Perry Miller's Puritan Study

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It is no novel discovery that scholars have long been interested in Puritans and New England colonists’ practice of Puritanism. Miller states that Puritans differ significantly from Pilgrims in terms of their complexity (Miller 1952, pp. 3), which led scholars from different disciplines form distinct interest in Puritanism and its practice. Puritan studies are often divided between intellectual history and theological studies and scholars Perry Miller and David Hall serve as exemplary models for the presence of such division and its impact on the image projected about Puritanism. For the purpose of this paper, I will examine and compare Perry Miller’s view on Puritanism to that of David Hall. I will analyze Miller’s methodology of studying…show more content…
When viewing a religious tradition systematically one is attempting to explain its meaning and basis with rationality and coherence. In other words, one is aiming at providing an overall understanding of the structure of a tradition. This method is utilized by a historian as Miller because it leads to significant questions such as: Why did a group decided to construct this specific system of beliefs? What does that demonstrate about this specific group? These questions yield very crucial information about understanding the sect who established such system. Therefore, in order to provide a systematic perspective of Puritanism, he must examine it from the viewpoint of those who are well versed and educated in the subject matter, which means that he had to focus on the clergymen. If he does not concentrate on their point of view, he would not be able to present the “ideal” form of Puritanism or what the “architects” of the religion wished to establish. He relies heavily, and possibly only, on the sermons of clergymen to explain and support his claims about Puritan New England. For instance, the title of his book, which is derived from Danforth’s election sermon, demonstrate his method of utilizing sermons to support claims throughout his book (Miller 1952, pp.…show more content…
He begins the chapter “The Marrow of Puritan Divinity” by explaining the differences between Calvinism and Puritanism. He states that: “They learned the Calvinist theology only after it had been improved, embellished, and in many respects transformed by a host of hard-thinking expounders and critics” (Miller, pp. 50). Here, he is distinguishing between Puritanism and Calvinism in order to define Puritanism and what it entails, which maintains the systematic perspective of the belief. Furthermore, he dedicates significant portion of the chapter (pages 58 – 98) to explain the concept of “covenant” and its implications in Puritan New England. He explains that a covenant is an agreement that “God entered into such bond with man as soon as He created him” (Miller, pp. 61). The fact that he dedicated such large portion of the chapter to explain the central point of Puritanism demonstrates his area of interest; as a historian he is interested in concepts such as the covenant and how it affected and shaped Puritanism and the followers of this theology. Ultimately, Miller’s educational focus on history significantly shaped his concentration on explaining the overall concept of Puritanism and what it means. However, scholars from different disciplines explore Puritanism from a different

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