Reformed Orthodoxy In North America -- By: Joel R. Beeke

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:1 (Jan 2014)
Article: Reformed Orthodoxy In North America
Author: Joel R. Beeke


Reformed Orthodoxy In North America

Joel R. Beeke

I write the Wonders of the Christian Religion, flying from the depravations of Europe, to the American Strand; and, assisted by the Holy Author of that Religion, I do with all conscience of Truth, required therein by Him, who is the Truth itself, report the wonderful displays of His infinite Power, Wisdom, Goodness, and Faithfulness, wherewith His Divine Providence hath irradiated an Indian Wilderness.1

So wrote Cotton Mather (1663-1728) in the introduction to The Great Works of Christ in America (1702). Cotton Mather wrote as the grandson of Richard Mather (1596-1669) and John Cotton (1584-1652), both of whom were founding ministers of New England.2 In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a host of immigrants trusting in Divine Providence came to the “American Strand,” among whom were many considering themselves Reformed. John Bratt writes, “As a consequence of this extensive immigration and internal growth it is estimated that of the total population of three million in this country in 1776, two-thirds of them were at least nominally Calvinistic.”3 North American theology before the Revolutionary War was dominated by

Reformed perspectives and debates about the veracity, reasonableness, meaning, and application of Reformed doctrines.4

America was born during the flourishing of Reformed Orthodoxy. Protestant Europeans began to immigrate to the New World in the first half of the seventeenth century. Reformed Orthodoxy flowed from the Old World to the New in six major streams: the English Puritan Reformed coming to New England, the Scot-Irish Presbyterians to the Middle and Southern colonies, the English Anglicans to Virginia and later other colonies, the Huguenot French Reformed to New France and various British colonies, the German Reformed to the Middle colonies, and the Dutch Reformed to New Netherlands (New York).5 This article will survey these streams, giving special attention to significant leaders (together with selected bibliographies of them), and conclude with a brief consideration of the Great Awakening which bridges Reformed Orthodoxy and modern Evangelicalism.

Puritan New England

The Puritans of New England occupy a singular place in the North American self-consciousness, but often through popular caricatures of fanatical men in black on a mission to stamp ...

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