The Puritans believed in the concept of original sin. This belief system held that human beings were irredeemable creatures from the moment of their creation, and their only chance to attain everlasting life in heaven was through God's divine benevolence.
No one was exempt from original sin. Puritans believed that even the souls of babies and young children were damned for eternity if God willed it, because all human beings were born hopelessly corrupted. The related concept of predestination taught that only God could select the fortunate people who would be saved from eternal punishment. These few people were called the Elect. According to this doctrine, God in his divine love sent Christ to die so that some people might be rescued from damnation. Unfortunately, Christ's sacrifice only covered these special Elect. Everyone who was not one of the Elect was destined to live an eternity separated from God. Only God knew which individuals were among the Elect and which were doomed. Good Puritans were therefore expected to examine their lives and conduct routinely to search for signs of being in God's favor. There was no guaranteed assurance of being part of the Elect, but citizens were expected to think, speak and behave as though they were. The Puritans maintained that those whom God had chosen for salvation would consequently be compelled to live holier lives than those who were damned.