On the accession of James I the Puritans expressed their desire for ecclesiastical change in the Millenary Petition which purported to come from 1,000 clergy; their requests were moderate, a sign of the success of Whitgift's policy, but some could not have been granted without causing widespread dissatisfaction. At a conference between divines of the two parties at Hampton Court in 1604, James roughly decided against the Puritans. Some small alterations were made in the prayer-book, and a new version of the Bible was undertaken, which appeared in 1611 as the authorized version. In 1604 convocation framed a code of canons which received royal authorization. Refusal to obey them was punished with deprivation, and, according to S. R. Gardiner, about 300 clergy were deprived, though a 17th century writer (Peter Heylyn) puts the number at 49 only, which W. H. Frere (History of the English Church, 1558-1625, p. 321) thinks more credible.

Conformity could still be enforced, but before long the Puritan party grew in strength partly from religious and partly from political causes. They would not admit any authority in religion that was not based on the scriptures; their opponents maintained that the church had authority to ordain ceremonies not contrary to the scriptures. In doctrine the Puritans remained faithful to the Calvinism in which most Englishmen of the day had been brought up; they called the high churchmen Arminians, and asserted that they were inclined to Rome. The Commons became increasingly Puritan; they were strongly Protestant and demanded the enforcement of the laws against recusants, who suffered much, specially after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, though they were sometimes shielded by the king. The Commons regarded ecclesiastical jurisdiction with dislike, specially the Court of High Commission, which had developed from the ecclesiastical commissions of Elizabeth and was hated as a means of coercion based on prerogative. The bishops derived their support from the king, and the church in return supported the king's claim to absolutism and divine right. It suffered heavily from this alliance. As men saw the church on the side of absolutism, Puritanism grew strong both among the country gentry, who were largely represented in the Commons, and among the nation at large, and the church lost ground through the king's political errors.

A restoration of order and decency in worship and the introduction of more ceremonial begun in James's reign were carried on by Laud under Charles I. Laud aimed at silencing disputes about doctrine and enforcing outward uniformity; the Puritans hated ceremonial and wished to make every one accept their doctrines. Many of the reforms introduced by Laud after he became archbishop in 1633 were needful, but they offended the Puritans and were enforced in a harsh and tyrannical manner, for he lacked wisdom and sympathy. Under his rule nonconforming clergy were deprived and sometimes imprisoned. The cruel punishments infficted by the Court of Star Chamber of which he was a member, the unpopularity of the High Commission Court, his own harsh dealing, and the part which he took in politics as a confidential adviser of the king, combined to bring odium upon him and upon the ecclesiastical system which he represented. The church was weak, for the Laudian system was disliked by the nation. A storm of discontent with the course of affairs both in church and state gathered.

In 1640 Charles, after dissolving parliament, prolonged the session of convocation, which issued canons magnifying the royal authority and imposing the so-called ci cetera oath against innovations on all clergy, graduates and others. The Long Parliament voted the canons illegal; Laud was imprisoned, and in 1642 the bishops were excluded from parliament. The civil war began in 1642; in 1643 a bill was passed for the taking away of episcopacy, in 1645 Laud was beheaded, and parliament abolished the prayer-book and accepted the Presbyterian directory, and from 1649 Presbyterianism was the legal form of church government. Many, perhaps 2,000, clergy were deprived; some were imprisoned and otherwise maltreated, though a fifth of their former revenues was assigned to the dispossessed. The king, who was beheaded in 1649, might have extricated himself from his difficulties if he had consented to the overthrow of episcopacy, and may therefore be held a martyr to the church's cause. The victory of the army over the parliament secured England against the tyranny of Presbyterianism, but did not better the condition of the episcopal clergy; the toleration insisted on by the Independents did not extend to prelacy. Churchmen, however, occasionally enjoyed the ministrations of their own clergy in private houses, and though their worship was sometimes disturbed they were not seriously persecuted for, engaging in it. Non-delinquent or nonsequestrated private patronage and the obligation of tithes were retained. Community of suffering and the execution of Charles I brought the royalist country gentry into sympathy with the clergy, and at the Restoration the church had the hold upon the affection of the laity which it lacked under the Laudian rule.

This text forms part of the History of the Church of England originally part of the entry ENGLAND, CHURCH OF from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the content of which lies within the public domain.

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