The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century

By Perry Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
GOD'S CONTROVERSY WITH NEW ENGLAND

Greek and Roman historians never ceased to marvel that so small a band as charged at Marathon or manned the ships at Salamis overcame the Persian hosts. Being pagans, and knowing nothing of the providence of the true God, they ascribed the victory to fortune, but we, said Increase Mather, who have the Scripture to instruct us, know the real cause of those astounding triumphs: angels fought in the ranks of the Greeks. Just as Homer described a physical presence of the Gods in the battles before Troy, so the pastor of the Second Church in Boston conceived that the Grecians were secretly and invisibly animated by Angels." By such lights did Puritans read history. The record of humanity was to them a chronicle of God's providence, exactly as occurrences in nature or in the heavens were significations of His governing will. Nothing that men had ever done was without a spiritual import, for the power that created the world continually guided and directed all worldly events; though men acted of their own volition, they always fulfilled His intentions. Even events which at first sight seemed contrary to God's interests proved, upon closer analysis, to have served His ends. The onslaught of the Turks might appear to the casual or atheistical student a victory for the powers of darkness, but to Increase Mather the finger of God was obvious even in their successes. When the Holy Roman Emperor "was minded to destroy his Protestant Subjects, God let loose the great Turk upon the Empire, and so diverted the evil designs against his people, which had been long preparing, and were become ripe for execution." The Puritan scholar studied all history, heathen or Christian, as an exhibition of divine wisdom, and found in the temporal unfolding of the divine plan that the entire past had been but a sort of prologue to the enactment of the New England commonwealths.

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The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents *
  • Book I - Religion and Learning 1
  • Chapter I - The Augustinian Strain of Piety 3
  • Chapter II - The Practice of Piety 35
  • Chapter III - The Intellectual Character 64
  • Chapter IV - The Intellectual Heritage 89
  • Book II - Cosmology 109
  • Chapter V - The Instrument of Reason 111
  • Chapter VI - Knowledge 154
  • Chapter VII - The Uses of Reason 181
  • Chapter VIII - Nature 207
  • Book III - Anthropology 237
  • Chapter IX 239
  • Chapter X - The Means of Conversion 280
  • Chapter XI - Rhetoric 300
  • Chapter XII - The Plain Style 331
  • Book IV - Sociology 363
  • Chapter XIII - The Covenant of Grace 365
  • Chapter XIV - The Social Covenant 398
  • Chapter XV - The Church Covenant 432
  • Chapter XVI - God's Controversy with New England 463
  • Appendix A - The Literature of Ramus' Logic in Europe 493
  • Appendix B - The Federal School of Theology 502
  • Notes 507
  • Index 525
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