Advertisement

Straining the Bonds of Puritanism: English Presbyterians and Massachusetts Congregationalists Debate Ecclesiology, 1636–40

  • Michael P. Winship
Part of the Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500–1800 book series (CTAW)

Abstract

In 1636, 13 English Puritan ministers sent a letter to the ministers of Massachusetts with a request for information about various elements of Massachusetts church government. After a number of consultations, the Massachusetts ministers responded in early 1638 with their own letter and a detailed response written anonymously by John Davenport. The English ministers responded with another letter and a lengthy response written at their request by one of their members, John Ball. The English reply miscarried, and by the time this trans-Atlantic postal mishap got sorted out, Parliament was in the throes of reforming the English church. In 1643, word that the New Englanders’ response was going to be published prompted Presbyterians to make a preemptive strike and publish the entire exchange. That publication in turn prompted a second New England response, by two original participants, the ministers Thomas Shepard and John Allin. Their tract, written in 1645 had one eye in the issues of the 1630s and another on the alarmingly unstable state of church reform in England.1

Keywords

Church Member Church Membership Letter Signer Parish Church Entire Exchange 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    John Davenport’s response appeared as Answer to Nine Positions about Church-Government which was published with two other responses to English queries in Richard Mather, Church-Covenant Discussed (1643).Google Scholar
  2. There are a few inconsequential textual variations between this version and the one printed in the compendium of the exchange ushered into print by Simeon Ashe and William Rathband, A Letter of Many Ministers in Old England (1643). The sheets were given a new title page and a livelier title focusing on John Ball’s contribution the next year: Tryall of the New-Church Way in New-England… by that Learned and Godly Minister of Christ, John Ball (1644).Google Scholar
  3. The sheets of John Allin and Thomas Shepard, A Defence of the Answer made unto the Nine Questions or Positions Sent from New-England (1648), were given a new title page and reissued as A Treatise of Liturgies, Power of the Keys, and Matter of the Visible Church (1653). Ball, Tryall, sig. A2v.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    For a discussion of the literature on Ball see Michael P. Winship, Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill (Cambridge, MA, 2012), p. 291 n. 11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 3.
    Nicholas Tyacke, Aspects of English Protestantism, c. 1530–1700 (Manchester, 2001), p. 57.Google Scholar
  6. This fraught, politically constructed consensus moment in Puritanism is essentialised in books like Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559–1625 (Oxford, 1983).Google Scholar
  7. Alec Ryrie, Being Protestant in Reformation England (Oxford, 2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 4.
    Thomas Edwards, Antapologia (1644), p. 22.Google Scholar
  9. Richard Baxter, Reliquiae Baxteriana (1696), iii. 19.Google Scholar
  10. John Ball, An Answer to Two Treatises of Mr. John Can (1642), sig.Google Scholar
  11. A3 [1]r-v. For the context of Ball’s encounter with the Congregationalist, see Peter Lake, ‘The “Court,” the “Country” and the Northamptonshire Connection: Watching the “Puritan opposition” think (historically) about politics on the eve of the English Civil War’, Midland History 35 (2013), pp. 28–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 5.
    A. F. Scott Pearson, Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism, 1535–1603 (Cambridge, 1925), p. 392; Ann Hughes, ‘Ashe, Simeon (d. 1662)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, s.v.Google Scholar
  13. 6.
    Samuel Clarke, A Generall Martyrologie (1651), p. 468; Keith L. Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism: A History of English and Scottish Churches of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Leiden, 1982), p. 120.Google Scholar
  14. John Paget, A Defence of Church-Government, Exercised in Presbyteriall, Classicall, & Synodall Assemblies (1641), sig *2r.Google Scholar
  15. 9.
    Sargent Bush Jr., ed., The Correspondence of John Cotton (Chapel Hill, NC, 2002), p. 264.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Ball, Friendly Tryall, p. 72. Richard Mather also discusses the elders’ ‘negative voice’, Church Government and Church-Covenant Discussed (1643), p. 62. Shepard and Allin, Defence, p. 168, call it the ‘constant practice’ in Massachusetts. In a manuscript by Richard Mather written in 1645 published as An Answer to Two Questions (Boston, 1712), pp. 17–18, Mather uses a different argument to come to the same conclusion. For the Cambridge Platform see Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana (Hartford, 1855), ii. 224.Google Scholar
  17. 31.
    Peter Lake, Moderate Puritans and the Elizabethan Church (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 47, 244–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 39.
    Sprunger, Dutch Puritanism, pp. 168–70, 226–31; Ann Hughes, ‘Thomas Dugard and His Circle in the 1630s — A “Parliamentary-Puritan” Connexion?’ Historical Journal 29 (1986), p. 787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. William Laud, The History of the Troubles and Tryal of the Most Reverend Father in God and Blessed Martyr, William Laud (1695), p. 554; Bremer, Congregational Communion, p. 120.Google Scholar
  20. 40.
    John Ball, A Friendly Triall of the Grounds Tending to Separation (Cambridge, 1640), sig. Bv, pp. 12, 157.Google Scholar
  21. 41.
    Clarke, Generall Martyrologie, pp. 448, 449; Edward Arber, A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554–1640 A.D. (London, 1875), iv. 504.Google Scholar
  22. 42.
    Thomas Shepard, The Parable of the Ten Virgins Opened and Applied, third edition (1695), 2nd pag.: pp. 183, 184.Google Scholar
  23. 48.
    William Bridge, Jeremiah Burroughes, Thomas Goodwin, Philip Nye, Sidrach Simpson, An Apologeticall Narration (1643), pp. 22–3.Google Scholar
  24. 49.
    William Bartlett, Ichnographia (1647), pp. 118–20 (mispaginated as p. 10).Google Scholar
  25. Nathaniel Rogers, A Letter Discovering the Cause of Gods Wrath against the Nation (1644), p. 5.Google Scholar
  26. Richard Baxter, A Defence of the Principles of Love (1671), p. 13.Google Scholar
  27. Thomas Edwards, Antapologia (1644), p. 15.Google Scholar
  28. 51.
    London Provincial Assembly, A Vindication of the Presbyteriall-Government, and Ministry (1650), p. 113.Google Scholar
  29. 52.
    Paget, A Defence of Church-Government; William Rathband, A Briefe Narration of Some Church Courses Held in Opinion and Practise in the Churches Lately Erected in New England (1644).Google Scholar
  30. 53.
    Thomas Edwards, Reasons Against the Independent Government of Particular Congregations (1651), p. 32. I thank Elliot Vernon for pointing out the possible Rathband connection in a conversation.Google Scholar
  31. 54.
    Thomas Lechford, Plain Dealing, or, Newes from New-England (1642), p. 69.Google Scholar
  32. 55.
    Ball, Friendly Triall, sig. A2 [iii], r-v; Thomas Goodwin, Works (Edinburgh, 1865), ix. 529.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael P. Winship 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael P. Winship

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations