Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution, 1660- 1688

Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution, 1660- 1688

Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution, 1660- 1688

Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution, 1660- 1688

Excerpt

This book is an attempt to interpret an experience. While Oliver Cromwell lived, the Puritans possessed political power; when he died, they rapidly lost it. Seldom has a reversal of fortune been so complete. In the course of a few months a régime which its foes had failed to overthrow disintegrated and collapsed. Militant Puritanism had no answers to the political problems of the English people; a nation drifting toward chaos hailed the house of Stuart as the only alternative to disaster, and King Charles II won by default the throne which he had been unable to regain by force.

The story of that strange abdication of power has often been told. What it meant to those who chiefly suffered from its consequences has generally been neglected. Even the histories of nonconformity (many of them old, most of them now obsolete) have concentrated on events and have taken for granted the kind of life that unfolded within the framework that the history of the period provided. It is obvious, of course, that experience cannot be divorced from the events that shape it, and in the first chapter of this book I have tried to provide a brief outline of the period of persecution. The purpose of the chapter is merely to supply the background necessary for an appreciation of the life of the Puritans in the Restoration era. I believe that the story merits retelling in greater detail, and at a later date I hope to do so. Here, however, I have been concerned with narrative only in so far as it may help the reader to understand the social life of a distinctive group at a particular time. My chief concern has been to describe the life of a people under persecution. They were harried in their homes and in their meeting houses; they were arrested, tried and imprisoned. A few were transported; many died. To meet an ordeal so searching and so severe they could call on certain distinctive resources. They were keenly aware that suffering was as much a test of their spiritual fortitude as it was a trial of their . . .

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