To the Puritan all things are impure. - D H Lawrence
May 22, 2005 9:39 PM   Subscribe

Who were the Puritans? Being a life-long Christian who is deeply dissatisfied with the image of my faith presented by these kinds of people, I found myself thinking about what happens when one version of belief gains dominance in a particular political context... and thought perhaps there might be interesting things to learn in studying this group of politically radical Protestants... particularly considering that they are arguably the religious precursors of modern fundamentalism. The search is leading me to learning a great deal more about the early history of Christianity in the United States. You might be surprised by the depth of complexity and history represented by a word that is now largely just a one-dimensional perjorative
posted by nanojath (52 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
CALVINISM--Calvin founded a little theocracy, modeled after the Old Testament, and succeeded in erecting the most detestable government that ever existed, except the one from which it was copied." Heretics and Heresies, Ingersoll's Works, Vol. 1, p. 226.

"In other words, Calvin was as near like the God of the OT as his health permitted." Ibid., p. 227.

Calvinism is the belief "(1) That there are three Gods (2) That good works, or the love of our neighbor are nothing (3) That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith (4) That reason in religion is of unlawful use (5) That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save." The Theological Works of Thomas Paine IX
posted by drakepool at 10:11 PM on May 22, 2005

Interestingly enough, the word "Puritain" started as a sixteenth century pejorative. Some English historians thus tend to refer to Puritans under a contemporary phrase, "the hotter sort of Protestants" (ie very religious), to indicate the fact that they really weren't a specific group, at least at first, but were one end of a diverse religious spectrum. Sometimes they are also known as the "godly" or "elect" (or "godly elect").

On the Puritains in New England, one of the best books I have read is A New England Town: The First Hundred Years : Dedham, Massachusetts, 1636-1736 by Kenneth A. Lockridge - it is a study of one Puritain community from its founding. Very balanced, and fascinating protrayel of how the community was really shaped by the church - to be a full member of the community, you had to be a full member of the church, but to get that membership (if I recall correctly) you had to experience a conversion experience and to live a godly life. This caused problems, as the second and third generations did not necessarily share the convictions of their parents.
posted by jb at 10:16 PM on May 22, 2005

Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan, 1923-
Interpreting the Bible & the Constitution / Jaroslav Pelikan.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2004.
posted by drakepool at 10:25 PM on May 22, 2005

The philosophy of dominionism is the puritanism of the present.
posted by hortense at 10:35 PM on May 22, 2005

cool post, nanojath!
posted by quonsar at 10:51 PM on May 22, 2005

"That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save."

This is a misrepresentation of predestination or at least different from how the Presbyterian Church sees it today. I was raised a Presbyterian, but am no expert in the theology, and was always taught that predestination just meant that God already knew who would or wouldn't take the right path.

Seems a little amazing that the group that was the one once most closely attached to Puritanism is one of the more liberal Protestant sects around today. May be an indication of just how puritanical the religious right has become.
posted by Carbolic at 10:53 PM on May 22, 2005

Carbolic - it is an accurate description of predestination as believed in the mid-seventeenth century. I would not be surprised that the Presbyterian church (actually, aren't there several?) has changed its doctrine since.
posted by jb at 10:59 PM on May 22, 2005

JB - I admit I have no idea what the definition of predestination was in Paine's time. I was really more concerned about someone getting the perception that all Presbyterians believed that today - my experience is that even many of us (Presbyterians) are confused about the concept. Just a clarification. You are correct that there is more than one Presbyterian Church today. To tell the truth I haven't kept up with the disassociations and reassociations. I know that there are some Presbyterian Churches that seem to be leaning toward the hateful attitudes that I associate more with the Jerry Falwells of the world. My experience has been that most are not. My comment was probably a defensive reaction to my perception that MeFi has a general anti-religion bias (I struggle with my own).
posted by Carbolic at 11:34 PM on May 22, 2005

In 1982, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, joined the Presbyterian Church in America. The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, had been formed in 1965 by a merger of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, General Synod.

The PCA has made a firm commitment on the doctrinal standards which had been significant in presbyterianism since 1645, namely the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. These doctrinal standards express the distinctives of the Calvinistic or Reformed tradition.

Among the distinctive doctrines of the Westminster Standards and of Reformed tradition is the unique authority of the Bible. The reformers based all of their claims on “sola scriptura,” the Scriptures alone. This included the doctrine of their inspiration which is a special act of the Holy Spirit by which He guided the writers of the books of Scriptures (in their original autographs) so that their words should convey the thoughts He wished conveyed, bear a proper relation to the thoughts of other inspired books, and be kept free from error of fact, of doctrine, and of judgment -- all of which were to be an infallible rule of faith and life. Historically, the concept of infallibility has included the idea of inerrancy.*

*see contents of the all 192 issues of Dennis McKinsey's Biblical Errancy

Other distinctives are the doctrines of grace, which depict what God has done for mankind’s salvation: (1) Total depravity of man. Man is completely incapable within himself to reach out towards God. Man is totally at enmity with God, cf. Romans 3:10-23.

(2) Unconditional election by the grace of God. There is absolutely no condition in any person for which God would save him. As a matter of fact, long before man was created, God chose or predestined some to everlasting life. He did this out of His mere good pleasure, cf. Ephesians 1:4 and 5.

(3) Particular atonement. God in His infinite mercy, in order to accomplish the planned redemption, sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die as a substitute for the sins of a large but specific number of people, cf. Romans 8:29 and 30.

(4) The irresistible grace of God. This is the effectual work of the Holy Spirit moving upon a particular person whom He has called, applying the work of redemption, cf. John 3:5 and 6.

(5) The perseverance of the saints. This is that gracious work of God’s sanctification whereby He enables a saved person to persevere to the end. Even though the process of sanctification is not complete in this life, from God’s perspective it is as good as accomplished, cf. Romans 8:30, 38, and 39, and Philippians 1:6.
posted by drakepool at 12:02 AM on May 23, 2005

If you really want to be surprised, you might look at the history of the church PERIOD. Here's an online book (long out of print) from the Making of America series on "The church of the first three centuries: or, Notices of the lives and opinions of the early Fathers, with special reference to the doctrine of the Trinity; illustrating its late origin and gradual formation.
posted by spock at 12:03 AM on May 23, 2005

You have to give the Puritans credit for bringing God and government down to the level of the individual. This legacy of empowerment helped found the US. However, stray from their definition of the faith and be banished, often to a harsh wilderness which cost you your life without the protection of the community. They were part and parcel of the enlightenment, if not perhaps a bit extreme. Yet, their extremism gave them the strength to break the bonds of existing church and state and form a society which empowered the individual. Unfortunately, their legacy is fraught with hypocrisy given how they created a new society which in its own way took more power from the individual in terms of the individual's ability to differ from societal norms than they faced back in Europe.
posted by caddis at 12:06 AM on May 23, 2005

Hi Carbolic,

I was raised Disciples of Christ -- a mainstream denomination.

My belief peaked when I was about 12 or 13.

I haven't attended since I was 16.

When I was 20, I took a university course called "Modern Christian Thought"

My late Mother switched to Presbyterian when a new Disciples of Christ minister (lasted 5 or 6 years) broke local tradition and steared the church toward fundamentalism.

The Presbyterian Minister is very "mainstream"

I asked him about the "Last Temptation" book, and he said 'It was good but he said there were times when it was over dramatic and he wanted to throw it against the wall'

I also mentioned a joke I read online about Mel Gibson's sequel: Beneath the Planet of the Passion of the Christ

He laughed and laughed...

His wife is a Presbyterian minister too...She went to see the film...he refused....
posted by drakepool at 12:12 AM on May 23, 2005

One modern misunderstanding regarding the Puritans is that they were a dour miserable lot who did nothing but toil and trudge. In a great documentary on BBC (?) some time ago about Cromwell, the interviewed historians really emphasize the joyous and hopeful sides of the Puritan lifestyle.
posted by Panfilo at 12:21 AM on May 23, 2005

Thanks Caddis,

The American version of the Enlightenment, I want to add, can be clearly differentiated from the European Enlightenment.
posted by drakepool at 12:23 AM on May 23, 2005

There is also the whole Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

I was reading the wikipedia article on Puritains, and started having to edit it because it was just not accurate. It implied Presbyterianism came out of the English Puritain movement,whereas really it was a strong influence on that movement.

It also said that the early Society of Friends came from Puritains, which is really messed, considering that they were completely different in their doctrine (no predestination, for one thing). The Quakers did come out of that period, but were most definitely not puritains.

Panfilo - If you were someone who liked May Day Poles or dancing on the green, they seemed pretty damn dour. I think they were also anti-theatre.
posted by jb at 12:23 AM on May 23, 2005

The thing that concerns me is that if the more severe Christians assume control of the government, then there is the possibility that not only would there be a spoken or unspoken "open season" on unapproved/unaccepted lifestyles, but there would quite possibly be a civil war amongst the various Christian denominations. I have always felt that each denomination does not really respect the others, and there is probably quite a bit of sniping going on. This is just the impression that I get, perhaps only because I can't get my mind around the fact that there would need to be multiple variations of the same idea.
posted by deusdiabolus at 12:23 AM on May 23, 2005

jb: the weird thing is that, yes, they were against May Day poles, dancing, and certainly theatre. But they were against it in a joyous upbeat way. Hard to explain, but the documentary I mention did a good job of it.
posted by Panfilo at 12:41 AM on May 23, 2005


One of the flaws of Christianity is: There always exists those outside the circle....

It's like what Aquinas wrote...that the saints occassionally looked over the walls of heaven into hell in order to voice approval to god for punishing the damned so forcefully...
posted by drakepool at 12:56 AM on May 23, 2005

Panfilo - I can imagine that, actually. But the popular history was definitely written by the non-Puritains. The academic history of the Puritains is split. Most people writing directly on them appear to have some sympathy (you would have to), but many people writing about their place in the community point out that their actions could be very divisive and / or controlling.
posted by jb at 1:21 AM on May 23, 2005

nanojath: this was a good American Studies link in your post

hortense: scary

spock: "you want my head to explode?"

jb: hey, I like that author you recommended
posted by drakepool at 1:26 AM on May 23, 2005

One way to view predestination, as a very Calvinist (and obnoxiously intelligent) friend of mine says, is as history in reverse.

Not necessarily the fine details... but the broad brush strokes.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:07 AM on May 23, 2005

I dug out Doctrine And Thought of the Disciples of Christ / Howard Elmo Short. (1969)

During the years of the American frontier, the Protestants were made up of Presbyterians, Baptists, or Methodists.

The DOC's only "human creed" or possible barrier to fellowship, is Luke 9-20 "He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God".

I'm paraphrasing here, but the split with the Church of Christ came about due to "bibliolatry"

I quote here, from p. 16 - "But a great heresy is being perpretrated by the attempt to make the Bible his "Word." The first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John are the clearest possible teaching that Jesus Christ is the "Word"."

The Gospel of John, to me, is the most beautiful and powerful book in the Bible. Many people agree.
posted by drakepool at 3:31 AM on May 23, 2005

The PCA has made a firm commitment on the doctrinal standards which had been significant in presbyterianism since 1645, namely the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. These doctrinal standards express the distinctives of the Calvinistic or Reformed tradition.

What you write about the PCA is absolutely true, but it should be pointed out that the overwhelming majority of us Presbyterians in the US belong to the much more liberal PCUSA. The PCA is a reactionary sub-sect that doesn't believe in women pastors, considers homosexuality a sin, etc. The PCUSA, while hasn't shifted as quickly as the PECUSA (Episcopal Church), is still very liberal and has an open dialogue going on the all these issues. First an foremost, though, the church is about social justice, and has not varied on this from its days (in concert with the UCC) when it helped usher in the civil rights movement.
posted by psmealey at 4:56 AM on May 23, 2005

Thanks psmealey...that was perceptive of you...I left that unanswered and it was a question I had on my mind...
posted by drakepool at 4:59 AM on May 23, 2005

don't forget james!
posted by quonsar at 6:02 AM on May 23, 2005

I've always felt that Calvinism was 'merely' the application of fatalism to the Christian faith, combined with an unhealthy rejection of reason.
posted by Ryvar at 6:05 AM on May 23, 2005

I dunno; Calvinism, from what I know of it, is actually kind of a complicated faith that's worth reckoning with. It's one solution to the very serious conceptual problem of the nature of divine knowledge, and it's also a way of trying to understand the essentially unfair and 'fatalistic' element of life: why are some people born happy, others depressed, some rich, some poor, etc. It's quite anti-liberal (in the sense of "liberalism" that we have in the United States--i.e., individualism); but, by the same token, there is lots that's wrong with liberalism.

Although I myself couldn't be Calvinist (I'm not even Christian or really religious), I do think it's a fascinating way to think about the world.
posted by josh at 6:27 AM on May 23, 2005

Great post and great links, nanojath (evidence for which is that the discussion has been so thoughtful and civilized). As my contribution I'll quote an OED definition for evangelical, a word often thrown around more or less at random (and discussed in the "arguably" link):
From 18th c. applied to that school of Protestants which maintains that the essence of ‘the Gospel’ consists in the doctrine of salvation by faith in the atoning death of Christ, and denies that either good works or the sacraments have any saving efficacy.

Other features more or less characteristic of the theology of this school are: a strong insistence on the totally depraved state of human nature consequent on the Fall; the assertion of the sole authority of the Bible in matters of doctrine, and the denial of any power inherent in the Church to supplement or authoritatively interpret the teaching of Scripture; the denial that any supernatural gifts are imparted by ordination; and the view that the sacraments are merely symbols, the value of which consists in the thoughts which they are fitted to suggest. As a distinct party designation, the term came into general use, in England, at the time of the Methodist revival; and it may be said, with substantial accuracy, to denote the school of theology which that movement represents, though its earlier associations were rather with the Calvinistic than the Arminian branch of the movement. In the early part of the 19th c. the words ‘Methodist’ and ‘Evangelical’ were, by adversaries, often used indiscriminately, and associated with accusations of fanaticism and ‘puritanical’ disapproval of social pleasures. The portion of the ‘evangelical’ school which belongs to the Anglican church is practically identical with the ‘Low Church’ party. In the Church of Scotland during the latter part of the 18th and the early part of the 19th c. the two leading parties were the ‘Evangelical’ and the ‘Moderate’ party.
And I happened to notice the following odd clause in the Laws of Virginia (from the "early history" link, which is an excellent collection of source material): "No man shall ravish or force any woman, maid or Indian, or other, upon pain of death..." What the devil does "or other" mean? Is it an alternative to "maid or Indian"? I'll bet a good lawyer could tie up the court forever with that one.

I do think it's a fascinating way to think about the world.

Exactly: I'm not religious at all, but I find religion a fascinating subject -- so many ways of looking at the world!

quonsar: Would that be James I or James II?
posted by languagehat at 6:30 AM on May 23, 2005

When I teach early American lit., I like to start off with the Puritan line in the form of William Bradford (on the Mayflower 1620) and John Winthrop ("city upon a hill" fame, came over in 1630). To fill out the picture, try some Anne Bradstreet, who definitely puts a daily, domestic face onto the hardcore theology of the men who ran Plymouth and Massachussetts Bay.

The Puritans were certainly less "dour" than many, most famously Nathaniel Hawthorne, would have us believe (try "Endicott and the Red Cross" or "The Maypole of Merry-Mount"). But even within the journals of Bradford and Wintrhop, you have some moments and descriptions that puncture the notion that the Puritans were homogenous, zealous bunch. Check out Thomas Morton or Thomas Granger.

I hated this stuff in high school, it's all pretty fascinating to me now.
posted by bardic at 6:56 AM on May 23, 2005

...Forces from within and outside of New England forced the theology of the founding Puritans to change dramatically. The revocation of the Massachusetts Bay charter at the end of the seventeenth century ended the practice of limiting the franchise and office-holding to full church members, effectively unseating the Puritan theocracy. Such political changes had deep religious implications. For a quarter-century or more, the nature of the New England Way was under stress, because--despite innovations such as revival preaching--fewer and fewer of the descendants of the founders were joining the churches. As a result, the Congregationalists were slowly losing their monopoly on religious and political culture. Measures to ease membership requirements, such as the Half-Way Covenant of 1662, entailed a reexamination not just of ecclesiastical practices but also of how conversion occurred and how the very nature of covenant itself was defined...

The young Edwards himself reflected these tensions and shifts. He tells us in his Personal Narrative that as a boy he questioned the central doctrines of his Calvinist heritage. In particular, he resented the doctrines of God's sovereignty (that everything was absolutely dependent on divine will for continuance) and God's eternal decrees (that everything divinely preordained must come to pass). Also, in his diary he noted that the stages of his spiritual life did not match what the "old divines," including his grandfather, taught. He pledged to solve the discrepancy through study and self-examination. The task of understanding the human heart--including his own--would take him a lifetime.

From Chapter 1 of The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards
posted by y2karl at 7:11 AM on May 23, 2005

Evangelicals rethink their public face
"Faithful must branch out beyond politics, leaders say." [MSNBC | May 23, 2005]
posted by ericb at 7:44 AM on May 23, 2005

Interestingly enough, the word "Puritain" started as a sixteenth century pejorative.

I can assure you that in France, where the spelling hasn't changed, "puritain" is no compliment.
posted by pwedza at 8:42 AM on May 23, 2005

Why won't Baptists make love standing up?
(afraid someone might see them and think they were dancing)
also excellent links about Calvin, in the comments of the Unitarian Jihad post a while back.(don't know how to make links from the archives yet)
posted by hortense at 9:05 AM on May 23, 2005

I can assure you that in France, where the spelling hasn't changed, "puritain" is no compliment.

No - that's just me getting a very strange spelling stuck in my head. Don't know why - sorry about that.
posted by jb at 10:20 AM on May 23, 2005

(hortense - isn't that joke usually about Methodists? Or maybe it just was in my Methodist church.)
posted by jb at 10:35 AM on May 23, 2005

well the Presdent is a Methodist, and I think he is a puritan tool ,so yeah that joke is about them too
posted by hortense at 10:44 AM on May 23, 2005

Carbolic - "That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save." This is a misrepresentation of predestination or at least different from how the Presbyterian Church sees it today. I was raised a Presbyterian, but am no expert in the theology, and was always taught that predestination just meant that God already knew who would or wouldn't take the right path.

Oh, the debates that raged about this one when I was taking theology and philosophy in bible college... Basically, the argument is that there's no difference between whether God ordains something or has foreknowledge of it. If God has perfect knowledge of the future, then there is only one option for how things can go. If he knows before you are born that you are going to choose to be a Christian, then you must or he was wrong (and it's impossible for God to be wrong, according to this theology). So do you have a choice or not?

It's kind of a mix of theology and quantum theory -- if God peeks in the box before you're born, then your fate is set, like the fate of Schrodinger's cat. The uncertainty is only there until someone observes, and apparantly God does a lot of peeking.
posted by heatherann at 11:01 AM on May 23, 2005

Are their protestant denominations which believe in free will?
posted by jb at 11:04 AM on May 23, 2005

As a Quaker, several of whom the Puritans executed and tortured, I'm satisfied with the term remaining a perjorative.
posted by goethean at 11:14 AM on May 23, 2005

Sorry - are THERE protestant denominations which believe in free will. I seem to be having real spelling problems lately.

I know that the seventeenth century Quakers did not believe in predestination, nor did the General Baptists (as opposed to the particularists). But I don't know if there are any Protestant sects which would go as far as some medieval theologins in suggesting one could work towards being deserving of salvation. (This is not the official RC Church position now - some extreme versions were heredical in the middle ages.)
posted by jb at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2005

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
by James Hogg

"The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) is a deeply disturbing book: it is also, in the words of Iain Crichton Smith “a towering Scottish novel, one of the very greatest of all Scottish books”, and a major text in European Romanticism. It has been variously interpreted as a set of narrative games, a Gothic novel, a psychological case-study, a satire of extremist theology and by extension of all forms of totalitarian thought, and an analysis of the Scottish national psyche, but any one explanation of its power seems inadequate. It is clear, however, that the novel is firmly rooted in the entire output of its author, James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd (1770-1835), particularly in his other novels of the 1820s, which similarly experiment with multiple narratives and conflicting voices and seek to unsettle the reader's preconceptions as they proceed."
The Literary Encyclopedia
posted by TimothyMason at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2005

Time to promote some of my sites. For those of you interested in Calvinism, be sure to check out John Piper's (a major Puritan-fan) TULIP seminar (MP3s). Also, check Theopedia for some good links on the Puritans.
posted by aaronshaf at 1:17 PM on May 23, 2005

JB: Virtually all Protestant denominations today believe in free will. The change mostly happened in the Second Great Awakening (1810 to approximately1840) as part of what historian Nathan Hatch dubbed The Democratization of American Christianity. This, by the way, is the best religious history book I know.
posted by LarryC at 1:27 PM on May 23, 2005

The Great Awakening.
posted by mlis at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2005

The Great Awakening (link is fixed).
posted by mlis at 5:11 PM on May 23, 2005

LarryC - is the Second Great Awakening a global phenomemon, or an American one? Or for that matter, what about the first? Would either have any effect on Scottish or other European Protestanism? I'm just asking because in this thread it has felt like the default has been to discuss American branches of the various churches, and I don't know where the later (ie non-seventeenth century) Scottish Church would be, or other protestant denominations.
posted by jb at 6:34 PM on May 23, 2005

I always hesitate to disagree with languagehat, but personally I wouldn't describe this as a "great post with great links" -- I mean, it's basically a link to a Wikipedia entry followed by links to various opinion-pieces, isn't it? or am I missing something? I agree it is something of an achievement to have a civilised discussion about religion around here, but I don't know whether anyone following the links would actually learn much about the history of puritanism.

There is some good material on puritanism available on the Internet, but unfortunately it is completely swamped by sectarian sites (usually trying to prove that they are the true heirs of the early puritans) and reading-lists for university courses on the history of the seventeenth century. To anyone wanting to know more about the history of puritanism, I would recommend the Library of Congress exhibition on Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, the ongoing scholarly project on the Westminster Assembly, and Frank Bremer's excellent introduction to early American puritanism.

I think it is stretching things to argue that the puritans were the religious precursors of modern fundamentalism. The two are really very different, socially and intellectually -- seventeenth-century puritanism was in many ways a middle-class movement (a Marxist would say 'bourgeois') with a lot of heavyweight intellectual backing, whereas fundamentalism has tended to be more of a grassroots movement with a certain anti-intellectual element growing out of opposition to modern biblical scholarship. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be to say that fundamentalism develops out of one particular strand of the puritan tradition -- radical puritanism rather than mainstream puritanism.

The doctrine of predestination is best seen as an attempt to safeguard the sovereignty of God, at a time when scientific discoveries were increasingly calling into question the idea of God as an active participant in the day-to-day operation of the universe. It exemplifies what I regard as a common pattern of religious behaviour -- namely that when orthodoxy is under attack, the instinctive response is to reassert it in even more rigid and uncompromising terms. (This can be surprisingly successful as a short-term strategy, though it always fails in the end.) Even in the seventeenth century, though, there were some puritans (Richard Baxter for instance) who were starting to move away from the strict predestinarian position.
posted by verstegan at 1:46 AM on May 24, 2005

quonsar: Would that be James I or James II?

my bible has only one book of james. :-)
posted by quonsar at 5:14 AM on May 24, 2005

But verstegan, if I was required to post authoritative content, I wouldn't exist.

I impatiently jumped in to lend the thread momentum.

I realized, deep down, that I would be cooped up here all day with nothing to do but eat huge bowls of Cap 'n' Crunch and smoke.

I'll make a solid rule for myself to read the original post entirely and open up the poster's links in tabs before making my third or fourth post.

But seriously, that was an excellent reply you made. I wish you had joined us earlier.
posted by drakepool at 6:48 AM on May 24, 2005

I wish you had joined us earlier.

Me too. The difference between your attitude to the post and mine may well be the result of your knowing a lot more about the subject than I; I was just glad to be exposed to some basic information.

And I heartily second the recommendation for The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner—an amazing book that leaps out of its historical moment as shockingly as Gogol or Blake.
posted by languagehat at 9:06 AM on May 24, 2005

Digital Quaker Collection ("DQC is a digital library containing full text and page images of over 500 individual Quaker works from the 17th and 18th centuries.")
posted by mlis at 5:30 PM on May 24, 2005

Apparently my spelling, though lately very shaky, wasn't completely out to lunch - according to Wikipedia, Puritain is an acceptable alternative British spelling. I don't know if I have ever actually read it this way - maybe I was just channelling some 1580s bishop or something.
posted by jb at 9:52 PM on May 24, 2005

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