LET US consider the religious side of London in the first half of the seventeenth century. It was not so much the abolition of the Mass and all that went with it, not so much the Smithfield fires and all that they meant, that changed the mind of London, but the acquisition of the Bible and the continual delight which the people found in reading it, in hearing it read, in hearing it expounded, and in making out for themselves the meaning of passages and the foundations of doctrine. The Bible gave them histories more entrancing than any that had ever been presented to them. They read of Abraham and of Jacob, of Joshua, of the Strong Man, of the rash King's vow, of Saul and David, of Hezekiah, of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. They read the words of the Prophets and applied them to the events and the kings and statesmen of their own time; if they longed to praise their God, the Psalms of David gave them words; if they were sad they found consolation in those poems; for the conduct of life there was the Book of Proverbs; for example, under every possible circumstance was a gallery of portraits, the like of which could nowhere else be found. In the Gospel they read of a Christ whose image rose always higher than they could reach; and in the Epistles they gathered materials for the doctrines of a hundred sects. With this book in their hands, containing history, poetry, morals, example, admonition, the way of eternal life and, scattered about, the materials for the Creed or Articles of Faith, without which it seemed impossible to live, the old authority was gone, never to return so long as that book remained in the hands and sank into the minds of the people.
For forty years and more before the Stuarts came, the book had been read and read again and again by every one; children had read it at school; they had been catechised in it; they had been taught that it contained in itself the whole of religion, so that what had been added since was superfluous or superstitious.
The attitude of the people towards Catholicism at the beginning of the seventeenth century was that of hatred far beyond the hatred of fifty years before, because it was intensified by the terror of the Papacy, which seemed recovering its old ground