Tea Party winners: Elaine Marie Cooper's novel goes to both Ashley Penn and Mary Ann Hake:, Carrie Fancett Pagels' and Gina Welborn's Blue Ribbon Brides collection goes to: Melanie Backus Carrie's O' Little Christmas Town Collection goes to: Cherrilynn Bisbano

Friday, November 25, 2011

John Winthrop: Another Unsung Hero


Title: John Winthrop, America’s Forgotten Founding Father
Author: Francis J. Bremer
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2003

If good intentions could save a person’s soul, then there would be no doubt about John Winthrop’s soul.

John Winthrop was a man of vision. He sought to create a new land, pure from the corruption found in the Church of England, but his desire to do so came while he lived in England. A complex historical character, Mr. Winthrop is quoted by presidents, by scholars, and by laymen to support their ideology—whether or not Mr. Winthrop would have agreed.

In this book, we begin to grasp how the state of England, Christianity within the country, and the passion of life formed Mr. Winthrop’s own ideologies and theology.

I believe social pressures also formed much of Mr. Winthrop’s theology, more so perhaps than the Bible itself. An example of this is his own conclusion: “God Almighty in his most holy and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor; some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection.” (p. 92-93) In life at this time, we see how some held more authority and privileges than others. This would be in contrast to the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon where Paul encourages the man to count his runaway slave, Onesimus, as an equal brother.

Even in England, Mr. Winthrop found himself in religious debate. In his home country the foundation was laid for some of the problems he would face in New England. Problems with such people as Anne Hutchinson, who would oppose the “covenant of works” she felt many of the Puritans held to.

But Mr. Winthrop did not seem so different than Mrs. Hutchinson, except perhaps in fervency to please God by his actions. He prayed that God “would give me a new heart, joy in his spirit; that he would dwell with me, that he would strengthen me against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, [and] that he would forgive my sins and increase my faith.” (p. 96) From my perspective, that sounds very consistent with Romans 10:9-10, 13:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation….For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Also with II Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Thus he began his role as a Godly magistrate, a man bent on having a right fellowship with God. A few years later he was asked to join the Massachusetts Bay Company. This seemed agreeable to him since he had interest in carrying the gospel and the culture of England to different countries. In preparation for the trip across the Atlantic to New England, men gathered in the Church of the Holy Rood and sermons were given. An assumption is that John Winthrop’s famous A Modell of Christian Charity was given at this time, which contained the phrase “City upon a Hill.”

Today many see the Puritans as almost evil in their desire to establish a place wherein Christian values and morality would be upheld. Yet, for anyone who might grieve over the wicked state of our current world, one might find such an attitude refreshing. God, however, wants people to seek Him of their own free will. To be forced to follow Him via commands and human traditions was never the plan.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
Perhaps we judge the Puritans so harshly because we do not understand their passion to remove themselves from evil. Yes, there were extremists. Isn’t there in every movement, whether political or religious or social? But for those who love God, who seek to please Him, and who long to one day go to their heavenly home, we can have empathy for their desire for good and not evil to reign. Perhaps we cannot agree with their methods, but we should be able to agree with their desire for purity and holiness and their longing for their heavenly home.

John Winthrop served as a governor for the Massachusetts Bay Colony through some tumultuous times. He saw God’s hand at work, despite man’s failings and imperfections.

When he neared death, Rev. John Cotton called for prayers for him saying about Governor Winthrop, “a governor who has been unto us a brother, not usurping authority over the church, often speaking his advice…often contradicted, even by young men and some of low degree, yet not replying, but offering satisfaction also when any supposed offenses have arisen…been unto us as a mother, parent-like distributing his goods to brethren and neighbors at his first coming, and gently bearing our infirmities without taking notice of them.” (p. 377).

John Winthrop died shortly after, on March 26, 1649. His legacy lives on, however, through our American values, and by those (like President Ronald Regan) who see John Winthrop's words worth repeating.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article, Lynn, and deep! You have done so much research on the Puritans - I bet you feel like you understand them really well, and it shows. Blessings!

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