Documentary Sources in Religion

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Antoine Arnauld, On Frequent Communion (1643)—This devotional work introduced the ideas of Cornelius Jansen and the Abbé de Saint-Cyran to a broader audience in seventeenth-century France and became one of the defining texts of the Jansenist movement in the country.

Johann Arndt, True Christianity (1605–1609)—This early seventeenth-century statement of devotional principles and practices became one of the primary sources of inspiration for the Pietist movement. In it, Arndt rejects the dull formalism of the Protestant church of his time and instead argues for the importance of meditation.

The Authorized Version of the Bible (1611)—This translation of the Scriptures has long been known simply as the "King James' Version," since its publication was approved during the reign of the first Stuart king of England. The work is notable for the loftiness of its prose and for the profound influence it had on the development of seventeenth-century literary English.

Jakob Boehme, Of True Repentance (1622)—This mature statement of the author's faith became an important text in later seventeenth and early eighteenth-century Pietism. The author aimed to stir his readers to a true reformation of life and to instill the Lutheran church with an internal spirituality that might deepen the reform of doctrine that had occurred during the sixteenth-century Reformation.

John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress (1678)—Written while its author was imprisoned for his religious dissent during 1675, this work is the greatest spiritual allegory in English. It has remained a perennial classic, read by kings and princes and humble folk alike. It tells of the spiritual progress of a simple pilgrim, facing the trials of despondency, slough, and a host of other vices, yet emerging triumphant from these trials through the help of divine grace.

Charles I, king of England, The Book of Sports (1677)—Through this work Archbishop Laud and the Stuart king reinstated James I's 1618 proclamation allowing Sunday sport. The short book caused a furor by sanctioning recreation on the Puritan Sabbath. Like his father, Charles explained in the text that Sunday pastimes provided a release for the populace, avoiding the far greater evils the king sensed lay in their inactivity.

Samuel Clarke, Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity (1712)—This treatise demonstrated that the New Testament revealed nothing about the key Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. As a result of its publication, the Deist Clarke was forced to answer charges of heresy from an Anglican conventicle that met to condemn his ideas.

George Fox, Autobiography (1694)—Compiled from the author's journals after his death, this work is one of the great spiritual autobiographies of the Western tradition. It also provides a wealth of insight into the founding of the Society of Friends, the Quakers, the movement of which Fox was the leader. The work includes a testimonial from William Penn, the Quaker founder of the English colony of Pennsylvania.

Joseph Glanvill, Saducismus Triumphatus (1681)—As the witch hunt drew to a close, this English theologian's work warned that the belief in witches and demons could not be relinquished without also giving up one's faith in God. The ideas of Glanvill proved to be increasingly outdated in a world in which intellectuals were quickly jettisoning the concept of the supernatural.

Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon, Life of Madame Guyon (1712)—One of the great early-modern spiritual autobiographies, Madame Guyon's life tells of her mystical quest for union with God. The author was a member of the French Quietist movement that bore some similarities to English Quakerism. The Quietists sought to "wait upon the Spirit of the Lord," even at the expense of neglecting their own personal salvation. Madame Guyon, like other Quietists, fell afoul of the French state and was imprisoned for more than eight years. She spent her final years under house arrest.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, The Education of the Human Race (1780)—This treatise caused great controversy in Germany because of its argument that it was now permissible for the human race to leave revealed religion behind and progress forward to a rational understanding of faith.

John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)—In this epic poem one of the greatest English poets of all time defended his Puritan religious beliefs. The work was published during the early years of the Restoration period, when Puritanism faced increasing persecution from Parliament and the Church of England.

Blaise Pascal, Provincial Letters (1656)—These fictional and highly satirical letters between a Jesuit and his overseer or "provincial" helped to revive the Jansenist movement in France during the second half of the seventeenth century. Their biting humor made them immediately popular and helped to tarnish the Jesuits with the reputation of being champions of intolerance.

Philip Jakob Spener, Pia Desderia (1675)—In this key work of Lutheran Pietism, the author stressed the importance of meditation as a part of Christian devotion and criticized Germany's government officials and clergy for their dry and arid management of the church.

Matthew Tindal, Christianity as Old as the Creation, or the Gospel a Republication of the Religion of Nature (1733)—This work has since the eighteenth century become known as the Deist "Bible." In it, Tindal rejected the notion of Christianity as a "revealed" religion and instead promoted the idea that everything that was moral in Christianity might be reasoned from the laws of nature alone. The book prompted more than 150 rebuttals in the years that followed its publication.

John Toland, Christianity Not Mysterious (1696)—One of the most important works of the early Deist movement in England, this book argued that whatever is "repugnant" to the human mind as reasonable should not be believed. Toland had in mind the many miracles that had traditionally been used to justify and support Christianity.

John Wesley, Journal (1735–1790)—The founder of the Methodists began this record of his spiritual quest in 1735, before his great conversion experience. He continued to keep his reflections up to date until the year before his death. The work provides an unparalleled view into the world of eighteenth-century Pietism as well as the opposition that these Christians faced to their message from more Orthodox quarters.