THE PURITANS OR THE ABORTIONISTS?
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
The entire evangelical movement came out of Puritanism, every Protestant and every Baptist. Yet we know little about them except what we hear from prejudiced and ignorant sources. I think we need to go back and restudy the Puritans - and I'll tell you why I think so at the end of this article.
The Puritans get bad-mouthed by the modern world. That shouldn't surprise us. A society like ours, that has murdered 42 million children in the name of women's liberation, cannot be expected to understand or appreciate real Christianity. This generation, dripping with the blood of human babies, cannot be expected to love the Puritans.
And yet, there are those among us who should love them, and who would profit by doing so, if our minds had not been prejudiced against them by an abortionist society.
The Puritans get a "bad rap" because they are all lumped together, and treated like they were exactly the same. This, of course, comes out of a general ignorance of who they were.
For instance, you will hear people say that the Puritans were all narrow-minded five-point Calvinists. But they weren't. Richard Baxter has often been called "Mr. Puritan." He wrote 168 books, and was undoubtedly the most influential Puritan writer of all time. Yet Baxter was not a five-point Calvinist. Even those who were completely Calvinistic have a great deal of good to say on many subjects.
Others will tell you that the Puritans were Pharisaical hypocrites. They generally get that idea from reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Most people who read Hawthorne's novel don't realize that it was written two hundred years after the original Puritans. Writing in the nineteenth century, Hawthorne knew very little about actual Puritan life. Furthermore, Hawthorne deliberately wrote the story as an attack on Protestant Christianity, which he hated. He wrote about a Puritan past that "repelled him," having "thrown out the last vestige" of Protestantism ( Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 edition, volume 11, p. 280). The Encyclopedia Britannica says, " The Scarlet Letter is not a Puritan document" (ibid.). Hawthorne was a strange, solitary man, given to moodiness and melancholy. He hated Christianity. No wonder he wrote against the Puritans!
There are others who will remind you of the Salem witch trials, and tell you that this was typical of the Puritans. They are often quite ignorant of the facts, however. I asked one person how many he thought were persecuted in the witch trials. "Oh, thousands of witches," he said. It was actually 19 people in a one-and-a-half-year period, in one small area of New England. It should be remembered that the Puritan movement went on for over two hundred years, in Britain, the European Continent, and the United States, without anything like this ever occurring before or afterwards. It should also be remembered that it was the Puritans themselves who stopped the witch trials and banned them. It is as ignorantly bigoted to blame all the Puritans for this one event as it is to blame all the Jews throughout history for the crucifixion of Christ. You simply cannot honestly blame all Puritanism for this one tragic event.
Intolerance toward the Puritans has also been expressed by the secular humanist teachers in our post-modern, anti-Christian school system. These God-hating teachers take every opportunity to attack Christianity in general, and particularly Puritanism. One college student said to me,
In my U.S. History class the teacher taught that the Puritans that lived in the thirteen original colonies did not practice religious tolerance and punished anyone that disagreed with their beliefs. Is that true or is it exaggerated?
It is true - and yet it is a one-sided view, as most modern attacks are. Yes, many of the New England Puritans were intolerant of other religions. Yet it was a New England Puritan, not a California Democrat, who gave us the modern concept of religious tolerance! It was a New England Puritan named Roger Williams (1604-1684) who gave us the concept of religious liberty. The Encyclopedia Britannica calls Williams the "founder of the colony of Rhode Island in America and pioneer of religious libertyWilliams and his companions founded the settlement upon the basis of complete religious toleration" (ibid., volume 23, p. 625). The attack is this: the Puritans were not tolerant of other religions. The fact is this: Puritans like Roger Williams created the religious liberty that became part of our American way of life.
A Christless, secular age like ours must be expected to hate and reject the Puritans. A society that murders 4 out of 7 black babies, and condemns and upholds the slaughter of one-and-a-half million children of all races each year, through the American Abortion Holocaust, is not going to be a society that loves the Puritans - or any other Christian group! Christianity stands in the way of their hedonism and neo-pagan humanism. The Puritans stand as silent witnesses against the savagery and godlessness of the modern world.
Let those who harshly judge the Puritans remember that some day our own culture will be judged. Two hundred years from now someone will look back at America and criticize us, and our beliefs, and our way of life - and our churches. Let us not think, in our arrogance and pride, that we today will escape the critical eye of a future generation. How will we fare, when compared to the Puritans? I think you know the answer without me telling you.
I think Christians today should restudy the Puritans, particularly their view of conversion. The Puritans knew how to lead people into a real conversion experience. I recommend that you read The Soul's Humiliation and The Soul's Preparation for Christ, both by Thomas Hooker (1586-1647). They can be ordered through International Outreach, P.O. Box 1286, Ames, Iowa 50014. Phone (515)292-9594. I also recommend Seeking God: Jonathan Edwards' Evangelism Contrasted With Modern Methodologies. Phone (515)292-9594 to order it.
For a general understanding of the Puritans, I recommend Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were, by Leland Ryken, Zondervan, 1986, and I especially recommend The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Banner of Truth, 1996. For an historical evaluation of how Charles G. Finney changed the message of the Puritans and ruined evangelism, read chapter 14 of Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, by Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth, 1994. Our book, Today's Apostasy, is entirely devoted to the subject of Finney's errors and their serious consequences today. You can order it by sending $15.95 to P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Be sure to include a note, ordering the book by name. Or you can order it over the phone at (818) 352-0452.