Puritan Research Paper

Many more may notice that the Puritans’ God offered no incentive for upright moral behavior: this deity had decided who will be saved or damned before the beginning of human history, and no good actions on the part of men and women could change that divine decree and alter their preordained fates.(The brighter kids may also point out that Calvinist theology denied human beings any free will.) That being the case, lots of students will ask you why the Puritans didn’t sink into despair—or decide to wallow in the world’s pleasures, to enjoy the moment, since they could do nothing to affect their eternity in the afterlife.

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With the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, Puritanism went into eclipse in England, largely because the movement was identified with the upheaval and radicalism of the Civil War and Cromwell’s tyrannical government, a virtual military dictatorship.

But it persisted for much longer as a vital force in those parts of British North America colonized by two groups of Puritans who gradually cut their ties to the Church of England and formed separate denominations.

But Calvin also taught that God, in his infinite mercy, would spare a small number of “elect” individuals from the fate of eternal hellfire that all mankind, owing to their corrupt natures, justly deserved.

That elect group of “saints” would be blessed, at some point in their lives, by a profound sense of inner assurance that they possessed God’s “saving grace.” This dawning of hope was the experience of conversion, which might come upon individuals suddenly or gradually, in their earliest youth or even in the moments before death.

No matter how confused they seem at first, most will “get it” and even “get into it” if you give them a chance.

You might tell them about the Puritan belief in predestination, which provides the wider context for understanding conversion.

To prod them into thinking along these lines, you might talk a bit about the sweeping changes (and uncertainties) overtaking the lives of most western Europeans in the early modern period (ca., 1400–1800).

It was during this era that the beginnings of modern capitalism—both the growth of trade and the commercialization of agriculture—were yielding handsome profits for merchants and large landowners, but creating inflation and unemployment that produced unprecedented misery for many more people.

One group, the Congregationalists, settled Plymouth in the 1620s and then Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, and Rhode Island in the 1630s.

Another group, the Presbyterians, who quickly came to dominate the religious life of Scotland and later migrated in large numbers to northern Ireland, also settled many communities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania during the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century. Puritans in both Britain and British North America sought to cleanse the culture of what they regarded as corrupt, sinful practices.

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