The Decline of Faith in England…PostPuritanism

Postpuritanism and the Decline of English Christianity

Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was Britain’s foremost Puritan political leader and continues to be a controversial figure. Cromwell was primarily a soldier and politician.

He was certainly not without faults but was seeking to lead Britain into a period of moral advance and of Christian faith.

Cromwell‘s contribution to the evolution of democracy is significant.  He sought to curtail the whim or greed of the monarch, for the ultimate good of the people.  Having finally broken the absolute authority of the English Monarchy he was himself offered the crown by the English Parliament, which he refused.

Nevertheless, after his death with the Restoration of the Monarchy and the Act Of Uniformity in 1662 pre-Puritan and pre-Reformation influences returned. Cromwell’s body was dug up and posthumously executed! But the desire and the possibility of democracy had been established in puritan hearts – and was, indeed carried to the ‘New World’ by the Pilgrims.

Donald Drew, in a lecture entitled ‘England before and after John Wesley’ wrote the following:
‘Following the death of Cromwell and later that of his son Richard, Charles Stuart, the son of Charles I, returned from exile to become Charles II.

From the beginning of 1661, throughout his reign, punitive and vicious anti-puritan legislation reached the Statute Book…

These stabbed at the heart of Puritan legislation, religion, education and culture. Nearly one-fifth of all British clergy – those who opposed the Act of Uniformity – were expelled from the Church of England.

In their stead, cavalier place-seekers were installed. The overall result was the near extinction of biblical thinking and conduct amongst most clergy.

The strangulation of Puritanism and the suffocation by Deism had tragic consequences that expressed themselves during the first half of the eighteenth century.

A succession of archbishops and bishops lived luxuriously, neglected their duties, unashamedly solicited bishoprics and deaneries for themselves and their families. Parish clergy followed suit.’ (Quoted in Missionary Conspiracy, Letters to a Postmodern Hindu by Vishal Mangalwadi, Good Books, U.P. India p.260f)

It was at this time that many fled to the Netherlands and a brave company of believers set out for the ‘New World’ to form a country based on religious freedom, later to become the United States of America.

Those who didn’t flee could do little else than pray fervently for a mighty outpouring of the Spirit; indeed, for a Great Awakening to come.

And that’s when the story really picks up!

Read the next post, ‘The 18th Century Awakening in Europe and America’

For more on Cromwell visit http://www.olivercromwell.org

© 2009 Lex Loizides

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One thought on “The Decline of Faith in England…PostPuritanism

  1. Ian April 12, 2013 / 5:50 am

    Thanks for the insightful post! It’s very interesting to read these historical events as it seems to highlight a common theme throughout church history. I sometimes think that due to our innate sinfulness, all Christians tend to go to extremes unnecessarily that were meant to be much more moderate. The dispute between Protestants and Catholics is a clear example of this, as shown in the above post. Catholics going beyond just dividing, but persecuting other Christians due to this divide. Protestants have been seen in history doing the same back to Catholics, and to other protestant sects as well! Its eye opening, and also rather sad because it distracts from the main focus of our religion: to glorify and worship God. The result is something like the priests who forget their duties, and the devastation of many people due to manmade problems.

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