had attempted to create a european community based around religion
in the sixteenth century
. As the Puritans
left England to escape religious persecution, they established a thriving society in New England
, based around puritan doctrine
, and the church
. They had intended to create a utopian
society that would thrive because it honored God's laws
. They intended this utopia to be an example to the world. However, as religious dissenters
gained a voice, Puritanism seemed to splinter and secular
concerns became more important to the citizens of the New England area, the region lost the homogenous culture it once had.
The founders of New England had one major benefit when they were settling. The charter given to their company, the Massachusetts Bay Company
, contained a provision that allowed the government of the colony to be located in the colony itself. This allowed the like minded individuals who settled the colony
to begin with, to set their own laws, and elect their own government officals
. These founders did not want the church
to be controlled by the State
, as they felt it was in England, so they made it illegal for Ministers
to hold Public office. They did however, expect the community to live up to certain religious standards. They wanted to live as saint
ly as possible to prove they were members of the elect, destined for heaven, and they wanted to uphold Gods Laws so that God would prevent great hardship and disaster from befalling the colony.
These standards were enforced with the power of Law, and intense peer pressure. All people were required to attend church, or pay a fine, as well as a number of other laws such as the illegality of sex outside of marrage, and working on the sabbath. Everything was strictly watched by the church, and by each man watching his neighbor, since New England towns were desgined so that everyone was in a proximity to one another, able to observe and pry. And why should a good puritan have cause to complain about a lack of privacy? Surely he wouldn't need it unless he had something to hide. This was probably not a problem for New Englanders. Being puritans, they all enjoyed the knowledge that they were probably among God's Elect
, and thus better than the vast majority of people, and therefore very eager to display their piety to others and please the church.
It was this wellspring of Puritanism, the message that one is better than the majority of sinning people, even if only by a little, that created the need for more ministers and preachers. As the population exploded because of high marrage rates and legal incentives to have a large family, the number of Educated and experience ministers was no longer adequate to preach to all of New England. The lack of a minister elite in New England capable of preaching in the entire region killed the homogenuity that is required for maintaining a culture based around a specific set of interpretations of the Bible. As nonconformist ministers and preachers gained a voice in New England, the actions the colony elite could have taken to stop the splintering were too little and too late, although it did lead to the notable creation of Harvard University
Although the viability of the New England region as an almost completely Puritan area remained strong, the nature of puritanism was starting to change. As the Halfway Covenant
shows. The children of "visible saints" were not becomming "visible saints" themselves, they were unable to convince older church members of their worthyness for admission to the church, because they did not have the same puritan values of the previous generation. The halfway covenant allowed this generation to baptise their children, regardless of not having membership in the church.
The improvement of the New England economy also contributed to the decline of traditional Puritan values. Although this improvement was most certainly hoped for by the founders, it created secular concerns for the New Englanders to worry about.
The founders were certainly happy with the economic and population growth of the Seventeenth century, however, while they were able to exert puritan control of doctrine, virtue, and law in most towns, the lack of trained ministers caused a definate splintering of the church, and the region, but they were still successful for the most part in attaining their aspirations and goals, even if those virtues were weakened with passing generations.