The Puritans: a Transatlantic History
David D. Hall
Not just ‘another book on the Puritans’. Rather, a book on the Puritans that tells you what others don’t.
So why is it different? For one thing, it is comprehensive in scope and not limited as many books on Puritanism are. Hall seeks to tell the Puritan story in chronological order from the 1530s to 1662. For another, it has an entire chapter on Scotland; thirty one pages that mention a multitude of matters from the Golden Act to the covenants.
Further, there are Anglican and Presbyterian Puritans as well as Irish and American Puritans. Truly comprehensive in scope. There are of course the usual rogues and troublesome characters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams.
In addition, we are treated to a wealth of biographical and theological details. Hall takes us through the various nuances, differences and controversies that sometimes engulfed Puritanism.
Hall rightly slays all the caricatures that abound in reaction to the Puritans showing us that they were a race of people dedicated to serving God both personally and collectively. Consider Lucy Hutchinson (d.1681) who records that before the 1640s ‘puritan’ was not a label that she or her husband (who died in 1663) would have acknowledged. However, their experience of war prompted her to embrace it as a name for her husband’s ethics.
It is gratifying that Hall does attempt to apply (or not apply) the term to the right people. Thus the Anabaptists are not puritans.
There are some surprising comments. When Hall discusses the law, he alleges, regarding the law imposed upon ancient Israel, that most of it was irrelevant for Christians. This is wholly incorrect. Were Hall to read the Larger Catechism on the Moral Law he would see differently. Another comment occurs under providence where he refers to a ‘Christianised folklore of wonders and portents’. Hall also adopts the politically correct term ‘humankind ’.
There are 130 pages of endnotes. These are a must-read, where there is a wealth of additional material, snippets and other gems.
Given the wealth of material some readers may find it all exhausting. It is however an outstanding work and deserves the widest readership. It will surely become a reference work for many.
Rev E T Kirkland