November 20: First English Presbytery (1572)

The first Presbytery of English Puritans was held at Wandsworth, on November 20, 1572, the same year as the Bartholomew massacre. The organizer of this first Presbytery, and the leader of early Presbyterianism in England, was the Rev. Thomas Cartwright, a professor of Divinity in Cambridge. In the appendix to Charles A. Brigg’s American Presbyterianism, there is provided a “Directory of Church Government” practiced by the first nonconformists [non-Anglicans] in the days of Queen Elizabeth, called “Cartwright’s Book of Discipline.” In due course of time Presbyterianism came to be quite powerfully organized in the vicinity of London, even in Elizabeth’s day, but it was rather as a church inside of the state church.

When Elizabeth died, James VI. of Scotland ascended the throne as James I. of England. His mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, had been thwarted by the Presbyterians of Scotland, and James himself had been in perpetual conflict with them. He came to the throne of England a natural despot, confident of his ability, intellectually and physically, to carry out his own will. He was a scholarly, skillful, profane, drunken fool. On the way from Edinburgh to London he received the Millenary Petition, asking relief for the Puritans, and held a conference, under his own presiding, between the friends of High Church Episcopacy and the representatives of free Protestantism. The High Church pretensions and flattery completely carried the day with his egotism; and the only outcome was his agreement to the suggestion of Edward Reynolds, of Oxford, spokesman in behalf of the Puritans, that there should be a new and better translation of the English Bible. That gave us King Jame’s Version.

In 1816 he published a book of sports “to encourage recreation and sports on the Lord’s day.” His theory was “no bishop, no king.” Throughout his reign, therefore, while resisting popery, he sought only to make himself pope of the Episcopal Church in England, and that Episcopal Church the only Church in the three kingdoms. He said that “presbytery agreeth with a monarchy as well as God with the devil.

Source:
Hay, George P., Presbyterians, pp. 46-48.

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