A Portrait of the 'Typical Puritan"

“The typical Puritan was married and had a family. The family was “well-ordered“ and hierarchical in authority. The husband/father was the accountable head of the family, especially in religious exercises, although the wife/mother had her spheres of authority. The education of the children and family worship (especially Bible reading and prayer) received high priority in this Puritan family.

Much of the family’s religious life centered around the local church. It was under the church’s auspice that doctrine and was inculcated, corporate worship took place, and children were catechized. The church is not so much a building as a group of believers joined together under the pervasive influence of the pastor. A midweek home meeting would’ve been a standard part of church life whenever the political authorities would have allowed such meetings.

The weekly routine for the typical Puritan was a busy affair. Life was a serious matter, and there was no time for idleness. The average Puritan believed that hard work was a virtue and that God called every individual to perform worldly business in a Christian, moral manner. He or she felt no guilt about every day work nor about the money that it might produce. The high point of the week was Sunday. Sports on this day were absolutely prohibited. The family attended church twice each Sunday and assembled after dinner and/or in the evening to repeat the key points of the sermons.

If we had worked beside this typical Puritan or been a neighbor he or she would have impressed us as being religious but not odd. He or she would not have been distinguished by appearance. As Samuel Willard noted, “the children of God. . . . outwardly . . . look like other men, they eat, drink, labour, converse in earthly employments, as others do; do; the communion which they have with God in all of these is a secret thing. The typical Puritan dressed as other members of the same social class did. Conversation would have turned much of the time to topics of Christian belief and experience.

Overall, the typical Puritan would have impressed us as hard-working, thrifty, serious, moderate, practical in outlook, doctrinaire in religious and political matters, well informed about the latest political and ecclesiastical developments, argumentative, well-educated, and thoroughly familiar with the content of the Bible. To attain all this, Puritans had to be self disciplined. For anyone prone to laxity in these matters, being around a Puritan would of course have made one uncomfortable, and therein lies a partial explanation of why the Puritans have been so strongly attacked by people not sharing their outlook and lifestyle.”

From by Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints, 19-20.