Laudians, Puritans and the laity in Essex c. 1630-1642
The sources for investigating Laudianism and Puritanism in Essex during the 1630s and early 1640s are especially rich, illuminating the beliefs, attitudes and actions not only of clergymen but also of lay people from all social groups. The thesis begins with a general chapter in which the extent and type of evidence for Laudianism and Puritanism amongst the clergy is discussed. The reliability and accuracy of the sources is assessed and it is demonstrated that about equal numbers of beneficed Puritan and Laudian clergy are known to have been working in Essex at the outbreak of the English Civil War. Chapters two, three and four provided three individual case studies of clergy in order to provide a fuller understanding of Laudianism and Puritanism as they manifested themselves in the parishes of Essex. Chapter two examines the Laudianism and career of Richard Drake. As comparisons of his beliefs with those of other Laudians demonstrate, Drake was extremely representative of the Laudian movement. It is shown that Drake was typical too in confining himself largely to the company of other Laudians, and refusing in any way to accept the religious changes of the Civil War and Interregnum. The life and works of the Puritan clergyman Henry Greenwood, who started his career as a nonconformist but shortly before his death embraced the Prayer Book ceremonies, are central to chapter three. The close analysis of Greenwood's early published sermons vividly illustrate Puritan piety, painful preaching and the uncompromising faith of those who looked only to the Bible for guidance and authority. The examination of the tract written by Greenwood after his 'conversion' to conformity, on the other hand, provides an insight into the mindset of those Puritans who believed in wholehearted loyalty to the Church of England. Chapter four focuses on the life and beliefs of Nehemiah Rogers, who during a career that stretched from 1618 to 1660 changed his opinions on a number of religious and theological issues. Rogers began his career as a Calvinist and a moderate Puritan. Rogers remained a Calvinist until 1640 but by 1631 he had abandoned Puritanism become instead an enthusiastic advocate of conformity. Furthermore, during the 1630s Rogers forged close links with the Laudians William, Lord Maynard and Robert Aylett. During the 1650s Rogers changed his views again, becoming doctrinally Arminian and expressing admiration for the Protectorate. Chapters five and six furnish collective studies respectively of lay attitudes towards Laudian and Puritan ministers in Essex. From the evidence presented therein four main conclusions are drawn. Firstly, that Laudian ministers had supporters among the laity, and were certainly not as unpopular as John Morrill, for example, has suggested, but were opposed by Puritan nonconformists and Prayer Book Protestants. Secondly, that moderate Puritan clergymen also had supporters but that they faced levels of opposition similar to those encountered by Laudian ministers. Thirdly, that Puritan nonconformist ministers had a reasonable amount of identifiable lay support but that, even taking into account the fact that opposition to nonconformity is difficult to trace, were not as popular with the laity as historians such as T. W. Davids, Harold Smith and William Hunt have implied. Finally, it is concluded that substantial numbers of lay people from all social groups had definite, fixed opinions on religious issues and thus that even at a parish level religious controversy did not so much emerge during the Civil War as hold some responsibility for provoking it.