Types: Doctoral thesis
Puritans entered a novel position of power in the early 1640s. Their attempts to ‘combat’ heretics and further reform in the 1640s/50s were impeded by the dismantling of legal and ecclesiastical apparatus previously employed against them. Influential Presbyterians and Independents in Parliament, the Westminster Assembly, and the New Model Army, were also divided over defining orthodoxy, enforced conformity to a national Church and liberty of conscience.\ud \ud Chapter one addresses crucial developments in defining and punishing heresy, in the Early Church, and in England, from the first noted burning of a heretic under Henry IV up until the outbreak of Civil War. Existing fractures within Puritanism intensified as lapsed censorship produced an explosion of new or public heterodox ideas. Chapter two explores disagreements over legitimate means of reform and establishing ‘truth’, by examining the case of anti-Trinitarian Paul Best which initiated a Parliamentary Ordinance to enable execution of obstinate heretics. This legislation generated public controversy, especially in print. Chapter three addresses the significance of preaching, fasting and prayer as spiritual means to oppose heresy, and emphasis on collective national responsibility and repentance. Particular attention is paid to the Humiliation for heresy on 10 March 1647. Chapter four compares the differing political and ecclesiological contexts which produced the Heresy Ordinance and the 1650 Blasphemy Act, especially a shift from Presbyterian to Independent dominance in positions of government. The Rump settlement was predominantly shaped by a magisterial Independent vision of reform. Chapter five addresses Interregnum problems with enforcing the Blasphemy Act and upholding liberty offered in the Instrument of Government. The cases of Socinian John Biddle and Quaker James Nayler reveal fears of unrestricted definitions of heresy, and rigidly defined orthodoxy. Overall across these decades, concerns to avoid establishing precedents which could endanger the godly prevented systematic suppression of heresy and blasphemy.
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-  'Richmond. Quarter sessions by adjournment, at Aug. 4, 1657'. P. 248
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