Allegory in America: From Puritanism to Postmodernism by Deborah L. Madsen (auth.)

By Deborah L. Madsen (auth.)

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In fact, remarkable similarities can be found between the specific definition of 'America' used by 40 Allegory in America the Massachusetts Bay theocracy to assert its authority and to establish its legitimate claim to a political voice and the vision of America assumed by modern interpretations of colonial rhetoric which claim 'originary' or founding authority for these same Puritans. 3 Following Miller's pioneering work on Puritan thought and culture, the mythology of the 'errand into the wilderness' and the creation of an exemplary 'city upon a hill' has provided the basis for theories of American exceptionalism while the assumption of exceptionalism has remained.

The actions of the emigrants are seen to be divinely guided like those of God's previously chosen people; but the comparison is made closer by the single, continuous providential history that these peoples share. As the events recorded in the Old Testament were foreshadowings of Christ's life, so the New World history of colonial Puritans was seen to fulfil the promise shadowed forth by Christ. Events are united by God's redemptive purpose and by the covenant that seals this purpose. The New England theocracy laid claim to a perfected covenant of grace which answers and completes the Old Testament covenant of works.

Where the individual cannot know God's intention, this uncertainty can be displaced into an authoritative ecclestiastical tradition. Protestant exegesis, in sharp contrast, is motivated by the desire for a direct communion with God which is mediated only by Scripture, the direct word of God. The role of the Church as translator of divine significances is assigned, in Protestant exegesis, to the Holy Ghost, who empowers the chosen individual to understand God's intentions in relation to their soul's destiny.

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