Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 05:1 (Nov 1942)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous


Reviews Of Books

William Warren Sweet: Religion in Colonial America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1942. xv, 367. $3.00.

A book to delight the heart of the minister, to interest the church member, to warm the blood of the teacher of history is William Warren Sweet’s new volume. Better still, the preface promises that two more similar volumes are to follow, carrying the story down to present times. For the first time something like an adequate survey of the history of the church in these United States is to be available, and the first part of it, a quite independent and self-contained unit in itself, is in the bookstores.

Dr. Sweet has had the wisdom not to attempt to write such a work entirely from personal study of the original sources. He has used the accumulated labors of students who have in recent years been working diligently in the papers and documents which contain the story of the American churches. Many of these students have caught their inspiration from him, and he has often directed their efforts. But he has not limited himself to such. He has, for example, presented the nub of the results of the studies of Professor Perry Miller of Harvard on the question of why the Puritans in New England set up a congregational and not a presbyterian form of church government, a matter that was quite confused in the minds of most intelligent people until Miller published his Orthodoxy in Massachusetts in 1933.

Again, Sweet has succinctly and freshly presented the facts about Roger Williams, stated what he did and did not do, distinguished his real opinions from the general nebulous mass of misinformation that floats in many minds, and pointed out both his weaknesses and his great virtues.

The best of it is that sound scholarship is married in this book to a living style. Reading the book is in no sense a task, it is a positive pleasure. The difficulty is to hold one’s self in check and not to read too rapidly. Here is a world that once was literally a new world to its first European settlers and now is being opened up as, in truth, a new world intellectually to their descendants. Parrington, Gabriel, Miller, Morison and a host of others have been pioneering in recent years in various phases of the historical study of the American scene, some painting in broader strokes and some

filling in details in one section. Building on their labors and his own, Sweet gives his readers the history of the American church as these labors are presenting it. And he has done a goodly share of the pioneering himself. It is satisfying now to see such welcome fruit in the form of a great synthesis.

The book is doubly welcome because the pictu...

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