This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

The declination of the Puritans

In the Magnalia Christi Americana (The Glorious Works of Christ in America), Cotton Mather explained the declination (the decline) of the lofty ideals of his grandfathers' time. Cotton Mather was only the third generation of Puritan ministers here in America, the son of Increase Mather and the grandson of John Cotton and Richard Mather, the most prominent clerical men of the New World.

It's hard to imagine that by the late 1600s, there was a feeling, definitely by Cotton Mather, that the ideals of the older generations, of creating a new City on a Hill, of a new Jerusalem, were failing. In fact, most of us today just associate Salem, Massachusetts with witch trials and we have completely forgotten that it was originally the shorting of of the name Jerusalem.

In spite of its Latin title, the Magnalia Christi Americana is in English, and is worth reading today. The language of the 1600s has changed a lot, but if you have read a bit of Shakespeare, etc., you will understand it. And while the lofty title makes it sound like there had been great works achieved in America, Cotton Mather obviously didn't think so. And he was right.

Remember that men like Richard Mather and John Cotton had left England to create a new world, based on the teachings of Christ. Their New Jerusalem would be free of the corruption of the world, and only fellow-believers travelled there with them. But with each generation, it became more and more difficult to get the young people to understand. By the third generation, it was well on its way to being forgotten. Now it is completely forgotten, except by religious scholars and old historians.

Yes, the Puritans failed to create their perfect theocracy. But their failure led to the eventual success of the humanists, like Thomas Jefferson, to create a new country, the country we live in today.
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