The Mental Universe of the English Nonjurors
Type of DegreeDissertation
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The Glorious Revolution of 1688, which pushed James II from the throne of England, was not glorious for everyone; in fact, for many, it was a great disaster. Those who had already taken an oath of allegiance to James II and “to his heirs and lawful successors” now pondered how they could take a second oath to William and Mary. Those who initially refused to swear the oath were called Nonjurors. In 1691, Archbishop Sancroft, eight bishops, and four hundred clergy of the Church of England, as well as a substantial number of scholars at Oxford and Cambridge, were deprived, removed from their offices and their license to practice removed, for their refusal. This nonjuring community over time adopted hybridized ideas, long-embraced and called out by the times and circumstances. Five paradigms shaped the English Nonjurors’ mental universe: a radical obedience, a Cyprianist mentality, using printing presses in place of the pulpits they had lost, a hybridized view of time, and a global ecumenical perspective that linked them to the Orthodox East. These patterns operated synergistically to create an effective tool for the Nonjurors’ survival and success in their mission. The Nonjurors’ influence, out of proportion to their size, was due in large measure to this mentality; their unique circumstances prompted creative thinking, and they were superb in that endeavor. Those five ideas constituted the infrastructure of the Nonjurors’ world. This study helps us to see the early eighteenth century not only as a time of rapid change, but also as an era of persistent older religious mentalities adapted to new circumstances.