(The link to the Burk Parson talk at Ligonier is in the sidebar under Church History)
The Puritans Desire to Reform the Church of England
The Puritans wished to see installed in every parish an earnest and spiritually minded pastor able to preach. They demanded the abolition of the clerical dress then in vogue; of kneeling at the Lord’s Supper; of the ring ceremony at weddings; and of the use of the sign of the cross at baptism.
In the clerical dress then in use they saw the claim of the clergy to powers which reminded them of the power of Catholic priests. In kneeling at the Lord’s Supper they saw adoration of the physical presence of Christ as taught in the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.
Before long they went even further in their demands for the purification of the Church. They wished to see in each parish, elders chosen to exercise discipline. They wished to have the ministers chosen by the people, and the office of bishop abolished. All ministers, they believed, should be on an equal footing. This amounted to a demand for the presbyterian form of church government in place of the Episcopalian.
Although the Puritans objected strongly to the episcopal form of church government and to many of the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, they were strongly opposed to separation from that Church. They wished to stay in that Church and to reform it from within, molding it after the pattern of Calvin’s church in Geneva.
The Separatists or Congregationalists Leave the Church of England
The Separatists were also Puritans, but they were radical. They saw that the process of reforming the Episcopal Church of England from within would at best be long and tedious, if not entirely hopeless. They therefore separated themselves from the Church of England and became known as Separatists or Dissenters. In the matter of church government they believed not only that each local church or congregation is a complete church in itself; but also that no church should have anything to say about any other church. Because they believed that all local churches should be independent of each other, they were called Congregationalists or Independents. All Puritans, both those who remained in the Church of England and those who separated from it, were Calvinists in doctrine.
A New English Bible Is Obtained through Puritan Effort
In 1603 James I succeeded Elizabeth upon the throne of England. At once the Puritans addressed to the new king a petition in which they set forth some very moderate requests. A conference between bishops and Puritans was held in the presence of the king. No changes in the affairs of the Church desired by the Puritans were granted. But one thing of very great importance was granted — a new translation of the Bible. The result was the King James Bible, published in 1611. This Bible is the translation which has until recent times been in universal use among all English-speaking people. Continue reading “Church History Lesson 5”