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Blest Be the Ties that Bind: Covenant and Community in Puritan Thought

23 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2011  

John Witte

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 1987


Perry Miller once called the Biblical idea of covenant “the marrow of Puritan divinity." In seventeenth century England and America, this covenant idea was also the "marrow" of Puritan community. It was used to describe not only the relation between God and man, but also the multiple relations among men. "We are by nature covenant creatures," wrote a leading Puritan divine in 1624, "bound together by covenants innumerable and together bound by covenant to our God. Such is our human condition. Such is this earthly life. Such is God's good creation. Blest be the ties that bind us." This Article analyzes briefly the transformation of the idea of covenant from a subsidiary Biblical theme to an organizing principle of Puritan thought. Part I analyzes Puritan innovations in traditional theology which radically expanded the covenant into a unified doctrine. Part II traces certain applications of this theological doctrine of covenant to Puritan concepts of human community and of moral and legal obligation.

Keywords: Covenant, Puritan

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Blest Be the Ties that Bind: Covenant and Community in Puritan Thought (1987). Emory Law Journal, Vol. 36, 1987; Emory Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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