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The Nature of English Puritanism: Three Interpretations*: I. Reflections on the Nature of English Puritanism

  • Jerald C. Brauer (a1)


Several recent scholars appalled by the seemingly impossible task of defining Puritanism have contented themselves with the supposedly easier task of describing the movement. But, a really accurate description is actually a good definition. To the extent that a description enables one to identify and thus partially to understand a man or a movement, it serves as a definition. Thus, whether one wishes to engage in a definition of or a description of the nature of Puritanism makes little difference. The basic problem is that of so delineating the Puritan movement that its differences from other contemporary movements are clearly discernible. Only in that way can one assess its role in its own epoch and its contributions to the ongoing stream of history.



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1. Woodhouse, A. S. P., Puritanism and Liberty (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1950), p. 35 ff.

2. Quoted in Nuttall, Geoffrey F., The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1946), p. 8.

3. Rechard Sibbes, preface to Prasten, John, The Breastplate of Faith and Love. Reprinted in John, Wesley, A Christian Library (Bristol: Felix Farley, 1751), IX, 223224.

4. Sibbes, Richard, The Collected Works. Edited by Grosart, Alexander B.. (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863), V, 486.

5. Haller, William, “The Word of God in the Westminster Assembly,” Church History, XVIII (12, 1949), 203 f.“The Word of God in the New Model Army,” Church History, XIX (03, 1950), 15 ff.

6. Haller, William, The Rise of Puritanism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1938), pp. 14, 18ff.

7. Williams, Roger, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience (London: 1644).

8. G. Nuttall, op. cit., p. 6 ff.

9. Weber, Max, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1948), p. 101 ff.Troeltsch, Ernst, The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1949), II, 581 ff., 677 ff.

10. B. Sibbes, op cit., V, 399.

11. Ibid., 368.

12. Trinterud, Leonard J., “The Origins of Puritanism,” Church History, XX (03 1951), 37 ff.Miller, Perry, “The Marrow of Puritan Divinity,” Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, XXXII (02, 1935).

13. A. S. P. Woodhouse, op. cit., pp. 1–100. Lindsay, A. D., The Essentials of Democracy (Oxford: University Press, 1945), passim.

14. M. Weber, op cit.; Tawney, B. H., Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New York: Penguin Books, 1947); Petegorsky, David W., Left Wing Democracy in the English Civil War (London: V. Gallancz.: 1940); Hill, Christopher and Dell, Edmund, The Good Old Cause (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1949).

15. A. S. P. Woodhouse, op. cit., p. 37.

16. I was first struck with the necessity of understanding the complexity of Puritan piety and theology in terms of types while attempting to understand both the origin and the content of Puritan mysticism. The very fact that there were genuine Puritan mystics was in itself at first a shock. Cf., Brauer, Jerald C., Francis Rous, Puritan Mystic, 1579–1659: An Introduction to the Study of the Mystical Element in Puritanism (Microfilmed Ph.D. Dissertation, The Divinity School, The University of Chicago, 1948), pp. 4 ff., 29 ff., 282 ff., 296 ff.

* These papers were read, in whole or in part, at the joint meeting of the American Society of Church History and the American Historical Association in Chicago, December 30, 1953.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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