Puritan prophesying

Edward Gaston to Mr Haddon, 16 October, 1564 (SP15/12/27, f.47r)

In this short extract, and after a rather unusual greeting, Gaston describes the puritan practice of ‘prophesying’ that became popular in godly parishes in the 1570s. The practice involved the holding of regular church meetings with ministers and people for the explanation and interpretation of biblical texts. Elizabeth I wanted to stamp out the practice in 1576-77. She requested Edmund Grindal – then Archbishop of Canterbury – to prevent it, but he failed to do so.


Right worshipful my duty with humble commendations promised to you & your good bedfellow if you lie together, it may please you to be advertise that since your departure from Norwich the preachers of the city have taken in hand both for their better exercise & also for the education of the people, prophesying, which is done once in three weeks, & then one first interprets a piece of the scriptures (which at this present is Paul to the Romans) for the space of an hour, & then too other supply reply each of themselves an hour, & then we end with prayer.  My Lord Bishop (I give god thanks) at his last giving of orders admitted none that had no knowledge in the Latin tongue, or that exercised any civil occupation, by means where of John Caine was not admitted …

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