It is likely that Matthew and John Whipple left the English church and became Puritans before moving to New England. Essex county where they lived was a hot bed of Puritanism with large numbers of preachers, including Nathaniel Rogers, curate to Dr. John Barkham, rector and dean of Bockings St. Mary’s church.
The Whipple settled in Ipswich, Mass. in September 1638 where Rogers was ordained February 20, 1637-8 approximately six months before their arrival. Rogers succeeded Nathaniel Ward who was rector of Little Leighs in Essex county and served as pastor at Ipswich, 1634-37.
Their activity in the Ipswich church –John was elected Deacon in 1642 and became Ruling Elder in 1658– leads me to believe they embraced Puritanism before leaving England and probably attended a nonconformist church where the minister bravely ignored the ceremonies ordained by the bishops.
The following describes Puritanism as embraced by the English who disagreed with high church practices and led many of its followers to leave England. It is a lengthy read but I think you will find it interesting and worth your time. I welcome your comments. See Comment section at the end of the article.
Early in his reign (1625-49), Charles I caused the 39 Articles “for the avoiding of diversities of opinions, and for the establishing of consent touching true religion” agreed to in 1562 be reprinted, circulated throughout the land, and decreed that all residents conform. The Articles are included in the Blog on “The Evolution of Whipple Family Religion.”
By elevating William Laud to Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 (served until 1645), he showed further determination to enforce absolute conformity to his high church views. In 1637, three men of thoroughly respectable origin – William Prynne, a barrister, Henry Burton, a former court chaplain dismissed for his Puritanism, and John Bastwich, a doctor of medicine — issued a series of pamphlets against the Archbishop. Among their pamphlets were News from Ipswich, For God and the King, Flagellun Pontificis, and The Litany of John Bastwich. They attacked Laud in terms that ensured wide readership. The result was trial in the Star Chamber with a sentence of life imprisonment, a fine of £5,000 each, and loss of ears. This action greatly inflamed feeling against Laud and the three were regarded as living martyrs by Puritans who dipped sponges and handkerchiefs in their blood – hardly consistent considering Puritan opinion on the relics of Catholicism.
In December 1637. Laud’s agents captured John Lilburne, the “notoriousest dispenser of scandalous books in the kingdom.” When Lilburne was sentenced to be whipped through the streets and set in the pillory, it reaffirmed belief that reform of the church was hopeless and that Puritan life in England was impossible.
PURITAN MINISTERS FROM ESSEX COUNTY
Essex County ministers Richard Rogers organized congregational prayer meetings, composed treatises on Christian life, and generally set an example for fellow converts and his nephew John of Wetherfield who had the ability to bring trembling and sudden conversions to his hearers, were leaders of the Essex Puritan movement.
Other Puritan pastors from Essex included: Thomas Weld, vicar of Terlin, later pastor at Roxbury, Mass. (1632-41); Thomas Hooker who preached at Chelmsford until silenced by Laud became a minister at Newtown (later Cambridge, Mass.) until moving to Hartford, Conn. in 1636; Thomas Shepard, pastor at Earle’s Colne near Coggeshall became the minister at Newtown in 1636; Daniel Rogers, son of Richard, was a lecturer at Wetherfield until suspended by Laud in 1629; Nathaniel Ward, rector of Little Leighs; curate Nathaniel Rogers, Bocking St. Marys’ church; Stephen Marshall, vicar of Finchinfield; Samuel Wharton, vicar of Felsted; and John Beadle, rector of Little Leighs (he submitted to Laud in 1633). Martin Holbeach, a prominent Puritan was Headmaster of Felsted school where a number of prominent Puritans were educated. Felsted, Finchinfeld, and Wetherfield were all in the Hinkford Hundred, as was Bocking. Earle’s Colne was nearby. Essex produced the second highest number of emigrants from England with 244 residents migrating to the American colonies between 1620 and 1650.
THE BIBLE WAS THE COMPLETE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY
Puritans believed the Bible was the complete religious authority; that the original texts of the 66 books of the old and new testaments were the only authority to be recognized; that the principles of all truth and a complete guide to life were found in scripture. Puritanism encompassed theology, ethics, economics, politics, ecclesiastical discipline, and academics. Scripture was a matter of harmony, not strife. Prayer was considered especially important. It was the means by which man might feel the power of God’s love. It need not be audible since God was all hearing but the voice might be used in private to prevent wandering and in public to attract people. No corrupting fancies of carnal reason were to be permitted in interpretation the Bible. In case of doubt they were to consider the context of the difficult passage, compare it with other parts of scripture, and fit it to the general pattern of faith as set forth in the Bible.
While Puritans believed the end of the world was eminent they were careful not to name an exact time. They believed the papacy was the Anti-Christ whose approaching final ruin would herald the great day of the Second Coming.
STANDARD PURITAN DAY
A standard Puritan day included family prayers and a survey of one’s spiritual estate. Recurring sermon days took the place of the festivals of the English church. They did not object to music in church if it aided proper worship. Psalm-singing commonly preceded and followed the sermon but only biblical passages were sung. The minister could preach the Word in his own phrases but the hymn-writer had to use those of the Holy spirit. Art was in the same category. It could be enjoyed in moderation at home and had its place in church if it did not perpetuate superstition or obstruct the scriptural message. Outside the church the Puritan remained generally indifferent to the fine arts.
Want in body caused one to feel the want in his soul and turned one to God. Consequently, they fasted frequently when nothing at all, except in case of necessity, was to be eaten for 24 hours. So far as possible, sleep was to be omitted. Other than times of fast, there was no disapproval of food, clothing, or sleep. Gorgeous, even sumptuous attire, was allowed to those of exalted station as necessary means of maintaining dignity and status.
In amusements, it was the abuse, not the use that was objectionable. Dancing, undeniably a biblical activity, helped keep the body healthy and limber. Like music, it was taught to children as part of their education and special dance steps were taken to New England.
Puritans were expected to obey superiors, love their neighbors, do works of charity, show compassion towards all men, have a calling and pursue it as zealously as the Christian life. Marriage was a divine institution ordained before the Fall and open to every man. To deny clergy, as Catholic doctrine did, the right to marry was more than flesh and blood could endure without sin. Therefore, ministers were expected to marry.
MAN WAS LORD AND MASTER
Man was exalted as lord and master. Women were the “weaker vessel,” made of poorer stuff and legally subject to husbands. The Bible made that clear. But rulership did not mean tyranny. The husband was to love and cherish his wife as his own flesh. She was not to be made into a drudge or ordered about like a servant but, like a judge, was joined with her husband to help rule his household. While English common law permitted a husband to beat his wife with a rod no bigger than his thumb, Puritans forbade this practice.
If a Puritan could not reform his wife without beating, “he is worth to be beaten for choosing no better; when he hath used all means that he may and yet she is like herself, he must take her for his cross and say with Jeremiah, ‘this is my cross and I will bear it.’ But if he strike her, he takes away his hand from her, which was the first part he gave her to join them together; and she may put up her complaint against him that he hath taken away part of her goods. Her cheeks are made for thy lips and not for thy fists.”
RIGID DISCIPLINE FOR Y0UTH
A Puritan youth would have refrained from smoking, read only the scriptures, spoke no ungodly word, and kept the Sabbath with careful piety. They would have renounced and repented every known sin. They would have studied God’s requirement as set forth in the Bible, realized their shortcomings, and “ripped up” their hearts in genuine penitence. They would have dissected their conscience, past and present, examined even the slightest failing or secret desire, and when the depth of their transgressions became apparent, they measured them with God’s standard. Only then did they realize the hopelessness of their situation if no outside aid were forthcoming.
In this state of “holy desperation,” convinced of the extreme sinfulness and inability to help himself, a Puritan cast himself wholly on the mercy of God. Then came peace and the assurance of salvation that by justifying faith he was numbered among the elect. The most important Puritan doctrine was predestination. From eternity God had predestined some to live and reprobated others to death. Man did nothing to deserve election. The will of God was the only cause. A limited and definite number were elected to be saved.
THE PURPOSE OF PREACHING
Most preachers probably followed the structure of the Puritan sermon developed by Bishop John Hooper, the father of nonconformity. The primary purpose of preaching was to present the claims of God on man through the criticism and comfort of the Gospel so the structure of the sermon had to be simple, memorable, and practical if it were to produce the light and heat, illumination of mind, and warning of affections required.
William Perkins, lecturer at St. Andrew’s Church, Cambridge, the most eminent Puritan scholar of Elizabethan times, said the preacher’s task was (1) to read the Text distinctly out of the Canonical Scriptures; (2) to give the sense and understanding of it being read, by the scripture itself; (3) to collect a few and profitable points of doctrine out of the natural sense; (4) to apply (if he have the gift) these doctrines rightly collected to the life and manners of men in a simple and plain speech.
He advised would-be ministers on voice and gesture: the voice to be moderate when inculcating the doctrine but “more fervent and vehement” in the exhortation. His general rule for gestures was they should be grave so the body may grace the messenger of God: “It is fit therefore that the trunk or stalk of the body be erect and quiet, all the other parts, as the arm, the hand, the face and eyes, have such motions as may express and (as it were) utter the godly affections of the heart. The lifting up of the eye and the hand signifieth confidence.
Religion was not associated with a sacred building as it was for Catholics and High Church Anglicans. They called their houses of worship meeting-houses, not churches. To them the word church referred exclusively to the company of God’s faithful people gathered to hear the reading and exposition of the oracles of God. Thus they could conceive of the “church in the house” as the gathering of persecuted Christians of the primitive church.
THE SERMON’S GOAL
The sermon’s goal was to change man’s mind to improve his behavior. Godliness, to know the will of God in order to follow it, was the paramount concern. Metaphors, similes, and exempla [a moral anecdote, brief or extended, real or fictitious, used to illustrate a point] provided the illustrations that were the windows of the sermon, illuminating the doctrine while sustaining interest, and provoking action.
They were to be delivered without a manuscript. Consequently Puritan preachers developed excellent memories. This allowed them to develop a firm structure, a clear progression, and the advantage of order and flexibility. By watching the congregation, they could explain further or add illustrations if they sensed incomprehension.
The Sunday morning service was based on six ordinances of the Apostolic church prayer, praise, the reading and preaching of the word, the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, catechizing, and the exercise of discipline. Authority for Apostolic worship was Acts 2:41-42. The types of prayer, supplications, intercessions, thanksgivings, were derived from 1 Timothy 2:Iff; invocation or adoration and confession from the example of the Lord’s Prayer; praise from Ephesians 5:19, with its reference to “psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.”
THE CENTRAL FEATURE OF WORSHIP
The proclamation of the Gospel was the central feature of worship. Its importance was attested to by the entire corpus of the Scriptures, which provided saving knowledge of God, especially II Corinthians 1:12 and Romans 10:14-15. Authority for the “Gospel Sacraments” was Matthew 28:19-20 and 1 Corinthians II:23-26. Though they rejected set sermons and set forms of prayer, they accepted a set form of words for catechism from II Timothy 1:13: “Keep the true pattern of the wholesome words which ye has heard of me in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” Matthew 18:15-18 and 18-2, I Corinthians 5:3, and the Third Epistle of John 10 allowed ecclesiastical censures by providing the complete procedure for admonishment, excommunications, and readmission of penitent offenders.
The Scriptures provided authority for their occasional ordinances. Prophesying were sanctioned by 1 Corinthians 14:1 and 31. If a day of humiliation was held for the expression of the people’s penitence following a great natural, political, or military calamity, the invariable order was fasting, prayer, and sermon, as in Acts 13:1-3 and 14:23.
God’s covenant, invariably read at baptismal services, was “to you and your children.” This recognition helped weld family life into an enduring solidarity in Christ. The head of the family promised at the baptism to supervise his children’s Christian nature and was duty bound to teach his children the Scriptures and to make sure they understood the main points of Christian doctrine, behavior, and worship. The father’s promise at baptism and his commitment in the covenant of church membership were God’s marching orders and these responsibilities must be accounted for to God at the Great Day of Judgment, thus validating his duty to be a prophet and priest to his own household.
The Puritan household was a little church with father conducting weekday prayers, morning and evening, for wife, children, servants, and apprentices. After return from Sunday worship, he rehearsed the children in their catechism, checked to see if they had memorized and understood the main points of the sermon, and read aloud from the Bible or some other godly books – usually the Book of Martyrs. This spirituality was mingled with the joy of psalm-singing to catchy tunes and motivated by the sense that this is exactly how God’s elect must live in a world of snares and traps laid by the ungodly, until regarded by entering the everlasting community of the friends of Christ.
As ruler of the household he was to train the children in the Puritan way. They were to remember the Fifth Commandment and obey their parents. There was no such thing as too much severity. To smile or laugh at naughty words or “unhonest” deeds was unacceptable. Education was important. Children were expected to read and write, “for it may be unto them a great help in the course of this life and a treasure of much greater account than money” to read the word of God “to their comfort and instruction to salvation. He that hath learning, although it be but small, shall much better understand the preachers and take endless comfort than he that hath no learning.” Parents were to choose schoolmasters carefully and pay them well, just as they would a good horse trainer.
When a Puritan child was punished, the father probably delivered one stroke with a hazel stick for each sin and then read to the child from Ecclesiastics: He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end…a horse not broken becometh headstrong…cocker thy child and he shall make thee afraid…give him no liberty in his youth…wink not at his follies…bow down his neck while he is young, and beat him on the sides while he is a child lest he was stubborn and disobedient…and so bring sorrow to thine heart.
Following the reading, the child was to affirm his full contrition and repentance and announce his determination never again to offend “our most loving God.”