Peter Lake
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The best religion? The revived ambitions of the Reformed conformist establishment, 1637–40
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This chapter analyses three collections of sermons, preached during the reign of Charles I in 1636/37 in prominent pulpits by Daniel Featley, Griffith Williams, and John Prideaux as powerful statements on the pre-Laudian status quo ante, a version of Jacobean Reformed orthodoxy. Their publication coincided with the renewed prospect of Charles I re-entering the Thirty Years War. If war forced Charles to seek parliamentary supply, then in order to appease parliament a new ecclesiastical establishment might very well be required. Since Williams was very close to his kinsman Bishop John Williams, who had been positioning himself as the moderate Calvinist alternative to Laud since the late 1620s, and Featley had been George Abbot’s chaplain and a long-standing adversary of Arminianism, and Prideaux was the Regius Professor of Divinity and Rector of Exeter College, Oxford, their three volumes of sermons can be read as advertisements for what such an establishment might look like. All three were explicitly anti-Catholic, apologists for iure divino episcopacy and the Prayer Book, and employed the hypothetical universalist position on predestination to oppose what they termed Pelagian or Arminian error. They were also resolutely anti-puritan, although on terms very different from those espoused by the Laudians. Aggressively conformist, all three nevertheless distanced themselves from the Laudian ideal of the beauty of holiness. These massive tomes thus represent a detailed evocation of what had passed for Reformed orthodoxy under James I, an account now rendered newly relevant by the shifting political circumstances of the later 1630s.

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