Models of Living
Puritan religion and eighteenth century Deist thinking are two different movements. The ideas expressed in each of these movements follow the same guidelines but with different principles when describing how one should act through their daily lives. Whether it be through following the expectations of God or through self improvement, Puritan and Deist thinking go through different ways to live by to be the best person one should be. The Puritan way of life was a religious way of thinking that was driven by one underlining thought, God rules all.
To be more specific Puritans expressed God as a way of life where “scriptures alone reveal the divine origin.” This origin is that God was the creator of the earth and decides all the good; everyone should strive to live their lives through faith as described in scripture. With this notion and way of life one would have a contract with God, living every day to show their faith to Him.
Everything that happens is done because God wanted it as if He were testing the faith of the individual. As authors began to produce more writing on Puritan thinking they were written as poems, sermons, and narratives. Authors such as John Winthrop, Anne Bradstreet, and Michael Wigglesworth were all Puritans who had different methods expressing the word of God, faith, and the religious aspect of the Puritan model of living.
John Winthrop, a lawyer by trade, used the Puritan way of teaching as a objective approach to live by in A Model of Christian Charity. Winthrop poses questions in certain situations that have dealt with every day issues. Each question is followed by a solution where at times a rebuttal is even given to questions that may have different outcomes. In this way Winthrop explains his model as questioning and answering ways of life and merely quoting scripture as his proof to explain reasonings. One life model that he lists is to “Do good to all, especially to the household of faith” (Winthrop 168) and proves this statement with more scripture, “If thine Enemy hungry, feed him, Love your enemies , do good to them that you, Matthew:5.44” (Winthrop 168). At the end of Winthrop’s back and forth of life decisions he states, “Therefor let us choose life, that we and our seed may live by obeying his voice…” (Winthrop 177), which summarizes that in daily life one shall follow the expectations that God has set as a way of life. Bradstreet then expresses how faith should be taken, even when God inflicts pain, in her three elegies to her grandchildren.
In these poems she uses her faith as a way to attempt to avoid sorrow for their deaths, “Is by His hand alone that guides nature and fate.” (Bradstreet 230, 14). Through each elegy that Bradstreet writes her pain and grief grows stronger while each poem gets shorter. Although the pain increases, Bradstreet brought herself back to faith by stating, “He will return and make up for all our losses, And smile again after our bitter crosses.” (Bradstreet 231, 9-10). Bradstreet goes through a transformation of complete faith to it being shattered. Through all her pain Bradstreet uses the Puritan way of thinking and embraces faith towards God to keep going through life. Lastly Wigglesworth’s Day of Doom, depicts the fate that could be shown by the hand of God if you did not exercise Puratism seriously in day to day life. The use of fear was the main strategy to preach the religion, “They cry, they roar for anguish sore… Depart to hell, there may you yell and roar eternally.” (Wigglesworth 253, 1635-1640)
Eighteen-century Deist thinking was a movement that did not follow the previous religious movement of Puratism. This religious movement believed in the existence of God, but did not follow his teachings laid out by scripture. Instead it was the belief that God left the world in the hands of man to control the outcomes. The Laws of Nature, physics, science, and other types of analysis methods were ideas that help back Deist thinking. The enlightenment period of deism had “the promise of solving personal, intellectual, social, political, and spiritual problems…” (Viney 83). Puritans greatly disliked this method of life because it directly inverted their own beliefs that unlocking the rules of the world was in Gods own hands, not by ours. Writers such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson contributed to this new upcoming way of thinking. Benjamin Franklin in The Autobiography put together a new model of life in which to follow. The idea behind this came from looking critically to his ancestors, developing ideas with an ordering system and then testing his theory to reach a conclusion. In his model he sets forth a model of living to live with the greatest possible potential through self improvement; “It was about this time that I conceiv’d the bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection” (Franklin 534). The self improvement that Franklin suggests is a daily routine that uses critical thinking and analysis to determine how well one’s life is. One should strive to hold values of virtue to thirteen different elements which includes things such as silence, order, and humility.
All these types of virtues must be improved day by day in order to improve one’s life. Jefferson then contributes his effort in the Deist movement with The Declaration of Independence. “…with the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitled them… requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” (663) Here Jefferson uses this document to describe the existence of God but to further describe that God gave the earth to mankind. With the earths outcomes in the hands of man they are entitled to change the effects they have on it. Jefferson does this by saying “… by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights… to secure these rights governments are instituted among men…” (663). Jefferson is proven a Deist thinker because he uses this statement to explain that the establishment of a government is the right of man given by God. Puritan thinking and the eighteenth-century Deist thinking conflicted in many ways. Although both acknowledged the existence of God, it was only through the Puritan model of living that used the teachings of God to explain that what happens is through His actions. On the other hand Deist thinking believes that Gd left the earth to mankind and it is by the actions of man they can pursue their own way of life. This is viewed through the literature in those times as well. Puritan texts has great influence on faith in God and using scripture as proof of how to fulfill your day to day life, such as Winthrop’s work. In turn Franklin describes a way of living where you give yourself self examination, not through religious practice with God, but with virtues and a self-guide to happiness through order. In conclusion, both ways of thinking express different ways to proceed through every ay life. The literature expressed by the mentioned authors details their thinkings and the best way to live under those methods.
Hicks, Tom. “Life in Christ”, October 29, 2010, http://lifeinchrist-tom.blogspot.com/2010/10/some-puritan-social-theory.html: 20. Oct 2013 Reidhead, Julia. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 8th ed. Vol. A: New York, 2012. Print Viney, Donald Wayne. “American Deism, Christianity, and the Age of Reason”, American Journal of Theology & Philosophy 31.2 (2010): 21. Oct 2013
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