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The PuritansA Transatlantic History$
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David D. Hall

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151397

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151397.001.0001

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The Practical Divinity

The Practical Divinity

(p.109) Chapter Four The Practical Divinity
The Puritans

David D. Hall

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on “practical divinity,” or how Puritan ministers and laypeople understood the workings of redemption and developed a dense system of “means.” Summing up the essence of theology, the early seventeenth-century English theologian William Ames described it as “living to God,” or in such a way that the divine–human connection became visible. Well before Ames was emphasizing the interplay of piety and practice, the sixteenth-century humanist Desiderus Erasmus had advised clergy to avoid “intricate syllogisms” and focus on the “gospel life.” The makers of the practical divinity wanted to convert Catholics into Protestants and to stabilize the contours of orthodoxy, but a more telling goal was to raise the bar for all those who contented themselves with the vernacular wisdom summed up in the saying, “the God that made me, save me.” Nothing this simple would do. To these goals, the makers of the practical divinity added another, its value as an instrument of social and moral reformation.

Keywords:   practical divinity, Puritan ministers, laypeople, redemption, divine–human connection, piety, gospel life, moral reformation, Catholics, Protestants

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