Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

English Puritanism, 1603-1689

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

English Puritanism, 1603-1689

Article excerpt

JOHN SPURR. English Puritanism, 1603-1689. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. Pp. x + 245, introduction, notes and references, glossary, select bibliography, index. $59.95.

This study of a well-worn subject is one of the series "Social History in Perspective" (General Editor: Jeremy Black), "in-depth studies of topics in social, cultural and religious history for students." As such, the book is not so much a full-scale volume as a useful introduction to its subject. John Spurr is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Wales, Swansea. He has prepared a carefully organized account, with an introductory presentation of its principal aspects: who were the "Puritans," and what was their connection to both the Reformation and the succeeding century in which his story's action unfolds.

The story is told in three parts: first, "Puritans and Puritanism," a fuller discussion and illustration of the essential aspects; second, "The Rise and Fall of the Puritans," recounting the course of the Puritan movement's history in England during most of the seventeenth century; and, third, "The Puritan Experience," a presentation under three sub-headings of the Promise (conversion and its Calvinist background), the Word (the Bible and its teaching), and Puritan Life (the nature of the Puritan community dominated by the religious outlook and its historical vicissitudes). A concluding brief essay attempts to evaluate the Puritan story, centered on its conviction that the kingdom of heaven must be the Christian's goal. This goal was meant to be attained during England's seventeenth century, and by God's grace moving amongst his devoted servants, striving for his way. They did not entirely succeed.

Within the boundaries of this format Spurr presents a full portrait of his subject. Many individuals tell their part in the story, the course of events is carefully set forth, and a sense of the Puritan movement's devotion is frequently asserted. Certain principal themes stand out: the awareness of a deep personal conversion to God's way, the centrality of the assurance of one's salvation, fortified by the conviction of one's predestined election thereto, and the determination and longing that the Church ofEngland be purged of its half-way reformed established religion. …

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