Solving the Puritan Dilemma

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Stephen James
Dr. Burgess
History 111 Section 010
5 February 2013
Solving the Puritan Dilemma
John Winthrop was not only a political leader and organizer for the Massachusetts Bay colony, but he was also the leader of forming the idealistic views of the Puritans. Winthrop began his life rich, coming from his families wealth, enjoying his lavish life and the pleasures that came with it. However, while he was under the weather, he realized that indulging in these meager worldly pleasures was not worthwhile in the eyes of the Lord. Furthermore he went on to describe the current state of England as reminiscent of the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities burned to the ground by God’s wrath for its immeasurable amount of iniquities. With this reality check fresh in his mind, Winthrop decided to side with the religion of the Puritans, whose main goal was to achieve the purification of all corruption within the church and its laws. As a Puritan, Winthrop tried multiple times to solve the “puritan dilemma,” or in other words, shape the new church and lay the foundation it stood upon. By doing so, he led by example, living a life constantly influencing either solely or primarily by God and His word.

The first of these instances came in the first few pages of the book, page five specifically, when Winthrop identifies the fact that “Puritanism required that a man devote his life to seeking salvation but told him he was helpless to do anything but evil.” Or simply put “Puritanism required that man refrain from sin but told him he would sin anyhow.” Winthrop combatted this idea by calling it parodoxal and it seemed that the only way to escape the sinful world presented to him, England, was to sail across the ocean to the New England and better himself and his religion there.

When in New England, Winthrop was entrusted with leading the Massachusetts Bay colony by making the rules. Winthrop expressed his idea to the colony that if they lived immoral lives...
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