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TheCanadian Review of American Studies, Volume 12, No. 2, Fall 1981 Puritan Generations in New England OandLevin.Cotton Mather: The Young L~fe oftheLord'sRemembrance,; 1663-1703.Cambridge, Mass.: HarvardUniversity Press, 1978. 360 + xvi pp. FrankShuffe\ton.Thomas Hooket; 1586-1647. Punceton:Princeton University Press, 1977. 325 + xi_i pp. Richard Slotkinand James K. Folsom, eds. So Dreadful! afudi:w1e11t: Puritan Responses to King Phih11:, Wa,; lf>7()Jn_7 .Middletown,Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1978. 490 +viiipp. William K.B. Stoever. ':4 Faire and Easie Way to Heaven": CorenantTheology and Anti11omiaru:~min Ear{,ยท Massachusetts. ~ftddletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1978. 251 + xipp. Richard Morton TheAntinomian controversy and King Philip's War were the two formative crisesofseventeenth-century New England Puritanism: the first intellectual, thesecondphysical. The generation coming to maturity before these troubles i~epitomized by Thomas Hooker, the English minister, trained in the Elizabethanchurch and brought to North America in his middle years. The generationsucceeding the events-more complex and less susceptible of easy embodiment in one figure-may nevertheless be fairly represented by the New-England born, Harvard-educated historian and activist Cotton Mather. Thesefour books illuminate from many directions the shifts of purpose and achievementin the Puritan experiment. Thetheological squabbles over Antinomianism demonstrated that even for thechosenpeople in the wilderness, heresy and immorality could appear and flourish,supported, moreover, by apparently cogent and persuasive arguments by respected leaders. The Puritans were accustomed, from their Netherlandsexperience, to disputes about church organization and government ;from their English experiences they were used to what they saw as morallaxity.What they had not expected was a radical upsetting of the whole conceptof redemption and the covenant. While Antinomian ideas had circulatedinEurope for generations, their enthusiastic espousal in Massachusetts seemedto discredit the theory of the congregation. And similarly,the terrible 192 Richard Morton Indian conflict known as King Philip's War seemed to destroy the mythofthe Puritans as missionaries and educators, and substitute the view of themas threatened by devilish forces that must be destroyed with relentless vigor. The War also demonstrated that the establishment could not protect the people-ideas of necessary independence and ideals of self-preservation took their ineradicable place in the national myth. Essential to the Puritan view of the individual was the need for scrupulous self-analysis. In a reasonably secure environment, where the desirable seemed possible and the future seemed hopeful-in a chiliastic universe-suchselfanalysis will be a happy exercise, as it was for Hooker. But in an uncertain time, in a society surrounded by potential enemies-from the RoyalGovernors to the Quakers-introspection could be more disturbing than reassuring. So Cotton Mather's life was troubled by what we can recognize as the ''sick hurry" and the "divided aims" of modern life. The splendid achievements of twentieth-century scholarship on the Puritans is continued in these excellent books. A new life of Thomas Hooker was much needed, and Frank Shuffelton's work is most welcome. Cotton Mather's account of Hooker is unexpectedly lack-lustre-Mather seems concerned to show his subject as a pastoral type rather than as an individual. G. L. Walker's major biography, published in 1891, is rich in the virtues of acburacy, scholarliness and scope, but Walker's laudable desire to avoid romanticism or propaganda does make it dull reading . In the present century, a number of excellent shorter studies and articles have appeared, and two images of the venerable old-style Puritanneither totally accurate-have developed. He is either seen, as in Everett H. Emerson's classical anthology of readings from the English Puritans, asa sober-sided English anti-Laudian who by chance spent his last years in America, or he is seen as something of a liberal or democratic political reformer, resettling his people in Connecticut as an American Hampden to Governor Winthrop's Charles I. Shuffelton takes us carefully through the life and writings and lets emerge a view of Hooker that is more complex, more sympathetic and ultimately more convincing. Hooker's story is remarkable, but of course not unique. A brilliant young English scholar and theologian, sensible o~ divine grace in himself, he was, in 1618, given the comfortable living of Esher because his reputation suggested...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 191-197
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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