The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century

By Perry Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE INTELLECTUAL CHARACTER

The usual connotations attached to the word "Puritanism" refer almost entirely to its piety. The first New Englanders figure in popular imagination as beings swayed by fanatical dogmas and given to thundering and disagreeable imperatives. The ordinary conception of them does not accurately reflect the true nature of their piety; yet it is probable that even were their religion more sympathetically understood, the judgment of the present age would not be materially altered. To most twentieth-century minds, particularly to many lineal descendants of the Puritans, the movement would still seem a reaction against the "Renaissance spirit," antagonistic not only to "pagan" joy in life, but to Renaissance scholarship as well, to the new learning and humanism. General discussions today, even when well informed concerning the doctrine and creed, find the Puritans interesting almost entirely as psychological studies, either as men intoxicated with God or puffed up with sanctimonious egotism. When they are described as men of piety, it appears that they regarded the Bible as fiat and held the salvation of their individual souls the supreme requirement for successful living; hence the conclusion is frequently implied and often explicitly drawn that the Puritans looked upon philosophy as a sensual indulgence, upon classical authors as contemptible heathens, upon science as a work of the Devil and a hindrance to faith. Neither the friends nor the foes of the Puritans have shown much interest in their intellects, for it has been assumed that the Puritan mind was too weighted down by the load of dogma to be worth considering in and for itself.

There is naturally some justification for this view. No doubt the strain of piety was dominant in the Puritan make-up. Values were translated into theological tenets, inward assurances were externalized into rigid

-64-

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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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