History: American Essays & Paper Examples

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The Puritans Research Paper

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The Puritans, who lived in "Old" and in New England, had many strong and powerful beliefs. The reason the Puritans left "Old" England was because their belief system was becoming jeopardized. Under King James I of England, the Puritan's were able to live in England, by satisfying the crown and their own conscience at the same time. However, King Charles, who succeeded James in 1625, and his Anglican cleric William Laud, who he held much regard for, decided it was time to make the Puritans fold to the Anglican Church. The Puritans even faced prison if they worshiped the way they felt was righteous. As a result of this intolerance, almost one thousand Puritans set out in the summer of 1630 to migrate to America. By 1640, well over ten thousand Puritans had left England and flowed into New England colonies in the West Indies. This was labeled as the Great Migration. The Massachusetts Bay Company, similar to most all of the other New England colonies, elected a Governor and set up some kind of elected Legislature. The Puritans had five major categories that outlined their beliefs. One, God made the world good and since Adam and Eve's original sin, it has just gotten worse. Two, all of God's gifts are good if used rightly. Also, They believed that marriage was a spiritual part of living and that celibacy wan not always the right choice. Four, in the work place; they rejected the sacred and secular spheres of life. Lastly, It was believed that there was a physical and moral order to the universe. They also took responsibility to teach their children how to read and defend their faith against the devil and his evil works. The Puritans practiced these beliefs throughout different categories of life such as work, marriage and sex, money, families, scriptures, worship and education. It is very important that we learn about the Puritans and how they lived their lives because I believe that they set a prime example of what a Christian should be. People nowadays label the Puritan work ethic to be one of many names: The workaholic syndrome, competitiveness, and worship of success, materialism and even the cult of a self-made person. In reality, this is just the opposite of what the Puritans actually believed. Back in "Old" England, all types of work were separated into sacred and secular categories. Instead, the Puritans claimed sanctity in all types of work, which means that they thought that it was possible to please God in all types of work. Each human being was thought to have a calling in life and to follow his/her calling was to please God. Since there was believed to be an order to the universe, they worked extremely diligently at whatever they did. One Puritan claimed, "Whatsoever our callings be, we serve the Lord Jesus Christ in them". Another Puritan exclaimed, "Oh, let every Christian walk with God when he works at his calling, act in his occupation with an eye to God, act as under the eye of God". Therefore, the Puritans strongly rejected the segregation of secular and sacred work. Patience played a major role in accepting one's calling. The Puritan's believed that God gave a person many gifts in the category of his/her calling, but it took time and reliance on God to bring out those qualities. Another falsehood about the Puritan work ethic is that it was based on wealth being the ultimate reward of work, and prosperity as a sign of Godliness. In actuality, the Puritan's theory was, "rewards of work were spiritual and moral, work glorified God and benefited society". A noble man named Richard Steele put the rewards of the Puritan work ethic in perspective. He said, "You are working for God who will be sure to reward you if your hearts content". The Puritans did not work for themselves, but they worked for the good of the entire community. Nonetheless, their self-interest was not totally denied but it was minimized when it came to work. The Puritans considered Adam and Eve to be the first married couple. As a result, marriage was looked upon to be very sacred and a vital part of life. Unlike the Catholics in England, the Puritans did not believe in celibacy. This belief ties into their non-separation of sacred and secular work ethics. Since it did not matter what kind of work a person had to perform to please God, then it was thought right that pastors and ministers should not have to partake in celibacy. When the Puritans moved to New England they brought new standards for marriage. There were five steps that had to be taken in every legal marriage. There was even a slight penalty for not following any one of the steps: · Espousals per verba de futuro, was a contract that stated the intent to get married. · There must be a publication or an announcement that the contract had been made. · The Contract must be executed in a church and followed by a special service. · It was regulatory that an event of feasting and gaiety was held at the home of the groom. · Sexual intercourse. According to the Puritan system, no couple could get married until they published their intension on the meetinghouse door for at least fourteen days or they could announce the proposal at three meetings. Weddings always took place under the supervision of the state. Along with the hard work, however, Puritans loved to have fun. Weddings consisted of feastings of cakes and rum for everyone. Even with the puritan's strong ethics, they still were human and they made mistakes. Numerous couples confessed to fornication (act of intercourse before marriage) during their Espousal period. There was no penalty for this, however, if the couple decided to break the marriage before it happened, they could be sued for breach of promise. Also, if a man was proven to be impotent, the woman could free herself from their contract together. After 1753, grounds for divorce were set: adultery, dissertation-abandon, and absence for a length of time. In Massachusetts Bay, twenty-seven divorces were granted between the years of 1639 and 1692. There was a law in Massachusetts that made any person from England who came without his/her spouse leave a twenty-pound bond and depart on the next ship, to get his/her bond back. The wife of Philip Pointing was ordered to leave Boston and go be with her husband because she had been there too long. The Puritans believed that woman owed her husband an obedience founded on reverence. The husband stood as God to her. The Husband exercised his authority of God over her. The husband was to furnish his wife with the fruit of the earth that God provided. Lastly, the wife was to look at the husband with a mixture of love and fear: however, not slavish fear. More directly, a man was fined forty shillings if he referred to his wife as slavish. Love was thought very highly of in every marriage. One Priest put it, "If husband and wife failed to love each other above all the world, they not only wrong each other, they disobeyed God." Elevating, moneymaking to the highest goal in life and wealth as a moral obligation, are all fallacies about the way Puritans viewed money. However, the puritans did believe that the harder they worked and the more money a person made was to be used for the good of the commonwealth. Money was a social good, not a private possession. It was a moral obligation to work as hard as possible because it glorified God. Puritans agreed with John Calvin, "Money itself is good". This goes back to one of the Puritan's five major beliefs. All God's gifts are good (money), if used correctly. Guilt was not present in the form of making money; making money was a form of stewardship. Of course, precautions had to made. Puritans were to never elevate material goods above spiritual values. In addition, "Poverty had no shame". The rich were able to help the poor out in time of need. Temptation of prosperity was always around and the Puritans realized it. William Perkins proclaimed, "Seeking abundance is a hazard to the salvation of the soul". Money was a danger to them because it could replace God and create self-reliance instead of reliance on God. Another danger of money that the Puritans were aware of is the fact that money creates a desire or appetite that can never be fulfilled. Despite all these dangers, the Puritans still believed that money was neither right or wrong, it just depended on how a person uses it. The way the Puritans came up to deal with the temptations of money was called "ideal moderation". In addition, faith framed the heart to moderation. Ideal moderation opposed luxury. Every thing the Puritan did during the day and night was done in moderation. Even overeating opposed the theory ideal moderation. This helped place wealth and possessions in perspective. As John Calvin put it, "For the richer any man is, the more abundant are his means of doing good to others". Families also played a major role in the spiritual Puritan life. Churches were made up of the families in the community, not individuals. Different people in the family had different roles to play. The father was expected to each night, lead his family in prayers, scriptural reading and the singing of the psalms. Obviously, the family spent much of their time together. Children were expected to take active parts in these discussions and prayers. The church kept the families in the community accountable to these responsibilities. In 1669, the elders of the church went from house to house just to see how family devotion were coming along. The Puritans recognized the family as "the root whence church and commonwealth cometh…the foundations of all society". The proper conduct of a wife was to submit to her husband's instructions and commands. The wife was to obey her husband just like the children were to obey their mother. The mother in the household was to keep at home, educate children, keep and improve what the husband owned or obtained. An addition to a family's responsibility came education. The Puritans started the Old Dilutor Act. This act was sought to teach children to read and write. Moreover, the children would have first-hand experience about the Bible and they would be able to defend it better. In 1642, a law was passed in Massachusetts that said it was the responsibility of the master of the household to teach his his/her children or apprentices to read. A twenty-shilling penalty was placed for each neglected member of the family. At least once a week a mandatory test was given to each member of the family on religion. The tests (catechisms) were started very early in the children's life because the devil never hesitated to begin early. The puritans insisted on elevating education in order to prepare future generations. In 1647, the General Court passes a law to teach reading in schools to children. This law was acted upon the fact that one of Satan's acts was to keep man from the knowledge of scriptures. The Puritans desired knowledge because salvation in the Lord was impossible without it. Ignorance was thought to be man's chief enemy. The knowledge of God's teachings (the Bible) was more important than the knowledge of anything else. Furthermore, without the knowledge of the Bible, one could not obtain salvation. If a child was not taught of God's salvation by his/her parent, he/she was considered to be failure as a parent. To sum up, the ultimate goal of education was salvation. The Puritans held very firm and very strong beliefs about religion, scriptures and worship. The Puritans realized that no matter how good in works and spirit they were, it would never be enough to earn salvation through the father. Their salvation was based not on a man's righteous works but on his/her faith. "Faith is the free gift of God, not to be won by human efforts". The puritans tried to live a smooth, civil life. At the same time, they tried to force everyone around them to do the same. Many Puritans wrote books (hundreds written) on the exact Godly conduct on what to do in every human situation. Another way the Puritans worshiped God was in their society. One of the reasons they came to America was to obtain a "visible" kingdom of God. Their dream was to live in a society where all human outward conduct would be according to God's will. The Puritans were always worshiping God, in whatever they did, directly or indirectly. The Puritans believed even the creatures of the earth were serving the Lord through indirect means. Puritans believed that "Good Works" were "Natural and necessary companions of the faith which led to salvation". Ministers taught lessons to congregations about going after one's own heart desire and how no real believer would do that. Thomas Hooker stated that one way a person might have faith is if they were "anyone who seeks to destroy all sins within reach: in the home, in the family, on the plantation and even in every person he meets at any time." The Puritan beliefs were based on the Old Testament. They strongly believed in Abraham's Covenant of Grace. The Puritans also studied the Ten Commandments and pulled every ounce of meaning out of them. The fifth commandment had much meaning to them: Honor thy Father and Mother that thy days may be long upon the land. Commandment Five outlined all of God's laws concerning the organization of society, family, politics and church. In conclusion, there are many important life styles that we can learn from the Puritans. The Puritans set goals for themselves in everything they did. The reason people consider the Puritans to be workaholics, was because they pushed and pushed themselves to the extreme limit. This can be good thing until a person starts to loose sight of what is really important. The Puritans set a perfect example on how to not loose sight of what is important. They based everything in their lives (at home, at work, in the community, people they met) on their salvation in the Lord. Our world would be ten times a greater place if people's work ethics were based on trying to improve the community and other people's lives. The Puritans worked as hard as they could for the purpose of serving God, the community and the common wealth. People nowadays base most everything on their own selfish desires. The Puritan's valued everything on a higher level than we do. They placed more importance on families than we do. I believe that most of our world's problems originate in the family, or rather, "lack of family". The Puritans were very successful in their lives because they tried to please God in all aspects of what they did.

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