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presbyterians


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Were supporters of Calvinism, preaching the doctrine of the elect and advocating church government by a hierarchy of courts. Ultimate authority was the Bible and services gave great prominence to preaching. The leading exponent of presbyterianism in the Elizabethan church was Thomas Cartwright, responsible for the millenary petition to James I in 1603, which objected to surplices, bowing at the name of Jesus, and other ceremonies. They were in strong opposition to Archbishop Laud, and after his imprisonment dominated the Westminster Assembly called by Parliament in 1643 to reform the church. Bishops were abolished, statues and pictures removed, ceremonies cleansed. In Scotland, presbyterianism, brought by John Knox from Geneva in 1559, made rapid progress and was the core of the solemn league and covenant, adopted in 1643.

After the Restoration, the fortunes of English and Scottish presbyterianism diverged. In England, many of the 2,000 ministers forced out by the Act of Uniformity in 1662 were presbyterians. Thereafter, presbyterianism formed a declining dissenting sect, vulnerable to socinian and unitarian arguments in the early 18th cent. and outdistanced by the Methodists in the later 18th cent. After severe persecution in the reigns of Charles II and James II, the Scottish presbyterians emerged triumphant in 1690, when their church was recognized as the established Church of Scotland. Its special position was guaranteed by the Act of Union of 1707.

Subjects: British History.


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