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The Organizational Response of Nonconformity to Repression and Indulgence: The Case of Bedfordshire

  • Richard L. Greaves (a1)

Extract

In the 1670s John Bunyan and his Nonconformist colleagues put into effect an organizational plan developed during the imprisonment years prior to 1672. The purpose of the plan was to provide a network of preachers and teachers in the local villages throughout northern Bedfordshire and contiguous areas that would be strong enough to withstand further persecution. As the plan was put into effect, it brought Bunyan into closer contact with other Nonconformists to the south and east, as far away as London. Ironically the plan was formulated when Bunyan and others were imprisoned together at Bedford for their Nonconformity. Their success vividly illustrates the failure of the Stuart government to suppress these men of faith.

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1. The Christian Progress of That Ancient Servant and Minister of Jesus Christ, George Whitchead (1725), p. 346.

2. William Y. Tindall attributes the absence of publication between 1666 and 1672 to “the profound silence in which Bunyan contemplated the approach of the millennium from 1666 to 1682… ” Tindall, , Bunyan, John, Mechanick Preacher (New York, 1934), p.132. The silence is better attributed to Bunyan's preaching forays and organizational work in these years.

3. Wigfield, W. M., “Recusancy and Nonconformity in Bedfordshire: Illustrated by Select Documents between 1622 and 1842,” Publications of the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (hereafter PBHRS) 20 (1938): 167169.

4. Ibid., 20: 170–171.

5. The Church Book of Bunyan Meeting, 1650–1821, facsimile ed. with introd. by G. B. Harrison (1928), p. 21.

6. Ibid., pp. 24–25.

7. Ibid., p. 26.

8. Dr. Williams Library (hereafter DWL), Rix MS. 38. 111, fols. 23, 25; Matthews, A. G.. ed., Calamy Revised (Oxford, 1934), s.v.

9. DWL, Turner MS. 89. 18, Bedfordshire, fol.31.

10. Wigfield, , “Recusancy”, pp. 171172.

11. Turner, G. Lyon, ed., Original Records of Nonconformity under Persecution and Indulgence (19111914), 1:63.

12. Wigfield dates the lapse of the Act May 9, 1668; see “Recusancy,” p. 149. R. Tudor Jones gives March 1, 1669; see his Congregationalism in England, 16621692 (1962), p. 69. G. Lyon Turner has Desember 19, 1667; see Original Records, 3:45. Jones appears correct. See Calendar of State Papers, Domestic 1668–1669, pp. 256257.

13. Ogg, David, England in the Reign of Charles II, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1956), pp. 341342.

14. The Statutes of the Realm (18101828), 5:648651. See Lee, Maurice Jr, The Cabal (Urbana, IIlinois, 1965), pp. 180181; Cragg, Gerald R., Puritanism in the Period of the Great Persecution, 1660–1688 (Cambridge, 1957), pp. 1618.

15. A True and Impartial Narrative of Some Illegal and Arbitrary Proceedings… in or near the Town of Bedford (1670), pp. 3, 69.

16. Cited, in Wigfield, , “Recusancy,” p. 179.

17. Cardwell, Edward, ed., Documentary Annals of the Reformed Church of England (Oxford, 1844), 2: 333337.

18. Bate, Frank, The Declaration of Indulgence, 1672 (1908), p. 100.

19. Whitehead, , The Christian Progress, pp. 350359.

20. SirReresby, John, Memoirs & Travels. ed. Ivatt, Albert (1904). p. 150. Reresby was appointed High Sheriff of Yorkshire, and in 1675 was elected M.P. for Aldborough.

21. Bray, William, ed., Diary of John Evelyn (1906), 2:276 (entry for March 12, 1672). See Lee, , The Cabal, pp. 189191.

22. It is reproduced in Brown, John, John Bunyan: His Life, Times and Work, rev. ed., Harrison, Frank Mott (1928), between pp. 216217.

23. For its history see Tibbutt, H. G., Keysoe Brook End and Keysoe Row Baptist Churches (Keysoe, 1959).

24. Turner, , Original Records, 1: 66.

25. Ibid., 1:65.

26. Tibbutt, H. G. ed., Some Eariy Nonconformist Church Books, PBHRS 51 (1972): 20; Tibbutt, . Keysoe Brook End, pp. 89.

27. Tibbutt, , Nonconformist Church Books, p. 20.

28. Ibid.

29. Turner, , Original Records, 1: 68; 2:857.

30. Church Book, pp.86–87.

31. Ibid., pp. 27, 50–51.

32. Brown, , John Bunyan, p. 394.

33. Turner, , Church Book, p. 25.

34. Turner, , Original Records, 1:63.

35. Church Book, pp. 50–51.

36. Ibid., p. 70.

37. Turner, , Original Records, 1:64.

38. Church Book, p. 19.

39. Ibid., pp. 21, 25, 26.

40. Ibid., p. 26.

41. Turner, , Original Records, 2:855; DWL, Turner MS. 89. 18, Bedfordshire, fols. 26–28.

42. Church Book, pp. 50–51.

43. DWL, Turner MS, 89, 18, Bedfordshire, fols. 23, 23a-c.

44. Church Book, pp. 16, 26, 70.

45. Ibid., pp. 27, 44–46, 49–52, 54.

46. Whitley, W. T., The Baptists of London, 1612–1928 [1928], p. 105.

47. DWL, Turner MS 89. 18, Bedfordshire, fol. 41.

48. Church Book, pp. 29, 51, 66, 75; Turner, Turner, Original Records, 1:3764.

49. Turner, , Original Records, 1:66.

50. Ibid., p. 37.

51. Church Book, pp. 29, 51.

52. Ibid., pp. 32–34, 52, 53.

53. Ibid., p. 53.

54. Turner, , Orignal Records, 1:37.

55. Church Book, pp. 29, 51.

56. Tibbutt, , Nonconformist Church Books, p. 23.Church Books, p. 81.

57. Turner, , Original Records, 1:6465.

58. Matthews, Calamy Revised, s.v.

59. DWL, Turner MS. 89. 18, Bedfordshire, fols. 17:18.

60. Church Book, p. 20.

61. Tibbutt, , Nonconformist Church Books, pp. 28, 30.

62. Ibid., p. 26.

63. Ibid., p. 29.

64. Ibid., pp. 7–8.

65. Church Book, p. 16.

66. Ibid., p. 20.

67. Ibid., pp. 44–45.

68. Tibbutt, , Nonconformist Church Books, p.5.

69. Matthews, Galamy Revised, s.v.; Coleman, Thomas, Memorials of the Independent Churches in Northamptonshire (1853), pp. 344345.

70. Matthews, Calamy Revised, s.v.; Turner, , Original Records, 3:407ff.; Cater, F. Ives, Northamptonshire Nonconformity 250 Years Ago (Northampton, 1912), pp. 2627.

71. Turner, , Original Records, 1:83.

72. Cited in Frederick Bull, W., “History of the Independent Church, Newport Pagnell,” Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society 4 (19091910): 262.

73. Church Book, pp. 21, 24.

74. Cited in Bull, “History of the Independent Church,” p. 260.

75. Martin, R. G., The Chapel, 1660–1960: The Story of the Congregational Church, Newport Pagnell, Bucks. (Newport Pagnell, 1961), p. 4.

76. Church Book, p.26.

77. Turner, , Original Records, 1:68, 84.

78. Williams, W., Concerning the Ministers Ejected in 1662 in North Bucks and North Oxon, and the Conventicles Held Therein in 1669 and 1672 (Aylesbury, 1912), p. 12.

79. Hewett, Maurice F., “John Gibbs, 1627–1699,” The Baptist Quarterly 3 (19261927): 320321.

80. Matthews, Calamy Revised, s.v.; Bull, “John Gibbs,” Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society 10 (19271929):8187; [Garnerl, J. J.], History of the Congregatioiwl Church at Olney (Olney, Buekinghamshire, 1929), pp.34.

81. Church Book, p. 16.

82. Ibid., p. 51.

83. Ibid., pp. 20–22.

84. Ibid., p. 26.

85. See R. L. Greaves, “John Bunyan and Nonconformity in the Midlands and East Anglia,” Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society (forthcoming).

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Church History
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