By Gavin Finley MD,
New World during the early 1600's.
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Christian History Magazine.
1. Puritan History, Past, Present and Future. An Introduction to this study. 2. John Winthrop and the Puritan dream of a shining 'city upon a hill'. 3. 'Manifest Destiny' is rooted in the Puritan dream of a 'nation under God'. 4. The Puritan belief in a 'Nation Under God' goes back to ancient Israel. 5. Gutenberg, Bibles and the Reformation bring in the Pilgrims and Puritans. 6. The Puritans rise up in the 1600's to dominate English Parliament. 7. The Puritan Army goes to battle against the king in the English Civil War. 8. The Puritan Army wears yellow ribbons and sashes in the English Civil War. 9. The Puritan Religion supports Parliament in the English Civil War. 10. Puritans vs. Pilgrims. Similarities and differences. 11. The Puritans in the New World and the signing of the Mayflower Compact. 12. Puritan belief and the American Revolution vs. the French Revolution. 13. America's Puritans today and the 'Religious Right'. 14. The abortion issue and America's Puritans today 15. Today's Puritans and the expansion of America's global peacemaking role. 16. Today's American Puritans and the rise of Dominion Theology 17. Puritan belief and the future history of America.
INTRODUCTIONIn this series of articles, (see the subject headings below left), we shall be going on a journey. It will take us back 500 years into time. We shall be taking a look at the extraordinary history of the Puritans. This was a company of people who emerged in the spiritual ferment of the English Reformation. They became noticeable in the early 1500's, soon after the coming of the English Bible. The ensuing Biblical Revival fired Christian zeal. This was the first of many Great Awakenings among the English speaking people. And this new realization of personal worth before God inspired great expectations among individual citizens in England. Its wider corporate impact was to foster a spiritual atmosphere in the English society for new beginnings, those being Biblical reform in the English Church and political reform of the English monarchy.
Historians have noted that America took form in the womb of England. This truth is overlooked but extremely important. When we look deeper into the body of English history in the 1500's we can certainly make out within it the embryo of a new breed of people. At that time a certain company of Christian activists were beginning to stir and kick within the English mother country. These were the people who sparked the English Reformation. As a result of their zeal and their commitment to reform and to 'purify' the Church of England they would come to be known as the 'Puritans'.
The Puritans were a people who caused others sit up and listen. They were bound and determined to make an impact in their generation. Their dreams and their goals were both individual and national. They were quite vociferous in the way they engaged the challenges of their time. The Puritans were inclined to express their opinion quite forcefully, even to the point of straining the social constraints of a rigid monarchical English society. This would cause them, and the mother country, some significant pains of travail.
The spiritual emergence of the Puritans came in the 1500's as we discuss in this article. Their political emergence came in the following century. It was during the early 1600's that the Puritans rose up in Parliament. This was the beginning of a rather spectacular history, to say the least.
The story of the Puritans is much bigger than we have been told. These people have been the leading lights of America since the time of the early English colonies. And the settlement of the New World is a history we have heard much about. But our journey of discovery must trace the roots of the Puritans back into English history as well. This is where we shall make some rather startling discoveries. Then our trip will take another interesting turn. It will lead us "back to the future".
PURITAN HISTORY: THE SPIRITUAL DIMENSIONIt is important to consider the spiritual elements that are at work in peoples, land masses, and nations. This is essential in any study of history and for geography as well. It is especially true as we study Puritan history. Because in the 1500's and early 1600’s a group of politically active English Biblical Christians were on the rise. And in the English Civil War that ensued they would change England forever. During the ferment of those epic times the Puritans were also setting forth on a great migration across the Atlantic Ocean. There in the new World they would set the standards for not only English colonial history but the subsequent 1776 birth of the American nation. They would continue to have an impact on America in the centuries that followed. And the latter half of the 20th Century would see them emerge as the greatest superpower Western Christendom has ever seen.
TO THE STORY. AND AN APPRECIATION OF WHAT
THE PURITANS DID IN ENGLAND IN THE 1600's.
The Puritan impact on world history has been profound so far.
Future Puritan history will be even more spectacular.
Indeed it will be more awesome than words can describe.
The English Puritans made their political emergence in the 1600's. This was during the very same time period in which they began to embark upon their epic migrations to the New World. Here were a vibrant, spiritually energized, and hopeful company of people. Their new status as free men walking personally and as a nation under God blessed the nation greatly. In spite of their shortcoming this faith fed their personal and national dreams and visions for a bright future. In England they had been bound and determined to set a new agenda for their English Church. And their heart's desire was to see their beloved English kingdom move forward into the Biblically enlightened flows of the Reformation that were then sweeping western Christendom. These were the true movers and shakers of their time. And their emergence did not come merely because of political aspirations. There was a deeper reason why the Puritan movement erupted into history during the 1500's. That reason, as we shall discuss, involved some very telling spiritual factors, not least of them being the coming of the English Bible to the common man.
The Puritans burst onto the political stage of English history in the 1620's to 1650's. This same time period saw very large migrations of Puritans to America. But the English part of Puritan history is not often appreciated in America. This is in part due to the way that this history is taught. As Westerners we are inclined to lapse back into the Hellenistic Greco-Roman mindset we learned in our former passage through the Greek culture. We think in boxes. Our educational systems compartmentalize history. It chops up the sweep of history and boxes it up into separate subjects according to nation or a certain century. So the story of the Puritans is in two boxes, those being "American History" and "English History". So students do not get a full bird's eye overview of Puritan history as it arose in England, crossed the Atlantic to the New World and flowed on through the centuries.
This is most unfortunate. American students know their American history and the role the Puritans played in the early settlement of the New World. But few are given much of an opportunity to learn Puritan history as it arose in England earlier in the 1500's and 1600's. So they are not getting the complete picture. Students are not being told the "rest of the story". And in the rush to do well and please the teacher or professor few are inclined to think "outside the box".
There are other reasons Puritan history has been neglected. It is no secret that the academic elites at the top of the teaching hierarchies espouse a secular humanist view of this world and its histories. When we look at the slanted way they characterize the Puritans in the syllabuses their disdain for them becomes very obvious. We also see that Puritan history is minimized and the impact and scope of the Puritan contribution to American history is cloaked.
Why is this so? From the late 1800's onwards and especially with the coming of centralized public schools the educational elites have championed the so-called Enlightenment which began in earnest in the 1700's. The Enlightenment embraced the humanistic rationalism of men like Voltaire, Thomas Paine, and John Locke. Secular humanism was and remains today part of an Illuminist agenda to rid the West of the Judeo-Christian faith. The Enlightenment was rising up during the 1700's. This was at the same time as the Great Awakenings were fostering Biblical Christianity in England and America.
Quite clearly there has been and continues to be a spiritual war, an ideological war, and an information war going on here in America. So it should come as no surprise that American educators at the top of the pyramid do not like the Puritans. Quite clearly from the textbooks we see that they very definitely champion the Enlightenment, all this in spite of its dismal failure when it was let loose and crashed in flames amidst the bloodshed of the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution.
The matter of academic freedom and control over the content of textbooks is troubling. School teachers and college professors are no longer given the teaching liberty they once had. Local schools are not permitted to decide which textbooks they will teach from. Under the educational elites the writers of textbooks quickly learn what elements of history to emphasize or de-emphasize to land these massive contracts. Then too, teachers unions such as the powerful NEA and the AFT are in the picture. At the top teacher's unions are well known to espouse a left wing secular humanist mindset. The elites currently bearing rule over public education would particularly like to delete from the record any positive contribution Biblical Christian faith has brought to America. So it is not surprising that they use their academic power over the curriculum to present the Biblical Christianity in a bad light. That is why they have consigned the Puritans to the dustbin of history.
Why is this happening? It seems that nestled in the public trust we have some decidedly godless hardliners. They are driven by their dark angels to not only set a certain social agenda but also indoctrinate students into their own secularist and humanist mindset. Most of all, they, or the angels that deceive them, intimidate them, and pull their strings, do not want to see American students continue in or develop a Biblical world view.
The matter of "separation of church and state" is a case in point. The original intent of the Founding Fathers was the "non-establishment of any Church Institution by the state". But the people behind the curtain have re-engineered and twisted this doctrine. They now proffer it to Americans as "the rigid exclusion of Christian faith from the state and from public places".
The impact of this on the schoolroom, as is now well known has been devastating. The serious decline in academic scores, the bullying which is tolerated, the jungle classrooms, and the school shootings all attest to the moral bankruptcy of public education. And yet elitists setting the agenda for the teaching of American history continue to be hard-liners. They still seek to undermine the very Christian faith that made the nation rise to greatness.
The broad trans-Atlantic scope of what is really an Anglo-American Puritan History is just not appreciated in America today. It is difficult for history students to connect the dots. And the full sweeping saga of the Puritans is a story yet untold. So in order to see what the Puritans did in England and in America we must seek out earlier more reliable sources and do our own homework.
This is most unfortunate. What we are seeing here is in fact a form of academic censorship. Because when the facts of history happen to be of a spiritual nature we discover that they have been studiously ignored. They have been left out of the story. Some very important historical details and themes are missing from the textbooks. So we are left with a false and decidedly negative view of the Puritans, and a boring one at that.
This academic tyranny over the facts is not just true of history and the liberal arts. Over in the higher halls of science another academic war on truth is being waged right now. (See the video 'Expelled' by Ben Stein.) Or do a YouTube search for "Expelled, Ben Stein".
Liberal educators are in the driver's seat in America today. In place of the truth they are very keen to advance a number of their favorite myths about the Puritans. They seem to want their students to denigrate them as a people. Then they want students to file Puritan history away in the dustbin of history and forget it. They want to characterize the Puritans as a group of Christian zealots who rose up briefly in the 1600's. They say that the Puritans came to America, spread disease, trampled an idyllic and perfect native Indian society, and then died out when "the Enlightenment" came and mercifully liberated the West from its chains and the religious superstition of the medieval era.
The Enlightenment was, (and remains today), a belief system set forth by mortal men. The new "faith" of the Enlightenment was in human reason or rationalism. It was humanistic or man-centered. It was naturalistic lifting up Nature with a capital N. And it was secular, that is it was worldly, completely discounting the revealed truths of Holy Scripture. This secular humanism was the "faith" championed by the French Revolution. (And we know what happened there.) To see a comparison the French Revolution to the American Revolution from a Biblical world view click here
The Puritans have been much maligned. Many seem to want to rewrite the history books to render the story of the Puritans to just a fading footnote to an old archaic history, one that is no longer relevant in the Enlightened and progressive Post-Christian era in which we now live. This is the same fable fostered by National Geographic magazine, the History Channel, and Hollywood. It is the celestial humanistic socialism of the new Star Trek and Babylon 5. It is the social engineering our children are subjected to in public schools. Younger children are caused to see the Puritans as little more than the comic characters from a bygone era. They are represented as quaint people dressed in black with the funny hats and shoes with buckles. These iconic images of the Puritans, inaccurate as they may be, are nevertheless trundled out every fall during the time of Thanksgiving.
Another perennial myth is that the Puritans were legalistic mean spirited religious killjoys. The truth is something else entirely. The Puritans were not the drab prune faced company as portrayed by popular mythology. Nor were they the cold hearted legalistic hacks portrayed by Hollywood. As a matter of fact they did they did not even dress in black. The Puritans were Englishmen emerging from the Elizabethan era. They wore bright clothing in the manner of their time. They were a hopeful cheerful company of people. They drank ale in the moderation of which they were renowned. Puritans generally exhibited a "can do" attitude and exhibited a gracious and positive disposition to the challenges of life. Whenever they encountered problems with people or with the political powers they showed a willingness to sit down and talk things through. They were negotiators and would make every effort to sort things out in the spirit of the Christian graces.
For the Puritans everything in their lives was a matter for prayer. This was how they got things done. Their faith was not just a Sunday thing. It was part of who they were. Their relationship with God was the wellspring of their life. The Puritans were people who walked through life with God by their side. With the coming of the 1611 King James Bible and the Geneva Bible they were now able to learn about their God and how He handled things. Because they could by read their own personal copy of the Bible.
Theirs was more than a faith in a religion or faith in a national Church. It was a very personal faith. And so learning for themselves and teaching their children was a very serious matter to them. In the witness to their faith and for the cause of Biblical Christianity the Puritans had suffered greatly. Along with their Pilgrim friends they had been grievously treated by the established Church of England and the English Crown. But in spite of the trials they had been greatly blessed. For them their journey was also a romance, a pilgrimage, and an adventure. They were now privileged to know the fundamentals of the faith, to respond to God's call to salvation, and to walk personally with Him. They also knew that come what may, He would take them on to better things.
This Biblical world view was, and remains today, the main spiritual wellspring for good in this world. More than anything else personal Christian faith was the key to the success of the English speaking people in the New World. Puritans and Pilgrims were freed to think and act as a witness and an an agent before God and man. And under God they were now able to set a course towards their destiny in a howling wilderness that called for rugged individualism. The Europeans back in the Old World were beholden to the protection of landlords, ecclesiastical dignitaries, and episcopal overseers. But the wilderness places of the New World called for a spirited, hopeful, and rugged company of people of faith and dreams who were no longer dependent on these hierarchies.
Puritans were individuals who were appreciative but no longer subject to man-made religious institutions. They enjoyed this religious freedom because they could walk in it. They were subject to God, knew Him, and walked with Him personally. Matters of conscience were very important to them. Nevertheless the Puritans, for the most part, were a bright and cheerful company. They were a people who enjoyed life and took on its challenges with gusto. To the Puritans life was a grand adventure. The lives of their families and their surrounding community was now in their hands. They knew the Biblical principles. They knew that a man reaps what he sows. If they were not diligent before God and before their fellow man then there would be dire consequences. It could be a case of "Paradise Lost". They knew this. And they walked accordingly.
The Puritan Milton was active in the English Civil War. Indeed "Paradise Lost" was the title of the Milton's epic poem. Another soldier in the Army of Parliament under Oliver Cromwell was John Bunyan. He found salvation and personal faith in God whilst serving in the Puritan Army. After the war Bunyan began to preach in the open air, only to be arrested and imprisoned. While in prison he proceeded to write the classic Biblical Christian allegory, "Pilgrim's Progress".
So if we really want to see the history of the Puritans we need to face up to all all the facts here. The dry facts of economics and a political assessment of the flashpoints of history are important to be sure. And matters of geography and national resources do form the basis for a lot of the human story, this is true. But economics with the ebb and flow of capital and labor is not the main engine of history. Nor are the exploits of men on battlefields the ultimate deciding factor. These material and earthy details will never be enough to round out a full and meaningful history of any nation or any people. Nor will it explain the remarkable energies of certain men and nations and why they were victorious in their histories. So to view and appreciate a fuller more accurate history we must widen our radar screens. We must be prepared to take in the spiritual dimension to the story.
The spirit of a man or a nation is the all important element. That spirit, whether it be good, bad, or ugly, is what makes them tick. It is the spirit that determines the character of the men, the women, the individual citizens at the heart of the nation. And so if we are going to talk about "human resources" we must go deeper than mere psychology or an assessment of some generic set of "values". We must get a handle on the spiritual resources inside the hearts of the individual building blocks of the nation. We must come to know the people that make up the body politic we happen to be studying. To understand the Puritans we must get a clear picture of their spirit and their character and get an accurate record of just how they impacted the people, the nation, and the world around them. This is absolutely essential if we are going to truly understand the history of the Puritans or the history of any group of people for that matter.
The spiritual dimension to American history is unappreciated and hidden away. But the truth remains. And the lessons God showcases for us in the chronicles of the nations are His-story. And so we can be sure that the full story will eventually come out. Because the vital spiritual elements wrapped up in the history of the Puritans are there for us to see, if we have eyes to see. If Puritan history must be rewritten true to the facts then let it be done. Let us pray that an accurate account of this inspiring history will at last be told.
And why is all this so important? The answer is quite simple. The history of the Puritans has not ended. Puritan history is, in fact, an ongoing saga. Puritan history may come to a grand climax during the coming years. Should this turn out to be the case, then the time has come. As English speaking people we need to do our homework. It is time for us to sit down and do more than just talk turkey. Now is the time for us all to hear "the rest of the story".
IS PURITAN HISTORY A THING OF THE PAST?No study of the Puritans is complete without the being prepared to take a close look at the Puritan heart. This is very important. Because here we see the fountainhead of the Puritan energy to see things change. As Biblical Christians the Puritans were decidedly in the minority. And yet these were the people who turned England upside down in the early 17th Century.
All Americans should know this earlier history of the Puritans in England. And why? Because the the English Civil War showcases the potent politico-religious elements that still drives much of our present American history. The story of the Puritans coming to power back in England goes beyond the regicide of Charles I. It did not all center on one man Oliver Cromwell and his role as Lord Protector during England's Puritan military dictatorship. This was the English Reformation. At its heart it was a religious movement. And it brought with it a groundswell of new thought, new dreams, and great expectations. This was the potent ferment that emerged from the Biblical Revival of the 1500's.
The Puritan Army itself was heavily involved in this religious revival. Against the backdrop of a compromised and moribund Church of England the Army was the main engine of Puritan reform in England. John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim's Progress, served in the Puritan Army. The Army, under the command of Oliver Cromwell, utilized a very sophisticated well organized "homeland security" style of central intelligence agency. This is showcased in the famous 19th Century painting below. If you look carefully at this painting you will notice something else which helps us appreciate Anglo-American part of the jigsaw puzzle. The Puritan official, the sergeant, and the Calvalry officer are all wearing yellow ribbons.
Does the heraldry of the yellow ribbons go back to the Puritans in England? Apparently so. The yellow ribbons were worn on the battlefield by soldiers of the Puritan Army, the Army of Parliament. They were in a militay conflict with King Charles I and the royalists during the English Civil War. You may click on the image to go to a website that explains the details of this remarkable painting.
"When Did You Last See Your Father?"
by W.F. Yeames (1835-1918).
Click on the image for an explanation of details in the painting.
Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector set forth major generals throughout Great Britain. And the Puritan Army administered a benign form of martial law concentrating on cultural and moral reform. The Puritans had a profound impact on the English speaking people on both sides of the Atlantic. What they did to create the solid citizenry that made Great Britain and America great is simply not appreciated. But a comparison of the American and French Revolutions is very instructive in this regard.
Puritan encampments were not just military gatherings. The Army of Parliament was right in the thick of England's Biblical revival. Soldiers joined together around their campfires. They talked about military and spiritual matters of blood covenant, as men at the cutting edge of history always do.
One of those Puritan soldiers was John Bunyan. He had fought at the Battle of Naseby. The war and the Word of God Bunyan was exposed to in the Army gave rise to some deep soul searching. Post traumatic stress finally gave way to a total commitment to Jesus Christ. This personal experience in God was a watershed in Bunyan's life. His awful burden of sin was released. Bunyan's life was changed forever. Thwarted by the powers from preaching openly he later spent many years imprisoned at Bedford Gaol. There he faced the powers of darkness with something more powerful than the sword. He brought the Word of God to the English speaking people in a literary work that has been a great blessing to many people all around the world for over 350 years. He wrote 'Pilgrim's Progress'. Next to the Bible this classic work has been the most influential book in all of western literature.
One important element of Pilgrim's Progress has not been appreciated.
This is the story of a Puritan who makes a transition to become a Pilgrim.
This will happen again, and on an epic scale.
Not just in a man, but in a nation.
The Puritans, (then as now), were men and women out on a mission. They were the sort of people who got things done. During the time of the English Civil War England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland were all forged into one United Kingdom. Great Britain would go on to become the foremost maritime nation. They took over from the Dutch and defeated the French at Waterloo and Trafalgar to become the new maritime superpower. Great Britain would later go on to colonize one quarter of the world and become the British Empire. People from geographic locations all around the would become part of the British Commonwealth.
So what can we learn about the Puritans here? These Anglo-American dreamers were politically engaged. They were not just religious mystics or passive pietists. They were nation builders. These people of the Book went right into the halls of government. Then, as now, they were intent on setting things right. Biblical Christians have a Gospel mandate which takes them across oceans and draws them into a global destiny. For the Puritans this took on a decidedly political character and one of dominionism.
As we saw with Oliver Cromwell the Puritans were prepared to forge treaties with people beyond their own national borders. At a deep spiritual level their drive was fashioned after the Great Commission. But their own personal energies, ambitions, and charisma added to this. Their internationalism was not based upon military conquest as we saw when France became the superpower under Napoleon or when Germany attempted to become the superpower under Adolf Hitler. But like the Dutch the English speaking powers sought to advance peaceful trade. As an island nation the survival of Great Britain depended upon taking dominion of the sea lanes and the exercise of sea power. The British superpower of the 19th century and the current American superpower has also pursued a policy of 'possessing the gates of their enemies'. See this video. The Puritan ethic and its energy would later infuse Victorian England and give rise to the British Empire. The same Purital zeal crossed the Atlantic to express itself in the American Revolution preserving it from the empty spiritually bankrupt humanistic illuminist rhetoric and the godless bloody mayhem known as the Reign of Terror that would doom the French Revolution a few short years later. The 19th Century would see an expansive globalist American foreign policy set forth as the principle of 'manifest destiny'. After the dropping of two atom bombs ended World War 2 the Bretton Woods Agreement the U.S. has assumed leadership in world trade and in international affairs. The present American dominion in multinational business, the U.N. and the WTO is something we might call the Pax Americana. American world dominion, like that seen in the British Empire, was based upon peaceful trade and a global policing oversight. The British had achieved this with sea power. The Americans have done it with air power and an arsenal of nuclear submarine based ICBM's. This is the dominion and the global reach of the American eagle.
So the dreams of the Puritans have been unprecedented and historic. An early example of this world vision was the remarkable trans Atlantic actions of the U.S. Navy and Marines against the Islamic Barbary Pirates in the Med. This took place during the early 19th Century off the North African coast of Tripoli. The Puritan vision went far beyond tradition and race and took them beyond the 'dreams of their fathers'. England under Oliver Cromwell entered into political alliances and sovereignty sharing with the adjoining nations Scotland and Northern Ireland. This fact of history is extremely important as we view the global actions of the current Pax Americana.
As we shall discover as we go forward in this study, the history of the Anglo-American Puritans has been sorely neglected. It has not been given the academic attention that it deserves. This is a crucial history relevant for us today. It is not just "water under the bridge". For students of American history the story of the Puritans is the "river" that "runs through it". Puritan history is like tracing the path of an underground river. It disappears for a space only to re-appear further down the watershed.
The history of the Puritans spans 500 years. And the saga continues. Puritan Christian political activism is still with us today. So is the heraldry of the Puritans. 'In God we trust' is a phrase inscribed on American coinage in recent times. But, in fact, this is actually a 17th Century Puritan battlefield standard. Similarly the yellow ribbons we see today are not a new phenomenon. As we can see in the painting above, and the image to the left yellow sashes and ribbons were worn by soldiers in the Puritan Army back in the 17th Century.
This image is from the video "Cromwell".
Note the the cavalry officers in the Puritan Army wearing yellow sashes.
The Puritan standard is being raised again in America. And the country is now embroiled in a deepening ideological war. The Puritan ethic has been up front and center in a crusade against "secular humanism". There is is a powerful wide reaching socio-political groundswell at work here. It is occurring right now and in our time. With a proper understanding of Puritan history and what these people did in times past we can begin to see what is happening today and why it is happening. To the consternation of our French style secularist elites America's modern day Puritans are already becoming established in the places of power. In fact we have good reason to expect that this Puritan history will go on. We can look for them to play a prominent role on the world scene as we come to the climax of the age.
The thesis of this article, (and the ones that accompany it), is quite simple. Those politically active Biblical Christians, those Puritan 'People of the Book' we saw at the founding of America may not have vanished from the stage of history at all. They may be still around. In fact their main impact in history may not yet have actually occurred. The grand climax to Puritan history may still be up ahead.
If the Puritans are here with us in America today then their work is far from over. These people are still marching on. They still have reforms in mind. They are fully determined to deal with the moral decline in America. They want to prevent the collapse of the nation they love. They have many grand new programs to push through. Their agenda, as always, has been to establish a 'nation under God'. This, they believe, will not only ensure the continuing prosperity and power of the nation itself but also bless the world at large. This was, and remains, the Puritan vision for America. The question we need to ask ourselves now is this. Is this Puritan dream just for America? Or is it now expanded into an agenda for the world? We are in fact seeing an American world dominion established through world trade. Will it go beyond this? And might this be the true essence of 'manifest destiny'.
ENGLAND DURING THE 1500'S SEES THE COMING OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
THE PURITANS EMERGE IN THE SPIRIT OF REVIVAL AND REFORMATION
VOICING A DESIRE TO REFORM AND 'PURIFY' THE ENGLISH CHURCH.
Puritan history, as is taught in America today, usually focuses in on the Puritans during the 1600's as they were arriving in America. But to really understand the Puritans it is necessary to go back with them across the Atlantic Ocean to England. We must go back in time 100 years earlier to their origins in the England of Henry VIII. This is when the English Bible was being smuggled into England giving rise to Biblical Christianity and the English Reformation. It was during the 1500's that the Puritans were first identified and named. They were Bible believing Christians. And they emerged into history at that time as an evangelical spiritual movement. The English Puritans went on to become prominent activists in the English Reformation. See this article.
The source of true freedom in the English speaking world, the English Bible, comes off the presses in Germany during the 1500's. This frame was captured from the Gateway Films classic "God's Outlaw", a biography of the English Bible translator William Tyndale. This excellent video tells an inspiring story and provides many valuable historical insights. It is available from Vision Video.
Right from the very beginnings the Puritans were out to make changes in the world around them. They soon began to encounter resistance from the religious hierarchy of the land. Of course this is not surprising. Because right after they emerged they showed a distinct difference from the Pilgrim Separatist disposition. The Puritans wanted to stay within the system and change it. They wanted to reform and "purify" the Church of England. This is how they came to be called 'Puritans'.
The Church of England in the 1500's even under King Henry, had changed very little from what it had been in the Dark Ages. The Pope was no longer the head of the English Church. The King had taken over that role. But until the coming of the English Bible, (which King Henry in his later years finally permitted), little else had changed. The Church of England was still under the thumb of an entrenched medieval priesthood. The church hierarchy was not impressed by the Biblical revival that was going on in the land. Nor was it amused by English laity reading and meditating on the Bible for themselves without official Church oversight. And so the English Church reacted against this new Biblical revival. It was just like an old hardened wineskin as it resists the fresh ferment of a new wine. And so the resulting rupture of the English Church-State vessel was not unexpected. In fact it was inevitable. The Church was simply unable to contain or accommodate this new Biblical spiritual ferment. The "new wine" of Biblical evangelical faith was bursting out in various ways. English history witnessed the sectarian "Non-Conformity" of the Pilgrims. And it also saw the political and military activism of the Puritans. Both of these groups of Biblical Christians left England in the 1600's on an epic migration to the New World.
THE ENGLISH CHURCH HIERARCHY TRIES TO STAMP OUT THE BIBLICAL REVIVAL.The ecclesiastical pattern here was a classic one. Here was a new religious upwelling of Biblical Christian faith. The English Church flat out opposed it. But the old religious order was unable to hold the lid down on all the fresh spiritual ferment. Nor could it stop the free ranging discussions going on among the laity. The Biblical revival was engendering a new and very personal sort of Christian faith. And so human nature being what it is there were some problems. The new congregational movement had begun to show a tad of disrespect for the old established hierarchy. Many considered that they had outgrown the episcopal oversight and needed to take personal responsibility for their relationship with God. Of course out in the wilderness of the New World the small relatively independent religious and political group meetings were becoming the norm anyway. Religious hierarchies were being strained by all this.
AND IT RESISTS CALLS FOR REFORMATION OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH.
The English Clergy knew what was going on. And they didn't like it one bit. They reacted in anger. They tried to stamp out the revival. And they persecuted those who embraced it with extreme malice.
This was another in a long list of sad moments in Church history. The Church of England saw personal Biblical Christianity as a direct threat to their power over the people. This in turn affected their hierarchical position under the king, and of course their wealth, (which was enormous). The hired Churchmen realized that if they could not keep a proper handle on the souls of English subjects then there would be hell to pay when the king heard of it. He would be furious. Heads would roll, and they knew it. So the English churchmen were under extreme pressure to resist the calls for reform. They knew that they had to maintain the status quo, or lose their royal position. This meant that no change would be tolerated.
So this is how the established English Church came to persecute the Puritans and their friends the Pilgrim separatists. The English clergy were determined to drive both groups from England, and with extreme prejudice.
The religious persecutions in Europe and in England during the 1500's were bloody affairs. Established Church leaders, (and the kings they were beholden to), were soon up to their elbows in innocent Christian blood. The persecutions carried out by Cardinal Wolsey in England were severe. But the bloody mayhem instigated later on by the English Church under Queen Mary was horrific. The English people came to call her "Bloody Mary". At Coventry Cathedral evangelical families were rounded up. They were summarily tried and sentenced by Church bishops. English fathers were burned alive, some for merely for teaching their children the Lord's Prayer in English. Latin, (the dead language of pagan Rome), had become the official, (or 'holy') language of the Church of Rome. The religious priest craft of that day persisted in the belief that Latin was the only language in which Christian worship could be properly conducted.
Children being interrogated at Coventry Cathedral.
Image from 'God's Outlaw', the story of William Tyndale.
Click on the image to go to the video.
Such was the tyranny of the medieval Church hierarchy. And such was the terror by which its troll-like priesthood ruled. Church dignitaries enjoyed the pomp and prominence of their processions. And they jealously guarded their wealth and their influence and power with the kings. The established Church of England owned a quarter of the country. Cardinal Wolsey was a classic case in point. He actually became powerful enough to set English foreign policy in his own right. The cardinal regularly conducted international affairs in the name of the king.
There were many issues arising on the religious scene in those turbulent times. One huge issue, which still remains with us today, was the matter of church authority. Church policy with respect to the laity at that time was abundantly clear. No man, whether freeman or peasant, had a right to conduct any worship service without official ecclesiastical oversight. Nor were citizens in their own personal lives free to teach or discuss the scriptures with others without a churchman present. Infact they were not even permitted to read the Holy Scriptures in their own personal devotional life. This was "episcopal oversight" taken to the extreme. Indeed the very word episcopal from its Latin derivatives "epi" and "scope" means "oversight". Church authorities believed that in order to prevent heresy they needed total and absolute control over all religious information that was going out to the people.
Of course there was a huge problem here. The English Bible was now coming into the hands of the English laity. A groundswell of new personal Christian faith was now in the land. It was coming in with the authority of the Holy Scriptures. With it came the reality of the indwelling Christ. Englishmen were beginning to discover Him as they read the pages of His Word. And as they read the Book they saw that Christ Himself had issued His personal authority to His disciples in the Great Commission.
The 1500's were certainly times of change. The Gospel was being broken out of the religious boxes. The Holy Scriptures were being translated, printed, smuggled in, and distributed. The Holy Word of God was now being ministered throughout England by a faithful men and women, most of them of the laity. This Biblical revival was drawing English subjects deeper into a personal Christian faith. The revival was giving rise to solid citizens of great energy and integrity. These people could have been a great blessing to England. But alas, the established English Church hierarchy had set itself against what was happening. This wonderful new revival was set to take English citizens onward into a higher level of personal faith and the personal responsibility that went along with that. But alas, the English clergy were throwing cold water on these flames of revival. With a few noteworthy exceptions the clergy was not there to help English citizens take advantage of this great blessing. They were more than just against it. English clergymen were burning Bibles! They were actually trying to stop the revival.
This was so sad to see. The English nation would have been greatly blessed if the clergy had opened their eyes, realized that this new move was of God, and aligned themselves with what God was doing. But this didn't happen. This pattern of an old entrenched religion standing against a new revival of faith is a classic one. It has been seen time and time again in church history. It is still seen today.
Old order ecclesiastical authorities had accumulated much as hired agents of the secular kings and princes. So they jealously guarded all their wealth and power. Naturally they did not want anything to upset this cozy arrangement. They set themselves against the new movement. And they behaved with dreadful malice towards their evangelical brothers and sisters in the faith. Church leaders turned a deaf ear to calls for reform. Even though the English Bible was bringing personal Christianity to human souls and liberating English citizens from a host of dark medieval fears the established English Church stood against this new revival. There were exceptions of course. But as a whole they did everything they could to stamp it out.
This was truly unfortunate. Because this Biblical revival was presenting a wonderful new opportunity. The English Church and the English nation could now move forward, - if it chose to do so. True freedom now had a Cornerstone upon which a great nation could be built. He was bringing true liberty into many hearts among the English citizenry. The indwelling Christ was engendering personal Christianity. He was now being established at the altar and the throne of the human heart.
There is no doubt that the Biblical revival was changing the social equation in England. Here was the basis for real freedom and prosperity. And the Reformation was bringing this new opportunity before the nation. Christ was knocking at the door of the English Church. He wanted to come in to sup with them. Church dignitaries could have invited Him in and opened their hearts to Him in the evangelical Way. This revamped Christian faith was based on Biblical knowledge and individual guidance by God. English citizens would be guided personally through life as they gave themselves to God. He was drawing them individually to be sure. But also as a nation. During this Biblical revival He was knocking at the door of the English Church. But the Church leaders were preoccupied with matters of state. They were not listening. Nor were they answering.
It seems that here was just one more case in which it could be said that "fear is the key". The state clergy were highly privileged men. And they were men of great power and wealth. And they knew which side their bread was buttered on. They were beholden to the king and the political powers that be. They were afraid of what the king might say. So when the revival came and the knock was heard at the door they remained right where they were. They did not rise to the occasion. Christ was at the door. But they were not inclined to let Him in.
The English Church throughout the 1500's was not inclined to move. It was trapped in the status quo. It remained entangled in the religious forms of the Dark Ages. Biblical faith was spreading throughout the land. And the calls went out for reform. But the old Church was entrenched. It would not budge. English history was poised to move forward. But it was prevented from doing so by its clergy. An epic revival had come to England. But the power hungry church hierarchy were blocking the Way. They were as obstructive as trolls at the gate. They were in no position to take any sort of spiritual leadership role. The love of wealth and power had rendered them spiritually compromised. And they were hogtied by their political entanglements with the king.
This was so sad and tragic. The religious hierarchy of England stood against the revival. The English Crown and the English Church had outlawed the Holy Bible, of all things. Contraband copies of the English scriptures were sought out among the English laity. And when they were found those Bibles were burned. But that was not the worst of it. The men and women found with these Bibles were burned as well.
In spite of these deadly persecutions the Biblical Revival in England continued. It was a grassroots movement of great spiritual energy. The printing presses were hard at work in Germany and in Holland. Contraband Bibles were being smuggled into England in increasing numbers. The Word of God was fueling the Revival throughout the 1500's. The Reformation was soon underway in England as well. Neither of them would be stopped, - even by direct and bloody persecution.
King Henry VIII was outraged when he heard that Tyndale's Bibles were being smuggled across the channel into England. He called Cardinal Wolsey to the carpet over the alleged 'problem'. This image is from the video 'God's Outlaw'. Click on the image to go to the video.
KING HENRY VIII AND HIS HIRED CHURCHMENKing Henry VIII became increasingly aware of this fresh religious fervor among his subjects. The political undercurrents coming out of this were soon felt throughout the land. The king was not amused. As he saw it, this was a slap in the face to himself as regent. These reformers, (to his mind), were showing disrespect for his rule. They also showed a lack of due reverence for his church! King Henry called for Cardinal Wolsey. He put him on the carpet and angrily demanded to know what was going on. When the king found out that William Tyndale was translating the Bible from hidden locations in Germany and the Netherlands and that copies of the scriptures were being smuggled across the channel and into England without authority from church and state he was absolutely furious.
ATTEMPT TO STOP THE COMING OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE
See the video below.
There was some basis for King Henry's concern. At the very time that the king and Archbishop Wolsey were attempting to block the scriptures from being smuggled into England, the Reformation Wars were in full swing. These religious wars, sparked by the Reformation, were tearing the European continent apart. Successive ravaging campaigns by Catholic and Protestant armies swept through Switzerland and Germany. The pillaging of the countryside and valleys went on for decades. The religious wars left central Europe in a shambles. Germany, the birthplace of the Reformation, would not recover for 200 years.
The facts of history show that religious revival often leads to calls for religious reform. Political demands for social redress and change in government soon follow this. At such times firebrands and crusaders can rise up and stir up the masses. These political upheavals can bring the people out into the streets. This is something that a ruler never wants to see. At such times the citizenry can become more than just demanding. They can become unruly and downright violent to the point of causing bloody mayhem.. These are the times in history when kingdoms are brought down. The ruling powers of state and their state church never want to see this happen in their country. At least not on their watch.
Kings and rulers have an important role to play. They are expected to ensure peace and security in the land. This is their burden and responsibility before God and men. Towards this end they are expected to maintain law and order and rein in troublemakers and rabble rousers. The other obligation of kings and rulers before God is to see that peaceful trade is allowed to be carried out unhindered and that goods, services, and information are exchanged freely and equitably.
Information should be allowed to flow freely as long as it is not doing harm to the country. But here the royals desire to see that their subjects were kept "under control" and that they continued to lead a "quiet life" had taken them over the line. The King and his hired churchmen had decided that the inflow of smuggled Bibles and the information it contained was going to be a "problem". So they had decided to stop the flow of the Holy Scriptures. They had resolved to make the English Bible "illicit merchandise". But here is where they got themselves into some real bother. What they were attempting to stifle was not just 'contraband'. It was not 'illicit merchandise'. It was God's Holy Word!
This war being conducted against the English Bible was a serious matter. The hierarchy of England was presuming a lot here. The royals and their churchmen were attempting to cut off the Holy Scriptures. They were attempting to curtail God's business!
God's Word had been sent to His people. The English Bible was now available for the common people. The covenant people of God were supposed to get it. But alas, the English king and his churchmen had other ideas. They were presumptuously trying to stop the flow of these English Bibles into England.
This was no small issue. It was, in fact, a grievous matter. King Henry was attempting to cut off the flow of God's sacred information. He was attempting to block the Gospel message and to prevent it from getting through. He was, in fact, closing the door against the message of salvation, which was centered in Jesus Christ, the Firstborn of Israel. Was this why King Henry himself never had a surviving firstborn son?
Of course the powers that be, both the governmental and the ecclesiastical authorities, were sure that they were right. They were merely continuing in the policy of the medieval church. They believed that the Bible was too dangerous a book to be allowed to get into the hands of the laity. So they were bound and determined to stop this smuggling of English Bibles from happening, if at all possible.
The action they had taken would have great political consequences. The century to follow would see the Puritans rise up in holy indignation and take over Parliament.
The ruling authorities could already point to emerging signs of 'trouble'. The Bible in the hands of the common people was giving rise to religious discussions that were unauthorized and unsupervised. This was very worrisome to the religious elites. People were discussing the Bible amongst themselves. This was going on outside of the control of the church. They were talking about spiritual matters. They were discussing the things of God in a personal way, in homes, and in the fields, and on the street.
Of course this was not unexpected. This sort of bubbly social ferment always happens in revivals. It is quite normal. Revival always brings new hopes and dreams in its wake. The people begin to think of better things to come. They begin to believe that new opportunities will surely be coming soon. Spiritual revival often energizes other areas of life. The waters are stirred. Out of this comes great expectations for social healing and political change.
Unfortunately, in the midst of all these blessings, the common people can get a bit “uppity” at times. From the perspective of the ruling powers the "peasants" can be inclined to "forget their place". They may even presume to "hold court" in matters of politics and religion. Some of them can become disrespectful toward their betters, both in the Church and in the ruling classes. This is precisely what happened when the English Puritans began to stir in the 1500's.
To the ruling authorities of church and state this was all highly irregular. The new Puritan movement was clearly getting beyond of the control of church authorities. Talk around the country had also begun to take on an increasingly political tone. There were calls for further reforms. And then of course there were those bothersome discussions about what might happen the end of the age. Churchmen shuddered when they heard this. They knew what this meant for them. They knew that they would soon be in for some big trouble with the king.
From the viewpoint of the powers that be it seemed that these evangelicals were getting a little bit too carried away with the program. The English clergy made disdainful references to evangelicals and their "religious enthusiasm". There was concern that these discussions might "get out of hand". But the real story was the religious powers could not control what was going on. That was extremely bothersome to them.
Of course the English church dignitaries were very mindful of what the aristocracy and the king would think about all this. They knew that this new religious fervor based on holy scripture would not be well received when the English court became aware of it.
They were right. When King Henry heard of this new religious fervor and the associated political undercurrents he began to steam with anger. He was vexed and insulted by all this. And he was particularly unhappy about all the talk going on among the laity of all people. These untaught cobblers and basket weavers were not the one to discuss church-state policy! Who did they think they were? And just what was the problem anyway?
The king was clearly incensed about all this. Hadn't he just broken with Rome! What further reforms could these upstart reformers possibly want! Surely these stirrings were coming from the radical fringe. Those evangelical malcontents were incorrigible. And now they were pushing just a bit too hard. And as the king saw it he had no other option. These people would have to be stopped!
King Henry was clearly worried. He did not have a handle on what was going on. Neither did his churchmen. He suspected that these religious non-conformists were not going to be loyal to him or might make some demands upon him that he was not prepared to meet.
He also believed that they could be dangerous. They might spark off a fire in the tinderbox. Like all kings he feared that evangelical dissenters might soon be joined by a wild ungoverned rabble of political dissenters. Soon his rule would be in a shambles. Peaceful commerce in England would be disrupted by religious malcontents, heretics, raging political agitators, and worse. Why unless he kept the lid on all this religious ferment there could even be anarchists rising up amongst them!
The king of England was worried. This was hardly the sort of thing that he could allow. For reasons of which we can only speculate King Henry and his churchmen had come to believe that this flow of unauthorized Bibles was at the root of the trouble. And so in the mind of the king the answer to the 'problem' was obvious. The smuggling of Bibles into England was going to stop! He was King Henry was he not? This was his kingdom! And he had had enough!
The king was particularly outraged when he heard that his English subjects were studying the Bible privately in the homes. It was giving rise to a new higher level of literacy in England. Personal faith was giving rise to a new "rugged individualism" as well. Clearly this was outside the control of the English Church of the time which was still stuck in the Dark Ages.
The revival going on in the 1500's, and that is what it was, began to change the spirit and face of England. And out of this Biblical revival, based on the stream of English Bibles, came the English Puritans and their friends, those other non-conformists who referred to themselves as Pilgrims.
When King Henry heard that some of his subjects were discussing the end of the age, of all things, that was the last straw. This was when he flew into one of his classic rages. He called for Cardinal Wolsey. And he demanded that the archbishop and his hired churchmen find Tyndale immediately and stop the flow of these unauthorized Bibles coming into England.
John Hackett and other agents of the king went onto the continent in search of the troublesome Bible translator. But for some years William Tyndale eluded them and his translation work continued. At that time his Bibles were being smuggled into England, often in sacks of grain. English churchmen were under great political pressure to do something about this. Finally, the Bishop of London came up with a crafty plan. He sent in a mole.
The deadly side to the information war being waged against the Holy Scriptures. The evangelical Cambridge scholar and Bible translator William Tyndale is burned at the stake in 1536. This image is from the video 'God's Outlaw'. Click on the image to go to the video.
Henry Phillips was a condemned criminal from the upper class, He was a thief awaiting sentencing. The Bishop of London had him brought before him. Under duress he became a double agent of sorts for the bishop. Phillips, pretending to be an evangelical, was soon in Europe. He managed to infiltrate the merchant evangelical communities in the lowlands. It was there that Phillips found Tyndale. and befriended him. Then on a certain day he led the Bible translator to a place where he was betrayed. He was captured by church-state authorities.
William Tyndale, a fine Cambridge scholar and an evangelical who had lived a life above reproach, was tried and condemned. Later he was sent up to be burned at the stake. His dying words were,
"Lord, open the king of England's eyes".
The arrival of inexpensive Bibles sparked off the evangelical fervor that emerged in the 1500's. This revival, facilitated by the rediscovery of the Holy Scriptures was the main engine of the Reformation. Pilgrim Christians and Anabaptists were a pious company of people. They were separatists and consecrated to Christ alone in their faith. They held out little hope for reforming old established state churches. But the Puritans were different. From their beginnings in the 1500's the Puritans were energized to play the political card. They were determined to change the church-state equation in England. To them the first order of business was quite clear. They were bound and determined to "purify" their state church, the Church of England.
Right from the very start the English Puritans found themselves up against some stiff resistance. They found themselves facing a stony array of entrenched church leaders. To the Puritans, the ways of the religious hierarchy seemed to be set in the medieval ecclesiastical cement of the Dark Ages. The Church of England was obliged to support the king. And the king, as usual, was out to uphold the status quo.
The results of this showdown were quite predictable. Churchmen made it their policy to reject this new upwelling of Biblical Christianity. These upstart Puritans were rocking their boat! And they didn’t like it one bit. They were out to contain all "Non-Conformists" and to "bring them into line". Their ire was directed not only at the Puritan reformers but also at the Pilgrim separatists in the land.
This was a strange business. Here was a new revival of Christianity. It was set to take England on to a higher standard. If the new movement was embraced and guided faithfully by ministers of God the nation would be blessed. And it would see some real progress in every way. But as is often seen in revivals, the established church leaders were not too happy about what they were seeing. Call it jealousy. Call it politics as usual. But the church leaders had set themselves against the winds of change. They failed to grasp the significance and the wonderful opportunity this new move of God was offering.
Here was a new call of God. It was set to take people on to a higher level of personal Christian faith. It was based on Holy Scriptures and the personal salvation evangelicals have always championed in the Gospel message. Out of this new evangelical emphasis came a sense of personal accountability before God and men. A new and more vital Christianity was in the offing. It stood ready to engender a more law abiding, self disciplined, bright eyed, energetic and productive English subject than had ever been seen before. But as is often the case, church leaders were blind to these wonderful possibilities. They were champions of the political and ecclesiastical status quo. Oh yes, they had been ordained as ministers of God. But their earthly masters, the kings and secular rulers, were pulling their strings. Of course their pocketbooks had a call on them as well. Or so it would seem.
Suffice to say, the hierarchy of the Church of England opposed the Puritan call for reformation of the church. To uphold the authority of the Bible was to embrace the call for personal responsibility and personal authority among the citizenry. This was something that the king opposed and also something that they might not be able to control. They did not have the vision to see anything good come of it. So they did not want to see happen. Such a move, (as they were quick to see), might also decrease their own prominence and authority before the people.
This assessment wasn't completely true. If laymen are encouraged and guided as they take a part in ministry the whole church will be blessed. But Church leaders were rather shortsighted here. They had been led to believe that if their ecclesiastical authority was diminished it would be bad for the church, (and for them). They were also convinced that it would upset the social order. Their authority and their status before the people and the king would be diminished. This was something they did not want to see happen. As churchmen of the established order they enjoyed considerable privilege, power and remuneration. This was something to which they had become accustomed.
But the times were changing. Whether or not the church leaders approved or not tens of thousands of copies of the English Bible were pouring into the country. It was becoming more and more readily available to the common man. God's Holy Word was being lifted up. Hearts and minds were being truly liberated. And as the lights were going on all over Europe the dark shadows of the medieval world began to slip away.
These were times of radical change. While English churchmen had their heads in the sand English laymen were moving forward into true enlightenment. They were getting hold of their own personal copies of the newly translated English Bible. They were reading it. And they were studying it. Hearts were being changed. What was more upsetting to the powers that be was that the people were interpreting the scriptures for themselves. They were conducting religion on a personal and family level and without proper church authority.
It may seem strange to us nowadays but even after 1,000 years of medieval darkness the ecclesiastical powers in England in the early 1500's were still dead set against this re-emergence of the Holy Scriptures. The rediscovery of the Bible was engendering a Christian revival. This was a problem to them. Because the call was going out for Reformation of the Church.
The church authorities, joined at the hip with the kings and aristocrats, were not amused by all this. They were keen to uphold the political status quo come what may. King Henry's church was under enormous pressure to 'hold the line' and rein in 'Non Conformists". State churchmen were under direct orders from the kings and princes to limit and contain the Reformation in England.
Quite naturally the Puritans were very frustrated in all this. They had a million new ideas to make things better. They found themselves thwarted at every move. The Church of England was bound up by its political connections with the ruling powers. It was not able to move forward. As the new wine of Christian revival began its bubbly ferment the old state church continued to resist change. Like a stiff old wineskin it was simply unable to expand. Even after King Henry VIII had broken with Rome the Church of England had rigorously rejected the calls for Reformation. And it used deadly force in an effort to prevent the arrival of the English Bible.
And as the Puritans were to discover, the Church of England, was simply not open to any further reform. It was politically hogtied. It would not budge. Nor would it allow England to move forward into a more enlightened Biblical Christianity. But the new wine of the Reformation was in full ferment. It had to expand. It had to go somewhere. As holy history would demonstrate, a new wineskin would be provided. And congregational Christianity would flourish in a new land. A 'New World' was opening up over in the English colonies in America.
Why did high churchmen in England oppose the Puritans and Pilgrim separatists so violently? This is an interesting question. The English state church had been "established" for a long time. It had been in a compromising position with the princes of governmental power for centuries. King Henry had broken with the Church of Rome. But then he himself had then stepped in to head up the Church of England. This pattern of a church dominated by the state did not change with King Henry or with his successors.
The medieval Church throughout all Christendom at that time was all in lockstep with the kings and the princes. They were the ones who held governing authority in their region. Even Luther had been supported by the German princes. They had saved him from being sent to Rome where he surely would have been burned. This church-state mixture of hard governmental iron bedded in with soft religious clay was an established tradition in western history. It had been going on for 1300 years.
This dual policing system embodying a temporal and a religious policing authority had been going on for a long time. The state had been dominant in the Church since it had become Roman government religion at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.. This same church-state, iron and clay pattern was even more firmly established when Emperor Charlemagne linked up with the head of the Roman Church in 800 A.D.. This forged the 'Holy Roman Empire'. The 'church-state' amalgam had unified the Franco-Germanic tribes of central Europe. This allowed them to stand against the invading Barbarian hordes from the north and east.
The 1600's were a time of action for the English Puritans. Once a despised minority, they had by this time become the movers and shakers in England. They were a sharp group of people with high hopes and big plans. Their dreams were greater than anything that they had yet been seen in history. To many Puritans it seemed that their dreams for England to become a "nation under God" were not going to become a reality. They knew in their hearts that they possessed a 'manifest destiny'. But it was something that just didn't seem to be happening in England. But all was not lost. They knew that their Puritan dream must be out there somewhere in their future. During the 1600's their eyes began to leave England and focus on greener pastures in places further afield.
The New World was beckoning.
THE PURITANS IN THE NEW WORLD.These were exciting times for men and women of vision. The chance to set up new life in America had arrived. And it was a Godsend. Here was a fresh opportunity for Puritan Reformers and Pilgrim separatists. They could start out afresh and lay a new foundation in a new land. Over in the English colonies they could then proceed to build an entirely new society from the ground up. They faced many uncertainties. There were the deals with the merchants and the ship captains. And then there was that perilous passage on the high seas. They also knew that they would face even more dangers and toils as they came ashore in the New World. The first colonists struggled just to survive. They had to carve out a new life for themselves and for their families in a howling wilderness.
Puritan life in America would be difficult. But even in the midst of these great physical dangers they believed that their efforts in the New World would be greatly blessed and rewarded. They believed that they and their descendants, in a spiritual way at least, would be far better off. They would have a better future. To the Puritans this was what really mattered. The migration to America was a giant leap of faith. But Christian men of good will were quite willing to take the risk. As they worked hard to establish a new homeland for their wives and families they would come to know a God of Providence in a deeper way. Would the New World remain free of the corruption and the injustices they had seen and experienced in the Old World?
History would tell.
The Puritans wasted no time in laying down a Biblical foundation for their new nation. We see evidence of this from records of the time. The Mayflower Compact is another case in point. The fact that the Puritans and Pilgrims established a community in the wilderness based upon the Bible was no surprise. It sprang up quite naturally and easily from the congregational lifestyle most of them took part in. Their social and political life as well as their religious life was all bundled together. They were an extended Christian family. And they lived and died together in close company. They were fully dependent upon God's grace and His Providence. And they were also dependent upon each other.
The signing of the Mayflower Compact.
Politics and religion was not a problem for Puritans in the New World. Both came together at the same place. Their religious life and their social and political life was in a collective and co-operative unity. It was all part of their communal life out there in the colonies. Colonial society was centered around their Christian 'meeting places'. Sunday was a big day in the colonies. It was a day for worship and sharing of the scriptures. It was also a day for a communal meal and for socializing. Sunday afternoon was also a time for politics. It was a time to discuss and decide what needed to be done in the colony.
For the Puritans in the English colonies the issue of 'separation of church and state' was not an issue. They were a fairly egalitarian group of people and they were living together in the wilderness. As people of the Reformation they were in substantial agreement on matters of religion. They had also been subjected to the same sort of persecutions together. Now here in America things were looking up. There was little overbearing state authority to bother them. Nor was there an oppressive state church hierarchy to spoon-feed them and set their religious agenda for them. They were now being given a chance to take personal responsibility before God for their new situation. Each of them had their Bibles and their own personal responsibility and authority under God. And now they had been given freedom to set up their own church-state reality.
THE PURITANS RISE UP IN THE 1600's.As the 1600's dawned the Puritan movement was under siege by the usual forces of the status quo. Religious Non-Conformists of evangelical persuasion were forbidden freedom of worship. They were being bitterly persecuted and growing in number. As time went on the burdens these people labored under became more grievous. It was in the 1500's when the Puritans began talking of reform. They began by calling for change in the English Church. Later, as they saw no response from the royal powers they began to talk of changes in the government as well. Their grievances and their faith in the future would propel the Puritans into English Parliamentary politics.
Within the confinement of English society the Puritans began to emerge into history. This was more than just a political movement among Biblical Christians. Nestled there within the womb of the England the embryo of a new nation was beginning to form. And deep within the mother country the heart of America was beginning to beat. The Puritans were noted for their personal faith, their rugged individualism, and their "can do" attitude. People also spoke about the "Puritan work ethic"
The early English Puritans had a distinctive character. Like the Americans of today they did not sit around and wait for social change to arrive through official channels. They took personal responsibility for the situations in the society in which they lived. The dealt with the issues of the day as they arose. Political action came quite naturally out of the Puritan character. These were a new breed of people. They took on social and community action in a very energetic and individualistic sort of a way.
When we examine the history of the Puritans closely we soon discover the Source of their inspiration. It came from the Word of God. The Bible was the wellhead of a vital and personal Christian faith. The Puritans made their spiritual emergence in the 1500's. This coincided with the ready availability of the English Bible. This was the true enlightenment of the time. The "new learning", as it was called, came from Biblical Christianity and not from the machine age rationalism which emerged later, (in the 1700's). Out of this new dimension of personal Christian faith came the hopes and dreams that were part of Puritan experience. Biblical Christian faith was the fountainhead of their zeal. And this enthusiasm was not just for themselves personally. The Puritans then, as now, had a corporate vision. It was for a 'nation under God'. They wanted change to come to their English Church and to the English nation as well. But it didn't just end there. They wanted to change the whole world around them!
Puritanism was not just a theological phenomenon. The energy of the Puritans ran deeper than a mere intellectual assent to the new Bible based theology. Evangelical faith was a personal spiritual reality, not only for the Puritans but also for the Pilgrims as well. The faith of both these companies grew out of a vital personal relationship with the God of the Bible.
Most of the early Puritans held to the fundamentals of the faith as seen in the pages of the Bible. But they were not Pietists merely living their lives in religious reflection. They were not content to just sit around with their personal devotions and religious reveries. They lived out their Christian faith in a very "hands on" sort of way. Whatever the challenges they looked to God for answers and guidance. And they prayed for strength to carry on. The Puritans could be depended upon to take action when it was called for. They were not ones to stand on ceremony. They took personal responsibility on behalf of others. And with that responsibility they stood ready to assume the authority that came with it.
If we look at the English Puritans in the late 1500's and early 1600's they look quite familiar to us. In character they appeared quite similar to the God respecting people who took a leading role in the successful founding of the American nation two hundred years later.
The English Puritans rose up in Parliament in the early 1600's. At that time another significant history was unfolding over on the other side of the Atlantic. The new, and yet unborn, American nation was beginning to quicken. Jamestown was settled in 1611 and the Mayflower arrived in 1620. The Puritans, along with their Pilgrim friends, gravitated to the English colonies in large numbers. They quietly began to put their roots down in the New World.
Meanwhile, back in England, life among the Puritans over there was not so quiet. In fact it was beginning to become quite rowdy. The Puritans were emerging as a very vocal force in Parliament at that time. And they did more than just talk. The principles they brought to Parliament for discussion and action were not just "politics". As they saw it, the issues they were bringing before the king were God ordained and vitally important. Their families had been persecuted. They had been held back from realizing their dreams. Matters of state had become a issues of Godly zeal and very personal. So as the Puritans saw it the way ahead was quite clear. They would forge ahead with their God given agenda, come what may. And they would not be making any compromises.
The Puritans were not people to be trifled with. They had been locked out of Parliament for 12 years. But as the 1640's dawned the king was forced to come to them. He needed them to approve the issuing of money to fight a war with the Scots.
As the king came to reopen Parliament in 1640 the Puritans were ready. They were all set to raise a new standard in Christendom. The English speaking world was about to see a new merchant class and a new democratic system come to the fore. The Church of England would be reformed. And Parliament would rise up to deal with the king in matters of state. The English monarchy, its proud aristocracy, and the obstinate unmoving English Church were all given their notice. All these royal institutions of the status quo would have to stand aside. Things were going to to change in England, ...... or else!
Of course the result of all this was quite inevitable.
The Puritans were on the road to war with the king.
When the English Civil War broke out in the 1640’s it was an enormous upheaval.
The English monarchy was in the worst crisis of its long history.
A new company of people was stirring in Christendom.
America was kicking in the womb of the mother country.
The Puritans were also setting sail into new histories across the Atlantic.
And a new nation was about to be born in the New World.
THE PURITANS RISE UP IN THE 1600'S
TO DOMINATE THE ENGLISH PARLIAMENT
This frame is from the video "Cromwell". Puritans were the movers and shakers who rose to prominence and set forth policy in English Parliament during the 1600's. Their power struggle with the king over the issue of "no taxation without representation" led on to the English Civil War. Were the English Puritans actually Americans in embryonic form? Here we see them stirring in the womb of England and expressing the true spirit of America 130 years before the nation was born.
The Puritans came to the table as men who had the spark of God within them. No longer would they view themselves as mere peasants beholden to the powers. When it came to politics with the king the Puritans represented a new and different English subject. Each Puritan saw himself as a legitimate agent of God. They were a more self respecting group of Christian believers than the rest. And so in matters with the King they had this new attitude. They would prefer to be asked rather than told. And so it was no surprise that it was the Puritans who came up with a rather new and novel political concept. That new belief and political conviction was simply this. No taxation moneys were to be garnered by the king without due representation of the people. This idea would catch on. It would also propel English Parliament into the extraordinary events of the 1640's.
Of course this democratic ideal is quite familiar and recognizable to students of American history. It was simply the issue of "no taxation without representation". This was, and is, a very "American" sort of idea. And yet this was the principle being lifted up in English Parliament in the 1640's. Remember, this was one and a half centuries before 1776.
The rule of order for this representation by the people was being provided by their new system of Parliamentary Procedure. Here was a citizenry capable of operating in an orderly manner and in the Christian graces. They had an efficient and peaceful mechanism to effect political change. The Puritans used their system of debate, discussion, and resolution. And because of their energetic and cohesive leadership in Parliament the Puritans were able to use it very constructively and effectively. They used Parliament and the new legislative process in their political struggles with the king, the English aristocracy, and the established English Church.
The Puritans were not ones to stand idly by and watch history happen. They were the history! When a problem needed solving they were all over it. Emboldened by their faith they showed themselves ready to risk their own lives for principle. Under the leadership of men like Oliver Cromwell the Puritans went head to head with the dreaded sovereign power of England. When they began to tangle with King Charles he tried to have the Puritan ringleaders arrested on a charge of treason. But the Puritans would not be intimidated. This mammoth national crisis between Parliament and the English king would continue to build up pressure. The burning issues the Puritans brought to the table would not be solved by talking. In 1640 the situation came to a head. It then exploded into the English Civil War.
PURITAN SYMBOLS AND HERALDRYIf the Puritans are still with us we might expect to see them bringing some of their symbols with them. Heraldry is a way we can trace a people in their passage through time and through their histories. As we shall discover, the grand standards and symbols of the Puritans are still there. We can find their standards and banners, - if we look for them. They have not changed in 400 years.
Here is just one case in point. The Puritans of today lift up the very same banner, 'In God We Trust' as they did in times past. This was the very same standard they raised at the battle of Naseby 400 years ago.
THE PURITAN ARMY TAKES UP ARMS
AGAINST THE KING IN THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR.
THE BANNER RAISED IS "IN GOD WE TRUST".
This image is from the video "Cromwell". The English Civil War, also called the Puritan Revolution, shows America forming within the womb of England. This was 130 years before the actual birth of the nation in 1776. Here the Puritan Army goes to the Battle of Naseby singing hymns. John Bunyan, writer of Pilgrim's Progress, was with the Puritans in this decisive battle against the king. Note the cavalry officers in the Puritan Army wearing yellow ribbons and yellow sashes and the banner 'In God We Trust'. Is this heraldry of the Puritans still with us today?
There in this image above we also see another example of Puritan heraldry. It can be readily seen in America today. Yellow ribbons and sashes are being displayed quite prominently to remember American soldiers out in places abroad and in harm's way. They are the very same yellow ribbons that were displayed in England during the 1640’s. The Puritan Army wore them into battle in the English Civil War.
If the Puritans are indeed still with us then they are a people who are definitely on the move. Puritan voices and Puritan messages are still being raised in the halls of government in America today. They are calling upon the nation to hold the line morally. Christian activists are beginning to exert considerable political influence. In fact they are now heavily favored by the current national leadership. To cap things off, the American nation has now come into global military prominence. America is now the greatest superpower this world has ever seen. 150,000 of her soldiers are stationed along the Euphrates River. The Pax Americana is now taking charge in the Middle East.
Just how will history be affected by these movers and shakers?
And where do the modern Puritans want the New World to go?
Will Puritan history take us into the Apocalypse?
Is the Battle Hymn of the Republic prophetic of future events.
What will happen as we enter those awesome future times?
These are some of the questions we shall address as we go forward in this study.
THE PURITAN CHARACTER, HEART AND MINDSETThe history of the Puritans usually focuses in on the early 1600's. Schoolchildren in the USA are usually introduced to the Puritans as they appeared in the early settlement of the New World. So to take history students on a side trip to see the Puritans across the pond would be outside the syllabus of "American History". It would be an excursion into "English History". This would be acting "outside the box". Teachers in today's highly regimented teaching programs must stick with the set programs. They are not given this degree of latitude to chase down histories across the set lines. Nor are they permitted to discuss the spiritual dimensions to history.
LEADS ON TO SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ACTION.
But if we are to understand the Puritans both the American and English histories need to be explored, along with their spiritual elements. Only then can we get the full scope of the extraordinary history of the Anglo-American Puritans. Because during that very same period in which the Puritan migrations to the New World were underway, (1620-1650), the English Puritans were rising up to play a dominant role in English Parliament. The 1640's would see them clash with King Charles 1 in a power struggle that eventually led to the English Civil War. Parliament and the Puritan Army took the field against the king and his Royalists. During the mid 1640's the Puritans and Parliament prevailed. The Puritan Army defeated the king on the battlefields at Marston Moor and at Naseby.
In the political intrigues that followed the king found himself hard pressed to make a compromise with Parliament. But he refused to do so. Finally, in desperation King Charles began to seek relief from abroad. He began maneuvering to bring in a foreign army from another European nation. He was ready to enlist a foreign military force to come into England to fight against Englishmen.
When the Puritans in Parliament heard about this they were absolutely outraged. These were men of principle. They were not people to play games with. King Charles soon found himself impeached. He was forced to stand trial for his life. This was truly an extraordinary course of events. The King of England, the High Sovereign of the land, went up before Parliament on a charge of high treason against the people of England.
Not long afterwards the king was found guilty. He was swiftly sent up to the axeman. The king met his end in January of 1649 on a scaffold at Whitehall. As the king was beheaded a groan went up from the crowd of witnesses. It was an awful moment in English history. The Puritans back then, as now, meant business!
During the ensuing period Parliament, ruling alone as just a bare legislative branch of government, was unable to rule the country. Corruption in Parliament became more and more outlandish and went unchecked. The lack of a visible and responsible ruler before the people led to the beginnings of anarchy in the streets of London. Something had to be done and done fast.
Responding to this crisis Oliver Cromwell returned to Parliament. He confronted the members with their failure and moved to correct the problems which by that time had institutionalized themselves in the legislature. But he was outvoted on the house floor. Fully persuaded that England had to set a new course or suffer national collapse Cromwell sent out the order to his military commander. Then amidst a great uproar the Puritan Army entered Parliament. Cromwell had the whole legislative body dissolved right then and there. This was a pivotal moment in English and Puritan history. England then had, in effect, a theocratic Puritan dictatorship. This was a dictatorship by a Christian fundamentalist, if you will. Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector until his death 5 years later.
Right there at their very beginnings we see that these Puritans were a people to be reckoned with. This was a collective of Christian conservatives who passionately believed in what they were doing. For them their agenda was not just something to discuss. It was a matter of divine imperative. The Puritans were a people who pursued their policies with a determined and terrible zeal.
Puritan history in the 1600's was an action packed period of time. Along with these earthshaking events in Parliament a huge migration of Non-Conformists was underway. Both the Puritans and their friends in the faith, the Pilgrim separatists, were on the move. They were sailing away from England to the New World. They were off on the sort of 'grand adventure' that Puritans often spoke and wrote about. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children crossed the Atlantic Ocean in that first half of the 1600's. It was the beginning of a great migration of hopeful people that would continue in the centuries to come. These religious activists, (along with an assortment of political dissenters and freethinkers), were bound for the English colonies in the New World. For the hard pressed Puritans the new land in America was a Godsend. There they could shake off the encumbrances of the Old World social order. They had been handed an opportunity to establish a new Christian nation. And by God they were going to do it.
The Puritans, along with their Pilgrim separatist friends, had been blessed. Divine Providence had given them a place of refuge. In the New World they would be free from religious persecution. That iron fisted Old World state church which had given them such terrible grief would not be able to reach them there. Puritans and Pilgrims felt that God had provided America for them to give them sanctuary. Over in the English colonies in America they would be safe from the machinations of a jealous and vindictive medieval state church system. They had been given a chance to establish a new order in the New World.
For many Puritans the opportunity for migration to the New World was the only viable option left to them. The Old World with its entrenched state governed Churches seemed to be stuck and unmoving. For Non-Conformist Christians of the Reformation with an eye to the future the New World held out a wonderful promise. It offered an opportunity to start afresh. Their migration to America would put them in great peril, to be sure. But over there they would at least have some room to maneuver. And what would be the foundation for their new nation? For the Puritans this was never in doubt. They would establish a new nation based on an enlightened Biblical Christianity. It would be a new country that was truly a 'nation under God'. It would be a 'City upon a hill'.
PURITANS AND PILGRIMSThe Puritans were not in the same stream as the Pilgrim separatists or those even more radical separatists, the Anabaptists. But in the colonies the Puritans and the Pilgrims lived together harmoniously. Theirs was a congregational, communal. even theocratic sort of society. For the Puritans their politics and their religion belonged together. Their politics flowed naturally and supernaturally from their Christian faith. Their church meetings as well as their political meetings were held in their "meeting places".
The Puritans were aware of others in the colonies who did not share their Christian devotion or their faith. There were some who did not honor God as the Puritans and their Pilgrim friends did. In the colonies there was talk of "saints" and "strangers". The Puritans were quite aware that they were in an ideological contest of sorts with other people who then, as today, did not share their devotion or their values. America was gathering some other independent free-spirited souls, people who were in fact not Christians. These were freethinkers and rationalists of the so-called "Enlightenment". Some called "levelers" had appeared in Cromwell's Puritan Army. These were secularist Utopians. They wanted to force a single strata society upon the nation. These were the early socialists that would later rise up later in the modern era. Four centuries later these godless socialists would come to power in Russia, China, and Cambodia. The colonies did not just see political and religious dissenters and radicals. America was also gathering the usual collection of pagans.
The Puritans were keen to see that the American colonies did not go down these pathways to spiritual and historical oblivion. They were a Christian people under duress. Life in a hostile wilderness was uncertain. Death lurked at the door. These were a people who often found themselves in fervent prayer. They were also well aware that their new nation could easily slip down into the dustbin of history if they were not vigilant. They wanted their American colonies to become firmly established upon the sure foundation of the Bible. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale were all established to ensure that young ministers could be adequately schooled in the holy scriptures. Right from the very beginning the Puritans were determined that theirs would be a society based upon faith in Jesus Christ. More recently the modern Puritans have been content just to attempt to instill some philosophical psychobabble called 'Christian values'.
The Puritan dream has been quite consistent though time. Both in England and in the New World the Puritans had one goal and one agenda. It has always been the same. They were intent upon establishing a 'nation under God'.
The Puritans played a major part in the settlement of America. They were also very influential in the American Revolution which followed. It was not the secularists, the Illuminati, Freemasons, or rationalists of the so-called 'Enlightenment' that held sway in the emergence of the United States. Secularists in the rationalistic flows of Voltaire and John Locke were right there with the Founding Fathers to be sure. And yes, these 'men of human reason', men of the so-called 'Enlightenment', did play a part in the early formation of America. But secular humanists did not dominate the American Revolution as they did in the French Revolution. And thank God they didn't!
Why weren't the secularists able to lay a secular foundation for America? They had managed to do this in France. Why not in America too? The reason they couldn't was very simple. It was because of the Puritans. When the American War of Independence came a long Puritans were already in the places of political power, just as they had been all along. The secular agenda many humanists and educated pagans had for America did not go forward as it had in France. It had been forestalled. In the 1770's it was the Puritan agenda, and not the secular one, which held sway.
The Puritan dream was a lofty one. In that dream the English Colonies over in the New World would be blessed. They would become a nation reflecting and bathed in the glory of God. It would be a "Kingdom of God" the likes of which this world had never seen before. Not only would be it governed in a rational way by 'Christian principles' but they would see to it that their governmental proceedings were conducted under the Spirit and character of the God they saw in the pages of the Bible and knew in a personal way. They believed that America under the favor of God would become a blessed and prosperous nation. It would become that 'light to the nations' the noted Puritan minister John Winthrop had spoken of. America would become a shining 'city upon a hill'.
THE PURITANS; A STORY OF POLITICS AND RELIGIONJust what sort of people were the Puritans? And are we still seeing them today? The Puritan ethic we saw emerge in English Parliament in the 1640's, and in the subsequent English Civil War, was an active one. It was a form of Biblical Christianity that was ready, willing, and able to tackle things head on. And here was an evangelical movement that was not a separatist one. The Puritans did not embrace pietism. They were biblical Christians who right from their very beginning were very attentive to the world around them. And they were politically engaged.
Of course their views just did not fit in with the traditions of the Old World. The royal families of Europe ruled in those days. And the aristocracy, a hierarchy based on social class held the land. Feudal serfdom still dominated expectations. And the medieval Christianity of the Old World was not showing any signs of moving forward. The Puritans were frustrated in all this. They were convinced that God had something better for them. Not only that, they were convinced that God had chosen them to establish it on earth.
The congregation at Scrooby was a classic case in point. They were a peaceful evangelical fellowship. And yet they found themselves under intense religious persecution by the established church in England. They sought sanctuary in Europe. At that time the haven of Holland was rising to prominence as the merchant superpower in the 1600's. Religious dissenters found refuge there among the evangelical community and in the prosperous flows of peaceful trade.
But the English Puritans from Scrooby were restless to move on. They were not content to allow themselves or their children to be assimilated into a new nationality in the Netherlands. They knew that another even greater destiny awaited them. And so they sought passage over to the New World.
Puritans were well represented on the passenger list of the Mayflower. The Puritan congregation from Scrooby sailed for America in 1620. Migrations of Puritans from England that followed in the next two decades numbered in the tens of thousands. The Puritans, and their separatist friends the Pilgrims, were a God-fearing people. Their faith was very similar. It flowed out of the bedrock, that newly rediscovered Biblical Christianity.
Throughout the 1500's Gutenberg's printing presses, those marvels of modern German engineering, had been proliferating throughout Christendom. But now another agency of change was entering history. Bible translators were arising on the scene. Their faithful work unshackled the Bible from Latin, the dead language of the Roman Empire. God's Holy Word was being brought it into English language and into the other European languages. These two factors combined in the 1500's to make the scriptures available to the common man.
The result of all this was soon evident. The 1500's saw the rise of a powerful religious movement. Christians were being renewed and spiritually energized in the Word and Spirit of God. This was opening the eyes of many to dreams of a life they had never before imagined was possible.
Of course there were profound social and political consequences to all this. Powerful spiritual forces were loosed. And sometimes this elicited repressive responses by the powers that be. What happened next was nothing short of an historic earthquake. Christendom began to experience the Reformation.
The Puritans in the late 1500's and early 1600's were on the move. And yet they were a persecuted minority. They were forbidden to engage in worship outside the Church of England. Nor were they allowed to conduct home meetings without the proper ecclesiastical 'covering'. That religious covering, to many Puritan eyes, was stifling, dark, and medieval. But the Puritans were not content to sit quietly and to go along with what their "higher ups" had ordained. Nor would they fume or fret or see themselves as victims. They were committed to take constructive action under God.
The Puritans were not ones to engage in the quiet evangelical Christianity of the Pilgrim separatists. They believed that they had a divine destiny to enact political change. They were fully convinced that they had a mandate from God to change the system. So they would not be stopped. They would move forward with their agenda with energy and zeal. God had charged them with the task of taking Biblical Christianity, along with its proper political outworking, into the future. And they were going to see that it was done!
Many Puritans, especially after the English Civil War wanted to leave all the medieval baggage of the Old World behind. They wanted to start out afresh. The New World was beckoning. Even Oliver Cromwell had been preparing to sail for America when members of Parliament came to visit him in 1640. They managed to convince him to stay.
The Puritans who set sail for the New World were on a dangerous journey. Many of them would not survive the journey or the first winter. So they were inclined to made it their personal business to make sure they were in good graces with the God of Providence. They carried with them a vital and portable Christian faith. The Word of God in their own Bibles and in their own heart would light their path. It was a form of personal Christianity that would travel. Providence would be with them as they journeyed on.
This was the high adventure and the divine romance the Puritans lived for. They would be traveling to places they had never seen before. A great new land with bountiful natural resources lay before them. They were a blessed people and they knew it. Out there in the American wilderness they were on the threshold of a dream. God had just handed them a fresh slate.
God-fearing Puritans were known for their personal integrity and self-discipline. This would hold them in good stead. Their new colony would be another expression of the 'Church in the wilderness'. And their congregational grass roots style of democratic government would ensure good government and thus preserve their community. Their Christian faith and lifestyle would provide the foundation for a great nation.
Did they achieve this? The record of history suggests that they were in large part successful. The United States of America would emerge as the first really stable republic to come out from under the monarchies of Europe. As we shall see in the article on the American Revolution vs. the French Revolution France did not enjoy the same sort of success with her transition from monarchy into a republic.
So what was the difference? The thesis of this series of articles on the Puritans was that it was the inner Light and guidance of God that came by the Holy Scriptures that made the difference. This is why the separation of the English colonies in America from the English monarchy was as successful and constructive as it turned out to be.
There is no doubt that something fresh and different was happening over in the English colonies in the New World. An entirely new nation was in the making. This was a nation heavily influenced by Biblical Christianity. It was something the world had never seen before.
SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE PURITAN CHARACTER.Was this the end of the story for the Puritans? As we set out on this particular journey of discovery I would invite the reader to consider the possibility that Puritan history might not be just 'past history' after all. Are these Biblical Christian activists still with us?
IS THE PURITAN SPIRIT STILL WITH US TODAY?
It may be that we are looking here at a people who are still in passage. The Puritans brought their faith and ideals, as well as their energies for constructive reform with them to the New World. From the time they rose up in Parliament in the 1600's they were always a high spirited and an ambitious group. The character of the Americans since that time is quite similar to the Puritans in many respects. Repeatedly the Americans have shown themselves very able in deal making. They approach problems with a positive and upbeat policy of constructive engagement. The Puritans have always had very close relations with the bankers and merchants. It was the merchant evangelical communities in Holland who had protected Bible translator William Tyndale from agents of King Henry VIII and the Bishop of London. And it was the merchants who helped evangelicals smuggle Bibles across the Channel and into England. Americans today still give honor to their merchant friends and favor the "free enterprise system". And their "free trade" idealism continues to go global in the form of multinational corporations which they themselves control. This has made them the most wealthy and powerful nation this world has ever seen. They have been given an opportunity to do great good. The temptation is also there to compromise their faith and to bring in great evil. Pray God that they choose wisely.
Today's Puritans have not changed much from the Puritans of the 1600's. They are renowned for deal making and forging agreements between opposing sides. They are very keen to set up programs based on good common sense and 'Christian principles'. They are zealous in espousing those 'values' which they consider essential for the proper running of a 'nation under God'.
If the Puritans are still with us then where are they? Where is the cutting edge? Are they the people we know today as 'the Christian Right'? If so, then what does this all mean? What is their agenda? Just how will they deal with the challenges up ahead? And what will they do when there are no more deals to be made?
Let us assume for a moment that the last great superpower to emerge out of western Christendom is the American ship of state. If this is indeed the case then we must conclude that the last election was highly significant. It would seem that today's modern Puritans, the Religious Right' are now on the bridge of the Pax Americana. They have plotted a course for global dominion and telegraphed the message to the crew. The way ahead is fraught with danger. But todays western leaders in state and church have thrown caution to the wind. And down in the bowels of the ship of state the orders from the bridge ring out loud and clear.
"Full speed ahead!"
Even their enemies concede that today's Puritans are having an increasing influence in government. This is true not only in domestic matters but in international affairs as well. The Christian Right, today's Puritans, are helping set the course for human history. This is an awesome realization. Because America, and the world, is right now approaching the most critical crossroads human history has ever seen.
TODAY'S PURITANS AND THE NATION OF ISRAEL.These are dangerous times. Israel is back in the land. There are even plans in the works to build a Third Temple. Taking a little walk to the left of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem one finds the ministry center of the Temple Mount Faithful. With or without the temple they are ready right now to restore worship on the temple mount. This includes the sacrifices. They have the instruments made up according to the instructions given by Moses in the book of Leviticus. They are training the Levites and addressing the purification requirement for the ashes of a red heifer. They are ready to resume the worship cut off by the Romans when Titus destroyed the second temple back in 70 A.D. The discovery of the Ark of the Covenant would really cap things off. And it is entirely possible that it will be found.
It seems that the rulers of the western world are preoccupied with land of Israel once again. To go to Israel as a pilgrim to worship is one thing. But to go there to try to take dominion is quite another. This is the great temptation when nations rise up at the thresholds of history. Christendom was soundly thrashed by the God of Israel 800 years ago. They took up the sword and presumed to "go up" to Jerusalem on their crusades. The atrocities they carried out there are too terrible to recount. Nations in the west who have assumed superpower status have had the arrogance to force their way into Israel's affairs. And they were punished for it. France under Napoleon, was defeated at Acre. And when Germany under General Rommel and his Afrika Korps was pushing across North Africa towards the Suez there were plans to sweep up to the north. The Nazis had their plans for Israel. But they were stopped by British and American forces at El Alamein.
The world is obsessed with the holy land. It is the land the Romans called "Palestine". Oh yes, after dispersing the Jews the Romans named Israel after their worst enemy, the Philistines. That is all the word "Palestine" or "Palestinian" means. There never has been a sovereign Palestinian nation, a Palestinian king or ruler, any Palestinian history or any Palestinian coinage from days gone by. Yassar Arafat was the only "Palestinian" leader this world has ever seen. But he himself was an Egyptian and a puppet of the western nations who do their crusading through a terrorist organization named the PLO and championing the myth of a Palestinian state that never existed. Palestinians are Arabs, (and others), who oppose the Jews coming back into Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization is blatant in its use of terrorism against innocents to try to achieve this. And yet Palestinian leaders such as Yassar Arafat are funded and fawned over by the west, and given abundant media coverage. Arafat was wined and dined and favored by most of the powerful rulers in the west.
Israel is up against the wall now. It is being forced to go to the table with the Christian superpower of the day. She is under enormous pressure to deal. She is facing an array of very powerful suitors who want her hand. And now we see she is preparing to hand over holy ground for some very significant monetary favors.
This is not the worst of it. The rulers of the world are even casting longing eyes on the city of Jerusalem. The "burden of Jerusalem" is being lifted up again, just as it has been in times past. Christians who are familiar with Bible prophecy are deeply disturbed by all this. They know what this means. Their alarm bells are ringing. And the trumpets are about to sound. God Almighty through the prophet Zechariah has given a word of warning to the nations. This applies especially to the superpowers when they emerge into history. It is a prophecy with special significance for us today and as the future dramas unfold. The God of Israel has warned that,"..... I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people:Are the nations of the western world, the people of what was once Christendom paying any heed to this? Apparently not. Will today's American Puritans be inclined to step in and say something here? Do they want to see their beloved nation cut in pieces? Or do they value their growing political position too much to upset the international applecart?
All who burden themselves with it will be cut in pieces".
- Zech. 12:3
Meanwhile, over in the Islamic world, the third Jihad, which began after World War 1, is heating up. All this while American military bases are being set up from Turkey, across to Iraq and on to Afghanistan. Up in the Caucasus Mountain and regions of southern parts of the former USSR western oil companies are busily pumping oil. The Russians are furious. This is an unstable region. It always has been. Hundreds of nukes have gone missing from the Russian arsenal.
The present superpower must be the peacemaker. It must ensure that the world continues to conduct its trade in peace and security. But these are a zealous people. Just where is this all leading us? And what is going to happen?
A SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE ON HISTORY.Here is the thesis of this series of articles. The Puritan story has not come to an end. Not by a long shot. The Puritan belief and its adjoining political movement continues on. This powerful ethic continues to drive America forward, and with it the hopes and dreams of Western Civilization.
AND THE ONGOING STORY OF THE PURITANS.
Puritanism is still very evident today. It wells up out of the same deep Biblical aquifer the Puritans discovered 400 years ago. It continues to flow out of the bedrock of Biblical Christianity. Puritan History is now a very important subject to understand. Because right now the Puritan agenda is setting the pattern for American history. And American history is now becoming World History. They are the ones who are saying, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!" If American energies are the driving force in western history today then we might well say that Puritanism is the the 'river (that) runs through it.'
This brings up some exceedingly important matters for Americans to consider. They must come to understand themselves in history. As they look into the lives of those Puritans of yesteryear they are looking into a mirror. The reflection shows them an image of their own soul. Oh yes, the mirror may appear to be old and dusty. It dates back to the 1600's. But in it we see a very interesting reflection. The image of the Puritans in their early manifestation reflects much of what we see in the conservative America of today. In looking back into Puritan history Americans are not only seeing the way they were in times past. They are seeing the way they are right now.
Puritan history is very important for us to be aware of. It gives us a valuable insight into what really makes America tick. If we study the patterns of past events and then look at present events we see a continuing pattern. This gives us some clues to enable us to see into America's future. Because the main thesis of these series of articles is simply this. The Puritans are still with us! Indeed, the story of the Puritans, (and their friends, the the Pilgrims,) is far from over. In fact the Puritans will be major players on the scene as we approach the next watershed in world history.
Puritanism is a pro-active, even a muscular form of Christianity. It continues to course up out of the same Biblical world view the Puritans share with the Pilgrim separatists. But the Puritan response goes beyond the Great Commission, the Gospel and the support of Christian missions abroad. It is a powerful expression of militant, politically active, even a crusading expression of Christianity.
If the Puritans still with us today then we notice something very interesting. They are still the movers and shakers they were 400 years ago. The Christian Right is a movement that is gaining power in American politics. Even now they provide the main religious support for politics of American global expansion. Their white collars are a bit smaller nowadays and tucked in under their dark business suits. But they are just as determined to set a new Godly agenda for the nation and the world as those Puritans we saw rising up in English Parliament during the early 1600's. They will most certainly make their mark in history again before all is said and done. Western history will bear the stamp of the modern Puritans before it comes to its grand conclusion. It is entirely possible that the future history of the modern Puritans may be even more spectacular than the Puritan history we saw in England and America in times past.
As you may have noticed, our study of Puritan history here in these articles is broader than just the usual narrow secular view. We shall go beyond the warmed over socio- economic dissertations and "class struggle" discussions we typically get from the history professor with the pink bow tie. Our radar screen will be widened for us to pick up the spiritual dimensions of history. These are the elements that a high school or a college liberal arts education all too often leaves out. Human history is more than just political and economic history. The spiritual realities are sitting there waiting to be noticed. They come readily into focus for those who know the Judeo-Christian God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some Christians can "see" these things. Others cannot, - or will not.
The saga of the Puritans is far from finished. It is a great and wonderful story. And it continues on. Eventually it will come to an awesome climax. A full and proper insight into the Puritan ethic will help us understand just what these people are doing in the world today. This is important. Because the modern Puritans are now very influential. Their voices are heard in the halls of the government of the American superpower.
Our German friends would call this wider perspective 'heils geschichter' which means "holy history" or "salvation history". It is very important that we have this wider view of the ongoing history of western civilization. Because world history is going on from here. And America is probably going to take us up to the final acts of the age. This will be an epic story involving all of God's chosen people. America will probably be the last nation in the passing parade of western Christian nations. Each of these nations came to the peak of their power to emerge as the superpower of their day. Such appears to be the case with the American superpower. We might even term it the Pax Americana.
Our excursion into the Puritan heart of America will lead us to some surprising discoveries. It will take us into the dark halls of worldly power. And it will also take us up to the fountainhead of a magnificent devotional river which continues to flow out of the Holy Scriptures and into our present day world. This holy River of Life, (accompanied by its sometimes less holy political outworking), will carry the Americans onwards into history. Just how will American history bring us into the arena of the end-time drama?
If the Battle Hymn of the Republic is a prophecy for America, and many believe that it is, then this ongoing Puritan History may be quite spectacular. Puritan history may even take the world into the Apocalypse. It may well usher the Pax Americana into the end-time drama, that spellbinding holy history prophesied to unfold at the climax of this age. This in turn may even lead us to the restoration of all things and the prophesied glorious Millennium of Messiah.
PURITAN HISTORY REDISCOVERED. IT IS ALIVE TODAY!And so the saga of the Puritans continues. The same God centered politico-social dynamic we saw back then can also be seen today. The very same vital and politically engaged Biblical Christianity we saw in English Parliament under Oliver Cromwell and at the signing of the Mayflower Compact is still with us. It continues to nourish American society. And it also acts to preserve the nation against the pagan declensions and the badly compromised state of affairs we find ourselves living in today.
So this study will not be just the opening of a boring dusty textbook. Nor will it be merely a survey of a quaint little group of English Christian colonists who had Thanksgiving turkey dinner with the Indians back in the 1620's. We shall be considering a people who erupted into history 400 years ago. Their 'coming out' was rather spectacular in its time to say the least.
What we see in the Puritan movement today is a continuation of that very same powerful spiritual flow. That same spirit of reform is still at work. It also stands ready to take over the reins of power should it be called upon to do so. If the Puritan movement have to fight to change history they will not hesitate to do so. The movement continues to be injected with new religious revivals, some holy, some less than holy. And the Puritan movement continues to assume new powers and expand as American history moves forward.
Puritanism is a very powerful movement in America today. These people are energized not only in their consecration to God but also in their politics. The movement has already produced many great and wonderful social and political achievements. These brightly flowing streams will continue to course out onto the world stage even as the Pax Americana goes global. There is every reason to believe that Puritanism's greatest histories are yet to come.
Just as Puritan history was awesome in times gone by it will be awesome again. Because if we care to trace the spiritual dynamic beneath all this hubbub of human social and political activity we find that the Source of this inspiration is God Himself. John saw the River of Life issuing out from the City of God. (Rev.22) Pray God that the river flows in purity.
It is upon this issue that the Puritans and the Pilgrims diverge and take different tacks. Just how much is the inspired Life of God meant to dominate other people? And just how much virtue can be imposed upon a citizenry by legislation and political programs in this fallen world? We can, and should, legislate righteousness to protect our citizens from criminals. But how much can we legislate morality? Is this a matter for public policy? Or does the wellspring of God's Presence through the Gospel redeem and transform society from within human hearts one soul at a time?
SOME QUOTES FROM MODERN DAY PURITANSIs the Puritan ethic alive and well today? If we take a look around we soon find our answer. Puritanism today is the throbbing heart, - the very conscience of America. If we listen carefully we can still hear those same Puritan voices. We hear the same messages crying out against the moral decline in the nation. We hear them calling a 'nation under God' to justice and righteousness in government. We hear them today in the halls of Congress, on the airwaves, and, of course, in the churches.
Here below are some quotes which exhibit present day Puritan thinking. In them we can perceive the ongoing Puritan passion for a virtuous and prosperous "nation under God"."There has been a concerted effort to disconnect America — modern America — from its religious roots. To transplant, if you will, the tree of American civilization from the Puritan soil in which it grew."Most politically active Christians are from what is termed the "Religious Right". But occasionally they can come from the left wing.
- The Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy in a sermon entitled,
"The Bible and the Constitution"."Today's Church has been perilously exposed to the worst apostasy of her history".Christian political activism is endemic throughout America.
"...we must rise up to counter that great Babylonian system which at
present assaults the Church both in America and throughout the world!
The gates of Hell will not prevail against the church!" - Antipas Ministries - 2003
Here is another quote."The Church of Jesus Christ is nothing unless it becomesPastor Parsley has even gone to Washington to agitate for American military forces to go into the Sudan where 2 million Christians have been killed and their children enslaved by the Islamic government in Khartoum. These sorts of sentiments are not unusual among American evangelicals today.
an agent for change in the society in which it has been placed!"
- Televangelist-Pastor Rod Parsley
Here is another often quoted statement showing the Puritan's Godly fear of divine judgment and their concern for the restoration of moral integrity in their land."If God does not bring judgment on America thenThe verse they often quote in this context is this one from 2Chronicles 7:14.
He will have to offer an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah!""If my people, which are called by My Name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. " - 2Chron. 7:14After the 9-11 attack the Rev. Jerry Falwell sounded a note of spiritual warning to America. This was considered insensitive and unpatriotic at the time. The statement was not understood. To say that it caused quite a furor would be an understatement. The humanist media worked themselves up into a tizzy. Rev. Falwell apologized publicly and profusely on television. He then had to patiently endure a severe and protracted tongue-lashing by maverick newsman Geraldo Rivera. Here is his quote."I put all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist, [but America's] secular and anti-Christian environment left us open to our Lord's [decision] not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture ... the result is not good."Rev. Falwell was roundly and severely criticized for this. But he was merely pointing out a spiritual principle which has been well known by Puritans for 500 years. There is a divine protection God places over nations that honor and call upon Him. But when a nation slips and staggers down the chute into immorality and godlessness that divine protection cannot be expected to continue. That point is well taken by Christians and Jews who know and respect the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rev. Falwell was warning that the moral deterioration of America was weakening it from within. This moral weakness was leaving it open and vulnerable to an attack by enemies from without. The terrorist attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, he warned, were a direct consequence of America drifting from God. This was quite a reasonable statement for anyone with a Puritan perspective to make. It would be understood and appreciated anyone with a Biblical world view.
But alas, the American people didn't want to hear that. This Puritan assessment by Rev. Falwell was immediately deemed "politically incorrect". The powers that be had led the nation to vent their anger at the "terrorists". They were angry at the bad guy, Osama bin Laden! God, (and their moral standing as a nation before Him), was not the issue! America had just declared war on the terrorists! And now they were ticked off at Rev. Falwell as well! To their mind he was meddling inappropriately in the high affairs of state during the time of a crisis!
Nationalism ruled in the days after 9-11. The Americans were in no mood to do the Pogo thing and say,
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"
After the 9-11 attacks Americans directed their anger outwards at others. This has been typical behavior of nations down through time. American Christians were angry as well. Only the pious among them were in any mood for self examination or spiritual reflection in any deep sort of a way after 9-11. Of course non-Christian Americans did not have a clue as to what Rev. Falwell was talking about anyway. This is not surprising. Without a Biblical world view secularists cannot be expected to understand. They are unaware of the spiritual issues that determine what happens in history. They are unable to "see" the Providence and the judgments of God in the unfolding destiny of nations.
American fundamentalist Christians are pretty responsible people. They often show a willingness to assume the burden of responsibility for the spiritual condition of America. They also show a readiness to accept the political power that might come along with that responsibility should it be forthcoming. Here is a quote from a famous televangelist. He fits the pattern of the modern 21st century Puritan leader very well."We have enough votes to run this country...In a more recent statement on "The 700 Club" in August of 2005 televangelist Rev. Pat Robertson, host of Christian Broadcasting Network and founder of the Christian Coalition of America, made his strongest statement yet. He called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
and when the people say, 'We've had enough,'
we're going to take over!" -- Pat Robertson, in a speech
to the "Washington for Jesus" rally in the spring of 1980.
This was a somber moment in American Christian broadcasting. For an evangelical Christian minister to reject the call to pray and choose to put out the call for the murder of another human being is a sobering new development. It shows just how far some politicized Christian fundamentalists are prepared to go to advance their agenda."You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he (Chavas) thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.............. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."Here is a link to a video of Rev. Robertson's statement.
These statements above are from American Christians. There is no question that they express a sincere and determined desire to preserve and protect the established Christian Church in America from compromise lest it cease to exist as a genuine Christian communion. Their ultimate nightmare would be the rising specter of a secularized America with its Christian heart plucked out. In such a scenario the spiritually dead zombie corpse of America would be taken over by secular principalities and the sort of godless powers that the 'fighting fundamentalists' would simply refuse to live under. Many American Christians are very fearful of this possibility. The specter of a pagan Orwellian America would have them up in arms overnight. They believe that this would be the end of America and the sort of Christendom they have become comfortable with. They are determined to prevent this at all costs. And they are prepared to use strong action to do so.
The failure of liberty in secularist states is also a concern. This happened to France under the revolution. It also happened to Russia under communism, and Germany under national socialism of Nazism. All this is a history lesson our modern Puritans have learned very well. They have no intention of letting a similar disaster happen in their beloved America. No-sir! Not on their watch!
So all this political action carried out by today's Puritans is quite understandable. American Christians are being prodded to "get up and do something"! Their burden and their zeal is to preserve the Christian heritage of the society in which they are presently encamped. They believe that all Christian believers should and must be politically and socially activated in this endeavor. To their way of thinking this is absolutely necessary to save the very heart and soul of America itself. And it is their belief that American global rule is the last best hope for Christendom in an increasingly dangerous and hostile world.
These politico-religious messages are not limited to clergymen. Occasionally the politicians themselves will join in the call to raise up the standard of national Godliness. Here is a quote from an American president who was much loved by modern American Puritans."If we ever forget that we are a Nation under God,Are such statements an expression of mere religious jingoism? I believe that as we go into this study we shall discover that this is not the case at all. These sentiments have been around for at least 400 years if not longer. These Christian believers are deadly serious. Their zeal is motivated by a very real fear that if the nation departs from the Christian foundation which brought it to greatness from the very beginning then America will go the way of all the other superpowers that preceded it. America will be just another fallen domino in a long line of Christian nations that were great superpowers in their time.
then we will become a Nation gone under."
- President Ronald Reagan, 1984
Western Christendom has seen many nations rise up to attain greatness only to then become corrupted and fall into decline. We saw the rise and fall of the Spanish in the 1500's, the Dutch in the 1600's, the French in the 1700's, and the British Empire in the 1800's. Germany made her bid for power in two awful World Wars in the first half of the 20th century. After the war Russia and the red horse of global communism made their bid for world power. During these past 50 years the earth has been relatively prosperous and safe under the huge World Trade and military dominance of the Pax Americana.
Whether we like it or not, this is America's time in the sun. The country has been greatly blessed in wealth and power. The concern among many evangelicals is that unless she repents of her moral waywardness America could end up being just another case of a great nation in Christendom which has risen to power, gone wrong, and then gone down.
Such a notion is not unusual. History demonstrates this pattern time and time again. Nations are blessed by God and rise to prominence. Then they become fat and self-absorbed, and corrupted by their wealth. The inevitable decline soon follows as some other nation comes to the fore to replace them.
Buried down deep in the heart of western Christendom is the memory of what happened to Israel under Solomon. When they descended into their idolatry there were consequences. The nation was split and went into decline. Eventually they were led off in chains and into captivity. The people of Israel were eventually scattered to the four winds and the land of Israel was left desolate. It remained that way for two millennia, - until May of 1948. This was, and remains to this day, a powerful object lesson for those who revere and serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
So are the Puritans still with us today? And if so, just what is their dream for the future and their agenda? And what discoveries lie ahead for them as the history of Western Christendom unfolds? We shall be looking into these matters in these next series of articles.
Here is the NEXT ARTICLE.