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The Puritans and John Bunyan

Puritanism occurred in England and in America.  There are many varieties of Puritanism.

The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries (1500’s and 1600’s) who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and should become more Protestant.

Two forms:

  • Puritan – stay in, and reform, the Church of England.
  • Separatist – (came a bit later) break away and form a new denomination. The Pilgrims (that came to America, 1620) were Separatists.

Puritanism was fairly pervasive, but not organized in America. Here’s a nice paragraph from

By the beginning of the 18th century, Puritanism had both declined and shown its tenacity. Though “the New England Way” evolved into a relatively minor system of organizing religious experience within the broader American scene, its central themes recur in the related religious communities of Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists and a whole range of evangelical Protestants.

Hence, the freedom of religion and the rest is a fairly-positive history.

Rulers in England

Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) lenient ruler. Separatists somewhat tolerated.

James I (r. 1603-1625) also fairly lenient, favoring wisdom. Separatists somewhat tolerated. He sponsored the King James Bible which was published in 1611. (He had a different Roman numeral after his name as King of Scotland.)

Charles I (r. 1625-1649) rougher and more authoritarian. Begins anti-puritan theology. Separatists not tolerated.  Charles I was beheaded in 1649.

Arminianism, a theological movement in Protestant Christianity that arose as a liberal reaction to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. Puritans were more Calvinistic. Charles I wanted to make the Anglican Church (Church of England) more Arminian and less ‘reformed’ – and not Puritan.

English Civil War(s) (1642–1651) Puritans sided with the Parliamentarians, against Charles I. Three civil wars. In the 1650’s, there was no monarch, and due to in-fighting among various factions in Parliament, Oliver Cromwell (a puritan, who was a military leader for the Parliamentarians) ruled over the Protectorate as Lord Protector (effectively a military dictator, 1653-1658) until his death in 1658. The Interregnum (literally meaning “between reign” in Latin) was the period between the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649 and the arrival of his son Charles II in London on 29 May 1660 which marked the start of the Restoration.

Charles II (r. 1660-1685) Restoration of the monarchy. 1662 – the Great Ejection.

A result was 2 groups: Latitudinarians, who wanted peace and favored more pluralism; and Intensified Puritanism.

Also, many dissenting groups formed. Harsh persecution of dissenters, including John Bunyan. Under Charles II there was persecution of the separatists.

James II (r. 1685-1688) deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

William III (r. 1689-1702)

Presbyterians and Congregationalists

The Presbyterians and Congregational churches grew out of Puritan thought. Presbyterians and Congregationalists arrived in colonial America as Dissenters; however, they soon exercised a religious and cultural dominance that extended well into the first half of the nineteenth century. More information.

John Bunyan

1628 – 1688 At the age of sixteen joined the Parliamentary Army during the first stage of the English Civil War. After three years in the army he returned to Elstow and took up the trade of tinker.

Trial and Imprisonment: As Bunyan refused to agree to give up preaching, his period of imprisonment eventually extended to 12 years (in Bedford County Gaol) and brought great hardship to his family (wife Elizabeth). There were however occasions when he was allowed out of prison, depending on the gaolers and the mood of the authorities at the time, and he was able to attend the Bedford Meeting and even preach. While in prison, he wrote Grace Abounding and started work on The Pilgrim’s Progress, as well as penning several tracts that may have brought him a little money.  In 1671, while still in prison, he was chosen as pastor of the Bedford Meeting. By that time there was a mood of increasing religious toleration in the country and in March 1672 the king (still Charles II) issued a declaration of indulgence which suspended penal laws against nonconformists. Thousands of nonconformists were released from prison, amongst them Bunyan and five of his fellow inmates of Bedford Gaol. Bunyan was freed in May 1672 and immediately obtained a license to preach under the declaration of indulgence.

Once free, he preached widely. In 1676-7 he underwent a second term of imprisonment, probably for refusing to attend the parish church.

  • Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), evangelical preacher who sparked the First Great Awakening (Congregationalist) was a puritan. Edwards played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening.
  • Cotton Mather (1663-1728] what is Puritan.
  • William Penn (1644-1718) what is a Quaker, an offshoot of the Puritans was founder of the Province of Pennsylvania.


Video here (27 min).

Need to add/include:

Westminster Assembly