The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century

By Perry Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
RHETORIC

"Affectionate faithfull preaching and setting forth of Christ" was a means of grace because, as John Cotton said, it "stirreth up in others a saving knowledge of Christ, and hearty affection to him." To Puritanism it was quite as important that the others be stirred up to a saving knowledge as to a hearty affection, for the theory of the means was premised, as we have seen, upon the scholastic psychology and therefore required that the agents of conversion be addressed simultaneously to both the rational and sensible souls. A preacher who hoped to bring sinners to repentance would need to construct his sermons so that they appealed at every point both to intellect and passion. However, it is noticeable that whenever Puritans discuss the sermon by itself, without theorizing upon it as a means, they give the preponderant attention to arousing affection. Where there is one injunction to expound the will of God "out of soundnesse of argument, and plaine evidence," or to convey "the truth to the understanding of the meanest," there are a hundred that exclaim in more passionate accents, "O brethren, let the fire burn clear; let there not be more smoke than fire." You are not to furnish the minister's table with the "dainties" of consolation and grace, said Shepard, but are "to possess men with a sense of wrath to come, and misery"; the words of Scripture, said Cotton, are to be as sharp goads to dull spirits and as nails to fasten them to God. William Ames told new england divines that it was easier to bring the Word to the ears and understandings of men than into their hearts and hands, and Thomas Hooker, whose preaching burned with this knowledge, scorned to deliver "General Truths" unless he could also awaken the heart. "It's not enough that we be stirring in the house, and people be up, but we must knock at mens doors, bring a Candle to their bed-sides, and pinch the slug-

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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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