A GLIMPSE OF SION'S GLORY: Puritan Radicalism in Seventeenth-Century New England by Philip F. Gura

A GLIMPSE OF SION'S GLORY: Puritan Radicalism in Seventeenth-Century New England

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How the radical spiritists, Antinomians, Quakers, baptists, and other ""troublers of Israel"" paradoxically served to promote the Puritan ideology they questioned and defied: a formidable and potentially quite important study rendered almost inaccessible by its dryness, density, and narrative incoherence. Gura (U. of Colorado) belongs to the apostolic succession of Harvard Americanists (he sat at the feet of Alan Heimert, who sat at Perry Miller's), and carries on that tradition of intense, uncompromising scholarship. The astonishing amount of theological controversy (mostly excerpts from tracts and sermons) assembled here goes a long way toward upsetting Miller's widely accepted notion that ""the first three generations in New England paid almost unbroken allegiance to a unified body of thought."" In other words, once the furor raised by Anne Hutchinson and her associates had been quelled (1637-38), the powerful consensus known as nonseparating congregationalism more or less reigned supreme. But Gura's material, which deals almost exclusively with the period from 1620 to 1660, shows that the radicals (Hutchinson, Samuel Gorton, William Pynchon, and scores of others) were a remarkably vigorous lot and found many sympathizers. And while they failed to overthrow the Establishment--as did the Diggers, Levelers, Ranters, Fifth Monarchy Men, etc. in England--they altered the consciousness of the triumphant majority. They helped the Puritans ""redefine their errand"" and injected new energy into it. They became ""a necessary scapegoat,"" the dark background against which the community could trace its identity. Gura's thesis is solid, but his fiercely intellectualist approach to history and his endless, stupefying quotations from Protestant divines, lay visionaries, et al. will stop most readers cold. A rich find, nonetheless, for students of early Colonial thought.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1983
Publisher: Wesleyan Univ. Press--dist. by Harper & Row