The Beginnings of Quakerism

By William C. Braithwaite | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE PURITAN REVOLUTION

No greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England during the years which parted the middle of the reign of Elizabeth from the meeting of the Long Parliament. England became the people of a book, and that book was the Bible Elizabeth might silence or tune the pulpits; but it was impossible for her to silence or tune the great preachers of justice and mercy and truth who spoke from the book which she had again opened for her people. . . . The whole temper of the nation felt the change. A new conception of life and of man superseded the old. A new moral and religious impulse spread through every class. . . . The whole nation became in fact a Church. The great problems of life and death, whose questionings found no answer in the higher minds of Shakspere's day, pressed for an answer not only from noble and scholar but from farmer and shopkeeper in the age that followed him. -- JOHN RICHARD GREEN, Short History, of the English People, chap. viii.

THE Puritan Revolution, which covered the period from the Petition of Right in 1628 to the Restoration in 1660, was concerned on the one hand with the dominance of Parliament, and on the other with the dominance of the great type of religion which we call Puritanism. It was successful in assuring the supremacy of Parliament, to which the restored monarchy and episcopacy of the later Stuarts were dependent in a way which would have been abhorrent to Charles I. or to Laud. With respect to Puritanism, the measure of success was less complete, and it was not until the struggle for the special domination of Calvinism had failed that after a generation of bitter persecution of Nonconformists under Charles II. the truer ideal of religious toleration for all forms of faith was. substantially achieved in 1689.

The present book is an attempt to rewrite, from original sources, the early history of the important spiritual

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