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Exhibition Join In: Voluntary Assocations in America

Richard Mather (1596–1669). Church-government and Church-covenant Discussed; . . . London, Printed by R. O. and G. D. for B. Allen, 1643. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (005.00.00)
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Richard Mather (1596–1669). Church-government and Church-covenant Discussed; . . . London, Printed by R. O. and G. D. for B. Allen, 1643. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (005.00.00)
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A Collective Statement of Purpose

As English society separated from the Catholic Church, some groups, notably the Puritans, argued that individual congregations, rather than church hierarchies, were the correct source of spiritual authority. By the second half of the sixteenth century, many Puritan groups expressed this idea by creating a covenant, or a formal statement of intent to become a self-governing spiritual community. In the seventeenth century, pamphlets such as this one by Richard Mather record debates about the legitimacy of the practice then widespread in New England. This doctrine helped to spread among Americans the practice of self-organizing for common goals.