The Restoration Period, 1660-88

With the Restoration Settlement, the Church of England was restored as the established Church. The infrastructure of the Church had been seriously damaged by iconoclasm (the attack of ornament and embellishment of churches, such as paintings, stained-glass and statues by radical Protestants) during the Civil War and Interregnum. While the physical aspect of the Church took time to recover, the organisation was quickly restored - the clergy regained possession of lands lost or seized during the Interregnum, new officials were appointed, and visitations resumed. The Church courts were re- established, but deprived of Star Chamber and High Commission. Initially the courts attempted to regain former authority, hearing moral offences in addition to wills, marriages and ecclesiastical business. For some offences they were less effective than secular courts, as the punishments they had the power to impose carried little weight. The diminished position of the ecclesiastical courts Puritan attempts to reform the Prayer Book were rejected. Most parish churches had altars rather than Communion tables.

The appeal of the Church during this period was that it could claim to stand for tradition and stability in a changing world. The significant weakness of the Restoration Church was the large numbers of Dissenters who rejected its spiritual and moral authority. It was widely believed that the only protection for society from extremism was an effective Church to uphold Christian values. The general revulsion against Puritanism, or rather extreme strands of Protestantism, was epitomised by the popularity of Samuel Butler's satire Hudibras. The conduct of Ranters and Quakers early into the Restoration period reiterated this fear for religion and social order and concern for stability. It was also believed that Nonconformists were guilty of schism and pride, and it was the Church's duty to restore them to Anglicanism. Especially during the latter part of Charles II's reign, Dissenters sustained persecution while concurrently the Church authorities attempted to improve standards in parish churches. The force behind this campaign was motivated by spiritual idealism and social and political conservatism. However, the attempt to crush Dissent failed as over twenty years of growth had given the sects confidence to continue practising their faith; moreover the state proved unable to match the task of coercion. Many JPs were sympathetic or dislike persecution. Some Anglicans, moved by fears of popery, advocated unity within Protestantism; a bill was introduced in 1680, but did not pass through the Commons. Among the Dissenters under Charles II, the Quakers endured the greatest suffering. However persecution was inconsistent, varying in both incident and severity.

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