The title is the goal; the means was the statement of a new covenant for the New World. The vehicle was the Mayflower Compact of 1620, penned by Wm. Bradford (source: Wikipedia; 16th century spelling was optional…):
In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwriten, ye loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, e&
Haveing undertaken, for ye glorie of god, and advancemente of ye Christian faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine our selves togeather into a civill body politick, for our better ordering & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just & equall lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & convenient for ye generall good of ye Colonie, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes wherof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd ye ·11· of November, in ye year of ye raigne of our soveraigne Lord King James, of England, France, & Ireland ye eighteenth, and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom. 1620.
Ofttimes, when folks claim to be doing things “for the glory of God,” keep your women and children out of sight and batten down the hatches. The Jesuit shock troops; the Dominican Inquisitors come readily to mind. In fact, think to come of it, ad majorem Dei gloriam is the motto for the Jesuits.
So, what’s different about the Puritans? They actually seemed to have meant it. The Puritans were perhaps the first Reformed Protestants to put down roots in the New World. Given the intrinsic nature of the Reformation, sooner or later it had to lead to true religious liberty — soul liberty — even if the elders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were at first as intolerant as the unseparated (establishment) church folks back home in England.
This isn’t an apologia for everything the Puritans did in the nascent Massachusetts Bay Colony. They were hard on dissenters, including Baptists and Quakers. Which is too bad, but we have to remember that these were years of great religious and political upheaval in England, coming not very long after Catholic perfidy such as the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, and culminating in the Civil War (1642-1651).
What was it about them that makes them so special to us? The Puritans were, for the first 50 or more years, under a constant threat of extinction. They had cut their ties with the Church of England; this was in fact the very essence of their endeavor.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an iffy proposition, and death, starvation, disease, and Indian attacks were constant companions. One might say that Puritan ministers had to preach and live in the very shadow of the cross of Jesus, ever mindful that life was short, brutal, and would typically end badly. This may have contributed to the slam that Puritans were humorless and harsh.
But God never fails; living in the shadow of the cross resulted in the roots of religious liberty for our nation. And the Puritans, in their attempt to establish a New Jerusalem, instead joined with their age-old adversaries in Virginia (Anglican Cavaliers) to sculpt the imperfect, yet best on earth republic of the United States of America. And, let it never be forgotten, that it was the descendants of the Puritans who were the enemies of chattel slavery.