Huguenot Experience, Boston, Puritan, religious tolerance, international Protestantism


Preaching to his Boston congregation in 1670, prominent Puritan theologian Increase Mather told his listeners that "the Toleration of all Religions and Perswasions [sic], is the way to have no Religion at all." This teaching, notoriously applied in the form of persecution and discrimination to any outsiders or dissenters, illustrates one-half of an interesting paradox that existed within seventeenth- century New England Puritan society. The other half of the paradox can be seen in a sermon delivered by Mather in 1682. In this address, Mather spoke to his listeners of the French Reformists who suffered intense persecution under Catholic rule and concluded that it was the duty of American Puritans to "to Fast, & Pray to the God of Heaven ... for the persecuted people of God in the world." Mather's exhortation to pray for fellow Protestants across the Atlantic demonstrates a Puritan desire to promote global unity among those they viewed as true Christians. Therein lies the paradox. While striving to maintain orthodoxy and hegemony within the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Puritan leaders simultaneously advocated an international Protestantism-a religious movement that united fellow Reformists from across the globe to combat papal rule.