Prophesyings Religious exercises of the Puritan clergy in the reign of queen Elizabeth, instituted for the purpose of promoting knowledge and piety. The ministers of a particular division, at a set time, met together in some church of a market or other large town, and there each in his order explained, according to his ability, some portion of Scripture previously allotted to him. This done, a moderator made his observations on what had been said, and determined the true sense of the place, a certain space of time being fixed for despatching the whole. These institutions, borrowed evidently from the Conventicles (q.v.) of Scotland, like all others, however, it seems, were in England soon marked by irregularity, disputations, and divisions. Archbishop Grindal endeavored to regulate the prophesyings and cover them from the objections which the court made against them, by enjoining the ministers to observe decency and order, by forbidding them to meddle with politics and Church government, and by prohibiting all nonconformist ministers and laymen from being speakers. The queen, however, seeing that they spread the religious notions of the Puritans and estranged the people from all Romanistic tendency, was resolved to suppress them; and having sent for the archbishop, told him she was informed that the rites and ceremonies of the Church were not duly observed in these prophesyings; that persons not lawfully called to be ministers exercised in them; that the assemblies themselves were illegal, not being allowed by public authority; that the laity neglected their secular affairs by repairing to these meetings, which filled their heads with notions, and might occasion disputes and sedition in the State; that it was good for the Church to have but few preachers, three or four in a county being sufficient. She further declared her dislike of the number of these exercises, and therefore commanded him peremptorily to put them down. The archbishop, however, instead of obeying the commands of his royal mistress, thought that she had made some infringement upon his office, and wrote the queen a long and earnest letter, declaring that his conscience would not suffer him to comply with her commands. The queen was so inflamed with this letter that the archbishop was sequestered from his office, and he never afterwards recovered the queen's favor. Thus ended the prophesyings. See Neal, Hist. of the Puritans.

Definition of prophesying

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