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Fifteen thousand signatures - 1640

Oliver St. John drafted legislation to implement the Root and Branch petition.


On this day, 11 December 1640, during the Long Parliament, fifteen hundred Londoners approached Parliament with a petition. The petition had been signed by ten times as many. It asked Parliament to abolish the “roots and branches” of the system by which bishops governed the English church. Because of that phrase, it is known as the “Roots and Branches Petition.” Parliament was reluctant to act on the request—bishops sat in the House of Lords—but eventually took action in 1646, abolishing the system of archbishops and bishops. (It came back into use during the Restoration period.)

One of the twenty-eight reasons the petitioners gave for wanting the episcopal system abolished was they felt that fear of bishops prevented lesser clergy from preaching the full truth of God’s word. Here is that complaint:


“The faint-heartedness of ministers to preach the truth of God, lest they should displease the prelates; as namely, the doctrine of predestination, of free grace, of perseverance, of original sin remaining after baptism, of the sabbath, the doctrine against universal grace, election for faith foreseen, freewill against Antichrist, non-residents, human inventions in God’s worship; all which are generally withheld from the people’s knowledge, because not relishing [pleasing] to the bishops.”


“The Root and Branch Petition.”

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