Monday, 23 January 2012

Submitted to Hull Calendar

The roughly bimonthly calendar wants some historical content and I was given the task to tell of its origins.


Although the Elizabethan Church intended to retain and contain its Puritans, the yo-yo of liberty under Cromwell and then the Restoration in 1660 meant that many Puritans could not accept reintegration via assent to the Book of Common Prayer in 1662.

What is Puritan religion? It is a belief in God already knowing your salvation or damnation. They were trinitarians. Many a Puritan looked for and demonstrated signs of personal salvation, and this was through godly living. You might be favoured with a large income, but you didn't consume. Many were merchants, and made good early capitalists by preferring to invest than consume, and they also built charities. But they also rejected earthly displays of being religious in favour of a severe simplicty in worship.

The Presbyterian Puritans believed in the broad parish Church, not in the supremacy of the local congregation like the Independents, and they would have preferred to stay in the Church of England.

Then the Declaration of Indulgence of 1672 (for only a year) allowed licensed congregations to meet legally. Hull's libertarian governor (the Duke of Monmouth) made the city a haven for outcasts.

The Puritan Samuel Charles, ordained in 1655 and ejected at Mickleover in 1662, came to Hull and began his ministry when two meeting houses (Blackfriargate, a chapel, and Richard Barnes' house where Joseph Wilson preached) merged. They formed one congregation at Bowl Alley Lane in Christopher Fanthrope's house in 1680.

The repressive Lord Plymouth replaced the the Duke of Monmouth in 1682. This soon led to much fear. When in 1685 the Duke of Monmouth was discovered and executed, many non-conformists, including Leonard Chamberlain, were put under house arrest and feared for their lives.

However, another Declaration of Indulgence was issued in 1687 to Roman Catholics and non-conformists. Bowl Alley Lane was reopened and the Reverend Charles returned. Then William of Orange replaced James II and Protestant liberties were granted in the 1689 Act of Toleration.

The congregation left Christopher Fanthrope's house for a new chapel built by 1693. The Trust Deed of 1689 under his name gives no doctrines to be preached: only the worship of God and the administration of the Sacrament. They relied on their Bibles. Chapels built in this period copied their style from the Halls of the London Merchants' Companies. They had pan-tile roofs, strong benches and alleys between them. Self-government by trustees reflected the Gilds own governing system too. Samuel Charles died and the next minister, Reverend John Billingsley, appointed 1694, was the son of an ejected minister.

The Octagonal chapel in Bowlalley Lane Chapel was not built until 1803, and three years later the first declared Unitarian minister, William Severn, friend of John Wesley and ex-Wesleyan, took office. Unitarianism was still, as such, illegal until 1813.

Puritan faith changed because it was difficult for wealthy trust leaders to retain a severe and disciplined faith, and secondly they allowed their ministers to be their own preachers of religion. Ministers had to train in the dissenters' academies that were seedbeds for different ideas of biblical interpretation, and English Presbyterian chapels did not demand assent to credal declarations of membership. You rented your pew and the minister preached. Thus they evolved and later there was a new distinct movement that argued that the doctrine of the Trinity was not in the Bible; thus an identified Unitarianism inhabited Presbyterian chapels.

1 comment:

As I see it... said...

This was very interesting. Thank you.