George Gifford and the Reformation of the Common Sort (McGinnis)

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Trueman State University Press
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This careful study explores puritan attitudes through the life and works of Elizabethan minister George Gifford. He was on the front lines of religious controversies in a time when the English church was being shaped by Protestant evangelicals who felt compelled to carry their understanding of “true religion” to all corners of England. Known among themselves as “the godly” or “gospellers” and to their enemies as “puritans” or “precisionists,” these ministers believed the Church of England was only partially reformed. Gifford tried to convert the many parishioners whom he believed to be Protestant in name only, or “men indifferent” due to their acceptance of whatever religion was thrust upon them.

Using archival records and Gifford’s large corpus of published treatises, dialogues, and sermons, McGinnis looks at Gifford’s support and opposition in his ministry at Maldon, and his recurring conflicts with ecclesiastical authorities. He explores Gifford’s writings on Catholicism, separatism, and witchcraft and considers how Gifford’s attention to practical ministry interacted with national debates. McGinnis also analyzes Gifford’s attempt to translate Protestant doctrines into a language accessible to the average layperson in his sermons and catechism.

Those interested in popular religion and culture, pastoral ministry, and puritanism on both sides of the Atlantic will benefit from this study of one on the front lines of religious controversies during the turbulent years of Elizabeth’s reign.

Table of Contents:  

George Gifford
Puritans and the Common Sort
The Politics of Godliness
The Errors of Rome
Fraterne Dissentire
“Subtiltie” Exposed
Creating Godliness
Commending and Confuting the Common Sort

Gifford’s Works
Dedicatees of Gifford’s Works
The Will of George Gifford



Timothy Scott McGinnis teaches at Samford Univesity in Birmingham, Alabama. He received his doctorate in religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



"This sensible and sensitive little book relocates Gifford in his historical context: not as a folklorist but as an activist pastor concerned with the redemption of souls and the reformation of society." — American Historical Review

"A fine and efficient study that places Gifford and his writings solidly in their context.… Although this fine book deserves to be widely read by scholars, it is not for them alone. Students will find it accessible thanks to the author’s care in explaining events and debates with which specialists will be all too familiar." — Journal of British Studies

McGinnis’s study provides an insightful window into the soul of English Puritanism…while adding to the growing body of postrevisionist scholarship. — History