Puritanism started in the sixteenth
century as a movement to reform the Church of England. Puritanism
accepted the interpretations of
John Calvin (1509-64) on the nature of man, free will and
predestination, and other basic concepts. Puritanism became, after the
restoration of Charles II as king in 1660, nonconformity and split into
three major denominations–the Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist
sects. The Puritans saw God as the awesome Father-God of the Old
Testament and emphasized His majesty, righteousness, and control of the
universe to achieve His just ends. God's maintaining and directing
everything in the universe is God's Providence. By extension and over
time, the word came to have other meanings associated with this one,
e.g., God Himself and the lot assigned by God.
In his Bible Dictionary
(1897), Matthew George Easton describes Providence in this way:
Providence literally means
foresight, but is generally used to denote God's preserving and
governing all things by means of second causes. God's providence
extends to the natural world, and the affairs of men, and of
individuals. It extends also to the free actions of men, and things
sinful, as well as to their good actions.
God reveals His will in many ways,
like the Bible and natural forces and law In the words of William
Cowper (1731-1800), "God is his own interpreter, and he will make it
plain." Puritans actively sought to learn God's will. To fulfill this
duty, they read the Bible; listened to sermons; studied daily events;
analyzed nature for signs; paid particular attention to
out-of-the-ordinary events like earthquakes and material prosperity,
which were called remarkable providences;
and reviewed the events of their lives and the state of their souls,
usually by recording them in a diary and looking for patterns and
As regards sinful actions of men,
they are represented as occurring by God's permission, and as
controlled and overruled for good . God does not cause or approve of
sin, but only limits, restrains, overrules it for good.
The mode of God's providential
government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact
that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that this
government is universal , particular, efficacious, embraces events
apparently contingent, is consistent with his own perfection, and to
his own glory.
The concept of God's Providence is related
to free will, predestination, and grace. Christians generally accept
position that God predestines or elects the good to salvation; the fate
of sinners regarding salvation and damnation is an open issue. The
Puritans, however, accepted Calvin's belief in double predestination:
By predestination we mean the
eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he
wished to happen with regard to every person. All are not created on
equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to
eternal damnation. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1599)
In other words, God predetermines who is to
be damned (also called reprobation) and elects who is to be saved (also
called regeneration). Also God is actively and directly involved in the
affairs of nations and of individuals. The efforts to explain how man
can have free will and be predestined have taxed theologians for
thousands of years and there is no general agreement on the matter.
Calvin denies that there is a conflict; he bases his interpretation on
the concepts of God's grace, the agency of the Holy Spirit (it carries
God's grace to the elect), and man's natural depravity.
... the grace of God (as this
name is used when regeneration is spoken of) is the rule of the Spirit,
in directing and governing the human will. Govern he cannot, without
correcting, reforming, renovating, (hence we say that the beginning of
regeneration consists in the abolition of what is ours;) in like
manner, he cannot govern without moving, impelling, urging, and
restraining. Accordingly, all the actions which are afterwards done are
truly said to be wholly his. Meanwhile, we deny not the truth of
Augustine's doctrine, that the will is not destroyed, but rather
repaired, by grace - the two things being perfectly consistent, viz.,
that the human will may be said to be renewed when its vitiosity and
perverseness being corrected, it is conformed to the true standard of
righteousness and that, at the same time, the will may be said to be
made new, being so vitiated and corrupted that its nature must be
entirely changed. There is nothing then to prevent us from saying, that
our will does what the Spirit does in us, although the will contributes
nothing of itself apart from grace. (Institutes of the Christian
Covenants, in theology, are the
promises which God makes to human beings and which are recorded in the
Bible. The Puritans emphasized the covenant of works, which was in the
control of human beings, and the covenant of grace, which was in God's
power to bestow. There are many other covenants, such as the covenant
of redemption, the agreement between God the Father and the Son
concerning the salvation of man. The covenants or God's promises not
only make clear to men and women what their duties are but also force
them to face their inferiority--because of their corrupted natures,
they are incapable of fulfilling their duties to God. The covenants did
not affect just the Puritans' religious life: "This emphasis on
contractual relationships became a controlling metaphor for Puritans in
their social as well as their religious thought" (Francis J. Bremer, Encyclopedia
The covenant of grace is God's
promise to send his Spirit to the elect so that they believe in Jesus
Christ as the Son of God. The basis of this covenant is the frequently
repeated statement in the Bible, " I will be your God, and ye shall be
my people." This covenant restores man to a normal relation with God.
Left to themselves, men and women would continue to reject or rebel
against God; their refusing salvation means that Christ died in vain.
But since the covenant of redemption promises that Christ's suffering
would redeem humanity, God sends the Holy Spirit to the elect to enable
them to repent, to have faith, and and to be eligible for eternal life.
The Puritans saw grace as a gift from a
kind and loving God; human beings were unworthy to receive salvation
because of their depraved natures. As Augustine comments, "You are
nothing in yourself, sin is yours, merit God's. Punishment is your due;
and when the reward shall come, God shall crown his own gifts, not your
The covenant of works is God's
promise to Adam. In return for perfect obedience, he would merit God's
reward. The reward in this covenant does not result from grace; rather,
it is a debt owed to Adam for keeping his part of the covenant.
Unfortunately, Adam failed to keep the covenant and "after the fall,
the free gifts on which salvation depends were withdrawn, and natural
gifts corrupted and defiled" (Calvin).
Glorification unites the
soul with God after death; also, the elect will form a community of
Grace. See the covenant of grace.
conversion or being born again. Justification, which is the mark of
election, rehabilitates depraved human nature; however, conversion does
not overcome it, so that the individual may relapse into unregenerate
behavior. The abililty to persevere in righteousness is bestowed by God
and is given as He pleases.
Natural depravity refers to
human nature; that is, every human being is by nature corrupt and
perverted as a result of Adam and Eve's fall. Calvin is unsparing in
his description of natural depravity,
the mind of man is so
entirely alienated from the righteousness of God that he cannot
conceive, desire, or design any thing but what is wicked, distorted,
foul, impure, and iniquitous; that his heart is so thoroughly envenomed
by sin that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and rottenness;
that if some men occasionally make a show of goodness, their mind is
ever interwoven with hypocrisy and deceit, their soul inwardly bound
with the fetters of wickedness.
It is because of natural depravity that
human beings are, in Calvin's words, "the authors of their own
or regenreated describes the converted individual; regeneration
is, a sovereign gift of God, graciously bestowed. Only God can
determine who should be saved In their fallen state, men and women may
mistakenly think that they can reform at will and return to God; this
delusion counteracts God's plan and denies God's omnipotence. As Dr.
Warfield says, ''Sinful man stands in need, not of inducements or
assistance to save himself, but precisely of saving; and Jesus Christ
has come not to advise, or urge, or woo, or help him to save himself,
but to save him." The individual is passive during this transforming
process. The glory is all God's.
leading the life of a saint out of gratitude for God's grace.
term unregenerate describes the individual who has not
experienced God's assisting grace and conversion and so continues to be
alienated from God.
Vocation is God's call to
social, economic, civil, and religious roles or behavior. Individuals
must use their talents, which come from God, wholeheartedly in
fulfilling a call; however, they must not carry their behavior to
extremes. Richard Baxter (1615-1691) explains the danger of excessive
behavior, "Overdoing is the most ordinary way of undoing."
Providence is an important concept for
Defoe, who was raised a Puritan and remained one throughout his life.
His religious belief is one of the few consistencies in his life. The
depth of his belief in Providence is suggested by the fact that the Oxford
English Dictionary (the OED) illustrates three different
meanings for the word with quotations from his writings:
Crusoe refers to Providence throughout the
novel; his shifting from one meaning to another as occasion warrants is
reflected in his sometimes capitalizing the word and sometimes not.
- The foreknowing and beneficent care
and government of God (or of nature); divine direction, control, or
If you would like more information on
religious topics, you could start by exploring some of these sites:
Bible Study Tools
A collection of reference works: a Bible,
encyclopedias, dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, and histories.
Scriptura! A Reformed Theology Resource
A discussion of theological topics, ranging from
God and Calvinism to The Covenant and Eschtology. Articles by different
writers and perspectives.
An authoratative site with a clear, detailed
summary of the history of Christianity in England. It makes clear the
development of the various Protestant sects, including Puritanism,
their differences, and their changes over time.
| Day 1 (W, Sept. 4)
|Day 2 (M, Sept. 9)
||Defoe, Robinson Crusoe,
“Preface” - "I Build My Fortress"
Overview of Daniel Defoe
Overview of Robinson Crusoe
The Sources of Robinson Crusoe
|Day 3 (W, Sept. 11)
|| Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, "The
Journal" - "I Am Very Seldom Idle"
Increase Mather, Remarkable
|Day 4 (T, Sept. 17)
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, "I Make Myself a
Canoe" - "I See the Wreck..."
|Day 5 (W, Sept. 18)
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, "I Hear the First
Sound..." - "We Quell..."
Religion in Robinson
Web paper due
|Day 6 (M, Sept. 23)
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, "We Seize the
Ship" - "I Revisit My Island"
Robinson Crusoe as Economic