Sir: The article Remembering Hampton Court (No. 55) though excellent in its appraisal of the Authorised version, suffers from amnesia concerning the so-called Conference which was rather an informal, summing-up chat in the King’s quarters after substantial reforms had been made in Convocation.
Far from only one puritan being present, most of the clergy and politicians who took part were strong on the doctrines of grace. Who would reject Chaderton’s, Knewstub’s, Spark’s, Reynold’s and Field’s credentials? Whitgift and Bancroft were men of the Lambeth Articles. However, Reynolds and Spark, thought wrongly nowadays to have represented the ultra-puritan side, were certainly weak in displaying their Puritanism. Reynolds is even criticized by modern ‘Reformed’ men for suggesting a new translation in the first place on the grounds that the Geneva Bible was already the non plus ultra version.
Besides laying the foundation stone of the AV, mostly through the untiring efforts of the King, the clergy at Hampton Court agreed that a public confession of faith was necessary as a sign of eligibility for the Lord’s Supper. They emphasised the importance of preaching the New Birth and true prayerful worship and opposed High Church externals. The King not only agreed to a relaxing of vestment strictures but even allowed the Lancastrian ‘prophets’ to abolish them. The bulk of the ministers confessed that they wished to keep in fellowship with the Reformed churches on the Continent, especially the Calvinistic, and accused the ultra-puritans (as Bullinger, Calvin, Gualter, Beza, Foxe, Jewel, Grindal and Whitgift had done) of leaving such paths. A compromise was attained regarding Confirmation. Local pastors should catechize the Confirmation candidates and test their faith before inviting the bishop to take the actual confirmation ceremony. All agreed to remove all symptoms of profanation from the Lord’s Day. The King requested that all that was ‘scandalous, dangerous and frivolous’ should be removed from the church and that secular courts should not dictate church policy especially regarding excommunication. Actually, in this matter, James was more Reformed than the Continental Reformers. So, too, the King made profoundly Reformed statements, second to none, regarding justification, election and predestination. Thus, far from being a flop, the talks were a major success on the way to true Reform and paved the way for the staunch British stand for the Reformed Faith at the Synod of Dort.