Puritan life is probably one of the biggest paradoxes known to man theoretically. In practice is doesn’t seem like such an absurd notion. There are certain things that may lead someone into confusion over the way that Puritan life was conducted. One of these things is the object of holiness. This means that only certain members are allowed into the Puritan life after proving themselves holy. Another object that may cause confusion is the idea of enjoying oneself in Puritan life. Recreation did occur in Puritan life, but the definition of Puritan recreation is differently defined.
One more object of confusion in Puritan life is the type of Puritan in which you are stereotyped into depending of your actions regarding your religion. Although this might sound complicated it is not as intricate as it is written. For Puritan’s this was a way of life. This tells us that, in practice, all of these social theories are probably more plausible than they sound. Winthrop did encounter all of these problems in his journey from England to Massachusetts, and them encountered some of these while he was in control of the society there. Holiness.
It means, for the puritans, that you are one of the chosen by god. Although it does not guarantee you entrance into God’s holy kingdom, it does mean that at least while you are on Earth, God has chosen you to be one of his people. This is one of the burdens that fell upon Winthrop. Who was holy enough to become part of society? He knew that he was holy because, he had come this far by living a completely Puritan life, and he had already become part of the church, which meant that he had passed all of the tests required to prove your holiness.
But this did not apply to Massachusetts that was supposed to be a new land governed completely under the laws of God. In this case certain new tests had to be made in order to prove your holiness, but who really had the authority to, and who would decide when someone was worthy. This trouble Winthrop because the only reference he had for this task was the Bible. And although that was the law of the land, it did not specify who was wholly and who wasn’t.
Therefore Winthrop decided to let participate, in government, those who their individual churches had deemed as a part of Puritan society. Although this did not seem to trouble Winthrop too much, such errors in the selection of members were made such as Anne Hutchinson, which later became a threat to the balance of Massachusetts, and Roger Williams, which also became a threat to society. In present day life Puritans are portrayed as drab lifeless people. But in reality Puritans enjoyed their lives very well.
There were certain limitations to what Puritans could actually enjoy. They had to follow certain rules that are paradoxes in themselves. One of these, which Winthrop encountered, was that you could enjoy all Godly gifts, but you could abuse them, or let them control your life. You could also get married, but you could not devote yourself to your wife 100% because your focus must always be on God. You could also have fun, but not overwhelm yourself with joy, since the only thing that you could overwhelm yourself in was God.
All of these things sound extremely overwhelming, and it seems as though there could be no possible way of doing all of this without committing suicide. Winthrop was forced to manage this, and learned the art of controlling God’s earthly possessions without letting them control him. Winthrop also had to learn to deny himself of all temptations that were not godly. Through all of this, Winthrop still smoked his pipe everyday, because he enjoyed good tobacco, he also liked hunting, but stopped because he was a lousy shot.
Winthrop also married various times because his wives were always giving him a few kids then dying. This was also a part of Puritan life, being able to re-marry, without too much worry. This does not mean that Winthrop did not love his wives; it just means that there could not be any strong attachment to any other person, or object, unless it was God. Although this might seem pretentious of puritan society, it is still the way that they lived their lives. There is one superfluous idea in all of this though; puritans had to devote their live solely around God.
If they were able to accomplish this then God would provide all other things needed for living. The last and maybe the most intricate of Puritan paradoxes are the social or religious class that you could be stereotyped into by the actions that you took towards your fellow puritans. The first is whether you were an separatist, which is described as a puritan who believed the Anglican Church was far beyond mending any social ties, and denounced the church and all that it stood for, then left England so to make your own churches wherever you saw fit.
The other once you had decide whether you would leave England denouncing the church, or leaving under the King’s permission and hoping to mend England through foreign example, was whether you became an isolationist. This meant that once you had established your church at where you saw fit, you also had the idea that the entire world was not pure enough to be part of you society, so you blocked yourself and you society from the outside world; no commercial trading, or any interaction with foreign government (China tried this around the 15-16th century, but they failed miserably, because the whole world advanced way beyond China.
If you had not taken either the isolationist, or the separatist path, then you had to decide whether you were a congregational puritan or a Presbyterian puritan. Congregational puritans (Winthrop, believed that the people could govern themselves, and did not want ministers or holy men to control the government. Presbyterians were those who were ministers who wanted to rule government, or were a group controlled by ministers. Presbyterians were one of Winthrop’s largest hindrances during the early 1640’s, since if they were to take rule they would probably revoke his charter since he was leading a very congregational colony.
Although puritan life was filled with a superseding contradictions and dissenting ideas, the puritans were still not a society compacted in ennui. In fact puritans led a pretty full life with many distractions from their Godly submersions. Winthrop although not breaking any of the rules allowed by god he still led a complete life. He married various times, had many children, as was still able to maintain a colony, which in some ways was a foreshadowing of the current democracy under which we live in today.
All of these paradoxes in puritan life may seem like a very elaborate way to live, but that is only in theory. In reality all puritan life was about is: boundaries. They had to know the boundaries in which they could live by and what laws of God they could live around. In a substantial way their lives were much like ours, except that we do not have to live our live solely based around the concept of god, or the biblical laws. In our day and age we have the freedom to choose what laws we can live by, or what god we choose to follow.
Our boundaries though, are not the written laws of the Bible, Koran, Torah, or any other religious books of teachings. Our boundaries in the U. S. is the Constitution of the United States, and any state or federal laws which are passed to limit or to expand our freedoms. To some this isn’t fair, to others it is more that enough, and for those who want more, I can only say one thing, “If you want more laws live like a Puritan, so that you can enjoy the freedoms that you already possess, but take for granted! “