‘Notwithstanding that our civil wars are through the mercy of God ended,’ lamented a Nonconformist in 1668, ‘yet our religious jars and rents are not healed’.1 Healing England’s religious wounds was not as easy as bringing the monarchy back, but everyone knew that it was essential: religious differences had led the country into civil war once and might easily do so again. But how was religious harmony to be regained? The answer that sprang to many, if not most, minds was to impose religious uniformity on the nation. Since religion was the foundation of all government, justice and virtue, it was clear that there should only be one religion in one state: ‘uniformity is the cement of both Christian and civil society’.2 Others, however, objected ‘that the requiring of greater uniformity in opinion and practice in the things of religion, than the church of God is capable of, is no means of union, peace or concord, but a most effectual and certain means of division, separation, strife and contention’.3 Unity would emerge by recognizing and permitting diversity of religious belief and practice. So religious unity might be restored either through uniformity or through a regulated diversity. Few of the English had as yet considered a third option, which was to remove these questions from the political arena altogether, and treat religion as a purely private matter.
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