<i>Early Modern Origins: The Rise of Popular</i> <i>Early Modern Origins: The Rise of Popular</i> <i>Conversion Narrative</i>

D. Bruce Hindmarsh

in The Evangelical Conversion Narrative

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780199245758
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602436 | DOI:
 Early Modern Origins: The Rise of Popular   Early Modern Origins: The Rise of Popular   Conversion Narrative

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Puritan teaching and practice during the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries formed a matrix within which spiritual autobiography would eventually flourish in England. Puritan pastoral theology, such as that of William Perkins, taught that the first use of the law was to intensify the pangs of introspective conscience on the part of the unregenerate, in fact to lead them to despair, and the crisis this induced was the centre of all the various ‘morphologies’ of conversion that appeared during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries among Puritans, Pietists, and evangelicals of various sorts. This theology was reflected first in diaries and then in the full expression of narrative identity, the self-interpretation of the entirety of one’s life in terms of conversion. While Richard Kilby offers an early example of Puritan spiritual autobiography, the formal occasion for oral narrative appeared in the requirement of the gathered churches for evidence of personal conversion, a requirement that emerged in the mid-seventeenth century and then became widely adopted. Still, throughout the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth, a special motive to publish spiritual autobiography was required—especially specimens from ordinary folk without any social standing—and this motive was most often found in the need to defend oneself or the sense that the times were epochal or indeed apocalyptic.

Keywords: gathered church; gospel; law; morphology; Pietist; Puritan; Richard Kilby; seventeenth century; William Perkins

Chapter.  13592 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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