English Puritanism has in the past decades been thoroughly studied as a social and political force, with detailed attention given to its ideas about polity, ritual, and the state, as well as to its activities as a reforming movement. But Puritanism was deeply theological, and theological concepts were important to the other involvements of Puritans. One scholar has complained of a masterful treatment of the Elizabethan Puritan movement that it says too little about Puritan theology. Clearly, Puritanism needs to be studied as a theological movement as well as a social, political, and ecclesiastical one, and the relationship of its other concerns to its theological outlook needs to be analyzed. Certainly many previous scholars were aware of the theological dimension of Puritanism: William Haller noted the importance of the preaching of grace and predestination in Puritanism; Alan Simpson's discussion of the importance of conversion in Puritanism firmly rooted that experience in theology; the works of Perry Miller dealt with Puritanism as an ideological phenomenon and analyzed many aspects of Puritan theology; a more recent study of Puritan theology was made by John S. Coolidge. One of the purposes of this book is to continue the examination of Puritan theology begun by these and other scholars.
But Puritan theology cannot properly be studied in isolation from the thought of what is usually distinguished from it as "Anglicanism." Several attempts have been made to discuss Puritan and Anglican theology together, and these naturally concentrate on the theological differences separating the two parties that long shared the common dwelling of the Church of England. Perhaps the books by John F. H. New and J. Sears McGee are the most significant attempts of this sort. Numerous studies have dealt with Anglican thought in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The weakness of many such treatments, whether comparative or of Anglicanism alone, is that they assume that Anglicanism was a fixed entity, and that there was a classically Anglican via media theological perspective of which any particular study but brings out certain ramifications. But the assumption that the terms Anglican (and, for that matter, Puritan) designate fixed entities appears more and more questionable, and therefore I have studied together what is sometimes treated separately as Anglican and Puritan theology, convinced that in some periods they can hardly be separated at all and that at other times they are . . .