Puritans in the New World: A Critical Anthology / Edition 1

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Puritans in the New World tells the story of the powerful yet turbulent culture of the English people who embarked on an "errand into the wilderness." It presents the Puritans in their own words, shedding light on the lives both of great dissenters such as Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson and of the orthodox leaders who contended against them. Classics of Puritan expression, like Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative, Anne Bradstreet's poetry, and William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation appear alongside texts that are less well known but no less important: confessions of religious experience by lay people, the "diabolical" possession of a young woman, and the testimony of Native Americans who accept Christianity. Hall's chapter introductions provide a running history of Puritanism in seventeenth-century New England and alert readers to important scholarship.

Above all, this is a collection of texts that vividly illuminates the experience of being a Puritan in the New World. The book will be welcomed by all those who are interested in early American literature, religion, and history.

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What People Are Saying

A welcome anthology through which to understand and teach the New England Puritans. Hall captures the full range of Puritan religious expression and helps the reader understand the complexity of Puritan thought and practice.
Philip F. Gura, University of North Carolina
One cannot imagine a better person to edit an anthology on American Puritanism than David D. Hall. The first comprehensive collection to approach Puritan writing primarily from a historical rather than a literary perspective, this book has, as one would expect, numerous virtues, not least of which is that it emphasizes Puritanism as a lived religion as opposed to a set of doctrines or moral postures.
Charles L. Cohen, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691114095
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/29/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David D. Hall is Professor of American Religious History at Harvard Divinity School. His books include "Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England" and "Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice" (Princeton).
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Read an Excerpt

Puritans in the New World

A Critical Anthology
By David D. Hall

Princeton University Press

David D. Hall
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0691114099

Chapter One


In November 1620 a small group of English men and women reached the coast of New England. Another month passed before their ship, the Mayflower, anchored in Plymouth Bay, to the north of Cape Cod, and the emigrants went ashore to begin a permanent settlement at Plymouth. William Bradford (1589-1657) told the story of the "Pilgrims," the name by which this group became known in the nineteenth century, in a manuscript headed "Of Plimmoth Plantation." In his youth he had joined a group of Separatists, radical Puritans who pleaded the right of "conscience" to free themselves from "unlawful and anti-christian" aspects of the Church of England. In 1606 this group organized an independent (and therefore illegal) congregation in the village of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, under the leadership of two former ministers in the Church of England, Richard Clyfton and John Robinson. The congregation made its way to Amsterdam in 1607/8 but removed in 1609 to Leiden in order to escape the disarray within another Separatist community, the "Ancient Church," and the controversies surrounding John Smyth, a former minister and fellow Separatist who repudiated infant baptism and the doctrine of original sin.1

By 1617 the Leiden congregation was initiating steps to secure a "patent" to territory in North America that belonged to the Virginia Company of London. Among the reasons that the congregation had for leaving the Netherlands was the exiles' anxiety that living in a foreign land would cause their children to "lose our language and our name of English," a process of assimilation that eventually occurred among the families who remained there.2 Half of the passengers who had arrived on the Mayflower died during the first winter in New England, but the tiny colony was able to celebrate in November 1621 (the exact date is not specified in the records) a harvest feast that Americans look back to as the first "Thanksgiving."

Much of Bradford's history consists of letters and other texts that document the community's efforts to obtain a patent, pay off their creditors in England, control the unruly "strangers" who intruded on them, and negotiate a durable peace with the Native Americans. Bradford was at the center of all these efforts; elected governor in April 1621, he was annually reelected from 1627 to 1656. When he began to write Of Plymouth Plantation in 1630, completing the first ten chapters before putting the manuscript down, he was sharply aware of the newly founded colony of Massachusetts Bay, to the north. Wanting to defend the path of Separatism against its Puritan critics, he began by recalling the struggles of the Christian church against the Antichrist. Bradford located the Pilgrims within the framework of this struggle, conflating their persecution and survival with the "deliverance" of Christian martyrs as narrated by the fourth-century Christian historian Eusebius and retold by the English martyrologist John Foxe in his Book of Martyrs (1559, 1565). The overriding theme of Bradford's story was God's protecting providence. Yet Bradford's certainty about God's providence often gave way to uncertainty, for he "recognize[d] the faithful search for God's will as the major quest of the pilgrim's life."3 When Bradford described the "wilderness" that the emigrants had entered in 1620, he was writing as a moralist who understood the Christian life as constantly beset by adversity.

After a long interruption, he resumed writing in 1644 or 1645, now organizing his narrative around each year's events, or "annals." His audience had become the "young men" or "children" who had no first-hand experience of the early years and who were moving away from the communal center to live on "farms," a process that eventually affected every seventeenth-century New England town. Bradford rejoiced in the triumph of the Puritans in England and the "downfall of the Bishops, with their courts, canons, and ceremonies . . . it is the Lord's doing, and ought to be marvelous in our eyes!"4 But he also complained that the "sacred bond" uniting the Separatist community in the early years was "as it were insensibly by degrees [beginning] to dissolve, or in a great measure, to weaken." He wrote, therefore, to create a lasting "memorial" of the "constant faithfulness" and self-sacrificing practices of the "ancient members" of the community as counterweight to the "decay and want thereof" among the next generation.


Howard (1971); Levin (1972); Rosenmeier (1972); Anderson (2003), contesting Axtell (1985) and others on the Pilgrims' policy toward Native Americans; Gallagher and Werge (1976). The related primary sources are reprinted in Arber (1897) and Young (1841). See also Bradford's "Dialogue Between young Men Born in New England and Sundry Ancient Men that Came Out of Holland and Old England," in Young (1841).


Of Plymouth Plantation

And first of the occasion and inducements thereunto; the which, that I may truly unfold, I must begin at the very root and rise of the same. The which I shall endeavor to manifest in a plain style, with singular regard unto the simple truth in all things; at least as near as my slender judgment can attain the same.

Chapter 1

It is well known unto the godly and judicious, how ever since the first breaking out of the light of the gospel in our honorable nation of England (which was the first of nations whom the Lord adorned therewith after the gross darkness of popery which had covered and overspread the Christian world),5 what wars and oppositions ever since, Satan hath raised, maintained and continued against the saints, from time to time, in one sort or other. Sometimes by bloody death and cruel torments; other whiles imprisonments, banishments and other hard usages; as being loath his kingdom should go down, the truth prevail and the churches of God revert to their ancient purity and recover their primitive order, liberty and beauty.

But when he could not prevail by these means against the main truths of the gospel, but that they began to take rooting in many places, being watered with the blood of the martyrs and blessed from heaven with a gracious increase; he then began to take him to his ancient stratagems, used of old against the first Christians. That when by the bloody and barbarous persecutions of the heathen emperors he could not stop and subvert the course of the gospel, but that it speedily overspread, with a wonderful celerity, the then best known parts of the world; he then began to sow errors, heresies and wonderful dissensions amongst the professors6 themselves, working upon their pride and ambition, with other corrupt passions incident to all mortal men, yea to the saints themselves in some measure, by which woeful effects followed. As not only bitter contentions and heartburnings, schisms, with other horrible confusions; but Satan took occasion and advantage thereby to foist in a number of vile ceremonies, with many unprofitable canons and decrees, which have since been as snares to many poor and peaceable souls even to this day.

So as in the ancient times, the persecutions by the heathen and their emperors was not greater than of the Christians one against other:-the Arians and other their complices against the orthodox and true Christians. As witnesseth Socrates in his second book.7 His words are these: "The violence truly (saith he) was no less than that of old practiced towards the Christians when they were compelled and drawn to sacrifice to idols; for many endured sundry kinds of torment, often rackings and dismembering of their joints, confiscating of their goods; some bereaved of their native soil, others departed this life under the hands of the tormentor, and some died in banishment and never saw their country again, etc."

The like method Satan hath seemed to hold in these later times, since the truth began to spring and spread after the great defection made by Antichrist, that man of sin.8

For to let pass the infinite examples in sundry nations and several places of the world, and instance in our own, when as that old serpent could not prevail by those fiery flames and other his cruel tragedies, which he by his instruments put in use everywhere in the days of Queen Mary and before, he then began another kind of war and went more closely to work; not only to oppugn but even to ruinate and destroy the kingdom of Christ by more secret and subtle means, by kindling the flames of contention and sowing the seeds of discord and bitter enmity amongst the professors (and seeming reformed) themselves. For when he could not prevail by the former means against the principal doctrines of faith, he bent his force against the holy discipline and outward regiment of the kingdom of Christ, by which those holy doctrines should be conserved, and true piety maintained amongst the saints and people of God.

Mr. Fox recordeth how that besides those worthy martyrs and confessors which were burned in Queen Mary's days and otherwise tormented, "Many (both students and others) fled out of the land to the number of 800, and became several congregations, at Wesel, Frankfort, Basel, Emden, Markpurge, Strasbourg and Geneva, etc."9 Amongst whom (but especially those at Frankfort) began that bitter war of contention and persecution about the ceremonies and service book, and other popish and anti-Christian stuff, the plague of England to this day, which are like the high places in Israel which the prophets cried out against, and were their ruin. Which the better part sought, according to the purity of the gospel, to root out and utterly to abandon. And the other part (under veiled pretences) for their own ends and advancements, sought as stiffly to continue, maintain and defend. As appeareth by the discourse thereof published in print, anno 1575; a book that deserves better to be known and considered.10

The one side labored to have the right worship of God and discipline of Christ established in the church, according to the simplicity of the gospel, without the mixture of men's inventions; and to have and to be ruled by the laws of God's Word, dispensed in those offices, and by those officers of pastors, teachers and elders, etc. according to the Scriptures.11 The other party, though under many colors and pretences, endeavored to have the episcopal dignity (after the popish manner) with their large power and jurisdiction still retained; with all those courts, canons and ceremonies, together with all such livings,12 revenues and subordinate officers, with other such means as formerly upheld their anti-Christian greatness and enabled them with lordly and tyrannous power to persecute the poor servants of God. This contention was so great, as neither the honor of God, the common persecution, nor the mediation of Mr. Calvin and other worthies of the Lord in those places, could prevail with those thus episcopally minded; but they proceeded by all means to disturb the peace of this poor persecuted church, even so far as to charge (very unjustly and ungodily yet prelatelike) some of their chief opposers with rebellion and high treason against the emperor, and other such crimes.

And this contention died not with Queen Mary, nor was left beyond the seas. But at her death these people returning into England under gracious Queen Elizabeth, many of them being preferred to bishoprics and other promotions according to their aims and desires, that inveterate hatred against the holy discipline of Christ in his church hath continued to this day. Insomuch that for fear it should prevail, all plots and devices have been used to keep it out, incensing the queen and state against it as dangerous for the commonwealth; and that it was most needful that the fundamental points of religion should be preached in those ignorant and superstitious times. And to win the weak and ignorant they might retain divers harmless ceremonies; and though it were to be wished that divers things were reformed, yet this was not a season for it.13 And many the like, to stop the mouths of the more godly, to bring them on to yield to one ceremony after another, and one corruption after another; by these wiles beguiling some and corrupting others till at length they began to persecute all the zealous professors in the land (though they knew little what this discipline meant) both by word and deed, if they would not submit to their ceremonies and become slaves to them and their popish trash, which have no ground in the Word of God, but are relics of that man of sin.14 And the more the light of the gospel grew, the more they urged their subscriptions to these corruptions. So as (notwithstanding all their former pretences and fair colors) they whose eyes God had not justly blinded might easily see whereto these things tended.

And to cast contempt the more upon the sincere servants of God; they opprobriously and most injuriously gave unto and imposed upon them that name of Puritans, which is said the Novatians out of pride did assume and take unto themselves.15 And lamentable it is to see the effects which have followed. Religion hath been disgraced, the godly grieved, afflicted, persecuted, and many exiled; sundry have lost their lives in prisons and other ways. On the other hand, sin hath been countenanced; ignorance, profaneness and atheism increased, and the papists encouraged to hope again for a day.

This made that holy man Mr. Perkins16 cry out in his exhortation to repentance, upon Zephaniah 2: "Religion (saith he) hath been amongst us this thirty-five years; but the more it is published, the more it is contemned and reproached of many, etc. Thus not profaneness nor wickedness but religion itself is a byword, a mockingstock, and a matter of reproach; so that in England at this day the man or woman that begins to profess religion and to serve God, must resolve with himself to sustain mocks and injuries even as though he lived amongst the enemies of religion." And this, common experience hath confirmed and made too apparent.17 But that I may come more near my intendment.

When as by the travail and diligence of some godly and zealous preachers, and God's blessing on their labors, as in other places of the land, so in the north parts, many became enlightened by the Word of God and had their ignorance and sins discovered unto them, and began by his grace to reform their lives and make conscience of their ways; the work of God was no sooner manifest in them but presently they were both scoffed and scorned by the profane multitude; and the ministers urged with the yoke of subscription, or else must be silenced. And the poor people were so vexed with apparitors and pursuivants and the commissary courts, as truly their affliction was not small.


Excerpted from Puritans in the New World by David D. Hall Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix
Permissions xvii
PART I: From the Old World to the New 1
Chapter 1
William Bradford, the "Pilgrims," and the Founding of Plymouth Plantation 9
William Bradford: Of Plymouth Plantation 11
Chapter 2
Thomas Weld: "We Dream Not of Perfection" 32
Thomas Weld: To His Former Parishioners at Terling 32
Chapter 3
Thomas Shepard on His Life in Old and New England 37
Thomas Shepard: "To My Dear Son": An Autobiography 38
Chapter 4
The Town of Dedham Organizes a Gathered Church 53
John Allin: A Brief History of the Church of Christ at Dedham 54
PART II: Theology in New England: The Plight of Sinners and the Stages of Redemption 65
Chapter 5
Thomas Shepard's Catechism: On the Fall and Redemption of Humankind 71
Thomas Shepard: First Principles of the Oracles of God 72
Chapter 6
Thomas Hooker on Vocation, or the Gospel Promise 76
Thomas Hooker: The Gift of Free Grace through the Effectual Call 77
Chapter 7
Thomas Shepard on Sin 86
Thomas Shepard: The Sound Believer 86
Chapter 8
The Antinomian Controversy: John Cotton Debates the Other Ministers 89
John Cotton: A Conference Held at Boston 91
Chapter 9
Increase Mather on the New Baptismal Piety 97
Increase Mather: Pray for the Rising Generation 98
PART III: Patterns of Piety and Devotion 105
Chapter 10
John Winthrop on Becoming a Christian 111
John Winthrop: Christian Experience 112
Chapter 11
Laypeople Describe the Work of Grace 119
Confessions from the Churches of Cambridge, Chelmsford, and East Windsor 120
Chapter 12
Anne Bradstreet on Vanity and the Practice of Meditation 135
Anne Bradstreet: For my dear son, Simon Bradstreet 137
Anne Bradstreet: As Weary Pilgrim 138
Chapter 13
A Story of Spiritual Confusion: Elizabeth Knapp's "Diabolical Possession" 140
Samuel Willard: A Brief Account of a Strange and Unusual Providence of God Befallen to Elizabeth Knapp of Groton 141
PART IV The Good Society 157
Chapter 14
John Winthrop on the Social Ethics of a Godly Commonwealth 164
John Winthrop: Christian Charity, A Model Hereof 165
Chapter 15
John Cotton on Democracy, Power, and Theocracy 171
John Cotton: To Lord Say and Sele 1636 172
John Cotton: An Exposition upon the Thirteenth Chapter of the Revelation 175
Chapter 16
John Winthrop Defends His Understanding of Authority 177
John Winthrop: A Little Speech on Liberty 178
Chapter 17
Sarah Goodhue on Family as a Spiritual Community 181
Sarah Goodhue: A Valedictory and Monitory Writing 182
Chapter 18
Anne Bradstreet: Verses Addressed to Her Husband and Family 188
Anne Bradstreet: To My Dear and loving Husband 188
Anne Bradstreet: In reference to her Children, 23 June 1659 189
Anne Bradstreet: In memory of my dear grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet, who deceased August, 1665 being a year and half old 191
Anne Bradstreet: On my dear grandchild Simon Bradstreet, who died on 16 November 1669 being but a month, and one day old 192
Chapter 19
The Ministers Complain of Public and Private Sins, and Offer a Remedy for Them 193
Increase Mather: The Necessity of Reformation 194
PART V: Dissenters 201
Chapter 20
Roger Williams: Separatist, Baptist, "Seeker" 205
John Winthrop: From A History of New England 207
Chapter 21
Anne Hutchinson Defies the Magistrates and Ministers 211
John Winthrop and Thomas Weld: A Short History of the Rise, Reign, and Ruine of Antinomians 213
Chapter 22
The Baptists Plead for Freedom of Conscience 225
John Clarke: Ill Newes from New-England 228
Roger Williams: To the Governor of Massachusetts 232
Sir Richard Saltonstall: To John Cotton and John Wilson 234
John Cotton: To Sir Richard Saltonstall 235
PART VI Encountering the Native Americans 239
Chapter 23
The Pequot "War" of 1637 245
John Mason: A Brief History of the Pequot War 246
Chapter 24
Forming Native American Congregations 255
John Eliot and Thomas Mayhew: Tears of Repentance 258
Chapter 25
The Martha's Vineyard Mission 270
Experience Mayhew: Indian Converts 270
Chapter 26
Mary Rowlandson: A Captive Because of God's Providence 282
Mary Rowlandson: The Sovereignty & Goodness of God 283
PART VII Errand into the Wilderness 323
Chapter 27
John Cotton on the Millennium 329
John Cotton: The Churches Resurrection 330
Chapter 28
Edward Johnson on New England's Newfound Prosperity 333
Edward Johnson: The Wonder-working Providence of Sion's Saviour in New-England 334
Chapter 29
Samuel Danforth on Errand and Decline 336
Samuel Danforth: A Brief Recognition of New-England's Errand into the Wilderness 337
Chapter 30
Increase Mather on the Politics of Declension 342
Increase Mather: The Day of Trouble is near 343
Bibliographical Note, and Works Cited 349
Index 359

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