The Puritan Movement In England
The Puritans.—While the planting of colonies on the shores of Chesapeake Bay and on the Caribbean islands was in progress, other settlements were being formed in New England by English Separatists and Puritans. By the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth the Anglican church was firmly established, but it was not long before groups within the church began to show dissatisfaction. At first protests were made against some of the ceremonies and formulas of the service. After 1570 the Puritans, as they were derisively called, began to object to the episcopal form of government and to advocate the Presbyterian or Calvinistic system, which was based upon the idea of a representative form of church government. During the later years of the reign the Puritans laid more and more stress on morals. They believed that life should be sternly ascetic, that the Sabbath should be kept strictly, and that pleasures and extravagance should be suppressed.
The Independents.—Most of the Puritans had no wish to withdraw from the church, but desired to reform it. A more radical group, however, who became known as Independents, looked upon the national church as an unholy institution contrary to scripture. They wished to reëstablish the church as it was believed to be in the days of the Apostles. There were several groups of Independents or Separatists, the various groups being named after their leaders, the followers of Robert Brown being known as Brownists, those of Henry Barrow as Barrowists. They met in small groups which were called conventicles. The English church, through the Court of High Commission, proceeded with considerable severity against the Puritans, whom they attempted to make conform, but against the Separatists they showed no mercy, breaking up the conventicles, imprisoning many, and hanging some of the leaders.
James I and the Non-Conformists.—Soon after James I became king, the Puritans presented a petition asking for changes in the church. The king called the Hampton Court Conference that he might hear the views of the various parties. James soon found that many of the Puritans believed in presbyteries, a form of government with which he had had unpleasant experiences in Scotland, and he angrily ended the conference. Shortly afterward, because of the so-called "Gunpowder Plot," the king became convinced that he was personally in danger. From this time on he supported the Anglican church. Severe laws were passed against the Catholics, and the laws against Non-Conformists were enforced with greater vigor.
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