Religion: Saints & Democrats

For 150 years the New England meetinghouse was as much a center of American civilization as the Gothic cathedral had been in Europe. Its hard-hewed timbers formed the foundations of a way of life that began with religious dissent and ended, after a long and interesting journey, in political democracy. To show how this process worked, Ola Elizabeth Winslow, a Pulitzer prizewinner in 1941 for her biography of Jonathan Edwards, has written Meetinghouse Hill: 1630-1783 (Macmillan; $4), published this week.

The Puritans thought of themselves as "covenanted saints," but saints only so long...

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