Puritanism and the Pursuit of Happiness

March 2015
2 black and white, 2 line illustrations
232 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843839781
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC REL033000, HIS037040, REL053000

Puritanism and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Ministry and Theology of Ralph Venning, c.1621-1674

S. Bryn Roberts

Reveals a much neglected strand of puritan theology which emphasised the importance of inner happiness and personal piety.
The traditional view of puritans is that they were killjoys - serious, austere, gloomy people who closed theatres and abolished Christmas. This book, based on extensive original research, presents a different view. Focusing on both the writings of the leading Independent divine, Ralph Venning, and also on his pastoral work in the 1640s and 1650s when he was successively chaplain to the Tower of London and vicar of St Olave's, Southwark, the book reveals a much neglected strand of puritan theology. This emphasised the importance of inner happiness and the development of a personal piety which, the author argues, was similar in its nature to medieval mysticism, not that different from the piety promoted by earlier metaphysical preachers, and not at all driven by the predestinarian ideas usually associated with puritans, ideas liable to induce a sense of helplessness and despair. In addition, the book reassesses the role of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where Venning was educated, in shaping puritan thought, discusses Max Weber's ideas about puritanism and capitalism especially in relation to recreation and leisure activities, and demonstrates that Venning's strand of puritanism favoured toleration, moderation and church unity to a much greater degree than is usually associated with puritans.

Stephen Bryn Roberts was awarded his doctorate from the University of Aberdeen and has been Adjunct Lecturer in Early Modern Church History at International Christian College, Glasgow since 2011.

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Table of Contents

Venning's Early Life (c.1621-1643)
Venning at Emmanuel College (1643-1650)
Venning and the 'Puritan Revolution' (c.1650-1660)
Venning, the Restoration and Dissent (1660-1674)
Godliness and the Pursuit of Happiness
Happiness in Work and Leisure
Sin, the Enemy of Happiness
Spiritual Growth as the Pursuit of Happiness


Roberts's work combines aspects of social, intellectual and cultural history . . . The resulting portrait of Venning's Puritanism than Patrick Collinson's depiction of the stressful relationship between Anglican and Puritan, with a more ambiguous line of demarcation between the two, and a theology less driven by predestinarian ideas. FIDES ET HISTORIA

[Makes] a significant contribution to Puritan studies..[Roberts] has produced an admirable work on a rather obscure and understudied Puritan. CHURCH HISTORY AND RELIGIOUS CULTURE

Roberts's study of Venning critically adds to studies that complicate imagery of Puritans. This book is particularly creative in its points about happiness, the individual, and the community . Roberts's book is one of excellent original research and refreshing perspective. READING RELIGION

From the foreword by John Coffey: "Meticulously researched and contextualized, Roberts' study should interest historians of Puritan spirituality, Cambridge Platonism, the Reformed tradition, and the religious culture of the English Revolution."

From the foreword by Alec Ryrie: "Venning's vision of the Puritan life, as Roberts lays it out for us, provides a fresh insight into how those who lived through these turbulent years found meaning in them. It also has powerful resonances for an age of 'happiness economics' or 'Christian hedonism', when happiness nevertheless can seem as elusive as ever."

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