John Wise Reconsidered


Massachusetts minister John Wise (1652-1725) was a major contributor to early eighteenth-century debates about New England Congregationalist church polity and the key opponent of plans to introduce greater centralization in ecclesiastical structures.

According to  Professor Jonathan Chu in his “Editorial,” my recent article, “Beyond the ‘Democrat’/’Conservative’ Dichotomy: John Wise Reconsidered,” New England Quarterly (September 2015),  88:3, 483–508, “recasts our understanding of John Wise through an intensive analytical exegesis drawn from a wide range of sources that compels us to reconsider his defense of the congregational polity.”

The NEQ “Abstract” reads as follows:

Massachusetts minister John Wise (1652–1725) was one of the foremost colonial apologists for the early “New England Way” in Congregationalist churches. But anachronistic labeling has distorted historical interpretations of his two main works. This article moves beyond the “‘democrat’/’conservative'” dichotomy that has marred previous scholarship to offer a new, freshly contextualized reading.

The full article is now available in pdf. format here.


By Dr. John S. Oakes, Historian

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