From Puritanism to the Age of Reason: A Study of Changes in Religious Thought within the Church of England, 1660 to 1700

By G. R. Cragg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE CHURCH AND THE CIVIL POWER

WHEN the Restoration brought back old forms of government in Church and State, most Englishmen unquestionably hoped that in the future any serious changes would be superfluous. They believed that the new day demanded an effort to confirm and strengthen the institutions which had so recently been shaken, and they looked forward to a period which might be constructive in aim but would certainly be conservative in temper. But in one sphere after another the expectations of thoughtful men proved false. The changes which took place might not be dramatic or spectacular-- even the political revolution which ended the period was singularly orderly in character--but they were often farreaching in their effects, and in large part the fascination of Restoration history lies in the struggle between the old forms men desired to keep and the new forms they were forced to accept.

In no region did change seem more unlikely than in the realm of political theory. The recent civil turmoil reinforced the general desire for stability; men wanted a theory of sovereignty which would fortify the re-established form of government. But in the seventeenth century political thought was still largely influenced by theology. The arguments which theorists used were related at every point to religious issues; they were enforced by appeals to Scripture; if challenged, it was in the name of a more satisfactory understanding of the Bible.

This general tendency was accentuated by the nature of

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