The Millenary Petition, 1603

The Millenary Petition was a representation
made to James VI  when he became King of England in
1603. It was so called from the 1000 signatories to the
document, which was about a tenth of the English clergy.
It was essentially a plea from the Puritans of the day to
return the Church of England to a simpler, Calvinistic,
form of worship with removal of popish elements. The
outcome of the petition was the Hampton Court Conference
of 1604
from which the Puritans gained little redress. A
major event , however, was the approval given to a new
translation of the Bible but without the marginal
commentary as found in the Tyndale and Geneva versions. It should be noted that it was for use in `the churches of England`.

There had been  previous Admonitions in the reign of Elizabeth I – the First Admonition to Parliament, 1572 was a swingeing attack on Romish practices and sought a return to the stricter ways of Calvin. It was thrown out of Parliament ( its supporters being gaoled) and followed by a Second  Admonition  that justified the first document. At the end of this Parliament, 20 November 1572, the first presbytery was set up at Wandsworth, then in Surrey.  About 1583 an assembly approved  a form of discipline to be used which was further developed in 1587. There followed the setting up of “Classes” and “Synods”( the English equivalent of  the Presbyterian system) in much of England. Warwickshire set up their system in 1588, Northamptonshire was divided into three Classes in 1590 , followed by Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex. Against this background, the Scottish Presbyterians took comfort and hope in their own struggle with James VI . In 1603 the English were to find that James VI/I was not amenable to the Puritan demands.

The Millenary Petition.

” The humble petition of the ministers of the Church of
England desiring reformation of certain ceremonies and
abuses of the Church.

 To the most Christian and excellent prince, our gracious
and dread Sovereign, James, by the grace of God, &c., we,
the ministers of the Church of England that desire
reformation, wish a long, prosperous and happy reign over
us in this life, and in the next everlasting salvation.

 Most gracious and dread Sovereign, seeing it bath pleased
the Divine Majesty, to the great comfort of all good
Christians, to advance your Highness, according to your
just title, to the peaceable government of this church and
commonwealth of England, we, the ministers of the gospel
in this land, neither as factious men affecting a popular
parity in the church nor as schisrnatics aiming at the
dissolution of the state ecclesiastical, but as the
faithful servants of Christ and loyal subjects of your
Majesty, desiring and longing for the redress of divers
abuses of the church, could do no less in our obedience to
God, service to your Majesty, love to his church, than
acquaint your princely Majesty with our particular griefs.
For, as your princely pen writeth, the King as a good
physician must first know what peccant humours his patient
naturally is most subject unto before he can begin his
cure. And although divers of us that sue for reformation
have formerly in respect of the times subscribed to the
book, some upon protestation, some upon exposition given
them, some with condition, rather than the church should
have been deprived of their labour and ministry, yet now
we, to the number of more than a thousand of your
Majesty’s subjects and ministers, all groan!ng as under a
common burthen of human rites and ceremonies, do with one
joint consent humble ourselves at your Majesty’s feet, to
be eased and relieved in this behalf. Our humble suit then
unto your Majesty is, that [of] these offences following,
some may be removed, some amended, some qualified:

I.     In the church service, that the
cross in baptism, inter­rogatories ministered to infants.
[and] confirmation. as superstitious, may be taken away.
Baptism not to be ministered by women, and so explained.
The cap and surplice not urged. That examination may go
before the communIon. that it be ministered with a sermon.
That divers terms of priests and absolution and some other
used, with the ring in marriage, and other such like in
the book may be corrected. The longsome­ness of service
abridged. Church songs and music moderated to better
edification. That the Lord’s day be not profaned: the rest
upon holidays not so strictly urged. That there he
anuniformity of doctrine prescribed. No popish opinion to
be any more taught or defended: no ministers charged to
teach their people to bow at the name of Jesus. That the
canonical scriptures oniy be read in the church.

II Concerning church ministers, that none hereafter be
admitted lnto the ministry but able and sufficient men,
and those to preach diligently, and especially upon Lord’s
day. That such as be already entered and cannot preach may
either be removed and some charitable course taken with
them for their relief; or else to be forced, according to
the value of their livings, to maintain preachers. That
non-residency be not permitted. That King Edward’s statute
[5 & 6 E. VI. 12] for the lawfulness of ministers’
marriage be revived. That ministers be not urged to
subscribe but (according to the law) to the articles of
religion and the King’s supremacy only.

III.  For church living and maintenance, that bishops
leave their commendas, some holding prebends some
parsonages, some vicarages, with their bishoprics. That
double-beneficed men be ot suffered to hold some two, some
three benefices with cure, and some two or three or four
dignities besides. That impropriations annexed to
bishoprics and colleges be demised only to the preachers’
incumbents for the old rent. That the impropriations of
layman’s fees may be charged with a sixth or seventh part
of the worth, to the maintenance of the preaching

IV.  For church discipline, that the discipline and
excom­munication may be administered according to
christ’s own institution, or at least that enormities may
be redressed; as, namely, that excommunication come not
forth under the name of lay persons, chancellors,
officials, &c. That men be not excommunicated for trifIes
and twelvepenny matters: that none lie excommunicated
without the consent of his pastor. That the officers be
not suffered to extort unreasonable fees. That none having
jurisdiction or registers` places put out the same to
farm. That divers popish canons (as for restraint of
marriage at certain times) be reversed. That the
longsomenes of suits in ecclesiastical courts (which hang
sometime two, three, four, five, six or seven years) may
be restrained. That the oath ex officio,
whereby men are furred to accuse themselves, he more
sparingly used. That licences for marriage without banns
asked be more cautiously granted.

These, with such other abuses yet remaining and practised
in the Church of England. we are able to show not to he
agreeable to the Scriptures, if it shall please your
Highness further to hear us, or more at large by writing
to be informed, or by conference among the learned
to be resolved. And yet we doubt not but that without any
further process your Majesty (of whose Christian judgment
we have received so good a taste already) is able of
yourself to judge of the equity of this cause. God, we
trust, hath appointed your Highness our physician to heal
these diseases. And we say with Mordecai to Hester, ‘Who
knoweth whether you are come to the kingdom for such a
time ?’ [Esth. iv. 14]. Thus your Majesty shall do that
which we are persuaded shall be acceptable to God,
honourable to your Majestv in all succeeding ages,
profitable to his church, which shall be thereby
increased, comfortable to your ministers, which shall be
no more suspended, silenced, disgraced, imprisoned for
men`s traditions, and prejudicial to none but to
those that seek their own quiet, credit and profit in the
world. Thus with all dutiful submission referring
ourselves to your Majesty’s pleasure for your gracious
answer as God shall direct you, we must humbly recommend
your Highness to the Divine Majesty, whom we beseech for
Christ his sake to dispose your royal heart to do herein
what shall be to his glory, the good of his church, and
your endless comfort.

 Your Majesty`s most humble subjects, the ministers of the
gospel, that desire, not a disorderly innovation, but a
due and godly reformation. “