Half-Way Covenant (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Expansion of eligibility for Puritan baptism encourages increased membership in the church.
Summary of Event
One of the most compelling questions about the Puritan Commonwealth established in Massachusetts during the seventeenth century concerns the reasons for its decline. Historians have found it difficult to determine not only why the rule of the “Saints” came to an end but also the time when the deterioration began. Some have contended that the system of the church and the state established under the leadership of such men as John Winthrop and John Cotton was so well constructed that it remained almost unchanged for many years. Others believe that Puritan ideals began to falter from the beginning, and that too much stress has been placed on the pervasiveness of a group of attitudes defined as the “Puritan mind.” Some historians argue that church membership declined because rigid Puritan beliefs could not survive when confronted with harsh life on the frontier. Others, however, credit the decline to natural causes: The years between generations were not always sufficient time for parents to become full church members before their children were born.
Among the controversial issues that have enlivened the debate over Puritan decline is the so-called Half-Way Covenant of 1662. The most important provision of this document, endorsed by a Massachusetts General Court-sponsored synod of...
(The entire section is 1373 words.)
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