This is the foundation of the Puritan family: A harmonious unit set up by God for the pursuit of his glory; an institution founded by God in Paradise designed for joy in the shared worship of God. It was the Puritans who lifted the family up to the highest level after centuries of abuse by the Roman Catholic Church.
Every organisation needs a worthy objective to thrive, and—as we saw previously—the Puritans were biblical in their approach to family life. This meant that the Puritan family took its cue from God’s word and zealously sought it. This goal directed everything they did and every decision they made.
So what was their objective?
The glory of God! They believed 1 Corinthians 10:31 with all their heart: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Together, the Puritan family enjoyed the pursuit of God’s glory in all of life. The only worthy object of the soul was God, so he was to be the scope, end, and purpose of their entire lives. As one Puritan put it: “A Christian may and ought to desire many things as means, but God alone as his end, as his last end.”
So as a family they would enjoy sleep, but only to refresh the body for pursuit of the glory of God; the children would enjoy recreation and innocent play, but in an orderly manner and in a right spirit, so that God might be glorified therein; they would enjoy good food and beer, cider and even whiskey for “the good cheer of our bodies”, but never to excess, and always remembering that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift – all then must be enjoyed for his sake and to his glory.
Crucial to the shared pursuit of God’s glory in the family was the recovery of the doctrine of marriage. This was a pivotal element in Puritan thought. The Catholic Church had taught that marriage was in some sense inferior to singleness, and that the only good purposes of marriage were to produce children and to help men who cannot control their sexual urges. Hence, anyone who wanted really to glorify God had to remain single and celibate. As Ambrose stated: “Married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living.”
Leland Ryken is helpful here:
“Virtually all the Church fathers have statements praising virginity as superior to marriage. Jovinian was excommunicated for daring to suggest that marriage was no worse in God’s sight than virginity. A common interpretation of the parable of the sower was that the thirtyfold harvest represented marriage, the sixtyfold harvest widowhood, and the hundredfold harvest virginity. This tradition culminated in the Council of Trent’s denouncing people who denied that virginity was superior to the married state.”