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.
Church polity and politics in the British Atlantic world, c.
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.
Two-kingdoms theory, ‘Erastianism’ and the Westminster assembly debate on
church and state, c. 1641–48
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.
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.
The chapter provides a presbyterian reading of the ‘Smectymnuus’ tracts and situates these works in the alliance of godly clergy who were meeting at Edmund Calamy’s house in Aldermanbury. The chapter explores the pre-civil war puritan thought on church polity. It also analyses how this Aldermanbury group joined the parliamentarian mobilisation against Charles I’s administration in the spring and summer of 1641. Nevertheless, there was a lack of consensus on issues of religion and church polity and these issues were also circumscribed by what was politically possible in that year. The chapter looks at the attempts in spring and early summer 1641 to reach a consensual settlement of religion. When this failed, the summer debates over the so-called ‘Root and Branch’ bill saw various models for the national church being aired. These debates ultimately revealed deep tensions among those seeking to reform the Church of England. The chapter concludes by exploring the emerging divisions among the godly on the issue of the proper location of power in church government and how, in light of those divisions, the parliamentarian clergy closest to the opposition to Charles I’s administration struggled to maintain unity, if not consensus, in the fight against prelacy.
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.
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 explores the role of London’s presbyterians in the formation of the parliamentarian ‘political presbyterian’ alliance. It analyses the presbyterian clergy’s dispute with Parliament in 1645 over the authority and jurisdiction of the projected settlement of the church. This dispute triggered the London clergy to mobilise a campaign for presbyterianism and, in so doing, mobilised a body of pro-presbyterian, ‘Covenant-engaged’ London citizens to seize key city institutions. The purpose of this was to pressurise Parliament into establishing presbyterian church polity. This campaign would ultimately end in disappointment and compromise. However, the London presbyterians’ sophisticated campaigning network and control of important city institutions would prove critical for the rest of the period.
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.