Who were the Puritans and where did they come from? If you have never heard of the Puritans before, it is not very surprising, since this influential order of the 16th and 17th century faded away after a short period of influence. This religious order came to prominence after the succession of Queen Elizabeth I to the throne of England. The basic beliefs and practices clashed with those of the Church of England and therefore, this order set up their base and had a stronghold in the areas of New England, Ireland, Wales, and the Netherlands.
The Puritans believed strongly in the teachings of the Holy Bible and followed them strictly. They shared many religious beliefs with the Pilgrims, since both the orders followed the advocacy of John Calvin. The doctrines of Calvinism prescribed that our actions in the mortal, living world, was responsible for what happened to our souls in the after-world.
They also were strong believers in the ideologies of free will and the holiness of the human soul. They sought the abolition of the orthodox clergy of Christianity. They believed that it was important that all Christians follow the doctrines prescribed in the Bible. Towards the end of the 17th century, the Puritans started losing the support and influence they had with the increase in migrant population who practiced different religions.
What were the Beliefs and Practices of Puritans?
It is difficult to specifically point out what the exact Puritans religious beliefs and practices were, as there are no specific theological books that they followed. There were many books that were written by staunch Puritans that revolved around theology like the Medulla Theologiae written by William Ames, but none that listed out their theological beliefs. There were many Puritan beliefs that took off from the theories propounded by Calvinists and in a way the beliefs of Puritans was an inheritance from Calvinism.
At the core of it, Puritans believed that the only head of the Church was Jesus Christ, and that this was true both on earth and heaven. Followers and believers were to be guided by governors to protect them and to punish sinners. One of the main beliefs in God suggested that the Bible was open to personal interpretation, but there had to be some kind of communal conformity. Purity was important. One belief suggested that the existence of man served as a proof of God's power.
The main duty of a human being was to do as God willed. All rituals were kept to a minimum. Any form of worship that could be deemed as idolatry was frowned upon. Puritan preachers (or lecturers as they were referred to) advocated simplicity in prayer and worship. Many of the traditional holidays were not celebrated by Puritans. There was a strong belief in demonic powers that existed amongst Puritans. Exorcism of people who were believed to possessed by demons was commonplace, as were witch trials.
Unusual amongst the Puritans beliefs and values was the thought that Jesus sacrificed his life for some individuals and not humanity as a whole. While God loves all his creations, he sacrificed himself for those who believed in his cause and fought for it. This thought is known as limited or particular atonement. Another belief of the Puritans was the ideology of unconditional election according to which, salvation is awarded according to God's prerogative. This cannot be altered. These were just some of the main beliefs and practices. Hopefully this article has helped you understand this religious order that existed a few centuries ago.