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Two Schools of Desire: Nature and Marriage in Seventeenth-Century Puritanism.

In Milton's description of the marriage of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost, the entire Garden of Eden is seen to participate in the celebration of their union. Spousal and nature imagery are woven together, beauty and desire joined in the mystery of Adam's amazement at this gift of his "other self" newly received from God's hand. Says Adam of his wife,
 To the nuptial bower
 I led her blushing like the morn: all heaven,
 And happy constellations on that hour
 Shed their selectest influence; the earth
 Gave sign of gratulation, and each hill;
 Joyous the birds; fresh gales and gentle airs
 Whispered it to the woods, and from their wings
 Flung rose, flung odours from the spicy shrub,
 Disporting, till the amorous bird of night
 Sung spousal, and bid haste the evening star
 On his hill top, to light the bridal lamp.(1)

Joyous birds, whispering breezes, welcoming stars--they all share in the couple's holy delight in each other and in God.

In a similar way Lewis Bayly's The Practice of Piety, another classic of seventeenth-century Puritan spirituality, spoke of created (and especially uncreated) beauty as the chief longing of the Christian believer. "When we behold the admirable colours which are in Flowers, and Birds," he said, "and the lovely beauty of Women, let us say, how fair is that God, that made these fair!"(2) In joining the delight aroused by the loveliness of nature to the attraction of a husband to his spouse, Bayly--like Milton--indicates the two schools of desire that were most operative in the Augustinian spirituality of seventeenth-century Puritans.

Perry Miller articulated the "Augustinian strain of piety" characteristic of early New England Puritanism when he emphasized its commitment to divine sovereignty and human sin.(3) But he overlooked the "other" Augustinian emphasis on desire and delight that carries one from this world (with all its twisted longings) to a contemplation of the rapturous beauty of God's inherent splendor.(4) Following Augustine, Reformed piety had continually asked what can be used (uti) from the natural world in preparation for what can only be enjoyed (frui) in God.(5) As Lewis Bayly, the vicar of Evesham, put it, "When we taste things that are delicately sweet, let us say to ourselves, O how sweet is that God from whom all these creatures have received their sweetness.(6) Puritan spiritual writings repeatedly emphasized themes of desire and pleasure, sweetness and felicity, in describing the means by which God lures God's people--exiled by sin--back to the Jerusalem of union with divine Beauty.

Far from being simply a dour people of stern moral exactitude, the Puritans were motivated most deeply by a passion for personal intimacy with God, the unio mystica, a vision of God transfixing their hearts and minds with a beauty they could not withstand.(7) This was a truth lost on generations of Puritan interpreters, from nineteenth-century English historian T. B. Macauley to twentieth-century American journalist H. L. Mencken. The former once quipped that "the Puritan hated bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators." The latter sardonically defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy."(8) Only people unfamiliar with the positive role placed on desire by seventeenth-century Puritans could ever perceive them as a people somehow taking joy in "dis-pleasure."

In the best expressions of Reformed piety, from the early Puritans to Karl Barth, God's power has never been separated from delight in God's beauty. Barth insisted that while God's glory emphatically involves the exercise of power, it is a power inextricably related to beauty, functioning as a "power of attraction." The God of glory is also the "One who is pleasant, desirable, and full of enjoyment."(9) Seventeenth-century Puritans knew this far better than most people realize.

The two schools of desire whereby these early Calvinists were most trained in the contemplation of divine beauty were the wonders of the created world and the mystery of conjugal love, nature mysticism and bridal mysticism, the poet's delight in "the heavens telling the glory of God" and married folks' passion for their spouses. In these two spheres the Puritans revealed themselves as intensely a people of desire. In fact, this evocation of passion was what made necessary the severe cautions against the danger of misdirected longing that we have come to regard as characteristically Puritan. The excesses of natural theology (the pantheistic identification of God with nature) and the peril of disordered affections were perennial concerns in the preaching of Puritan pulpits. In a spirituality where temporal beauty was recognized as an unpolished mirror of eternal Beauty, there was always the danger of lingering at the enjoyment of the one without pressing on to ecstatic union with the other.

Previous work on the role of desire in seventeenth-century English and American Puritanism has focused on the nature of marital love and sexuality,(10) the respective duties of husbands and wives within a patriarchal society,(11) and--to a lesser extent--the imagery of bridal passion in Puritan spirituality.(12) The concern of this study is to explore the way Puritan devotional literature joined nature imagery with erotic language in describing the spiritual life, summoning human beings along with the rest of the natural world to a common longing for God.


By 1647, when Anthony Tuckney, a prominent Puritan divine at Cambridge, put the final touches on the larger catechism of the Westminster Assembly, a firm tradition of "glorifying God and enjoying him forever" had already been established in English Puritan thought.(13) Thomas Watson spoke for the whole Reformed tradition when in his commentary on the first question of the new catechism he said: "God is a delicious good. That which is the chief good must ravish the soul with pleasure: there must be in it rapturous delight and quintessence of joy. In Deo quadam dulcedine delectatur anima immo rapitur: The love of God drops such infinite suavity into the soul as is unspeakable and full of Glory."(14)

This theme of "desiring God" had appeared so often in Puritan sermons that desire itself had become a dominant way of articulating the knowledge of God, the surest test of human character, the authenticity of spiritual experience generally, and the very nature of prayer.(15) Sermons on the Song of Songs, like the English divine Richard Sibbes's "The Spouse, Her Earnest Desire after Christ," had become so commonplace as to be echoed throughout Puritan New England in similar sermons by John Cotton in Boston and Thomas Shepard at Cambridge.(16)

In one of the most remarkable examples of this genre, Francis Rous, the provost of Eton College in Buckingham, preached a sermon on "Mystical Marriage," taking as his text the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Fear not, for thy Maker is thine Husband" (Isa. 54:4-5).(17) Not only did he speak of "a chamber within us, and a bed of love in that chamber, wherein Christ meets and rests with the soul."(18) He went on to exhort his listeners to desire this husband with a language as vivid as anything found in the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux or late medieval women mystics:(19) "Clear up thine eye, and fix it on him as upon the fairest of men, the perfection of spiritual beautie.... accordingly fasten on him, not thine eye only, but thy mightiest love, and hottest affection. Look on him so, that thou maist lust after him; for here it is a sin, not to look that thou maist lust, and not to lust having looked."(20) This was a language drawn in part, of course, from the rhetoric of the Song of Songs and the Gospel parable of the ten virgins, as well as the Pauline image of the bride of Christ.

The biblical warrants for this ardent fervor are profoundly significant. From Augustine to Bernard to Calvin, the experience of longing after Christ in the act of reading the Scriptures had been one of the deepest pleasures a believer could know. Love of learning (biblical learning) and the desire for God were inseparable.(21) These writers continually pictured the reader of Scripture as one who thirsts after God--yearning for God's Word, feeding upon it, nursed by it like a child at her mother's breast, satisfied only as the Word enters most deeply into the heart of her being. Connecting desire to the act of reading is a theme that echoes through the entire history of Judeo-Christian spirituality.

All of this has roots in Augustine, of course. Reading for him, as Margaret Miles observes, was intimately related to the body and its senses. It was a richly oral process, one that engaged the moving of the lips, the projection of sound, and careful attentiveness to one's breathing. "To read, for Augustine, was to ingest, swallow, digest and incorporate--to eat the text." It was inescapably an embodied act--sensual and pleasurable.(22)

The fourth-century Bishop of Hippo knew unquestionably that "delight orders the soul." "Where the soul's delight is, there is its treasure," he declared.(23) His search for God ineluctably carried him through the world of the senses. "What do I love when I love you?" he asked of God. Not light, nor the fragrance of flowers, nor the taste of honey, nor the gentle touch of a human body. None of these, he said, and yet, at the same time, all of them! "I do love a kind of light, a certain fragrance, a food and an embrace, when I love my God."(24) Despite his discomfort with his own sexuality and his poverty of intimacy with women other than his mother? he knew that experiencing God was a matter of pleasure, beginning with the beauty of the senses: "I said to all those things which stand about the gates to my senses: `Tell me about my God ... tell me something about him.' And they cried out in a loud voice: `He made us.' My question was in my contemplation of them, and their answer was in their beauty."(26)

If the Puritan tradition of desire had its origin in an Augustinian reading of the Song of Songs, it came to seventeenth-century New England by way of Calvinist Geneva and the ferment of Puritan thought at Cambridge University.(27) Calvin himself had emphasized that it is not the craving of the mind, but the desire of the heart that is most pleasing to God. "We will never spontaneously and heartily sound forth his praises until he wins us by the sweetness of his goodness," Calvin argued.(28) While his own boldest witness to this truth is found in the emotional intensity and colorful imagery of his Psalms commentary, even in the Institutes he speaks of a deep "enjoying" (fruor) of God's benefits in the reading of Scripture and the contemplation of nature, as well as participation in Christ through the Eucharist.(29)

Michael Winship specifically attributes the prevalence of the language of desire in Puritan discussions of marriage to the influence of Calvinist theology. "The Calvinist conception of the justification of the believer, where an overpowering God imputes his grace to a fundamentally passive soul, lent itself to gendered imagery, as did the resulting affective nature of the indwelling of Christ in the soul of the believer."(30)

This early Puritan language of "the ravished soul" was often extravagant in its use of metaphor (following Calvin's own appreciation of figurative speech as a humanist scholar).(31) After the Restoration, however, late-seventeenth-century Anglicans would scoff at the "Non-sensick Raptures" and "Fulsome, Amorous Discourses" of these naive Puritan preachers, preferring instead a more "reasoned" homiletic style purged of unsavory tropes.(32) The Puritan language of desire, therefore, would largely disappear by the coming of the eighteenth century. Its comparatively brief but stunning recovery of a theme stretching from Augustine to Bernard to Calvin raises interesting questions in the history of spirituality in the early modem period.


Puritans in the English Reformed tradition appropriated Augustinian desire in their own way, joining it to nature and marital imagery in numerous texts. Their emphasis on desire was more an intensification of a tradition that had preceded them than a unique development of their own. Yet it drew impetus from various seventeenth-century sources. Puritan theologians like Richard Sibbes, for example, rooted desire explicitly in the Puritan theology of covenant. When a husband and wife enter into the civil contract of marriage, even as the church is joined in spiritual contract with Christ her spouse, the Puritans expected a greater manifestation of love naturally to emerge out of this bond.

They knew psychologically, as well as theologically, that clarity of want arises out of commitment to covenant.(33) As Sibbes, master of Katherine Hall at Cambridge, expressed it, "The church (and so every Christian) after this contract and taste of Christ's love, hath evermore springing up in them an insatiable desire for a further taste and assurance of his love."(34) One's deepest wants become discernable only from within an initial commitment to covenantal relationship. John Owen, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and the most celebrated Puritan theologian of his century, explained: "The Spirit of Christ reveals to us our own wants, that we may reveal them unto him.... For a soul to know its wants, its infirmities, is a heavenly discovery.... Sense of want is the spring of desire;--natural, of natural; spiritual, of spiritual. Without this sense given by the Holy Ghost, there is neither desire nor prayer."(35) "Owning" the covenant, therefore, made possible the clearest focus of desire in the life of faith.

Puritans, furthermore, were just as concerned to honor the legitimacy of desire within marriage as part of their polemic against Roman Catholic contentions that celibacy alone occasions the highest reaches of the spiritual life. Juan Vives's Catholic guide for Christian women, published in London in 1557, argued that "There is nothing that our Lord delighteth in more than virgins."(36) Catholic moral instruction, following the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, cautioned that marital relations of husbands and wives could only be justified as a matter of "duty," certainly not as a matter of "desire."(37) By contrast, Puritan marriage manuals by English writers like William Whately and William Gouge forthrightly defended "mutual dalliances for pleasure's sake" within the marriage covenant, urging "that husband and wife mutually delight each in the other," maintaining a "fervent love" in their regular yielding of that "`due benevolence' one to another which is warranted and sanctified by God's word."(38)

When Margaret Durham, wife of the celebrated Scots divine James Durham, wrote an epistle dedicatory for the posthumous publication of her husband's Exposition of the Song of Solomon, she spoke without embarrassment of the "love-faintings ... high delightings ... love-languishings ... and heart-ravishings" that characterize marital and mystical bliss alike. She delighted in "those bashful, but beautiful blushings [and] humble hidings ... on the Bride's part, and those urgent callings and compellings ... on the Bridegroom's part." The most impassioned bedroom imagery seemed to her a natural (and appropriate) expression of the human and divine love described in the Song of Songs.(39)

Yet another factor contributing to the seventeenth-century Puritan appropriation of desire was an increased emphasis on sensation and feeling generally as a ground of moral knowledge and action. From Francis Bacon to John Locke, people in Stuart England were taught to attend ever more carefully to the moral implications of their own sense experience, especially as Reformed and Lutheran pietism exercised an influence on spiritual practice. Sensitivity to feelings of anguish, ecstasy, and deep longing came to characterize Puritan conversion narratives as a natural expression of this impulse. In the emblematic literature that flourished so widely in the seventeenth century--in England and on the Continent, among Protestants and Catholics alike---one continually finds "tears and sighs, outpourings of which that century was extravagantly fond," along with utterances of "voluptuous swoonings and sweet and subtle pains."(40) The capacity to apprehend the depths and heights of loss and joy--to know the full range of sensory experience--became increasingly a measure of one's creaturehood before God.

Puritans extended this as well to the whole of God's created order. They were among the most vocal, for example, in calling for the just treatment of farm animals--on the basis that they too (as creatures of God) were subject to feelings of suffering and enjoyment.(41) Puritan sabbatarianism was careful to include beasts in the sabbath rest prescribed by God, treating animals in the same fashion as one might other laborers.(42) Puritans opposed the unnecessary cruelty of animal games like cock-fighting and hunting for sport on the grounds that all of God's creatures were made "to enjoy themselves," thereby giving glory to God.(43)

Within the wider constellation of seventeenth-century Puritan thought, one last expression of concern for a purity of desire (in response to God's ideal beauty) is found in the writers and poets who made up the Cambridge Platonists, a philosophical movement arising out of the "cradle of Puritanism" at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.(44) Reacting to Thomas Hobbes's effort to explain the world in purely material and mechanical ways, Benjamin Whichcote and his followers insisted that the whole of creation reflects the higher perfection of God's perfect Being from which it derives.(45) The height of enjoyment, to which all beings are drawn, is to desire this perfect Simplicity, this ultimate Beauty from which every lesser thing emanates.

Accordingly, Whichcote declared that "Every creature is a line leading to God." Every blade of grass, every herb, every plant imparts something of the divine.(46) His colleagues, Henry More and Ralph Cudworth, reacted to Descartes's view of animals as lacking any sort of intelligence or feeling, ridiculing his notion that "a saddled horse has no more sense than its harness." By contrast, they themselves perceived the whole world to be infused by spirit, all of it drawn to the enjoyment of God's perfect Being.(47) While certainly not representing orthodox Puritanism, the Cambridge Platonists nonetheless joined nature and desire in a way that contributed significantly to subsequent Puritan thought, especially in eighteenth-century writers like Jonathan Edwards. In all these ways, therefore, the seventeenth-century Puritan emphasis on desire, inherited from Augustine, Bernard, and Calvin, was given specific shape and focus.


The rhetoric of desire afforded these early Puritans a way of expressing an intensity of relationship with God that would not have been possible in a more rational, strictly bookish spirituality. "If thy meditation tends to fill thy note-book with notions and good sayings concerning God, and not thy heart with longings after him, and delight in him, for aught I know thy book is as much a Christian as thou," observed Richard Baxter, the famous Puritan author of The Reformed Pastor.(48) Desire was extremely important to Baxter's understanding of the spiritual life because he recognized how central a role it plays in every aspect of human knowing: "As the bodily senses have their proper aptitude and action, whereby they receive and enjoy their objects; so doth the soul in its own action enjoy its own object: by knowing, by thinking, and remembering, by loving and by delightful joying: this is the soul's enjoying."(49)

Desire, in Baxter's thinking, was absolutely fundamental to Puritan epistemology. "We shall never be capable of clearly knowing till we are capable of fully enjoying," he insisted(50) Hence he urged the Christian, forty years before Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, to "bring down thy conceivings to the reach of sense." One should learn to "compare the objects of sense with the objects of faith," desiring them both so as to embrace the beauty of the natural world in the larger exercise of desiring God.(51) "What a pleasure is it to dive into the secrets of nature," he could proclaim, knowing (with Augustine) that lesser delights--when properly used--become a preparatory school for greater delights.(52)

These early Puritans were able, moreover, to identify desire as the surest test of human character, revealing the deepest propensities of the self. "Desires, I confess, are the best character to know a Christian, for works may be hypocritical, desires are natural," said Richard Sibbes. He maintained that "desires are the vent of the soul," providing clearer access even than one's deeds to the inclination of the human will.(53) Jonathan Edwards would develop this aspect of Puritan psychology a century later in his own work Freedom of the Will. But this centrality of desire in the theological anthropology of the Puritan tradition was firmly established as early as the first half of the seventeenth century.

John Cotton of First Church, Boston, could even proclaim that sustained desire constituted the best test of spiritual experience generally. It is the insatiability of delight that serves as the most dependable sign of the authenticity of grace. The assurance of having truly acquired Christ is a continued longing for still more of his love. "It will inflame our hearts to kisse him again, if the kisse be from God," Cotton said in his exposition of the Song of Songs.(54) Similarly John Bailey, in nearby Watertown, Connecticut, stoutly pronounced that "True Grace is not contented with Little Grace."(55)

Seventeenth-century Puritans came to understand desire as forming even the essence of praise, the very heart and impulse of prayer. Richard Sibbes described the church's insatiable longing for God as giving rise to a fiercely impassioned pattern of importunate prayer. Given the fact that the relationship between believers and God is rooted most profoundly in mutual desire, they can (and should) pray in such a manner as to "give him no rest, take no denial, till he answer" out of a heart inescapably bound by love.(56) He suggested that the prayers of Christians longing for their Savior "offer a holy violence to God, they can obtain anything at his hands."(57) His concern was not so much to acquire a technique for guaranteeing answers to prayer, as to underscore the power of desire inherent in the covenantal relationship between God and God's people.

By the time of the Westminster Assembly at mid-seventeenth century, therefore, desire had become-in all of these ways--the heart and blood of Puritan spirituality. Francis Rous spoke for many others in celebrating "the new Wine of the Kingdom of Heaven which makes the Soul drunken with high comforts, raptures, and extasies: which ... fill up a man with an excess of Joy and Happiness, that he shall be even swallowed up, and over-ravished with joy."(58)


Nature and marriage became the principal spheres in which Puritans practiced this earnest desire. Here they learned to appreciate two important covenantal relationships--the covenant of Noah between God and the created world and the renewal of that covenant in Hosea between God (as spouse) and Israel.(59) The covenant with Noah and every other living creature in Genesis 9:9-11 had made the rest of creation a companion and teacher to human beings. The reiteration of that covenant in Hosea 2:16-23 (including again the beasts of the field and birds of the air) had made Yahweh the husband of Israel, betrothed to the people of God and to the heavens and earth as well. Joseph Caryl, yet another Puritan divine at the Westminster Assembly, suggested this connection in his much-quoted commentary on Job 12:7-8.60 Puritan sermons on nature and marriage, therefore, were often closely intertwined.

Alongside seventeenth-century Puritan treatises like Robert Crofts's The Lover: or, Nuptiall Love, John Allin's The Spouse of Christ ... Leaning upon Her Beloved, and Richard Sibbes's The Bride's Longing for her Bridegroom was another genre of Puritan works such as John Flavell's Husbandry Spiritualized, Ralph Austen's The Spirituall Use of an Orchard, and Thomas Taylor's Meditations from the Creatures.(61) All of these used rich imagery drawn from the delight of the senses in beauty to point the faithful toward intimate union with Christ. The arts of husbanding and husbandry were viewed as similar means for sharpening one's desire toward God.

Historically, the joining of the two themes has not been without its problems, however. Carolyn Merchant has reminded us of the long (and at times disturbing) tradition of identifying women with nature in the mythos of Western thought.(62) In patriarchal societies this has often given rise to the social practice of regarding fields and wives as similar commodities for the use (or enjoyment) of men. Annette Kolodny, in her provocative book The Lay of the Land, documented seventeenth-century descriptions of the landscape of the New World as a voluptuous woman waiting to be taken by bold explorers.(63) Thomas Morton was not the only one to speak of the New English Canaan as "a faire virgin, longing to be sped, and meet her lover in a Nuptiall bed."(64)

Puritans could be as prone as others to this objectification (even commodification) of land and wives, viewing both as empty spaces to be conquered.(65) Yet their theology suggested something better. Their emphasis on putting God--and the desire for God--at the center of their reflection on nature and marriage meant that the just demands of covenantal relationship always had to assume priority over selfish use alone. God had established a covenant with the earth as well as a covenant of marriage. The purpose in each case was to draw the whole of creation into a community of mutual respect and love, giving common praise to God.

With regard to the world of nature, for example, John Bailey of Connecticut pointed out--in the revered tradition of the liber creatorum--that "the whole Creation puts a good Soul in mind of God; its God's library, you may read your fill, it was the first Bible that ever God wrote: gracious souls see God in every thing that he has made." Because of this, one's respect for and appreciation of all that is read in the book of nature is a way of learning desire for God. The beauty of open fields and an English country garden provide entry to the mystery of God's glory. "When he tasts [sic] sweetness in any creature ... thinks he then how sweet is he that made it! The Fountain must needs have more than the Stream."(66)

John Flavell of Dartmouth in Devon spoke in a similar way of how the natural world serves as a teacher of desire. "Make a ladder out of earthly materials," he urged, using matter to ascend to God.(67) In yet another image, he described "the World below [as] a Glass to discover the World above; Seculum est speculum."(68) The earth, as he saw it, is an open window onto the loveliness of heaven beyond.

Puritans similarly understood the institution of marriage as a training ground in the learning of affection, one that ever led to Christ's even more compelling beauty.(69) Thomas Hooker, the Puritan founder of the colony of Connecticut, used the intimacy of marriage to describe the saints' love of God: "The man whose heart is endeared to the woman he loves, he dreams of her in the night, hath her in his eye & apprehension when he awakes, museth on her as he sits at table, walks with her when he travels and parlies with her in each place where he comes.... the heart of the lover keeps company with the thing beloved."(70) The joy that married couples like John and Margaret Winthrop, Edward and Elizabeth Taylor, or Simon and Anne Bradstreet took in each other was readily apparent in seventeenth-century America. "One of the most striking phenomena about the New England Puritans is that their greatest ministers and governors ... loved their wives beyond measure," says Amanda Porterfield. They looked on them as "earthly representatives of God's beauty."(71) Accordingly, these couples were continually concerned to make sure that the ardor of their love for each other contributed to (instead of detracting from) the strength of their love for God.


This interweaving of nature and marriage imagery in the early Puritan literature of desire is noticeable in the poetry of American as well as English Puritans, men as well as women.(72) Richard Baxter wrote as compellingly as any Puritan on the capacity of nature's beauty to school us in the desire for God's own splendor. After a dreadful experience in the English Civil War, he took pleasure in hiking the English Midlands of his parish at Kidderminster, following Isaac's example (from Genesis 24:63) of "walking forth to meditate in the field at eventide." He never tired of celebrating the beauty and variety of nature: "What an excellent book is the visible world for the daily study of a holy soul! ... O wonderful wisdom, and goodness, and power which appeareth in every thing we see! in every tree, and plant, and flower; in every bird, and beast, and fish; in every worm, and fly, and creeping thing; in every part of the body of man or beast, much more in the admirable composure of the whole; in the sun, and moon, and stars, and meteors."(73) Knowing that desire for God is initially stirred by the senses, he admitted: "Our love to God is not ordinarily so passionate as our love to creatures." But what begins as a rushing stream of lesser delight eventually pours itself into the ocean of greater delight that is God's love.(74) It was love always that he sought most--in the openness of his senses to nature, but also in his marriage to Margaret Charlton at the late age of forty-seven. Having previously advised ministers not to marry (because of the many demands on their time), he was swept away by his love for Margaret, his senses once again taking the lead in carrying him ultimately to God.(75)

Similarly, Edward Taylor--Massachusetts's finest example of a seventeenth-century metaphysical poet--was smitten by his love for his wife Elizabeth. He spoke of their being inseparably knit together in a "True-Love Knot," like branches grafted into the stock of a fine fruit tree.(76) This was a frequent Puritan emblem drawn from nature and reflected, for example, in Ralph Austen's Spirituall Use of an Orchard. Austen was a Puritan horticulturist and keeper of the gardens at Oxford who had observed: "In Materiall Fruit-trees there is a close, and firme knot between the stocke, and the graft, whereby they are joyned fast together, and made one body; which knot, the conjunction continues, and holds fast, as long as the trees live." This suggests, he added, the "firme and constant union between Christ, and every Believer."(77) In that knot lay the core of holy desire.

Taylor's funeral poem on the death of his "ever endeared and tender wife" in 1689 was a testament to the intimacy of Puritan married love. In his later years after her death he turned his desire more and more toward God. Listening to the sounds of a warm June day in the town of Westfield where he lived, he knew by comparison to nature the frequent poverty of his own longing:
 But shall the Bird sing forth thy Praise, and shall The little Bee present
 her thankfull Hum? But I who see thy shining Glory fall Before mine Eyes,
 stand Blockish, Dull, and Dumb?(78)

"Shall I court thee onely with dull tunes?" he asked of the one he learned to love even more than he had loved Elizabeth.(79) The fact that God apparently desired him far more than he desired God was what amazed him most:
 Shall Mortall, and Immortall marry? nay, Man marry God? God be a Match for
 Mud? The King of Glory Wed a Worm? mere Clay? This is the Case. The Wonder
 too in Bliss. Thy Maker is thy Husband. Hearst thou this?(80)

The weaning of the desire from earthly loves that cannot last to a wanting that has no end in God remained a poignant theme in Puritan literature, among men and women alike. Elizabeth Rowe, a late-seventeenth-century Puritan poet in England, lost her husband (and the dearest joy of her life), spending the rest of her years withdrawing from society to write poetry about the aching absence of a God she also loved but could not grasp.(81)

"Eros is that odd sprite that thrives on absence," writes Wendy Farley, drawing on the provocative ideas of Emmanuel Levinas.(82) This twentieth-century Jewish philosopher's understanding of metaphysical desire is helpful in perceiving the way seventeenth-century Puritans thrived on a desire they knew they could not satisfy. As they sought a God who was radically "Other," their training in the exercise of longing (and loss) prepared them for accepting the Desired as something they never would fully realize. Yet, in the process, their attraction for it would only be deepened. Levinas distinguishes between physical need and metaphysical desire, in a way that the Puritans also might have done: "The `other' metaphysically desired is not `other' like the bread I eat, the land in which I dwell, the landscape I contemplate.... I can `feed' on these realities and to a very great extent satisfy myself, as though I had simply been lacking them.... The metaphysical desire tends toward something else entirely, toward the absolutely other."(83)

This ultimate desire of what Levinas calls the "Most-High" is keenly aroused by the joining of beauty with absence, by that which is viewed as most intrinsically valuable and yet remains most profoundly elusive. As Levinas says, "[Desire] nourishes itself, one might say, with its hunger."(84) Sounding like Gregory of Nyssa, Bernard of Clairvaux, and many other classic writers on longing, Levinas insisted that desire for the Other must be necessarily "a desire without satisfaction."(85)

Hence Elizabeth Rowe can write, with anguished longing, in one of her poems on the Song of Songs:
 O! if you meet the object of my love,
 Tell him what torments for his sake I prove;
 Tell him that all my joys with him are gone,
 Tell him his presence makes my heav'n; and tell,
 O tell him, that his absence is my hell!(86)

God's absence, however, was also for her the medium through which she most experienced desire. Like other Puritans, she used nature imagery to express this aching sense of loss. In one period of spiritual dryness, she writes: "I listen, but I hear those gentle sounds no more; I pine and languish, but thou fleest me; still I wither in thy absence, as a drooping plant for the reviving sun."(87)

For her, nature is in one sense a shallow tease, compared to the depth of her own wanting: "Ye flowery varieties of the earth, and you sparkling glories of the skies, your blandishments are vain, while I pursue an excellence that calls a reproach on all your glory.... I have desires which nothing visible can gratify."(88) Nature serves as a tantalizing veil, shading the glory of what she seeks most. "I pine, I die for the sight of thy countenance: Oh! turn the veil aside, blow away the separating cloud, pull out the pins of this tabernacle, break the cords, and let fall the curtain of mortality: O let it interpose no longer between me and my perfect bliss.... What wonders then will the open vision of thy face effect ... that the magnificence of the skies will not draw my regard? ... I search thee in the flowery meadows, and listen for thee among the murmuring spring.... `Tis all in vain: nor fields, nor floods, nor clouds, nor stars, reveal thee."(89)

Yet at the same time she knows that the natural world struggles with the identical sense of absence she also feels. It echoes her passion and loss. She grieves with the moaning of the evening wind, saying: "Till then [when she will be joined with God] I pine for my celestial country; till then I murmur to the winds and streams, and tell the solitary shades my grief. The groves are conscious of my complaints, and the moon and stars listen to my sighs."(90) Nature, after the pattern of Romans 8:22, participates in her endless longing, yearning for its own redemption.

Anne Bradstreet of Andover, Massachusetts, was yet another Puritan poet who wrote of the absence of her loving husband in a way that implied the greater absence of a still deeper love. The Psalmist's image of "the hart panting after the waterbrooks" became for her (and others like her) a language that thrives on deprivation. In a poem to her husband away on business, she writes:
 As loving hind that (hartless) wants her deer,
 Scuds through the woods and fern with hark'ning ear,
 Perplext, in every bush and nook doth pry,
 Her dearest deer, might answer ear or eye:
 So doth my anxious soul, which now doth miss
 A dearer dear (far dearer heart) than this.(91)

On another occasion when they were separated, she again wrote:
 If two be one, as surely thou and I,
 How stayest thou there, whilst I at Ipswich lye?

She went on to compare herself to the natural world (then in winter), as if it shared her sorrow:
 I like the earth this season, mourn in black,
 My Sun is gone so far in's Zodiack.

She joins nature and spousal love in a common pain of absence, singing to the sun:
 O strange effect! now thou art Southward gone,
 I weary grow, the tedious day so long;
 But when thou Northward to me shalt return,
 I wish my Sun may never set, but burn
 Within the Cancer of my glowing breast,
 The welcome house of him my dearest guest.(92)

This is a richly porous language in which longings for nature, spouse, and God are constantly played against each other, reverberating in a mutual awareness that "the true life is [always] absent," as Emmanuel Levinas paradoxically declares.


Metaphysical desire---this all-consuming longing that became the goal of Puritan spirituality--led ultimately to the radical transformation of the human person.(93) One cannot give himself (or herself) to sustained reflection on God as spouse or God as revealed in natural beauty without breaking into a rash and poetic language, without being forced into a new identity shaped by the exercise of desire, without being led into a deeper covenantal relationship to the human spouse and the earthly beauty that initially sparked one's longing. Entry into the spousal and nature imagery of the wisdom tradition in Scripture required finally of the Puritan imagination a transposition of gender and a transposition of species that could be as provocative as they were creative.

Michael Winship speaks, for example, of a "gender polymorphousness" that characterized much of seventeenth-century Puritan spiritual writing.(94) As Puritan men wrestled with appropriating for themselves the bridal imagery of the Song of Songs, they were forced necessarily into a metaphorical change of gender. Thomas Shepard of Cambridge, Massachusetts, writes in his diary of the spiritual distance he felt between himself and God in the spring of 1641, grieving over "my widow-like separation and disunion from my Husband and my God."(95) Conceiving of himself as the "bride of Christ," as the text demanded of him, he could do no other. The language of the Song forced on him a new spiritual vulnerability--through a shift in gender--able to question the position of power he normally held within the community.

Joseph Bean, another young Puritan male in Boston, wrote out a marriage covenant between himself and God, vowing, "I do here with all my power accept the[e] and do take the[e] for my head husband for biter for worse for richer for poorer." He even goes on to "love, honor, and obey" the husband given to him in Christ. Spousal imagery offered him a way of defining his relationship to God while also rethinking his own sexual identity in Puritan society.(96) "As rulers and husbands on earth, and thus in some sense as imitators of divine sovereignty, men were precariously balanced between social authority and religious humility," Amanda Porterfield writes of seventeenth-century male Puritan experience.(97)

Marital imagery in Puritan spirituality thus threatened to undo the very order it had attempted to achieve through the gendered structuring of religious experience. As Porterfield again observes: "The Puritan depiction of grace as an erotic struggle for submission to God [had] helped construct ideas, expectations, and experiences of marriage that sanctioned authoritarian behavior among husbands and also stressed the importance of willing consent among wives."(98) But if at some point men "had to become women," through the invitation of the biblical text, then traditional patriarchal patterns might have to be considered in a new light.(99)

Francis Rous (the English divine), for instance, could speak in highly disparaging ways of the "husband" one had to leave behind in one's fuller entry into the experience of the bride: "No soul can marry with Christ Jesus, but a widow, for she must be freed from the law of her old husband by his death." He even went on to insist that the soul must "give consent to the divorce and death of this usurping and bloody husband, without whose death there can be no marriage between her and happiness."(100) The widow's total and unconditional experience of absence-as-desire, therefore, was expected of all believers. Men (and women) were summoned through the bridal imagery of the Song of Songs to a rethinking of their gendered identity in potentially revolutionary ways.

John Cotton of the early Massachusetts Bay colony offers an interesting case in point. Here was another Puritan whose marriage had provided him the clearest taste of God's love. He had experienced this so vividly at his own wedding that he would later celebrate "that day [as] a day of double marriage to me" (emphasis added).(101) Being joined in matrimony to Elizabeth Horrocks, he knew himself simultaneously to be espoused to Christ. She represented the Beloved to him in such a way that she almost became bridegroom to his bride. In a similarly interesting shift in gender, Thomas Shepard confessed at the death of his wife Joanna in 1648 that he felt God "withdraw." It was as if she had functioned spiritually through the years in some way as "husband"--the one through whom he had most clearly seen God and known God's love.(102)

Perhaps more than any other Puritan preacher, John Cotton understood his self-identity as a minister to be molded by his role as Christ's bride. Repeatedly he employed wifely and maternal imagery in speaking of his office as minister of the Word. In his exposition of the Song of Songs he candidly described himself as the breasts of Christ from whom the faithful in his congregation were to suck the milk of the Word.(103) To receive the kiss of the Beloved's mouth, he added, is to hear with openness the revelation of Christ's love as this is offered through the pulpit. "The lips [of the sensual bride in Song 4:3] are instruments of speech ... and so signify such as deliver ... the doctrine of Christ to his Church in preaching."(104) Through all these connubial and oral images, full of sexual innuendo, Cotton presented himself as one through whom the congregation could intimately receive the grace of Christ. His Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes in either England: Drawn out of the Breasts of Both Testaments for Their Souls Nourishment became the earliest catechism printed in New England, extending still further this metaphor of motherly nurture that he had found so definitive of his own experience.

While Cotton was more explicit than most in his use of spousal imagery as a rhetorical strategy, Puritan men in general were challenged by their piety to embrace a spiritual transposition of gender-urged to exclaim with Edward Taylor,
 I then shall be thy Bride Espousd by thee
 And thou my Bridesgroom Deare Espousde shalt bee.(105)

This potentially suggested for them a rethinking of traditional roles, an exercise of desire that might have carried them into a new construction of personal identity.

A feminist reading of these texts, however, could argue also that spousal rhetoric in Puritan spiritual writing tended just as often to eclipse the significance of real women in Puritan society. As men employed feminine imagery to emphasize the emptiness and self-effacement they saw as prerequisite to being filled by God, they reinforced the image of women as essentially passive and receptive. Ivy Schweitzer states that "Puritan doctrine was geared toward male saints, who were compelled by the logic of spiritual conversion--figured as a rape or ravishment, or, at the very least, an irresistible intrusion--to position themselves in relation to God and Christ as feminized, deauthorized, self-denying souls."(106) If the soul is invariably perceived as feminine, as the Puritans perceived it, then the use of the language of spiritual ravishment in describing the relinquishment of the soul to Christ could as readily suggest violence and domination as it could ecstasy and love. Transposition of gender for Puritan men, therefore, did not necessarily imply a deeper appreciation of the dignity of women in Puritan public life.

One has to be careful, however, in presupposing any monolithic conception of male Puritan theology. It's not at all the case that Puritan men all followed William Ames and Thomas Hooker in emphasizing a God of sovereign power who "by a holy kind of violence ... pluckes the soule from sinne."(107) Janice Knight argues persuasively that there were multiple orthodoxies in both Old and New England Puritanism. Alongside Amesian notions of divine domination and human abjection as central realities in the experience of conversion were Sibbesian notions of God's overflowing love melting the human heart instead of hammering it. Richard Sibbes and John Cotton stressed much more the tender mercy of God, looking to consummated union as the ultimate goal of conversion.(108) The suggestion of a transposition of gender in the spousal rhetoric of Puritan spirituality, therefore, had the potential for freeing both men and women from a God of domination and violence (and a social order justified by such a conception) in their longing for ecstatic union with Christ.


Something comparable occurred with respect to the application of nature imagery in the Puritan spirituality of desire. If the Song of Songs metaphorically invited Puritan men to regard themselves as women, passages from the Proverbs suggested a similar identification of humans with creatures of the earth. When Solomon ordered the spiritually torpid of ancient Israel to "Go to the ant, thou sluggard," the Puritans viewed this as a radical call to humility, a submission of the penitent to the teaching office of the least of God's creation. The Puritan premium placed on holy desire meant that sluggishness, "deadness of heart," and indifference were perennial causes for spiritual concern. The reproof of the tiniest creatures--the ant or coney, the locust or spider--therefore, became important means by which the faithless were summoned to renewed zeal (Proverbs 6:6; 30:25-28).

Joseph Caryl, the English Puritan Bible commentator, proclaimed that "All creatures have a teaching voyce, they read us divinity Lectures of Divine Providence." He taught that "every particular beast, or every single creature is able to give instruction ... the least as well as the greatest, the Mouse as well as the Elephant or the Lyon; the Shrimp as well as Leviathan; the Hysop on the wall, as well as the Cedar in Lebanon; the Grasse of the field, as well as the oaks of Bashan."(109) John Flavell's reflections from Devon on "spiritual husbandry" resembled Francis of Assisi when he affirmed: "It's an excellent Art to discourse with Birds, Beasts and Fishes, about sublime and spiritual Subjects, and make them answer to our questions." "Believe me," he declared: "thou shalt find more in the Woods than in a [library] corner; Stones and Trees will teach thee what thou shalt not hear from learned Doctors. By a skilful and industrious improvement of the creatures (faith Mr. Baxter excellently) we might have a fuller taste of Christ and Heaven in every bit of Bread that we eat, and in every draught of Beer that we drink, than most men have in the use of the Sacrament."(110)

This was not merely an excessive language given to romantic flourishes, but was firmly rooted in a pragmatic Puritan empiricism. Flavell knew that "Notions are more easily conveyed to the understanding, by being first cloathed in some apt Similitude, and so represented to the sense."(111) Being instructed by the creatures of the earth in the arts of holy desire, therefore, meant putting oneself in their place, learning their own richly sensual language. As Ralph Austen of the botanical garden at Oxford put it: "We must be content to stoope to their way and manner of teaching, as the Egyptians and others in former times, who were instructed by characters and Hyeroglyphiques, by somthing [sic] represented to the eye, Notions were conveyed to the understanding. Dumbe Creatures speake virtually and convincingly, to the mynde, and Conscience."(112)

When human beings view the world in this way, from the perspective of other creatures, they are further instructed in desire. Animals themselves "have a suitable will to take or refuse an object; to express their desires with sounds or notes or voice," even "to express their affections of love," claimed Nathanael Homes, an English Puritan writer at midcentury. We learn from their example. Arguing from symbiotic relationships found in the natural sphere, he could even say that "plants and trees and herbs have their passions or affections, their love appearing in their sympathy as ... in the ivy and oak, etc.; their hatred in their antipathy, as in the vine and colewort."(113) All creatures participate in a mutual longing that is part of the very covenant of creation.

When humans recognize this they are forced to acknowledge their own creatureliness and to accept the duty of praise most properly theirs. Indeed, they are shamed into it by the animals and plants who spontaneously offer praise without even thinking about it.(114) Caryl can go so far as to say: "Things without life are expressed as putting forth acts of faith towards the living God. (Hos. 2:21) the earth cryes to the heavens, and the corne, and the wine and the oyl cry to the earth; there is an intercrying from the lowest to the highest, till the cry come up to the most high God. The whole presents us with an elegant prosopopeia, all the creatures striving to do them good, to whom God had once betrothed himself in mercies and in loving kindness."(115)

In this literary personification (or prosopopeia) of the more-than-human world, the biblical text invites--even requires--human beings to imitate what they are taught by other creatures.(116) Edward Taylor, therefore, could speak of the spiritual importance of "becoming" a tree, being fruitfully grafted onto the Tree of Life. "Make me thy Branch to bare thy Grapes," he prayed.(117) Such a transposition of species could summon the cold Puritan heart to a renewal of desire for God, in the same way that the green banks and shady bowers of Bernard's twelfth-century monastery had led him to delight in the Holy.(118) Moreover, Puritan behavior toward the natural world was also inevitably affected in this process of mimetic identification. It was not entirely accidental that the first modern legislation against animal cruelty was enacted in Puritan Massachusetts in the year 1641.(119)


In summary, this essay has argued that seventeenth-century Puritan spirituality, rooted in a revitalized sense of Augustinian desire, worked itself out in the twin metaphors of nature and marriage. These served as the two most important schools by which early Puritans were trained in their never-ending longing for God. Thomas Shepard, from his Cambridge, Massachusetts pulpit, epitomized the tradition with stunning imagery when he spoke of Christ in this way: "Consider he makes love to thee.... `Tis fervent, vehement, earnest love.... The Lord longs for this ... pleads for this ... mourns when he has not this ... Take thy soul to the Bride-chamber, there to be with him forever and ever."(120) The bride-chamber was, of course, after the pattern of the Song of Songs, a garden--a place where water flows from the distant mountains of Lebanon, where a south wind brings the fragrance of spring flowers (Song 4:15-16). Shepard, like other Puritans, knew that nature itself was an intimate teacher of love, an instructor in the restless passion that God evokes from all of God's creation.

By the end of the seventeenth century, however, this emphasis on desire had begun to fade as a dominant theme in Puritan spirituality.(121) Its bold expression of erotic language became something of an embarrassment as the Enlightenment gave rise to more carefully reasoned explications of the spiritual life. When Isaac Watts published Elizabeth Rowe's Devout Exercises of the Heart after her death in 1737, he felt obliged to apologize for her "language of rapture addressed to the Deity," explaining that "it was much the fashion, even among some divines of eminence, in former years, to express the fervour of devout love to our Savior, in the style of the Song of Solomon."(122) One is tempted to read this sense of chagrin as a failure of nerve on the part of subsequent Puritan writers. It was an unhappy loss, this pulling back from the passionate intensity of seventeenth-century piety.

But the tradition would continue into the eighteenth century, in less ardent (though no less creative) ways, in the work of Jonathan Edwards, for example. Nature, marriage, and desire after beauty were all important dimensions of his own spirituality.(123) Even today, in the renewed appreciation of Edwards's thought and in the ecological sensitivity of contemporary poets and farmers like Wendell Berry, we are reminded of the power of eros in our longing for the other.(124) A recommitment to the importance of embodiment, to the love of one's spouse, and to the cherishing of the land constitutes a return to God's covenant with all creation.

The Puritans found no better text for the contemplation of these concerns than Isaiah 62:4-5. Their pleasure in the act of reading Yahweh's word to Israel pointed them toward the fulfillment of that word in a birth of still greater desire, expressing itself in the wonders of nature and the marriage relation alike. It directed them as well to the mystery of being wedded to a land whose continued fertility demanded the keeping of covenant: "You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My-Delight-is-in-Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice in you" (New Revised Standard Version).

Calvin regarded this metaphor of the Land-as-Married in Isaiah as "highly beautiful," suggesting the covenantal bond that inevitably links land to its inhabitants in a richly symbiotic relationship akin to that of trees and vines.(125) The seventeenth-century Puritan tradition that followed him went even further than he in joining the symbolism of nature and marriage in their understanding of covenant. The Puritans offer us today a highly imaginative basis for reflecting on desire as a theological category and an important perspective in considering the role of ecology and gender in the continuing development of Reformed spirituality.

(1.) John Milton, Paradise Lost 8.510-20. He subsequently spoke of nature's response to the fall of the first couple, saying that "the earth felt the wound ... sighing through all her works ... trembling from her entrails"; 9.782f, 1000f. The greatest of Puritan poets, John Milton (1608-74) was a graduate of Christ College, Cambridge. He published Paradise Lost in 1667; an earlier discussion of love and marriage appeared in his Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643).

(2.) Lewis Bayly, The Practice of Piety (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1842), 66. (Originally published sometime before 1613.) Lewis Bayly (d. 1631) had been educated at Exeter College, Oxford. As vicar of Evesham, he preached a series of sermons that grew into this famous devotional work. He later was appointed bishop of Bangor in North Wales.

(3.) Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Boston: Beacon, 1939), 3-34.

(4.) Margaret Miles speaks of the importance of delight as an organizing principle in Augustine's spirituality, emphasizing his "ordering of all the pleasures of a human life so that those associated with enjoyment of objects in the sensible world would not usurp all of a person's attention and affection," but lead that person to the highest enjoyment of God. She observes: "The Confessions is, among other things, a narrative deconstruction of what is ordinarily thought of as pleasurable, and a reconstruction of `true' pleasure." Desire and Delight: A New Reading of Augustine's Confessions (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 37, 20.

(5.) In De doctrina christiana 1.3-5, Augustine distinguished between an ordered and unordered desire, reflecting on those things which can be used (uti) in leading one to blessedness and that which can be enjoyed (frui), in other words, the Holy Trinity, the only proper object of one's deepest desire. See Carol Harrison, Beauty and Revelation in the Thought of Saint Augustine (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 130-38.

(6.) Bayly, The Practice of Piety, 66.

(7.) Wilhelm Niesel argues that the spiritual center of Calvinism has to be found, not in predestination or the eternal decrees, but in mystical union with Christ. See his Reformed Symbolics (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1962), 182.

(8.) William Shurr characterizes the heritage of Puritan Calvinism, in its impact on the American literary imagination, as an "infinite monstrousness that haunts the American mind." William Shurr, Rappaccini's Children: American Writers in a Calvinist World (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1981).

(9.) Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1936), 2/1:650-51.

(10.) William and Malleville Hailer, "The Puritan Art of Love," Huntington Library Quarterly 5 (1941-42): 235-72; Edmund Leites, "The Duty to Desire: Love, Friendship and Sexuality in Some Puritan Theories of Marriage," Comparative Civilizations Review 3 (1979): 40-82; and Daniel Doriani, "The Puritans, Sex, and Pleasure," Westminster Theological Journal 53 (1991): 125-43.

(11.) Anthony Fletcher, "The Protestant Idea of Marriage in Early Modern England," in Anthony Fletcher and Peter Roberts, eds, Religion, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain: Essays in Honor of Patrick Collinson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 161-81; and Tim Beougher, "The Puritan View of marriage: The Nature of the Husband-Wife Relationship in Puritan England as Taught and Experienced by a Representative Puritan Pastor, Richard Baxter," Trinity Journal 10, n.s. (1989): 131-57.

(12.) Amanda Porterfield has explored this topic in her chapter on "Bridal Passion and New England Puritanism" in Feminine Spirituality in America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980), 19-50, and subsequently in her book Female Piety in Puritan New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). See also Michael P. Winship, "Behold the Bridegroom Cometh! Marital Imagery in Massachusetts Preaching, 1630-1730," Early American Literature 27 (1992): 170-84.

(13.) The impact of Calvinism on seventeenth-century English thought ought by now to be generally recognized. Nicholas Tyacke has argued persuasively that "the characteristic theology of English Protestant sainthood was Calvinism." See Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism, 1590-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987), 1. In the early Stuart church most clergymen and a majority of the more educated laity were Calvinist in sympathy, as seen in the theses presented to divinity faculties at Oxford and Cambridge and in the printed publications of the period. See Kenneth Fincham, ed., The Early Stuart Church, 1603-1642 (London: Macmillan, 1993).

(14.) Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, Contained in Sermons upon the Assembly's Catechism (1692), ed. George Rogers (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1898), 17.

(15.) For a reflection on "desiring God" as a theological theme in cross-cultural perspective see Roland Delattre's article "Desire," in Mircea Eliade, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1987), 3:307-14.

(16.) Spousal imagery appeared in all four types of Puritan piety, as Jerald C. Brauer has defined them. Nomistic, evangelical, rationalist, and mystical strains of Puritan spirituality, he argued, can be identified in Thomas Cartwright, Richard Sibbes, John Milton, and Francis Rous respectively. See "Types of Puritan Piety," Church History 56 (1987): 38-58.

(17.) Sir Francis Rous (1579-1659) was a Member of Parliament and Puritan divine educated at Pembroke College, Oxford. As a Presbyterian, he participated in the Westminster Assembly, but in 1649 he went over to the Independents. His works include The Art of Happiness (1619), Academia Coelestis: The Heavenly University: or, The Highest School Where Alone is that Highest Teaching, the Teaching of the Heart (1639), and an edition of the Psalms in English meter.

(18.) Francis Rous, The Mystical Marriage, or Experimental Discoveries of the heavenly Marriage between a Soul and her Savior (London: R. W., 1656), published in his Treaties and Meditations (London: Robert White, 1657), 683. His finest Augustinian prose is found at the end of The Mystical Marriage, where he prays: "Come therefore into me, O thou that art love, and love thy self in me! Come into me, and by thy own most excellent love, fitly love thy own most excellent loveliness. And while thou lovest thy self in my soul, let my soul according to her measure, taste and see, and love that love." Mystical Marriage, 736.

(19.) On the history of desire in medieval Christian spirituality, see E. Ann Matter, The Voice of My Beloved: The Song of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990); and Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

(20.) Rous, Mystical Marriage, 687.

(21.) See Jean Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, trans. Catharine Misrahi (New York: New American Library, 1961). For a discussion of desire and the "pleasure of the word" in Calvin see Max Engammare, "Plaisir des mets, plaisirs des mots: Irdische Freude bei Calvin," in Wilhelm H. Neuser and Brian G. Armstrong, eds., Calvinus sincerioris religionis vindex: Calvin as Protector of the Purer Religion, Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 26 (Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1997), 189-208.

(22.) Margaret Miles, "On Reading Augustine and on Augustine's Reading," The ChristianCentury, May 21-28, 1997, 511.

(23.) Augustine, De Musica 6.11.29; quoted in Miles, Desire and Delight, 100.

(24.) Augustine, Confessions 10.8, trans. Maria Boulding (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), 202.

(25.) It is curious, as Margaret Miles observes, that Augustine---when he describes leaving the unnamed woman with whom he had lived for thirteen years, taking their son with him--says nothing of the relationship they had shared together. Instead, he simply grieves over his own sexual incontinence, inviting readers to identify with his pain (without even thinking of hers). See Confessions 6.15, and Miles, Desire and Delight, 78.

(26.) Confessions 10.9; quoted in Miles, Desire and Delight, (56).

(27.) Emmanuel, Pembroke, Christ's, and St. John's Colleges at Cambridge were particularly known as hotbeds of Puritanism in this period, training such prominent English divines as Thomas Cartwright, William Perkins, William Ames, and John Milton, as well as American Puritans like John Cotton and John Winthrop.

(28.) Quoted in William J. Bouwsma, "The Spirituality of John Calvin," in Jill Raitt, ed., Christian Spirituality: High Middle Ages and Reformation (New York: Crossroad, 1989), 320-24.

(29.) See, for example, John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.3.1; 4.17.9, 12 (for an edition in English see Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill, Library of Christian Classics 20-21 [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960]). A study of Calvin's use of the words for "enjoying" (fruor) and "taking delight" (delecto) suggests an interesting appropriation of Augustinian language. See Richard E Wevers, Concordance to Calvin's Institutio, 1559 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Digamma Publishers, 1992). Institutes 3.10.2, with its stunning celebration of natural beauty, is especially suggestive in its contrast of frui and uti, the enjoyment of creation's loveliness as contrasted with its necessary use.

(30.) Michael Winship, "Behold the Bridegroom Cometh!" 175.

(31.) Calvin held rhetoric in high esteem, defending the use of figurative language as "the only answer becoming to a theologian: that although a figurative expression is less precise, it expresses with greater significance and elegance what, said simply and without figure, would have less force and address. Hence figures are called the eyes of speech, not because they explain the matter more easily than simple ordinary language, but because they win attention by their propriety and arouse the mind by their luster, and by their lively similitude so represent what is said that it enters more effectively into the heart." The Clear Explanation of Sound Doctrine concerning the True Partaking of the Flesh and Blood of Christ in the Holy Supper (1561), in Calvin: Theological Treatises, trans. J. K. S. Reid (London: SCM, 1954), 319.

(32.) Michael Winship, "Behold the Bridegroom Cometh!" 176.

(33.) Puritan marriage manuals regularly spoke of the importance of choosing one's love and then loving one's choice. While they knew that desire initially draws lovers to each other, they expected covenant faithfulness subsequently to release a still greater affective response. See William and Malleville Hailer, "The Puritan Art of Love," 262.

(34.) Richard Sibbes, "The Spouse, Her Earnest Desire After Christ," published in Two Sermons (London: T. Cotes, 1638), reprinted in The Works of Richard Sibbes, 2:203-4. Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) was a graduate of St. John's, Cambridge, later becoming a lecturer at Holy Trinity, Cambridge. Sibbes was a friend of Archbishop James Usher, and his book The Bruised Reede and Smoaking Flax (1630) exercised a profound influence on Richard Baxter.

(35.) John Owen, "Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, each Person Distinctly, in Love, Grace, and Consolation" (1657), in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 2:122-23. John Owen (1616-83) had been educated at Queen's College, Oxford, and in 1652 was appointed vice-chancellor of Oxford University. He was offered the presidency of Harvard University, but declined. Owen's strict yet creative Calvinist theology is apparent in such works as The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (London, 1648).

(36.) Juan Luis (Johannes Ludovicus) Vives, The Instruction of a Christian Woman (London, 1557), D4. Juan Vives (1492-1540) was a Spanish Catholic humanist praised by Erasmus for his commentary on Augustine's City of God. He was made a fellow of Corpus Christi College at Oxford, lecturing there in the 1520s.

(37.) In his Summa theologica, part 3 (supplement), qu. 41, art. 4 (trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province [New York: Benziger Brothers, 1948]), Thomas had stressed sexual relations as a duty alone: "For if the motive for the marriage act be a virtue, whether of justice that they may render the debt, or of religion, that they may beget children for the worship of God, it is meritorious. But if the motive be lust ... it is a venial sin."

(38.) William Whately, A Bride Bush, or a Direction for Married Persons (London, 1616), 18-20; and William Gouge, Of Domestical Duties (London: J. Haviland, 1622), 221. For a discussion of these seventeenth-century English conduct-book writers, see Fletcher, "The Protestant Idea of Marriage," 161-81. An anonymous Puritan writer could speak of a married couple joyfully giving "due benevolence one to the other; as two musical instruments rightly fitted do make a most pleasant and sweet harmony in a well tuned consort." See Roland Frye, "The Teachings of Classical Puritanism on Conjugal Love," Studies in the Renaissance 2 (1955): 155-56.

(39.) James Durham, An Exposition of the Song of Solomon (1668; reprint, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1840), 13-14. James Durham (1622-58) was one of the most highly esteemed of Scotland's seventeenth-century Puritans. Educated at St. Andrews, he served as a captain in the Scottish army in the English Civil War and was later appointed Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University. He was best known for his "Key to the Canticles," a volume of 460 pages.

(40.) See Mario Praz, Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery (Rome: Edizioni Di Storia ELitteratura, 1964), 145.

(41.) Calvin had argued that God "will not have us abuse the beasts beyond measure, but to nourish them and to have care of them.... If a man spare neither his horse nor his ox nor his ass, therein he betrayeth the wickedness of his nature. And if he say, `Tush, I care not, for it is but a brute beast,' I answer again, `Yea, but it is a creature of God.' "Calvin's Sermons on Deuteronomy, quoted in Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500-1800 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 154.

(42.) In James Ussher's analysis of the fourth commandment, he asked, "Why is there mention of allowing rest to the beasts?" His answer: "First, that we may shew mercy, even to the beast. Prov. 12:10. Secondly, to represent after a sort of everlasting Sabbath, wherein all creatures shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. Rom. 8:20, 21." A Body of Divinitie, or the Summe and Substance of Christian Religion (London: Thomas Downes and Geo. Badger, 1653), 248.

(43.) See Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, 154-66.

(44.) "It is significant," writes James Deotis Roberts, "that the great reaction against the dogmatism and intolerance of Puritanism came from within their own ranks and mainly from men trained at Emmanuel, the Puritan College. Thus, the law of reaction was at work, `for the stringency of Puritan and Calvinistic rule tended to create its own exception,' and to drive men of `independent and antipathetic temper' to revolt. This `citadel of Puritanism and Calvinism became ... the cradle of a movement animated by the spirit of Plato and devoted to the golden mean in every sphere of thought and life.'" From Puritanism to Platonism in Seventeenth-Century England (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1968), 44. The quotation in Roberts is from Frederick J. Powicke, The Cambridge Platonists (Hildesheim, N.Y.: G. Olms, 1970), 3.

(45.) Benjamin Whichcote (1609-83) was himself a graduate of Emmanuel College, later serving as provost of King's College, Cambridge. Other Cambridge Platonists included prominent figures like Ralph Cudworth, Henry More, and John Smith, all of Puritan background. See Daniel W. Howe, "The Cambridge Platonists of Old England and the Cambridge Platonists of New England," Church History 57 (1988): 470-85.

(46.) The Works of the Learned Benjamin Whichcote (Aberdeen: J. Chalmers, 1751), 3:176, 190.

(47.) See Charles E. Raven, Natural Religion and Christian Theology, Gifford Lectures, 1951, ser. 1, Science and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), 109.

(48.) Richard Baxter, The Saints' Everlasting Rest (London: Epworth, 1962), 143. Baxter wenton to declare, "He is the best scholar who hath the readiest passage from the ear to the brain, but he is the best Christian who hath the readiest passage from the brain to the heart" (153). Richard Baxter (1615-91) was pastor of the church at Kidderminster near Birmingham and a moderate noncomformist who sought unity among Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Independents.

(49.) Baxter, Everlasting Rest, 42.

(50.) Baxter, Everlasting Rest, 40. "Knowledge of itself is very desirable," he added, meaning that its energy and authenticity springs from the affections.

(51.) Baxter, Everlasting Rest, 167-68.

(52.) Baxter, The Christian Directory, published in The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter (London: James Duncan, 1830), 353.

(53.) Richard Sibbes, "Balaam's Wish" (London: E. Purslow, 1639), reprinted in Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander B. Grosart (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 7:11-12. Sibbes would add in his Divine Meditations and Holy Contemplations (London: Simon Miller, 1658): "Desires shew the frame of the soul more than anything: as where there is a spring, it discovers itself by vapours that arise; so the breathing of these desires shew that there is a spring of grace in the heart." Works of Richard Sibbes, 7:187.

(54.) John Cotton, A Brief Exposition with Practical Observations upon the Whole Book of Canticles (London: T. R. and E. M., 1655), 3. John Cotton (1584-1652) was another Puritan divine from Trinity College, Cambridge, who served as minister in Boston, England, before immigrating to Boston, Massachusetts in 1633.

(55.) John Bailey, Man's Chief End to Glorifie God; or Some Brief Sermon-notes on I Cor. 10:21 (Boston: Samuel Green, 1689), 148. John Bailey (1643-97) was from Blackburn, Lancashire, where he had been ordained a Congregationalist minister in 1670. Subsequently imprisoned for his nonconformity, he moved to Ireland and then on to New England in 1683, serving churches in Boston and Watertown.

(56.) "Take no nay of him, till he hath given thee the kisses of his love," he instructed; see Sibbes, "The Spouse, Her Earnest Desire after Christ her Husband," 206.

(57.) Richard Sibbes, A Breathing After God, or A Christians Desire of Gods Presence (London: John Dawson, 1639), reprinted in Works of Richard Sibbes, 2:233.

(58.) Francis Rous, "The Art of Happiness," published in Treatises and Meditations, 91.

(59.) James Turner Johnson discusses "The Covenant Idea and the Puritan Doctrine of Marriage" in the first chapter of his A Society Ordained by God: English Puritan Marriage Doctrine in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century (Nashville: Abingdon, 1970), 19-49.

(60.) Referring to Hosea 2:21, Caryl spoke of God as having "betrothed himself in mercies and loving kindness" to all the creatures of earth; Joseph Caryl, An Exposition with Practical Observations: Continued upon the Eleventh, Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Chapters of the Book of Job (London: J. Macock, 1652), 207. Joseph Caryl (1602-73) was minister at the church of St. Magnus near London Bridge and a member of the Westminster Assembly. His exposition of Job was one of the great Puritan commentaries.

(61.) Robert Crofts, The Lover, or Nuptiall Love (London, 1638); John Allin, The Spouse of Christ Coming out of Affliction, leaning upon Her Beloved (Cambridge: Samuel Green, 1672); Richard Sibbes, The Bride's Longing for her Bridegroom's Second Coming (1638); John Flavell, Husbandry Spiritualized: Or, the Heavenly Use of Earthly Things (London: Robert Boulter, 1669); Ralph Austen, The Spirituall Use of an Orchard (Oxford: L. Lichfield, 1653); and Thomas Taylor, Meditations from the Creatures (London: J. Bartlet, 1635).

(62.) Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980).

(63.) Annette Kolodny, The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975). See also her book, The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630--1860 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984).

(64.) Thomas Morton, New English Canaan (London: Charles Green, 1632), published in Tracts and Other Papers, ed. Peter Force (Washington: P. Force, 1836-46), 2:10. Morton was not a Puritan. Indeed, his work heaped ridicule on the New England colonists.

(65.) Cecelia Tichi shows, for example, how early New England Puritans justified their "right" to the land around Massachusetts Bay because of their ability to "use" it well, making a visible impress on the natural landscape. The Puritan "legitimates his claim to America by manifestly improving it." Hence, John Winthrop could say: "we deny that the Indians heere can have any title to more lands then they can improve.... God gave the earth to be subdued, ergo a man can have no more land than he can subdue." See Tichi, New World, New Earth: Environmental Reform in American Literature from the Puritans through Whitman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), 9-10.

(66.) John Bailey, Man's Chief End to Glorifie God, 9-10.

(67.) John Flavell, Husbandry Spiritualized, "Epistle Dedicatory," 3. John Flavell (1630-91) was a Presbyterian divine trained at University College, Oxford who was ejected from his Dartmouth pulpit by the Act of Uniformity. He wrote a companion volume to this work entitled Navigation Spiritualized (1671), based in part on his own experiences at sea.

(68.) Flavell, Husbandry Spiritualized, "Epistle Dedicatory," 1.

(69.) Marital and horticultural images were regularly combined in Puritan spiritual writing, especially in connection with the rhetoric of the garden in the Song of Songs. Edward Taylor spoke of
 Christ's Curious Garden fenced in
 With Solid Walls of Discipline
 Well wed, and watered, and made full trim.

In language such as this the "wedding of the land" became intimately joined to the physical and spiritual union of husbands and wives. See Taylor's poem, "The Soule Seeking Church-Fellowship," from Gods Determinations, in The Poems of Edward Taylor, ed. Donald S. Stanford (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), 454.

(70.) Thomas Hooker, The Application of Redemption (London: P. Cole, 1659), 137. See Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 61-62. Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) had been educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He emigrated to Boston in 1633, thereafter moving to the Connecticut valley where Hartford was founded in 1636. His Survey of the Sum of Church Discipline (1648) helped to define the character of American Congregationalism.

(71.) Porterfield, Feminine Spirituality, 49. Cf. Edmund Morgan, The Puritan Family, 29-64.

(72.) Unfortunately, English and American expressions of Puritanism are seldom considered together. This essay is an effort to show how the common theme of desire persists in similar ways on both sides of the Atlantic. For studies of Puritan religious poetry, see Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979); and Louis L. Martz, The Poetry of Meditation: A Study in English Religious Literature of the Seventeenth Century (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1969).

(73.) Baxter, The Christian Directory, 2:377. Cf. his evocation of the delights of nature in The Saints' Everlasting Rest, 168 ff.

(74.) Baxter, The Christian Directory, 353-54.

(75.) Baxter's own teaching on marriage went beyond the traditional order given for reasons of marriage, which included procreation, avoidance of lust, and companionship (if listed at all). He instead gave prominence to the last, urging primacy of mutual help over procreation. See James T. Johnson, "English Puritan Thought on the Ends of Marriage," Church History 38 (1969): 434.

(76.) See Taylor's poem "Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children," in Early New England Meditative Poetry: Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor, ed. Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 133. Edward Taylor (1644?-1729) was an English-born minister and physician who lived in Boston and later Westfield, Massachusetts. His poetry, much of it written as communion meditations, shows the sensual imagery and deep devotion characteristic of the best of Puritan spirituality.

(77.) Ralph Austen, A Treatise of Fruittrees ... together with The Spirituall Use of an Orchard (Oxford: L. Lichfield, 1653), 27.

(78.) Edward Taylor, Meditation 22, First Series, on Phil. 2:9, "God Hath Highly Exalted Him," in Early New England Meditative Poetry, 189.

(79.) Meditation 120, Second Series, on Song 5:14, "His Cheeks Are as a Bed of Spices," in Early New England Meditative Poetry, 258.

(80.) Meditation 23, First Series, on Song 4:8, "My Spouse," in Early New England Meditative Poetry, 190-91.

(81.) Elizabeth Singer (1674-1737) was already a published poet by the time she married Thomas Rowe, another poet, in 1710. They were only married a few years before his death by consumption in 1715. For the rest of her life she lived as a recluse at her family's home in the town of Frome in Somerset. The Puritan hymn writer Isaac Watts published her Devout Exercises of the Heart after her death in 1737.

(82.) Wendy Farley, Eros for the Other: Retaining Truth in a Pluralistic World (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 69.

(83.) Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969), 33. Levinas (1906-95) was born in Lithuania, but lived most of his life in France, teaching philosophy at the University of Poitiers. He wrote his dissertation at Strasbourg on Husserl's phenomenology and was also influenced by Heidegger. His most important book, Totalite et infini, was originally published in 1961.

(84.) Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 34.

(85.) Gregory of Nyssa had said, "This truly is the vision of God: never to be satisfied in the desire to see him. But one must always, by looking at what he can see, rekindle his desire to see more." The Life of Moses 2.239, trans. Abraham J. Malherbe and Everett Ferguson (N.Y.: Paulist, 1978), 116. In a similar way, Levinas suggests that there is a certain satisfaction, even joy, in recognizing that eros for the Other can never be satisfied. "The desire that animates it is reborn in its satisfaction, fed somehow by what is not yet, bringing us back to the virginity, forever inviolate, of the feminine." Totality and Infinity, 258.

(86.) Elizabeth Rowe, "CANT. Chap. V.," in The Poetry of Elizabeth Singer Rowe (1674-1737), ed. Madeleine F. Marshall (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellon, 1987), 205.

(87.) Elizabeth Rowe, Devout Exercises of the Heart, ed. Isaac Watts (Dedham: Nathaniel and Benjamin Heaton, 1796), 65.

(88.) Rowe, Devout Exercises, 16.

(89.) Rowe, Devout Exercises, 72, 96-97.

(90.) Rowe, Devout Exercises, 76.

(91.) Anne Bradstreet, "Another (Letter to her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment)," in The Works of Anne Bradstreet, ed. Jeannine Hensley (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967), 229. Anne Dudley Bradstreet (16127-72) came to Massachusetts Bay with her new husband Simon on board the Arbella with John Winthrop in 1630. They settled eventually in Andover, where, as a writer of public and private poetic works, she was best known for her "Contemplations" and other poems.

(92.) Anne Bradstreet, "A Letter to her Husband, Absent upon Publick Employment," in Early New England Meditative Poetry, 68. Bradstreet's marriage poems to her husband were emblematic of her relationship to Christ her bridegroom, as Kimberly Cole Winebrenner argues in "Bradstreet's Emblematic Marriage," Studies in Puritan American Spirituality 4 (1993): 45-70.

(93.) On Puritan psychology and the dynamics of spiritual growth, see Charles Lloyd Cohen, God's Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); David Leverenz, The Language of Puritan Feeling: An Exploration in Literature, Psychology, and Social History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1980); and Sacvan Bercovitch, The Puritan Origins of the American Self (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1975).

(94.) Michael Winship, "Behold the Bridegroom Cometh!" 172. David Leverenz offers a psychoanalytical study of male Puritan experience in his book The Language of Puritan Feeling, 105-6. Puritan men, he says, "dreamed of being changed into women and babies and of finding in the Great Father a mothering protector."

(95.) Thomas Shepard, diary entry for 5 May 1641, in God's Plot: Puritan Spirituality in Thomas Shepard's Cambridge, ed. Michael McGiffert (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994), 92.

(96.) See Philip Greven, The Protestant Temperament: Patterns of Child-Rearing, Religious Experience, and the Self in Early America (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1977), 126; and Ivy Schweitzer, The Work of Self-Representation: Lyric Poetry in Colonial New England (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 26. In Joseph Bean's case, the struggle to deal with his own homosexual tendencies seemed to underlay the language and imagery to which he was drawn.

(97.) Porterfield, Feminine Spirituality, 27.

(98.) Porterfield, Female Piety, 14.

(99.) This shift in gendered identity even played itself out in the social experience of certain Puritan men. John Milton, as a student at Christ's College, Cambridge, was known as "the Lady of Christ's" because of his elegant appearance and his sensitivities in tastes and morals. The curious phenomenon of "men becoming women" in Puritan piety poses an interesting counterpoint to the pattern more common in Christian history of "women becoming men." The Gospel of Thomas, for instance, was an early Gnostic Christian text that spoke of women making themselves male in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Saying 114).

(100.) Rous, Mystical Marriage, 688, 690.

(101.) Quoted in Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana (Hartford: Silas Andrus, 1820), 1.3:237.

(102.) Shepard, God's Plot, 70-71.

(103.) Commenting on the breasts of the bride in Song 4:5, Cotton said: "Brests are the parts and vessels that give milk to the babes of the Church, which resemble the Ministers of this Church of the Jews." A Brief Exposition.... upon the whole Book of Canticles, 198.

(104.) Cotton, Brief Exposition, 3-4, 83.

(105.) Meditation 23, First Series, on Song 4:8, "My Spouse," in Early New England Meditative Poetry, 191.

(106.) Schweitzer, The Work of Self-Representation, 87.

(107.) This image is from Thomas Hooker's The Soules Exaltation (London, 1638), 30-31.

(108.) Janice Knight, Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994), 72-87.

(109.) Caryl, An Exposition upon ... the Book of Job, 206, 211. Like Augustine and Calvin before him, he emphasized the smallest animals as often the most effective teachers. See Peter Huff's articles, "From Dragons to Worms: Animals and the Subversion of Hierarchy in Augustine's Theology," Melita Theologica 43 (1992): 39-40; and "Calvin and the Beasts: Animals in John Calvin's Theological Discourse," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42 (1999): 67-75.

(110.) Flavell, Husbandry Spiritualized, "Epistle Dedicatory," 2-3.

(111.) Flavell, Husbandry Spiritualized, "Epistle Dedicatory," 2-3.

(112.) Austen, Spirituall Use, 4. Flavell urged that "irrational and inanimate, as well as rational creatures have a Language; and though not by Articulate speech, yet in a Metaphorical sense, they preach unto man the Wisdom, Power, and Goodness of God." Husbandry Spiritualized, "Epistle Dedicatory," 1.

(113.) Nathanael Homes, The Resurrection-Revealed Raised Above Doubts and Difficulties (London: printed for the author, 1661), 244. Quoted in Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500-1800 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 127, 179. Reflecting typically Puritan interests, Nathanael Homes (1599-1678) published a work on the singing of metrical psalms, an essay concerning the Sabbath, and a commentary on the whole Song of Songs (London, 1652) in which he wrote of the "ravishing love raptures between Christ and his church."

(114.) As Anne Bradstreet wrote in the ninth stanza of her "Contemplations":
 I heard the merry grasshopper then sing.
 The black-clad cricket bear a second part;
 They kept one tune and played on the same string,
 Seeming to glory in their little art.
 Shall creatures abject thus their voices raise
 And in their kind resound their Maker's praise,
 Whilst I, as mute, can warble forth no higher lays?
 (Works of Anne Bradstreet, 207).

(115.) Caryl, Exposition upon ... the Book of Job, 207. The seventeenth-century Anglo-Catholic bishop Godfrey Goodman similarly argued that animals and humans are able to provide tongues for each other in giving glory to God: "Our praise becomes theirs; and their praise becomes ours." "There is not only a communion of saints," he adds, "but also a communion of Creatures, which joyne together in one naturall service of God." See Godfrey Goodman, The Creatures Praysing God: or The Religion of Dumbe Creatures (London: Felik Kingston, 1622), 21.

(116.) This Puritan identification with creatures remained largely emblematic and anthropocentric. When Thomas Taylor urged his readers to "put thy selfe in mind to become a tree," he meant a "tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord." Hence, he explained, "Thou seest the Tree stand firme upon his rootes against windes and tempests: see thou be firmely rooted on Christ, lest the blast of persecution shake thee." Meditations from the Creatures, 93-94.

(117.) Edward Taylor, Meditation 37, First Series, on 1 Cor. 3:23, "You are Christ's," in Early New England Meditative Poetry, 211.

(118.) Flavell, Husbandry Spiritualized, 12.

(119.) Thomas, Man and the Natural World, 189. Speaking of his own experience with Puritan farmers, Joseph Caryl remarked, "If at any time a beast be sick, what care is taken to recover and heal them: You will be sure they shall want nothing that is necessary for them; yea, many will chuse rather to want themselves, than suffer their Horses so to do." Husbandry Spiritualized, 200. By contrast, Carolyn Merchant reflects also on the "colonial denigration of animals" in her book Ecological Revolutions: Nature, Gender, and Science in New England (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 62-65.

(120.) Thomas Shepard, The Parable of the Ten Virgins Opened and Applied (Charlestown, Mass.: Jonathan Mitchell, 1695), 22-25. Edward Pearse similarly wrote of Christ sweetly wooing sinners to himself in his sermon The Best Match: or the Souls Espousal to Christ (London: Jonathan Robinson, 1673), 134. Edward Pearse (1633-74) was a nonconformist divine and Oxford graduate who was preacher at St. Margaret's, Westminster.

(121.) Michael Winship notes that "marital imagery largely disappeared from discourse after the turn of the eighteenth century"; "Behold the Bridegroom Cometh!" 173.

(122.) Isaac Watts, preface to Rowe, Devout Exercises, iv.

(123.) The recent recovery of Edwards's emphasis on desire for God's beauty ranges from important scholarly studies like Roland Delattre's Beauty and Sensibility in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968) to popular evangelical applications like John Piper's Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, Oreg.: Multnomah Books, 1996). For a recent reevaluation of Edwards' thought generally, see Michael McClymond, Encounters with God: An Approach to the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

(124.) Writing on subsistence farming and ecological concerns from the farm where he lives in Kentucky, Berry speaks continually of desire, covenant, the care of the earth, and the love of his wife Tanya. In his poem, "A Marriage, an Elegy," he says:
 They lived long, and were faithful
 to the good in each other.
 They suffered as their faith required.
 Now their union is consummate
 in earth, and the earth
 is their communion.

The Country of Marriage (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973), 18.

(125.) See John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1948), 4:325.

Belden C. Lane is Hotfelder Professor of the Humanities in the department of theological studies at Saint Louis University.
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