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THE AGE OF FAITH THE PURITANS

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1 THE AGE OF FAITH THE PURITANS
Advanced Composition & Novel Mrs. Lutes

2 Who Were These Puritans?
The Puritans were part of a large religious and social movement that began in England during the 1500s and lasted into the first half of the 1600s, when it spread to America. Puritan is a broad term, referring to any of a number of Protestant sects that sought to “purify” the established Church of England, which they had perceived to be corrupt. They believed that too much power rested with the church hierarchy and that the people should have more involvement in church matters. They wanted to return to the simple forms of worship and church organization as described in the New Testament. Ceremonies should, the Puritans believed, be simplified to stress Bible reading and individual prayer instead of church doctrine. They should not include priests’ fancy vestments, ornate churches, incense, music, or elaborate rituals. They also believed that achieving religious virtue came from self-examination and pure devotion. Because they refused to conform to the state church’s beliefs and practices, the Puritans were also called “Nonconformists” or “Dissenters.”

3 Separatists Since the time of King Henry VIII (who reigned from 1509 to 1547), the English church had been virtually inseparable from the government; the Puritans thus represented a threat to the political stability of the nation. “I will make them conform,” King James I had said of the Puritans in 1604, “or I will harry them out of the land.” As it turned out, it was in the end the Puritans who harried the royal family out of the land: forty-five years later, they beheaded James’s son Charles I and forced Charles II into exile in France. Even so, many Puritans suffered persecution. Some of them left England, at first for Holland. But fearing that they would eventually lose their identity as a religious community living as strangers in a foreign land, a group of about a hundred Puritans set sail in 1620 for the New World and established their colony at Plymouth. There they hoped to realize their dream of building a new secular society patterned after God’s word. This group later became known as Separatists, as opposed to the Puritans who would establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Separatists originally wanted to live in seclusion and so wanted to settle in a forbidding place so that only like-minded people would join them, people willing to sacrifice everything in order to be able to practice their religion as they chose.

4 Non-Separatists Like the Separatists of Plymouth, Non-Separatist Puritans left Europe for the freedom to practice their religion. However, the Puritan leaders who guided settlers to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629 also believed that they had a chance to establish an entirely new kind of society, based on religious principles, that would prepare the way for the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. Unlike the separatists, who originally wanted to live in seclusion, the Puritans viewed their journey as a very public experiment in theocracy (the government of a state by divine guidance). The Puritan settlers envisioned their migration to America as an “errand into the wilderness.” They viewed the wilderness as dangerous and filled with savage peoples, but they believed it was their duty to clear the land and create a paradise, a Garden of Eden or a New Jerusalem. Like the Jews of the Old Testament, they were God’s chosen people, they believed, whose duty was to prevail. John Winthrop, governor of the colony, outlined the Puritan vision for America: “the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us, as his own people and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth than formerly we have been acquainted with, we shall find that the God of Israel is among us [and] that men shall say of succeeding plantations [settlements]: the Lord make it like that of New England: for we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.

5 Basic Puritan Beliefs Human beings exist for the glory of God.
All of human time is a progression toward the fulfillment of God’s design on earth. The Bible is the sole expression of God’s will and one of the means by which God reveals His purpose to humanity. They believed that God revealed His purpose for humanity also by Divine Providence—the idea that God’s plan for the universe was by definition good and that He directly intervenes in human affairs. Thus, no matter what happened to an individual or community, it was the duty of a saint to find the good in it. Puritans also believed that God’s plan for the universe could be discerned in His creation; that is, through the observation of nature, one could come to understand God and His plan. God’s hand is present in every human event, no matter how insignificant. God rewards the good and punishes the wicked. They thought of themselves as soldiers in a war against Satan— the Arch-Enemy—who planned to ruin the kingdom of God on Earth by sowing discord among those who professed to be Christians. Puritans also tended to engage in a kind of biblical interpretation called typology. Through typology, Puritan theologians and ministers would analyze a “type”– a person, event, or concept from the Old Testament—as a foreshadowing of the New Testament “anti-type,” or the fulfillment of the promise of the type. For example, one could interpret the story of Jonah’s three days in the belly of a whale as a type of Christ’s three days in the grave. Thus, the story of Jonah prefigures Christ’s resurrection. This kind of interpretive strategy was later expanded to include using Old Testament events to forecast or explain current events, as when Puritan ministers interpreted their journeys to America as parallel to—or a type of—the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Imagine that you are setting sail to a new land with a group of people. You set out with the hopes of beginning a new way of life, but now you have been on the sea for over a month and your crew has encountered numerous disasters along the way. People are tired, scared, and doubtful. What would your words of inspiration be?

6 Five Tenets Essential to Puritan Belief
Total Depravity—the idea that humankind, as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, has been completely corrupted by sin. Unconditional Election—also called Predestination—the idea that from the beginning of time God has decided which humans will be saved and which condemned to damnation. Those who will be saved were called the Elect or the Saints. Nothing the individual did or can do will influence God’s choice. Limited Atonement—the idea that Christ’s death on the cross atoned only for the Elect, not for all sinners. Irresistible Grace—the idea that when God—in the person of the Holy Spirit—calls to a member of the Elect, that person cannot resist the grace that is offered. Though the person may continue to sin, he or she will be continually drawn by grace to a complete conversion. Perseverance of the Saints—the idea that those who are saved are saved forever and cannot be lost. TULIP

7 Unconditional Election
Puritans did not know who was saved and who was damned. They did believe that you must have a conversion experience in order to be accepted by God. In this conversion experience God would pour His grace into your heart, and you could feel this grace arriving in an intensely emotional fashion. Your outward behavior of godliness and righteousness would be continuing proof that you were a member of the Elect. People hoping to be among the saved examined their inner lives closely for signs of grace, and they tried to behave in as exemplary a manner as possible. Puritans were always looking for signs, and since they believed that God’s hand was present in every human event, everything could emblemize something. Puritans read their lives the way a literary critic reads a book, examining the significance of each event. Adrienne Rich observes that seventeenth-century Puritan life was perhaps “the most self-conscious ever lived”; that “faith underwent its hourly testing, the domestic mundanities were episodes in the drama; the piecemeal thoughts of a woman stirring a pot, clues to her ‘justification’ in Christ.”

8 Byproducts of Puritan Beliefs
Puritans believed in living a virtuous, self-examined life. Puritans came to value virtues of industriousness, temperance, sobriety, and simplicity. They felt that qualities that led to economic success were virtuous. Reading the Bible was a necessity, as was the ability to understand closely reasoned theological debates. They put great emphasis on education in order to combat the influence of “ye ould deluder, Satan.” In fact, Harvard was founded in 1636 to train ministers. Since a covenant or contract existed between God and humanity, this should be used as a model for social organization as well—people should enter freely into agreements concerning their marriages, creation of churches, formation of towns, and establishment of governments.

9 Family The family was the cornerstone of the society where
the closest scrutiny and continuous religious instruction occurred. All the homes had a farm, and every member of the family who was able to work had chores to complete every day. A hierarchy existed within a family so that all would know their places, thus avoiding competition and arguments. The husband was at the head and represented the family unit in all public and church affairs. Men caught food and did the planting. The husband also was responsible for raising the children in a strict fashion that would suppress their naturally sinful instincts. The wife deferred to her husband and supervised the private household affairs. She tended to the children, cooked and completed other chores such as making candles, clothes, and soap. Children were expected to complete chores, attend church, and prepare themselves for a battle with Satan through Biblical study. Therefore, imaginative play was viewed as a distraction and a means for Satan to tempt youth. Displays of emotion were discouraged and disobedience was severely punished. Whereas girls typically fulfilled household responsibilities, boys were allowed to hunt and explore the outdoors. If any stepped out of their prescribed roles, it was believed that they would be vulnerable to the temptations of Satan.

10 Community The townsfolk carefully monitored activities within the households to insure that the family maintained the harmony that characterized God’s original creation. Every individual depended on one another because they held firm in their belief that as a unit they could survive, but alone in the wilderness, they were doomed. If one person’s farm was accidentally burned, the others would help rebuild and recuperate what was lost. Life was centered upon religion, and every Sunday the entire community would gather at the church for an entire day of worship.

11 Social Hierarchy Because Puritan life was interdependent, the most important thing a Puritan could do was to remember his or her role as a member of the community. Puritan society was strict and anyone that challenged the everyday norms or tried to think or act only for themselves or their own family could be subject to punishment. There was a social hierarchy that was strictly respected in every community. Most of the people who came to America to settle in the colonies came as indentured servants, and these were the people who made up the majority of the society. They were to fulfill the term of their servitude before being set free to establish a home and life for themselves. Because there was no stigma of shame associated with indentured servitude, most had no problem building homes and joining a community after being freed of their service. The other part of the community was made up of free citizens, day laborers, and day farmers—working class. They could voice their opinions, (in a non-threatening way, of course) and be active citizens of society. However, they would always have to keep in mind those who held a higher rank.

12 Social Hierarchy (cont’d)
The upper class consisted of the rich, and their presence was palpable. They enjoyed political power and respect, and indulged in the fineries of beautiful clothes and other luxuries, while always staying within the boundaries of Puritan codes. Because these aristocrats were the people who made the laws and provided order, the middle and lower class citizens were careful to ignore an aristocrat’s crime or transgression. In this way, the aristocrats and clerics were held above the law.

13 Social Hierarchy (cont’d)
Despite this rigid social ladder, women still had no official status in the society. Despite being seen as spiritually equal to men in the eyes of Puritan religious standards, women were subordinate to men in every way, and were expected to bow their heads to their husbands and fathers. Women could not own property, unless they were widows who had not remarried, and they had to keep their arms and hair covered. Women were hard-working and strong despite the fact that they were mostly viewed as property belonging to their husbands and gossips that constantly caused trouble. The weaker sex in this male-dominated society, women were also thought to be more susceptible to the temptation of the devil. However, there were some times when women had some influence on the way society was run, especially when a group of women gathered to express their concerns to their influential husbands. Upper Class—judges, preachers, and the wealthy Middle Class—gentlemen, free citizens, and day laborers Lower Class—indentured servants and vagabonds

14 Church Churches were at the center of Puritan society. Believers
settled close together in towns so that they could attend church at least twice a week and gather for prayers and theological discussions in private homes. Living in close proximity also allowed them to scrutinize each other’s behavior and help everyone to lead the moral lives that would please God. Puritan churches were simple, plain, square buildings. There were no steeples, stained-glass windows, or ornaments of any kind. Worshippers sat on hard, wooden benches facing the minister, who often stood on a raised platform. Pews were assigned by the family’s rank in society. The main feature of worship services was the sermon, which usually lasted about two hours. Only those who had been saved and were members could take the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. There were no formal religious holidays, not even Christmas or Easter. The Puritans viewed these holidays as a whitewashing of heathen partying with a Christian hue.

15 Government They believed that the sinful state of humanity
made governments necessary, and the foundation of all governmental laws was the inflexible law of God. There was not even a written code of laws until 1641 because it was assumed that the Bible contained all the laws that were necessary. All government was in the hands of the saints because they alone could understand and follow God’s will. Church membership was required of all adult men who wished to vote and hold political office. Female saints were excluded because they had men to represent their families. Decisions were made in town meetings, which adopted the consensus of the community, which they hoped was close to God’s will. Town meetings were held in the church. Here, they made laws, established taxes, and assigned specific tasks to members of the community. The colony government was to pass laws to insure that all would walk in the path of righteousness and to punish those who strayed. If the government failed to maintain proper standards, God would, they believed, punish the whole society.

16 Crime and Punishment in Puritan Society
Because the American Puritan society was so new and fragile, certain social expectations were placed on all citizens. Any deviation from the newly established laws and codes was seen as a form of dissension against the community as well as the rules set forth by God. In the eyes of the magistrates who ruled the Puritan society, the tight-knit community they had created could not afford to let things get out of control. Those who committed crimes or were seen as dissenters were punished severely and publicly. Punishments centered mostly on public humiliation and the idea of vengeance. Most punishments were settled with an “eye for an eye,” so if a person stole a loaf of bread, he might be branded with the letter T for “thief” on his hand. Most towns were required to have branding irons as a basic form of punishment. Persons who were not given the maximum punishment for their crime might be forced to stand in front of the community and confess their sins, or to wear a sign specifying their transgression, as seen in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

17 Crime and Punishment (continued)
One of the most popular forms of punishment was to be placed on the pillory, trapping the person in a large wooden stockade for a set number of hours. Often, the person would also have their ears nailed to the stockade while people threw food, trash, and anything they could get their hands on at the prisoner. But the Puritans also created far harsher punishments. A woman accused of being indecently dressed might be stripped down to her waist and whipped until her back dripped with blood. Others were dragged by their ankles all over town, pierced through the tongue, or maimed in some other way. For women who gossiped, the two most likely punishments were the ducking stool or the brank. The ducking stool was a chair attached at the end of two beams that could be extended over a river or pond so that the criminal could be dunked repeatedly into the water. The brank was a cage that fit over the head, holding the tongue by either clamping it or puncturing it so that the accused gossip could not speak.

18 Crime and Punishment (cont’d)
There was only one way that a person could escape severe punishment—to declare “benefit of clergy,” which was originally started so that the clergymen might have an upper hand (since they were one of the few groups that could read). “Benefit of clergy” simply meant that the accused would have to read a passage from the Bible, with no mistakes, in front of the magistrates and congregation. However, because the Bible passage was almost always the same, people started to memorize the passage and hope that they knew it well enough to please the judges into reducing their sentence or pardoning them completely.

19 Crime and Punishment (continued)
Far worse than the fear of any punishment, however, was the underlying fear that gripped the Puritans: the fear of the devil. Because the society was so fragile and small, citizens were vulnerable and felt that they needed to take serious actions in order to defend themselves and keep their society “on the straight and narrow.” Their survival rested heavily on the graciousness of God, and Puritans believed that anything that could not be explained or solved with their commonly used tools and cures was certainly the work of the devil. A sick child who could not be medically cured was said to have been seized by the devil. Dying crops were blamed on the devil. Unfortunate and circumstantial problems or issues were believed to be God’s punishment or the devil at work in their community. While some people tried to find other explanations and resolutions to problems that could not be easily explained, they were often accused of conspiring with the devil and ended up being accused and often convicted of witchcraft, which was punishable by death. In Salem, the hysteria and fear of the devil became so out of hand that the Salem Witch Trials ensued and resulted in the deaths of many innocent people.

20 Puritan Literature Puritan literature was created as a means to record forms of revelation and provide spiritual enlightenment, instruction, and self-examination. The types of literature handed down to us by our Puritan forbears are sermons, history, personal journals, and devotional poetry. Fiction, including drama, was regarded as trivial and corrupting.

21 Plain Style Puritan literature was written in plain style which was characterized by its clarity, straightforwardness, simplicity, accessibility, and lack of ornamentation. In early America, the plain style aesthetic had broad cultural relevance, shaping the language of prose and poetry, the design of furniture and architecture, painting, and other visual arts. Rejecting ornamental flourishes and superfluous decoration as sinful vanity, plain stylists worked to glorify God in their expressions rather than to show off their own artistry or claim any renown for themselves.

22 America Traces its Roots to Puritanism
Puritanism, to the extent that it focused on self-reliance, hard work, and financial success, proved to be fertile ground for the growth of capitalism. When later romantic writers and transcendentalist philosophers, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, began to advocate pantheism (the idea that equates God with nature and natural forces), they were not far from their Puritan roots, although they did not recognize the link. Although Puritans certainly were not Pantheists, both Puritans and Pantheists have the same tendency to see the universe and all its creatures as symbolic. Americans have, it seems, always regarded themselves much as their Puritan forbears did, as a people with a special mission ordained by God. The concept of Manifest Destiny, a phrase coined in 1845 by John L. O’Sullivan, for example, was used to justify and ennoble America’s westward expansion. Like the Puritans—who saw themselves not merely as settlers in a new land but as chosen people destined to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming—Americans saw their westward move not as land-grabbing or as a response to an exploding population but as part of God’s larger plan for the universe.

23 Parting Thoughts “A Christian is sailing through this world
The Puritans were not machines programmed for worship and nothing else. Although they cannot be separated from their religion, neither can they be fully contained by it. They were complex and complete human beings who took great joy in their lives and relationships, while facing hardships difficult to imagine today. At its best, Puritan literature records not merely the moments when the physical and the spiritual worlds cross but rather the moments when they seem to diverge—when love of things of this world threatens to push out love of eternity. “A Christian is sailing through this world unto his heavenly country. We must, therefore, be here as strangers and Pilgrims, that we may plainly declare that we seek a city above.” Anne Bradstreet

24 Source Information All text in this presentation is directly taken from the following sources: Anderson, Robert, et al. Elements of Literature. Fifth Course. Literature of the United States. Austin: Holt, Rinhart and Winston, Inc., 1989. Baym, Nina, et. al., eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Fourth Ed. Vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1994. Bruccoli, Matthew J., and Richard Layman. “Puritans ( ).” American Eras Discovering Collection. Thomson Gale. Troy High School Library, Fullerton, CA. 21 Nov. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/srcx/infomark.doc>. Carson, Thomas, and Mary Bonk. “Puritans.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History <http://find galegroup.com/srcx/infomark.doc>. Meyers, Karen. “Colonialism and the Revolutionary Period (Beginnings to 1800).” Backgrounds to American Literature. Ed. Jerry Phillips, Ph.D. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2006. Stassi, Rosemary. The Scarlet Letter Standards-Based Literature Guide. Secondary Solutions, 2008.


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