The Godly, Godlier, and Godliest in Elizabethan England
John Craig's essay in this volume reports from the parishes that custom, law and zeal brought most Elizabethans to church. Hence, the laity learned about the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, despite preachers' complaints that parishioners slept through sermons. But not all late Tudor Christians were satisfied with what they learned. Catholics who came to avoid the fines assessed on absentees were no doubt diffident. Historians refer to them now as 'church papists' to distinguish them from Catholics who stayed away. And along with the drowsy and dutifully yet grudgingly present, there were others - in the pulpits as well as the pews - who were discontented with the religious settlement. They argued that more ought to be done to bring the English church - its liturgy and discipline - into line with churches on the Continent that they considered to be more competently and completely reformed. Percival Wiburn, who had visited several of those churches in the 1560s, shortly after having been suspended form his ministry for refusing to wear prescribed vestments, was among this last set of malcontents for a spell. And when the government pressed bishops in 1576 to suppress the public preaching called prophesyings, which he outspokenly advocated in Northamptonshire, Wiburn was further aggrieved. Nonetheless, in 1581, he professed that he was happy he lived and preached in a 'gospelling state'.
Copyright © 2011 Taylor & Francis. This article first appeared in The Elizabethan World, 238 - 253.
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Kaufman, Peter Iver. "The Godly, Godlier, and Godliest in Elizabethan England." In The Elizabethan World. London: Routledge, 2011. 238 - 253.