Saturday, Oct 01, 2016 1:00p -

Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02215

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When we think of love and passion, we rarely think of New England Puritans. But that’s a big mistake.

The Puritans we remember today as killjoys who banned every sort of pleasure actually had a laser-like focus on love. Thomas Shepard, minister at Cambridge in the 1630s and 1640s, repeatedly made the pursuit of earthly love a model for the pursuit of Christ, urging his congregation to “go after” Christ as a woman goes after the man she loves, no matter what: "The soul, beholding the glory of the Lord Jesus, makes choice of him, as in all marriage bonds there is a choice made, and, if love be great, there is little standing on terms—let me have him though I beg with him…”

Marital love also served as a model for spiritual love; Puritan literature is full of references to Christ as Spouse (an idea taken from the Bible), and ecstatic visions of union with Christ.

Love in marriage was crucially important to the Puritans, who saw it as a foretaste of the joy they would experience in Heaven and as the lynchpin of the family—itself the foundation of Puritan society. John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony many times between 1630 and 1649, wrote to his wife Margaret about their their love this way: “...love was their banqueting house, love was their wine, love was his invitings, love was her faintings, love was his apples, love was her comforts, love was his embracings, love was her refreshing…”

We would go on, but we might blush! To read the rest of John Winthrop’s letter and more, join us for a discussion of Puritan readings, from love letters to diaries and, yes, even sermons.

Discussion leaders

Lori Stokes Ph.D and Sarah Stewart, both of the Partnership of Historic Bostons, are avid readers of Puritan love letters, religious writings and diaries. Lori is an editor for the Church Records Transcription Project, a digital history project of the Congregational Library and Archives in Boston. Sarah is researching Puritan gravestone imagery and political thought of the English civil war.


Primary sources

Letters of John and Margaret Winthrop

Excerpts from the sermon cycle The Parable of the Ten Virgins, by Thomas Shepard

Thomas Shepard’s Spiritual Journal

Jane Holmes’ 1638 conversion narrative from Cambridge

Excerpts from Thomas Hooker’s The Soul’s Implantation

Excerpts from the spiritual journal of John Winthrop

NOTE: We will send you a pdf of the primary readings once you register.

Secondary sources

Roger Thompson, Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699 (Amherst University of Massachusetts Press, 1986).

Chapters 1 and 2, Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in 17th Century New England (New York: Harper & Row, 1966). A classic and beautifully written analysis of Puritan life and society. Readily available in libraries, bookshops, Amazon.


What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

Parking near the Massachusetts Historical Society is a challenge! We advise taking public transport. The nearest T stop is Hynes Convention Center.

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Contact us any time on phbostons@gmail.com or ring Sarah on 917 553-4486.

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01/10/2016 13:00:00 01/10/2016 15:00:00 America/New_York Sweet Talk: The Passion of Puritans in Letters, Diaries... and Sermons When we think of love and passion, we rarely think of New England Puritans. But that’s a big mistake. The Puritans we remember today as killjoys who banned every sort of pleasure actually had a ... Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA 02215 false DD/MM/YYYY