Pilgrim's progress

Spiritual adventures

Having lived in the town of Jonathan Edwards and his grandfather Solomon Stoddard for some 20 years, I’ve come to feel a kinship to the 17th- and 18th-century Puritan divines—as if they were relatives who somehow got left off my family tree. When I walk past Stoddard’s Manse or the gothic First Churches on the site of Edwards’s original meeting house, I can’t help thinking that a hidden stream of the old religion still runs below the surface of Northampton, Massachusetts, our hip, spiritually polymorphic city-on-a-hill. I may not be able to pull up the sidewalk to locate the underground stream, but at least I can perform that most Puritan of exercises: I can read. I can read myself halfway if not wholly back to the pietist past and see in the everyday streets the emblems of sin and salvation.


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