The Cost of Pilgrimage
The year 1660 was a catastrophe for radical Puritans. The return of the monarchy under Charles II spelled disaster for people like John Milton, who had written passionate tracts defending religious liberty, republican government, and the legitimacy of killing a king. He made a last-minute plea, urging the nation to rally to "the good old cause." Having set out for the Promised Land by "turning regal bondage into a free commonwealth," it would be folly to return to the servitude of Egypt.
Despite his warnings, the monarchy was restored and a warrant was issued for Milton's arrest. He survived, thanks to influential friends, but other Puritan revolutionaries were put to death in gruesome public executions or locked up in the Tower of London.
Moderate Puritans, like Richard Baxter, did not share Milton's despair in May 1660. Although Baxter had been a supporter of Parliamentary causes during the English Civil War, he was no anti-monarchist and deplored the execution of Charles I. While his ministry had flourished under Cromwell, he was no great admirer of the Lord Protector. The return of the Stuart dynasty promised an end to years of political and religious upheaval, and initially Baxter looked forward to the restoration of a comprehensive national church encompassing both Puritans and Anglicans. In June 1660, he was appointed a chaplain to the new king, and he preached before Charles II in July.
In October, leaders who favored a church led by bishops met to negotiate with those who favored a church ruled by elders (presbyters). The king declared that the restored church would be governed by bishops and presbyters and would allow considerable latitude on matters of ceremony. Baxter was offered a bishopric, and although he turned ...