The Last Presbyterian Sermon

In August of 1662, the Church of England obliged all members of the clergy to reach an accomodation with the then-new Book of Common Prayer, at the pain of losing their positions and pulpits.  Around 2,000 clergymen chose to retire, rather than submit to a change of practice they believed contrary to their vows; in particular, the requirement to acknowledge English monarch’s position at the head of the church was troublesome.

Samuel Pepys chose to hear the last sermon of Dr. William Bates.  His diary entry ends with this exceptionally moving passage:

I pray God keep peace among us, and make the Bishops careful of bringing in good men in their rooms, or else all will fly a-pieces; for bad ones will not [go] down with the City.

Great Britain was still reeling from religious wars, and it wasn’t clear that they’d not resume.  One of the many fascinations of Pepys’ Diary is the insight it shows into that turbulent time.

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