'The Pilgrim Chronicles' (Excerpt)
The Faith and Focus of the Puritans
27 Nov 2014
Through the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity, Queen Elizabeth’s Settlement solidly established the Church of England as the nation’s official government denomination. It was a compromise of sorts: the Church of England would retain its Protestant doctrine, but it would also keep familiar, Catholic-style worship ceremonies and traditions. The publication of English language Bibles, once outlawed in England, now proliferated, and commoners and gentry alike eagerly purchased personal copies. Learning and sharing Scripture became the rage in England. “Everywhere might be heard the eager conversation of minds enlightened by the truth, speaking those wonderful words which the Most High had spoken unto men,” reported nineteenth-century church historian Edward B. Underhill. “The street, the tavern, the ale-house, the church and every company were the scenes of earnest dispute or holy zeal [as] scripture was compared with scripture and its sense closely scrutinized.” By the early 1600s, the common people of England were awash in a flood of faith. “The whole moral effect . . . was simply amazing,” observed renowned English historian John Richard Green. “The whole nation became a church.”While Queen Elizabeth’s compromise solidified Protestant doctrine in the Church of England, it also placed requirements and restrictions on Protestants as well as Catholics. The English people were required to abide by the standards and policies of the Church of England as stated in the 1559 Book of Common Prayer.
Pastors and preachers were forbidden to publicly “preach, declare or speake any thing” that was not sanctioned by the Anglican Church. Disobedient pastors could be discharged from their salaried positions in the Church and even imprisoned for life. The punishment for any minister who deviated from Church policy was outlined in the Book of Common Prayer: