Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Reformed and Ready
When the Church of England was formed many former Roman priests simply transferred to the Anglican practice. There would have been a dearth of pastors and teachers were it not for the Puritans who had endured much persecution at the hands of the Pope and Bloody Mary and even the Church of England under Elizabeth.
When the dust settled in the late 1500's, Reformed pastors had been ministering to people in the countryside for a few decades already. Reformed churches were established, several presbyteries had even been organized. Queen Elizabeth was in need of ecclesiastical sway with the people in order that a certain unity might be brought to the Church of England. Alexander Mitchell describes the slim pastoral pickings that existed heading in to 17th Century England-
"The men who at first presented themselves for ordination in the restored Church (Church of England) were generally men of mean condition and miserably qualified for sacred offices to which they aspired, and so limited was the supply, even of such men, that many churches were left without ministers for a time, or consigned to the charge of men with doubtful ordination as well as deficient education. The incumbents (Roman priests) of Queen Mary's days, who to so large an extent had nominally submitted to the new regime, were too often either popishly affected or grossly ignorant- dead to the living meaning of the changes which had been made, or unable to preach, at times even to read, in an edifying and impressive manner- clinging, as has been said, to the old forms, which they could repeat by rote, rather than taking the trouble of making themselves familiar with the new." (Mitchell, The Westminster Assembly: It's History and It's Standards)
This dismal ecclesiastical situation allowed for prepared, pious, pastors to exert important influence. Over the first 30 years of the 17th Century the Puritans grew in numbers and influence. It was the Puritans the English Parliament called to provide a statement outlining Church polity, doctrine, and government for the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Over 120 men gathered for almost 6 years to construct the Westminster Confession of Faith. The majority of those men were Reformed and Puritan.
It's important to be Reformed and ready.