When the Puritans arrived in America in the early seventeenth century, they brought not only their strong theological orientation but also tenacious communal impulses, utopian hopes, a sense of being chosen, and a belief in social and religious exclusivity and uniformity. Hostile to the market world of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, their modest economic interests fashioned a distinctive society. In England, similar religious reformists compromised with governing tendencies in an increasingly heterogeneous and tolerant culture. In America, the Puritans pursued their ideals with fewer constraints. They tried to create a social order far from the dominant one that they had left behind or, indeed, even from what they had experienced and lost. The culture they made was militantly anti-modern, moving in the opposite direction from what they had abandoned in old England. In the absence of competing pressures and with new authority in America, New England uniquely resisted forces shaping the other colonial experiments in British North America.
The clergy's active attempts to shape public life evidenced this impulse. The chief Puritan stronghold, the Massachusetts Bay Company, was a virtual theocracy, and as a leading historian of colonial America has argued, governance of the colony was 'the puritan dilemma'. The problem was to do good in a world that had irrevocably gone wrong. The leaders strove for just rule and, even though religious commitment took priority over political life, they accepted political imperfection as necessary. In the sense that they embraced the burdens of real politics, the early Puritans were thus worldly and to that extent accommodating. By the early eighteenth century, however, the liberalism that had emerged in Boston signaled the end of a hegemonic religious polity, and the later triumph of Edwards's ideas in theological circles during and after the Great Awakening distanced devoted Calvinist thinkers from the political.
Edwards's views accentuated the significance of the individual's connection to the deity and de-emphasized the role of the Christian heritage. Edwards highlighted abstract thought, and diminished the power of those ministers who had been dominant before the Great Awakening and who