Skip to comments.Blast to the Past- Did the Puritans Represent the American Way?
Posted on 10/29/2001 6:17:43 PM PST by futurepotus
The Puritans, who made the trip to Massachusetts in the 1630's, in order to freely attempt to purify the Anglican Church, did not represent the American way. Social well being of the Puritans in Salem was virtually non-existent. The Puritan government functioned in accordance with Puritan religious beliefs. Puritan religion held the same exclusivity as a present-day country club. The arrogance of Puritan leaders like John Winthrop was disgusting in itself. Winthrop said, "we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us." None of the Founding Fathers of the United States shared these sentiments. The Puritans did not represent the true American way.
The Puritans had a lot on their plate in 1692. Disease, poverty, and paranoia about the Indians did a number on the social way of life in Salem. Teenage girls were unhappy with their mothers. The girls decided the best solution was to make others pay for their "suffering"- the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Those who wrongly accused citizens of witchcraft and those who had to defend themselves were often rivals. Farmers from Salem Town and merchants from Salem Village always tried to one-up the other. The Puritans never gave what is now known in America as a fair trial. Nineteen people were hanged as a result of predominantly hostile testimony. These malicious killings show how the Puritans lacked the sense to realize that one foot was already in the grave, and the other wasn't far behind. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal; a belief that the Puritans did not exhibit. The Puritans had the false notion that only "Saints" could receive God's grace. Reverend John Cotton said, "We teach that only Doers will be saved." If a person living in Salem was not a Doer, he or she was outcast from society, which is not the American way. The American way teaches that different is good. The Puritans were saved, somewhat, when Governor Phips stopped the witch trials. No outside factor was to blame for the failure of the Puritan society. The culprit was their own weak psychological state-of-mind.
The Puritans were religious zealots who alienated their fellow man and thought it was right. Any Puritan who wanted the gift of grace was required to go through the conversion experience. The conversion experience was often extremely humiliating, because the experience consisted of the potential member having to confess all of their sins in front of the congregation. The Puritans, in their disillusionment, were unable to see the complete and utter correctness of the beliefs belonging to Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams. Hutchinson, who was eventually banished to Rhode Island, believed in immediate conversion by God. Williams, who was banished along with Hutchinson, believed in the separation of church and state. Religion was not meant to be controlled, as it was by the Puritans. The American way is that all people should have the right to practice religion if they should choose to do so, and to choose what religion to practice. Once again, the Puritans failed to show any similarity to the American way.
Separation of church and state was unheard of in the Puritan way of life. The Puritans were governed by John Winthrop's Bible Commonwealth, which met where the town church did, at the town meetinghouse. A moral decision is not always correct. The Puritans, however, did not figure that out. Puritan government, especially in Salem, was certainly not competent. The government lacked all of the principles a government should possess. Citizens under the control of a governing body should not be alienated by that very governing body, and yet the Bible Commonwealth alienated many a righteous Puritan. The Bible Commonwealth or General Court blew any minor flaw that a person had out of proportion, and that person was shunned. Government should be fair to all people. Puritan government was, by no means, fair.
The only thing that Americans in the 21st century can learn from the Puritans of the 17th century is that Puritanism is exactly what should not be happening today. If the United States government were solely concerned with religious matters, nothing would get accomplished. Americans today practice many different religions freely, from Christianity to Buddhism, from Judaism to Islam. The United States has been deemed a "melting pot," because of its acceptance of all people, no matter what race, culture, or creed they are. The Puritans did not represent the American way. They helped the formation of the American way, by allowing the Founding Fathers to see what should be avoided.
Those people had a daily struggle for survival against tremendous odds and formed the backbone of our republic. We are indebted to them.
To look at it thru a 20th century prism does it a disservice. In its time it did a great deal to humble the upper classes and give the lower classes a voice.
The Salem witch trials were heinous, but extremely small in scope. They have been overplayed by today's liberals, who use them to belittle christianity.
-- H.L. Mencken
What did the wise and learned men who founded the greatest republic in the world (the U.S.A.--the most free and prosperous for over 200 years), believe about the beginning of this universe? Were they evolutionists? Were they theistic evolutionists?
Never has the world seen so many men of such great learning and sagacity engaged in a work over such a long time span (150 years) with such a wide and benevolent influence. These men, whose erudition gained them respect in the courts of the kings of Europe, whose writings have astonished the world, did they believe in a Creator and a creation? Emphatically, yes! They were believers in a Creator: the God of the Bible. The few quotations gathered here must forever refute the proposition that learned men cannot believe in the creation of the universe by a wise, benevolent, and intelligent being: Jehovah God.
Let us begin with the reputed discoverer of this hemisphere, Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). Columbus had great learning in many sciences and was also well acquainted with the Scriptures. In a prayer taken from a letter to the sovereigns of Spain, dated October of 1492, we read: "O Lord, Almighty and everlasting God, by thy holy Word Thou hast created the heaven, and the earth, and the sea. . . ." And later, "(May you) . . . be well received before the eternal Creator, to whom I pray. . . ." (Las Casas' abstract of Columbus' Journal of the First Voyage.)
Kay Brigham says, "The Admiral writes in his letter to the nurse of Prince John (1501): 'My hope in the One who created us all sustains me; . . .' She writes further, '. . . (T)he Holy Scriptures inspired the Discoverer to execute the idea with a sense of mission (and strength). Others had dreamed, but Columbus followed through and realized . . . the discovery of the marvelous Americas (unknowingly) . . . (and) the expansion of Christianity to 'Other Worlds.'"
John Calvin (1509-1564), of whom it was said: "(He) was the founder of the greatest of republics. The 'Pilgrims' . . . were his sons . . . and that American nation which we have seen growing so rapidly boasts as its father the humble reformer on the shores of (Lake) Leman." He, who was one of the greatest intellects that ever lived, whose influence is still felt throughout the world, wrote: ". . . God was pleased that a history of the creation should exist-a history on which the faith of the church might lean without seeking any other God than Him whom Moses sets forth as the Creator and Architect of the world."
The nation God raised up was, indeed, begun by men who knew who He is. William Bradford, the great leader of the Pilgrims (who wrote our founding document, the Mayflower Compact), is the third person in our anthology to whom we turn as proof of the Creator's being honored by those who founded our country.
William Bradford (1590-1657), Governor of the Pilgrims for 37 years, author of the famous history of the beginnings of our country, and learned in several languages, wrote: 'Though I am grown aged, yet I have had a longing desire, to see with my own eyes, something of the most ancient language, and holy tongue, in which the Law, and oracles of God were writ; and in which God, and angels, spoke to the holy patriarchs, of old time; and names were given to things, from the creation."
Skipping hundreds who believed as these did in an Almighty Creator, we come now to those men most immediately influential in the laying of the foundations of our sovereignty as a nation. The following quotations will give us a better idea about our worthy progenitors. Consider first Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780). Mr. Federer tells us, "When scholars examined nearly 15,000 items written by the Founding Fathers from 1760 to 1805 . . . they found that Sir William Blackstone was quoted more than any other author except one," and then quotes Sir William thus: "(M)an, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being. . . . (I)t is necessary that he should in all points conform to his Maker's will. . . .
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) (so well known he needs no introduction), said: "I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe." March 9, 1790, in a letter to Ezra Stiles, p. 250.
Samuel Adams (1722-1803), "Father of the American Revolution," author of The Rights of the Colonists (the most systematic presentation of the American cause ever written and by whose suggestion Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence), stated: "In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound . . . by the laws of the Creator. . . ." He, Lieutenant Governor, was addressing the Massachusetts state legislature, 1794, p. 24.
John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), sixth President of the U.S.A. (so well educated he was only a boy of 14 when made secretary to the ambassador to Russia), said: "I see Him (Jesus Christ) explicitly and repeatedlyannounced, not only as having existed before the worlds, but as the Creator of the worlds without beginning of days or end of years." Written from London, December 24, 1814, p. 17.
Noah Webster (1758-1843), lexicographer and "Father of American Education," mastered 26 (!) languages to produce his American Dictionary of the English Language, therein defining creation and creature thus: "Creation . . . especially, the act of bringing this world into existence, Romans I. . . . Creature, . . . Every being besides the Creator, . . . "
Edmund Burke (1729-1794), outstanding orator, author, and leader in Great Britain, defended the colonies in Parlament. "There is but one law for all, namely, that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator." p. 82.
Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), signer of the Constitution and author of 51 of the Federalist Papers. "(L)iberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator."
Patrick Henry (1736-1799), five-time Governor of Virginia, whose "Give me liberty or give me death" speech has made him immortal, said: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly" nor too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . " He defined religion, like many others of our Founders, thus: 'That religion, or duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it. . . ." pp. 288-289.
John Jay (1746-1829), first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: "We (by the Bible) enable (people) to learn that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced. The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer, in whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. . . . "From an address as President of the American Bible Society, May 13, 1824, p. 318.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third President of the U.S.A., chosen to write the Declaration of Independence, said: "I have little doubt that the whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator, and, I hope, to the pure doctrines of Jesus also." He, too, recognized that it was the God of the Bible who founded our country when he said in his inaugural address in 1805: "I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in (this) country." p. 323, 327, 332.
William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819), lawyer, signer of our Constitution, President of Columbia College for 13 years, in remarks to the graduating class of that college, said: "You have . . . received a public education . . . the better to serve your Creator and your country. . . . Your first great duties, . . . are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer."
James Madison (1751-1836), our fourth President, was known as the "Chief Architect of the Constitution," and the original author and promoter of the Bill of Rights. In the Constitutional Convention he spoke 161 times. Madison said: "It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator . . . homage. . . ." and defined "religion" thus: "Religion ... the duty we owe our Creator." p. 410.
George Mason (1725-1792), the richest man in Virginia, American Revolutionary statesman, and member House of Burgesses, was the author of the Virginia Constitution and Virginia Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments to the Constitution "are practically his." He too stated that religion is "the Duty which we owe our Creator." "In his Last Will and Testament, (he) wrote: '. . . My soul, I resign into the hands of my Almighty Creator, whose tender mercies are over all His works. . . .'" p. 424.
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), seventh President, lawyer, Congressman, U.S. Senator, Judge of Tennessee Supreme Court (in a letter to a couple on the bereavement of a child): "This charming babe was only given you from your Creator and benefactor. . . . We have one consolation that this babe is now in the bosom of its Savior." p. 309.
Not only individuals, but whole bodies of people capable of establishing a nation such as ours, were believers in the Creator and a creation.
The authors of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. . . ." July 2, 1776. (Emphasis added.)
"We, . . . the people of Massachusetts (establish this Constitution [of Massachusetts, 1780. . . . ] Part I, Article II:) It is the right, as well as the duty, of all men in society, and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the Great Creator and Preserver of the Universe." p. 429.
In closing this list of quotations (which is just a small sample of those that could be given), we come to one by that great Christian man, George Washington, found in his little book of personal prayers: "WEDNESDAY MORNING . . . Almighty and eternal Lord God, the great Creator of heaven and earth, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down from heaven . . . in pity and compassion upon Thy servant, who humbly prostrate myself before thee, sensible of thy mercy and my own misery . . . take me unto thy protection this day, keep me in perfect peace, which I ask in the name and for the sake of Jesus. Amen." p. 659.
Can any honest and reasonable person now doubt that, not only have we progenitors whose faith in the Almighty Creator was very real, but that these same men had no compunction about acknowledging the same. Shall we do less?
*Dorothy E. Kreiss Robbins is the author of several books on the Christian History of the American Constitution, most recently You, Your Child, and the Constitution.
-- REFERENCES --
1. All quotations (noted thus: 'p.'), unless otherwise noted, are from America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations, William J. Federer, Fame Publishers, Inc., 820 S. McArthur Blvd., Suite 150-220, Coppell, Texas, 75019-4214, 1994. 2. Kay Brigham, Christopher Columbus, Libros Clie, Galvani, 113, 08224 TERRASSA (Barcelona) Spain, 1990, p. 78. 3. Merle D'Aubigne, The History of the Reformation in Europe, quoted in Slater, Teaching and Learning America's Christian History, p. 172. 4. Calvins' Institutes (Beveridge), vol. 1, Eerdmans, 1953, p. 153. 5. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, edited by Samuel Eliot Morison, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1952, p. XXVIII. 6. Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, (1775), Philadelphia, J. P. Lippincott and Company, 1879, vol. 1, p. 39. 7. Webster's 1828 Dictionary. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ This "Impact" was converted to HTML, for Web use, from the original formatted desktop article.Comments regarding typographical errors in the above material are appreciated. Webmaster, ICR Systems Administrator Fax: (619) 448-3469 All ICR staff members adhere to a Statement of Faith in the form of two documents: "Tenets of Scientific Creationism," and "Tenets of Biblical Creationism." (see Impact No. 85) ------------------------------------------------------------------------ As a missionary organization, ICR is funded by God's people. The majority of its income is provided by individual donors who desire to proclaim God's truth about origins. Gifts can be designated for research, the graduate school, seminars, or any special part of the ICR ministry. All others will be used where most needed. We pledge to use them wisely and with integrity. If you would like to receive our free monthly newsletter "Acts & Facts," or our free quarterly devotional Bible-study booklet "Days of Praise," through this form. If you would prefer to receive our online/email versions of the Days of Praise devotional and Acts & Facts newsletter, you can use this form. at (619) 448-0900. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ We believe God has raised up ICR to spearhead Biblical Christianity's defense against the godless dogma of evolutionary humanism. Only by showing the scientific bankruptcy of evolution, while exalting Christ and the Bible, will Christians be successful in "the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians10:4,5). ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Member, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability ------------------------------------------------------------------------ *** Site Navigation: ICR ADVANCED SEARCH Match: Search: Keyword or Phrase: search © Copyright 2001 Institute for Creation Research. All Rights Reserved. 10946 Woodside Ave. North Santee, CA 92071 Voice: (619) 448-0900 Fax: (619) 448-3469
These people fled for their lives..they lived God centered lives that "Christians" today can not even imagine.
God was there with them,He provided for them and sustained them.
Perhaps this then:
For ye had compassion on me in my bonds and took joyfully the despoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.
Right you are my Southern friend! It was the religion of the first settlers of Jamestown that was truly the faith of America, with the exception of puritanical New England.
An excerpt from the best book ever written on the South, Richard Weaver's Southern Tradition at Bay says this on the subject -
"For while the south was heavily Protestant, its attitude toward religion was essentially the attitude of orthodoxy: it was a simple acceptance of a body of belief, an innocence of protest and heresy which left religion one of the unquestioned and unquestionable supports of the general settlement under which men live."
and while -
"New Englanders cultivated metaphisics and sharp speculation; Southerners generally, having saved their faith, as they thought, from the whole group of pryers, reformers, and troublesome messiahs, settled back and regarded it as a part of their inheritance which they did not propose to have disturbed."
It wasn't the Cotton Mathers of New England, but the Robert Dabneys and earlier men of Faith in the South that appealed to the live and let live attitude of the Celtic South.
You have maligned and wrongly-caricatured a strong, godly people, who, admittedly, after the first generation, began to lose their stuff, but who have profoundly affected our country.
Nonetheless, the Puritan tradition founded Harvard (once a great Christian institution), produced Jonathan Edwards (America's single greatest home-grown philosopher and preacher who was instrumental in The Great Awakening.
Let me STRONGLY encourage you to read some of the Puritan's writings in Divinity -- on BOTH sides of the Atlantic. (Men like John Gill, John Owen, and John Bunyan.)
These men were spiritual giants, the likes of which simply don't exist anymore -- in ANY denomination.
Did you not read ANYWHERE that Bunyan's *Pilgrim's Progress* is historically second in sales to only one other book (the Bible itself)?
I'd give you a B-minus at best. You got the trees, but missed the forest. Need to dig a little deeper than the first liberal historian's critique of the Puritan ethic.
Liberals HATE the Puritans and devote themselves to making the rest of us hate them. (I know: I used to hate them, too, when I was your age. We are PROGRAMMED to hate them, don't you see? Don't fall for it.)
Finally, it is not good history to interpret a centuries-old society by modern mores. Even the conformist Anglicans of the day (who were the opponents of the Puritans in England) would be seen as intolerant and unenlightened by modern standards.
You may never like the Puritans, but, at least try to gain (and portray) a balanced view of them. They have MANY admirers today.
LOL-You need to learn history in context.
It is very unwise to pull a single moment of historicty and come to a conclusion regarding it's meaning today. Redo your paper showing how a chain of events led up to the those events.
By the way, how come we never hear anymore about how the Indians scalped and ravaged and murdered?
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