There is a commonplace that Puritans believed that material blessing was the result or sign of election, and thus wealth was somehow tied to godliness. This canard is widely cited without reference to the writings of actual Puritans. The idea seems to come from Max Weber (he at least routinely receives credit for this idea – his own thought may have been substantially more nuanced – I simply have not taken the time to read through everything he has written), not the Puritans. At least some scholars are noting that the received wisdom may be questionable; see, e.g., Marjorie E. Kornhauser, “The Morality of Money: American Attitudes Toward Wealth and the Income Tax,”Indiana Law Journal 70, no. 1 (1994): 119-69, see esp. fn. 11. More typical is the bald statement made without reference to the source documents, is something such as this:
American Puritans linked material wealth with God’s favor. They believed that hard work was the way to please God. Created more wealth through one’s work and thrift could guarantee the God’s elect. The doctrine of predestination kept all Puritans constantly working to do good in this life in order to be chosen for the next eternal life. God had already chosen who would be in heaven or hell, but Christians had no way of knowing which group they were in. Those who were wealthy would obviously be blessed by God and in good standing with Him. The work ethic of Puritans was the belief that hard work was an honor to God which would lead to a prosperous reward. Any deviations from the normal way of Puritan life would be strictly denied and disapproved.
Ning Kang, “Puritanism and Its Impact Upon American Values,” Review of European Studies 1, no. 2 (December 2009): 148-51. Here is another:
Sanctification: Proof that one is justified (or “elected” by God). Proof is exhibited by living a life of good works and outward proper moral conduct. One might also receive a “sign” of sanctification (such as wealth) that would signify one’s election. One’s minister, in private counsel, could help a puritan determine a sign.
http://learning.hccs.edu/faculty/janice.whitehead/eng-2327/intro-to-puritanism/, accessed August 13. 2012. Or this (and yes, Puritans regarded laziness as a sin, because the Bible calls laziness a sin. Interesting that we would find a concern for laziness quaint):
Puritan Ethic: Term that characterizes the strong sense of purpose and discipline that Puritans had. Part of the work ethic also resulted from a belief that wealth and success were a sign of saintliness and that idleness was a sin.
http://www.course-notes.org/US_History/Unit_Notes/Unit_One_1600_1763/Puritans accessed August 13, 2012. Yes. This are not necessarily scholarly sources in each instance, but they are indicative of the received knowledge and common teaching on the subject, particularly in the pre-graduate level. Compare this with the statement of an actual influential Puritan such as Manton:
Worldly good things may be given in anger, lest men should be marked out by their outward condition, rather than the disposition of their souls. God would not distinguish the good by the blessings of his common providence, nor brand and mark out the bad by their afflictions. Therefore these mercies that run in the channel of common providence, are dispensed promiscuously. But God hath another way of internal government, carried on within the soul by troubles of conscience for sin, and the comforts of a good conscience as the reward of obedience. Now in this sort of government, the influence of the Spirit is mainly seen ; God showeth his anger or his love, his pleasure or displeasure, by giving and withholding the Spirit; when he is pleased, we have the testimony of it in our consciences by the presence and comforts of the Spirit; when displeased, he withdraweth the Spirit ; this is reward and punishment, the accesses and recesses of the Spirit, if we have sinned : Ps. li. 10, ‘ Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not away thy Holy Spirit from me.’ The retaining and withholding the Spirit is one of the greatest calamities in the world ; ver. 2, ‘ Renew a right spirit in me ; ‘ ver. 12, ‘ And uphold me by thy free Spirit. On the contrary the reward of obedience is the increase of the Spirit : Rom 14:17, ‘ For the kingdom of God is not in meats and drinks, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ Now this being God’s constant way of internal government, whereby he manifesteth his pleasure or displeasure by witholding, or withdrawing, or giving out his Spirit ; and this is a surer way than the effects of his external providence. I cannot say God hateth me, because he denieth earthly blessings, or blasteth them when bestowed; this may be for other reasons than to manifest his anger or hatred: I cannot say God loveth me because I enjoy outward prosperity; but if I have the Spirit, that is never given in anger.
Sermon 12, Sermons on Romans 8. Found volume 12, pages 8-9 of Manton’s collected works. And, Thomas Brooks in his book The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod:
God’s hand sometimes may lie very hard upon His people, when His heart, His affections, at those very times may be yearning towards them. Jeremiah 31:18-20.
No man can tell the heart of God—by His hand. God’s hand of mercy may be open to those against whom His heart is set—as you see in the rich poor fool, and Dives, in the Gospel. And His hand of severity may lie hard upon those on whom He has set His heart—as you may see in Job and Lazarus.