Puritanism, a strict Calvinist form of Protestant Christianity, distinguished itself from mainline Christianity through five principle beliefs. These beliefs formed the Puritans' path to salvation and created a religion with a strict and rigid morality. Basic Puritan beliefs are summarized by the acronym T.U.L.I.P.: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints.
Most Christian sects believe in the concept of Original Sin -- rooted in Adam and Eve's temptation and fall -- and the Puritans were no exception. Puritans took the concept of Original Sin to mean total depravity. To the Puritans, people were not only sinful, but there was no horrendous crime people were not capable of committing. They believed that, like Adam and Eve before them, all people were susceptible to temptation and sin.
In other Calvinist Christian sects, the concept of unconditional election is often called predestination. Puritans believed that God chose who would be saved and who would be chosen for eternal damnation. A person couldn't do anything to determine God's choice, and being a member of the Puritan church was not enough to be elected for salvation. While other Christian denominations do believe that people can choose salvation, Puritans believed that the choice was God's alone.
Like other Christians, Puritans believed that Jesus Christ died to atone for the sins of man. Puritans, however, believed that Christ's atonement did not extend to everyone. Only those who God elected received the salvation benefits of Christ's atonement. Those elected were part of an exclusive group, and not all Puritans were necessarily considered saved.
Puritans believed that, once God chose to elect someone for salvation, that person could never resist God's grace. Being chosen meant that a person had found the path to salvation, which included "ecstatic intimacy with the divine." Puritans could be called on both internally and externally. Being chosen internally meant that God changed a person's heart to respond to the Gospel. The external calling was to preach the word of God to others.
Perseverance of the Saints
A person elected by God's grace would never depart from the path to salvation. The person would have complete power to understand the word of God, and would never turn towards evil. By definition, understanding the word of God meant that someone would never depart from God's commands. The person would instead persevere towards salvation. This belief is in stark contrast with other Christian denominations, which believe that even people who are saved sometimes fail to understand and can choose to depart from God.