The Region we refer to as ‘New England’ is made up of the 13 original British Colonies. Although we’ve learned that the U.S. is originally comprised of native peoples from North America and a number of different waves of immigrants from other parts of the world, we tend to think of these Europeans as being the original settlers of the New World that later became the U.S. The settlers in the New England colonies were the ones that spear-headed the Revolution that gave America its independence from Great Britain, and created this new country’s original governmental structure.
The first settlers however, did not come to the New World looking to separate from Great Britain, and each original colony had its own identity and reason for colonization. The original 13 colonies were independent of each other and rarely got along.
Here is a quick look at the original purpose for each colony:
*Virginia: Established in 1607 by the Virginia Company, this colony was an exploratory venture seeking to find what resources and riches were available in the New World.
* New York: Established in 1626 by the Dutch and surrendered to Great Britain in 1664. New York was originally involved in agriculture and the fur trade.
* Massachusetts: Established in 1630 by the Puritan Pilgrims who landed there in 1620. These Puritans sought to reform the Church of England and create a colony that would be a place of holiness and a shining example to the church and all mankind.
* New Hampshire: Established in 1623, this colony was originally set us as a fishing colony.
* Maryland: Established in 1633, this colony served as a safe haven for Catholics who were currently under persecution in Great Britain from the Church of England.
* Rhode Island: Established in 1636, this colony became a safe haven for Indians (who they believed to be the rightful owners of the land).
* Connecticut: Established in 1636, this colony was originally made up of Dutch Puritans from the Massachusetts Bay Colony looking for freedom, and to set up fur trading posts.
* Delaware: Established in 1638 as a Swedish colony.
* North Carolina: Established in 1653 by colonists from Virginia who were looking for gold. In exchange, this colony was given to 8 proprietors in 1663 who agreed to help King Charles retain his throne.
* South Carolina: Established in 1633 as part of the North Carolina Colony. It became a separate colony in 1729.
* New Jersey: Established in 1664, this colony was originally settled by the Dutch, Swedes and Finns.
* Pennsylvania: Established in 1682, this colony was the safe haven for persecuted Quakers.
* Georgia: Established in 1732 by James Oglethorpe, Georgia harbored debtors and other criminals. Built on a grid system of independent ‘squares’ which could be easily duplicated as the city expanded, this colony was an experiment to create a Utopian society.
For the most part, the American colonists were members of the Anglican Church of England who were dissatisfied with the church. Here’s a few tidbits of information about the faith of the early settlers in the New World:
*Most of the early colonists were ‘Puritans’. A Puritan was someone who sought to ‘purify’ the Church of England.
*Puritans were loyal to the Church of England and did not tolerate other religions.
*Puritans disagreed with the way the Church of England worshiped.
*Puritans persecuted Quakers believing them to be heretics.
*Pilgrims were Puritans that separated themselves from the Church of England. They were the original ‘Separatists’.
*The Middle Colonies (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware) were more tolerant and welcomed Lutherans, Jews, Quakers, Mennonites, Catholics, Moravians, Amish and Presbyterians.
*The Southern Colonies were home to the Anabaptists (those who re-baptized adults after a conversion experience) including Baptists.
‘Blue Laws’ are regulations dating back to Puritan New England that forbade the breaking of the Sabbath. Forbidden actions included missing church, working, buying or selling, quarreling, having sex, drinking, shopping, wearing flamboyant attire or anything that took away from keeping the Sabbath holy.
Although challengers have continued to argue – and win- against these laws, specifics vary from state to state. Many conservatives believe that the repeal of these laws has contributed to the decline of church attendance and moral behavior.
The Great Awakening:
The Great Awakening was not a specific event, but a series of revivals that influenced changes in doctrine as well as social and political thought. The Awakenings impacted the colonists and inspired the idea that they were not at the mercy of the Church of England, and eventually that they were not bound to the authority of the English monarchy. Ultimately, the Protestant movement inspired the doctrines and articles of faith that were established.
The Awakenings spread the Protestant movement. They emphasized intimacy with God, freedom of worship, the encouragement of the personal study of Scripture, the empowerment and manifestation of the Holy Spirit, along with Protestant doctrines.
This common vision of freedom gave rise to the Declaration of Independence.
The biggest names of the Awakenings were preachers George Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Wesley.
*The First Great Awakening: 1730-1740: Sparked notions of independence from the Church of England and the English monarchy, and from a stale, formal and distant relationship with God.
*The Second Great Awakening: 1800-1830: Did for the un-churched what the First Awakening did for church members. It firmly established the need for a personal, saving and dependent relationship with Christ Jesus.
*The Third Great Awakening: 1860-1900: Although temporarily interrupted by the Civil War, this started the Social Gospel Movement and worldwide missionary work.
*The Fourth Great Awakening: 1960-1970: Gave rise to the megachurches and emphasized the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
During these periods, many new Protestant denominations formed – usually over differing opinions of the interpretation of scripture.
The Faith of the Protestants:
The faith of the ‘Protesters’ (those who protested and broke from the Catholic Church) included 5 basic beliefs that differed from the Catholic Church and remain the key Protestant doctrines today. Many other issues are what divided the Protestants into different denominations.
1). Sola Christus (Christ only): Salvation is accomplished by Christ alone. No priests, traditions, sacraments, relics etc.. are needed for salvation in addition to Christ’s atoning work on the cross.
2). Sola Fide (Faith only): Salvation comes by faith alone and not by faith accompanied by works.
3). Sola Gratia (Grace only): It is only by the Grace of God that Christ went to the cross and man can become justified in the sight of God. There is nothing redeeming in man that commends him to God, and God’s grace alone draws men to Himself.
4). Sola Scriptura (Scripture only): Scripture alone is complete and speaks with all authority to all believers, needing no human spokesmen or church counsel.
5). Soli Deo Gloria (To God only goes all glory): All glory goes to God alone for all physical and spiritual provision and blessing. No human or saint should be celebrated or elevated alongside of God.