Being Protestant in Reformation Britain
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The Reformation was about ideas and power, but it was also about real human lives. Alec Ryrie provides the first comprehensive account of what it actually meant to live a Protestant life in England and Scotland between 1530 and 1640, drawing on a rich mixture of contemporary devotional works, sermons, diaries, biographies, and autobiographies to uncover the lived experience of early modern Protestantism.
Beginning from the surprisingly urgent, multifaceted emotions of Protestantism, Ryrie explores practices of prayer, of family and public worship, and of reading and writing, tracking them through the life course from childhood through conversion and vocation to the deathbed. He examines what Protestant piety drew from its Catholic predecessors and contemporaries, and grounds that piety in material realities such as posture, food, and tears.
This perspective shows us what it meant to be Protestant in the British Reformations: a meeting of intensity (a religion which sought authentic feeling above all, and which dreaded hypocrisy and hard-heartedness) with dynamism (a progressive religion, relentlessly pursuing sanctification and dreading idleness). That combination, for good or ill, gave the Protestant experience its particular quality of restless, creative zeal.
The Protestant devotional experience also shows us that this was a broad-based religion: for all the differences across time, between two countries, between men and women, and between puritans and conformists, this was recognisably a unified culture, in which common experiences and practices cut across supposed divides. Alec Ryrie shows us Protestantism, not as the preachers on all sides imagined it, but as it was really lived.
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Fanaticism.39 This was, of course, not a Protestant innovation. Zeal as an ideal of behaviour pervades the Old Testament; in classical times, it was a quality to which many Jews aspired and for which many Romans—especially Stoics— despised them. In this, at least, Latin Christianity ﬁrmly followed its Jewish heritage. The Imitation of Christ prayed for fervour: ‘we grow chill, but are set on ﬁre by you’. Persons’ Book of Resolution requires meditation with ‘fervour and vehemency’.40 37 Rowan.
What united both experiences was their fervour.74 The elect Christian, Nicholas Byﬁeld claimed, ‘doth feele his heart oftentimes on a sudden surprised with strange impressions, sometimes of sorrow, sometimes of feare and awfull dread of God; sometimes of feruent desires after God’.75 At times, zeal seems to have transcended joy and sorrow altogether. Francis Rous prayed that ‘these kisses of Christ Iesus kindle in thee such a fervent love of Christ, that thy soule may pant to bee united to him in.
Than grounds for it. George Herbert’s poem Conscience wonderfully describes its subject as a nuisance, to be beaten away with the cross of Christ like 19 Webbe, Practise of qui[e]tnes, esp. 6, 10, 17, 28 (seven editions, 1615–38). Perkins, How to live, sig. A2r–v; Scudder, Christians daily walke (1628), 326; cf. John Norden, A pensive mans practise. Or the pensiue mans complaint and comfort. The second part (1609: RSTC 18626a.5), 83. 21 Woodford, ‘Diary’. 22 Scudder, Christians daily walke.
He was expounding to tackle vowing in 1591, he gave a vanishingly narrow deﬁnition in which a true vow was merely a promise to give thanks to God in the event that a prayer is answered. Any other ‘foolish vowes’ were no better than ‘those vnlawfull vowes of the Papists’.60 But the distinction between covenants and vows was a ﬁne one, and Scots’ enthusiasm for the former made it natural to experiment with the latter. At the 1596 General Assembly, for example, John Davidson presided over a meeting.
Biographies, 324. 108 John Beadle, The journal or diary of a thankfvl Christian (1656: Wing B1557), 80. Although not published until 1656, this book appears to be based on sermons delivered in the 1630s and early 1640s. 106 Answering Prayer 143 within. As we have already seen, God was expected to speak through the emotions.109 As a younger man, Livingstone had prayed over the choice between an early marriage and the life of a laird, or pursuing his studies in medicine. ‘After many to’s and.