Cotton Mather, Heterodox Puritanism, and the Construction of America

  • Edward Simon
Part of the Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500–1800 book series (CTAW)

Abstract

The New England Puritan theologian, minister, and civic leader, Cotton Mather, wrote in his pamphlet India Christiana (1721) that ‘we have now seen the Sun Rising in the West’.1 It is an evocative image — one that almost seems almost apocalyptic. In one sentence, Mather turns the natural world upside down, conflating origins with endings, collapsing Genesis into Revelation, and turning east into west. Mather elaborates on the work of resetting the directional West and specifically the location of America and its relation to old Europe in passages such as this, but also throughout his voluminous output, including Ornaments of the Daughters of Zion (1692),2 Nehemias Americanus (1702),3 the Biblia Americana (1693–1728),4 Theopolis Americana: An Essay on the Golden Street in the Holy City (1710),5 and especially Magnali Christi Americana (1702).6 Mather conceptualises spatiality in providential terms within these texts, so as to reconfigure the New World as the site of a New Zion and to generate the new identity of the ‘American’.7 Although Mather operated within the mainstream of the Reformed Protestant religious traditions, he and other New England Puritans were, in an important sense, altering traditional Calvinist doctrine so as to better understand their position on the margins of the British world.

Keywords

Sacred Space Civic Leader Holy City American Frontier Doctrinal Orthodoxy 
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.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cotton Mather, India Christiana: A Discourse, Delivered Unto the Commissioners, for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the American Indians: Which Is Accompanied with Several Instruments Relating to the Glorious Design of Propagating Our Holy Religion, in the Eastern as Well as the Western, Indies: An Entertainment Which They That Are Waiting for the Kingdom of God Will Receive as Good News from a Far Country (Boston, 1721).Google Scholar
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© Edward Simon 2015

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  • Edward Simon

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