1564-1660: The Era of Puritanism


The word "Puritan" appears for the first time. The Puritans are Calvinists, legalists, and name-callers. They are very serious, and oppose most things that are fun for themselves or others. They want:

  • a skilled, educated preaching ministry, based on the Bible
  • as few ceremonies in church as Biblically possible (no surplice, no signing of the cross)
  • abolition of the traditional role of bishop, and replacement of the episcopate by a presbyterian system
  • one legal government church, controlled by Puritans. (Contrast the Separatists.)
1569 Thomas Cartwright of Cambridge outlines the Puritan program.
1575 The "Geneva Bible", an inexpensive edition with Calvinist notes, is published. (Shakespeare quotes this version.)
1581 Robert Browne's "Treatise of Reformation without Tarrying for Any". This will be the manifesto of the Puritans who found the Massachusetts Bay colony.
1581 Richard Hooker ordained priest; his anti-Puritan book "Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" reflects natural-law and rationalist ideas then popular.
1590 William Shakespeare ridicules Puritans in his characterizations of Falstaff, Malvolio, Flavius, and others.
1593 Puritan assemblies and activities outlawed. A few Separatists are hanged.
1603 Elizabeth I succeeded by James I.
1604 Book of Common Prayer revised. The only change is an expanded catechism. The sacraments are "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace". At the eucharist, "the Body and Blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful".
1605 "Gunpowder plot" by Roman Catholic fanatics seeking to blow up Parliament.
1611 King James Version of the Bible. Most of the language is Tyndale's.
1618 James I's "Declaration of Sports" is read in all churches to encourage healthy fun and games on Sundays. This outrages the Puritans.
1622 John Donne, priest and metaphysical poet, becomes Dean of St. Paul's cathedral, London.
1625 James I is succeeded by Charles I; his colorful court fills with refugees, including Roman Catholic counter-reformation types.
1625 Christopher Wren begins rebuilding St. Paul's Cathedral.
1626 Nicholas Ferrar founds religious community of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, England.
1628 The narrow-minded William Laud is made archbishop of London. He oversees the persecution of Puritans.
1633 George Herbert's poems published posthumously as "The Temple".
1637 Scottish Prayer Book published. (This is unpopular in Scotland, though it does call priests "presbyters". It will be the basis for the future American Prayer Book.)
1638 The Scots, crying "Popery", excommunicate their bishops. This results in war.
1640 Charles I calls Parliament to approve funds for the war with Scotland; Parliament instead raises an army against the king. In the civil wars that follow, Oliver Cromwell leads the "New Model Army" rebels and becomes Lord Protector; John Milton is his Latin Secretary. Puritan morality becomes the law. (Today, Cromwell might be considered a Baptist; he says, sincerely, "I had rather that Mahometanism were permitted among us that that one of God's children should be persecuted.")
1643 Westminster Assembly drafts its "Confession", the major Presbyterian statement of belief.
1645 William Laud is beheaded by the Puritans.
1649 Cromwell and his government behead ("martyr") King Charles I.
1649 "Diggers" (communists), "Levellers" (egalitarians) and "Ranters" (atheists, hedonists) cause problems for the Puritan regime. (The latter are targets of the new "Blasphemy Act".)

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