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Puritans thought of themselves as Anglicans before 1630 - as members of the Church of England, Puritans tried to change that institution. Frustrated by their lack of success, and persecuted by English kings James I and Charles I, the Puritans migrated to the New World to create a nation of God on earth, according to their own beliefs. Massachusetts Bay Colony was organized in 1628 by Puritans and in 1629, five ships carried the first Puritan settlers to their first settlement, Salem.
- For the Puritans, the Bible was the only divinely-inspired word of God. The Scriptures were the standard of doctrine and the true way of worship specified by God. They were the source of standards for behavior, belief, and worship. The Puritans believed that their message illuminated and interpreted the scripture's message.
- Puritan theology began with the assumption that man was not capable of understanding God. The infinite being could not be fathomed by finite minds. Since the essence of God was hidden, all that man could learn was what God had voluntarily revealed in his dealings with man. Puritans were careful not to confuse human images of God with the real thing.
- God directed all things to an intelligible end, even though his providential design might not be understandable or discernible to man's corrupted intellect. Nothing could influence God's will and God was not bound by the natural order he created.
- But God was also benevolent because of all he had done for man, despite man's unworthiness. God and Adam, the first man, had a covenant - but Adam messed up his part of the bargain. Adam and Eve "became dead in sin and wholly defiled in all faculties and parts of body and soul. " Man inherited this sin and bore the consequences: suffering, illness, and death. In addition, all of man's faculties were disoriented and his soul corrupted. Man became self-centered instead of God-centered. The human will lost its inclination to good, and man sought gratification of his senses. Only God's intervention could restore man's proper relation to the deity and to nature.
- All men deserved damnation. This was the central belief of Puritanism. Puritans confirmed this by observing human behavior and by their awareness of the darker impulses of their own natures. Nothing about man - his nature or behavior - required God to give man a reprieve. But God, in his benevolence, chose to absolve some people from this guilt.
- Puritans debated how many people got the reprieve - in a godly community, it might be a large majority. According to Puritans, God determined how many people to save before anything existed, therefore salvation was predestined. This concept of predestination offends contemporary sensibilities, but to Puritans, it was evidence of God's love. Men were fundamentally depraved and deserving of damnation. The fact that God went beyond the dictates of strict justice to elect some people to be saved was a source of hope and a basis for thanks.
Puritanism as a Challenge
Puritanism, being a major challenge, is the religion of the former rulers; the Commonwealth. As such they are treated with suspicion. Whigs tend to puritanism, though they will avoid a mention of it. As a Puritan your character will be expected to display piety and denounce amorality. Your character will not be appointed to high office.