By Timothy L. Hall
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In the irst place, membership in one of the colony’s churches was not automatic in the way membership in the Church of England had been. Anyone who lived in England became a member of the Church of England essentially by being born there. But the New England Puritans believed that church membership should be reserved for those who gave evidence of being visible saints, that is, among the elect chosen by God to receive the gift of salvation. In the second place, the Puritans rejected the hierarchical form of church government practiced by the Church of England and the Puritans’ close spiritual kin, the Presbyterians.
There Archbishop Laud’s attempts to enforce religious uniformity had made life dificult for a variety of Protestant dissenters but had failed to subdue the fractiousness inherent within Protestantism to a single spiritual vision. Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and later Quakers jostled side by side with Anglicans in England and imported the same religious diversity into the New World. At irst, though, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, under Winthrop’s leadership, attempted to discourage dissent.
2 The City on a Hill and Its Detractors and Alternatives While the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony fended off challenges from religious dissenters, they also labored to articulate their own civil and spiritual vision. Although oficially they did not attempt to separate themselves from the Church of England, in reality they were able to practice a form of church government radically different from the Anglican Church establishment. In the irst place, membership in one of the colony’s churches was not automatic in the way membership in the Church of England had been.