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Bible Dictionaries
Puritans

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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In England, the term Puritans was applied to those who wished for a farther degree of reformation in the church than was adopted by Queen Elizabeth; and a purer form, not of faith, but of discipline and worship. It was a common name given to all who, from conscientious motives, though on different grounds, disapproved of the established religion, from the reformation under Elizabeth, to the Act of Uniformity in 1662. From that time to the revolution in 1688, as many as refused to comply with the established worship, (among whom were about two thousand clergymen, and perhaps five hundred thousand people,) were denominated Nonconformists. From the passing of the Act of Toleration on the accession of William and Mary, the name of Nonconformists was changed to that of Protestant Dissenters. Prior to the grand rebellion in 1640, the Puritans were, almost without exception, Episcopalians; but after the famous "League and Covenant" of those turbulent times the greater part of them became Presbyterians. Some, however, were Independents, and some Baptists. The objections of the latter were more fundamental; they disapproved of all national churches, as such, and disavowed the authority of human legislation in matters of faith and worship. The persecutions carried on against the Puritans during the reigns of Elizabeth and the Stuarts served to lay the foundation of a new empire, and eventually a vast republic, in the western world. Thither, as into a wilderness, they fled from the face of their persecutors; and, being protected in the free exercise of their religion, continued to increase, until at length they became an independent nation. The different principles, however, on which they had originally divided from the church establishment at home, operated in a way that might have been expected, when they came to the possession of the civil power abroad. Those who formed the colony of Massachusetts having never relinquished the principle of a national church, and of the power of the civil magistrate in matters of faith and worship, were less tolerant than those who settled at New Plymouth, at Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations. The very men who had just escaped the persecutions of the English prelates, now, in their turn, persecuted others who dissented from them; until, at length, the liberal system of toleration established in the parent country at the revolution, extended to the colonies, and in a good measure put an end to these censurable proceedings.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Puritans'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​p/puritans.html. 1831-2.
 
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