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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.

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Church polity and politics in the British Atlantic world, c. 1635–66
Elliot Vernon

This chapter introduces the volume by asking the questions pertinent to the subject matter of church polity and politics in the British Atlantic world. It summarises the developments of church polity in the period before the time frame of the volume. The chapters of the volume are introduced so that the wider issues explored in common are brought together.

in Church polity and politics in the British Atlantic world, c. 1635–66
Two-kingdoms theory, ‘Erastianism’ and the Westminster assembly debate on church and state, c. 1641–48
Elliot Vernon

This chapter seeks to analyse the debates between presbyterian political theology and the Long Parliament in the mid-1640s. It sets the background of this debate in continental Reformed theology and argues that the clash between parliamentary ‘Erastianism’ and the presbyterian perspective of two-kingdom theory reveals some of the underlying contradictions within the parliamentarian project of godly rule. The slightly different version of two-kingdom theory held by the congregationalists is also explored. The chapter shows how the Long Parliament grasped its way to an ‘Erastian’ solution by reference to differing ideas of the church–state relationship found within the Reformed tradition. In conclusion, the chapter looks at how the presbyterian clergy conceded to Parliament and how interregnum governments retreated from a fully Erastian position.

in Church polity and politics in the British Atlantic world, c. 1635–66
The case of Thomas Bakewell
Elliot Vernon

This chapter focuses upon the polemical career of Thomas Bakewell, a baker and Presbyterian ruling elder of middling wealth who traded from a shop in Hanging Sword Court, just off London’s Fleet Street. Like the more famous Thomas Edwards studied in Ann Hughes’ works, Bakewell was a devout religious Presbyterian whose commitment to Reformed ‘orthodoxy’ led him into a series of disputes with Antinomians, Separatists, Baptists, Congregationalists to Fifth Monarchists that formed part of the struggle to demarcate the boundaries of religious ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heterodoxy’ during the period. Bakewell’s mid-seventeenth-century printed polemics, however, were grounded in the face-to-face experience of oral and private lay religious disputation dating back to the early 1630s and his narratives illustrate another dimension of the struggles of the Puritan underground to maintain orthodoxy identified in the recent work of Peter Lake, David Como and Ann Hughes. The chapter will analyse the engagements between Bakewell and his opponents to gain an understanding of the ‘rules’ of lay religious debate and polemic. In addition it focuses upon how originally oral debates between disputants who were known to each other on a face-to-face basis within the relatively small geographical area of mid-seventeenth-century London were expressed in print and how this ‘lived experience’ structured the literary forms, and genre experimentation, used to communicate religious disputation to a wider audience. As such, the chapter builds on Ann Hughes’ contribution to this area of historiography and thus, I hope, presents a fitting tribute to her work as a historian.

in Insolent proceedings
Elliot Vernon

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.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
Elliot Vernon

This chapter explores the London presbyterians and the politics of the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. It examines how they sought to negotiate the re-establishment of order in the English church out of the chaos of the immediate post-Cromwellian period. This ultimately led the presbyterians to make compromises that would be fatal to both presbyterianism and the reformation of English church order begun in 1640.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
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The Cavalier Parliament, the Great Ejection of 1662 and the first years of dissent
Elliot Vernon

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.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
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Elliot Vernon

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.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
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Elliot Vernon

This chapter acts as the introduction to the book, setting out the debate and the issues discussed, and providing a breakdown of the chapters.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
Elliot Vernon

This chapter explores the radicalisation of London’s moderate puritans during the period 1637–40 in the wake of the crisis that erupted in the Churches of England and Scotland under the Laudian administration of the 1630s. It then turns to the godly ministers’ mobilisation of opposition to the Canons of 1640. This opposition revitalised the godly clergy as a political force and ushered in a somewhat cautious movement seeking further reformation of the polity of the Church of England.

in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64