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'Jacob and Esau struggling in the Wombe': a study of Presbyterian and independent religious conflicts 1640-1648 with particular reference to the Westminster Assembly and the pamphlet literature

Bradley, R. D (1975) 'Jacob and Esau struggling in the Wombe': a study of Presbyterian and independent religious conflicts 1640-1648 with particular reference to the Westminster Assembly and the pamphlet literature. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86374) (KAR id:86374)


1640-1643 saw clear differences between Presbyterians and Independents that were inherent in Puritan history, although theories on church-government were still imprecise and the Presbyterians not a united group. An agreement to avoid public controversy was composed and largely adhered to until the end of 1643. The opening of the Westminster Assembly promised either unity or a breach, although its members were moderate compared with hotheads outside the Assembly. Despite some conflicts, unity prevailed until December 1643. Although this was only achieved by ambiguous statements in the Covenant and Dissuasive. But in January 1643-4 the Assembly Independents published a manifesto, which, although designed to defend their theories from the taint of separatism and assist accommodation, had the opposite effect. Assembly debates immediately became more divisive, despite the efforts of an accommodation group led by Marshall, and the influential Scots divines guided the leading Assembly members, fearful of the sects and antagonised by the Independents' delaying tactics, to begin to vote a Scottish style Presbytery. The Independents became more intransigent in defence and in case dissent was necessary, began to hint at a toleration and to seek an alliance with Erastianism. Meanwhile the manifesto was deemed to have broken the previous agreement, whereupon. a vehement pamphlet war began and gathered momentum. This recriminatory literature, the preserve of extremists although, moderate pleas were heard, did display the similarities and dissimilarities between the two systems before the public. 1644-5 saw Assembly divisions reach a zenith with the inevitability of a Presbyterian establishment, the failure of the Parliamentary committee of accommodation and the Independents' open dissent. The Independents' new aim - toleration - was reflected in the continuing pamphlet war and inevitably entailed a close identification between radical Independents and the sects. Independent congregations were steadily growing and the religious terms had been translated into politics. Although the Independents had failed in the Assembly, they had successfully delayed the Presbyterian-settlement, and the strength of the army would now aid their cause. The Presbyterians' own divisions and clashes with Parliament over the "sure divino" right of church officers to govern the church and suspend sinners from the sacrament further delayed the settlement of Presbyterian discipline and strengthened the position of Independents who exploited the controversy to their own ends. By 1646 the establishment of Presbytery was resumed, but it was too late. The army, espousing the cause of toleration, was in conflict with Parliament, as a result of which the political involvement of extremist ministers reached a crescendo. Attacked and defended in pamphlets ", the army's ultimate triumph meant that the national Presbyterian church would have to suffer Independent congregations. Moreover, in practice Independent churches were more successful than Presbyterian, because of the commitment of their members and the lack of civil support for Presbytery. In general conflict in the 1640s on a local basis was followed by greater harmony in the 165014 but national attempts at unity still failed. The Restoration meant that once again Presbyterians and Independents must be partners in adversity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86374
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Religion; History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D203 Modern History, 1453-
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:55 UTC
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2022 16:34 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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