The Full Wiki

Puritanism: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Puritanism

Include this on your site/blog:


(Redirected to Puritan article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Puritans were a significant grouping of English-speaking Protestants in the 16th and 17th-century. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1559, as an activist movement within the Church of England. They were blocked from changing the system from within, but their views were taken by the emigration of congregations to the Netherlands and later New England, and by evangelical clergy to Ireland and later into Wales, and were spread into lay society by preaching and parts of the educational system, particularly certain colleges of the University of Cambridge. Puritans were mainly concerned with religious matters, and took on distinctive views on clerical dress and in opposition to the episcopal system, particularly after the 1619 conclusions of the Synod of Dort were resisted by the English bishops. They largely adopted sabbatarian views in the 17th century, and were influenced by millenialism. In alliance with the growing commercial world, the parliamentary opposition to the royal prerogative, and in the late 1630s with the Scottish Presbyterians with whom they had much in common, the Puritans became a major political force in England and came to power as a result of the First English Civil War. After the English Restoration of 1660 and the 1662 Uniformity Act, almost all Puritan clergy left the Church of England, some becoming nonconformist ministers, and the nature of the movement in England changed radically, though it retained its character for much longer in New England.

Puritans by definition felt that the English Reformation had not gone far enough, and that the Church of England was tolerant of practices which they associated with the Catholic Church. They formed into various religious groups advocating greater "purity" of worship and doctrine, as well as personal and group piety. Puritans adopted a Reformed theology and in that sense were Calvinists (as many of their opponents were, also), but also took note of radical views critical of Zwingli in Zurich and Calvin in Geneva. In church polity, some advocated for separation from all other Christians, in favor of autonomous gathered churches, and these separatist and independent strands of Puritanism became significant in the 1640s, when the supporters of a presbyterian polity in the Westminster Assembly were unable to forge a new English national church.

The designation "Puritan" is often expanded to mean any conservative Protestant, or even more broadly, to evangelicals. The word "Puritan" was originally an alternate term for "Cathar" and was a pejorative term used to characterize them as extremists similar to the Cathari of France. Some scholars use the term precisianist in regard to the historical groups of England and New England.[1]



The term "Puritan" in the sense of this article was not coined until the 1560s, when it appears as a term of abuse for those who found the Elizabethan Religious Settlement of 1559 inadequate. Throughout the reign of Elizabeth I, the Puritan movement involved both a political and a social component. Politically, the movement attempted unsuccessfully, to have Parliament pass legislation to replace episcopacy with a congregational form of church governance, and to alter the Book of Common Prayer.

Elizabethan and Jacobean Puritanism

By the end of Elizabeth's reign, the Puritans constituted a self-defined group within the Church of England who regarded themselves as the godly; they held out little hope for those who remained attached to "popish superstitions" and worldliness. Most Puritans were non-Separating Puritans who remained within the Church of England, and Separating Puritans or Separatists who left the Church of England altogether were numerically much fewer. Although the Puritan movement was subjected to repression by some of the bishops, other bishops were more tolerant, and in many places, individual ministers were able to omit disliked portions of the Book of Common Prayer.

Puritanism was fundamentally anti-Catholic: Puritans felt that the Church of England was still too close to Catholicism and needed to be reformed further. During the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585 to 1604, anti-Catholicism agreed with English government policy. The accession of King James I of England brought the Millenary Petition, a Puritan manifesto of 1603 for reform of the English church, but James wanted a new religious settlement along different lines. He called the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, and heard the views of four prominent Puritan leaders there, but largely sided with his bishops. Well informed by his education and Scottish upbringing on theological matters, he dealt shortly with the peevish legacy of Elizabethan Puritanism, and tried to pursue an eirenic religious policy in which he was arbiter. Many of his episcopal appointments were Calvinists.

The Puritan movement of Jacobean times was distinctive from the rest of the church: in theology that was more prescriptive than broad Calvinism, in legalism, theonomy, and especially congregationalism. Puritans still opposed much of the Catholic summations in the Church of England, notably the Book of Common Prayer, but also the use of non-secular vestments (cap and gown) during services, the use of the Holy Cross during baptism, and kneeling during the sacrament.[2] Puritans rejected anything they thought was reminiscent of the Pope, and many of the non-secular rituals preserved by the Church of England were not only considered to be objectionable, but were believed to put one's immortal soul in peril.

Conflict within the Church of England under Charles I

James I was succeeded by his son Charles I of England in 1625. In the year before becoming King, he married Henrietta-Marie de Bourbon of France, a Roman Catholic daughter of the convert Henry IV of France, who refused to attend the coronation of her husband in a non-Catholic cathedral.[3] She had no tolerance for Puritans. At the same time, William Laud, Bishop of London, was becoming increasingly powerful as an advisor to Charles. Laud viewed Puritans as a schismatic threat to orthodoxy in the church. With the Queen and Laud among his closest advisors, Charles pursued policies to eliminate the religious distinctiveness of Puritans in England. Charles was determined to eliminate the "excesses" of Puritanism from the Church of England. His close advisor Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, and moved the Church of England away from Puritanism, rigorously enforcing the law against ministers who deviated from the Book of Common Prayer or who violated the ban on preaching about predestination.

Charles relied largely on the Star Chamber and Court of High Commission to implement his policies, adapting them as instruments to suppress the Puritans, following the later juristic methods of Elizabeth I. They were courts under the control of the King, not the Parliament, and were therefore capable of convicting and imprisoning those guilty of displeasing the King.[4] The Puritan movement in England allied itself with the cause of "England's ancient liberties"; the unpopularity of Laud and the suppression of Puritanism was a major factor leading to the English Civil War, during which Puritans formed the backbone of the parliamentarian forces. Laud was arrested in 1641 and executed in 1645, after a lengthy trial in which a large mass of evidence was brought, tending to represent him as obstructive of the "godly" and amounting to the whole, detailed Puritan case against the royal church policy of the preceding decade.


A plate depicting the Trial of Charles I on 4 January 1649.

The Puritan movement in England was riven over decades by emigration and inconsistent interpretations of Scripture, and some political differences that then surfaced. The Westminster Assembly was called in 1643. Doctrinally, the Assembly was able to agree to the Westminster Confession of Faith, a consistent Reformed theological position. While its content was orthodox, many Puritans would have rejected portions of it. The Westminster Divines were, on the other hand, divided over questions of church polity, and split into factions supporting a reformed episcopacy, presbyterianism, congregationalism, and Erastianism.

The Directory of Public Worship was made official in 1645, and the larger framework now called the Westminster Standards was adopted for the Church of England (reversed in 1660).[citation needed] Although the membership of the Assembly was heavily weighted towards the presbyterians, Oliver Cromwell was a Congregationalist separatist who imposed his views. The Church of England of the Interregnum was run as a presbyterian ministry, but never became a national presbyterian church such as existed in Scotland, and England was not the theocratic state leading Puritans had called for as "godly rule".[5]

Great Ejection and Dissenters

At the time of the English Restoration (1660), the Savoy Conference was called to determine a new religious settlement for England and Wales. With only minor changes, the Church of England was restored to its pre-Civil War constitution under the Act of Uniformity 1662, and the Puritans found themselves sidelined. A tradional estimate of the historian Calamy is that around 2,400 Puritan clergy left the Church, in the "Great Ejection" of 1662.[6] At this point, the term Dissenter came to include "Puritan", but more accurately describes those (clergy or lay) who "dissented" from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.[citation needed]

Dividing themselves from all Christians in the Church of England, the Dissenters established their own separatist congregations in the 1660s and 1670s; an estimated 1,800 of the ejected clergy continued in some fashion as ministers of religion (according to Richard Baxter).[6] The government initially attempted to suppress these schismatic organizations by the Clarendon Code. There followed a period in which schemes of "comprehension" were proposed, under which presbyterians could be brought back into the Church of England; nothing resulted from them. The Whigs, opposing the court religious policies, argued that the Dissenters should be allowed to worship in schism from the body of Christ, and this position ultimately prevailed when the Toleration Act was passed in the wake of the Glorious Revolution (1689). As a result, a number of schismatic individuals were legally tolerated in the 1690s. The term Nonconformist generally replaced the term "Dissenter" from the middle of the eighteenth century.


Originally used to describe a third-century sect of strictly legalistic heretics, the word "Puritan" is now applied unevenly to a number of Protestant churches (and religious groups within the Anglican Church) from the late 16th century to the present. Puritans did not originally use the term for themselves. It was a term of abuse that first surfaced in the 1560s. "Precisemen" and "Precisians" were other early antagonistic terms for Puritans who preferred to call themselves "the godly." The word "Puritan" thus always referred to a type of religious belief, rather than a particular religious sect. To reflect that the term encompasses a variety of ecclesiastical bodies and theological positions, scholars today increasingly prefer to use the term as a common noun or adjective: "puritan" rather than "Puritan."[citation needed]

The single theological momentum most consistently defined by the term "Puritan" led to the founding of the early Independent or Congregationalist churches; In the United States, the church and religious culture of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony formed the basis of post-colonial American Congregationalism, specifically the Congregational Church proper as well as Unitarianism.[citation needed] The term Puritan was used by the group itself mainly in the 16th century, though it seems to have been used often and, in its earliest recorded instances, as a term of abuse. By the middle of the 17th century, the group had become so divided that "Puritan" was most often used by opponents and detractors of the group, rather than by the practitioners themselves. As Patrick Collinson has noted, well before the founding of the New England settlement, "Puritanism had no content beyond what was attributed to it by its opponents."[7] The practitioners knew themselves as members of particular churches or movements, and not by the simple term.

Puritans who felt that the Reformation of the Church of England was not to their satisfaction but who remained within the Church of England advocating further reforms are known as non-separating Puritans. (The Non-Separating Puritans differed among themselves about how much further reformation was necessary.) Those who felt that the Church of England was so corrupt that true Christians should separate from it altogether are known as separating Puritans or simply as Separatists. Especially after the Restoration (1660), non-separating Puritans were called Nonconformists (for their failure to conform to the Book of Common Prayer) while separating Puritans were called Dissenters.

The term "puritan" is not strictly used to describe any new religious group after the 17th century, although several groups might be called "puritan" because their origins lay in the Puritan movement. The term "puritan" might be used by analogy (usually unfavorably) to describe any group that shares a commitment to the Puritans' Anabaptist points of view.

Scholarly debates

The literature on Puritans, particularly biographical literature on individual Puritan ministers, became large already in the 17th century, and indeed the interests of Puritans in the narratives of early life and conversions made the recording of the internal lives important to them. The historical literature on Puritans is, however quite problematic and subject to controversies of interpretation. The great interest of authors of the 19th century in Puritan figures was routinely accused in the 20th century of consisting of anachronism and the reading back of contemporary concerns. The national context (England and Wales, plus the kingdoms of Scotland and Ireland) frames the definition of Puritans, but was not a self-identification for Protestants who saw the progress of the Thirty Years War from 1620 as directly bearing on their denomination, and as a continuation of the religious wars of the previous century, carried on by the English Civil Wars. The analysis of "mainstream Puritanism" in terms of the evolution from it of separatist and antinomian groups that did not flourish, and others that continue to this day such as Baptists and Quakers, risks an incoherent view of where the burden of belief lay for the "godly". Puritans were politically important in England, but it is debated whether the movement was in any way a party with policies and leaders before the early 1640s; and Puritanism in New England was important culturally for a group of colonial pioneers in America, but there have been many studies trying to pin down exactly what the identifiable cultural component was. Fundamentally, historians remain dissatisfied with the grouping as "Puritan" as a working concept for historical explanation. The conception of a Protestant work ethic, identified more closely with Calvinist or Puritan principles, has been criticised at its root, mainly as a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy aligning economic success with a narrow religious scheme.


Puritan teaching called for a commitment to Jesus Christ, for greater personal holiness. There were substantial works of theology written by Puritans, such as the Medulla Theologiae of William Ames, but there is no theology that is distinctive of Puritans. "Puritan theology" makes sense only as certain parts of Reformed theology, i.e. the legacy in theological terms of Calvinism, as it was expounded by Puritan preachers (often known as lecturers), and applied in the lives of Puritans. Various strands of Calvinist thought of the 17th century were adopted by different parts of the Puritan movement, and in particular Amyraldism was adopted by some influential figures. In the same way, there is no theory of church polity that is uniquely Puritan, and views differed. Some approved of the existing church hierarchy with bishops, but others sought to reform the Episcopal churches on the Presbyterian model. Some separatist Puritans were Presbyterian, but most were Congregationalists. The idea of personal Biblical interpretation, while central to Puritan beliefs, was shared with Protestants in general.

The central tenet of Calvinism was God's supreme authority over human affairs, particularly in the church, and especially as expressed in the Bible. Puritans therefore sought both individual and corporate conformity to the teaching of the Bible, with moral purity pursued both down to the smallest detail as well as ecclesiastical purity to the highest level. They believed that man existed for the glory of God; that his first concern in life was to do God's will and so to receive future happiness.[8] On the individual level, Calvinists emphasized that each person should be continually reformed by the grace of God to fight against indwelling sin and do what is right before God. A humble and obedient life would arise for every Christian.

Calvinists studied the earlier Church fathers and quoted them against later developments of the Roman tradition. Chrysostom, a favorite of the Calvinists, spoke eloquently against drama and other worldly endeavors, and the Puritans adopted his view when decrying the culture of England, plays and bawdy city entertainments.

At the level of the church body, Calvinists believed that the worship in the church ought to be strictly regulated by what is commanded in the Bible (the regulative principle of worship). Calvinists condemned as idolatry many worship practices, regardless of antiquity or widespread adoption among Christians, against opponents who defended tradition. Like some of Reformed churches on the European continent, Puritan reforms were typified by a minimum of ritual and decoration and by an unambiguous emphasis on preaching. Simplicity in worship led to the exclusion of vestments, images, candles, etc. They did not celebrate traditional holidays which they believed to be in violation of the regulative principle.

Puritans opposed the supremacy of the monarch in the church (Erastianism), and argued that the only head of the Church in heaven or earth is Christ. They believed that secular governors are accountable to God (not through the church, but alongside it) to protect and reward virtue, including "true religion", and to punish wrongdoers — a policy that is better described as non-interference rather than separation of church and state. The separating Congregationalists, a radical segment of the Puritan movement, believed the Divine Right of Kings was heresy.

Other notable beliefs of Calvinists included the priesthood of all believers, and that the observance of the Sabbath was still obligatory for Christians, although they generally believed the Sabbath had been changed to Sunday. Puritans believed Satan was of the netherworld, but Puritan pastors undertook exorcisms in some high-profile cases, wrote extensively and in alarmist fashion against heresy (for example in Gangraena), and believed in some allegations of witchcraft.

Cultural consequences

Puritans eliminated the use of musical instruments in their religious services, for theological and practical reasons. Outside of church, however, Calvinists encouraged music in certain ways.

There was a desire to see education and enlightenment for the masses (especially so they could read the Bible for themselves). In addition to promoting lay education, Calvinists wanted to have knowledgeable, educated pastors, who could read the Bible in its original languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, as well as church tradition and scholarly works, which were most commonly written in Latin. Most of their leading divines undertook studies at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge before seeking ordination.

Diversions for the educated included discussing the Bible and its practical applications as well as reading the classics such as Cicero, Virgil, and Ovid. They also encouraged the composition of poetry that was of a religious nature, though they eschewed religious-erotic poetry except for the Song of Solomon. This they considered magnificent poetry, without error, regulative for their sexual pleasure, and, especially, as an allegory of Christ and the Church.

Demographic consequences

Particularly in the years after 1630, Puritans left for New England (see Migration to New England (1620–1640)), supporting the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and other settlements. The large-scale Puritan emigration to New England then ceased, by 1641, with around 21,000 having moved across the Atlantic. This English-speaking population in America did not all consist of colonists, since many returned, but produced more than 16 million descendants by 1988.[9][10] This so-called "Great Migration" is not so named because of sheer numbers, which were much less than the number of English citizens who emigrated to Virginia and the Caribbean during this time.[11] The rapid growth of the New England colonies (~700,000 by 1790) was almost entirely due to the high birth rate and lower death rate per year.

The Mayflower, which transported Pilgrims to the New World. During the first winter at Plymouth, about half of the Pilgrims died.[12]

Social consequences

Puritan culture emphasized the need for self-examination and the strict accounting for one’s feelings as well as one’s deeds. This was the center of evangelical experience, which women in turn placed at the heart of their work to sustain family life. The words of the Bible, as they interpreted them, were the origin of many Puritan cultural ideals, especially regarding the roles of men and women in the community. While both sexes carried the stain of original sin, for a girl, original sin suggested more than the roster of Puritan character flaws. Eve’s corruption, in Puritan eyes, extended to all women, and justified marginalizing them within churches' hierarchical structures. An example is the different ways that men and women were made to express their conversion experiences. For full membership, the Puritan church insisted not only that its congregants lead godly lives and exhibit a clear understanding of the main tenets of their Christian faith, but they also must demonstrate that they had experienced true evidence of the workings of God’s grace in their souls. Only those who gave a convincing account of such a conversion could be admitted to full church membership. While women were not permitted to speak in church until 1636 (although they were allowed to engage in religious discussions outside of it), they could narrate their conversions.[citation needed]

Puritan family life

The English Puritan William Gouge wrote:

“…a familie is a little Church, and a little common-wealth, at least a lively representation thereof, whereby triall may be made of such as are fit for any place of authoritie, or of subjection in Church or commonwealth. Or rather it is as a schoole wherein the first principles and grounds of government and subjection are learned: whereby men are fitted to greater matters in Church or common-wealth.”

Order in the family, then, fundamentally structured Puritan belief. The essence of social order lay in the authority of husband over wife, parents over children, and masters over servants in the family.

Ideas of proper order both sharply defined and confined a woman’s authority. Indeed, God's word often prescribed important roles of authority for women; the Complete Body of Divinity stated that

“…as to Servants, the Metaphorical and Synecdochial usage of the words Father and Mother, heretofore observed, implys it; for tho’ the Husband be the Head of the Wife, yet she is an Head of the Family.”[citation needed].

Samuel Sewall, a magistrate, advised his son’s servant that “he could not obey his Master without obedience to his Mistress; and vice versa.”

Authority and obedience characterized the relationship between Puritan parents and their children. Proper love meant proper discipline; in a society essentially without police, the family was the basic unit of supervision. A breakdown in family rule indicated a disregard of God’s order. “Fathers and mothers have ‘disordered and disobedient children,’” said the Puritan Richard Greenham, “because they have been disobedient children to the Lord and disordered to their parents when they were young.” Because the duty of early childcare fell almost exclusively on women, a woman's salvation necessarily depended upon the observable goodness of her child.[citation needed] Puritans further connected the discipline of a child to later readiness for conversion. Accordingly, parents attempted to check their affectionate feelings toward a disobedient child, at least after the child was about two years old, in order to break his or her will. This suspicious regard of “fondness” and heavy emphasis on obedience placed pressures on the Puritan mother. While Puritans expected mothers to care for their young children tenderly, a mother who doted could be accused of failing to keep God present. A father’s more distant governance should check the mother’s tenderness once a male child reached the age of 6 or 7 so that he could bring the child to God’s authority.

The home in New England

In Puritan New England, the family was the fundamental unit of society, the place where Puritans rehearsed and perfected religious, ethical, and social values and expectations of the community at large. The relationships within the nuclear family, along with interactions between the family and the larger community, distinguished Puritans from other early settlers. The home gave women the freedom to exercise religious and moral authority, performing duties not open to them in public. The Puritan family structure at once encouraged some measure of female authority while supporting family patriarchy.

Puritans usually migrated to New England as a family unit, a pattern different from other colonies where young, single men often came on their own. Puritan men of the generation of the Great Migration (1630–1640) believed that a good Puritan wife did not linger in Britain but encouraged her husband in his great service to God. Although without property in New England, a wife in some ways had real authority in the family, although hers derived from different sources from her husband's, and she exercised it in different ways. Because the laws of God explicitly informed the earliest laws of the Massachusetts civil code, a husband could not legally command his wife anything contrary to God's word. (After the banishment of Anne Hutchinson, most congregations did not permit women to speak in church.)[citation needed]

Puritan marriage choices were influenced by young people’s inclination, by parents, and by the social rank of the persons involved. Upon finding a suitable match, husband and wife in America followed the steps needed to legitimize their marriage, including: 1) a contract, comparable to today’s practice of engagement; 2) the announcement of this contract; 3) execution of the contract at a church; 4) a celebration of the event at the home of the groom and 5) sexual intercourse. Problems with consummation could terminate a marriage: if a groom proved impotent, the contract between him and his bride dissolved, an act enforced by the courts.

The courts could also enforce the duty of a husband to support his wife, as English Common Law provided that when a woman married, she gave all her property to her husband and became a feme covert, losing her separate civil identity in his. In so doing, she legally accepted her role as managing her husband’s household, fulfilling her duty of “keep[ing] at home, educating her children, keeping and improving what is got by the industry of man.”

Education in New England

The emphasis on education in Puritan New England differed significantly from other regions of colonial America. The founding fathers established New England in pursuit of a model of Christian living that implied strong motivations for literary instruction. But New England also differed from its mother country, where nothing in English statute required schoolmasters or the literacy of children. With the possible exception of Scotland, the Puritan model of education in New England was unique.

John Winthrop in 1630 had claimed that the society they would form in New England would be "as a city upon a hill",[13] and that they must become a pure community of Christians who would set an example to the rest of the world. To achieve this goal, the colony leaders would educate all Puritans. These men of letters, who viewed themselves as a part of an international world, had attended Oxford or Cambridge and could communicate with intellectuals all over Europe. In 1636 colony leaders founded the school that shortly became Harvard College.

By the 1670s, all New England colonies (excepting Rhode Island) had passed legislation that mandated literacy for children. In 1647, Massachusetts passed a law that required towns to hire a schoolmaster to teach writing. Social motives for mandating reading instruction grew out of a concern that children not taught to read would grow “barbarous”; the 1648 amendment to the Massachusetts law and the 1650 Connecticut code, both used the word “barbarisme”. Different forms of schooling emerged, ranging from dame schools to “Latin” schools for boys already literate in English and ready to master preparatory grammar for Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. Reading schools would often be the single source of education for girls, whereas boys would go to the town grammar schools. Indeed, gender largely determined educational practices: women introduced all children to reading, and men taught boys in higher pursuits. Since girls could play no role in the ministry, and since grammar schools were designed to “instruct youth so far as they may be fited for the university,” Latin grammar schools did not accept girls (nor did Harvard). Evidence mostly suggests that girls could not attend even the less ambitious town schools, the lower-tier writing-reading schools mandated for townships of over fifty families.

The motive to educate was largely the need to read the Scriptures. As the articles of faith of 1549 had proclaimed, “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation”. A good Puritan's duty was to search out scriptural truth personally. Further, children needed to read in order to “understand…the capital laws of this country,” as the Massachusetts law declared. Order was of the utmost importance for the Puritan community, a group trying to make a home in a new wilderness and create a perfected society from scratch.

Restriction and individualism

Puritans are often credited as the first American individualists, and at the same time the Puritan predilection to control others and how they live has been identified with a American social cultural tendency to oppose things such as alcohol and open sexuality.[14] In modern usage, the word puritan is often used to describe someone who has strict views on sexual morality, disapproves of recreation, and wishes to impose these beliefs on others. The popular image is slightly more accurate as a description of Puritans in colonial America, who were among the most radical Puritans and whose social experiment took the form of a theocracy. The first Puritans of New England certainly disapproved of Christmas. Celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659 to 1681. The ban was revoked in 1681 by an English-appointed governor Sir Edmund Andros, who also revoked a Puritan ban against festivities on Saturday night; but it wasn't until the mid 1800s that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region.[15] Likewise the colonies banned many secular entertainments, such as games of chance, maypoles, and drama, all of which were perceived as kinds of immorality.

However, non-Puritan Reformed Christians were not opposed to drinking alcohol in moderation,[16] or to enjoying their sexuality within the bounds of marriage as a gift from God.[17] In fact, spouses (albeit, in practice, mainly females) were disciplined if they did not perform their sexual marital duties, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 7 and other biblical passages. Because of these beliefs, the Puritans publicly punished drunkenness and sexual relations outside of marriage.

Reformed laws, however, regarded alcohol as a gift of God and demonstrated the subtle difference between a government's responsibility to punish sin versus its action to remove temptation. Early New England laws banning the sale of alcohol to Indians were criticized because it was “not fit to deprive Indians of any lawfull comfort aloweth to all men by the use of wine.” One reason for laws banning the practice of individuals toasting each other was that it led to wasting God's gift of beer and wine. Another was that it was carnal.

The Puritan spirit in the United States

Late 19th century view

Alexis de Tocqueville suggested in Democracy in America that Puritanism was the very thing that provided a firm foundation for American democracy, and in his view, these Puritans were hard-working, egalitarian, and studious.[citation needed] Others decry this piety as works-righteousness and a form of supererogation. The theme of a religious basis of economic discipline is echoed in sociologist Max Weber's work, but both de Tocqueville and Weber argued that this discipline was not a force of economic determinism, but one factor among many that should be considered when evaluating the relative economic success of the Puritans. In Hellfire Nation, James Morone suggests that some opposing tendencies within Puritanism—its desire to create a just society and its moral fervor in bringing about that just society, which sometimes created paranoia and intolerance for other views—are at the root of America's current political landscape.[18]

The traditional American Southern view alleges that the Puritan ethic was at root the cause of the Civil War.[citation needed] In this view, the South resisted Puritan intolerant aggression with mainstream Reformed Christianity. Owing to Puritan beliefs that emphasize the individual's autonomous interpretation of Scripture, separation from mainstream Christianity, and that economic success suggested God's blessings, the traditional Southerner attributed the regional conflict to the greed of the Northern ("Yankee") Puritan mindset, which believed it was more righteous than others.

See also


  1. ^ E.g. Theodore Dwight Bozeman (2004), The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638.
  2. ^ Neil (1844), p. 246
  3. ^ Lancelotte (1858), p. 684
  4. ^ Gardiner (1895), pp. 10,11
  5. ^ William M. Lamont, Godly Rule: Politics and Religion 1603-60 (1969).
  6. ^ a b  "Calamy, Edmund (1671-1732)". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  7. ^ Spurr (1998), p. 16; cites and quotes Patrick Collinson (1989). The Puritan Character, p. 8.
  8. ^ Morison, Samuel Eliot (1972). The Oxford History of the American People. New York City: Mentor. pp. 102. ISBN 0-451-62600-1. 
  9. ^ David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989) ISBN 0195069056
  10. ^ "The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings". Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson.
  11. ^ "Leaving England: The Social Background of Indentured Servants in the Seventeenth Century", The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
  12. ^ Death in Early America, Digital History
  13. ^ Collins (1999), pp. 63-65. Quoting an excerpt from John Winthrop's sermon.
  14. ^ Ward, Dana, The Hypocrisy of Puritanism, Anarchist Archives, Pitzer College. A copy from Emma Goldman's Anarchism and Other Essays. Second Revised Edition. New York & London: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1911. pp. 173-182.
  15. ^ When Christmas Was Banned - The early colonies and Christmas
  16. ^ West (2003) pp. 68ff
  17. ^ Lewis (1969), pp. 116–117. "On many questions and specially in view of the marriage bed, the Puritans were the indulgent party, ... they were much more Chestertonian than their adversaries [the Roman Catholics]. The idea that a Puritan was a repressed and repressive person would have astonished Sir Thomas More and Luther about equally."
  18. ^ Morone (2003).



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Puritanism originated as a Protestant response to Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. It involves strict religious disciple and opposition to social pleasures. In modern times it has come to denote certain Islamic fundamentalist movements, too.


  • I am confident that, in the marketplace of ideas, sexual pleasure will trounce Puritanism — and almost everything else.

See also

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PURITANISM (Lat. puritas, purity), the name given - originally perhaps in a hostile sense on the analogy of Catharism (see Cathars) - tO the movement for greater strictness of life and simplicity in worship which grew up in the Church of England in the 16th century among those who thought that there had not been a sufficient divergence from the Roman Church, and which ultimately led to the rise of a number of separatist denominations. Thomas Fuller (Church History) traces the earliest use of the term "Puritan" to 1564. The terms "Precisian," "Puritan," "Presbyterian," were all used by Archbishop Parker in his letters about this time as nicknames for the same party, and ten years later the name was in common use.

See The Church Of England; Congregationalism; Presbyterianism, &c.; also D. Neal, History of the Puritans (ed.Toulmin, 5 vols., 1822); E. Dowden, Puritan and Anglican (1901); J. Heron, A Short History of Puritanism (1908).

<< Purin

Purlieu >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also puritanism





Puritanism (uncountable)

  1. The beliefs and practices of the Puritans


  • Polish: purytanizm m.

Simple English

The Puritans were a significant grouping of English-speaking Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritans felt that the English Reformation had not gone far enough, and that the Church of England was tolerant of practices which they associated with the Catholic Church.

A Puritan was any person seeking 'purity' through worship and doctrine. Piety, simplicity of dress and modesty of life were hallmarks. Many of their beliefs were similar to those of Calvinists and Scottish Presbyterians. They did not have an all-embracing theology, beyond a devotion to the Bible and moral purity. Puritans believed that political leaders are accountable to God to protect and reward virtue (including 'true religion'), and to punish wrongdoers. They opposed the supremacy of the monarch in the church, and argued that the only head of the Church in heaven or earth is Christ.

Personal biblical interpretation is central to Puritan beliefs, and is shared with Protestantism in general. Puritans sought conformity to the teaching of the Bible, with moral purity pursued down to the smallest detail as well as ecclesiastical purity to the highest level. They believed that man existed for the glory of God; that his first concern in life was to do God's will and so to receive future happiness.

Like some of Reformed churches on the European continent, Puritan reforms were typified by a minimum of ritual and decoration, and by an emphasis on preaching. Puritan ideals were highly influential in New England, to where many groups emigrated. John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's progress was an important work. Very often, hell was the subject of sermons. A well-known sermon is Sinners in the hands of an angry god by Jonathan Edwards.

Other websites

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address