How the Puritans failed to create a Theocracy in the New World
When Cotton Mather wrote about the declension, in the Magnalia Christi Americana (the Great Works of Christ in America) in 1702, he was describing what was becoming a failure to achieve the dreams of his grandparents, John Cotton and Richard Mather. The dream, of course, was to create a shining city on the hill, a new Jerusalem in the New World, governed by the Word of God.
Nowadays we would call their dream a Theocracy. That is, government by God. Or, to be more precise, by God's representatives on Earth. And as Cotton Mather looked around him, he wasn't seeing the devotion of his grandparents' era. And make no mistake, that devotion had no place for any other God than theirs, any other point of view than what was spelled out in the Judeo-Christian Bible, which at the time was the King James version, published in 1611.
To the dismay of the Puritans, the country that was formed after winning its independence was not a Theocracy. It was a Republic, which insisted on the type of freedom of worship that the Puritans would never have stood for - each according to the dictates of their own conscience. No reference was made to the Divine Right of Kings, or to a specific religion. Rights that could not be taken away (inalienable rights) were granted by a Creator, which left the interpretation of that creator to be open to any religion, or none at all. The Puritans, and the whole world, waited for that country to fail, to turn to a king, to establish an official religion. Democracy, and Republicanism, had failed before.
Eighty-seven years after the creation of that country, the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, wondered if that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated could long endure. It does.
Posted by Brad Hall