Popish Puritans?

February 12, 2008

I have long been aware that the word ‘Puritan’ can be used equivocally, but the following usage was a new one for me. It comes from the sermon preached by Joseph Hall, Dean of Worcester and later Bishop of Exeter, at the Synod of Dort, November, 1618:

Fit companions for such a one [the Pharisee] are (if they choose) those Popish Thrasos, most sanctified men, who boast that they keep the law to the greatest exactness, and can afterwards bestow something upon God beyond what is required of them. Truly these are the real Puritans of these days; a term which they use as a reproach to others.

Thrasos being the Greek spirit of rashness and insolence. This is obviously directed at the doctrine of works of supererogation. I don’t know if there was a particular target for this remark. The context suggests not. So, popish puritans. There you are!

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2 Responses to “Popish Puritans?”

  1. GLW Johnson Says:

    Could we allow then for ‘Federal Visionists Puritans’?

  2. RS Says:

    I suppose we could. The quote above is an example of the plasticity of the term. I incline towards the nominalist school of thought within ‘Puritan’ historiography – something I will blog on soon – and would argue that Puritanism is in the eye of the beholder. And I definitely see what you are getting at!
    Thanks for reading.


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