‘The product of [a] prodigious amount of work.’
‘A tour de force of informed and original scholarship.’
Read extracts (4) & (6) below!
‘These interviews are fascinating and force us to become self-reflective. They show how we shouldn’t live our lives in a reactionary way as if it’s the first time anyone’s ever seen the problems we’re dealing with today.’ –Julien
(1) Why were Puritans considered enemies of the Elizabethan state?
Introduction to puritanism (and further reading) from ‘Presbyterianism in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England’ by Polly Ha forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of the Dissenting Tradition, ed. John Coffey.
English Presbyterians denied their status as dissenters. In their eyes, it was the officially established Church of England that dissented from mainstream Protestantism. Devising a middle way between conservatives and reformists, the Elizabethan church adopted central Protestant tenets while retaining an episcopal hierarchy and the outward ceremony of traditional religion…
Read the full introduction
Excerpt from The Oxford Handbook of the Dissenting Tradition, ed. John Coffey (with permission from Oxford University Press)
‘Presbyterianism in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England’
English Presbyterians denied their status as dissenters. In their eyes, it was the officially established Church of England that dissented from mainstream Protestantism. Devising a middle way between conservatives and reformists, the Elizabethan church adopted central Protestant tenets while retaining an episcopal hierarchy and the outward ceremony of traditional religion. This curious concoction, the Presbyterians argued, departed from continental Reformation, the apostolic tradition, and more fundamentally, from the principles of church government and worship prescribed by the Bible. Yet, the Church of England was not only marked by compromise in its external form. It was also characterized by via media more generally in its religious policy. For the Act of Uniformity merely required outward conformity. This leniency initially worked in the favour of zealous Protestants, but it disagreed with their temper.
The Queen’s supremacy over the Church of England was also problematic. Posing a threat to royal supremacy, the Presbyterians denied that church government was an indifferent matter left to the civil magistrate to decide. They insisted that rules governing the household of God must only be determined by Scripture, the divinely instituted household guide. That model consisted of equality among ministers and the local election of lay elders who assisted in overseeing the church and administering discipline. Such ecclesiastical jurisdiction extended through a hierarchy of ecclesiastical bodies ranging from the local consistory and the provincial classis to the national synod and ecumenical council. The danger of this ecclesiastical republicanism, alleged their adversaries, was its threat to the monarchy by application to the state.
According to the prebyterians, their aim was simply to complete Protestant reform in England. Indeed, their task of applying a reformed ecclesiastical model to the peculiar circumstances of the English Reformation would shape the nature of Presbyterianism as it emerged publically during the reign of Elizabeth I. It would drive Presbyterians in early Stuart England as they continued to agitate for reform after their formal suppression. It also ensured that Presbyterianism would exercise a wider influence on religious and political culture in proportion to its size.
 Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London, 1967), pp. 29-44. For the English presbyterians’ historical method and confessionalism see Polly Ha, English Presbyterianism, 1590-1640 (Palo Alto, 2011), pp 80-95.
 Michael Mendle, Dangerous Positions: Mixed Government, the Estates of the Realm, and the Making of the Answer to the XIX Propositions (Tuscaloosa, 1985), and Peter Lake, Anglicans and Puritans? Presbyterianism and English Conformist Thought from Whitgift to Hooker (London, 1988) ch 4.
 As Dudley Fenner put it, ‘The Churche of God is the house of God, and therefore ought to bee directed in all thinges, according to the order prescribed by the Housholder himselfe.’ A briefe and plaine declaration (London, 1584) p. ii. See also Walter Travers, A fvll and plaine declaration of ecclesiastical discipline (Middleburg, 1617), pp 3-9.
 Peter Lake, ‘Presbyterianism, the Idea of a National Church and the Argument from Divine Right” in Peter Lake and Maria Dowling (eds.) Protestantism and the National Church in Sixteenth Century England (London, 1987), p 197.
Patrick Collinson, ‘Ecclesiastical Vitriol: Religious Satire in the 1590s and the Invention of Puritanism’, in John Guy (ed.), The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (Cambridge, 1995).
Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (London, 1967).
Patrick Collinson, Richard Bancroft and Elizabethan Anti-Puritanism (Cambridge, 2013).
Patrick Collinson, John Craig and Brett Usher (eds.) Conferences and Combination Lectures in the Elizabethan Church: Dedham and Bury St Edmunds, 1582-1590 (Woodbridge, 2003).
Gordon Donaldson, ‘The Relations between the English and Scottish Presbyterian Movements to 1604’ PhD. Diss, University of London, 1938.
Jacqueline Eales, ‘A Road to Revolution: The Continuity of Puritanism, 1559-1642’, in Christopher Durston and Jacqueline Eales (eds.) The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560-1700, (Basingstoke, 1996).
John Guy, “The Elizabethan establishment and the ecclesiastical polity” in The reign of Elizabeth I: Court and culture in the last decade (Cambridge, 1995).
Polly Ha, English Presbyterianism, 1590-1640 (Palo Alto, 2011).
S.J. Knox, Walter Travers: Paragon of Elizabethan Puritanism (London, 1962).
Peter Lake, Anglicans and Puritans? Presbyterianism and English Conformist Thought from Whitgift to Hooker (London, 1988).
Peter Lake, ‘The Elizabethan Puritan Movement’ in ‘Patrick Collinson and his Historical Legacy’ History (November 2015).
Peter Lake, ‘Presbyterianism, the Idea of a National Church and the Argument from Divine Right’, in Peter Lake and Maria Dowling (eds.) Protestantism and the National Church in Sixteenth Century England (London, 1987).
Michael Mendle, Dangerous Positions: Mixed Government, the Estates of the Realm, and the Making of the Answer to the XIX Propositions (Tuscaloosa, 1985).
A.F. Scott Pearson, Church and State: Political Aspects of Sixteenth Century Puritanism (Cambridge, 1928).
A.F. Scott Pearson, Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism (Cambridge, 1925).
Albert Peel (ed.) The seconde parte of a register (Cambridge, 1915).
Ethan Shagan, ‘The English Inquisition: Constitutional Conflict and Ecclesiastical Law in the 1590s’ Historical Journal 47: 3 (2004), pp. 541-65.
Keith Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism: A History of English and Scottish Churches of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden, 1982).
Nicholas Tyacke, ‘The Fortunes of English Puritanism, 1603-1640’, in Aspects of English Protestantism (Manchester, 2001).
Tom Webster, Godly Clergy in Early Stuart England: The Caroline Puritan Movement, c. 1620-1643 (Cambridge, 1997).
(2) Godly Conspiracy: Walter Travers and England’s Intellectual Revolution, 1548-1635
Overview of a new Travers biography (in progress) by Polly Ha
Assassination. Foreign invasion. Revolt and rebellion. Political and religious plots loomed large and posed a constant threat in Elizabethan England. Elizabethan conspiracy naturally evokes the image of crypto-Catholics seeking to infiltrate England by foreign invasion. But closer to home, zealous puritans allegedly plotted to introduce popular government, inspired by full-scale Calvinist rebellions against Europe’s most powerful monarchs. This book is the first to penetrate beneath the official story of the Calvinist conspiracy in England by interrogating the life and mind of its intellectual leader, Walter Travers…
Read overview here
Overview of New Biography, Godly Conspiracy: Walter Travers and England’s Intellectual Revolution, 1548-1635 (in progress)
Assassination. Foreign invasion. Revolt and rebellion. Political and religious plots loomed large and posed a constant threat in Elizabethan England. Elizabethan conspiracy naturally evokes the image of crypto-Catholics seeking to infiltrate England by foreign invasion. But closer to home, zealous puritans allegedly plotted to introduce popular government, inspired by full-scale Calvinist rebellions against Europe’s most powerful monarchs. This book is the first to penetrate beneath the official story of the Calvinist conspiracy in England by interrogating the life and mind of its intellectual leader, Walter Travers.
Travers’s covert operations remained impenetrable for centuries due to the formal suppression of the puritans by Queen Elizabeth in 1592. However, the recovery of his papers reveals new evidence confirming the queen’s suspicions. He developed his ideas alongside Europe’s most notorious resistance theorists, living by their side as they penned their infamous treatises on rebellion against monarchs. He subsequently maintained a hot line to the most powerful men in Elizabethan government, encrypting the most incriminating details in his manuscripts. Meanwhile, his home in London became a headquarters for an underground network of clergy committed to instituting popular church government.
Travers intended to carry out this delicate operation of overtaking the Church of England by transforming it from within. But unable to contain the revolutionary nature of his ideas, his plans were ultimately thwarted. His admirer Henry Jacob took matters into his own hands. Travers’s hidden archive reveals that he carried out a series of clandestine meetings with Jacob. Through his interrogation of Jacob we witness the birth of English independence. Their exchanges were unprecedented in Europe and represent the earliest debates over this radically different way of thinking about freedom in the Anglophone world. Independence developed as a way of thinking about freedom from arbitrary interference and domination over the course of the early modern period. It was supposed to have appeared during the revolutionary circumstances of the English Civil Wars. But Travers first coined the phrase several decades before it was supposed to have existed to condemn Jacob’s novelty. Betrayed, Travers denied all responsibility. But the role he played in the seismic shifts over religion and politics which ultimately transformed the Western world was inescapable. For the freedom of independence would have a prominent future far beyond the seventeenth century.
(3) Charges against Travers
Toucying Mr Traverse.
Hee hath published in print, that her Majesty hath not her place, among suche as are too governe the Churche, but amongst those, which are to be governed. De Disciplina Ecclesiast.
Hee hath also in the same book published, That Kinges and Princes, are subject to Excommunication, aswell as other private men…
(4) How did Henry Jacob transform the idea of freedom?
Extract from forthcoming critical edition, Pre-Revolutionary Puritanism in Early Stuart England, with permission from Oxford University Press.
The novelty of Jacob’s independence becomes more apparent over the course of his underground debate with moderate puritans. For under pressure from his puritan critics, Jacob further developed his justification for independent freedom and popular sovereignty. This amounted to more than a mere extension of previous radical arguments. Moving away from previous appeals to spiritual necessity and nonconformity, Jacob developed an argument for the freedom of independence. He redefined the nature of common consent and made new claims to individual rights and the freedom of association, which enabled him to justify the creation of an entirely new ecclesiastical society. In other words, Jacob not only justified his departure from the Church of England, but also the creation of an entirely new one based on a particular understanding of liberty defined negatively as the absence of arbitrary interference…
Read full extract and see Jacob's subscription here
Extract from ‘Introduction’ to forthcoming critical edition Pre-Revolutionary Puritanism with permission from Oxford University Press.
The present volume provides a unique point of entry into internal puritan debate over precisely these matters, which has hitherto remained inaccessible. They reveal moderate restraint against popularity as well as the emergence of a uniquely radical view of freedom developed by Henry Jacob over the course of the early Stuart period, which departed from both Elizabethan puritan and separatist polities. Unlike previous separatists, Jacob based his experiment on a distinctive ideology and refused to condemn the Church of England as a false church outright.  Instead he denied its existence as a national church, redefining it as a plurality of individual parishes, some of which he could selectively communicate with. Contemporaries marked the novelty of his ecclesiastical polity. Taking into account Jacob and his followers’ affinity with select parishes within England (at least nominally), moderate puritan critics referred to them variously as ‘new separatists’, ‘home separatists’, and ‘some-separatists’. Much of this has been previously recognized by historians. But in addition to dissolving the concept of a national church, Jacob re-founded the church by making new claims to liberty.
Jacob undoubtedly shared many of his ideas with a coterie of like-minded ministers, most often collectively referred to as non-separating congregational puritans. He frequently cited William Bradshaw’s writing as agreeing with his church polity. However, the novelty of Jacob’s independence becomes more apparent over the course of his underground debate with moderate puritans. For under pressure from his puritan critics, Jacob further developed his justification for independent freedom and popular sovereignty. This amounted to more than a mere extension of previous radical arguments. Moving away from previous appeals to spiritual necessity and nonconformity, Jacob developed an argument for the freedom of independence. He redefined the nature of common consent and made new claims to individual rights and the freedom of association, which enabled him to justify the creation of an entirely new ecclesiastical society. In other words, Jacob not only justified his departure from the Church of England, but also the creation of an entirely new one based on a particular understanding of liberty defined negatively as the absence of arbitrary interference.
The notion of independence was of course not entirely novel in the early seventeenth century. It belonged to the same family of ideas stretching back to the ancient classical world based on Roman law. The idea of non-domination as the essential criteria of freedom was readily available in early modern England. It was a staple in the university curriculum and circulated through the translation of Roman classical texts. English divines, including Jacob, would also have firsthand exposure to the emergent ideas about natural rights and freedom, by thinkers such as Hugo Grotius, through their exile in the Dutch Republic. Jacob’s novel claims to liberty, which developed out of the religious controversies in the early Stuart church, could therefore resonate with broader political concerns and secular notions of liberty. But moving away from a single source explanation for the origins of revolutionary ideology, this introduction deliberately refrains from engaging in the circular exercise of tracing whether his independence was ultimately classically or divinely inspired. Instead, it suggests that Jacob’s notion of independence bridged ecclesiastical and secular understandings of liberty, thereby expanding radical claims to freedom in the early seventeenth century.
On this view, ecclesiastical and political independence could exist separately; or intersect, overlap and enlarge one another. For whilst this notion of independence belonged to the same family of ideas as ancient classical notions of liberty, it was also distinctively Christian and grounded by Jacob in the New Testament. Rather than simply rehearsing classical precedents, Jacob transformed that tradition, making it morally imperative and universally applicable. Indeed, Jacob began to stretch the implications of his independence beyond previous claims to congregational autonomy and self-government by making individuals the arbiters of spiritual matters.
 There is a long tradition of identifying covenant theology and the puritans’ insistence on ministerial equality as forming the basis of popular sovereignty and informing later notions of social contract. But there was nothing inherently revolutionary in these ideas given the concept of a mixed polity, which was the commonly held assumption by Elizabethan puritan ideologues and could equally reinforce clerical authority and be used to guard against the excesses of popularity. See for example, Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Cambridge Mass., 1939), William Haller, Liberty and Reformation in the Puritan Revolution (New York, 1953), David Zaret, The Heavenly Contract: Ideology and Organization in Pre-Revolutionary Puritanism (Chicago, 1985), David Weir, The Origins of the Federal Theology in Sixteenth-Century Reformation Thought (Oxford, 1990), Theodore Bozeman, ‘Federal Theology and the National Covenant: Elizabethan Presbyterian Case,’ Church History 61:4 (Dec. 1992), 394-407, and Michael Winship, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, Mass., 2012).
 For both continuity and shifts within Elizabethan and early Stuart moderate puritanism see Peter Lake, Moderate puritans and the Elizabethan church (Cambridge 1982). This also agrees with Ethan Shagan’s argument concerning ‘moderate’ puritan authoritarianism developing as a means to restrain ‘radical’ excesses, The Rule of Moderation: Violence, Religion and the Politics of Restraint in Early Modern England (Cambridge 2011). Elizabethan puritanism here refers to the stock presbyterian spokesmen of the puritan movement during the 1580s, not to puritanism in all of its divergent forms.
 Historians have long attempted to trace Jacob’s congregational lineage through a single church polity, whether separatism, Elizabethan puritanism, or in response to episcopal jurisdiction. However, a multidimensional reading of Jacob’s ecclesiology provides a more accurate picture of the nature of his independency. Perry Miller, Orthodoxy in Massachusetts, 1630-1650 (New York: 1970), R.B. White, Triumph of the Saints: The Separate Churches of London, 1616-1679 (Cambridge, 1977), Stephen Brachlow, The Communion of Saints: Radical Puritan and Separatist Ecclesiology, 1570-1625 (Oxford, 1988). Victoria Gregory helpfully identifies Jacob’s early emphasis on particular congregations as opposed to the national Church of England in his debate with the separatist Francis Johnson in the 1590s. ‘Congregational puritanism and the radical puritan community in England c. 1585-1625’ Ph.D. diss., University of Cambridge, 2003.
 TCD MS, 180.4, f. 359v. King James regarded Jacob’s polity as a ‘new religion’ which ‘is not so olde as some of youre selfis.’ Henry Jacob, A Supplication for toleration addressed to King James I, ed. S.R. Maitland (London, 1859) pp. 33, 46. The conformist George Downame likewise noted the distinction, drawing a line between ‘elder’ and ‘newer’ disciplinarians, George Downame, Tvvo Sermons the One Commending the Ministerie in Generall: the Other Defending the Office of Bishops in Particular (London, 1608), 5-7.
 The classic study of ‘non-separating’ puritanism remains Miller, Orthodoxy in Massachusetts. An excellent recent study of Jacob’s polity is Gregory’s ‘Congregational puritanism’. For Jacob’s ecclesiastical thought see also Stephen Brachlow, The communion of saints: radical puritan and separatist ecclesiology, 1570-1625 (Oxford, 1988).
 Miller, Orthodoxy in Massachusetts.
 In his Christian and modest offer, Jacob cited his own Reasons along with Bradshaw’s ‘The Treatise of Divine worship, The 12 Arguments, The English Puritnaism’ and again referred to Bradshaw’s ‘protestation of the kings Supremacy’ and ‘The English puritanisme’ in his defense. His examiners further mentioned his citation of ‘the 12. Argumentes’ which ‘have not bine seene by some of us unto this time.’ Christian and modest offer (William Jones’ secret press, 1606), A3v, TCD MS 140, f. 157v, TCD MS 180.4, f. 367r.
 For the currency of the neo-Roman concept of liberty among secular writers in early Stuart England and its potency in the mid-seventeenth century, see Quentin Skinner, ‘Classical Liberty, Renaissance Translation and the English Civil War,’ in Visions of Politics, 2: 309–12, and Liberty before Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
 The tendency to explain the origins of radical claims to liberty through either secular or religious sources stretches back to contemporary accounts from the mid-seventeenth century. It is widely acknowledged as characteristic of nineteenth century ‘Whig’ historiography concerned with tracing the origins of the modern liberal tradition through parliamentary sovereignty. A key essay which continues to reinforce single source explanations is David Wootton’s chapter on ‘From rebellion to revolution: the crisis of the winter of 1642/3 and the origins of civil war radicalism’ English Historical Review 55 (1990): 654-669.
Henry Jacob’s ‘Modified’ Subscription
MS 113, f. 243 ‘Misc. Theological Papers’
Reproduced with permission from Lambeth Palace Library
(5) Principal events in Jacob’s Life
1562/3 Born in Cheriton, Kent, son of John Jacob, yeoman.
1579 Commoner (or butteler) at St Mary Hall, Oxford
1583 December: BA Oxford.
1586 July: MA Oxford and precentor of choir at Corpus Christi College, Oxford
See full timeline
Principal events in Jacob’s Life
1562/3 Born in Cheriton, Kent, son of John Jacob, yeoman.
1579 Commoner (or butteler) at St Mary Hall, Oxford
1583 December: BA Oxford.
1586 July: MA Oxford and precentor of choir at Corpus Christi College, Oxford
1598 Publishes Treatise of the Sufferings and Victory of Christ (Middelburg)
1599 Publishes A Defence of the Churches and Ministery of Englande (Middelburg)
1603 June: helps draft Millenary Petition
September: involved in organizing Sussex Petition
1604 January: appears at Hampton Court Conference
July: Reasons Taken Out of Gods Word published (Middelburg), followed by
1605 April: modified subscription and release from prison
1606 A Christian and Modest Offer published (William Jones’ secret press)
1609 A Supplication for Toleration published (Middelburg)
1610 Plaine and Cleere Exposition of the Second Commandment published (Leiden)
Dec: The Divine Beginnings and Institution of Christs Church published (Leiden)
Most likely date of TCD MS 180.4, The presbyterians’ ‘First examination’
1612 A Declaration & Plainer Opening published (Middelburg)
1613 An Attestation of Many Learned, Godly and Famous Divines published
1616 A Collection of Sundry Matters published (Amsterdam)
A Confession and Protestation of the Faith published (Amsterdam)
1620/1 Most likely date of TCD MS 140.3, Jacob’s ‘Defence’
Most likely date of TCD MS 141.1, The presbyterians’ ‘Second Examination’
challenging Jacob’s ‘Defence’
1622/3 Most likely date of Jacob’s migration to Virginia
1624 April: supposed date of death in Virginia
(6) Why was Henry Jacob’s Independence a spiritual (as well as social) scandal?
Excerpt from the Introduction to the Project’s Critical Edition, Pre-Revolutionary Puritanism in Early Stuart England
The freedom of association
The most radical implications of Jacob’s independence appear in the fourth part of his defence. Here he extended his understanding of independence to the freedom of association, or individual choice in church membership, and the right to gather together a new ecclesiastical society. Jacob reasoned that such liberty followed from the freedom of consent in the original formation of civil society: ‘by such a ffree mutual consent also all Civill perfect Corporations did first beginne’.
See the full extract
Excerpt from the Introduction to the Project’s Critical Edition, Pre-Revolutionary Puritanism in Early Stuart England, with permission from Oxford University Press.
The freedom of association
The most radical implications of Jacob’s independence appear in the fourth part of his defence. Here he extended his understanding of independence to the freedom of association, or individual choice in church membership, and the right to gather together a new ecclesiastical society. Jacob reasoned that such liberty followed from the freedom of consent in the original formation of civil society: ‘by such a ffree mutual consent also all Civill perfect Corporations did first beginne’. This argument for freedom of choice and association became even more explicit as he justified the setting up of his Southwark congregation to his presbyterian examiners. Defending himself and his followers against the charge of schism, he argued that under the gospel ‘it is noe sinn…to leave a true Church: & to goe to another, viz. to leave the Corrupter & goe to a better’. That Jacob believed the individual to hold the option of joining one congregation over another was itself a radical departure from contemporary assumptions. He had argued earlier that such freedom of choice applied to every individual believer: ‘Seing under the Gospell there are more free societies of Christians, mo[re] visible Churches politike, then one in a Country, and some more sincere then some’.
Yet he further explained to the presbyterians that freedom of choice was not simply made possible as a consequence when the option to choose became available. Again, he identified its existence as a right of the individual believer: ‘[N]ow under the gospel there is choyse, which under the law was not and to say the contrarie namely that now we have not choice (so we doe is in & with the best order we can) is a groce error in them or in any other devines’. Thus, to remove the freedom of choice was ‘to hould mens soules in spirituall snares & boundage’. Not only did individual believers have the right to choose which society with which to commune, but they also collectively had the right to establish a spiritual body politic. ‘To gather & begin churches under the gospel is no extrordinari worke: nor peculer to the Apostles, seeing now still it may bee donn somewhere’. Since power and authority in election stood in the consent of the congregation, it was conceivable for people to gather and create a church. Even without a minister, a body of believers could gather together and elect a pastor and become a church proper.
Here Jacob cited the departure of Christian Jews from the Jewish Church in Apostolic times followed by their ‘join[ing] themselves constant members in private Christian assemblies’. The Church of Antioch was another example of a church which ‘began without any apostle or minister’. Finally, the magisterial reformers departed from true assemblies under the pope. In this last example Jacob was extending to the churches in England the well-rehearsed argument that assemblies under the pope were true churches ‘secundum quid’ in some sense. He followed this by a lengthy defence of particular churches under the Pope as true churches. Jacob reasoned that true believers ordinarily meeting for worship remained within these popish assemblies. Moreover, the doctrine of salvation only and wholly by Christ continued to be publicly taught. Though governed ‘partly by hirelings, partly by wolves,’ such assemblies nonetheless represented a true flock of Christ. Finally, Jacob reasoned that such assemblies must be true in some degree if baptism administered in such churches remained valid.
Jacob’s critics not only insisted that this concept of freedom was foreign to scripture, but also inherently flawed. Though Jacob would ‘pretend that [he is] in lyberty and wee are in bondage’, they argued it is ‘no bondage to be joined together in a union and league’. Explicitly rejecting his negative definition of freedom as the absence of arbitrary interference, they argued that neither is it to be ‘esteemed to bee a freedom to be subject to none’. To be scattered in the wilderness was to be in a state of no government, not free government. For ‘Hagar wandered in the desert where she was free indeed from Sarah’s government. But would have perished for their sin in that solitary, barren and thirsty wilderness’. Furthermore, the rejection of conciliar authority and accountability beyond the particular church would inevitably lead to greater tyranny than popery. For every minister would become ‘more then a pope in his own parish,’ since even popes ‘were declared to bee subject to generall councills’ whereas Jacob ‘reacon[ed] it an intollarable bondage to bee subject to any higher <ecclesiasticall authoritie.>’
It was thus over the course of Jacob’s extended debate with his presbyterian critics that he came to his most radical conclusions about the freedom of independence. For here he began to elevate such freedom as a criterion for determining the legitimacy of ecclesiastical society. Rather than simply appealing to classical precedent or insisting on the right to exercise unconstrained choice, Jacob was making a novel case for independent freedom as divinely instituted. Independence was a moral obligation that must be fulfilled by the command of Christ, not simply a freedom to be exercised at individual will. In the fourth part of his defence, Jacob concludes by arguing that it was a ‘necessary duty to leave Assemblyes though being true Churches indirectly…& to Join[e] to another of a free and more right Constitution’.
The supreme importance Jacob placed on the principle of independence came under fierce attack. His critics protested against the subordination of weightier matters which potentially set the substance of faith aside. Any departure from the Church of England was unjustified, regardless of its defects, so long as it remained a true church. Even over matters of greater weight, no such examples could be gathered out of scripture of such voluntary separation. Yet Jacob departed upon ‘so frivolous a pretence’:
manie. thinges needed reformation. in the daies of Eli. Samuell. David. Salomon. Jehoshaphat. & Hezechiah; likewise in the newe testament. there were many thinges amisse in the Churches of Christ among the Romanes. Corinthians. Galathians. in the 7 churches of Asia. mentioned in the Revelation. chap. 2.3. yet these being true Churches, neither the prophets nor the Apostles nor yet our Saviour himselfe writing to the Asian churches. perswaded any separation from these Churches. but pressed an orderly reformation of the thinges that were to be amended.
Furthermore, there was a ‘great difference betweene the birth of the churches and government of them being established’. Thus, Jacob’s erection of an entirely new church was ‘schismaticall. seditious. unadvised. scandalous. injurious. & [an] infamous Anarchie’. For the planting of churches, ‘is a matter above the ordinary dignity of a common minister much more of a common professer’. And if ‘it were a presumption for a private person to arrogate to him selfe the execution of an ordinary ministery it must needs bee a greater presumption for such to attempt the planting of churches. They denied that any example or precept in scripture and history could be found of private persons gathering such a church. The Church of Antioch offered no valid precedent, since those who initially preached and evangelized were no ‘mere private persons, but had lawfull calling’. Neither did the departure of Christian Jews to the Apostolic church hold any force. For the nativity of the Christian church was extraordinary and established by Apostolic authority. Those Christians who joined the apostolic church ‘had the greatest and most weighty cause to abandon the doctrine of the Pharises’ which was contrary to the gospel.
Finally, Jacob’s comparison of his departure from the English churches with the reformers from the Church of Rome was ‘a great indignity’ which introduced ‘a whole swarme of absurdytyes’. For the reformers ‘led people into the light’ whereas Jacob led them away and could not ‘preach to them any other gospel than they received’. The administration of the Church of Rome’s baptism may remain valid on the basis of its outward profession of faith, the use of water along with Christ’s words of institution. But this did not necessarily qualify it as a lawful church. For the Church of Rome remained ‘not only an adulterisse but hath continewed in it many ages’. Neither were popish churches true churches for simply harboring ‘2 or 3 scattered persons’ in their midst. Nor did the teaching of some truth qualify an assembly to be a true church ‘For the Jewes hould many truths out of the bookes of the ould testament, and the <Mahometans> having patched their Alcoran out of the same with other additions of their owne cannot but have many truth amongst them also’. Just as Jacob had offered an alternative reading of the church throughout history through his understanding of free consent, they argued that Jacob turned the history of the Church of England on its head. For in order to justify his independence, he found himself in the awkward position of defending the Church of Rome as a true church in order to deny the validity of the Church of England. Jacob, according to his examiners, was not only guilty of sinful schism, but also of sedition.
 Champlain Burrage, Early English Dissenters (Cambridge, 1912), Vol. II, p. 157.
 TCD MS 141, p. 439.
 Jacob, A confession and protestation, B10.
 TCD MS 141, p. 439.
 TCD MS 140, f. 169v, TCD MS 141, p. 440.
 For English Protestant arguments for the Church of Rome as a true church ‘secundum quid’, see Anthony Milton, Catholic and Reformed: Roman and Protestant churches in English Protestant thought, 1600-40 (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 134-141.
 TCD MS 141, p. 181.
 TCD MS 140, f. 176r.
 TCD MS 180, f. 366v.
 TCD MS 180, f. 363r.
 TCD MS 141, pp. 136-37.
 TCD MS 141, p. 132.
 TCD MS 141, p. 138. Cf. Travers’s earlier argument with Richard Hooker against the Church of Rome in R. Bauckham, ‘Hooker, Travers and the Church of Rome in the 1580s’, JEH 29 (1978), pp. 44-47, and Anthony Milton, Catholic and Reformed, pp. 322-340.
 TCD MS 141, p. 156. For William Perkins’ argument ‘that the Roman Church had indeed received the final bill of divorce from Christ,’ see William Perkins, Reformed Catholike, p. 295, cited in Milton, Catholic and Reformed, p. 133.
 TCD MS 141, p. 156.
 TCD MS 140, f. 174.
(7) What role did Independents play in broadening religious toleration? Was there a difference between English/New England Congregationalists and religious ‘Independents’?
By the mid-seventeenth century, radical Protestant tolerationists in Britain and the British Atlantic began to conceive of religious liberty as a civil liberty applicable to all subjects, in contrast to contemporary puritans who limited toleration to orthodox Protestants. This essay seeks to explain why certain puritans, however small in number, came to adopt radical views on toleration in contrast to the religious mainstream in the Anglophone world. Drawing upon a longer history of ecclesiastical independence than considered in the existing scholarship on religious toleration, it identifies a hitherto unexplored relationship between ecclesiastical independence in England and the Atlantic World.
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Religious Toleration and Ecclesiastical Independence in Revolutionary Britain, Bermuda and the Bahamas*
Excerpt below reprinted with permission from Cambridge University Press from Church History 84:4 (December 2015): 1-18.
The development of religious toleration in the west has long featured in the early modern narrative. Nineteenth century Whig historians previously traced a linear march from the religious belligerence of the sixteenth century towards the establishment of religious toleration in the late seventeenth century.[i] A special role was reserved for English puritans in this account as the champions of freedom. Under Charles I’s aggressive enforcement of religious conformity during the 1620s, puritans migrated to New England by the thousands to flee from persecution in search for religious liberty. Following the outbreak of the English Civil Wars, the puritans likewise emerged as vocal advocates for liberty of conscience and the leading opposition to royalism and the established church.[ii]
But in recent years historians have challenged this teleological narrative of religious toleration. [iii] For instance, they have drawn greater attention to continuities and to the cyclical nature of persecution and toleration. Toleration was more widespread in medieval society than previously acknowledged.[iv] Moreover, toleration in seventeenth century England was limited in scope and remained underpinned by the same assumptions that drove magisterial coercion of religious uniformity, which if necessary, resorted to violence and persecution.[v] On closer inspection, puritans appear to have been more interested in imposing a rigid religious uniformity for the godly than establishing a pluralistic society. Historians have subjected leading congregationalists in particular to rigorous revision. Whereas previous accounts tended to identify independent congregationalism with an agenda for broad religious toleration,[vi] congregational divines in the Westminster Assembly actually pursued a limited provision for their own ‘tender consciences’. Rather than promoting general religious toleration, their aim was to unite with mainstream orthodoxy puritans and distance themselves from sectarians.[vii] As the architects of the Cromwellian Church in the 1650s, these congregationalists later devised a settlement under the Protectorate with limited toleration, excluding ‘Popery [and] Prelacy’ from public worship and proselytization. New England congregationalists likewise became more exercised over enforcing religious uniformity than promoting liberty of conscience in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. [viii] Puritan liberty was therefore the default position of the persecuted, which position soon reversed when the godly gained ascendency. As the standard ‘loser’s creed,’ it served as a means to an end, born out of a ‘strategy to ensure survival and to facilitate restoration to exclusive rule.’[ix]
However, as John Coffey has pointed out, there nevertheless remained a vocal minority among the puritan ranks and separatist sects who argued vigorously for a wide religious toleration that extended beyond the godly.[x] Indeed, Baptists have long stood out among early modern advocates for a wide religious toleration.[xi] Although sectarians and Baptists were previously excluded from mainstream puritanism, more recent work on early Stuart dissent includes such sectaries on the grounds that the line between conservative and radical puritanism was often slippery and hard to fix.[xii] In light of renewed focus on puritan radicalism in post-revisionist literature, a question that demands further explanation is why certain puritans, however small in number, came to adopt radical views on toleration. What prompted tolerationists to conceive of religious liberty as a civil liberty applicable to all subjects, in contrast to their more conservative contemporaries who limited toleration to the godly?[xiii] Did such views simply develop out of the circumstance of persecution or practical coexistence with competing religious traditions? Were constitutional concerns ultimately of greater weight than religious arguments for liberty?[xiv]
The importance of religious dissent in the development of broad toleration has received renewed emphasis. Blair Worden, for instance, noted that such views were adopted by those who departed from mainstream Calvinist doctrine.[xv] This essay builds on these studies, but argues that independent ecclesiology, rather than soteriology or other doctrinal heterodoxy, could play a direct role in the development of religious toleration. Space does not permit an exploration of the relative weight that constitutional, social and other theological factors played.[xvi] Nor does the following discuss the pragmatism and situation specific nature of the marginalized which led to the radicalization of their views. Instead, this essay argues that notwithstanding these other factors, the ecclesiastical thought of independence held important implications for the reconceptualization of religious toleration. It seeks to do so by widening the scope of debate and extending it to the British Atlantic. Although New England remained the primary model for puritan colonization, one of the boldest attempts to experiment with broad religious toleration in the mid-seventeenth century took place in the British Atlantic on the Bermuda plantation and the Bahamas, which this essay will use as a case study.
[i] W.K. Jordan, Development of Religious Toleration (London: Allen & Unwin, 1940).
[ii] S.R. Gardiner, The First Two Stuarts and the Puritan Revolution (London: Longman, 1876), A.S.P. Woodhouse, (ed.) Puritanism and Liberty (London: J.M. Dent and sons, 1938), William Haller, Liberty and Reformation in the Puritan Revolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955).
[iii] In addition to challenging the inevitable rise of modern religious toleration, recent histories have focused on the social dynamics of religious co-existence in multi-confessional states, and the cultural interactions between people of diverse religious traditions within an official religious establishment such as the Church of England. For example, see Benjamin Kaplan, Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007), and Chris Beneke and Christopher S. Grenda, The First Prejudice: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), esp. chs. 3-6.
[iv] Cary J. Nederman and J. C. Laursen, Difference and Dissent: Theories of Toleration in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996); J. C. Laursen and Cary J. Nederman, Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration Before the Enlightenment (Philadelphia: Universityof Pennsylvania Press, 1998).
[v] For Walsham, Lake and Shagan, the language of toleration and persecution must be understood as being in a dialectical relationship which could be adapted for political, polemical and strategic purposes. Alexandra Walsham, Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England, 1500-1700, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006), Peter Lake, ‘Anti-Popery: The Structure of a Prejudice’ in Conflict in Early Stuart England, ed. Richard Cust and Ann Hughes (Harlow: Longman, 1989), and Ethan Shagan, The Rule of Moderation: Violence, Religion and the Politics of Restraint in Early Modern England (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 2011).
[vi] Murray Tolmie, Triumph of the Saints: The Separatist Churches of London, 1616-1649 (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1977).
[vii] Avihua Zakai, ‘Religious Toleration and Its Enemies: The Independent Divines and the Issue of Toleration During the English Civil War’ Albion 21 (1989): 12. See also J.C. Davis, ‘Religion and the struggle for freedom in the English Revolution’, Historical Journal, 35 (1992), and Blair Worden, ‘Toleration and the Cromwellian Protectorate’, in Persecution and Toleration, ed. W.J. Sheils, SCH 21 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984).
[viii] Jeffrey Collins, ‘The Church Settlement of Oliver Cromwell’ History 87 (2002). Although the Instrument of Government protected those ‘differing in judgment form the doctrine, worship or discipline publicly held forth’, it provided that ‘this liberty be not extended to Popery or Prelacy.’ Haller, The Puritan Revolution, 261. Avihu Zakai, ‘Orthodoxy in England and New England: Puritans and the Issue of Religious Toleration, 1640-1650’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 135 (1991): 401-41.
[ix] Andrew Pettegree, ‘The Politics of toleration in the Free Netherlands, 1572-1620’, in Tolerance and Intolerance in the European Reformation, ed. Ole Peter Grell and Bob Scribner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 198. See also Walsham, Charitable Hatred, 3, 236.
[x] John Coffey, ‘Puritanism and Liberty’ and Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558-1689 (Harlow: Longman, 2000).
[xi] Coffey, ‘Puritanism and Liberty’, William G. McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 1630-1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State, 2 Vols (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), B.R. White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century (London: Baptist Historical Society, 1983).
[xii] Lake, Peter, Boxmaker’s Revenge: ‘Orthodoxy’, ‘Heterodoxy’ and the Politics of the Parish in Early Stuart London, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), Como, David, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2004).
[xiii] See Blair Worden’s discussion of how some congregationalists combined religious and civil liberty in the 1650s, which became prominent in Cromwell’s thought later in the Protectorate. Worden, ‘Oliver Cromwell and the Cause of Civil and Religious Liberty’ England’s Wars of Religion, Revisited, ed. Charles Prior and Glenn Burgess (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).
[xiv] This question has received renewed focus in Rachel Foxley’s work which has argued that contrary to previous readings of Oliver Cromwell’s thought, constitutional rather than religious principles played a greater role in his justification for limited toleration. Rachel Foxley, ‘Oliver Cromwell on Religion and Resistance’ in England’s Wars of Religion, Revisited, 209-230.
[xv] Davis, ‘Religion and the struggle for freedom’, Worden, ‘Civil and Religious Liberty’. 239. Worden here follows Hugh Trevor-Roper’s view that Calvinism was anti-Enlightenment, whereas Arminianism was Erasmian, progressive and linked to toleration and liberty.