Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/184

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assemblies; bishops might remain as chairmen of these meetings till the time came for their disappearance; the Liturgy was to be slurred over, and the congregation invited only to a sermon prefaced by a long extempore prayer. By a judicious perseverance in this policy the Church was to be transformed into Presbyterianism. This was the persistent endeavour of the Puritans; it was consistent and intelligible.

A second point to notice is that the leaders in this movement were found amongst the clergy, particularly in the universities. The Romanists manifested their hostility by withdrawing from the Church, organising themselves apart, and looking for help from abroad to bring back England to their way of thinking. The Puritans entered into the organisation of the Church and strove to change it from within. The first Nonconformists were clergy who refused to conduct their services according to the Prayerbook.

It was this fact which constituted the great difficulty in the way of uniting religious feeling in England on a basis which would give unity and strength. Religious questions were unfortunately also political questions. England, united either with Romanism or with foreign Protestantism, would have sacrificed its independent position and would never have emerged into the England of to-day. If the reign of Elizabeth was the great period in the making of modern England, it was because Elizabeth always aimed at holding a mediating position abroad, and husbanded England's resources while other countries were squandering theirs in warfare. Had the Puri-