Millennialism, Calling and Mores: Resituating Weber and Tocqueville in America’s Pursuit for Freedom

HomeArticlesMillennialism, Calling and Mores: Resituating Weber and Tocqueville in America’s Pursuit for Freedom

Max Weber in his sociological classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism addresses the question of what gives birth to rational capitalism in the west. Weber proposes that for Protestants, especially New England Puritans who experienced a sense of anxiety in their assurance of salvation, the Calvinist conviction of “calling” led to a type of this-worldly asceticism which justifies and encourages profit-making as evidence of God’s gracious election. In Weber’s own words of summary, “The premiums were placed upon ‘proving’ oneself before God in the sense of attaining salvation-which is found in all Puritan denominations- and ‘proving’ oneself before men in the sense of socially holding one’s own within the Puritan sects.”[1] This gave rise to a “capitalist ethos,” a mixture of hard work, thrift and calculative living, which, over time, led to an unintended institutional consequence known as rational capitalism.

French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic Democracy in America also theorizes about the influence of Protestantism in early America. He observes that Protestantism regulates “mores” that underlie emerging political institutions. Organizationally, Protestant groups serve as “intermediate institutions” that nurtured a kind of self-governance, especially the “voluntary associationism” at township levels, which helped to safeguard individual liberty.[2]

These two classical theses share a common interest in how religious convictions and the practices of Protestants in early American helped shape the economic and political life within their society. While we agree with Weber and Tocqueville that Protestantism has indeed significantly shaped the economic and political institutions of America; nevertheless, we argue that without being able to unpack a richer theological dimension, Weber’s and Tocqueville’s intellectual endeavors on this topic remain incomplete. Our main argument is that in early America, a rich millennialist theology and vision served as a framing narrative that canopied Protestants’ beliefs and actions. Such an overarching millennialist vision evolved into radical and civil forms during different historical phases in early America. It brought a sense of urgency which fostered a widespread collective action in economic and political realms that lasted for a few generations. This addresses Weber’s original question of why capitalist ethos and activities emerged in America with an unprecedented large scale, than the sporadic fledgling of it in other parts of the world. By resituating Weber’s and de Tocqueville’s theses into this grander theological narrative, we gain a more nuanced understanding of how Protestantism shaped early American society.

Millennialism and Calling

When making a causal association between religious beliefs and social prosperity, Weber narrows it down to a Calvinist theology of calling or vocation within Protestantism. However, such a sense of calling or vocation is a more complicated and multi-faceted theological concept than he realized. Although Weber pointed out a subtle psychological dimension of Puritans with regard to their assurance of salvation, it would be problematic to suggest that all Puritans sought profit-making or successful economic enterprises as evidence of God’s electing favor. In fact, the early group of Puritan preachers always warned against the lure of wealth to one’s soul. Historians documenting American Calvinist theology tend to agree that the Puritans’ teachings concerning predestination emphasized that no external good works could earn them salvation.[3] Just as nineteenth-century historian John Fiske says, “Of all migrations of peoples, the settlement of New England is preeminently the one in which the almighty dollar played the smallest part, however important it may since have become a motive power. It was left for religious enthusiasm to achieve what commercial enterprise had failed to accomplish.”[4] There may well have been Puritans who were motivated by a sense of anxiety to live out one’s calling as proof of their salvation, but another dimension of calling seems to be more prevalent and powerful; that is, their intense longing for Christ’s reign in the New World that transformed them into agents of change in ethics and action.

Moreover, in the Calvinist understanding a vocational calling is also a witness of God’s glory as a way of attracting unbelievers. As historian Bailyn documents, a community of pious fisherman in New England felt called to witness with their “labor and righteousness” which would “glorify God” and “bring the Gospel to the savages.”[5] Over time, the growth of fisheries greatly expanded trade opportunities, and importers to England and France became the influential entrepreneurs. By 1660, New England became the leading colony through its fishing industry, and this trade expanded to other products.[6] Therefore, what Weber theorizes about vocation or calling can actually be explained more satisfactorily by recognizing New Englanders’ evangelistic zeal during a time when millennialist hopes were high.

To be fair, Weber does not ignore millennialism completely in his Protestant Ethic, for he mentions in passing that “an eschatological outlook of life absolutely dominated the most spiritual men of that time,” motivating their economic entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, he fails to unpack the black box which he calls “the original body of ideas.”[7] Weber strongly senses the significance of such eschatological ideas, for he says that “without its power, overshadowing everything else, no moral awakening which seriously influenced practical life came into being in that period.”[8] And yet he left it largely unexplored.

In Christian theology, millennialism (either post-millennialism or pre-millennialism) refers to an exegetical understanding of Revelation 20. Post-millennialism understands Christ’s second-coming to occur after the “Millennium,” a Golden Age in which Christian ethics prosper. Pre-millennialism reverses the order and believes that Christ will return before the Millennium. In early American history, both of these types of millennialism shaped the society.[9] Scholars differ on which type primarily affects certain social stratum or the whole society. For example, scholars like Brekus claim that post-millennialism was accepted only among the theological liberals.[10] Marsden, on the other hand, argues that post-millennialism was “the prevalent view among American evangelicals between the Revolution and the [American] Civil War.”[11] Their difference of opinions also has to do with different periods of time in early America. All in all, Bloch summarizes it as “a picture of diverse millennial traditions” whereas Puritan New England has “the most compelling evidence of a powerful and continuing millennial tradition.”[12]

Back in England, ever since the English Civil War (1642-1651) broke out, Puritans were affected by a millennialist fever, which spread to the New World. During Cromwell’s rule and under his protection, many Puritans, including John Owen, Josephy Caryl, John Howe and Philip Nye, wrote theological treatises about millennialism and how Christians ought to rule in this Golden Age.[13] According to political scientist Sandoz, most Puritans in this time consider themselves living in an era when biblical revelation was coming to its end, and that they were to live out God’s calling before the imminent realization of the Millennium.[14] However, just as Hall claims, it was in New England that the “possibilities for change opened up” when public life underwent a visible transformation.[15] Hall terms this millennialist hope as “the reign of Christ” and “godly rule”.[16]

Since the seventeenth century, an optimistic eschatology emerged in New England area.[17] Toon claims that post-millennialist thoughts can be found in the works of many significant theologians at that time, including Jonathan Edwards, Daniel Whitby, Charles Hodge and Augustus Strong.[18] As Holifield points out, “For more than a century in early colonial America, theologians ruled the realm of ideas…Until almost the dawning of the American Revolution, theologians exercised a singular authority in American print culture.”[19] In fact, their works were influential enough to make post-millennialism a widely received theological understanding in the eighteenth century.[20] However, although scholars consider post-millennialism a progressive and optimistic movement, it still encompassed the doctrine of total depravity in Calvinism, unlike Wessinger’s oversimplified assessment that it was “an optimistic view of human nature and society.”[21] Ashcraft provides a more nuanced view of millennialist Puritans in New England as having “a mixture of optimism and pessimism,” for they were concerned about both the depravity of this age and the glory of the millennium.[22]

Morgan finds that calling or vocation was a prominent theme in sermons and publications of that time. Hence, Weber’s thesis of calling is a valid one. As Walzer claims, on the one hand, a sense of calling turns Puritans into “radical social critics”; and on the other hand, this sense of calling makes them actively engaged with the world, which they consider “a place of discipleship.”[23] Weber’s genius is in how he traces the development of capitalism to individual-level motivations. Nevertheless, a calling driven by a millennialist vision has a more collective dimension, which is much broader than what Weber puts forth about individualistic callings of economic entrepreneurship. By documenting that “the Puritans who founded New England searched their souls for many months to ascertain whether they had a call to the New World,”[24] Morgan is also suggesting that such a calling has an individual as well as collective component. Individually, as Morgan says, “The activity by which a man earned his living came to be known familiarly as his ‘calling’, but the same word applied to his status as a son or a father, a ruler or a subject.” Everyone is called in one’s own profession or social role. Yet the calling contains an important collective dimension; that is, they were going to live in a new land as God’s chosen people. It is from such a millennialist vision that collective action took place among settlers. New England settlers believed that they were like the Israelites who had come out of Egypt into God’s promised land and who should live as a covenant people in this new land.[25] They believed that they have left a world that was under the sway of the anti-Christ and have entered into a new world of hope. Thus, they reasoned, the religion and politics of this world should align with one another. In the realm of market activities, for example, justice and equity is more valued than the laws of supply and demand. According to John Winthrop, early Puritans believed that there was a just wage for every trade and a just price for every good, so charging more than this just amount was “oppression.”[26] For a time, authorities sought to keep prices within a reasonable range by legislation. Bailyn’s work also seems to suggest a tension between the religious rigidity of Puritans and the merchants of their time.[27] As Fiske suggests, “the population of New England was nearly as homogeneous in social condition as it was in blood.”[28] And millennialist teachings flourished in a society which was “in remarkable seclusion from other communities.” It was only after such a rigid Puritanism waned that rational profit-making market activities accelerated. A few decades later when New England became gradually integrated into the Atlantic economy, the Puritan blueprint for a just, stable and self-sufficient economy faded away.

By 1680s, business-minded preachers like Samuel Willard delivered sermons (with one titled Heavenly Merchandize) that interwove economic images into spiritual teachings.[29] As Valeri suggests, Willard “avoided stark dichotomies between piety and profit,” while still presenting commerce as “a mundane reality infused with transcendent meaning.”[30] Gradually, a new generation of merchants adopted a more impersonal and rational type of economic entrepreneurship. Valeri also argues that Weber leaped to this much later phase of Puritan spirituality without examining the theological developments that underlay the conflicting interests between merchants, specialized workers and theologically divergent groups of clergy.[31] Valeri rightly points out that later historians make reductionist Weberian statements when depicting Puritans as inherently “protocapitalists.”[32]

Mores of Kingdom Builders

French Catholic aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville insightfully suggests in his work Democracy in America that “liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” Then he marvels at the vitality of Protestantism by documenting “pulpits aflame with righteousness” that revealed to him “the secret of America’s genius and power.” Out of their passionate religion flows the mores of public participation. Their active and equitable decision making was a fruit of their pious “habits of the heart,” another term used by Tocqueville in place of mores. It refers to unspoken predispositions shaping people’s choices in participating in public life, consciously or unconsciously. However, we argue that such habits of the heart also arose from a passionate yearning for Christ’s imminent return to usher in the Millennium. Actually it was never the Puritans’ idea to build a democratic republic; what they had in mind was a theocracy where all civil authority derives from God in preparation for Christ’s rule on earth. What Tocqueville observed in his trip to America in 1831 must be traced back to early Puritan America.

In 1630, Massachusetts governor John Winthrop (1588-1649) preached a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity” in which he emphasized that church and society should work together in serving Christ. Winthrop also mentioned that the mission of New England Puritans was “to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord for the comfort and increase of the body of Christ whereof we are members” with the purpose “that ourselves and posterity may be better preserved from the Common corruptions of this evil world to serve the Lord and work out our Salvation under the power and purity of his holy Ordinances.”[33] He echoed Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount by naming this collective calling and witness, “a City upon a Hill,”[34] which has since become a commonly-referenced expression of America’s collective witness. As Bremer analyzes, “In using the image Winthrop was expressing his belief that it was the task of all, individuals and communities alike, to live exemplary lives and witness to religious truth.”[35] Winthrop’s sermon was also a collective calling to all members of the infant New England society.

Since then, church government underwent revisions to limit centralized authority. Laws and judicial systems rid themselves of abuses in the English system, and civil government was revamped to limit central state power. As Hall argues, these changes did not happen due to what “Tocqueville introduced as the ground of liberal politics; instead, the moral and social imperative was to reenact the reign of Christ.”[36] In fact, not many Puritans insisted on a complete separation of state and church. Most of them believed that government officers and individuals in church office should be separate. In all other areas, people serving in the state and in church should work together for God’s new world. For example, Puritans took their political rights seriously because they had kingdom consequences. In 1631, Puritans in Massachusetts announced that only members of the church would be considered as free individuals with voting rights.[37]

Noticing an increasingly widening wealth gap and stratification of classes, Governor Winthrop also called for church ministries in social justice and mercy. In his sermon, he encouraged Puritans to make their theology and their daily living a consistent whole. When addressing social needs, Winthrop considered their role as modeling God’s kingdom in the New World. On January 14 of 1639, three townships in New England, Windsor, Hartford and Wehrsfield, issued The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut which was considered the first written constitution.[38] In the document’s preamble, it specified how public laws and rules ought to be made in accordance with God’s law and commands.[39] The new settlers needed a common vision for constructing a new society in a new land, and their religious piety supplied such a vision. As historian Fiske argues, their aim was to build “a theocratic state which should be to Christians.”[40] Clergyman John Cotton considered it an indispensable duty of believers to rule society and politics with Christian ethics as a preparation for Christ’s imminent second coming.[41] In a sermon by Cotton entitled “The Church’s Resurrection” (1642), he called for both “outward” and “inward” reformation. He concluded his sermon by stating that it was the duty of New England area to restore the church in this eschatological time.[42] A greater volume of work was written and published than previous decades on the subject of Christians needing to carry out their mission in this end time. According to Hall, settlers placed two eschatological hopes on New England: the first hope came from the book of Daniel that God will grant them strength to establish God’s kingdom; the second hope was to remodel a Christian church and a commonwealth, so that Christ could come and reign as the true King. What Hall terms as “a godly rule” pertained not only to the church, but also to the civil society.[43]

Millennialism also became an important perspective from which New England theologians understood society and politics. For example, it influenced how they grasped the relationship between the New World and Britain, social changes and problems, and the purpose of settlements. All aspects were related to God’s kingdom and mission in the end times.[44] For instance, New England theologian Increase Mather (1639-1723) saw that conflicts in Europe as a long-term battle between God and Satan.  Furthermore, he felt that before long God would triumph in this warfare and usher in the Millennium. Mather tried to gather all news reports about Europe’s churches, politics, society and military. By connecting such information with the developments of early American settlements, Mather tried to find a key to unfold God’s plan.[45] In 1669, he published a series of lectures he called The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation Opened, in which he proposed the state of New England as the fifth phase among seven periods of time in the book of Revelation, followed by mass conversion of the Jews. In the years followed, Mather continued to preach and lecture about this theme. To him, New England may not be equal to God’s kingdom on earth, but it was certainly an integral part of it. [46] In 1674, Mather preached a sermon titled “The Day of Trouble in Near,” which emphasized how the coming end time would impact the social and political life of New England, which he referred to as the “New Jerusalem.”[47]

This millennialist hope not only encouraged New England settlers to model a good society, a city on the hill, but it also influenced how they treated other people groups. A missionary to Native Americans, John Eliot (1604-1690), was a millenarian influenced by British theologian Thomas Brightman. Before 1660, Eliot thought of Native Americans as a lost tribe of Israel and considered their conversion as something closely related to Christ’s second coming. Thus, he passionately set up mission ministries among the Native Americans and pushed for social reforms.[48] As Hall points out, “These rules followed from the belief, not unique to Eliot, that ‘civility’ and Christianity went hand in hand, the first being a necessary prerequisite of the second. ”[49] Another example is the belief in the conversion of Jews that was a common view in the New England area. Even the influential evangelist George Whitefield held this view and considered his time as “midnight state of the church” when “a glorious day” was coming. Whitefield himself had also been praying for the final wave of conversion of the Jews.[50]

Millennialism also influenced people’s understanding of slavery. Hatch finds that ministers “extended the canopy of religious meanings so that even the cause of liberty was sacred”.[51] The early abolitionist Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803) was a classic example. His objection against slavery was largely due to his millennialist views.[52] Like Jonathan Edwards, Hopkins saw millennialism helpful as the way “to excite [parishioners] more earnestly to pray for the advancement and coming of the kingdom of Christ: Of which kingdom, as it is to take place in this world, or of Christianity itself, there cannot be so clear, full and pleasing an idea, if the scripture doctrine of the Millennium be kept out of view.”[53] Hence Hopkins advocated that it was the duty of Americans to abandon the slave trade. In a pamphlet he published, Hopkins referred to slaves as “our brethren and children.”[54]

Bloch suggests that the Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s spread the millennial tradition more broadly to other colonies. Contemporary theologians such as Jonathan Edwards had strong interests in millennialism. Perry Miller refers to him as the “greatest artist of the apocalypse.”[55] Although Edwards wrote in Some Thoughts that the Millennium had not started, he believed it might start from America. As Marsden also notes, “He certainly did say that what was happening in New England might prove to be ‘the dawn of that glorious day’ and either ‘the beginning or forerunner of something vastly great.’”[56] Interestingly, in a later writing Notes on the Apocalypse, Edwards even made an estimation that the Millennium would happen at around 2000 AD in New England, and he even started to reform his communal life according to this millennialist view. As Marsden claims: “Although Edwards did not expect to see the millennium, he provided his town with a constitution that was a type of what millennial life would be like.”[57]

Civil Millennialism as Social Reform

Since Edwards, a civil millennialism has gradually developed in American society whereby social realms were affected by a popular movement in the eighteenth century. Between 1740 and 1800, the Puritan collective identity loosened while revolutionary struggles prevailed. Historical crises demanded that religious hopes be renewed, and millennialism, in turn, conveniently contributed to “the formation of revolutionary consciousness” by linking contemporary events to “an exalted image of an ideal world.”[58] Apocalyptic biblical history was adapted into millennial language, and the residual piety of the Awakening was transmitted into political rhetoric. Religious and political interests became intertwined, and “they combined their hope for the political advance of international Protestantism with millennial expectations for a worldwide awakening.”[59] Hatch refers to it as “a political religion of the New England clergy”—although they were divided in theology, they “voiced a common perspective on civil government so deep and unquestioned.”[60] And this view was not confined within the circle of theologians and scholars, but it trickled down to all social classes. As Hatch says:

“Americans of all ranks sensed that events of truly apocalyptic significance were unfolding before their eyes. Judging by the number of sermons, books, and pamphlets that addressed prophetic themes, the first generation of United States citizens may have lived in the shadow of Christ’s second coming more intensely than any generation since.[61]

Among those who were less educated and less theologically sophisticated, millennialism provided them first of all with a worldview to understand the structural changes in eighteenth century society, and secondly with the motivation and guidance to make it a popular movement. On the one hand, not only groups like the Methodist churches and ministries grew in number, but the theological mindset also gave birth to sects and groups like the Disciples of Christ and even the Mormons, who held an eschatology which differed from traditional Christianity.[62] Since the nineteenth century, as Ahlstrom notes, “when millennialism had again become a widespread concern, Jehovah’s [Witnesses] would begin their sensational ascent from obscurity to national and international prominence.” [63] Traditional sects continue to encourage their believers to evangelize a certain number of people as a preparation for Christ’s second coming. Summarizing the thoughts of these newly emerging sects and groups during that time, Hatch observes that “The kingdom of God could yet be built in America if they were true to their own special calling. The pull was as much toward Providence as toward purity, toward subduing the culture as toward withdrawing from it. The call was to preach, write, convert, and to call the nation back to self-evident first principles.”[64] Bloch also claims that “the extent and diversity of printed millennial literature suggests that a broad spectrum of American society entertained millennial ideas.”[65]

Civil millennialism also greatly shaped American’s understanding of politics. During the American Revolution, many authors used expressions and terms that had to do with millennialism. For example, the word “millennial” was used directly to describe this revolution.[66] In subsequent revolutions, similar expressions were used continually in slogans used. As Bloch observes, “All the ingredients of a revolutionary millennial vision were already there. The view that British tyranny was the Antichrist, the view that America was intended to usher in the Kingdom of God, the view that the latter day were near at hand, all were ideas that had in various forms taken hold by the early 1770’s.”[67] He also suggests that “the boundaries between millennialism, civic republicanism, and the secular utopianism of the Enlightenment were often vague.”[68]

After the American and French Revolutions, demands for equality and liberty increased, and more Americans considered it a sign of the millennium. For example, when Jefferson was elected as president for the second time, Elias Smith (1769-1846) viewed it as a sign of the Millennium, and that Christ’s kingdom was to be founded on the two revolutions in America and France. Smith states: “The time will come, … when there will not be a crowned head on earth. Every attempt which is made to keep up a Kingly government, and to pull down a Republican one, will… serve to destroy monarchy.”[69]

During this time, more religious groups and sects emphasizing equality and democracy emerged. They advocated against elite clergy and in favor of lay theological leadership. Since that time, many religious leaders came from lay people who had not had theological training, and they became a pillar of influence in making millennialism a widespread movement. Millennialist themes were no longer used to preserve traditional Christianity, but to prepare for the coming kingdom of God. As Hatch analyzes, “Democratic ferment in the early republic, however, convinced many that they should erase the memory of the past and learn all they could of the gospel of equality.”[70] Indeed, the gospel of traditional Christianity had been exchanged for the “gospel of equality.” In the Disciple Movement initiated by Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), they often made associations between the book of Revelation and American politics and society, thus considering the latter to be fulfillments of the former. As Campbell says, “We confidently thought that the Millennium was just at hand, and that a glorious church would soon be formed; we thought, also that we had found the very plan for its formation and growth.”[71]

In nineteenth-century American Protestantism, more people believed that millennialism would find its fulfillment in America. As Ahlstrom says, the “conviction that the United States had a mission to influence the world was ‘almost universal.’” Many believed that “the Kingdom of God would be realized in history, almost surely in American history. His thought was also strongly tinctured with perfectionism… Progress was both a personal and a social face.”[72] Holifield describes this time as follows: “their millennial theory overflowed with lessons not only about the benevolence of the Redeemer but also about the ethics of the redeemed.”[73] Americans envisioned the Millennium as a time of justice, “when peace would prevail and disinterested benevolence would promote general and cordial friendship.”[74] As Holifield claims, millennialism “permeated nineteenth-century movements to abolish slavery, send out missionaries, form women’s colleges, stimulate revivalism, establish seminaries, organize churches, and propagate theology.”[75]


With the rise of modernity and secularism, millennialism has suffered a retreat in the twentieth century.[76] Yet as Bloch argues, it nevertheless provided America with an important framework by which to understand her history and national purpose in the preceding two centuries.[77] Millennialism played a key role in the formation of early America. It not only greatly shaped America’s Protestant sects, religious life, but also her political institutions and social order. It was also such millennialist visions that helped give birth to the American Republic and its capitalist ethos.[78]

Max Weber and Alexis de Tocqueville observed the important role of Protestantism in early American society; nevertheless, they were unable to grasp how an eschatological theological framing narrative shaped social reality among these religious groups. As Conforti says, “New England’s founding would be recalled as an American epic of biblical dimensions.”[79] And millennialist conviction served as a clear purpose for their social roles as builders of a city on the hill for Christ’s second coming. We use Figure 1 and Figure 2 to show how such a millennialist narrative helps supplements the classic theses of Weber and Tocqueville.

Figure 1: Explanatory Models of Weber and Tocqueville



Figure 2: An alternative model: Millennialism as a Dominant Framing Narrative

Although Weber masterfully traces the development of modern capitalism from individual-level religious convictions, namely, a sense of calling according to Calvinist theology, millennialism served as a backdrop and a collective dimension to this calling. New England Puritans collectively sensed and affirmed a calling to the New World with a hopeful expectation for Christ’s imminent second-coming. Such a millennialist calling gave them a sense of urgency and accountability in both their economic activities and evangelical duties. Thus, they worked diligently to expand trade and to convert neighboring tribes.

Tocqueville’s thesis can also be supplemented by an understanding of American’s eschatological hopes. Millennialism provided an overarching perspective for New England theologians and governors to understand society and politics. American leaders of a millennial persuasion ventured and made laws and constitutions that aligned religious ethics and politics, exemplifying a type of millennial life in preparation for Christ’s second-coming.



[1] Max Weber, “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism”, in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 315.

[2] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Chicago: The University of Chicago, 2002), 279.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.23.7.  Mark A. Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. (Oxford: Oxford University Press on Demand, 2002). Harry S. Stout, The New England soul: Preaching and religious culture in colonial New England. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America: Christian thought from the age of the Puritans to the Civil War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 20050.  Catherine A. Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013).

[4] John Fiske, The beginnings of New England: or, The Puritan theocracy in its relations to civil and religious liberty. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1898).

[5] Bernard Bailyn, The New England merchants in the seventeenth century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955), 1.

[6] Murray N. Rothbard, “The Rise of the Fisheries and the Merchants,” Conceived in Liberty,   Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1975, chapter 34.

[7] Weber, “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism,” 48.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World, 313.

[10] Ibid.

[11] George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture, (New York: Oxfor University Press), 49.

[12] Ruth H. Bloch, Visionary republic: Millennial Themes in American Thought 1756-1800  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 11.

[13] Michael G. Hall, The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather 1639-1723 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988), 42.

[14] Ellis Sandoz, A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion, and the American Founding (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001), 211.

[15] David D. Hall, A reforming people: Puritanism and the transformation of public life in New England. (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press Books, 2012), xi-xii.

[16] Ibid, xii, xiv.

[17] William Perkins, who was called the Father of Puritanism, also held to post-millennialism. See Crawford Gribben, The Puritan Millennium: Literature and Theology 1550-1682 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000), 38.

[18] Peter Toon, “The Latter-day Glory”, in Puritan Eschatology:1600-1660, edited by Peter Toon (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. LTD), 41.

[19] E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America, 1.

[20] Crawford Gribben, The Puritan Millennium: Literature and Theology 1550-1682 (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers), 19. Also see Iain H. Murray, The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1971), 271.

[21] Catherine Wessinger, “Millennialism in Cross-cultural Perspective,” in Oxford Handbook of Millennialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 4-5.

[22] W. Michael Ashcraft, “Progressive Millennialism,” in Oxford Handbook of Millennialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), p.49.

[23] Michael Walzer, The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics (New York: Atheneum, 1968), 215-24.

[24] Edmund S. Morgan, Puritan Political Ideas 1558-1794 (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company), xv.

[25] Ibid.

[26] John Winthrop, The History of New England from 1630 to 1649 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1853), Vol. 1, pp. 313-17.

[27] Bernard Bailyn, The New England merchants in the seventeenth century. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955).

[28] Fiske, The beginnings of New England, 11.

[29] Mark Valeri, Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America. (2010), 1. (Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press).

[30] Ibid., 2.

[31] Ibid., 7.

[32] Ibid.,8. Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World (New York: Vintage, 2007), 234-47.

[33] John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”, in Morgan, Puritan Political Ideas, (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2003), 90. Also in Winthrop Papers (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1931).

[34] Ibid. 93.

[35] Francis J. Bremer, John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 181.

[36] Hall, A reforming people, xii.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Voegelin also says that “The Orders have the distinction of being the first written constitution that created a government. The essence of the federation is still the church.” in Eric Voegelin, History of Political Ideas Volume VII: The New Order and Last Orientation, edited by Jurgen Gebhardt and Thomas A. Hollweck (London: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 87.

[39] “And well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affrays of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require; do therefore associate and connive ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do, for ourselves and our Successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation to gather, to maintain and pressure the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said gospel is now practised amongst us; As also in our Civil Affairs to be guided and governed according to such laws, rules, orders and decrees as shall be made, ordered and decreed.” H. C. MacGill, edited, “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, The.” Conn. L. Rev. 21 (1988): 857.

[40] Fiske,The beginnings of New England, 22.

[41] David D. Hall ed., Puritans in the New World: A Critical Anthology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 326.

[42] Ibid., 332.

[43] David D. Hall, A Reforming People, 99.

[44] Nicholas Guyatt, Providence and Invention of the United States 1607-1876, (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 51.

[45] Michael G. Hall, The Last American Puritan, 53.

[46] Holifield, Theology in America, 75-78.

[47] David D. Hall ed., Puritans in the New World, 347-48.

[48] Ibid, 255-258.

[49] Ibid, 257.

[50] Thomas S. Kidd, George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), 91.

[51] Nathan. O Hatch, The sacred cause of liberty: Republican thought and the millennium in revolutionary New England. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), 3.

[52] Catherine A. Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America, 312.

[53] Samuel Hopkins, A treatise on the millennium. Showing from Scripture prophecy, that it is yet to come; when it will come; in what it will consist; and the events which are first to take place, introductory to it (Boston: 1793) in Evans Early American Imprint Collection.

[54] James Grant Wilson and John Fiske (eds.) “Samuel Hopkins,” Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography. (New York: D. Appleton, 1889;1968).

[55] Perry Miller, “The End of the World,” in Errand into the Wilderness (New York, NY: The Belknap Press, 1956), 233.

[56] Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, 265.

[57] Ibid, 266.

[58] Bloch, Visionary republic, xiii.

[59] Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, 315.

[60] Hatch, The sacred cause of liberty, 8.

[61] Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press), 184.

[62] Paul D. Hanson, A Political History of the Bible in America, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 79.

[63] Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972), 479.

[64] Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 188.

[65] Bloch, Visionary republic, xiv.

[66] Guyatt, Providence and Invention of the United States 1607-1876, 106-107.

[67] Bloch, Visionary Republic, 74.

[68] Ibid, xvi.

[69] Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 184-85.

[70] Ibid, 186.

[71] Ibid, 185.

[72] Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, 845.

[73] Holifield, Theology in America, 149.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture, 43-44. And Bloch, Visionary Republic, 230-231.

[77] Bloch, Visionary Republic, 231.

[78] Hatch, The Sacred Cause of Liberty, 167.

[79] Joseph A. Conforti, Saints and Strangers: New England in British North America, (Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 2006), 66.

Mary Li Ma and Jin Li

Written by

Mary Li Ma is a Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College in Michigan. Jin Li is a doctorate student at Calvin Theological Seminary. Ma and Li co-authored a book, Surviving the State, Remaking the Church: A Sociological Portrait of Christians in Mainland China (Pickwick, 2017) and co-columnists for China's largest media group, CAIXIN.