Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Great Ejection - 1662 in England and Wales and 1662 in Taiwan, by Steven Mittwede, edited by A.Haudenschild

In 1662, the year when Cheng Ching-guo with his thousands of soldiers from the Ming army succesfully attacked the Dutch government of Formosa and put an end to thir rule, in England 2,000 to 2,500 churchmen were put out of the state church in England and Wales; this event is known as “The Great Ejection.”[1] . It did give rise to a missionary support movement which throughout diligent work over 150 years time helped Englands churches to even send out missionaries to India and China, Africa, and intom the Pacific islands based on the tradition of a biblically-oriented church life.
Did this ejection occur as a disciplinary action for doctrinal impurity? Actually, it was just the opposite. Those ejected desired to remain true, not to the rules and human tradition of the established church but, rather, to biblical doctrine. So what was the historical backdrop to this event? Let us examine this briefly. 

In the 1600s, the church in Britain fluctuated among three doctrinal positions. First, there was the influence of the Roman Catholic Church which, generally speaking, was powerful, and weighed heavily upon on the state church. Second, of course, there was the state church itself. Finally, within (and without) the state church were believers who desired to remained most faithful to biblical principles. Those in this third group were known as Puritans (later as Nonconformists/Dissenters[2]), and among them were Baptists, Presbyterians, biblically-oriented Anglicans, Congregationalists, independents and others. Most of these Puritans were of a Reformed theological persuasion.

Following the state leadership of Puritan Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard, Charles II of the House of Stuart, whose father Charles I had been beheaded during the time of Cromwell, was crowned after returning to London on April 23, 1661. This new monarchial regime is known by British historians as the “Restoration” period.[3]  In those days, the Presbyterians played a major role in getting Charles II back onto the throne, but the new regime consistently rewarded them with antagonism. To wit, the restored monarchy passed laws that required wholesale agreement with the Book of Common Prayer and also punished non-Anglican Britons.

For example, in 1662 the English Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity.[4]   Two major changes were prescribed by this law: 1) corporate worship was to be totally in line with the Book of Common Prayer and 2) every church leader was required to have been ordained by a bishop of the state church. What was the real problem with this law? First, not every jot and tittle within the Book of Common Prayer was scriptural and therefore some church leaders did not want to slavishly follow it.[5] Second, there were many men serving faithfully and effectively in local fellowships but, because they had not been ordained by a bishop, were now deemed illegal clergy.  

One source explains the general spiritual climate in Britain and some of the results of the Act of Uniformity thus:

there appeared three powerful and antagonistic parties in the realm. These were the English party, or Churchmen, who adhered to and enforced the doctrines and rituals of the Church of Rome, but who gave their allegiance to the English monarch, and not to the Pope; the papal party or supporters of the authority of the Roman hierarchy, and the doctrinal Protestants who were disliked by the others. When Parliament established a liturgy for the Church of England, the latter refused conformity to it, for they acknowledged no authority but the Bible in matters of religion. They were more austere in manners, more simple in their worship, and demanded greater purity of life, and so they acquired the name of Puritans. It was given in derision, but soon became an honorable title. Each class was intolerant, and for more than a century and a half, there was a chronic triangular contest between the English Churchmen, the Roman Catholics, and the Puritans, which caused many of each class to seek peace in the forests of America.[6]

Two years later, another law was passed that further tied the hands of believers. The Conventicle Act of 1664 forbade the assembly of more than five persons for religious purposes unless permission had first been granted by the state church.[7] The following year, the Five Mile Act went into effect, and this law forbade all church leaders who had been ejected from their churches from coming within five miles of their former parishes.[8] Subsequently, when another Conventicle Act (1670) went into effect, a monetary penalty was assessed on persons who attended these “seditious” religious gatherings, and all non-Church of England gatherings were included in that category. Furthermore, the fines were even greater for those who used their homes for such gatherings.[9] During this period, the ejected were forbidden from studying at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and were also barred from holding public office.[10] Some were imprisoned; for example, John Bunyan (1628-1688) was incarcerated in the Bedford jail for 12 years. In other words, for those in this period wanting to worship and serve faithfully in a manner consistent with Scripture, all was not ease and comfort in that so-called “Christian” country.

The Protestant Reformation, begun with the efforts of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, was “put into practice” by the Puritans/Dissenters; they applied the teachings of the reformers in literature, law, politics, science and many other fields[11] and, in this way, lived in a manner worthy of Christ. As German author Goethe wrote, “Talent develops in tranquility, character in the full current of human life” (emphasis mine). Orthodoxy (correct belief) should issue in orthopraxy (correct behavior/practice). For the most part, the ejected were men who lived by and fulfilled that principle in many areas of life.

So, other than being wonderful examples, what else can be said of the ejected? As I indicated above, their example is far from insignificant. In spite of persecution, their persistence in walking in the way of faith, ever true to their Scripture-illumined consciences, was an amazing (actually supernatural) victory. Moreover, the deposit left to us by these ejected ones is so great that it is impossible to express in this brief essay. In short, their deposit to us is their writings. Prolific authors Joseph Alleine,[12] Richard Baxter,[13]  John Bunyan,[14] John Flavel,[15]  Stephen Charnock,[16] John Owen,[17] Thomas Watson,[18] Thomas Manton,[19] John Howe[20]  and Ralph Venning[21] were among the ejected. In addition, several well-known, deep-rooted and comprehensive confessions of faith were also left to us by these faithful servants: the First London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644), the Westminster Confession (1646-47), the Savoy Declaration (1658) and the Second London Baptist Confession (1677, 1689).[22] 

Today 350 years later this ejection we still admire their example of dogged faithfulness and their experiences and deeply insightful scriptural reflections, recorded for us in what they wrote, constitute an enormous source of blessing for the Church.[23] Although the persecution they endured snatched many shepherds away from their flocks, in the sovereign purposes of God, the time they gained allowed them to reflect and write. We are the beneficiaries.

It is no coincidence that many of their books are still in print after all these years; their contents are meat, not milk. Consequently, be sure to have some of these in your library, but let them not collect dust for there is still much to learn from them. In appreciating the ejected, we praise not men but the triune God that these men served, who directs all of history to accomplish His purposes for His own unending glory, and for the good of those who trust Him.

Steven Mittwede
CIU Alumnus ('02)

The substance of this paper was originally published in the Turkish-language theological e-zine, e-manet (Issue 28, April-June 2012, p. 16-18) and put into compariosn of what happened in Dutch mission efforts at the same time on Formosa by CIU 03 alumni and missionary on Taiwan A.Haudenschild.


[1] Also on this subject, Gary Brady’s article “The Great Ejection” (Reformation Today 246, March-April 2012, p. 9-16) is recommended.



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[5] See, for example, Leland Ryken’s Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1990), p. 13.






[11] For example, see chapter 9 (“Education”) of Ryken, Worldly Saints.



[14]  Bunyan’s book The Pilgrim’s Progress is among the world’s all-time top-selling books, having been translated into over 200 languages. Since its publication in 1678, its English version has never gone out of print.








[22] Erroll Hulse, “Chapter 1. The 1689 Confession – Its History and Role Today,” Our Baptist Heritage (Pensacola, Florida: Chapel Library, 1993), p. 1-31, especially Section 1.2 (p. 5-9). Although prepared in 1677, the Second London Baptist Confession could not be published then due to persecution; it was not until Protestant King William and Queen Mary facilitated the bloodless “Glorious Revolution” (1688) that its publication in 1689 became possible. See .

[23] We are theologically indebted to a number of preachers and theologians who follow in the footsteps of -and greatly benefitted and drew vision from- the Puritans/Dissenters, among whom are George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, J.C. Ryle, Charles H. Spurgeon, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J.I. Packer. Four resources are recommended insofar as they unpack and evaluate well the influence of the Puritans/Dissenters (and some who followed in their train): J.I. Packer, Among God’s Giants: Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Eastbourne, U.K.:Kingsway, 1991); Erroll Hulse, Who are the Puritans?…and what do they teach? (Darlington, U.K.: Evangelical Press, 2000); Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003); Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet The Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006). In the realm of practical theology, Mark Deckard’s book Helpful Truth in Past Places: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Counseling (Fearn, U.K.: Mentor/Christian Focus, 2009) explains practically the biblically based counseling perspectives and methods of the Puritans.

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