Religion In The 17Th Century: Throughout the 17th century, England experiences the somewhat disturbing issues of all the religious disturbances that she went through during the previous century. Indeed, until the 16th century, the country resided fully to the Catholic Church. At the beginning of the 17th century, the king and parliament collided over the matter of religion. In the 17th century, religion was much more important than it is today. It was a fundamental part of everyday life. Moreover, there was no toleration in matters of religion. By law, everybody was assumed to be part of the Church of England (though in practice there were many Roman Catholics specifically in the Northwest).

After the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 Parliament gave a series of oppressive parts adding to the rules imposed on Catholics during Elizabeth I’s reign. Large numbers of laws targeted at prosecuting membership of the authorized Church were passed. But the House of Commons was progressively made up of extreme Protestants, so there were disagreements about what form that Church should take. For example, in 1642, in consonance with instructions from the Speaker of the House of Commons, returns were made to Parliament of those who made the protestation ‘to maintain the true Reformed Protestant Religion’, which was in fact a veiled attack on the King’s Anglicanism. The conclusively religious battle within Parliament led to the English Civil War.

Religion In The 17Th Century

  • In 1633 William Laud was made Archbishop of Canterbury. He was heavily opposed to the Puritans and King Charles I strengthened him unconditionally. Laud was determined to quench the Puritans and he sent commissioners into almost every parish to make sure the local churches came into line.
  • Furthermore, the Puritans had their own clerics called lecturers. These men were separate of the Church of England. Laud tried to put a stop to these clerics with some success.
  • Most of all Laud reiterated the ceremony and decoration in churches. These parts were heavily denied by the Puritans. They feared it was the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ and Catholicism would finally be restored in England.
  • In 1642 came civil war between king and parliament. The war ended in 1646 and Charles I was executed in 1649.
Religion In The 17Th Century
Religion In The 17Th Century
  • In the 16th century, everybody was pretended to belong to the Church of England. However, in the 17th century, separate churches were formed. The First Baptist Church in England came out meeting in 1612.
  • Later in the 17th century George Fox (1624-1691) began the Quakers. Fox considered that everybody had an inner light and during the 1660s and the 1670s he migrated across England. However, the Quakers were persecuted and Fox himself was often imprisoned.
  • From the end of the 16th century, there were also Congregationalists or Independents. They regarded that every congregation had a right to run its own things without any outside obstruction.

The Reign of Charles II

  • Charles II (1660-1685) was not especially religious but as far as he had any religion he privately leaned towards Roman Catholicism.
  • Meanwhile, parliament was resolved to crack down on the many separate churches that had startle up during the interregnum (the period between 1649 and 1660 when England was without a king) and make Anglicanism the state religion again.
  • They passed a series of acts called the Clarendon code, a series of laws to pick on non-conformists (Protestants who did not belong to the Church of England). The Society Act of 1661 said that all officials in cities must be members of the Church of England.
  • The Act of Consistency 1662 said that all clergy must use the Book of Common Prayer. About 2,000 clergies who objected resigned. Furthermore, the Conventicle Act of 1664 prevented unauthorized religious meetings of more than 5 people unless they were all of the same family.

The Reign of James II

  • Finally, the Five Mile Act of 1665 forbade non-Anglican ministers to come within 5 miles of integrated towns. (Towns with a mayor and corporation).
  • However, these methods did not stop the non-conformist’s reunion or preaching.
  • When Charles II died in 1685 he was pursued by James II, who was fully Catholic. James II rapidly disaffected the people by appointing Catholics to a dominant and important post.
  • In 1687 he went again and issued a Declaration of Privilege ruling out all laws against Catholics and Protestant non-Anglicans.
  • Worse in June 1688 James had a son. The people of England were willing to tolerate James as long as he did not have a Catholic heir. However, his son would surely be brought up a Catholic and would, of course, succeed his father.
  • James II was unseated in 1688. Afterward, the Bill of Rights (1689) said that no Catholic could become king or queen. No emperor could marry a Catholic.
  • Parliament also passed the Toleration Act in 1689. Non-conformists were granted their own places of worship and their own teachers and preachers. However, they could not take government positions or attend university.

Puritans In The 17th Century

The origins of Puritanism are to be located at the beginnings of the English Transformation. The name “Puritans” (they were sometimes called “precisionists”) was a term of distaste appointed to the movement by its enemies.

Religion In The 17Th Century - Puritans
Religion In The 17Th Century – Puritans

Although the epithet first appeared in the 1560s, the movement began in the 1530s, when King Henry VIII abandoned papal authority and converted the Church of Rome into a state Church of England. To Puritans, the Church of England preserved too much of the observance and ritual of Roman Catholicism.

In the early decades of the 17th century, some parties of devotees began to split themselves from the main body of their regional parish church where teaching was unequal and to engage an energetic “lecturer,” typically a young man with a fresh Cambridge degree, who was a cheerful speaker and immerse in reform theology.

Some congregations went further, disclosed themselves split from the national church, and remade themselves into centers of “visible saints,” quitted from the English City of Man into a self-proclaimed City of God. One such faction was a group of separatist believers in the Yorkshire village of Scrooby, who, worrying for their safety, moved to Holland in 1608 and then, in 1620, to the place they called Plymouth in New England.

We know them now as the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock. A decade later, a wider, rich group, mostly from East Anglia, shifted to Massachusetts Bay. There, they set up crowded churches on much the same model as the transplanted church at Plymouth.

FAQ’s About Religion In The 17Th Century

What Was The Main Religion In The 17Th Century?

At The End The 17Th Century, The Anglican Religion Imposes Itself Officially, While Also Tolerating All Its Nonconformist Tendencies, And Definitely Distancing All Catholic Pretenders From The Throne Of England.

What Was The Main Religion In England In The 1700S?

From The Time Of The Elizabethan Settlement On, The Church Of England (The Anglican Church) Attempted, With Varying Degrees Of Success, To Consolidate Its Position Both As A Distinctive Middle Way Between Catholicism And Puritanism And As The National Religion Of England.

Was England Protestant In The 17Th Century?

In The 16Th And 17Th Centuries, Britain Broke Free From The Roman Catholic Church. There Was A Period Of Religious Conflict. Britain Was A Fiercely Protestant Country From The Reformation Until The Early 20Th Century.

What Religion Was Scotland In The 17Th Century?

Scottish Protestantism In The Seventeenth Century Was Highly Focused On The Bible, Which Was Seen As Infallible And The Major Source Of Moral Authority.

Why Was Religion Important In The 17Th Century?

In The 17Th Century, Religion Was Far More Important Than It Is Today. It Was A Vital Part Of Everyday Life. Furthermore, There Was No Toleration In Matters Of Religion. By Law, Everybody Was Supposed To Belong To The Church Of England.