The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century

By Perry Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
THE COVENANT OF GRACE1

As far as we have now surveyed it, Puritan thought has exhibited a composite of ideas originated neither by Puritans nor in the seventeenth century. That it was so little original ought not to be surprising; originality in any age is rare, and there were many reasons why Puritans should have kept an exceptionally tenacious grip upon the past. Their piety, like that of all Protestants, was understood to be no new thing under the sun but a resurrection of primitive Christianity, and they were willing, they were positively eager, that it be couched in a formal theology long since established. In philosophy, science, and literature their culture was wholly academic and traditional; even in those departments where they had taken the side of innovation, in logic and rhetoric, they had ostensibly gone no further than to reform the medieval trivium and quadrivium; by 1630 this impulse had spent itself, been stabilized in a system and become respectable in the universities to which the saints looked for guidance. No Puritan perceived that the Ramist critique of scholasticism was merely the prologue to still more fundamental revisions, that already Copernicus, Bacon, and Descartes were setting in motion forces which in a few decades would cast the inherited knowledge into limbo. Puritans had indeed appropriated the new learning of humanism, but not because it was new; it too purported to be a revival, a return to a crystalline past, and in the Puritan curriculum it was incorporated into the conventional precepts of the arts and jealously guarded against introducing new heresies. Every student in New England assumed that the entire terrain of the mind was explored in technologia's map of the disciplines. Puritans lived in a fixed, limited, and unalterable universe, appointed by God and every part of it known; they were intellectual conservatives, who constantly denounced "novelty"

-365-

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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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