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The PuritansA Transatlantic History$
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David D. Hall

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151397

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151397.001.0001

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A Reformation of Manners

A Reformation of Manners

Chapter:
(p.144) Chapter Five A Reformation of Manners
Source:
The Puritans
Author(s):

David D. Hall

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691151397.003.0006

This chapter addresses the Puritan version of a “reformation of manners” or moral reform, situating it within a larger anxiety about “decline.” As those who signed the Covenant of 1596 surely knew, perceptions of “decline” had prompted fast days in Scotland ever since the 1560s. Several of these exercises in repentance and covenanting were means to the end of a firmer alliance between a Protestant state church and a monarchy (or civil state) susceptible to Catholic or more moderate tendencies. This was the purpose of the Negative, or King's, Confession of 1580/81, when the young James VI and most of the political class pledged never to allow “the usurped tyranny of the Roman Antichrist” to return to Scotland. John Knox had organized a similar event in 1565 at a moment when the political fortunes of Mary Stuart were on the mend. Knox had called on the General Assembly to institute a countrywide fast directed against “idolatry,” with the queen as its implied target. Responding to Knox's sense of crisis, this assembly endorsed a “reformation of manners” and “public fast” as the means of “avoiding of the plagues and scourges of God, which appeared to come upon the people for their sins and ingratitude.” Simultaneously, it urged the queen to suppress “the Mass” and other “such idolatry and Papistical ceremonies.”

Keywords:   Puritanism, moral reform, Scotland, Protestant state church, monarchy, John Knox, public fast, idolatry

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