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This article is taken from PN Review 30, Volume 9 Number 4, March - April 1983.

Christian Sobriety C.H. Sisson

THE near extinction of the Church of England, between the parliamentary ordinance for taking away the Book of Common Prayer in 1645 and the Restoration of 1660, had several important consequences. It profoundly affected the character of the settlement of 1662, and made for the touch of intolerance which troubled church and state for long enough after that date. There are two sides to this. There are the theological considerations, which make it inevitable that catholicity in theory should result in a certain exclusiveness in practice, and there are the considerations of civil peace, which must result in a pressure for a comprehensiveness possible only with a minimal dogmatic. To speak of the difficulties encountered by Roman and domestic nonconformists as a 'touch of intolerance' only may seem an outrage, but if one thinks of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, or the position of Protestants in Spain or Italy, it was no more. England in the late seventeenth century, and in the eighteenth century, was relatively 'the land of the free', in ecclesiastical as in other matters, as was recognised by other visitors besides Voltaire.

Even before the execution of Laud, in 1645, there was a solid opinion in favour of comprehension and tolerance and with an eye on civil peace. Yet in 1642, when The Holy State was first published, Thomas Fuller was still too near the administrative unity of the mediaeval church, and its successor the national church, to think of 'voluntary private ...


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