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trines meant acquiescence in ignorance and superstition. His followers, with the courage characteristic of their tradition, burned at the stake rather than profess faith in a' feigned miracle.' True forerunners, they were, of the man of science who 'follows truth wherever it leads.'
A hundred and fifty years later the English Church as a whole revolted from the Roman, on essentially the grounds taken by Wycliffe; and under Mary its scholars and ministers by scores burned at the stake for their vision of the better life, which included above all what they deemed intellectual integrity. At that time, the whole English Church was in an essentially Puritan mood, dissatisfied with the old, eager to make the new vision prevail, fearless with the courage of the new learning, elate with the sense of national purification and intellectual progress.
But the word Puritan actually came into use first after the Reformation. It was applied in the later sixteenth century to a group within the English Church which thought that the national church had still insufficiently purged itself of Roman belief and ritual. Among things which they regarded as merely traditional and unscriptural, and therefore unwarrantable, was the government of the church by bishops, archdeacons, deacons, and the rest — the Anglican hierarchy. And when these officers began to suppress their protests, these Puritans began to feel that the English Church was too much involved with the world to permit them freedom for the practice of the better life. Accordingly, in the seventeenth century, they revolted as nonconformists or as separatists; and drew off into religious communities by themselves, with church governments of representative or democratic character, the principles of which were soon to be transferred to political communities.
If I recall here what is very familiar, it is to emphasize the swift, unresting onward movement of the Puritan vision of the good life. The revolt against the bishops became a revolution which shook the pillars of the Middle Ages and prepared the way for modern times. The vision, as it moves, broadens and becomes more inclusive. For the seventeenth-century Puritan, the good life is not merely religious, moral, and intellectual; it is also, in all affairs of the soul, a self-governing life. It is a free life, subject only to divine commands which each individual has the right to interpret for himself. The Puritan minister had, to be sure, a great influence; but the influence was primarily due to his superior learning. And the entire discipline of the Puritans tended steadily toward raising the congregation to the level of the minister. Their daily use of the Bible, their prompt institution of schools and universities, and the elaborate logical discourses delivered from the pulpits constituted a universal education for independent and critical free-thought.
Puritanism made every man a reasoner. And much earlier than is generally recognized, the Puritan mind began to appeal from the letter to the spirit of Scripture, from Scripture to scholarship, and from scholarship to the verdict of the philosophic reason. Says the first pastor of the Pilgrims: 'He that hath a right philosophical spirit and is but morally honest would rather suffer many deaths than call a pin a point or speak the least thing against his understanding or persuasion.' In John Robinson we meet a man with a deep devotion to the truth, and also with the humility to recognize clearly that he possesses but a small portion of truth. He conceives, indeed, of a truth behind the Bible itself, a truth which may be reached by other means than the Scripture, and which was not beyond the ken of the wise pagans. 'All truth,' he declares, 'is of God. . . . Whereupon it followeth that nothing true in right reason and sound philosophy can be false in divinity. . . . I add, though the truth be uttered by the devil himself, yet it is originally of God.'
The delightful aspects of this 'Biblical Puritan,' besides the sweetness of his charity and his tolerance, are his lively perception that truth is something new, steadily revealing itself, breaking upon us like a dawn; and, not less significant, his recognition that true religion must be in harmony with reason and experience. 'Our Lord Christ,' he remarks — quietly yet memorably — 'calls himself truth, not custom.'
Cotton Mather, partly because of his connection with the witchcraft trials, has been so long a synonym for the unlovely features of the culture of his time and place, that even his biographer and the recent editors of his journal have quite failed to bring out the long stride that he made toward complete freedom of the mind. If the truth be told, Mather, like every Puritan of powerful original force, was something of a'heretic.' For many years he followed a plainly mystical'inner light.' His huge diary opens in 1681 with a statement that he has come to a direct agreement with the Lord Jesus Christ, and that no man or book, but the spirit of God, has shown him the way. He goes directly to the several persons of the Trinity, and transacts his business with them or with their ministering angels. There is an'enthusiastic' element here; but one should observe that it is an emancipative element.
Experience, however, taught Mather a certain distrust of the mystical inner light. Experience with witches taught him a certain wariness of angels. In 1711, after thirty years of active serv
ice in the church, Mather writes in his diary this distinctly advanced criterion for inspiration: —
'There is a thought which I have often had in my mind; but I would now lay upon my mind a charge to have it oftener there: that the light of reason is the law of God; the voice of reason is the voice of God; we never have to do with reason, but at the same time we have to do with God; our submission to the rules of reason is an obedience to God. Let me as often as I have evident reason set before me, think upon it; the great God now speaks to me.'
Our judgment of Mather's vision must depend upon what reason told Mather to do. Well, every day of his life reason told Mather to undertake some good for his fellow men. At the beginning of each entry in his diary for a long period of years stand the letters 'G.D.,' which mean Good Designed for that day. 'And besides all this,' he declares, 'I have scarce at any time, for these five-and-forty years and more, so come as to stay in any company without considering whether no good might be done before I left it.' One sees in Mather a striking illustration of the Puritan passion for making one's vision of the good life prevail. 'It has been a maxim with me,' he says,'that a power to do good not only gives a right unto it, but also makes the doing of it a duty. I have been made very sensible that by pursuing of this maxim, I have entirely ruined myself as to this world and rendered it really too hot a place for me to continue in.'
Mather has here in mind the crucial and heroic test of his Puritan spirit. Toward the end of his life, in 1721, an epidemic of smallpox swept over Boston. It was generally interpreted by the pious as a visitation of God. Mather, a student of science as well as of the Bible had read in the Transactions of the Royal Society reports of successful inoculation against smallpox practised in Africa and among the Turks. He called the physicians of Boston together, explained the method, and recommended their experimenting with it. He also published pamphlets in favor of inoculation. He was violently attacked as opposing the decrees of God. In the face of a storm of opposition he inoculated his own child, who nearly died of the treatment. None the less, he persisted, and invited others to come into his house and receive the treatment, among them a fellow minister. Into the room where the patient lay, was thrown a bomb intended for Mather, which failed, however, to explode. To it was attached this note: 'Cotton Mather, you dog, damn you; I'll inoculate you with this, with a pox to you!'
Mather stood firm, would not be dissuaded, even courted martyrdom for the new medical truth. 'I had rather die,' he said, 'by such hands as now threaten my life than by a fever; and much rather die for my conformity to the blessed Jesus in essays to save life than for some truths, tho' precious ones, to which many martyrs testified formerly in the flames of Smithfield.'
Here, then, please observe, is the free Puritan mind in revolt, courageously insisting on making his new vision of the good life prevail, resolutely undertaking the discipline and dangers of experiment, and, above all, seeking what he calls the will of the 'blessed Jesus,' not in the Bible, but in a medical report of the Royal Society; thus fulfilling the spirit of Robinson's declaration that 'Our Lord Christ calls himself truth, not custom'; and illustrating Robinson's other declaration that true religion cannot conflict with right reason and sound experience. In Mather, the vision of the good life came to mean a rational and practical beneficence in the face of calumny and violence. For
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his conduct on this occasion, he deserves to have his sins forgiven, and to be ranked and remembered as a hero of the modern spirit.
He hoped that his spirit would descend to his son; but the full stream of his bold and original moral energy turned elsewhere. There was a Boston boy of Puritan ancestry, who had sat under Cotton Mather's father, who had heard Cotton Mather preach in the height of his power, and who said years afterward that reading Cotton Mather's book, Essays to do Good, 'gave me such a turn of thinking, as to have an influence on my conduct through life; for I have always set a greater value on the character of a doer of good, than on any other kind of reputation; and if I have been ... a useful citizen, the public owes the advantage of it to that book.' This boy had a strong common sense. To him, as to Mather, right reason seemed the rule of God and the voice of God.
He grew up in Boston under Mather's influence, and became a free-thinking man of the world, entirely out of sympathy with strait-laced and stiffnecked upholders of barren rites and ceremonies. I am speaking of the greatest liberalizing force in eighteenthcentury America, Benjamin Franklin. Was he a Puritan? Perhaps no one thinks of him as such. Yet we see that he was born and bred in the bosom of Boston Puritanism; that he acknowledges its greatest exponent as the prime inspiration of his life. Furthermore, he exhibits all the essential characteristics of the Puritan: dissatisfaction, revolt, a new vision, discipline, and a passion for making the new vision prevail. He represents, in truth, the reaction of a radical, a living Puritanism, to an age of intellectual enlightenment.
Franklin began his independent effort in a revolt against ecclesiastical authority, as narrow and unrealistic. Recall the passage in his Autobiography where he relates his disgust at a sermon preached on the great text in Philippians: Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, think on these things. Franklin says that, in expounding this text, the minister confined himself to five points: keeping the Sabbath, reading the Scriptures, attending public worship, partaking of the sacraments, and respecting the ministers. Franklin recognized at once that there was no moral life in that minister, was 'disgusted,' and attended his preaching no more. It was the revolt of a living Puritanism from a Puritanism that was dead.
For, note what follows, as the consequence of his break with the church. 'It was about this time that I conceived,' says Franklin, 'the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time, and to conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.' Everyone will recall how Franklin drew up his table of the thirteen real moral virtues, and how diligently he exercised himself to attain them. But, for us, the significant feature of his enterprise was the realistic spirit in which it was conceived: the bold attempt to ground the virtues on reason and experience rather than authority; the assertion of his doctrine 'that vicious actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but forbidden because they are hurtful, the nature of man alone considered.'
Having taken this ground, it became necessary for him to explore the nature of man and the universe. So Puritanism, which, in Robinson and Mather, was predominantly rational, becomes in Franklin predominantly scientific. With magnificent fresh moral force, he seeks for the will of God in nature, and ap
plies his discoveries with immense practical benevolence to ameliorating the common lot of mankind, and to diffusing good-will among men and nations. Light breaks into his mind from every quarter of his century. His vision of the good life includes bringing every faculty of mind and body to its highest usefulness. With a Puritan emancipator like Franklin, we are not obliged to depend, for the opening of our minds, upon subsequent liberators devoid of his high reconstructive seriousness.
I must add just one more name, for the nineteenth century, to the history of our American Puritan tradition. The original moral force which was in Mather and Franklin passed in the next age into a man who began to preach in Cotton Mather's church, Ralph Waldo Emerson, descendant of many generations of Puritans. The church itself had now become Unitarian: yet, after two or three years of service, Emerson, like Franklin, revolted from the church; the vital force of Puritanism in him impelled him to break from the church in behalf of his vision of sincerity, truth, and actuality. 'Whoso would be a man,' he declares in his famous essay on Self-Reliance, 'must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.'
No American ever lived whose personal life was more exemplary; or who expressed such perfect disdain of outworn formulas and lifeless routine. There is dynamite in his doctrine to burst tradition to fragments, when tradition has become an empty shell. 'Every actual state is corrupt,' he cries in one of his dangerous sayings; 'good men will not obey the laws too well.' To good men whose eyes are wide and full of light, there is always breaking a new vision of right reason, which is the will of God, and above the law. Emerson himself broke the Fugitive Slave Law, and in the face of howling ProSlavery mobs declared that John Brown would 'make the gallows glorious like the cross.'
That is simply the political aspect of his radical Puritanism. On the aesthetic side, Emerson disregarded the existing conventions of poetry to welcome Walt Whitman, who saluted him as master. Emerson hailed Walt Whitman because Whitman had sought to make splendid and beautiful the religion of a Puritan democracy; and a Puritan democracy is the only kind that we have reason to suppose will endure.
Let these two examples of Emerson's revolt and vision suffice to illustrate the modern operation of the Puritan spirit, its disdain for formalism and routine.
Now, our contemporary leaders of the attack against the modern Puritan declare that modern Puritanism means campaigns of 'snouting and suppression.' That, we should now be prepared to assert, is precisely and diametrically opposite to what modern Puritanism means. Modern Puritanism means the release, not the suppression, of power, welcome to new life, revolt from decay and death. With extravagant asceticism, with precisianism, modern Puritanism has nothing whatever to do.
What made the teaching of Emerson, for example, take hold of his contemporaries, what should commend it to us to-day, is just its unfailingly positive character; its relish for antagonisms and difficulty; its precept for the use of the spur; its restoration of ambition to its proper place in the formation of the manly character; its power to free the young soul from the fetters of fear and send him on his course like a thunderbolt; and, above all, its passion for bringing the whole of life for all men to its fullest and fairest fruit; its pas
sion for emancipating, not merely the religious and moral, but also the intellectual and the political and social and aesthetic capacities of man, so that he may achieve the harmonious perfection of his whole nature, body and soul. To this vision of the good life, Puritanism has come by inevitable steps in its pilgrimage through the ages.
What have I been trying to demonstrate by this long review of the Puritan tradition? This, above all: that the Puritan is profoundly in sympathy with the modern spirit, is indeed the formative force in the modern spirit.
The Puritan is constantly discarding old clothes; but, being a well-born soul, he seeks instinctively for fresh raiment. Hence his quarrel with the Adamite, who would persuade him to rejoice in nakedness and seek no further.
Man is an animal, as the Adamites are so fond of reminding us. What escapes their notice is, that man is an animal constituted and destined by his nature to go on a pilgrimage in search of a shrine; and till he finds the shrine, constrained by his nature to worship the Unknown God. This the Puritan has always recognized. And this, pre^cisely, it is that makes the Puritan a better emancipator of young souls than our contemporary Adamite.
A great part of our lives, as we all feel in our educational period, is occupied with learning how to do and to be what others have been and have done before us. But presently we discover that the world is changing around us, and that the secrets of the masters and the experience of our elders do not wholly suffice to establish us effectively in our younger world. We discover within us needs, aspirations, powers, of which the generation that educated us seems unaware, or toward which it appears to be indifferent, unsympathetic, or even actively hostile. We perceive gradually or with successive shocks of