7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Henry Dunster and Freedom of Conscience

"The Lord gave me an attentive eare and heart to understand preaching. . . . The Lord showed me my sins, and reconciliation by Christ, . . . and this word was more sweet to me than any thing else in the world."
Henry Dunster, First President of Harvard College, 1653.

"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand." Isaiah 53:10

Harvard College
Henry Dunster was twelve years old when he found "reconciliation by Christ." This was the beginning of a life where the sweetness of that understanding would be tested by the temptations and trials of life. After studying at Cambridge University in England, he became a teacher. Then in 1640, civil war broke out in England, and Dunster emigrated to New England. While no doubt he experienced consternation over the Church of England before leaving to the New World, he would also find the religious leaders in Boston at odds with him. In 1654 Mr. Dunster was asked to resign from Harvard presidency for expressing beliefs the religious leaders of the time deemed heretical.

Currently, I am doing a study on the Messianic Prophecies, those passages in the Old Testament that foretell the first and second coming of Christ. The first coming happened approximately 2000 years ago. We anxiously await the second.

While studying Isaiah 51-53, I found myself pausing at Isaiah 53:10, "when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin". What a thought. Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. He did not speak in protest when he was afflicted. He did not complain when he was unjustly sentenced to death, because He had a purpose in mind: to make Himself an offering for my sin. He poured out His Soul unto death in place of mine.

Reading through the Life of Henry Dunster, by Jeremiah Chaplin, Samuel Dunster, and Edward Swift Dunster, I reflected upon what needed to happen in Mr. Dunster's life before he would have the conviction of heart and spirit to stand against the religious leaders at that time who would suppress his freedom of conscience. His ability to be strong in the face of opposition began with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Quite likely Dunster took his orders in the Church of England, like other Puritan ministers. However, in his Confession of Faith, we hear his angst over what was happening in that church:
"The Lord hath made me bid adieu to all worldly treasures; and as corruptions in the Church came, first I began to suspect them, then to hate them....So, after 10 years' trouble, I came hither [to New England]; and the Lord gives me peace to see the order of his people." (Life of Henry Dunster, p. 13)
Imagine the thrill he experienced when he found himself not only accepted but highly esteemed by those well-educated leaders of the New World. But in this New World a maelstrom was brewing. As people gained knowledge of God's Word and began to think for themselves, they began to oppose the present religious leadership, and Dunster would be caught in the middle.

Roger Williams, a man Dunster respected, would be banished. Anne Hutchinson would be banished. Lady Deborah Moody was excommunicated. Obadiah Holmes would be brutally whipped. Many others would take a stand and find the fury of the religious leaders either on their back or reaching into their pockets.

Then came Henry Dunster's turn. He would need to examine his convictions and take a stand.

Imagine the horror those esteemed men felt when the man they chose to lead in the education of their youth took a stand against a doctrine to which they clung. I can almost feel the thunder of their anger. And my own knees knock in empathy for the meek and gentle Mr. Dunster.

And then I am reminded what Christ had done for me. I imagine Mr. Dunster thought the same. For taking a stand on what his conscience told him was right, Mr. Dunster would be demonized and considered possessed by Satan.

Today the secular world would have me emotionally stripped, and their verbal whip laid upon my back for my convictions. The Atheists would gladly call me a fool for my faith in God, my belief in Heaven, and my determination to follow Jesus Christ, who is to them a dead man but to me alive and well and Whose Spirit is living in me. I believe in the grace of God which saved me through faith. And because I believe, I stand on His Word thus His laws, as absolute truth contrary to what society and the government would claim is true and to the laws they create that are in direct opposition to God's.

As a child, I remember being mocked for that faith, but I would lock my jaw and push forward. No one could take that faith from me. I remember as a young adult being mocked for my belief that anyone who is not saved will go to hell. I remember having someone scream in my face that I was cruel to tell another that hell existed and the only way to Heaven was through faith in Jesus Christ.

Even a little more than a year ago I made a decision (based on convictions that what God in His Word says God means) to step down from a position of leadership. I could not reconcile what I believed with a stand the organization made, which I believe supported a view contrary to God's Word. My heart pounded in my chest. My palms sweated, and my hands shook. But my spirit was strengthened by God's Spirit. It took courage to speak knowing the emotions stirred by my stance have caused many within the past few years to be the recipients of violence. While I could not imagine the group I spoke to acting in such a manner, I had no doubt if word got out to the general populous I could experience backlash. But then I remembered the Cross. In obedience to God I must walk. In faith that His precepts are truth I must continue.

Each confrontation I have faced regarding my faith stirred within me a strength of conviction I never thought I'd have. Was I wrong to have spoken truth? No. Often I have reflected on whether there could have been a better way, and maybe at times I did not speak with seasoning, but I cannot say that I was ever wrong to answer a question with the truth found in Scripture. Nor was I wrong to walk away from an association yielding itself to the pressures of the world or to stand on God's precepts as absolute truth for my life.

Two facts remain: I am a sinner, and Christ offered Himself for payment of my sin. How then can I not stand for God's laws that declare me a sinner, knowing the price Christ paid for me when I broke God's laws? Would I have Christ sacrificed again?

Each of us will face moments of truth when we will show in our words and actions whether we understand God's laws are above man's. What will that moment reveal about our faith and our understanding of the price paid for our sins?

"Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator."
I Peter 4:19


  1. An important message for today. I posted on my Facebook news page. Kathleen

  2. The day is coming when we will have to stand up for Christ in a 'do or die' way......are we prepared? We need to stay in the Word and in constant communication with God. He will give us the knowledge and courage needed. Great post, very insightful. God bless.

  3. Following Kathleen's example and spreading the word via Facebook and Twitter.

    This is a powerful reminder of exactly what we are to be about in this world. Thank you for putting is so well, so clearly, so precisely.

  4. Those of us who have been mocked or maligned for our faith know the pain of ridicule and rejection. Most of us, in this country, have not had to suffer worse, though the day may come when we are called to pay a heavier price. I think we need to be intentional in preparing should that time come so that we will respond in ways that honor God.

    Thanks for the powerful reminder and for sharing Henry Dunster's story.

  5. Lynn, I appreciate your words and the stand that you have taken. I recently took a similar stand in an organization. It was vary hard to leave, but I knew it was what God was leading me to do.

  6. Awhile ago I heard a discussion with a missionary and those in the ministry here. The missionary related stories of the dangers they faced in the country they were in, but he looked at those around him. "But you all have an even greater danger," he said. "The danger you face attacks the very souls of the people you are trying to reach." At the time, he was referring to the entertainment world and the secular school system.

    The things that draw the hearts and minds of people away from God are weapons far more dangerous than those that injure the physical body. But this is a discussion for another day. :)

  7. A very powerful post and reminder of how easy it is to avoid confrontation --but how wrong it is. Thank you Lynn.


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