Church History II - Lesson 19
Protestant Church in England in the Late 17th Century
Protestant Church in England in the Late 17th Century
<p class="out-1">CH503-19: Protestant Church in England in the Late 17th Century</p> <p class="out-1">I. Introduction to the Protestant Church in England in the Late 17th Century</p> <p class="out-2">A. Historical Context</p> <p class="out-2">B. Key Events and Figures</p> <p class="out-1">II. The Restoration of the Monarchy and the Church of England</p> <p class="out-2">A. The Restoration of Charles II</p> <p class="out-2">B. The Act of Uniformity and the Great Ejection</p> <p class="out-2">C. The Conventicle Act and the Five Mile Act</p> <p class="out-1">III. The Formation of Nonconformist Protestant Denominations</p> <p class="out-2">A. Presbyterianism</p> <p class="out-2">B. Congregationalism</p> <p class="out-2">C. Baptists</p> <p class="out-2">D. Quakers</p> <p class="out-2">D. Pietism and Mysticism</p> <p class="out-1">VI. Conclusion</p> <p class="out-2">A. Summary of the Protestant Church in England in the Late 17th Century</p> <p class="out-2">B. Legacy of the Late 17th Century Protestant Church in England</p>
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The life and thought of the Christian church from the Reformation to modern times. Designed as an orientation to the shape of the whole tradition with special focus on the history of Christian doctrine and spirituality.
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Course: Church History II
Lecture: Protestant Church in England in the Late 17th Century
We have come to the point where what we think of as modern denominations are beginning to take shape, and that is what I want to talk about today.
Just to remind you of what we’ve been saying, if you look at the period from say 1559 to 1640, you have a gradually emergence of Puritanism with various strands within it, the more extreme form of Separatism coming out of this in the 1590’s. About the only outlet for these people if they were not prepared to conform to the official church in England, was to leave the country. Increasingly, that is what they did. The substance of the New England colonies was founded; the bulk of their population came into being because of this. People who felt that for one reason or another, they were not free to worship in the way that they wished in their home country, so they left in order to get what they thought of as religious freedom. What they thought of as religious freedom is not what you and I think of as religious freedom. They thought that they knew the right way of doing things and when they got the opportunity they were going to push it down the throats of everybody else. This was an aspect of Puritanism that you need to remember. It was not tolerant of people who disagreed with them.
This was one of the major problems, because in the next phase, from 1640 to 1660, which is the time of revolution, the Puritans took over the government in Britain as a whole, but as I pointed out last time, this didn’t work because of internal divisions among themselves. Puritans were people who knew what they didn’t like, what they were against, but it was an awful lot more difficult for them to agree as to what they were for. Which way to go ahead, as opposed to what they were against. In particular, there was a major split between the Presbyterians, backed primarily by the Scotts, Scotland was a Presbyterian place and remained Presbyterian in a way that England never became – the Presbyterians on the one hand and the Independents on the other. Independent is a term which embraces a wide range of people, including Baptists. They believed that each congregation should determine their own way of doing things.
Now, as I pointed out before, Oliver Cromwell, who had the army was an Independent, or at least he was in favor of the Independent position, although the Westminster Assembly and the parliament as a result, had approved the Presbyterian one. So, Presbyterianism was legal, it was the official religion, but in actual practice it could never impose itself because Cromwell and the Army were determined to allow Independents their own freedom. In fact there was quite a lot of toleration, although on paper there wasn’t. But it was something which was, from the long term point of view, unstable. In the circumstances of the mid 17th century, it was not going to last. Indeed, the Cromwellian regime eventually collapsed, because people could not come to a common mind about the way it should be run. In the end, it was held together only by Cromwell’s own personality and the fact that he had won the war and that kind of thing. But when he died everything unraveled and fell apart.
One of the odd things about this whole period, one of the things that nobody expected was that the church of England, the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church survived. No one had imagined that this would be possible, because the vast majority of people seemed to think that this had been set up by the state, by Queen Elizabeth in the first place, but basically it was a government organization, and that when it collapsed it would fall apart. Much to their surprise, there were people who supported it; there were people who wanted the kind of prayer book liturgy they had got used to. It became clear for the first time that Episcopalianism was not just a government policy. There were people who genuinely believed and genuinely supported that kind of thinking. So this Puritan revolution period, although the Episcopal Church was suppressed, it was made illegal, it did not disappear or die out. As the 1650’s wore on, it seemed in some cases even to gain in strength at popular level, because the Episcopal Church was in a sense the default church, that if you were fed up with Puritanism and didn’t really know where to turn, you figured things were better the way they were before, so lets go back to that kind of thing and in some cases it didn’t have a great deal to do with belief, it was more peace and quiet, that kind of thing. So, there was a lot of residual conservatism which played in favor of what had been the church establishment before 1640. There was also genuine conviction.
Now, when Cromwell died in 1658, the crisis of the regime began. The first question was what will we do? Who is going to take over? And the only person they could think of was Cromwell’s son, Richard. This was a bad move from two points of view. First of all, if you abolish a monarchy and kill the king, you don’t normally have a system in which son succeeds father into the highest government office. So that was a bad move, because it looked like a kind of monarchy without the king. This was a betrayal of the whole principle of a Puritan democratic regime. The other thing was that Oliver Cromwell was a great man. Richard Cromwell, his son was not. In a monarchy where you have generations of people sort of succeeding their parents or grandparents, you very seldom get anyone who is truly outstanding. If you look at the history of the British monarchy, how many of them would you say were outstanding anything. To be a successful king, being intelligent, active, brilliant and everything else has been a disadvantage. That is not what is expected of you. You are expected to be ordinary, harmless, friendly to everybody, and dignified. Richard Cromwell was actually that type and probably would have done very well in another time and place. But that was not what was expected at the time. He was expected to be a strong leader in a position which had been created for a strong leader. That he was not. Unlike others of his type, however, he realized as much and resigned.
This left the Army in control. The Army was in the control of somebody called General Monck. General Monck was a Presbyterian. The army was mainly Independent. He was responsible, fearing that the Presbyterian cause was loosing out – he was in charge of the army, but if someone else got to be in charge of the army. Presbyterianism was probably doomed in the state and trying to preserve this or at least a sense of a united church he hit on the idea of inviting the king back - that is to say Charles II, the son of Charles I who was in exile at this time. Charles II would do anything to get his throne back. And he promised in a very famous declaration, the so called Declaration of Breda that he would be kind to everybody, be tolerant and that nobody had anything to fear from him. On that basis, parliament, the army and everybody else agreed to invite him back. In 1660, he returned to London, much to the rejoicing of everybody because at long last it seemed that stability had returned to the country.
Now, Charles himself, if he had been able to fulfill the promises that he had made, probably would have introduced some kind of tolerant regime. He was not a believer. He’s is chiefly known to day for having fathered at least 14 illegitimate children, those were the ones he recognized, by a series of well known mistresses with whom he used to parade around in public. All kinds of people in England today claim to be descended from him. He has no legitimate descendents. Princess Diana, she was descended from Charles II, I believe three times over by different illegitimate children. Her son William, when he finally becomes king of England will be the first King of England to be descended from Charles II. So, he himself was tolerant on the whole. It didn’t matter to him what kind of church government you wanted or whether you were prepared to baptize infants or not. This was totally irrelevant to his concerns.
However, unfortunately, he was not a free agent. The people who had gone into exile with him were few but they were influential and they wanted their reward. The Episcopalians felt that their time had come. They had suffered indignity for 20 years and now it was time for revenge. They were determined that they were not going to allow a tolerant regime of the kind that the king had in mind. Initially there were kind of discussions with the Puritans and so on. The Episcopalian party torpedoed these. They refused to compromise. They put pressure on the king. They said after all, we are your best supporters. When the time came in 1662, the parliament passed an act which is called the Act of Uniformity, imposing the same old regime that had collapsed in 1640, and saying that the ministers who cannot sign, who cannot subscribe to this must resign. So, on the 24th of August in 1662, when the new prayer book was introduced, the one which is still the official prayer book of the Church of England today, about 2000 ministers left, which is about 20% of the total of 10,000 in all. This included people like Richard Baxter and others who were quite prominent who had been, John Bunyan, and people like that. They all had to resign at this particular point.
Now, initially, this created a much bigger problem than anybody had for foreseen. It’s true that when the government realized that such a large number were leaving, they did try to bend over backwards at the last minute to prevent too many from going. But it was a bit late at that point for compromise. The result was that there were a series of laws passed basically excluding these dissenters as they are now called. They are no longer non-conformists. They are dissenters, people who actually have left the church. The earlier Puritans remained inside the church; they just didn’t conform to what the church demanded. But now, the ones who resigned, they actually left. Today when people talk about dissenters, non-conformist, Free Church, it’s all the same thing, but in historical terms it is not.
This is where we move into a new phase, because now, for the first time people who don’t agree with the official establishment are forced to organize themselves into congregations outside the law. They were illegal. These groups were known as Conventicles. Laws were passed against them. For example, it was decreed that no dissenting minister or congregation could live or meet within 5 miles of a town. They had to go off in the country in the middle of nowhere. It was also decreed that none of these people could stand for office of any kind. They couldn’t serve on town councils or anything like that. They were not allowed to go to University. Oxford University said no one can matriculate unless they belong to the established church. Cambridge was a bit subtler than this. Cambridge said no one may graduate unless they belong to the established church. This is a subtle but important distinction. It meant that you could go; you just couldn’t take the degree. Lots of these dissenters went and took the courses; they just left without a degree at the end, which in those days was not as disastrous or dishonorable as it would be today. It actually retained much more of a Puritan flavor as a University than Oxford did. But there can be no doubt but that those who dissented had a rough time. In England, they were on the whole left alone most of the time. They weren’t normally severely persecuted.
Scotland was a different story. In Scotland, the Episcopal establishment was very small indeed. The vast majority of the population was deeply opposed to it. Resistance, underground churches became very common. Therefore, the persecution in Scotland was a real one. This is the time when people talk about the killing times, the time of real persecution occurred during this period.
In Ireland it was a different story. What happened there was that after James I became King of England in 1603, Ireland was opened up to Scottish settlers as well as English ones. Previously they hadn’t been able to go there. But from 1603 they could. This made a big difference. English people on a whole didn’t want to go to Ireland, because Ireland was colder and wetter and poorer than England. But Scottish people looked at very differently, because compared to Scotland; Ireland is warm and rich in agricultural terms. So, Scottish people poured into Ireland in a way that English people never did and in particular to the part of Ireland nearest to Scotland. Most of the Northeast of Ireland became heavily Scottish in character during this time. These people were ferociously anti-Catholic. English people were anti-Catholic, but Scottish people were much more anti-Catholic. This was difficult considering that although they were numerous, they were not that numerous. They were still a minority of the population.
And when the civil government broke down in 1640, the Catholics in Ireland rose in rebellion and attacked the Protestants. In fact there was a plot to rise up and murder every Protestant in Ireland, and it was discovered the day before. There was just time to disarm the Catholic troops, and the advantage of surprise was lost. But this convinced the Protestants of Northern Ireland that the minute they stopped looking, they’d be murdered. So, they were very much against anything that would promote Catholic revival.
In 1649, Cromwell invaded Ireland to put down the Catholics who had sided with the king. Cromwell’s policy, although it was actually quite humane, by the standards of 17th century warfare, didn’t look that way to people at the time. He chose two cities: Drogheda in the northeast and Wexford down in the southeast and he besieged them, captured the garrison and put every single person to death. This was regarded as a terrible thing, an absolute horror. It can only be compared with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Terrible things in themselves, but it brought the war to an end.
More significantly, and with much more long term effect, Cromwell confiscated most of the land which still remained in Catholic hands. Catholics were deprived of the land that they owned. It was given to Protestants instead. This was a long standing grievance which was not finally solved until the 19th century when the government agreed to help Catholics buy the land back from the Protestant overlords at that time. However, the Protestant population of Ireland could be relied upon to support anything that was anti-Catholic, in a very militant way.
In a sense, it was less of a problem than Scotland. In Scotland there were very few Catholics; there was no real Catholic opposition. It was a much more difficult place to control.
Now, as all this developed, as all of this was going on, the king as his hold on power became stronger, and his predilection for toleration became more powerful. He was able to do something for toleration in a way he couldn’t do earlier. But, he had to proceed very carefully. Basically, there wasn’t very much he could do in England for toleration. But it was at this time that colonial expansion began in earnest - colonial expansion organized by the state as opposed to people running away and setting up colonies. From this point you get it officially sanctioned by the government for the first time. In the colonies, Charles was able to create a situation where tolerance was permitted.
This is the time when you get for example, the founding of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was a very strange sort of place, because William Penn was a Quaker and he was allowed to have all this land in the middle of nowhere and fill it up with Quakers and people like that and there was freedom of religion, freedom of this and that. And what was most extraordinary was that in the charter given to William Penn a clause said there would be no compulsion for military service or anything like that, no taxation to support an army. This was unique in the world at that time. Nowhere else was it possible for pacifists to go and live without being molested by a state which insisted you either have to serve as a soldier or at least pay taxes. So, you get a situation like that and other pacifists, Baptists, for example, Mennonites, the Amish, people like this begin to go there because it is a place of refuge where they are free to practice what they want to do. So Pennsylvania by the mid 1700’s was quite an unusual place. It came about because of this original tolerance, the king wanting to provide a refuge where people like that could go and be safe. The irony is that when the American Revolution came along, it was the revolutionaries who abolished this freedom. It’s often thought that the revolutionaries were fighting for freedom, but it just depended on who you were and what kind of freedom you wanted. They were incensed in the early days of the American Revolution because here were all these Quakers, Amish and so on who weren’t going to fight. Not only were they not going to fight, they weren’t going to pay taxes in order that other people could fight. And so, William Penn’s charter got torn up, and they were told that although they could be conscientious objectors themselves, they had to contribute tax money. One of the things that happened at the beginning of the American Revolution was loss of religious freedom for these people over that particular issue.
Other things conspired to help in this way too, because in 1664, shortly after the restoration in England war with the Dutch resulted in the capture of the Dutch colonies in North America which were then taken over by the king’s brother. The king’s brother was the Duke of York, and therefore one of the new colonies got called New York after him. As Duke of York, one of his other titles was Lord of Jersey, so the other colony got called New Jersey. So New York and New Jersey are both named after the same person who was the younger brother, James, of the king Charles II, and who succeeded him as king, as we shall see, rather disastrously when the time came. But, having taken over a colony like that where the Church of England had not existed previously because it wasn’t an English colony, they had to be tolerant. You had to just let the Dutch and whoever else happened to be there sort of carry on the way they always had. So tolerance was almost forced on them whether they wanted it or not. It seemed to work reasonably well. That was another unforeseen but new development leading towards a gradual retreat of the state from religious affairs.
In the South you find that in the 1680’s, Charles decided to found new colonies named after himself, North and South Carolina, Charleston which was the main port for these new colonies, also named after himself. In these new colonies he actually commissioned the philosopher John Locke to write a constitution. This is the first time that you get an official statement of religious toleration. Not total freedom of religion in the modern sense but a situation where you had on one hand an established church, The Church of England was to be the established church, the state church, but in such a way as people who didn’t agree with it or people who wished to worship independently of it were tolerated, they were given freedom to do so. And they were not expected to contribute money or anything else to the upkeep of the state church. The state church would be recognized as such, but not at the expense of those who did not wish to join it. In fact, if you ever go to Charleston, it’s a very good picture still to this day of what life was like in England in the late 17th century. What you have there is two main streets. One is called Church Street. One is called Meeting Street. Meeting Street if it were England would be called Chapel Street. What you have on Church Street is the Church – the Anglican Church, The Episcopal Church, Phillips I think it is called. It looks as if it came out of an English village. Over here, there is a round building which deliberately does not look like a church. It’s not meant to look like a church. You are not meant to confuse the two. No spire. In England, only the state church could build buildings with spires. Which is why, in New England, all churches were built with spires in defiance or as an indication that we are the state church of New England. In Charleston, they couldn’t do that, because the state church had too much say in what went on. So instead you have a round building which is a kind of meeting house, rather like a church hall or something like that. What’s so interesting about this is that even now, to this day it does not belong to any one denomination. There are about 3 or 4 denominations which share it. This reflects the time when dissenters, people who were not part of the official state church were not as yet organized in separate denominations. What mattered was that they had left the official establishment. There was no distinction between Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalist, and these kinds of divisions. They were less important than the fact that this was the independent form of worship. This was something that was not officially recognized by the state. In Charleston, that pattern remains.
This situation could not continue forever. The king himself realized this. This is why he tried; his whole point of encouraging toleration in the colonies was to convince people in England that it could work. If the experiment in South Carolina was okay, then after people saw that South Carolina could survive without sort of falling apart in riot and disruption and everything else, it might get introduced in England. Well, of course we all know that never happened because South Carolina turned out to be not quite a very attractive model. Not really, not for that reason. But it was tried, and the king has to be given credit for trying this.
Anyhow, he died in 1685, with no legitimate heirs, and was succeeded by his brother, James, the famous Duke of York after whom New York was named. But James was another strange bird. He had been married in his early life to the daughter of Lord Clarendon who was a prominent supporter of the king during the civil war. By Lord Clarendon’s daughter he had produced two daughters, Mary and Anne. Mary had been married off to the heir to the Dutch throne, William. Anne was sort of married off to a prince of Denmark. They were all clearly and obviously Protestant.
James himself was a different kettle of fish. His first wife died when he was still in his 30’s. He remarried an Italian princess and converted to Catholicism, which was not really a very wise move. If you are going to become king of a very Protestant country, converting to Catholicism is not the best way to win friends and influence people. James and I suppose this was true of the entire royal family at the time, they didn’t really think about public opinion. When James finally did become king it was remarkable how many people did accept it at least in a way. They didn’t want a Catholic king, but they consoled themselves in the knowledge that he had two Protestant daughters and they were going to succeed him. In the end, it probably would not make all that much difference.
However, James was not going to sit and wait for that to happen. He realized that he could not just legislate in favor of Catholicism, because the parliament would never accept that. He had too many people against him, not least because at the very time when he became king, the French king, Louis XIV expelled the remaining Protestants from France. The Huguenots were kicked out of France in 1685, the same year. Many of them turned up in England. Many of them went to South Carolina. There was no question politically to favor the Catholic cause.
So James hit on a very clever idea. He said we won’t favor Catholicism, what we’ll do is encourage religious toleration. He issued a Declaration of Indulgence, not to be confused with Indulgences against which Martin Luther revolted, but a Declaration of Indulgence which said that everybody was free to worship God in any way that they pleased. And you might think that people would accept this. But of course, everybody realized that this was a cover, that James apparently was going to give freedom to Baptists and Quakers and people like that, was in fact using this as a way of giving freedom to Catholics, which was what his real interest was. And so, people revolted against this. They rebelled against it. James ordered the declaration to be read in every church. And the bishops of the Church of England refused. They said, no, this is unconstitutional; we are not going to do it. So he put the bishops on trial, 7 of them, kind of a show trial to demonstrate who was in charge. Well, never before and never since, have bishops of the Church of England been as popular as they were at this particular point. No one really expected this. The bishops themselves did not deserve this. They were sort of funny old men who basically shouldn’t have been where they were. They didn’t really deserve it. But they just happened to find themselves in this strange position. They were put in jail. The trial occurred. They were acquitted by the jury which took their side against the side of the king.
Well, this revealed that the government was breaking down, because if a jury could acquit the bishops, the parliament was clearly on the side of the church against the king, the king could not continue indefinitely in this position. He wasn’t going to go back to Protestantism. Things were heating up very dramatically in 1687, 1688. When suddenly his wife, the queen, after 15 years of marriage, produced a baby and the baby was a boy. This was a total disaster, because suddenly there was a baby boy, who of course bumped the two girls into second place as heir to the throne. And James now had what nobody suspected he would ever have, which was a Catholic heir.
At this point, the parliament decided to act. They invited William of Orange from Holland, and Mary who was the next in line to the throne, to come to England and basically take over the government. William, of course, was just waiting for this opportunity. He landed with an army on the 5th of November of 1688, the famous Guy Fawkes Day, and marched on London. The king panicked and fled to France. So parliament declared that he had abdicated, even though he hadn’t. They declared an interregnum. In February of 1689, they made William and Mary joint sovereigns, king and queen together and established at this point that only a Protestant could sit on the throne. In other words, from this time on, no Catholic could sit on the throne of Britain. That was designed to exclude James.
Now, once it was decided that the state would be Protestant officially, because no one had ever said this before, this created the circumstances in which toleration for dissenters became possible. They said to themselves, now that we are officially Protestant, and it is decreed that it shall be so, we can show tolerance to other Protestants. You don’t have to belong to the state church now in order to be given some kind of official recognition. Tolerance is not necessarily going to mean tolerance for Catholics as well. A Toleration Act was passed by parliament in 1689, allowing for the first time people who were not members of the official church to organize as corporations, in other words to establish a legal existence. This is the beginning of denominations as we understand them today.
If you take for example, the Baptists – the Baptists had to get together, they had to declare who they were, what they were. They had to produce a statement of faith. That statement of faith is known today as the Second London Confession, or in a slightly revised version, the Philadelphia Confession, that was a bit later, but still basically the same document. In 1689 this was. It was kind of their title deed to be recognized as a church. That is the beginning of the Baptist denomination in England and in the colonies. This is now given official status. The same was true for the Presbyterians, and for the Quakers and all the rest. Everybody had to do the same kind of thing, and then they were given official status.
They were not made equal. Other things were maintained. They could not hold public office. They could not go to university. That continued as before. But they were no longer persecuted and they were given some form of official recognition. A process which had been gradually maturing over a 100 year period reaches its conclusion with the emergence of recognizable denominational groupings. Conversely, the state church, the official church, gave up trying to pretend that everybody belonged to it. For the first time the state church recognized that there were people who genuinely did not belong to it. That had never been officially accepted before. And you have a different kind of set up, religious pluralism of a kind, denominationalism is accepted as a reality rather than having different groupings fighting over recognition to be the one true church.
In Scotland, a different thing happened. In Scotland, they recognized that Episcopalianism was not going to wash there. So rather than that, they established Presbyterianism as the state church. So, Scotland got a different state church. Scotland became Presbyterian, and still is Presbyterian, with the Westminster Confession as its confession of faith. Episcopalians became a dissenting minority and suffered the disabilities of such. So that you have the curious situation that if you were a member of the Church of England, and you went to Scotland, you would loose your legal rights. You would have legal rights in England but not in Scotland, and visa versa.
In Ireland, it was a little bit more complicated. James who had fled to France was convinced that the only place he was going to get any support was in Ireland, because he was a Catholic and there were lots of Catholics in Ireland. And so all of a sudden he jumped on the Catholic bandwagon, and with the support of the king of France, raised an army and invaded Ireland. He was recognized as Catholic King of Ireland in 1689. Now the Irish Catholics thought at last we have a Catholic king who is going to defend us and give us our rights. But James wouldn’t do that. James was Catholic. They were Catholic. James had his eye on the English throne, and he knew that if he gave official rights to Catholics in Ireland, he would have no chance of ever becoming king of England again. So he kind of put the Irish off a little bit. The Irish were up in arms, realizing they were the ones going to loose on this score, if anybody was going to loose.
They couldn’t wait for William of Orange to come over and rescue them from this Catholic domination. William more or less had to do that. He couldn’t tolerate a rival so near with an army. So in 1690, William invaded Ireland with his Protestant army and with the support of the Irish Protestants, defeated the Catholics at the famous Battle of the Boyne on the 1st of July in 1690. But, because of the change of calendars since then it is now celebrated on the 12th of July. For Protestants in Ireland to this day the 12th of July is a major public holiday. That’s when they get out their drums and bagpipes and so on and go marching through Catholic areas just to remind them of who won. It underlies the conflict there.
This was the beginning of the present troubles in Ireland. The Protestant take over at this point. From 1690 onward, Catholics were very severely penalized and punished in Ireland for at least 100 years because of this fear of rebellion always in favor of the legitimate king, James and his successors and so on. These were very real fears. Because through them at the 18th century, you had James’ little boy, the one whose birth had caused all the trouble who became known as the old pretender and his son Charles, Bonnie Prince Charlie who was the young pretender, and these people actually did try on two occasions in 1715 and again in 1745 to take over the country. It was a very real fear. Throughout the 18th century there was this undercurrent that Catholics must be kept down because if they are not they might rise up in rebellion, and there is genuine cause to believe that might really happen.
The result in the American colonies is very interesting, because after William conquered Ireland, the government decided that this was the opportunity to sort out the Americans. It was at this time that colonies where there had been toleration, like Maryland for instance, where there had been Catholics and toleration, this was stopped. The New England colonies, Massachusetts and so on, were combined, instead of being allowed to be 4 or 5 independent ones. The opportunity was also taken to suppress the Puritan constitution in Massachusetts. This was the time of the Salem witch hunts. These were used as an excuse. The government said if we leave it in the hands of the locals, they will just run around burning witches at the stake. We’ve got to stop that.
A policy was adopted that gradually an attempt would be made to bring people back into the established church. The Church of England, the Episcopal Church was set up in New England for the first time. It had never existed there before. Churches were built and it was kind of intruded into New England at this point. The kind of toleration which had been granted earlier in the Carolinas was diminished and there was a genuine attempt made to press the claims of the church establishment, more than had been the case in the past. For awhile, it appeared to succeed. After 1690 for a generation or so the number of Episcopalians in the American colonies increased quite substantially. The number of churches multiplied. But the great weakness of Episcopalianism in the American colonies was that in order to become a minister in the Episcopal Church, you had to go to England to be ordained, because there were no bishops in the colonies. And as long as there were no bishops in the colonies, this was a weakness because they couldn’t ordain everybody who wanted to be ordained. To go to England for that was a difficult thing to do. Therefore, the church had a chronic shortage of ministers. Although it was expanding in other ways, they could build buildings and so on, finding ministers, getting people to serve the churches was difficult. The only thing you could do was send people out from England to do it. It is because of that that John Wesley landed up in Savannah. He was part of that movement. He was sent to minister to the colonies. If you go to Savannah today, you get the impression that Wesley founded it. He was only there for 18 months and he was such a pain in the rear end that they bundled him onto a ship and sent him back to England.
What happened to kill the Episcopal revival was the Great Awakening. When the Great Awakening came in the 1740’s that reversed all of this. That changed the situation totally. It was in the Great Awakening that Baptists and Methodists became the main religious forces. The Episcopalians faded into the background. That was the end of that particular era.