N. H. Keeble, ed. 'Settling the Peace of the Church': 1662 Revisited. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. xvii + 270 pp. $100.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-968853-1.
Reviewed by Warren Johnston (Algoma University)
Published on H-Albion (April, 2016)
Commissioned by Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth (Red Deer College)
‘Settling the Peace of the Church’ is a collection of essays on the effects of the reimposition of the Act of Uniformity in England after the restoration of monarchy in 1660. This legislation ended the toleration of Presbyterian and Congregational (including Baptist) worship practices by making the Church of England the only permissible ecclesiastical institution. In addition to creating a society divided between religious conformity and dissent, the period from Charles II’s return, in May 1660, up to and including the act coming into effect in August 1662 saw the removal and resignation of several thousand churchmen and university officials, which had a profound impact not only on English churches and clergy, but also on Restoration politics and culture.
The book is a product of the work of the Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies, with its chapters originating out of papers delivered at a 2012 conference celebrating the 350th anniversary of the implementation of the Act of Uniformity. These individual studies not only examine the immediate influence of this event in England, but also determine its impact in the various kingdoms of the British Isles and across the North Sea and the Atlantic. In addition, the book traces the origins of related ecclesiastical and theological issues from the late Elizabethan period and early seventeenth century, and considers the continued effects of the Uniformity into the early eighteenth century. In this, the editor and the authors included in the volume provide a full account--forward, backward, and laterally--of how the imposition of religious conformity impacted later seventeenth-century England.
The volume begins with Neil Keeble’s introduction. This provides a thorough account of the key events and principal participants connected with the developments leading towards reimplementing religious uniformity in the months from January 1660 to the immediate aftermath of the August 24 (St. Bartholomew’s Day), 1662, deadline for public clerical compliance with the new legislation. It closes with a brief concluding general summary of the longer-term effects of imposing conformity. This analysis highlights how disagreement and division with and among the (eventual) non-Anglican denominations, along with the momentum of returning Church of England clergy and the renewal of Prayer Book services, allowed those with more hardline episcopal views to seize the initiative and ensure the failure of more moderate efforts for comprehension and/or toleration.
In the first chapter of the book Jacqueline Rose looks at the idea and implications of the concept of adiaphora (things indifferent within worship service) on questions of conformity and comprehension. As she notes, it was practices of worship, rather than debate over theological doctrine, which were central to the discussions around settling the church in the early Restoration. Rose points out that the Bible’s silence on such matters did not diminish the concern and dispute over these indifferent things during the early modern period. Going back to the late sixteenth century, Rose describes positions that developed on adiaphora into the middle of the seventeenth century. Of course, during this period any questions regarding control over church service had theological and political implications that could not be easily separated. The events of those years had heightened sensibilities to the dangers of dissent and challenges to authority on the one hand, and the threat of the abuse and misuse of political power on the other. The circumstances of the early Restoration, and the subsequent three decades as a whole, could not help but to have absorbed such concerns. In the end, the issue of adiaphorous things was central to the continuing attempts to encompass the variety of ecclesiastical positions present in England in the later seventeenth century.
Paul Seaward’s essay analyzes the place of Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon, in the ideas influencing the Restoration church settlement and its later implementation. Hyde’s place in this is significant, as Charles II’s chief minister and also considering that the series of penal laws passed in the 1660s to provide the teeth to the uniformity legislation have, in the past, been branded the “Clarendon Code.” Through a careful examination of Clarendon’s writings and positions beginning in the 1630s, Seaward provides a complex and nuanced basis for Hyde’s positions in regard to the Church of England and Protestant nonconformity in the 1660s. Ultimately, Clarendon’s stance, which at times leaned toward expressions seemingly in support of more tolerant ideas, is explained as being consistently in defense of civil authority: as Seaward asserts, while Clarendon may have acknowledged the possibility of indifferent elements in church services, once these had been instituted by the sovereign, they were no longer so.
The third chapter looks at one of the best-known Restoration nonconformist writers, John Bunyan, and his association with the Bedford meeting. Michael Davies asks what impact the 1662 act, and the ejection of ministers that occurred from it, had on that congregation. Beginning his examination in the 1650s, Davies notes that the Bedford church was not associated with religious radicalism but, instead, was comfortable within the confines of the Cromwellian religious settlement. This is demonstrated by Quaker criticisms of Bunyan and the minister John Burton for their acceptance of the state’s religious strictures in the 1650s. After their successful appeal to Cromwell to have their choice of Burton confirmed in January 1656, he was minister until his death in August 1660. Davies notes that the population of Bedford supported the reestablishment of Church of England services, and saw the displacement of Bunyan’s congregation from St. John’s Church in Bedford in the summer of 1660. Davies frames Bunyan’s only published work from 1662, I Will Pray with the Spirit, in the context of the imposition of uniformity and the return to services that adhered to the Book of Common Prayer in the early 1660s. After 1662 the ministers who worked as pastors to the Bedford dissenting meeting were all from those displaced by the Act of Uniformity.
The next four chapters examine the effects of the Act of Uniformity and the Bartholomean ejections on areas beyond England. Robert Armstrong discusses the processes of instigating and effecting uniformity in Ireland. In Ireland the legislation and official deadline for clerical conformity did not come until 1667, but the process of displacing non-episcopal clergy, making nonconforming religious meetings (Catholic, Presbyterian, and Congregational ones) unlawful, and reestablishing Prayer Book services began in earnest in 1660 and 1661. With a particular focus on the north, Armstrong describes the discontent and disorder that developed in Ulster in 1661 over the replacement of Presbyterian ministers, who would become the largest group of Protestant nonconforming clergy in Ireland. By not allowing the comprehension of Presbyterian ministers, this policy created a further divide in Ireland and established the Presbyterian clergy as those who would come to represent the interests of the Irish population of Scottish origin.
The Restoration in Scotland also had its own particular elements. Alasdair Raffe begins his chapter describing the hopeful expectations, in the spring of 1660, that the king would agree to maintain Presbyterian church government in Scotland. But, as in England, early hopes were dashed when the Scottish parliament began to take measures to revive episcopal structures in 1661 and 1662. Noting that the royal government’s concern was over the political threats associated with Scottish Presbyterian ideas, Raffe recounts how Presbyterian dissent, publications, and preaching were suppressed, as well as oaths of loyalty and repudiating covenants being introduced in 1661-62. The ultimate result of this was a continued resentment and controversy over the church settlement in Scotland that lasted throughout the Restoration.
In considering the impact of the “Black Bartholomew’s Day” on the Netherlands, Cory Cotter focuses on the English Reformed Church in Leiden. With its longtime minister dying in 1661, the successor was Matthew Newcomen, who had been ejected from his lectureship in Dedham, Essex, in August 1662. Cotter details the connections of Newcomen’s congregation and household to English nonconformists, as well as showing the significance of the university in Leiden for the education of a stream of English students during the Restoration period. These included a substantial number of ejected ministers. For Cotter, this case study supplies evidence of the “transatlantic and pan-European cross-cultural connections” of the English dissenting community (p. 174).
Owen Stanwood’s chapter argues not only that the 1662 settlement had a great effect on New England, but also that it would lead to the general reintegration of the New England communities into a broader British and Atlantic context. Stanwood notes that the creation of nonconformity in the early Restoration gave New England “ a purpose again” (p. 191) by providing a destination for those from England who were alienated by the religious settlement of 1662. This period also saw concern from Charles II’s government about disregard within the colonies for certain legislation, such as the Navigation Acts, and non-adherence to treaties with indigenous peoples, as well as unease over the influence of a Congregational religious and political hegemony in the colonies. However, by the late seventeenth century, migration had made New England more religiously diverse, and eventually it became a more integrated part of the British Empire.
In his second contribution to the volume, Neil Keeble considers the origins and effects of the record of nonconformist experiences in the Restoration. Beginning with Richard Baxter’s Reliquae Baxterianae, Keeble traces its development into Edmund Calamy’s Account of the minsters ejected in the Restoration that was published in the early eighteenth century. Keeble notes the connections between several varied traditions, including the sixteenth-century recounting of Protestant suffering in John Foxe’s martyrology and later “Puritan hagiography” (p. 220) developed from biographies in seventeenth-century funeral sermons. The powerful influence of Calamy’s Account established the framework for dissenters’ understanding of the effects of the 1662 settlement into the mid-eighteenth century.
As a useful and appropriate complement to the preceding chapter, the final one of this collection examines John Walker’s record of Church of England ministers who were ejected from their livings in the 1640s and 1650s. Clearly a response to Calamy’s Account of the ordeals of clergy displaced by the Restoration settlement, John Walker’s Sufferings of the Clergy was an attempt to counter the dissenting narrative. Mark Burden describes Walker’s efforts from 1703-14 to compile information on Church of England ministers displaced in the middle of the previous century. By examining Walker’s manuscript papers, Burden provides detail not only on the process by which Walker’s project took shape, but also of the nature of Walker’s political and religious outlook. He concludes by arguing that Walker’s views “were not the rabid ravings of a fanatic, but rather the genuine convictions of an angry and frustrated individual” (p. 262) who saw the Established Church under threat not only from dissenters but also from many within it who were abandoning the rigorous principles that had been set out in 1662 to protect the interests of the Church and its clergy.
Though this volume takes as its point of departure a single event in the early Restoration, it widens its focus through the variety of essays included in this work. These have many things to tell historians about the period from the mid-seventeenth to the early eighteenth century in England. It describes the influences of, and influences upon, the 1662 Act of Uniformity across a wide chronological and geographical spectrum, and it explores various facets of that impact in useful and important ways. From its analysis of the debates regarding civil authority over worship forms, through its examination of domestic and international Protestant nonconformist communities and networks, to its description of the processes for gathering, compiling, and printing the accounts of the Church of England and nonconformist ministers who had been displaced from the 1640s through the early 1660s, this volume contains significant insights into the politics, literature, and culture of early modern England. Historians whose first interest may not be the religious issues of that period can still find much benefit from the studies this book contains, which provide for a fuller understanding of important aspects of English society during the Restoration.
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Warren Johnston. Review of Keeble, N. H., ed., 'Settling the Peace of the Church': 1662 Revisited.
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