William Penn and several associates as a result of Byllinge’s increasingly difficult financial circumstances, and in the summer of 1676, Penn and about 150 others signed the West Jersey Concessions. In forty-four chapters, the Concessions laid out the structure of government and fundamental laws by which the colony was to be governed.61 The Concessions held that legitimate government was based in the consent of  the people, and placed legislative authority in representative institutions: ‘we put power in the people . . . to meet, and choose one honest man for each propriety . . . all these men to meet as an assembly there, to make and repeal 57  The original grant to the two proprietors was subsequently subdivided, and the 1676 Quintipartite Deed divided New Jersey into East and West portions. 58  For the details, see John Edwin Pomfret, Colonial New Jersey: A History (New York, 1973). Penn’s correspondence with Fenwick is printed in PWP, I, pp. 384–7. 59  PWP, I, p. 383. The ‘opening of joy’ remarks are made by Penn in a letter to Robert Turner, Anthony Sharp, and Roger Roberts of 12 April 1681, PWP, II, p. 89. 60  Thomas Shourds, History and Genealogy of Fenwick’s Colony (Bridgeton, NJ, 1876), pp. 4–12. 61  The Concessions are widely available online; see, for example, htm; they are reprinted in PWP, I, pp. 388–408.


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laws . . .’ They also guaranteed trial by jury, forbade imprisonment for debt, and emphasized the fundamental importance of religious liberty: ‘No person to be  called into question or molested for his conscience, or for worshipping according to his conscience.’62 Jane Calvert has persuasively argued that the substantive commitments enshrined in the Concessions—juries, consent, representative institutions, liberty of conscience—are ‘indicative of a Quaker understanding of a rightly ordered government’. They certainly reflect a strand of thinking shared by Quakers and Whigs during the 1670s.63 Shortly thereafter, Penn and his fellow West Jersey trustees empowered several Friends to travel to America as commissioners and lay the foundations of government. New Jersey, and West Jersey in particular, was widely seen as a Quaker colony from the start; Robert Barclay, one of the foremost Quaker theologians, served as nonresident Governor of East Jersey from 1682–8 (although Barclay seems to have been as concerned with recruiting Scots as with recruiting Quakers). Two other prominent Friends, Thomas Rudyard and Gawen Lawrie, served as East Jersey deputy-governors during the early 1680s. Penn and associates pointed out that many Friends had been involved in the effort, and that they did ‘in real tenderness and regard as friends, and especially to the poor and necessitous, make friends the first offer’.64 Over the next few years, nearly 800 settlers made their way to West Jersey, most of them Friends. Two groups—from Yorkshire and London—purchased a large tract of land and settled Burlington, which would become the West Jersey capital. Burlington Monthly Meeting was established in 1678, and in 1681 the first Yearly Meeting of Friends in the area was held there.

QUAKERS IN POWER (II): PENNSYLVANIA In the wake of his involvement in West Jersey, and of the political and constitutional crises of the late 1670s in England, William Penn petitioned the crown for a grant of land in America.65 Penn’s status as a well-known Dissenter—a high-profile Quaker convert and a strong supporter of Fox’s leadership in the Society of Friends—who had agitated on behalf of Friends in England and across Europe, as well as for liberty of conscience as a general principle, facilitated his request. (His personal ties with the royal family—from his father’s 62  William Penn to Richard Hartshorne, 26 August 1676, PWP, I, p. 416. 63  Jane Calvert, Quaker Constitutionalism and the Political Thought of John Dickinson (Cambridge, 2008), p. 101; also Andrew R. Murphy, ‘The Emergence of William Penn, 1668–1671’, Journal of Church and State, 57 (2015), 333–9; and Andrew R. Murphy, Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration: The Political Thought of William Penn (Oxford, 2016), chs 1–2. 64  To Prospective Settlers in West New Jersey, PWP, I, p. 420. 65  For background on these events, see J.P. Kenyon, The Popish Plot (London, 1972).

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naval career alongside the Duke of York to Penn’s own relationship with James, whom he met in 1673 and with whom he shared tolerationist commitments, were also instrumental in this regard.) He received his royal charter for Pennsylvania in spring 1681, ostensibly as repayment of debts owed by the crown to Penn’s father. To James Harrison, an English Quaker who would later emigrate to Pennsylvania, Penn expressed his well-known ‘desire that I may not be unworthy of [God’s] love . . . that an example may be set up to the  nations. There may be room there, though not here, for such an holy experiment.’66 Penn began the arduous task of promoting his new undertaking, drawing on the extensive network of Friends known to him from his activities in England, his travels on the Continent, and his previous experience working on his father’s (and later his own) estates in Ireland. In correspondence, Penn made no secret of his high hopes for the colony, expressing ‘my God that has given it me through many difficulties will, I believe, make it the seed of a nation. I shall have a tender care to the government that it be well-laid out at first.’67 The central role of Quakerism to Penn’s aspirations in the colony that bore his (or, as he insisted, his father’s) name has been noted by many scholars: J.  William Frost has described him as aiming for a ‘non-coercive Quaker establishment’, Thomas Hamm has argued that Penn ‘framed [Pennsylvania] according to Quaker principles’, and Jane Calvert has described the colony as ‘self-consciously Quaker in its origins, identity, goals, structures, and internal processes’, with a government that ‘was conceived in the spirit of the Quaker Meeting for business, the administrative assembly of the ecclesiastical polity’.68 Though many of Penn’s promotional efforts relied on networks of Quakers like Barclay, Dublin Friend Anthony Sharp, Fox, and Margaret Fell (a major figure in early Quakerism in her own right, who married Fox in 1669), the public face of Penn’s colonization often downplayed its Quaker dimensions. Some Account of the Province of Pennsylvania, published shortly after he received his charter, presented an extended and multifaceted economic argument in favour of colonization in general and Pennsylvania in particular, grounded political legitimacy in the rule of law and in the consent-based tradition of English liberties, and issued an enthusiastic invitation for ‘sober people of all sorts’ to seek prosperity in the new colony.69 The final governing document published 66  Penn to James Harrison, 25 August 1681, PWP, II, p. 108. 67  Penn to Robert Turner, 5 March 1681, PWP, II, p. 83. 68  J. William Frost, ‘Religious Liberty in Early Pennsylvania’, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 105 (1981), 449; Thomas Hamm, The Quakers in America (New York, 2003), p. 27; Calvert, Quaker Constitutionalism, p. 105. 69  The phrase is taken from Penn’s Fundamental Constitutions of Pennsylvania, a privately ­circulated early draft of a frame of government. Although this was a private document, its general thrust is in accord with Some Account’s de-emphasis of specifically Quaker principles regarding settlement in Pennsylvania. On the founding of Pennsylvania and its foundational founding documents, see Andrew Murphy, ‘The Limits and Promise of Political Theorizing: William Penn


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by Penn before he journeyed to America, the spring 1682 Frame of Government and Laws Agreed Upon in England, similarly made little explicit mention of Friends’ principles or liberty of conscience. (It guaranteed that all persons who confessed belief in God ‘shall in no wayes be molested or prejudiced . . . in matters of Faith and Worship, nor shall they be compelled at any time to frequent or maintain any Religious Worship, Place or Ministry whatever’, but this guarantee did not appear until the thirty-fifth law, out of a total of forty.70) Even without a more explicit linkage of religious liberty with Pennsylvania, however, the process of recruiting settlers was surely facilitated by Penn’s extensive networks among European dissenters and his reputation as defender of persecuted religious minorities.71 After writing a final personal farewell to his wife and children, Penn departed for America in August 1682, and spent one of his first nights in America at the home of Robert Wade, which had also served as a Quaker meetinghouse, in Upland (renamed Chester by Penn). The first Philadelphia Monthly Meeting was held in Christopher Taylor’s home early in January 1683, less than three months after Penn’s arrival. Those present agreed to establish the usual components of Quaker meetings (recordkeeping, registration of certificates of Friends arriving from other countries, tracking marriages and deaths, and so on), and followed Quaker custom in approving the meeting’s first marriage.72 By spring of 1683, Pennsylvania Friends had formed nine meetings, and each of the three counties (Philadelphia, Chester, Bucks) had their own Monthly Men’s and Women’s Meetings.73 Correspondence with Friends in England emphasized the thriving meeting structure in place in Pennsylvania, which apparently attracted even those from outside the Society: Penn reported that ‘blessings flow amongst us . . . heavenly are our assemblies and large, and the people flock in that are not Friends’. All of these developments encouraged him in his as­pir­ ations for the colony: ‘Truth’s authority is [raising] I hope an example to the nations.’74 The first Philadelphia Yearly Meeting took place in 1683, and the following year apparently saw two Yearly Meetings—one in Burlington and one in Philadelphia—after which Yearly Meetings alternated between the two locales. and the Founding of Pennsylvania’, History of Political Thought, 34 (2013), 639–68; and Andrew Murphy, Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration, ch. 5. 70  Penn, The Frame of the Government of the Province of Pennsilvania [sic] in America: Together with certain Laws Agreed upon in England by the Governous and Divers Free-Men of the aforesaid Province (London, 1682), p. 11. 71  Some Account of the Province of Pennsylvania, in America (London, 1681), reprinted in William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania: A Documentary History (Philadelphia, PA, 1983),  pp. 58–66. See Sally Schwartz, ‘William Penn and Toleration: Foundations of Colonial Pennsylvania’, Pennsylvania History, 50 (1983), 296. 72  Minute of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, 9 January 1683, PWP, II, pp. 333–6. See also Frost, Quaker Family in America. 73  Samuel M. Janney, Life of William Penn, 5th ed. (Philadelphia, PA, 1882), p. 234. 74  To John Blaykling and others, 16 April 1683, PWP, II, p. 376; see also To John Alloway, 29 November 1683, PWP, II, pp. 503–5.

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Penn also corresponded with Friends in Barbados, although a planned Barbadian Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania never came to fruition, due in large part to Penn’s failure to secure access to the mouth of the Susquehanna River.75 Although it was hardly the first place in which Quakers exercised the powers of civil magistracy, the outsized role played by Penn in the construction of Pennsylvania’s government and the overwhelming dominance of Friends within the colony brought tensions within Quakerism to the fore. Penn soon found that shared Quaker commitments did not always translate into a smoothly functioning Quaker society.76 In a terse reply defending himself against charges that he had failed to ensure Quakers’ political control over the colony, Penn wrote to Jasper Batt that ‘we should look selfish, and do that, which we have cried out upon others for, namely, letting no body touch with government but those of their own way. And this hath often been flung at us. . . . If you Quakers had the power, none should have a part in the government but those of your own way.’77 The broader contours of Penn’s political theory relied heavily on representative institutions (e.g. juries, legislatures) as embodiments of popular consent, and the Fundamental Constitutions’ invocation of ‘sober people of all sorts’ as welcome within the colony’s borders produced strains as the ‘lower counties’ (the eventual state of Delaware) increasingly chafed at the dominance of Pennsylvania Friends.78 Tensions between the (Quaker-dominated) Upper and (largely non-Quaker) Lower Counties would lead eventually to the separation of the colony into two political entities early in the eighteenth century. In the view of Pennsylvania’s Quaker elites, religious difference was directly implicated in the strife: Pennsylvania correspondents later referred to the inhabitants of the Lower Counties as ‘our stepbrethren of the Lower Counties’, calling them ‘both strangers to our selves and [principles]’, and describing  the 1682 Act of Union, which incorporated the counties into Penn’s ­colony, as a ‘Pandora’s box’, which had produced ‘innumerable miseries’ upon its opening.79 We mentioned George Fox’s encounters with natives during his American travels in 1671 and 1672 earlier in this chapter; Penn’s relationship with the tribes that populated his colony has long formed part of the mythic lore of 75  From Elizabeth Gretton, 20 March 1684, PWP, II, p. 533; To Ralph Fretwell, 3 April 1684, PWP, II, pp. 546–7. 76  Given his extensive experience mediating divisions among English Friends, and defending George Fox from the criticisms of fellow Quakers, this discord should probably not have surprised him. Then again, Penn had high hopes for the potential of an American colony to attain the kind of harmonious social order that had proven elusive in England. 77  William Penn to Jasper Batt, 5 February 1683, PWP, II, p. 347. Further criticism from Batt (August 1683) appears in PWP, II, pp. 462–6. 78  For the broader outlines of Penn’s political theory, see Mary Maples Dunn, William Penn: Politics and Conscience (Princeton, NJ, 1967); and Murphy, Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration. 79  ‘From the Provincial Council and Assembly’, 3 May 1691, PWP, III, pp. 316, 317. ‘From Joseph Growden’, 28 April 1691, PWP, III, p. 309.


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Pennsylvania and, by extension, American Quakerism. ‘Quakers were neighborly with Native Americans, purchasing rather than stealing land from them, and finding a kinship between tribal beliefs and their own’, David Yount claims in his account of Quakers’ influence on American culture.80 True, Penn did write to the ‘King of the Indians’, invoking ‘one great God and Power that hath made the world and all things therein’, and Pennsylvania witnessed far less carnage than Massachusetts or Virginia in the early years of its settlement.81 Benjamin West’s iconic 1771 painting William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians represented this view graphically to great effect. There is much to be said for differentiating Penn from other colonial founders (and Pennsylvania Quakers from, say, Virginia Anglicans) in describing his interactions with native tribes in America. That said, Penn began selling Indian lands before he had obtained clear title to them, a practice that Allan Greer has called ‘dispossession in a commercial idiom’.82 Other recent scholarship has elaborated the complex realities of Pennsylvania’s early years. ‘By offering pacification to local tribes’, Vicki Hsueh argues, ‘Penn was able to open up various trading and diplomatic opportunities without excessive arms or financial investment . . . his pacific outlook added dimensions of moral and ethical complexity to familiar realist interests’.83 John Smolenski highlights the ‘disagreements, miscommunications, and missed opportunities [that] marked colonial-native relations’, emphasizing the keen interest that Pennsylvania Quaker ethnographers showed in many aspects of Lenape culture while also stressing that ‘their exclusive focus on a single Indian group blinded them to the reality of the region’s changing demographics’.84 As William A. Pencak and Daniel K. Richter succinctly put it, ‘mutual understanding was rare’; the chapters in their volume Friends and Enemies in Penn’s Woods explore the many ways in which early Pennsylvania provided the backdrop for complex interactions between Euro-Americans and Native Americans.85 More recently, Jean Soderlund has elevated the Lenape Indians (along with the Swedes and Finns who predated English Quakers) to a coequal status in the formation of the middle Atlantic region, with its distinctive decentralized political practices and fluid cultural exchange.86 80  David Yount, How the Quakers Invented America (Lanham, MD, 2007), p. 79. Yount’s account is particularly simplistic, but it differs only in degree from many more widely accepted descriptions. 81  ‘To the Kings of the Indians’, 18 October 1681, PWP, II, pp. 128–9. 82  Allan Greer, ‘Dispossession in a Commercial Idiom: From Indian Deeds to Land Cession Treaties’, in Juliana Barr and Edward Countryman, eds, Contested Spaces in Early America (Philadelphia, PA, 2014), pp. 63–93. 83  Hsueh, Hybrid Constitutions, p. 100. 84  Smolenski, Friends and Strangers, pp. 123, 96. 85  William A. Pencak and Daniel K. Richter, ‘Introduction’, in Friends and Enemies in Penn’s Woods: Indians, Colonists, and the Racial Construction of Pennsylvania (University Park, PA, 2004), p. xiii. 86  Jean Soderlund, Lenape Country: The Delaware Valley Before William Penn (Philadelphia, PA, 2014).

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Although our consideration of colonial Quakerism concludes in 1689—the year of the Toleration Act—it is also worth mentioning that 1689 also marks the  arrival in Pennsylvania of George Keith, the Scottish Quaker who had accompanied Penn and Fox across Germany and Holland in the 1670s, surveyed the East–West Jersey border in 1686, and harangued Cotton Mather and New England clergy in 1688. Keith would soon become the leader of a virulent group of dissenting Friends in and around Philadelphia, whose dissatisfaction with the theological laxity among Pennsylvania Quakers would lead him to articulate a strident critique of the colony’s ruling (Quaker) elite. Keithians also  published one of the first Quaker protests against slavery in 1693.87 (Although a group of Philadelphia Friends issued an earlier protest against slavery, in 1688, it was never formally approved by the Yearly Meeting.) In 1692, Keith would find himself charged in the colony’s civil courts with ‘traduc[ing] and vilely misrepresent[ing]’ the colony’s (Quaker) magistrates, a charge against which he defended himself by invoking liberty of conscience and the example of Friends from the Society’s founding.88

CONCLUSION The two different pictures of colonial Quakerism that we have presented in this chapter—insurgents whose treatment ranged from outright suppression and prosecution to benign tolerance on the one hand, and representatives of established authority on the other—paint a complex picture of the Society of Friends as it emerged from its English roots and spread across the Atlantic. The history of Quakerism in the colonies involves a multitude of particular adaptations of British practices to American realities, a process that John Smolenski describes as ‘creolization’: ‘the creative process through which individuals and groups constructed new cultural habits and identities as they tried to make Old-World inheritances “fit” in a New-World environment’.89 Drawing on a powerful belief in the Light within to reform Christianity and remake society, Quakers both challenged and built colonial institutions. Missionaries like Mary Fisher and magistrates like William Penn took substantial risks against long odds to further their vision of the Kingdom of God on American soil. Among their most difficult challenges was dissension within Quaker communities, whether it was 87  An Exhortation and Caution to Friends, Concerning Buying or Keeping of Negroes (New  York, 1693), reprinted in J.W.  Frost, The Keithian Controversy in Early Pennsylvania (Norwood, PA, 1980), pp. 213–18. 88  Andrew Murphy, ‘Persecuting Quakers?’, in Christopher Beneke and Chris Grenda, eds, The  First Prejudice: Religious Tolerance and Religious Intolerance in the Making of America (Philadelphia, PA, 2010). 89  Smolenski, Friends and Strangers, p. 4.


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over disciplinary reforms, distribution of land, or theological rigour. Supported by the generosity of Friends in England, who sent books, missionaries, and supplies, and who collected their stories, colonial Quakers formed tightly knit communities that significantly shaped the politics and culture of colonial America. By 1689 colonial Quakers were maintaining an impressive network of local and regional meetings and, while still in close communication with English Quakers, were forming stronger organizational ties amongst themselves.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Allen, Richard C. and Rosemary Moore, eds, The Quakers, 1656–1723: The Evolution of an Alternative Community (University Park, PA, 2018). Caroll, Kenneth L., Quakerism on the Eastern Shore (Baltimore, MD, 1970). Chu, Jonathan  M., Neighbors, Friends, or Madmen: The Puritan Adjustment to Quakerism in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts Bay (Westport, CT, 1985). Frost, J.  William, The Quaker Family in Colonial America: A Portrait of the Society of Friends (New York, 1973). Gerona, Carla, Night Journeys: The Power of Dreams in Transatlantic Quaker Culture (Charlottesville, VA, 2004). Gragg, Larry, The Quaker Community on Barbados: Changing the Culture of the Planter Class (Columbia, SC, 2009). Haefeli, Evan, New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty (Philadelphia, PA, 2012). Ingle, H.  Larry, First among Friends: George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism (New York, 1996). Landes, Jordan, London Quakers in the Trans-Atlantic World: The Creation of an Early Modern Community (New York, 2015). Murphy, Andrew R., Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America (University Park, PA, 2001). Murphy, Andrew  R., Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration: The Political Thought of William Penn (Oxford, 2016). Murphy, Andrew R., William Penn: A Life (Oxford, 2019). Pestana, Carla Gardina, Quakers and Baptists in Colonial Massachusetts (New York, 1991). Peters, Kate, Print Culture and the Early Quakers (Cambridge, 2005). Weddle, Meredith Baldwin, Walking in the Way of Peace: Quaker Pacifism in the Seventeenth Century (New York, 2001). Weimer, Adrian Chastain, Martyrs’ Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England (Oxford, 2014).

Part III Dissent and the World

13 Dissent in the Parishes W.J. Sheils

Despite the institutional dominance of the late-medieval Church, parochial dissent in England had an established history long before the break with Rome in the 1530s. From the late fourteenth century small groups of evangelical Christians, chiefly influenced by the teachings of John Wyclif but also drawing on the late-medieval European Christological devotional tradition, began to withdraw from participation in parochial religion to varying degrees. These groups, located principally in the market towns and villages of the Chilterns and the Kentish Weald as well as London and elsewhere, did not have a formal structure of ministry, but were served by travelling clergy and, sometimes, by  laypeople. These ministers, or brethren, maintained contact between the Lollard communities, as they came to be known, somewhat disparagingly. Thus, while the Lollards shared an evangelical piety, less priestly and sacramental than the Established Church, and more sceptical of the value of intercessory prayers or devotion to the saints, the different groups displayed an eclectic range of devotional practices, which, however, were sustained by a shared commitment to the vernacular Bible, manuscripts of which passed among them.1 Earlier historiography stressed the separateness, or nonconformity, of these Lollards, resulting in the persecution of many of them for heresy by the Church authorities.2 More recent research, reflecting work on later dissent, has revealed a more nuanced relationship between the Lollards and the Established Church, at least at the parochial level, showing that many individuals, whilst withdrawing from parochial religion for their particular evangelical devotional life, nevertheless continued to participate in Sunday worship and to share the

1  Anne Hudson, The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History (Oxford, 1988), pp. 446–70. 2  K.B. McFarlane, John Wycliffe and the Beginnings of English Nonconformity (London, 1952); A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (London, 1964), pp. 22–37.

W.J. Sheils, Dissent in the Parishes In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0014


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responsibilities of parochial office with their orthodox neighbours.3 To the early reformers however, it was their separateness and their witness in the face of persecution and martyrdom that marked them out as the true ‘gospellers’ and heralds of the Reformation, suffering under an idolatrous ecclesiastical authority. From the very beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, therefore, dissent was an integral component of its tradition, as revealed by the historical works of John Bale and John Foxe.4 That emphasis on separateness and suffering was reinforced by the experience of Protestants in the reign of Mary when not only were leaders of the nascent Protestant Church, such as Cranmer and Ridley, put to the stake, but ordinary members of congregations in places such as Colchester and Norwich, suffered the same fate. In such times of persecution it was these congregations and others like them, such as the ‘privy churches’ of London, among them a group which met secretly aboard the Jesus boat on the Thames, which preserved the gospel.5 To Protestant historians the survival of the Reformation owed much to men and women whose devotional life lay outside the official Church and who were willing to defy papal ecclesiastical authority in defence of their beliefs. This congregational legacy was to prove problematic after the accession of Elizabeth, when the Church itself was Protestant. Evidence about the practice of parochial religion in the first decade of the Elizabethan Church is sketchy; the mid-century upheavals, the shortage of preachers, and the ­survival of Catholicism all contributed to uncertainty, and ecclesiological ­differences among Protestants were submerged in furthering the shared task of Reformation. But differences there were: not only did the churchmanship of the ‘gospellers’ sit uneasily with the hierarchical structures of the Elizabethan Settlement, but other reformers had also experienced non-episcopal forms of churchmanship while in exile under Mary.6 From the 1560s the nature of the Reformation was itself contested, and it is in that context that the history of parochial dissent needs to be considered.

THE MEANINGS OF ‘DISSENT ’ IN THE PARISHES At this point it is worth reflecting on what constituted ‘dissent’ in this new church, and this can best be done by consideration of the competing traditions of the ‘invisible’ and ‘visible’ church. The tradition inherited from the Lollards 3  Derek Plumb, ‘A Gathered Church? Lollards and their Society’, in Margaret Spufford, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters, 1520–1725 (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 132–63; Robert Lutton, Lollardy and Orthodox Religion in Pre-Reformation England (Woodbridge, 2006), pp. 149–95. 4  Elizabeth Evenden and Thomas Freeman, Religion and the Book in Early Modern England: the Making of Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’ (Cambridge, 2011), esp. pp. 45–62. 5  Dickens, English Reformation, pp. 272–7, 283–94. 6  Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London, 1967), pp. 21–55.

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was essentially linked to the notion of the ‘invisible church’, in which the truth of the gospel was preserved by the faithful meeting together without reference to any overarching institutional structure. In contrast a tradition of dissent associated with the returning exiles reflected the view of more radical Protestants that the Elizabethan Settlement was no settlement and that ­further reform was necessary, usually considered along Presbyterian lines. This ­trad­ition demanded a purer ‘visible church’, hence the name ‘Puritan’, which became attached to its advocates. In practice these two traditions often overlapped in the experimental ­ec­cle­sio­logic­al conditions of the reign of Elizabeth, when there were significant differences about the nature of the Reformed Church among its episcopal leadership and much divergence of practice between clergy in the parishes. Dissent in these conditions was not a homogenous phenomenon, nor was it always consistently adhered to, often being a response by the godly to local ecclesiastical practice, which was considered deficient, usually in matters of worship or preaching.7 A change of local practice could return such dissenters to their parish church quite quickly. In the middle years of Elizabeth’s reign the boundary between dissent and conformity was often a porous one. By way of illustration we can consider the practice of ‘gadding to sermons’, which led to a number of prosecutions in several dioceses in the 1570s and 80s. In 1570 some local Puritan gentry invited the former Genevan exile Percival Wiburn to establish a supra-parochial preaching ministry in Northampton, initially with the support of the bishop, Edmund Scambler. That support was soon withdrawn, however, and Wiburn removed to the parish of Whiston where, unbeneficed, he continued to minister, abandoning the Prayer Book and replacing it with psalm singing and preaching. Wiburn attracted many of his former congregation to his services as well as ‘diverse persons of other parishes to the communion, such as disobey their own ministers’, establishing a tradition of nonconformity in the neighbourhood that undermined the parochial structure for the next thirty years.8 This sort of ‘dissent’ more often than not reflected dissatisfaction with the prevailing preaching or ceremonial practices of a locality, or particular minister, and was regularly reported throughout the country in the years between 1560 and 1640, often reflecting the changing priorities of the authorities rather than marking any change in practice by parishioners. This was so during the 1630s when Laudian bishops dominated the Established Church, and practices that had been tolerated by their predecessors suddenly were ­subject to ecclesiastical censure as nonconformist; for example, when Richard Neile became Archbishop of York in 1634 many congregations and their clergy 7  Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559–1625 (Oxford, 1982), pp. 247–52, 274–80. 8  W.J.  Sheils, The Puritans in the Diocese of Peterborough, 1559–1610 (Northampton, 1979), pp. 120–9.


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found themselves in trouble with the courts for practices, such as sitting to receive communion, which had been tolerated under a predecessor Tobie Matthew, archbishop from 1606 until 1628.9 During the reign of James I the practice of conventicling, by which parishioners withdrew to private houses or inns in order to hear and/or discuss ­sermons, had also become a feature of parochial life in many places, and especially in the towns, where they attracted the suspicion of the authorities, who charged their leaders with dissent. These gatherings were not dissimilar to the meetings of the Lollards or those ‘gospellers’ who sustained true religion in times of persecution, a time that some thought had returned with the emergence of the Arminians, but the extent to which they represented withdrawal from the notion of a national visible church rather than a desire for that church to be further reformed varied from congregation to congregation and over time.10 Many members of conventicles remained attached to the Established Church, albeit loosely, through the practice of what came to be known as ‘occasional conformity’, attending legally required services, such as the yearly communion and those on the great feasts, but little more. In this they were the Protestant counterparts of that other problematic group, church papists.11 That said, not only was the boundary between that sort of nonconformity and conformity a porous one, but so was the boundary between it and a more definitive ‘dissenting’ ecclesiology drawing on the notion of the invisible, or at least, the non-institutional church. To illustrate this we can return to Whiston. In 1592, two decades after Wiburn started preaching there, a group of seven inhabitants of the neighbouring parish of Earls Barton were disciplined for absenting themselves from the parish and deriding the minister. The charges against their leader, a yeoman called Robert Welford, were more specific: he was accused of going to Whiston, of despising the discipline of the church (that is to say, episcopacy), of remaining excommunicate, and being a ‘notable Brownist’.12 These were turbulent years, following the Star Chamber trial and imprisonment of leading Presbyterian clergy and the discovery of a ‘conspiracy’ by an idiosyncratic individual named William Hackett, from the nearby town of Oundle.13 In this context the charge of Brownism against Welford is significant. Robert Browne was a clergyman who, in the early 1580s, had become disillusioned with the prospects of reform of the English Church and held 9  R.A. Marchant, The Puritans and the Church Courts in the Diocese of York (London, 1960), pp. 52–69. 10  P.  Collinson, ‘The English Conventicle’, in W.J.  Sheils and Diana Wood, eds, Voluntary Religion, Studies in Church History, 23 (Oxford, 1986), pp. 223–59. 11  Christopher Hill, ‘Occasional Conformity and the Grindalian tradition’, in his Collected Essays, 3 vols (Brighton, 1985–6), II: Religion and Politics in Seventeenth-Century England, pp.  301–20, esp. pp. 313–18; Alexandra Walsham, Church Papists: Catholics, Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 1993), esp. pp. 36–9. 12  Sheils, Puritans in the Diocese of Peterborough, pp. 127–9, 136–40. 13  Patrick Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 403–40.

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unlicensed conventicles before leading his congregation at Bury St Edmunds to ‘joine them selves to the Lord, in one covenant and followshipp together’. This separatist theology was followed by practical separation when, after imprisonment by the bishop, Browne and his followers emigrated to Middleburg in the Netherlands. Returning via Scotland to a teaching post in London Browne subsequently developed his separatist ideas, adopting a congregational model of the church equally critical of both Presbyterianism and episcopacy. The charges against Welford, therefore, imply that by the 1590s he had absorbed some of Browne’s ideas and a dissenting tradition of separation from the Established Church, rather than one that merely sought its further reform, had begun to emerge in some parishes in provincial England as well as in the cap­ital. It is this tradition that forms the main subject of this chapter, though the complicated relationship between this tradition and that of the godly reformers is illustrated by the career of Browne himself: by the time of Welford’s prosecution Browne had renounced his Separatist views, and was serving another Northamptonshire parish, Thorpe Achurch, where he ministered for another forty years, ­occasionally appearing before the courts for nonconformity alongside some parishioners before being caught up in the Laudian reaction, resulting in his excommunication in 1631, sequestration in 1632, and imprisonment and death in 1633.14

PARO CHIAL DISSENT BEFORE THE CIVIL WARS Groups of dissenters were to be found in parishes throughout England in the years up to 1640, but there were distinct administrative and topographical ­conditions that favoured the emergence and continued presence of dissent. Above all there was London, with its complex parochial structure and its mobile and rapidly expanding population. From the start of Elizabeth’s reign the ­capital had been the locus of religious experiment, with English exiles returning from Calvinist cities like Geneva, and Protestant refugees from the Netherlands and France fleeing from persecution.15 In such circumstances eclectic congregations emerged cutting across parochial boundaries and drawing their congregations from across the city. The leaders of the most famous of these early dissenting groups, known as the Plumbers’ Hall congregation, had adherents from forty-two separate streets and locations in the city as diverse as Aldgate, Southwark, Holborn, and Smithfield. They were prosecuted and imprisoned in 14  ‘Browne, Robert’, ODNB. 15  Patrick Collinson, ‘The Elizabethan Puritans and the Foreign Reformed Churches in London’, in his Godly People: Essays on English Protestantism and Puritanism (London, 1983), pp. 245–72.


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1567 for abandoning their parishes and discarding the Prayer Book in favour of the order of Geneva. On their release some of these returned to their parishes, but others separated from the Established Church, ‘the church of the traditioners’, gathering themselves into a congregation that had its own covenant and elected its own officers. Similar congregations soon emerged, one observer suggesting four or five by 1570, and many of their members suffered imprisonment throughout the 1570s and 80s. They proved problematic to the more conservative Puritans, who disowned them, and these ‘separators’ (perhaps a more accurate term than ‘Separatist’ at this date) looked to the stranger ­churches of the French and Dutch exiles, whose independence was acknowledged by the authorities, for inspiration.16 The capital continued to be a home for dissenters throughout the period; congregations led by Henry Barrow and John Greenwood attracted craftsmen and their families from across the city and the social spectrum, including goldsmiths and apothecaries as well members of the lesser crafts. Like their Marian predecessors many of them were imprisoned for their beliefs, and in 1593 the arrest of fifty-six members whilst at a gathering for worship in the woods near Islington ended in the execution of Barrow and Greenwood and the flight of some of the congregation to Amsterdam.17 Thereafter organized Separatist ­dissent did not return to the capital until 1616 when Henry Jacob returned from exile in Middleburg to gather a church under a shared confession of faith. Its members included merchants like Sabine Staresmore, booksellers, a wherryman, and representatives of most trades across the city. It separated from the Established Church on the issue of baptism, and it permitted any man it deemed fit to expound the Scriptures in the congregation but, despite this, Jacob’s ­congregation continued to share fellowship with members of less radical Puritan parishes in the city. Jacob’s church proved the model for other congregations in the capital and offshoots were formed, not always amicably, so that, on the eve of the Civil Wars there were seven gathered churches in London descended from it, in varying degrees of separation from their Puritan neighbours. Notwithstanding the continuing threat of prison, numbers increased and when Samuel Eaton, the leader of one congregation, died in 1639 200 ­followers accompanied his body to burial.18 London was exceptional, but not unique. Other towns and cities housed dissenters; Norwich, with its tradition of medieval heresy and early radicalism, not only had a congregation of Dutch refugee weavers with their own church, but its Puritan magistrates established supra-parochial lectureships in the town. Here and elsewhere the sermons preached by these lecturers were often 16  Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 88–90. 17  R.B. White, The English Separatist Tradition (Oxford, 1971), pp. 68–90. 18  Murray Tolmie, The Triumph of the Saints: the Separate Churches of London, 1616–49 (Cambridge 1977), pp. 12–27.

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the subject of ‘repetition’ and discussion in less formally public, and in some cases, private meetings by their more evangelical, or godly hearers.19 These meetings, which came to be known as conventicles, occupied an ambiguous ecclesiastical and legal space. In 1593 parliament passed a Conventicle Act making it illegal to attend unlawful religious gatherings under pain of imprisonment, but it was not clear who decided on the legality. In some cases they were held with the approval of local magistrates, but in others they became objects of suspicion, especially during the Laudian ascendancy. Conventicles were ubiquitous: at Yarmouth in 1607 the shopkeepers joined with the minister on Sunday evenings to repeat the sermon, as was the case at Norwich too, whose MP was a noted attender; in Kidderminster one hundred families were said to participate; at Kingston on Thames they were justified as a means for the people to be ‘edified one by another’; and in Lancashire and the West Riding they were the means of sustaining the godly in regions considered hostile to the Reformation. Extra-parochial religious gatherings were found in many towns, but whether they constituted full or partial withdrawal from the parish church and the wider Christian community varied from place to place. Some sort of separation from ‘the profane multitude’ was an essential feature of this religious culture, and leading Dissenters of the post-Restoration period looked back to  these gatherings as the precursors of their congregations. That this was sometimes the case is revealed by the early seventeenth-century annals of the Broadmead Church in Bristol, which chronicle a progression from informal meetings for repetition of sermons to full separation from public worship and the appointment of gifted brethren to the ministry.20 Despite the importance of such conventicles to the growth of dissent, they were not confined to the larger urban centres. Rural dissent, where it existed, was often found in villages within the hinterland of the smaller market towns, or near to main routes along which pedlars traded in ideas as well as goods, often combining the two in the form of cheap print. Other environments were also important: sparsely settled communities in large dispersed parishes, often in upland and moorland regions in the north or in forest and fen in the south; or settlements in administratively detached or border locations far from the reach of the authorities. For the rural impact of the country town we have the example of Royston, Hertfordshire, where, in the 1630s, farmers from the nearby villages met on market day ‘in a private room . . . that they might freely talk of the things of God’; no doubt some of these were conformable Puritans but others, like the dairy farmer Richard Conder, subsequently became members of separated gathered churches. The meetings he attended were not gatherings 19  M.C. McClendon, The Quiet Reformation: Magistrates and the Emergence of Protestantism in Tudor Norwich (Stanford, CA, 1999), pp. 37–61, 239–41; Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 186–8, 213–14. 20  Collinson, ‘The English Conventicle’, pp. 240–5.


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of the poor or marginalized, but comprised some of the more established ­families of the neighbourhood, who, in the years after 1660, played leading roles in their congregations and offered their premises for worship.21 It was probably at such markets that rural dissenters purchased godly literature from travelling pedlars and carriers: the early-seventeenth-century accounts of John Tayer, a shoemaker from Thornbury in Gloucestershire, reveal how he acquired godly books in Bristol, probably through a London carrier, and more directly the leading nonconformist minister Richard Baxter later recalled how his father had bought ‘good books’ from a poor pedlar at the door of their house in the Shropshire village of Eaton Constantine in 1630. The networks of communications between London, major towns, and smaller country markets meant that cheap print circulated and ‘the things of God’ could be discussed by dissenters in inns and other meeting places beyond the church. Nowhere is this better represented than in the villages and market towns of the Chilterns, along whose routes pedlars carried psalters and chapbooks to godly congregations in the seventeenth century, following the footprints of those Lollard brethren who had carried vernacular manuscript Bibles to fellow evangelicals two centuries earlier.22 Elsewhere, on the main road from Cambridge to Colchester lay the village of Balsham, where, in the later sixteenth century, settled a group of members of the Family of Love, followers of the beliefs of a Dutch mystic, Hendrick Niclaes, whose works became available in English in the 1570s. Niclaes advocated a spirituality of individual direct inward transformation that had no need of an institutional church. His followers in Balsham were among its prosperous ­yeomen, occupying over half the land in the parish in 1592, and they used that prosperity in helping each other and their poorer brethren in the towns and villages of the Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk border through a ‘distinctly masonic level of economic support’, lending money, transferring small parcels of land, and administering each other’s wills. Thus, a gathered and, in this case secret, congregation (for its members were Nicodemite and conformed outwardly to Established Religion) could sustain itself across an extensive rural hinterland spread across the borders of three counties and dioceses in the face of determined government harassment, although in the years after 1630 its existence remains shadowy and elusive to the historian.23

21  Margaret Spufford, Contrasting Communities: English Villagers in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Cambridge, 1974), pp. 230–2. 22  Tessa Watt, ‘Piety in the Pedlar’s Pack: Continuity and Change, 1578–1630’, in Spufford, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters, pp. 255–6; Michael Frearson, ‘Communications and the Continuity of Dissent in the Chiltern Hundreds during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’, in Spufford, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters, pp. 273–86. 23  Christopher Marsh, The Family of Love in English Society, 1550–1630 (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 68–74, 95–8, 190–3.

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Further north another neighbourhood crossing diocesan and county boundaries existed around the towns of Bawtry and Gainsborough, where south Yorkshire met Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Situated at considerable distance from the episcopal seats at York and Lincoln the area was nevertheless well connected to other parts of the country by both the River Trent and the road from London to York. A Puritan tradition was established in the neighbourhood from the later 1580s around the person of William Brewster at Scrooby, where he and a number of other parishioners were cited for unauthorized repetition of sermons and for absenting themselves from their parish. This looked like a Puritan conventicle, and Scrooby and other neighbouring parishes had Puritan ministers for the rest of Elizabeth’s reign. The imposition of the Canons of 1604, and the deprivation of some of these ministers, was the catalyst for the move from Puritanism to more formal separation. This was precipitated by the arrival in the area of two deprived clergymen, John Smyth and John Robinson, both former fellows of Christ’s College, Cambridge, who gathered a following among Brewster’s associates and, by 1607, had developed a separatist ecclesiology that looked to the example of the former London Separatists, now resident in Amsterdam. Both Smyth at Scrooby and Robinson at Gainsborough led congregations that identified themselves as Separatist, and individual Separatists were identified in neighbouring parishes. Their presence was viewed sufficiently seriously for the archbishop, Tobie Mathew, to preach a sermon ‘Contra Brownists’ at Bawtry in September 1607. Thereafter, the leading laymen were pursued in the church courts and, although the remoteness of their location gave them some immunity from the enforcement of the law, by 1608 the congregations decided to emigrate and join the English Separatists in Amsterdam, before Robinson’s followers went on to New England and some of Smyth’s congregation returned home following his death in 1612. Again, these congregations comprised members of the well-established farming community with sufficient resources to organize an emigration, Brewster was himself the bailiff of the archbishop’s manor at Scrooby and a Cambridge graduate, and Gervase Nevile, imprisoned at the end of 1607, was the grandson of a former sheriff of Yorkshire. Both of them emigrated.24 Elsewhere in Yorkshire, in the upland district of Craven on the border with Lancashire, a group of dissenters, led by Roger Brearley, the charismatic curate of Grindleton, a chapelry in the parish of Waddington, attracted the attention of the authorities in the 1610s. Brearley preached at the nearby market town of Gisburn, along with other like-minded clergy, most notably Richard Tennant, and the two were again before the diocesan court for their heterodox opinions in 1627. Brearley’s ministry moved between parishes along the Yorkshire/ Lancashire border (also a diocesan boundary) and the antinomian views of his 24  R.A. Marchant, The Puritans and the Church Courts, pp. 141–66; R.B. White, The English Separatist Tradition, pp. 120–6.


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congregation continued to trouble the authorities up to the Civil Wars, the community winning over Brearley’s successor as curate of Grindleton to their views in 1635. Having persuaded their minister, some of the congregation took on a preaching mission throughout Yorkshire, including in the West Riding town of Halifax and at Goathland on the North York Moors, and it is clear that these sparsely settled communities—Halifax lay at the centre of the largest parish in England containing dozens of subsidiary settlements—fostered both a tradition of independent religious initiative and provided an environment in which it could flourish. The leading Grindletonians were not anchored to one place, but took on a missionary role not unlike that subsequently undertaken by the Quakers, or of their contemporary, John Traske, the wandering prophet of Saturday sabbatarianism, whose ministry passed through large parts of south and south-west England from the 1610s, attracting followers who practised their faith quietly and in secret.25 It was in such places that dissent could take root and flourish, but it also benefited from the peculiarities of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, whereby parishes lay outside diocesan control. This was especially true of Bocking in Essex, and Hadleigh in Suffolk, both formally part of the diocese of Canterbury but lying beyond the diocesan boundary across the Thames. Their location made the enforcement of orthodoxy difficult for the authorities and a group of Lollards, around the Bocher family of Bocking, endured in the neighbourhood for several generations. In the reign of Edward VI a group of radical Kentish Protestants fled to Bocking to escape persecution; in 1551 sixty of them, including some locals, were discovered and charged with a range of anti-Calvinist heresies. Their radicalism later exercised the Marian regime, and in the 1570s the ‘forceful and unorthodox vernacular Protestantism’ of this group continued to t­ rouble the bishops. One of the Edwardian free willers, Thomas Upcher, subsequently moderated his views and became rector of St Leonard’s, Colchester after Elizabeth’s accession; he was later involved in the opposition to Whitgift’s policies in the 1580s and on the fringes of the Presbyterian Dedham ‘classis’, which operated in this cloth-making region on the Essex-Suffolk border at that time.26 Parochial dissent in the years before 1640 took root in a variety of contexts and it co-existed with godly Puritan nonconformity in a number of places. The boundary between the two traditions was sometimes porous, as at Bristol where Puritan dissatisfaction with the church led some into disaffected dissent, but elsewhere, as in the Scrooby neighbourhood, Puritan preachers were 25  David Como, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford, CA, 2004), pp. 144–7, 173–5, 266–324. 26  Hudson, Premature Reformation, p. 379; J.F. Davis, Heresy and Reformation in South-East England, 1520–1559 (Woodbridge, 1983), pp. 102–3; A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation, p. 238; P. Collinson, Archbishop Grindal 1519–1583: The Struggle for a Reformed Church (London, 1979), p. 114; Patrick Collinson, John Craig, and Brett Usher, eds, Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church, 1582–1590 (Woodbridge, 2003) pp. 265–6.

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vigorous opponents of the Separatists. Dissent took root in towns, and ­especially in the capital, and in manufacturing rural locations such as the Kentish Weald or the Stour valley, and was aided by being able to slip between different ecclesiastical and secular jurisdictions. This ‘borderland’ location and the relative absence of dissent in prosperous, nucleated agrarian parishes have led some historians to characterize dissent as a religion of the marginalized and the poor but, as we have seen, dissenters could be found among all sectors of rural society and occasionally among civic leaders too. As a consequence different groups could retain contact with each other over wide geographical distances, including with London churches and those in exile. These contacts did not represent a formal network but they do illustrate the solid social foundations of dissent in this period, and its capacity to adapt and survive in a hostile ecclesiastical environment.27

MID-CENTURY UPHEAVAL, 1640–60 The outbreak of Civil War in 1642, followed by the victory of parliament and the various ecclesiastical experiments tried by successive governments during the Interregnum, make it difficult to talk of Puritan dissent in the parishes ­during these years. First, during the 1640s, the parochial structure itself was disturbed by the presence of opposing armies in the countryside, each with their own chaplains, producing congregations of soldiers far removed from their parochial life. Second, in areas controlled by parliament, normal ecclesiastical discipline broke down, and this was extended nationally after the abolition of episcopacy in 1646. With no system of enforcement, the prohibition of the Book of Common Prayer, and the lifting of censorship in 1642, the religious landscape in most parishes had changed utterly by 1650, and these changes make it ana­chron­is­tic to impose ‘rigid categories on the mid-century flux of ideas’.28 Indeed, with about a quarter of the clergy being removed from their parishes during these decades, episcopalians sometimes found themselves as de facto parochial dissenters during the 1650s. The usefulness of dissent as a descriptive term at the parochial level in these decades is therefore limited. Nevertheless the upheavals of these decades, described by one authority as ‘the liberation of dissent’, were to have significant consequences for dissent as it emerged in the years after 1660. Clearly those congregations that had existed

27  Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (London, 1972), pp. 39–56, for the link between dissent and the socially marginalized. 28  B. Reay, ‘Introduction’, in J.F. McGregor and B. Reay, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution (Oxford, 1983), pp. 1–21, quotation at p. 14.


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and survived in the years before 1640 were able to flourish, at least during the war years of the 1640s, following the collapse of the ecclesiastical courts.29 Also of significance was the struggle for control of the Church among the Puritans in parliament, between the Presbyterians and those of a more congregationally minded churchmanship, usually called Independents at this time. Theirs was, of course, a struggle for the religious character of the national Church, rather than an argument about religious toleration, though arguments about toleration were central to the debates of the 1640s and 50s. In the process the intellectual argument for toleration, advocated by John Milton among ­others, transformed the language of conscience and liberty, in politics as well as religion, though the impact of their ideas was not turned into practice until the following centuries.30 What these discussions did reflect was an environment in which experimentation was possible, and nowhere was this more possible than in the capital. Rejection of infant baptism among the early seventeenthcentury exiles had fostered the emergence of a few General Baptist congregations in London and elsewhere following the return from Amsterdam of some members of Smyth’s former congregation in 1612. Led originally by Thomas Helwys, little is known of their activities in the 1630s, in which decade the London congregation led by Henry Jacob was well chronicled, thanks largely to the pressure placed upon it by the Laudian regime. The more radical members of Jacob’s congregation espoused believers’ baptism and by 1644, when they published their own confession of faith, there were seven congregations of these Particular Baptists in London. Despite theological differences both General and Particular Baptists dramatically demonstrated their separatism by adopting the ritual of baptism by total immersion in the years following 1640. The London congregations of the mid-1640s were marked by revivalist meetings, public debates, and printed tracts, and many of their members enlisted in the parliamentary army, sometimes achieving officer rank. It was through the army that the Baptists were able to reach beyond the capital so that, by 1660, there were over 250 congregations throughout the country, with numbers ranging between 18 and 261. Some congregations formed themselves into regional associations to fund full-time preachers and evangelists, but there was no national organization. Their main strength was in the Midlands, South and West, where they attracted some minor gentry support, but they made little impact in the northern counties.31 29  Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978), pp. 77–220; Kenneth Fincham and Stephen Taylor, ‘Episcopalian Conformity and Nonconformity, 1646–1660’, in Jason McElligott and David Smith, eds, Royalists and Royalism during the Interregnum (Manchester, 2010), pp. 18–43. 30  John Coffey, ‘The Toleration Controversy during the English Revolution’, in Christopher Durston and Judith Maltby, eds, Religion in Revolutionary England (Manchester, 2006), pp. 42–68. 31  J.F.  McGregor, ‘The Baptists: Fount of all Heresy’, in McGregor and Reay, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution, pp. 23–64.

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If Baptists were few in the north the same was not true of the other great Dissenting group to emerge in these years. This was not a product of the ­war-torn 1640s, for although some early leaders had been soldiers in the New Model Army and George Fox had begun preaching near his Midland home in the late 1640s, the movement really took off in 1651 when Fox and his associates undertook a preaching ministry among the dissenting communities of the north, thereby marking the beginnings of Quakerism. The Quakers drew their support mainly from the ‘middling sort’ in rural and urban communities with a solid following among the poorer classes, and they were especially strongly represented among women, who preached, participated in church government, and engaged in printed controversy. The movement eschewed church worship and the clerical estate, meeting in barns, inns, and the open countryside, and they refused to pay tithes to the clergy. From the mid-1650s Quaker communities spread rapidly throughout the country and, despite vigorous campaigns against them by the authorities, they proved resilient, numbering about 60,000 in 1660. The movement quickly established a national structure of meetings, held together by a printed and epistolary ministry by its leaders.32 At the Restoration in 1660 there were not only older Puritan nonconformists, represented by the Presbyterians and Independents, but the newer Dissenters, chiefly Baptists and Quakers but including other smaller groups such as the millenarian Fifth Monarchists and Muggletonians.33 For the most part these congregations stood outside the newly restored Anglican Church, though many Presbyterians continued to attend parochial services as well as their own worship through to 1689. Congregations of one or more of these religious groups could be found in parishes and towns throughout the country, as was the case in Kent. The county town of Maidstone can serve as an example: dominated by a Presbyterian preacher supported by the mayor and cor­por­ation from 1644 until 1653, the town also contained a congregation of Independents during those years. In 1655 Quaker missionaries met with a Baptist congregation on their way to Maidstone, where they addressed the Presbyterian and Congregational churches separately. They got a hostile reception, being put in the stocks and whipped from the town, but achieved a following in the neighbourhood if not in Maidstone itself, and in 1656 John Reeve, leader of the Muggletonians, also made contact with supporters in the vicinity of Maidstone, among them a tanner and heel-maker. Clearly the elite of the town were Presbyterian, but there was a sizeable congregation of Independents there too and, by the later 1650s, radicals like the Quakers and Muggletonians could be 32  B. Reay, ‘Quakerism and Society’, in McGregor and Reay, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution, pp. 141–64. 33  Bernard Capp, ‘The Fifth Monarchists and Popular Millenarianism’, in McGregor and Reay, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution, pp. 165–89; Barry Reay, ‘The Muggletonians: An Introductory Survey’, in Christopher Hill, William Lamont, and Barry Reay, eds, The World of the Muggletonians (London, 1983), pp. 23–63.


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found among the poorer crafts and in the neighbouring villages. The religious diversity practised here was far from exceptional in the late 1650s.34

POST-RESTORATION DISSENT The religious landscape in 1660 looked very different from what it had been in the early seventeenth century. Attempts to create a broad or ‘latitudinarian’ national Church that would embrace the ‘old dissenters’, those Puritan Presbyterians and Independents, foundered in the early 1660s with parliament’s passing of a series of acts, later known as the Clarendon Code, enforcing conformity and imposing civil restrictions on Dissenters.35 Some Puritan clergy did join the new Church; some, like the Suffolk minister Isaac Archer, hovered uncertainly on the boundary of conformity and dissent and, although accepting a parish living, remained ‘tender of the nonconformists’; but others, like John Shawe, left the Established Church after 1662 and ministered to a Presbyterian congregation in his home town of Rotherham as well as preaching to congregations throughout the north.36 The boundary between old dissent and the Established Church remained porous: in Staffordshire Richard Baxter preached in his house to as many as could hear him and then proceeded with his congregation to the parish church; in Yorkshire Oliver Heywood encouraged his congregation to attend their parish church as well as his sermons, and even preached there himself when the curate was absent; in Lancashire Adam Martindale retained his commitment to attending public worship in the parish church alongside preaching to his congregation in small family groups in order to circumvent the Conventicle Act. However, this was no easy path for these men and their congregations: all three preachers suffered periods of imprisonment in the years up to 1689, as did some of their followers.37 Like these congregations, ‘old dissent’ was generally located in towns or in urbanized regions, and in some larger towns, like Coventry and Norwich, the mid-century Puritan tradition created a significant dissenting presence that, notwithstanding the restrictions of the Corporation Act, continued to influence urban government.38 The strength of their presence was revealed in the licences for worship granted 34  Jacqueline Eales, ‘ “So Many Sects and Schisms”: Religious Diversity in Revolutionary Kent, 1640–60’, in Durston and Maltby, eds, Religion in Revolutionary England, pp. 238, 241–2. 35  John Spurr, The Restoration Church of England (New Haven, CT, 1991), pp. 29–61. 36  Spurr, Restoration Church of England, p. 206; William Sheils, ‘John Shawe and Edward Bowles: Civic Preachers at Peace and War’, in Kenneth Fincham and Peter Lake, eds, Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England (Woodbridge, 2006), p. 222. 37  ODNB entries for Richard Baxter, Oliver Heywood, and Adam Martindale. 38  Ann Hughes, ‘Coventry and the English Revolution’, in R.C.  Richardson, ed., Town and Countryside in the English Revolution (Manchester, 1992), pp. 66–99; Judith Hurwich, ‘ “A Fanatick Town”: The Political Influence of Dissenters in Coventry, 1660–1725’, Midland History, 4 (1978),

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under the Declaration of Indulgence of 1672: at Norwich five premises were licensed for Presbyterian worship and four by Congregationalists, at Coventry three for Presbyterians and two for Congregationalists. These figures were repeated elsewhere: in Kent, although dissent seems to have disappeared from Maidstone, neighbouring towns like Cranbrook and Tenterden had multiple licences, and in the far north all the major towns in County Durham had at least one licensed house for either Presbyterian or Congregational worship.39 The membership of these congregations included many of the middling sort of craftsmen, if not the aldermanic elite, as well as more modest journeymen and their families, with women making up a significant proportion of these congregations, as in Oliver Heywood’s Presbyterian church at Coley in Yorkshire, not just as members but as patrons and supporters of the community, albeit excluded from public functions.40 The membership of these congregations cut across parochial boundaries, not only within the towns but also in the  rural hinterland, from which some members came. We can see this in Gloucestershire where ‘the fellowship of Independency clearly transcended the customary residential group of the parish’ at Tewkesbury, where family connections and religious allegiance percolated not just through the town but in the neighbouring villages of Ashchurch and Pannington.41 One of the premises licensed for worship in 1672 was the house of John Bunyan in Bedford. For much of the 1660s Bunyan was forced to conduct his ministry from prison, and the church at Bedford was forced underground, its minute book silent from 1663 until September 1668, when Bunyan was released for a time before returning to prison until 1672. Prison not only established Bunyan as a nationally known religious writer, but also gave him the space to organize the Bedfordshire church. Despite persecution, church membership increased in the 1660s, with fifteen new members noted in 1663 ‘during a time of violent persecution’ and the Anglican vicar of St Paul’s, Bunyan’s parish, recording in 1668 that ‘the separatists increase daily’. In 1661 the church was organized into three areas under the supervision of leading members in order to sustain numbers and reduce losses, and in 1669 the congregation took on a letter-writing campaign to maintain contact with those members living at a distance from Bedford. By the mid-1670s the Dissenters in Bedford numbered 121, almost 10 per cent of the population, spread throughout the town’s five parishes, and a panel of preachers recruited from the artisan class had emerged 15–47; J.T.  Evans, Seventeenth-Century Norwich: Politics, Religion and Government, 1620–1690 (Oxford, 1979), pp. 247–58, 320. 39  F.  Bate, The Declaration of Indulgence, 1672: A Study in the Rise of Organised Dissent (Liverpool, 1908), appendix VII, pp. xvi, xxxii–iii, xli–ii, lii–iii. 40  W.J.  Sheils, ‘Oliver Heywood and his Congregation’, in Sheils and Wood, eds, Voluntary Religion, pp. 261–77. 41  Dan Beaver, Parish Communities and Religious Conflict in the Vale of Gloucester, 1590–1690 (Cambridge, MA, 1998), pp. 276–7.


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to sustain dissent in the villages of the county. Bunyan had organized a countywide structure of ‘visitors’ and formally appointed missionaries, which linked ­congregations together and minimized the risk that small rural congregations would drift away through isolation and lack of leadership. These measures ensured the continued growth of the Particular Baptist churches in Bedfordshire into the next century.42 One group that did not appear among the licenses of 1672 were the Quakers, for they did not seek any. The remarkable growth of Quakerism during the Interregnum was sustained after the Restoration despite continued harassment by the authorities and hostility from other Dissenting congregations. Their unwillingness to swear oaths or pay tithes brought them into conflict with secular authorities, and their rejection of a ministerial class and liturgical forms set them apart. This was increased by social practice: a strong predisposition to endogamy and the witnessing of marriages by the whole community, willmaking and administration was often retained within the society, and Friends chose to bury their dead away from the churchyard in gardens and, later, in appointed burial grounds. These religious bonds were reinforced by the development of a national organization of Men’s and Women’s Meetings to maintain contacts and frame policy. These factors, and the willingness of Friends to accept the testimony and ministry of women, all contributed to make the Society socially distinctive in its practices. Their separation, however, did not make them marginal. In Essex, Quakers were found in all sectors of rural and urban society: in Colchester half of the Society came from the artisan class throughout the period 1655–94 but, significantly, growing numbers of the wholesale and large producers joined the ­society, increasing from a quarter to a third of the membership over the same period, suggesting that the social background of Quakers in Colchester was higher in 1689 than it had been in 1660. In contrast prosperous Quakers in the cathedral city of York found it more difficult, and wholesalers reduced as a proportion of the community from a third to under a quarter during these years, though the numbers of retailers and artisans stayed constant. In Essex more generally wholesalers, retailers, and artisans each accounted for about a fifth of the membership throughout the period, but there was a falling off of the largest group, the farming community from 44 per cent around 1660 to just under a third at the end of the period. It would seem that Quakers prospered better in the market towns and more mixed manufacturing areas of the county than in the high farming region, just as the Lollards had done earlier. That said, however, the farming community was still the largest component of Essex Quakerism in 1689.43 42  Michael Mullett, John Bunyan in Context (Keele, 1996), pp. 92–9. 43  Adrian Davies, The Quakers in English Society, 1655–1725 (Oxford, 2000), pp. 84–90, 96–8, 151–4; David Scott, Quakerism in York, 1650–1720, Borthwick Papers, 80 (York, 1991), pp. 8–10.

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Their social status did not render the Quakers immune from the hostility and fear of neighbours as well as from authority, a fear increased by their ­willingness to give women an active role in ministry and church discipline, especially in the early years. Quaker ‘sufferings’ became a mark of identity and were duly recorded in ‘books of sufferings’ county by county; between 1660 and 1684 285 sentences of imprisonment were imposed on Quakers in Essex, over half of these in the 1660s, but persecution revived in the early 1680s when sixty more were sentenced. Most cases concerned the refusal to swear oaths or pay tithes, but attendance at illegal meetings and disturbing ministers in service time were also punished. In Lancashire between 1650 and 1700 over 500 prosecutions against Quakers were made for non-payment of tithe alone from twenty-one parishes throughout the county, but with a concentration in their heartland of the Furness district. Prosecution on this scale probably had some impact on the decline in numbers among the better-off farming community in this period, but Friends also found support as well as hostility among their neighbours. That too could prove problematic, when local sympathizers paid tithes for prosecuted Quakers it often brought the recipient under the discipline of the local Meeting.44 In the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire Quakers were a ‘predominantly rural agrarian movement of the lower and middling variety’ with three-quarters of its members living in country parishes. Without the social clout of Essex Friends Quakers in these counties were integrated in the wider community: some even served parochial office and in 1670 Richard Cope of Chatteris, yeoman and parish constable despite being a Quaker, found himself in trouble for refusing to distrain on a fellow Quaker for non-payment of tithe. In 1682 John Fisher of Wyddial in Hertfordshire was prosecuted for non-attendance at church, but was chosen constable the following year and, in 1684, appeared again before Quarter sessions along with fellow Quakers. When prosecuted Quakers could also find support in the community: when in 1670 the local magistrate went to distrain the goods of John Adams of Haddenham, then in gaol at Cambridge, John Bishop, a neighbour, refused repeated requests by the officers to break down Adams’ door. In 1676 the parish officers of Fenstanton refused to distrain the goods of their neighbour Tobias Hardmeat for his refusal to pay a fine; and in the following decade the parish constable of Ramsey paid the fine himself rather than distrain the cattle of his Quaker neighbour Samuel Nottingham.45

44  Davies, Quakers, p. 184; Nicholas Morgan, Lancashire Quakers and the Establishment, 1660–1730 (Halifax, 1993) pp. 222–7, 289. 45  Bill Stevenson, ‘The Social and Economic Status of Post-Restoration Dissenters, 1660–1725’, in Spufford, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters, pp. 338, 358; Stevenson, ‘The Social Integration of  Post-Restoration Dissenters, 1660–1725’, in Spufford, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters, pp. 369–70, 372–3.


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The ubiquity of Dissent in the years after 1660 is clear from the examples given above, and the capital was no exception. Under the Declaration of Indulgence over one hundred Londoners licensed premises for worship and further licences were granted in suburban parishes like Islington, Hackney, and Highgate. In addition to their homes Dissenters licensed inns, a theatre, the Currier’s Hall, and even a ‘new built meeting-house’ in Westminster. Almost all these licences were sought by Presbyterians and Congregationalists and therefore underestimate the extent of dissent in the capital: no Quaker licences were sought and only seven Baptists were licensed, but we know that there were active communities of each in the capital in these years, as well as the continuing Dutch and French churches, the latter greatly expanded at the end of the period following Louis XIVs expulsion of the Huguenots in 1685. No London parish was unaffected by dissent and in some parts, notably the easternmost parishes, Dissenters formed a substantial proportion of the population. Following the Act of Toleration, seventy-four Dissenting churches were licensed in the capital.46 Ubiquity also entailed proximity and, although all Dissenters suffered ­prosecution by both Church and state, that common experience did not always lead to a shared sympathy. We have already noted the animosity that some Puritans showed towards Separatists in the early seventeenth century, and this con­tinued in some places into the Restoration period. Many Presbyterians still thought in terms of a national Church and were dismissive of the more radical Dissenters, but divisions were found even among these: in Cambridgeshire the Quaker mission of the late 1650s had antagonized the local Baptists and bad relations continued between them into the 1670s. In the north Oliver Heywood was concerned about the influence of Quakers on his congregation.47 Parochial dissent was far from a uniform phenomenon and divisions between dissenting congregations were not uncommon in the religiously competitive environment of the late seventeenth century. They may have been united in their aggressive opposition to popery and their suffering at the hands of the Establishment, but in some parishes and towns they found themselves in competition for the souls of their members. To conclude, Parochial dissent in the years before 1640 was a marginal, but not a socially marginalized, phenomenon, which attracted some locally im­port­ant supporters but whose experience can only be traced intermittently 46  Bate, Declaration of Indulgence, appendix, pp. xxxvii–xl, lxxiii; Andrew Pettegree, ‘The French and Walloon Communities in London, 1550–1688’, in Ole Peter Grell, Jonathan Israel, and Nicholas Tyacke, eds, From Persecution to Toleration: the Glorious Revolution in England (Oxford, 1991), pp. 93–6; Ole Peter Grell, ‘From Persecution to Integration: The Decline of the Anglo-Dutch Communities in London, 1648–1702’, in Grell, Israel, and Tyacke, eds, From Persecution to Toleration, pp. 122–7. 47  Spufford, Contrasting Communities, pp. 283–5, 295–7; John Spurr, The Post Reformation: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain, 1603–1714 (London, 2006), p. 321.

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through the legal records. Although they had an important place in Protestant self-understanding, in the face of prosecution by authority dissenters were often forced into exile or into a precarious existence. The events of mid-century changed this dramatically and, in the later seventeenth century, different ­congregations of Dissenters were a common feature of English religious life, attracting significant support among local urban and rural elites as well as among the people. Organized, and exercising their own church discipline, with women sometimes participating and often forming a large part of the congregation, Dissenters were found everywhere, sometimes at loggerheads with each other. Relations with the Establishment remained problematic and the threat of imprisonment continued to be present into the 1680s, but by 1689 Dissent had become a distinctive and ubiquitous feature of the religious landscape in parishes and towns throughout the country. They remained a minority, but in the city of Bristol, the market town of Luton, and the moorland settlements of Calderdale in Yorkshire or the Furness district of Lancashire, they comprised up to a fifth of the population. The Act of Toleration represented a hard-won victory for those who wished to accommodate the Dissenters more fully, if not yet equally, into English political and social life and, despite the continuing opposition of many within the Established Church, it was a belated recognition of the significant contribution that these men and women had made to the English Protestant tradition over the previous two centuries.

SE L E C T B I B L IO G R A P H Y Beaver, Dan, Parish Communities and Religious Conflict in the Vale of Gloucester, 1590–1690 (Cambridge, MA, 1998). Collinson, Patrick, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London, 1967). Collinson, Patrick, The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559–1625 (Oxford, 1982). Como, David, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford, CA, 2004). Davies, Adrian, The Quakers in English Society, 1655–1725 (Oxford, 2000). Davies, Michael, Dunan-Page, Anne, and Halcomb, Joel, eds, Church Life: Pastors, Congregations and the Experience of Dissent in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 2019). Evans, J.T., Seventeenth-Century Norwich: Politics, Religion and Government, 1620–1690 (Oxford, 1979). Evenden, Elizabeth and Freeman, Thomas, Religion and the Book in Early Modern England: the Making of Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’ (Cambridge, 2011). Hill, Christopher, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (London, 1972). Hill, Christopher, Collected Essays, 3 vols (Brighton, 1985–6).


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Keeble, N.H., ed. The Autobiography of Richard Baxter (London, 1974). Marsh, Christopher, The Family of Love in English Society, 1550–1630 (Cambridge, 1994). McFarlane, K.B., John Wycliffe and the Beginnings of English Nonconformity (London, 1952). McGregor, J.F. and Reay, Barry, eds, Radical Religion in the English Revolution (Oxford, 1983). Morgan, Nicholas, Lancashire Quakers and the Establishment, 1660–1730 (Halifax, 1993). Mullett, Michael, John Bunyan in Context (Keele, 1996). Sheils, W.J. and Wood, Diana, eds, Voluntary Religion, Studies in Church History, 23 (Oxford, 1986). Spufford, Margaret, Contrasting Communities: English Villagers in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Cambridge, 1974). Spufford, Margaret, ed., The World of Rural Dissenters, 1520–1725 (Cambridge, 1995). Spurr, John, The Post Reformation: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain, 1603–1714 (London, 2006). Thomas, Samuel S., Creating Communities in Restoration England: Parish Co0ngegations in Oliver Heywood’s Halifax (Leiden, 2013). Tolmie, Murray, The Triumph of the Saints: the Separate Churches of London, 1616–49 (Cambridge 1977). Turner, J. Horsfall, ed. The Revd Oliver Heywood 1630–1702; his Autobiography, Diaries etc, 4 vols (Brighouse, 1882–5). Watts, Michael  R., The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978). White, R.B., The English Separatist Tradition (Oxford, 1971).

14 Dissent and the State Persecution and Toleration Jacqueline Rose

The category of Dissent was created by the activity of persecution. In the first century and a half of the Church of England’s existence, very few consciously sought to create a separate church, and those who ‘dissented’ from the establishment would have rejected with horror the idea that they had much in common with other nonconformists. Overwhelmingly, dissenters wanted to capture rather than to reject the state; they became its opponents by happenstance rather than by default. The Civil War and Interregnum dissenters who succeeded in becoming the state authorities persecuted some of their opponents in an effort to enforce their version of godliness. In origin, therefore, Dissent was a legal category—those who refused to conform to the Acts of Uniformity. But over time this legal status did come to generate a mental consciousness too. The ‘godly’ who refused to comply with the ‘rags of popery’ of the Elizabethan Church had shared an outlook with the bishops of the Edwardian and early Elizabethan establishments. Nonconformists normally sought further Puritan reformation of the national Church rather than dissenting from the idea of a compulsory establishment. Later sixteenth-century and Jacobean Puritans were theologically at one with their archiepiscopal critics. Over the course of the seventeenth century Puritans and prelates grew further apart. Yet as late as the Restoration there was still a desire to create a broad ‘comprehensive’ Church in which a variety of religious practices could be accommodated. The failure of this in 1661–2 forced the moderate Presbyterians out of the Church’s ministry, but they continued to attempt comprehension until 1689. Only retrospectively did they seem to have an earlier history distinct from that of the established Church. The early eighteenth-century Dissenters who wrote the earliest denominational histories identified their forebears through an extended reflection on persecution. Thus persecution created

Jacqueline Rose, Dissent and the State: Persecution and Toleration In: The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I. Edited by: John Coffey, Oxford University Press (2020). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198702238.003.0015


The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume I

Dissent, suffering fostered the identity of Dissent, and the memory of suffering retrospectively solidified categories of Dissenters. This chapter investigates the complex relationship between dissent and the polity, in which both sides could advocate persecution and toleration, two attitudes that sometimes bookended a spectrum of positions and at others proved paradoxically closely interwoven. After outlining changes in the historiographical treatment of the topic, it will probe three questions. First, what counted as ‘persecution’ and how did this change? Second, while the state created persecution, did persecution create the state (in all its various guises)? Third, what counted as toleration and how far could the government’s position on it actually influence the experience of dissenters? As will be shown, the answers to all these questions involve not only the government and Protestant groups, but also contemporaries’ sense of an ever-present Catholic threat.

PERSECUTION AND TOLERATION: ENEMIES AND FRIENDS In the mid-twentieth century the present chapter would have been a heroic story of how a persecuting state came to be a tolerant state, partly under the influence of a Protestant sense of individual religious freedom and the inviolability of conscience. The mid- to late seventeenth century did indeed see an outbreak of writings calling for toleration (at least of Trinitarian Protestant groups), a regime that encouraged exploration of liberty of conscience in 1653–8, and the statutory enactment of Protestant freedom of worship in 1689. Nevertheless, the recent historiographical tendency has been to stress the limits of toleration. Toleration of Catholics was rarely endorsed; the monarch who sought it was deposed. The re-admittance of the Jews came through monarchical prerogative, not enlightened Cromwellian pluralism. Roger Williams’s