Religion and Its Reformation in America, Beginnings to 1730
An Anthology of Primary Sources
Documents of Anglophone Christianity
1129 pages, 7.00 x 10.00 in, hardcover does not include jacket
- ISBN: 9781602583016
- Published: December 2020
Beginning with a brief look at what the European colonists were able to make of indigenous beliefs and practices, and ending in 1730—the year before the first published work of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards— Religion and Its Reformation in America seeks to highlight the distinguishing features of Christianity in the first century of its life in the colonies that would became the United States.
The transplanted Church of England in Virginia, the Catholicism of Maryland, and, later on, the Quaker experience of Pennsylvania are well represented, but the heaviest emphasis falls on the "Puritans" of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Astonishingly, the leaders of a migrant population produced a religious literature that, in both quantity and intellectual acumen, is unmatched in any other colonial venue on record. Drawing on an array of texts written on the Continent, and in some cases on a personal experience of Reformed churches abroad, these so-called Puritans sought a New Church in a providentially provided New England.
The general outlines of their story—end-time excitement, the establishment of a radical new ecclesiology (which came to be known as Congregationalism), second- and third-generation confusion and compromise which yet refused to concede that their radicalism had been a mistake—are well known to historians who specialize in this period. Presented here, however, for scholar and student alike, is something approaching a full literary record—not just names and dates and creeds and platforms, but a rich human experience of motive, energy, action, and affect. Religion to be sure, with reform its driving force—but also literature in its best sense, eager to upend prevailing assumptions.
Singular in its scope, this anthology foregrounds the version of Christianity transplanted to the English colonies founded in North America in the seventeenth century. As the two editors rightly acknowledge, this version of Christianity had deep roots in Reformed Protestantism. Yet in the long run, its contours as doctrine were less important than those of piety and an understanding of the visible church. None of this was simple; as the editors demonstrate with unusual skill, debate persisted alongside consensus. A marvelous collection that deepens our understanding of religion in early America.~David D. Hall, Bartlett Professor of New England Church History Emeritus, Harvard Divinity School
Religion and Its Reformation in America, Beginnings to 1730 surpasses all previous anthologies of colonial American writing in its amplitude and scope, its grasp of the era’s distinctive interfusion of faith and literary imagination, and the depth of insight conveyed throughout its editorial commentaries. This volume encompasses a vast terrain of colonial geographies, creeds, church polities, politics, ethnographies, and forms of literary expression. Yet it rightly sets at center stage the story of Puritan New England, a country where—as Harriet Beecher Stowe once observed—the soul and one’s spiritual life became ‘intense realities’ and everything was ‘contemplated in reference to eternity.'~John Gatta, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English, Sewanee: University of the South