Through a richly detailed account of the genesis, flowering, and decline of the Puritan ideal of a church of the elect in England and America, Professor Morgan offers an important reinterpretation of a pivotal era in New England history.
Historians have generally supposed that the main outlines of the Puritan church were determined in England and Holland and transplanted to the new world. The author convincingly suggests, instead, that the distinguishing characteristic of the New England churches—the ideal of a church composed exclusively of true and tested saints—developed fully only in the 1630's and 1640's, some time after the first settlers arrived in New England. He also examines the influence of the Separatist colony at Plymouth on the later settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and follows the difficulties created by a definition of the religious community so selective that the New England churches nearly expired for lack of saints to fill them.
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