chapter  1
19 Pages

The Beauty of Holiness and the Poetics of Antinomianism: Richard Crashaw, John Saltmarsh and the Language of Religious Radicalism in the 1640s*

ByNicholas McDowell

This chapter refers to John Saltmarsh's antinomian theology to underline the radical implications of his ideas as they were received by more orthodox Calvinist contemporaries. Richard Crashaw refers to human life as one long Debt to Christ, indicating the Arminian emphasis on works which is absent from Saltmarsh's conception of grace as freely given to the elect. The physicality of the descriptions of Christ's crucifixion is conventionally associated with a continental baroque' poetics that Crashaw derived from his reading of Jesuit and Counter-Reformation writers. This interpretation fits neatly, perhaps too neatly, with Crashaw's later conversion to Catholicism after he left for the Continent when Cambridge was occupied by the Parliamentary Army in 1643. And while the Presbyterian heresiographers represented antinomianism as a belief in universal redemption and thus as a subversion of the Calvinist doctrine of election, the conception of free grace held by Saltmarsh and his fellow Army chaplain William Dell really extended Calvinist theology to its logical conclusions.