Puritans honored God above all, and a Puritan’s first duty was to serve God. A Puritan would not do what he thought was good, but what was good in God’s sight; making the word of God rule his worship. His role was to serve God, and as long as he did that he would be able to cooperate with the rest of the Puritan society. To understand the role of an individual in a Puritan society, you have to first understand the Puritans.
The Puritans had many rules that served as guidelines to keep them on task. They were anything but ostentatious; everything about the Puritans was simple and clean. They would wear simple clothes and keep their hair short; that way time wasn’t wasted picking out an outfit or combing hair. The less time they spent on themselves, the more time they could spend on God. Games like shuffleboard were also looked down upon. If they were caught playing shuffleboard they could be fined five shillings, and twenty if they owned the house it was played in. Playing games was a sin of idleness, meaning that they were wasting time on something other than work.
Shopkeepers and merchants couldn’t sell their items at whatever price they pleased. They couldn’t sell their items for anymore than six pence above the price they paid for them. One example was a case in 1639 that involved a merchant named Robert Keayne. He was accused of amassing unfair profits by overcharging his goods, and was fined 100 pounds. The rules I have mentioned here are just a handful of their laws.
In 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Company set sail to the New World in hope of reforming the Church of England. While crossing the Atlantic, John Winthrop, the puritan leader of the great migration, delivered perhaps the most famous sermon aboard the Arbella, entitled "A Model of Christian Charity." Winthrop's sermon gave hope to puritan immigrants to reform the Church of England and set an example ...
The Puritans were notorious for the Salem witch trials, in which innocent people were hung for crimes they never committed. The biggest thing that got people killed was the finger pointing. If your neighbor didn’t like you for some reason or another he might simply accuse you; and then you would be taken to jail, given an unfair trial, and executed. So to avoid problems a Puritan would want to avoid making enemies. The woods were considered haunted by spirits, so to avoid rumors being started Puritans could simply stay out of the woods. Another thing that might help a Puritan would be to go along with it and very lightly praise the hanging of witches. This way it didn’t look like you were against it.
In the paragraphs above I have mentioned several things that a Puritan would have to do to keep up their appearance in society. A good Puritan would set up discipline in his family and desire it in his church, he would be cautious in promising, avoid costliness and vanity, and above all serve God. Since the Puritans believed in predestination, and the ones chosen to go to heaven were saints, everyone wanted to be those saints, and tried to act like saints. Therefore the perfect role of an individual in Puritan society was the role of a saint.
Geree, John. The Character of an Old English Puritan, or Non – Conformist. 1995
http://www.cet.com/~mtr/GereeChar.html. (15 April 2002).
Leon, Bruno. Puritanism. Sandiego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc. 1994.
Wilson, John D. “Puritans”. World Book Encyclopedia. 1990.