The Puritans are seen as a society of prudish and extremely strict Christians who possess extremely Orthodox and disciplined rules and beliefs, and lived their lives according to the Holy Bible. They are known to be people who have this 'superior than others' attitude when it comes to following religious and spiritual beliefs. Unlike others, the Puritans believed in leading a simple and plain life according to the most supreme scripture of God, the Bible. They believed that their destiny is predetermined by God in terms of the souls that will be saved and the ones which will not.
They also believed that reading the Bible is the only way by which they can reach true salvation. Though people see the Puritans as people who force their rules upon others, a closer study of their beliefs and religion would definitely make you see a valid point in their religion or faith, at least to some extent. Let's discuss their beliefs and practices in detail.
History of Puritans
The existence of the Puritans was evident from the 1600s when these Christians wanted to purify the Church of England because they believed that the church is supposed to be the place of holy worshiping, but instead, has become corrupt and unholy! This is why these Protestant Christians were called the 'Puritans' as they wanted to reform the church by purifying it completely, strictly as per the Bible.
They sailed to America from England and settled in Massachusetts in 1630 and wanted to build 'A City Upon a Hill' so that people could look up to them and start following their footsteps. John Winthrop was their first governor. As mentioned earlier, the beliefs and practices of the Puritans are based on the Bible, and John Calvin was the one who established the belief of the original sin, making the Bible the way to redemption and salvation.
Beliefs and Values of the Puritans
The Puritans were very disciplined when it came to living the life as the Bible instructed. They believed that the sole purpose of life is to live glorifying the Lord and obeying the scriptures. When someone is referred to as a "puritan", it usually means that the person is very strict regarding religious and sexual conduct.
It is believed that the Puritans deprived themselves of sex, entertainment, and celebrations, they just focused on personal holiness and spiritual understanding of the scriptures, not only in theory, but also in practice. Well, this statement is true and not. The Puritans were more than what we think of them. In fact, there strong beliefs and moral conducts can be an example to the rest of the world in some areas. How? Let us understand more about them and find out.
Beliefs on Religion
The Puritans believed that Jesus died because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, and they being the descendants of them should honor the sacrifice by living a life which was governed by his commandments and instructions. They also made sure that everyone was educated enough to read and understand the Bible as it was the main source of living their lives and the only source of obtaining God's forgiveness to overcome the sin. Living a simple and humble life, the Puritans believed that their religion was the only religion which was correct and that the rest of the religions were related to Satan.
The Puritan religion also believed in equality and therefore didn't agree to many Catholic practices. An example for the same would be that the Puritans believed that the church is owned only by God and therefore there should be no Bishops or popes in the Church. They also thought that the presence of higher authority and hierarchy resulted in the corruption of the Holy church which was not right. This is the reason why they had to immigrate from England to America.
Speaking of the Puritan religion and the emphasis that the Bible played in their lives, they strictly followed the Sabbath as well, where they spent the entire day praying and worshiping the Lord's name. They didn't do anything else, not even the daily household works, but just prayed and took rest.
Beliefs on Marriage
The Puritans were very strict in following the rules of marriage and loyalty! They followed Genesis 2:18(ESV) when it came to the purpose of marriage, which said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Many think that Puritans are against sex, but that is wrong. Puritans consider sex to be pure and a means to strengthen the unity and bond between a man and wife. Of course, they are strictly against adultery and the punishment for the same is death! Unlike the Catholic and Anglicans who listed procreation to be the top most reason for marriage in the Prayer Book, the Puritans believed that the prime purpose of marriage was companionship and that procreation followed after that.
According to a researcher of the Puritan domestic relations, Edmund S. Morgan, the Puritan beliefs on marriage was based on the following.
"The God of order who made the creatures subordinate to man had arranged human society into a network of dual relationships (relatives) in which one party was usually subordinate to the other: rule and subject, husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant. God had provided these forms, and He had created the men to fill them; but as they came from his hands, men enjoyed only one social relationship, the natural one which they bore to their parents. The other forms of social relation had to be filled by the voluntary action of individuals. . . . Such voluntary relations originated in a contract or 'covenant' between two parties. 'All Relations which are neither [natural] nor violent, but voluntary, are by [virtue] of some covenant.'. . . 'A Covenant, in [general], may then be thus described,' said Samuel Willard. 'It is a mutual Engagement between two Parties."
The Puritans therefore believed in the holy union of marriage which was nothing but the will of God, and it was their prime duty to obey His will to receive the covenant. Having said that, once the couple was unified in matrimony, the union is supposed to be kept under all circumstances unless it goes against the will of God and results in disobedience!
When it came to sexual relations in marriage, the Puritans believed it to be the foundation of loyalty, purity and justness in a married relationship. A Puritan named John Cotton says, "There is no stricter or sweeter friendship than conjugal; as it was the first in the world, so it is most natural."
Beliefs on Separation
The discussion of Puritans faith and beliefs on marriage would be incomplete without discussing their beliefs on divorce! As mentioned earlier, the Puritans hold matrimony extremely sacred and unified by God's will. Therefore, their approach to divorce is only under the following conditions.
Like all the other aspects, the puritans were extremely strict in this aspect as well. The man was supposed to be the head of the family and the wife was the one responsible for the taking care of the house and the kids. If the kids were not well mannered, and were not given proper Godly knowledge and spiritual growth, the parents, especially the wife was to be blamed for it. The Puritan wife knew that her duty and responsibility was first towards God, then towards the husband, and then towards the children.
William Gorge says,"they are required to be lovers of their husbands, as well as husbands to love their wives: so as it is a common duty belonging to the husband and wife too: and that this is true wedlock, when man and wife are linked together by the bound of love." The Puritans believed that each and every family was united by God's word, and that it is their duty to perform and conduct their family values as per the scripture, the thing is, that they followed it without any leniency.
Though seen as an orthodox and prudish society, the Puritans have an unconditional devotion towards the Bible and hold it to be the most important base of their lives. Of course, their approach and methods could be very prude in some scenarios, but they do have some aspects which are worth appreciating. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it. God bless!