Puritanism and the Wilderness: The Intellectual Significance of the New England Frontier, 1629-1700

By Peter N. Carroll | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
"A Sorrowful Estate"

GREETED by a virgin forest and dense underbrush, the Puritan colonists were awed by the tasks awaiting them in America. Their background provided scant preparation for the difficulties of settling the untamed continent, and only a painful process of trial and error enabled the Puritans to adjust to life in the wilderness. William Hubbard expressed sympathy for the settlers who first confronted the rigors of American life and who, "for want of experience and judgment," exposed themselves to the hazards of an unknown wilderness. "These poor people," he stated, "met with much hardship . . . in their first settlement, before they were well acquainted with the state of new Plantations, and nature of the climate." The Puritans explained their unexpected difficulties with reference to the Biblical wilderness wherein the Lord tempted His people to test their faith. Although Thomas Shepard praised the peacefulness of New England, he acknowledged that the land remained "a place of tryall." For, as his eldest son, Thomas Shepard, Jr., declared, "In a wilderness there is not only want of many comforts, but there is a danger as to many positive evils." Shortly after the arrival of the Winthrop fleet in the summer of 1630, Francis Higginson preached his final sermon from Matthew 11:7: "What went ye out into the wilderness to see"? With his waning strength, he reminded the peo-

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Puritanism and the Wilderness: The Intellectual Significance of the New England Frontier, 1629-1700
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Two Worlds 5
  • Chapter I - The Good Land 7
  • Chapter II - Sad Stormes and Wearisom Dayes 27
  • Chapter III - A New World 45
  • Part II - The Symbolic Wilderness 61
  • Chapter IV - A Sorrowful Estate 65
  • Chapter V - A Place of Safetie 87
  • Chapter VI - The Pleasant Gardens of Christ 109
  • Part III - A Wilderness Society 127
  • Chapter VII - The Welfare of This Commonwealth 131
  • Chapter VIII - The Unity of the English Colonyes 161
  • Chapter IX - The Further Improvement of the Wildernes 181
  • Chapter X - A Smart Rod and Severe Scourge 199
  • Epilogue 223
  • Selected Bibliography 225
  • Index 241
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