English Puritanism from John Hooper to John Milton

English Puritanism from John Hooper to John Milton

English Puritanism from John Hooper to John Milton

English Puritanism from John Hooper to John Milton

Excerpt

The study that follows seeks to serve several purposes. First, it offers a brief history of English Puritanism from its beginnings to 1641, when its victories transformed and disintegrated it, if indeed it ever had any integration. The history is based on a fresh study of important primary sources and incorporates the findings of modern specialized research in English political, economic, social, religious, and literary history. Second, this history is supplemented by a consideration of the careers of twenty Puritan leaders and spokesmen, from John Hooper in the reign of King Edward VI to John Milton on the eve of the Puritan Revolution. Third, it provides significant samples from the writings of each Puritan whose life and works have been surveyed. Many who are interested in Puritanism have had little or no opportunity to know writings by these men, for their works, with few exceptions, are to be found only in a small number of research libraries. Thus the study attempts to achieve a measure of both breadth and depth.

The new image of the Puritan which is emerging from modern studies is a much more attractive one than the old. The Puritan is now conceived as both more humane and more intellectual, and indeed most Puritan leaders from Walter Travers in the 1570's and '80's to Thomas Gataker in the 1620's and '30's were in fact both humane and intellectual. We are now closer to the truth than we were when the Puritan was thought to be an old, dour, know-nothing killjoy. But the idea that there is such a thing as "the Puritan" is itself of questionable value. Doubtless in the first fifty years of the Massachusetts Bay Colony a kind of intellectual and psychosocial homogeneity did exist among the leaders, but in pre-Civil War England one can clearly discern three things: the establishment of traditions among those dissatisfied with the Church, through the influence of great personalities such as Thomas Cartwright, Laurence Chaderton, and William Perkins on their contemporaries and students; a tendency for Puritanism to be identified with bourgeois values, especially in the 1620's and '30's; and a strong identification with Calvinism as the opponents of Puritanism began to attack it.

In this book are represented some of the varieties of Puritanism as they are to be found in the ninety-year period from 1550 to 1641. During all these years, except for Queen Mary's reign, Puritan reformers were an important force, but a force whose nature was constantly changing. Puritanism is not easy to understand because little . . .

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