John Locke, 'matters indifferent' and the Restoration of the Church of England

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John Locke is famous for his liberal and tolerationist works, published in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, which attacked the belligerent intolerance of the Restoration Church of England. But his earl writings, the Two tracts on government, were composed in the period between 1660 and 1662 when the details of the church settlement were the subject of healed debate. Die thought of the young Locke defended an uncompromising settlement which would rigidly enforce unformity, in religious worship and secure the restored monarchy from clerical subversion. Whilst scholars have previously focused on the changes in Locke's thought from royalist Anglicanism to whig toleration, this article focuses on the Tracts in their own right. By placing them in the context of the Restoration debate on adiaphora, co-emonial 'matters indifferent', the typicality or otherwise of Locke's early, thought can be discerned. This article argues that the legalistic understanding of adiaphora meant that this debate touched on political authority and obedience as well as theological questions, not least because matters indifferent fell under the purview of the monarch as supreme governor of the church.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-621
Number of pages21
JournalThe Historical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


  • Locke, John
  • Restoration
  • Church of England


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