This chapter provides a summary of the book’s main findings. Offering a narrative and analysis of the London presbyterian movement from the inside, the book has sought to complicate the common characterisation of London’s religious presbyterians as an arch-conservative or even ‘counter-revolutionary’ force which held back the parliamentarian revolution. The London presbyterians stood in the tradition of a mixed constitution based on ‘co-ordinate’ powers in Parliament and an ecclesiastical settlement. They remained committed to this as events took an unsustainably extreme turn in the late 1640s and early 1650s. While the movement was a historical failure, that does not mean that it did not leave a legacy. In religion, the most obvious example is the worldwide use of the Westminster assembly’s confession of faith and its other confessional standards. In politics, we can point to the English culture of protestant dissent. Furthermore, the movement reveals important aspects of the nature of the British revolutions in particular and the religious culture of the early modern (and indeed modern) Anglophone world in general.
This chapter traces London presbyterian activity from the execution of Christopher Love to the end of the Protectorate. It explores how the presbyterians focused their energies on defending Reformed orthodoxy, often in alliance with ‘magisterial’ congregationalists at the centre of the Cromwellian state. By 1654 the London presbyterian ministers were cautiously supporting attempts led by the leading congregationalist John Owen to establish a confessional foundation for the otherwise loose structure of the Cromwellian ecclesiastical administration. This ambition was ultimately frustrated by the chronic instability of Cromwellian politics, although the co-operation with the Protectorate ultimately led to the return to politics of London’s presbyterians from the mid-1650s. The chapter also looks at the presbyterians’ attempt to defend their position in disputation and their attempt to restore controls on printing.
This chapter looks at the London presbyterians’ political thought, exploring ideas of limited monarchy, the ‘co-ordinate’ mixed constitution, Old Testament notions of national covenanting and sixteenth-century presbyterian two-kingdoms theory. The chapter then proceeds to analyse how the London presbyterian clergy built their key institutional power bases in the city, including London’s Sion College, the Westminster assembly and the mobilisation of godly elements of the parliamentarian citizenry in London. It concludes by looking at how the London presbyterian clergy began to develop the polemical tools to mobilise for the establishment of presbyterian government against rival claims to the polity of the church.
The Cavalier Parliament, the Great Ejection of 1662 and the first years of dissent
This chapter looks at the end of the presbyterian movement and the transition to nonconformity and dissent. It analyses the presbyterian campaign to elect suitable candidates to the Cavalier Parliament. It then moves on to Gilbert Sheldon’s campaign to dismantle presbyterian vestiges of power in London. The chapter concludes by looking at the aftermath of the Great Ejection – examining the numbers of ministers who chose ejection rather than conformity and their reactions to being expelled from the Church of England.
This book seeks to locate the London presbyterian movement in the metropolitan, parliamentarian and British politics of the mid-seventeenth-century crisis. It explores the emergence of the presbyterian movement in London from the collapse of Charles I’s monarchy, the movement’s influence on the parliamentarian political struggles of the civil war and interregnum and concludes by looking at the beginnings of Restoration nonconformity. The work covers the political, intellectual and social history of the London presbyterian movement, looking at the development of ideas of presbyterian church government and political theory, as well as exploring the London presbyterians’ mobilisation and organisation to establish their vision of reforming the Reformation. The work addresses the use of the ‘information revolution’ in the British revolution, analysing religious disputation, the political use of rumour and gossip and the interface between oral and written culture. It argues that the London presbyterian movement, whose participants are often the foils to explorations of other individuals or groups in historical writing, was critical to the dynamic of the politics of the period.
This chapter explores the emergence of partisan religious presbyterianism in London during 1644. The first section explores the collapse of the Aldermanbury Accord in the aftermath of the publication of the congregationalist Apologeticall narration in January 1644. The second section provides an analysis of the intellectual development of presbyterian church polity during the Westminster assembly and in the London presbyterians’ published treatises. The final section investigates the position of the London presbyterian movement during the transformation of parliamentarian politics in the last months of 1644, as the Westminster ‘war party’ jettisoned its alliance with the Scottish covenanters. These developments would see the emergence of the later-1640s political constellations of ‘political presbyterian’ and ‘Independent’ factions at Westminster, with the London presbyterian movement representing an organised, ‘Scotified’ interest within English parliamentarian politics.
This chapter analyses how the London presbyterian ministers, nudged by their Scottish counterparts, rebuilt the religious presbyterian cause in London after the failure of their political gambit in 1646–7. It looks at the substantial divisions among London presbyterians as to which direction to follow in the second civil war but shows that many religious presbyterians remained loyal to Parliament and their vision of what the parliamentarian cause entailed. The chapter concludes by addressing the London presbyterian response to the Army’s forceful repudiation of the Isle of Wight treaty and the trial and execution of King Charles I.
This chapter explores the London presbyterians’ resistance to the first three years of republican government in England. It explores the presbyterians’ initial resistance to the new regime through printed polemic and sermons. It then proceeds to look at the arguments surrounding the English Commonwealth’s oath of Engagement. Finally, it analyses the plot of Christopher Love, his trial, execution and the aftermath of his death for London presbyterianism.
This chapter examines the London presbyterian movement’s connections with the wider ‘political presbyterian’ coalition in 1646 and 1647. It looks at the political presbyterians’ attempt to seize and control the politics of settlement with Charles I. This strategy focused on restoring the fractured parliamentarian consensus by vilifying political rivals and seeking to exclude them from the projected post-civil war political settlement.