Religious Reform Movement: Puritanism

Pages: 5 (1522 words) Published: December 12, 2013
Puritanism: a religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th centuries that sought to “purify” the Church of England of remnants of the Roman Catholic “popery” that the Puritans claimed had been retained after the religious settlement reached early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Puritans became noted in the 17th century for a spirit of moral and religious earnestness that informed their whole way of life, and they sought through church reform to make their lifestyle the pattern for the whole nation.  

Puritanism accepted the interpretations of John Calvin (1509-64) on the nature of man, free will and predestination, and other basic concepts. Puritanism became, after the restoration of Charles II as king in 1660, nonconformity and split into three major denominations–the Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist sects. The Puritans saw God as the awesome Father-God of the Old Testament and emphasized His majesty, righteousness, and control of the universe to achieve His just ends. God's maintaining and directing everything in the universe is God's Providence.  

Puritans were members of a religious and social movement of the 1500's and 1600's. The movement began in England and spread to America where it greatly influenced social, political, and religious institutions. Such religious denominations as Congregationalism and Unitarianism developed from Puritan beliefs. Puritan beliefs developed from the teachings of religious reformers, such as John Wycliffe and John Calvin. Wycliffe was a famous professor of philosophy at Oxford University during the 1300's. Calvin was a leader of the Reformation, the religious movement of the 1500's that gave rise to Protestantism. The Puritans emphasized Bible reading, prayer, and preaching in worship services. They simplified the ritual of the sacraments. They also wanted more personal and fewer prescribed prayers. The Puritans stressed grace, devotion, prayer, and self-examination to achieve religious virtue. The term Puritan was first used in the late 1500's to identify a party within the Church of England, the national church. The party sought to make further changes in the church than had been brought about by Protestant reforms during the reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, and Queen Elizabeth I. Defenders of these reforms called the party members Puritans because of their proposals to "purify" the church. The Puritans shaped religion, social life, and government in North America to their ideals. Their strong belief in education led them to establish Harvard and Yale as colleges and to require a system of grammar schools in the colonies. The Puritans organized their government according to the teachings that they found in the Bible and on the basis of their English experience. Over time, the term puritan has broadened to mean a strictness in morals or religious matters. The term is commonly applied to cultural traits found in the literature of and social attitudes shared by, the New England Colonies. Such traits include an emphasis on education and the glorification of hard work. Many social scientists have studied the role of the Puritans in the development of modern social patterns. The German sociologist Max Weber associated the Puritan belief in hard work with the rise of the free enterprise system. Others emphasize the connection between the behaviors and beliefs of the Puritans and those of modern revolutionaries.

The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by county court of trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties of colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693. The episode has been used in political rhetoric and popular literature as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of religious extremism, false accusations, lapses in due process, and governmental intrusion on individual liberties.[1] Despite being generally known as the Salem witch...
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