A nation unchurched: The Apocalyptic community in Massachusetts Bay, 1620--1713
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A Nation Unchurched: The Apocalyptic Community in Massachusetts Bay, 1620-1713 studies the development of the Puritan sense of their own community during the colony's first 100 years. The Introduction offers a close reading of Thomas Hooker's sermon entitled "The Danger of Desertion," in which he argues how God can and will forsake a once covenanted people for their unfaithfulness. The Introduction continues to explain some basic tenets of Puritan theology. From there, the dissertation investigates John's Book of Revelation, arguing that that book offers a prescriptive blueprint for Apocalyptic communities to follow in preparation for Judgment Day. The criteria found in Revelation is then utilized as a framework to explore the writings of three representative New England colonists: William Bradford, Michael Wigglesworth, and Samuel Sewall. In the chapter on Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation , I argue that his intent on sustaining a righteous and clannish congregation fails under the very pressures that were supposed to ensure its success. John's criteria for community prove untenable in practice, as Bradford's book traces the dissolution of his colony's zeal and, as a result, the collapse of their mission to re-establish the pure and primitive Christian church. The next chapter claims that Wigglesworth's Day of Doom and Meat Out of the Eater offer a highly negative assessment of Massachusetts Bay's faithfulness during the mid- to late 17 th century. His work obliterates any sense of community as he dismisses the possibility of a colony's salvation en masse and focuses on the possibility of individual salvation alone. Chapter Four considers two Apocalyptic tracts from Samuel Sewall. Phaenomena Quaedam Apocalyptica and "Proposals Touching the Accomplishment of Prophesies Humbly Offered" propose a universalism rarely seen in previous Puritan writing. His vision of the Apocalypse is comprehensive and outward looking, resulting in the elimination of any sense of distinctiveness that was once a defining characteristic of Puritan identity.