Puritanism under the Stuarts (1603-49)
Events under James I.
Puritan hopes were raised when James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth as James I of England in 1603. James was known to be Calvinist in theology, and he had once signed the Negative Confession of 1581 favouring the Puritan position. In 1603 the Millenary Petition (with a claimed thousand signatures) presented Puritan grievances to the King, and in 1604 the Hampton Court Conference was held to deal with them. The petitioners were sadly in error in their estimate of the King, who had learned by personal experience to resent Presbyterian clericalism. At Hampton Court he coined the phrase, "no bishop, no king." Outmaneuvered in the conference, the Puritans were made to appear petty in their requests. As a seal upon the Hampton Court Conference James appointed Richard Bancroft to be Whitgift's successor as archbishop of Canterbury and encouraged the Convocation of 1604 to draw up the Constitutions and Canons against Nonconformists. Conformity in ecclesiastical matters became a pattern in areas where forms of nonconformity had survived under Elizabeth. Though a number of the clergy were deprived of their positions, others took evasive action and got by with minimal conformity. Members of Parliament supported them in their position by arguing that since the canons had not been ratified by Parliament they did not have the force of law. Puritans remained under pressure, but men of Puritan sympathies still came close to the seat of power in James's reign. The enforced reading from pulpits of James's Book of Sports, dealing with recreations permissible on Sundays, in 1618, however, was a further affront to those who espoused strict observance of the sabbath, making compromise more difficult. Increasing numbers of Separatist groups could not accept compromise, and in 1607 a congregation from Scrooby, Eng., fled to Holland and then migrated on the Mayflower to establish the Plymouth Colony on the shore of Cape Cod Bay in 1620. Events under Charles I.
Despite the presence of controversy, Puritan and non-Puritan Protestants under Elizabeth and James had been united by adherence to a broadly Calvinistic theology of grace. Much of Whitgift's restraint in handling Puritans, for instance, can be traced to the prevailing Calvinist consensus he shared with the Nonconformists. Even as late as 1618 the English delegation to the Synod of Dort supported the strongly Calvinistic decisions of that body. Under Charles I, however, this consensus broke down, driving yet another rift into the Church of England. Anti-Puritanism in matters of liturgy and organization became linked with anti-Calvinism in theology. The leaders of the anti-Puritan and anti-Calvinist party, notably Richard Montagu, whose New Gagg for an Old Goose (1624) first linked Calvinism with the abusive term "Puritan," drew upon the development of Arminianism in Holland. Arminians stressed God's universal offer of salvation to mankind in contrast to the Calvinistic doctrine according to which God predestined a few to salvation, with the rest of humanity reprobated or damned. Early English Arminians added to this an increased reverence for the sacraments and liturgical ceremony. Richard Neile, bishop of Durham, was the first significant patron of Arminians among the hierarchy, but by the time William Laud was appointed bishop of London in 1628, he was the acknowledged leader of the anti-Puritan party. London was regarded as the stronghold of Puritanism, and a policy of thorough anti-Puritanism was begun there. Men who were not Separatists found their positions increasingly difficult to maintain. Laud, who became archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, was clearly a favourite of Charles. He oversaw the advance of Arminians to influential positions in the church and subtly promoted the propagation of Arminian theology. His fortunes began to turn,...