• H. C. Porter
Part of the History in Depth book series (HD)


‘Precisians and godly men that seek for reformation’ (1); ‘our course to further perfection’ (2): two key phrases from Thomas Cartwright in the early 1570s. Cartwright’s literary controversy with John Whitgift — one of the best Tudor literary debates in the vernacular — spanned the years 1572 to 1577. Whitgift was especially concerned to draw out the implications of Cartwright’s programme (first made public in Cartwright’s Cambridge lectures of 1570). Whitgift, like Richard Hooker, thought that, in fact and in theory, the ‘precise’ imperative, springing from savage indignation against a conforming society, involved a contracting out of that society:

Why will they not come to our sermons or to our churches? Why will they not communicate with us in our sacraments, not salute us in the streets, nay, spit in our faces, and openly revile us? Why have they their secret/ conventicles? You know all this to be true in a number of them. I know not why they should do so; except they think themselves to be contaminated by hearing us preach, or by coming to our churches, or by communicating otherwise with us. Which if they do, it argueth that they persuade themselves not only of such an outward perfection, but of an inward purity also, that they may as justly for the same be called puritans, as the novatians were (3).


Civil Matter True Service Ecclesiastical History Parker Society Church Court 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1970

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  • H. C. Porter

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