[Presented to the Commons 11 December 1640]
The humble Petition of many of His Majesty's subjects in and about the City of London, and several counties of the Kingdom,
That whereas the government of archbishops and lord bishops, deans and archdeacons, etc., with. their courts and ministrations in them, have proved prejudicial and very dangerous both to the Church and Commonwealth, they themselves having formerly held that they have their jurisdiction or authority of human authority, till of these later times, being further pressed about the unlawfulness, that they have claimed their calling immediately from the Lord Jesus Christ, which is against the laws of this kingdom, and derogatory to His Majesty and his state royal. And whereas the said government is found by woeful experience to be a main cause and occasion of many foul evils, pressures and grievances of a very high nature unto His Majesty's subjects in their own consciences, liberties and estates, as in a schedule of particulars hereunto annexed may in part appear.
We therefore most humbly pray, and beseech this honourable assembly, the premises considered, that the said government, with all its dependencies, roots and branches, may be abolished, and all laws in their behalf made void, and the government according to God's Word may be rightly placed amongst us: and we your humble suppliants, as in duty we are bound, will daily pray for His Majesty's long and happy reign over us, and for the prosperous success of this high and honourable Court of Parliament.
A particular of the manifold evils, pressures, and grievances caused, practised and occasioned by the prelates and their dependents.
1 The subjecting and enthralling all ministers under them and their authority, and so by degrees exempting them from the temporal power; whence follows,
2 The faintheartedness of ministers to preach the truth of God, lest they should displease the prelates; as namely, the doctrine of predestination, of free grace, of perseverance, of original sin remaining after baptism, of the sabbath, the doctrine against universal grace, election for faith foreseen, freewill against antichrist, nonresidents, human inventions in God's worship; all which are generally withheld from the people's knowledge, because not relishing to the bishops.
3 The encouragement of ministers to despise the temporal magistracy, the nobles and gentry of the land; to abuse the sub jects, and live contentiously with their neighbours, knowing that they, being the bishops' creatures, shall be supported.
4 The restraint of many godly and able men from the ministry, and thrusting out of many congregations their faithful, diligent, and powerful ministers, . . .
5 The suppressing of that godly design' set on foot by certain saints, and sugared with many great gifts by sundry wellaffected persons for the buying of impropriations, and placing of able ministers in them, maintaining of lectures, and founding of free schools, which the prelates could not endure, lest it should darken their glories, and draw the ministers from their dependence upon them.
6 The great increase of idle, lewd and dissolute, ignorant and erroneous men in the ministry, which swarm like the locusts of Egypt over the whole kingdom. . .
7 The discouragement of many from bringing up their children in learning; the many schisms, errors, and strange opinions which are in the Church; great corruptions which are in the Universities; the gross and lamentable ignorance almost everywhere among the people; the want of preaching ministers in very many places both of England and Wales; the loathing of the ministry, and the general defection to all manner of profaneness.
8 The swarming of lascivious, idle, and unprofitable books and pamphlets, playbooks and ballads . . .
9 The hindering of godly books to be printed, the blotting out or perverting those which they suffer, all or most of that which strikes either at Popery or Arminianism. . .
10 The publishing and venting of Popish, Arminian, and other dangerous books and tenets. . .
11 The growth of Popery and increase of Papists, Priests andJesuits in sundry places . . .
12 The multitude of monopolies and patents, drawing with them innumerable perjuries; the large increase of customs and impositions upon commodities, the shipmoney, and many other great burthens upon the Commonwealth, under which all groan.
13 . . . The offices and jurisdictions of archbishops, lord bishops, deans, archdeacons, being the same way of Church government, which is in the Romish Church, and which was in England in the time of Popery, little change thereof being made (except only the head from whence it was derived) . :.
14 The great conformity and likeness both continued and increased of our Church to the Church of Rome, in vestures, postures, ceremonies and administrations, . . .
19 . . . Also the canons made in the late Sacred Synod, as they call it, wherein are many strange and dangerous devices to undermine the Gospel and the subjects' liberties, to propagate Popery, to spoil God's people, ensnare ministers, and other students, and so to draw all into an absolute subjection and thraldom to them and their government, spoiling both the King and the Parliament of their power. . .
21 Profanation of the Lord's Day, pleading for it, and enjoining ministers to read a Declaration3 set forth (as it is thought) by their procurement for tolerating of sports upon that day, suspending and depriving many godly ministers for not reading the same only out of conscience, because it was against the law of God so to do, and no law of the land to enjoin it.
22 The pressing of the strict observation of the saints' days, whereby great sums of money are drawn out of men's purses for working on them; a very high burthen on most people, who getting their living on their daily employments, must either omit them, and be idle, or part with their money, whereby many poor families are undone, or brought behindhand; . . .
24 The general abuse of that great ordinance of excommunication, which God hath left in His Church as the last and greatest punishment which the Church can inflict upon obstinate and great offenders. . .
28 The exercising of the oath et offico and other proceedings by way of inquisition, reaching even to men's thoughts... And from hence followed amongst others these dangerous consequences.
1 The general hope and expectation of the Romish party, that their superstitious religion will ere long be fully planted in this kingdom again . . .
2 The discouragement and destruction of all good subjects, of whom are multitudes, both clothiers, merchants and others, who being deprived of their ministers, and overburthened with these pressures, have departed the kingdom to Holland, and other parts, and have drawn with them a great manufacture of cloth and trading out of the land into other places where they reside, whereby wool, the great staple of the kingdom, is become of small value, and vends not; trading is decayed, many poor people want work, seamen lose employment, and the whole land is much impoverished, to the great dishonour of this kingdom and blemishment to the government thereof.
3 The present wars and commotions happened between His Majesty and his subjects of Scotland, wherein His Majesty and all his kingdoms are endangered, and suffer greatly. . .
All which we humbly refer to the consideration of this Honourable Assembly, desiring the Lord of Heaven to direct you in the right way to redress all these evils...
This commentary and the source is taken from: Ann Hughes, ed., Seventeenth-Century England. A Changing Culture. Volume I. Primary sources (Open University, 1980). [941.06 SEV]