Scots Irish and Puritans

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Ben Chomp

Puritan Board Freshman
This is a nerdy question, but is it imprecise to refer to Scots Irish Presbyterians as puritans? For example, Thomas Boston is often called a puritan minister because he was contemporaneous with the puritan movement in England and because his theology is very similar to puritan theology. But presbyterianism in America has always been divided along the lines of English puritans (who have generally resisted subscription) and Scots Irish presbyterians (who have generally emphasized subscription).
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I have always gone by puritanism having ended with the death of Baxter, roughly 1700. So Boston was not a puritan.
 

Ben Chomp

Puritan Board Freshman
I have always gone by puritanism having ended with the death of Baxter, roughly 1700. So Boston was not a puritan.

His works are printed under the Banner of Truth imprint of "Puritan Paperbacks"! Is he not a puritan because of his time or because of his nationality or both?
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
I would describe people like Boson as the Scottish Divines, or just Scottish Presbyterians. Scottish Presbyterianism is its own world with its own distinctives and traditions. To me Puritan conjures up the English Reformed of the 17th Century.
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Furthermore, many would think it improper to label American Reformed (i.e. Edwards, New School, Old School) as Puritans and restrict it to the movement among English Reformed from the reign of Elizabeth to the Act of Uniformity (1662) or Act of Toleration (1689). (ala Trueman)
 

jwithnell

Moderator
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Are you referencing those in Ulster, those in Scotland (who circulated New England puritan articles and sermons and vice versa) or the Scots-Irish who came to the US and had to get permission to preach as dissenters here in Virginia? How about the straight up Presbyterians in Philly?

I do think your subscription/non subscription differentiation is valid. You also had a distinction between how the churches associated. The NE Puritans were not as independent as congregational has come to mean but operated more like caucuses, often along family lines. Individual churches could dispense with ruling elders. This government was strange to the presbyterians.
 

Ben Chomp

Puritan Board Freshman
Are you referencing those in Ulster, those in Scotland (who circulated New England puritan articles and sermons and vice versa) or the Scots-Irish who came to the US and had to get permission to preach as dissenters here in Virginia? How about the straight up Presbyterians in Philly?

Both, although the era of American Christianity antedates the puritan era. The Presbyterians in Philly were a mix of Scots Irish and English puritans (or the children of English puritans). Francis Mackemie was an Irish divine.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
As was John Witherspoon. Jonathan Edwards (again passed Chris' date) initially preached in a Presbyterian church and considered it again when he was run out of Northampton. The soteriology, and in many cases eschatology, would have been familiar in both camps, but ecclesiology would have been different. The state/church relationship was much closer in New England too perhaps replacing the authority that subscription suggests.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
I've always considered Matthew Henry a Puritan and his commentary wasn't published until 1710. It think it's unreasonable to insist on putting too fine a point on the beginning or end of an era.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
You also have the Dutch Nadere Reformatie. It was essentially analogous to and contemporaneous with the puritan movement across the channel. But we don't generally think of men like Teellinck, Voetius, Witsius, or Brakel as Puritans even though they enjoyed a large degree of doctrinal harmony.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I've always considered Matthew Henry a Puritan and his commentary wasn't published until 1710. It think it's unreasonable to insist on putting too fine a point on the beginning or end of an era.

It feels to me, too, like Matthew Henry ought to count. Perhaps we can convince Chris to adjust his definition so that the publication of that commentary marks the end point of the era rather than the arbitrary date of 1700.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
Joel Beeke's 'Meet The Puritans' includes Matthew Henry, and Jonathan Edwards for that matter. So I suppose there is some consideration of the individual's theology/doctrine considered by some folks.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
I tend to view Jonathan Edward's death as an end of the puritan era, but I don't have the scholarship that Chris has to defend the point. After that, the colonies started to view their relationship with England differently. It's the same reason I'd not include the Dutch, as close as they are as brothers. The puritans either separated from or tried to purify the Anglican church, so a definition in relationship to the English church makes sense.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Perhaps we could define the end of the "Puritan Era" as the revolutionary settlement in 1689 and simply label those as Puritans who dissented before the settlement. Thus, Matthew Henry is a Puritan in so far as he was a Presbyterian before 1689, and more-or-less bridges the divide between the Puritan and post-Puritan church. The problem with defining Puritan as "before 1700" or "before 1711" to me is that the older ministers would have been around before the settlement and the younger ones wouldn't have. It's more of a generational divide than anything.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
As a historical matter, as opposed to a theological matter, the Puritan movement in England was pretty much dead by 1700. All of the Puritan leaders we are familiar with had gone to their graves. In 1703, when Jonathan Edwards (and Charles Wesley!) was born, John Owen had been dead for 20 years and Richard Baxter for 12.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
You also have the Dutch Nadere Reformatie. It was essentially analogous to and contemporaneous with the puritan movement across the channel. But we don't generally think of men like Teellinck, Voetius, Witsius, or Brakel as Puritans even though they enjoyed a large degree of doctrinal harmony.
Agreed. The Dutch Nadere Reformatie is a very close cousin of Puritanism.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
The variety of views in the above Posts illustrates that Puritanism is hard to define.

I find Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book on the Puritans particularly helpful (his book on the Puritans was his lectures at the Puritan and Westminster Conferences https://banneroftruth.org/uk/store/history-biography/puritans-their-origins-successors/).

A couple of quotes:
"I am going to suggest a rough kind of definition. The Puritans ... were members of the church of England. Their core concern was that the Reformation should be carried further. They felt that the church of England had stopped halfway between Rome and Geneva, and they were anxious that the Reormation should be carried out more thoroughly ...." Pg 151

[In other words the Puritans were concerned that the English church should do the same reforms done by the Reformed churches on the Continent.]

"The Puritan is primarily concerned about a pure church, a truly Reformed church .... Puritanism began with this concern about a thorough Reformation that led on to a whole doctrine of the church ..." Pg 258-259.

If you have this book it is helpful to look up the index "Puritanism: problem of definition". I have sought to give the best quotes from this but all sections mentioned in the index are helpful.

It is also worth reading Dr Lloyd-Jones lecture "From Puritanism to Nonconformity". This is now out of print, but I have suggested to Banner of Truth that they print this lecture in Dr Lloyd-Jones book on the Puritans. They told me they will do this next time they do a reprint of this book.
 
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