C. New England Way
Puritan Family Life
- It set very high standards for identifying the
- They normally only accepted those who correctly professed their
faith, repented of their sins and who lived free of scandal.
- 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
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
(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
New England Way of Winthrop and Cotton helped to enforce
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.
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"
Matrimony was defined as a contract subject to state regulation
rather than a religious sacrament and so were married by justices of the peace,
(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.
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
(b) A typical family had five children of who three grew to
(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
(d) Large families helped supply a labor force on the
(e) Children depended on parents to provide enough acreage to get
(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
(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
(c) This shift toward secularism caused fewer and fewer of
the children to emerge as saints.
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