Smectymnuus and the attack on episcopacy in 1641
in London presbyterians and the British revolutions, 1638–64
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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.


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