The Puritans were a group of English-speaking Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritans thought that the English Reformation had not gone far enough. They also did not agree with some of the things the Church of England did. They thought that the Church of England was too much like the Catholic Church in some ways.
A Puritan was any person who tried to become more pure through worship and doctrine. The Puritans' way of life and set of beliefs were called Puritanism. The most important parts of Puritanism were piety (obeying religious rules), dressing simply, and living a modest (not fancy or proud) life.
The Puritans believed some of the same things as Calvinists and Scottish Presbyterians. All of these groups were devoted to the Bible and to being morally pure. However, they did not have an all-embracing theology.
The Puritans also had beliefs about politics. They thought that political leaders had a few very important jobs. One was to protect and reward people who followed 'true religion' and lived by the Puritans' moral rules. Another was to punish people who did wrong. The Puritans thought that political leaders had to answer to God. They were against having a monarch who was given total power over the church. They argued that Christ is the only head of the Church, in Heaven or on Earth.
One of the Puritans' most important beliefs was that every person needed to understand the Bible in his own way. (This belief is shared among most Protestants.) Puritans tried to live by the Bible's teachings in every way. They tried to be morally pure in even the smallest ways. They also tried to be spiritually pure in every way. They thought that man existed for the glory of God. They believed that man's most important job in life was to do God's will (what God wanted). By doing God's will, man would be rewarded with happiness in the future.
Because they did not agree with the way the Church of England did things, the Puritans made reforms, or changes, in their own churches and societies. Some of the Reformed churches in Europe made similar changes. The Puritans made preaching very important. They used as little ritual and decoration as possible. Very often, sermons talked about Hell. One famous sermon is "Sinners in the hands of an angry god", by Jonathan Edwards, an important Puritan preacher. The sermon talks about God being angry with people for sinful behavior, and throwing them into the fires of Hell as a punishment.
Many Puritan groups emigrated to New England so that they could start their own societies there and practice Puritanism the way they wanted. Puritan beliefs and writings became very important in New England. One important work was Puritan John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress".
Other websites [change]
- John Bunyan: The Pilgrim’s Progress
- A Puritan's Mind, some writings of the Puritans and their admirers
- Puritan sermons
- Extensive Large collection of Puritan resources