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On his having arrived at the Age of
THE work of the Reformation in England
was carried out by men of markedly
conservative temper, who desired to move cautiously, and who, while recognising the urgent need of change, were averse from any violent rupture with the past. While rejecting the Papacy and correcting various abuses in the organisation and ritual of the national Church, they thus made it one of their principal objects to preserve so far as possible the continuity of religious tradition. In this moderate policy they had the support of the great body of English religious opinion. But as on the one side there were those who opposed any change, so on the other there were a few dissentients who early began to complain of their leaders' timidity and want of thoroughness. To these more radical reformers, whose inspiration and ideals were largely drawn from the teachings of the famous John Calvin of Geneva, the episcopacy was itself a curse, and many of the ceremonial forms of public worship only so many rags and remnants of the Popery they abhorred. Their aim was, therefore, the repudiation root and branch of Papal Christianity, an entire break with longestablished tradition, and a return to the absolute simplicity of the primitive Church. These men were the forerunners of the Puritan party-the party which was presently to maintain that the original Reformation had not gone nearly far enough, and that a new reformation was needed.
Elements of dissension were thus present in Church and country. But for various reasons they were for a time held in check. Early in Elizabeth's reign the struggle with Rome and with Rome's powerful ally, Spain-a struggle in which the very existence of England was imperilled-bred an intense feeling of patriotism., and Englishmen of different parties, sinking private contentions, found themselves standing shoulder to shoulder in a common cause. Public events thus did much to second the efforts of Elizabeth and her counsellors to deepen and develop the sense of national unity. The queen herself, it is true, was strongly hostile to Puritanism, and sought by every means in her power to prevent its progress. In this she failed. But at the close of her reign the spirit of reasonableness and tolerance was abroad in the Church; there was a temporary lull in internecine strife; conditions, as it seemed, gave hope of lasting peace.
This hope was rudely dashed at the very beginning of the next reign. A quarrel on Church questions came to a head between the Puritans and James I. before that foolish and contemptible monarch had been twelve months on the throne. Then Convocation, supporting the king, demanded universal conformity with
the mode of religious worship as by law , established, and, on their refusal, some three
hundred clergymen were expelled from their livings. From this time onward James, and after him his son and successor Charles I., made persistent and resolute efforts to stamp out the Puritan spirit; and year after year, in spite of these efforts-or would it not be more correct to say, largely on account of them ?—that spirit continued to spread in the House of Commons and through the middle classes of English society. Into the various controversies which arose concerning theological tenets, Church discipline, and forms of worship we need not here enter. But stress must be laid upon two important points. In the first place, the moral ideals of Puritanism were greatly strengthened and its national significance intensified by the fast-growing flippancy and licentiousness of the Court and the aristocracy. In the second place, theological and ecclesiastical questions were now closely entangled with questions of secular government, and the result was that Puritanism became political. Its vivid sense of the power of God and the supremacy of His law made it intolerant of undue claims on the part of any earthly ruler ; while the attempts of the Stuarts to flout the Commons and the people and to make good their monstrous principle of “ the right divine of kings to govern wrong "—the duplicity and tyranny of Charles—the repressive policy of Archbishop Laud and his determined efforts to enforce his will by persecution—combined to drive many who had little or no sympathy with its ecclesiastical theories or its theology into inion with it in its opposition to a despotic king