English politics and the blasphemy act of 1698

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Abstract

On 27 May 1698, Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury and intimate of King William III, sent a letter to the Dutch Arminian Philipp van Limborch. He described with concern the state of religion in England. The usual 'argumentative theologians' were stirring up trouble.1 But, Burnet conceded, the 'occasion of their anger is this time more just', for many who had long worn the 'mask' of Socinianism had started 'openly inciting scepticism'.2 These sceptics were 'interceding with all their strength against the passing of a law against the impious and blasphemers', claiming it was a 'foretaste of persecution'.3 Burnet was referring to the Blasphemy Bill of 1698, which stipulated penalties for Christians who, by 'writing, printing or advised speaking', denied any person in the Trinity, asserted there to be 'more Gods than one', or cast doubt on the truth of Christianity or the divine authority of the Bible.4 According to Burnet, the bill was eminently reasonable, for 'none were to be by [it] condemned, except those who sin maliciously and deliberately'.5.

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APA

Davies, E. (2020, August 1). English politics and the blasphemy act of 1698. English Historical Review. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/ceaa252

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