Reform continued long after the death of Henry VIII, which occurred in 1547. Reformers found it difficult to complete their work and reform's fortunes waxed and waned for at least 15 years. A number of factors entered England which shaped English religious thought for several hundred years.
In this material, I point out just how reform fared and then trace Puritanism's beginning.
I. The Situation at Henry's Death
England faced considerable religious division after Henry VIII died. Most Englishmen stood solidly with Henry but many remained Catholic. In addition, other reform groups--those influenced by either Luther or Calvin--grew as well. Calvinists and Lutherans pushed for reforms more in line with Continental reform efforts.
Edward VI, the son of Jane Seymour and Henry's sole male heir, came to the throne when his father died. Since Edward was only 9-years-old, his uncle, the Duke of Somerset (his mother's brother), actually ruled through a council. Somerset, who held strong Protestant sympathies, guided England relentlessly towards additional reform. Reform efforts slowed, however, when Edward died at age 15.
Somerset, the Council, and Edward did enact numerous reforms. England allowed some religious liberty but the English persecuted both heretics and Catholics. In 1547, reform allowed the cup to return to the laity. Private endowment of chapels ended. Churches removed images from their buildings and clergymen could marry. The Six Articles spelling out Anglican faith approved in 1539 were repealed. Somerset and others believed they held far too much Catholicism. (See Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, pp. 233-34) In January, 1549 Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity requiring the use of the Book of Common Prayer. This act aimed to require some uniformity in worship throughout England.
Most people resisted the use of The Book of Common Prayer, which was formed in 1549. Most felt it far too Catholic. A new Act of Uniformity in 1552 created a revision. English Archbishop Thomas Cranmer called for the writing of a formal creed. Six theologians, including John Knox, worked on the project which culminated in the Forty-two Articles. Edward signed these articles, later reduced to thirty-nine, on June 12, 1553. The new Creed possessed a decidedly Protestant flavor.
II. Catholic Resurgence Under Mary
Protestantism succeeded and grew under Edward and Somerset. When Edward died on July 6, 1553, succession passed to Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Mary was decidedly Catholic. The whole business involving her mother and father left a lasting mark on her. When she came to the throne, she determined to restore Catholicism throughout England. Philip II of Spain, one of the most powerful Catholic monarchs in Europe and her husband, promised assistance. Mary's marriage to Philip understandably proved unpopular but it served its purpose for Mary.
Mary set out to reconcile the English church with Rome. She recalled Cardinal Reginald Pole, an exiled English Catholic Bishop, to England. Mary named him Archbishop of Canterbury, the religious head of the English Church. Protestant clergymen fled to the Continent hoping to find sanctuary. On November 30, 1554, the English Parliament restored papal authority. Pole then absolved England of her heresy. It appeared on the surface, at least, that England now rested under Catholic authority once more.
Once England was under Catholic control, Mary began persecuting English Protestants. The authorities burned Protestant John Rogers at the stake on February 4, 1555. Cheering Englishmen supporting Rogers lined the streets as he traveled by two-wheeled cart to his execution. Within the year, 75 more died at the stake. Before Mary's death in 1558, almost 300 died. Church historian, Williston Walker said "these martyrs did more for the spread of anti-Roman sentiment than all previous governmental efforts had accomplished." No wonder Mary carries the name, "Bloody Mary."
III. The Elizabethan Settlement
After Mary's death, Elizabeth, Henry's second daughter, came to the throne. Of all his children, Elizabeth alone resembled him in ability and popularity. She was hardly religious, but she was "necessarily" Protestant. After all, could Anne Boleyn's daughter be Catholic? One of history's ironies is the fact that Philip II supported her accession to the throne. Philip's support helped Elizabeth win over English Catholics to her rule.
Several changes occurred after Elizabeth's coronation. Parliament passed a new Act of Supremacy on April 29, 1559. This act rejected all appeals and payments to the Pope. It named Elizabeth as "Supreme Governor" and proposed certain heresy tests: the Scriptures, the results of the first four councils, and the word of Parliament. The Book of Common Prayer underwent a third revision. Another Act of Uniformity made its way through Parliament stating that all churches must conduct liturgy according to that provided along with specified vestments. Finally, the Forty-two Articles became the Thirty-nine Articles.
All these changes got the Pope's attention. Remember, Mary returned England to Papal authority. In 1570, Pope Pius V issued a bull of excommunication against Mary freeing her subjects from their allegiance to her. Elizabeth retaliated against English Jesuits who were seeking to restore Catholicism. The Jesuits had set up a seminary at Douai in Flanders to train English priests. Elizabeth's actions resulted in the execution of some 125 Jesuits.
The Jesuit assault ended any relationship between Elizabeth and Philip II. The Pope ordered Philip to recover England. Philip, who was embroiled in the Dutch problems, gladly turned his attention to the English. He knew the English secretly aided the Dutch in their effort to break free of Spanish rule. In 1588, Philip gathered the Spanish Armada and sailed against England. Expert sailors manned the smaller and more maneuverable English fleet and they, assisted by a storm at sea, soundly defeated the Spanish. England's naval victory established it as Protestantism's champion throughout Europe.
IV. The Rise of Puritanism
Protestantism and reform efforts attracted radicals. Some of the truly radical elements I talk more about later. To the English clergy, the Puritans represented radicalism. Comparatively speaking, however, they were quite sedate.
Puritanism arose out of stricter and more aggressive reform. While the English church continued its recognition of church traditions, councils, and saw Parliament as authoritative, the Puritans took nothing but the Bible as its authority. These radicals believed the English church smacked too much of Romanism. They desired to purge the last vestige of Romanist superstition from the church.
Some of the items receiving their rancor seem harmless, but to them it meant clinging Romanism. Puritans objected to the demand for specific vestments as prescribed in the Act of Uniformity. They also objected to kneeling at the altar railing when receiving communion. They also objected to the use of the cross in baptism and the use of a ring in a marriage ceremony.
The crown tolerated some Puritan differences. Still the English church and crown hoped to keep some semblance of unity, even if it were only external. The state issued Parker's "Advertisements" in an attempt to enforce minimum observance upon everyone. They particularly stressed uniformity in the vestments. The "Advertisements" touched on matters of doctrine and preaching, administration of prayer and the sacraments. The following item particularly irritated Puritans:
Puritan clergymen objected to all this foolishness. As a result, those refusing to comply found themselves out of a position.
Puritanism's greatest significance lies in its development of a specifically Puritan polity--congregationalism. Congregationalism sees the church as a gathered society: a particular body. It is not the "invisible church" or a national or diocesan body. The church, according to Puritan thinking, gathers through agreement to a specific covenant. The congregation comprises only those who are regenerate believers. Churches recognized regenerate believers by their experience and their holy lives. Jesus Christ rules the church as its head. From Jesus, the church has immediate and full power to order its entire life without control from outside. To Puritans, then, the Queen and Parliament have no real control or authority over the local body.
Puritanism took several different paths. We'll look at some of those in the next lecture. We'll also look more specifically at the two major Puritan groups later, too.
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