11 March 2018

In today’s message, I’m going to be mentioning puritans, and in particular one famous one, David Clarkson (1621-1686). So I thought a bit of background might be useful, as they were not far away from our own Presbyterian Church roots, and in fact, were closely associated. So I managed to find, and have copied an article (author unknown), heavily edited by me, for everyone to read.

The Puritans were a widespread and diverse group of people who took a stand for religious purity in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries in Europe. Their rise was directly related to the increased knowledge that came to the common people in the Age of Enlightenment. As people learned to read and write, and as the Bible became more accessible to commoners, many began to read the Bible for themselves (a habit that was strongly discouraged in the established Anglican and/or Catholic church). The word Puritan was first coined in the 1560s as a scornful term for those who advocated more purity in worship and doctrine.

Many Puritans advocated separation from all other Christian groups, but most didn’t, rather desiring to bring cleansing and change to the church from within. Holding a high view of Scripture, and deeming it as the only true law of God, Puritans believed that each individual, as well as each congregation, was directly responsible to God, rather than answering through a mediator such as a priest, bishop, etc.

Throughout their history, the Puritans were viewed and treated in a variety of ways by both civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Often, they were grudgingly tolerated, and at other times they were severely persecuted. Charles I of England made efforts to purge all Puritan influences from England, which resulted in the Great Migration to Europe and the American Colonies.

Well-known Puritans were John Bunyan (The Pilgrim’s Progress) and John Foxe (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs).