Issued on 24 June 1643 and appearing in print two days later, Parliament’s order for the assembly to meet on July 1 must have imposed considerable hardships for many members living outside London given the time needed for travel and to make arrangements for what would likely be an extended absence. But few, if any, of the members that day would have expected the work of ecclesiastical reform to extend over five years and 1,163 numbered sessions.
Die Sabbathi. 24. Junii 1643.
It is this day Ordered by the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled, That the meeting of the Assembly of Divines, together with some Members of both houses of Parliament, shall be on Saturday the first of July 1643, at nine of the clock in the morning, in the Chappell commonly called, king Henry the seventh his Chappell in the City of Westminster: And hereof all parties herein concerned are to take notice, and make their appearance accordingly.
Despite the hurried convening of Parliament’s new advisory body, the divines arrived to find that the Lords and Commons had still to decide on a course of reformation. John Lightfoot records the anticlimactic opening day in his journal:
“ON Saturday the First of July Anno Domini 1643, the members of the two Houses of Parliament that are named in the ordinance for members of the Assembly, and many of the divines there named, and a great congregation besides, being met in the Abby Church in Westminister, Dr Twiss, the appointed Prolocutor of the Assembly, preached unto them upon these words, Joh. 14:18, “I will not leave you comfortlesse, I will come to you.”
“After sermon, all the members of the Assembly present, went into Henry the Seventh’s Chapel, where the names being called the appearance of the names that day was sixty-nine or thereabouts.”
“Divers speeches being made by divers, and the Parliament not having as yet framed or proposed and work for the Assembly suddenly to fall upon; it was adjourned till Thursday following.”
From John Lightfoot’s Journal,
Works of John Lightfoot, Vol 13, 3