King Henry VIII as a result of the reformation, declared himself the supreme head of the Church of England. His act of supremacy states, “Albeit the king’s majesty justly and rightly is, and ought to be, supreme head of the Church of England, and is so recognized by the clergy of this realm in their convocations; yet, nevertheless, for conformation and corroboration thereof, and for increase of virtue in Christ’s religion within this realm of
The Puritans differed from other nonconformist groups at the time in that instead of wanting to break off from the church completely, they wished to reform it. After their efforts at trying to reform the church by enlisting the help of the archbishop had failed, they decided to solicit the help of parliament by sending them a letter entitled An Admonition to Parliament. This venture also failed and the Puritans were left with no choice but to break away from the Church of England all together so that they could pursue their own beliefs.
The basis for the Puritan’s beliefs was an emphasis on the righteousness and sovereignty of God. God, they said directed all things by exercise of his will and directed all things to an intelligent end. This differed from the Catholic point of view that priests were holier than the rest of the congregation. The Puritans also were more partial to the teachings of the Old Testament.
A page from the Old Testament book of Acts (27:30-28:6).
This is a page from
the Robert Aitken Bible, one of the very first printed in
The Puritans view of the Old Testament scriptures especially the story of Adam and Eve affected their views of salvation. To them, human beings were depraved sinners incapable of earning merit in the eyes of God. However, their belief structure provided for God choosing those who were worthy for salvation. This predestination of sorts was a mainstay in the Puritan religion. Believing in predestination, they explained that all human beings were pledged by the covenant of works to adhere to the divine law and were justly condemned for failure to adhere to it. Meaning basically that they had to live strictly to the divine law in every aspect of their lives, or the threat of fire and brimstone would be realized. Even those who were predestined for salvation could not escape the tradition of divine law.
The Puritan life in keeping true to the divine law did everything in moderation. While they did dress in their social classes and drank alcoholic beverages, they condemned those who would take these things to excess. Richard Baxter, a highly regarded Puritan is quoted as saying, “Overdoing is the most ordinary way to undoing.” Undoing meaning your condemnation to hell.
Morally, the Puritans believed that their role in society was to be a chosen people called to create a New Jerusalem. This was a much different view than most of the other religions held at the time. As Calvinism has predestination as well, and some aspects of the Puritan belief system were decidedly based on other religions at the time, this was what set the Puritans apart from everyone else. They truly believed that they were a group apart from the rest of organized religion.
One of the factors that set the Puritans apart from other religions at the time, was that they held the Sabbath in true Old Testament fashion; only reading and learning of the scriptures were permitted. When other religions were playing and gambling on the Sabbath, Puritans were at home quietly gaining a better understanding of God.
When a certain situation would come up, the rest of the Christian world had a set, preordained prayer. The Puritans however, were against this. They believed that spontaneous expressions could not be expressed in prayer adequately without inclusion of that spontaneous event in the prayer. The Catholic Church of the time and of the present time still includes ritualization of liturgy in their services. The Puritans were vehemently against this practice. This belief was most likely due to their everything in moderation conviction. Puritanism certainly was different from all the other religions at that time period. Throughout all the separatists groups however, there was a similarity, persecution.