C. New England Way

  1. It set very high standards for identifying the "elect"
  2. They normally only accepted those who correctly professed their faith, repented of their sins and who lived free of scandal.
  3. To become a candidate for membership, one had to undergo a soul-baring examination in front of the congregation and describe their spiritual life and conversion experience
    a. This strict soul-searching was criticized as an unnecessary barrier to membership esp because it intimidated shy and humble saints who felt awkward about neighbors voting on their state of grace.
    b. Many people from New England refused to give public confessions of grace before the church
    c. Some were denied membership such as a women, so overcome by nervousness that they began sobbing uncontrollably until the congregation relented.
    d. This embarrassing spectacle of having to openly share your spiritual feelings before your neighbors was the single most criticize part of the New England Way .
    (1) New England Way insisted on literacy so everyone could read the Bible to experience God's quickening grace.
    (2) Parents were responsible for seeing that their children were not ignorant of the Scriptures and even sent elders to check whether children were instructed in the elements of religion.
    (3) Clergymen were responsible for leading saints to repentance and stimulating piety.
    (a) Ministers were to stir the heart and faith of his congregation with moving sermons that could be understood by laymen.
    (b) Clergy were to be highly educated and Harvard College was founded in 1636.
    (4) This insistence on high standards led Oxford University in England to recognize Harvard degrees as equivalent to its won by 1648, so the New England Way would not falter due to a lack of properly trained clergy.
    New England Way of Winthrop and Cotton helped to enforce religious conformity
    a. Leaders believed that without this conformity and order, divisiveness among Puritans over questions such as church-state relationship , church membership, economic individualism and women's role could lead to colonial splintering, a failure in God's eyes.
    b. Despite the leaders efforts for conformity, some Puritans had radical ideas and insisted on expressing them.

Puritan Family Life
a. Puritan society rested upon the little commonwealth -- nuclear family, not the individual.
b. "Well-ordered families," declared Cotton Mather in 1699, "naturally produce a Good Order."
c. A proper Puritan family of wife, children and servants dutifully obeyed the husband.
(1) Winthrop said a 'true wife" thought of herself "in subjection to her husband's authority"
(2) Matrimony was defined as a contract subject to state regulation rather than a religious sacrament and so were married by justices of the peace, not ministers.
(a) Marriage could be dissolved by the courts for desertion, bigamy, adultery or physical cruelty
(b) Divorce was allowed only as a last extreme measure, as a remedy fit only for extremely wronged spouses.
(3) English Common Law did not extend property rights to a wife independent of her husband unless he consented to a prenuptial agreement giving her control over any property she already owned.
(4) Only if a husband died heirless or in his will awarded his widow full control could she claim rights over household property, yet she normally held a legal lifetime use of one third of the estate for her support.
(a) A typical male in England who reached age 18 could expect to die at age 53 and females who reached 18 lived to about 45
(b) A typical family had five children of who three grew to adulthood.
(c) One in six never married
(d) Most women who married were already orphans by the time of their wedding day.
(5) New England settlers did better because of a more disease free environment
(a) They received a better diet and less disease and infection
(b) New Englanders lived long and raised large families, having a life expectancy of 65 for men and women lived nearly that long
(d) More than 80% of all infants survived long enough to get married
(d) Large families helped supply a labor force on the homesteads.
(e) Children depended on parents to provide enough acreage to get started.
(f) Young men often stayed at home and postponed marriage until receiving their own land.
(g) Average family raised three to four boys to adulthood and could depend on thirty to forty years of work if their sons delayed marriage until age 26.
(6) Because of short growing seasons, rocky soil salted with gravel and an inefficient system of land distribution, farmers were forced to cultivate widely scattered strips which prevented them from becoming wealthy yet they fed large families and stayed just ahead of their debts.
(a) Because New England was not suited for farming, some New Englanders turned to lumbering, fishing, fur trading, and rum distilling into major industries which employed much seasonal labor
(b) It also caused the New England economy to be much more diversified and its inhabitants to grow more worldly (secular).
(c) This shift toward secularism caused fewer and fewer of the children to emerge as saints.

Information for this page is drawn from: ENGLISH COLONIZATION


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