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The Scarlet Letter. Background. Puritans: historical background. “Puritans”: name given to 16 th century Protestants within Church of England. Name came from group’s desire to “purify” the Anglican church of any hint of Roman Catholicism.

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The Scarlet Letter

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puritans historical background
Puritans: historical background
  • “Puritans”: name given to 16th century Protestants within Church of England.
  • Name came from group’s desire to “purify” the Anglican church of any hint of Roman Catholicism.
  • Wanted to return church to practices of early Christians as demonstrated in the Bible.
historical background
Historical background
  • In 17th century, many Puritans emigrated to the New World seeking to establish a holy Commonwealth in New England: to practice their faith in a way that would not draw persecution from the national Church of England (Anglican).
historical background1
Historical background
  • They did not come to New World to found a commonwealth based on religious freedom.
  • The “freedom” they sought was to establish a church/state whose laws would be derived from Biblical principles.
  • Puritan “Founding Fathers” came to the New World in order to establish a “Utopian” state; the “New Jerusalem”; the “City on the Hill”
historical background2
Historical background
  • In 1620 the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony (via Holland) in Massachusetts
  • In 1630, Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the first major Puritan migration to New England.
historical background3
Historical background
  • The “New Jerusalem” was built on the premise of humankind’s weakness and fallibility.
  • Left to their own devices, people would succumb to Satan’s temptations unless the whole community stood as one against the Tempter.
historical background4
Historical background
  • Thus, there were few differences between church and state laws; offenses against church were offenses against state.
  • Puritan Code:
    • Waste no time
    • Duty and responsibility before pleasure
    • Evil is evil, regardless of circumstance
    • Man is imperfect
    • God has predestined man’s salvation and grace
  • Puritan beliefs
    • The Scriptures provide step-by-step instructions for church conduct and organization
    • The Bible tells individuals exactly how to behave
    • Human beings are put on earth to honor God and follow the calling that God has set forth for them
    • Human nature is evil; only God’s grace can save people from eternal damnation
    • The community has a responsibility to punish sinnners harshly for the good of their eternal souls
  • Forbidden:
  • Music in church
  • Drama
  • Erotic poetry
  • Swearing, idleness, drunkenness
  • Christmas and May Day holidays (they added three holiday celebrations: Thanksgiving, election day, college commencement)
overview puritan beliefs and values
Overview: Puritan Beliefs and Values
  • Grace, plainness, mission
  • Absolute sovereignty of God (many were Calvinists: predestination and “election”: a few are “chosen” to be saved)
  • Total depravity of mankind
  • Salvation entirely from God (grace) as opposed to a person’s good works, morality, intentions
  • Importance of personal religious experience
  • Education as the tool to understand and execute God’s will
  • Bible is indispensable guide to life; literal interpretation of Bible
  • Value of high moral conduct and hard work (link between Puritanism and capitalism)
  • Union of church and state to form holy commonwealth
  • Duty to direct national affairs according to God’s will as revealed in the Bible
  • Simple worship services; “plain” style of preaching; emphasis on conversion.
puritan beliefs and values
Puritan Beliefs and Values
  • Important contributions
    • High value on education (Puritans established Harvard College; between 1630 and 1690, there were as many university graduates in New England as there were in England).
    • Foundation for political revolution in New World and England (contributed to establishment of English Parliament).
    • Social vision with distinctively Christian character
    • Value on community and political service.