The Puritans and the Original Vision
In 1630, John Winthrop led a fleet of 11 ships, carrying between 700 and 1,000 Puritans plus livestock and provisions from England to America. After 72 days, the ships arrived in the harbor of Salem, Massachusetts. It was far from a pretty sight.
Winthrop soon learned that of over 200 Puritan settlers who had come in the past two years, only 85 were still alive. Over 80 had died while the rest had quit and gone home. The people were disunified, starving, and quitting!
Winthrop spent the night on the Arbella and prayed for wisdom. God was using the situation, just as He had with the Pilgrims ten years before. God had led William Bradford to compile the “Mayflower Compact” before setting foot at Plymouth. Now John Winthrop would write what would become one of the great documents in the founding of our nation.
John Winthrop realized that if this colony were to be successful, the key was love! Love for God and love for each other. Winthrop wrote “A Model for Christian Charity,” which became the guideline for future constitutional covenants of the colonies. He wrote,
This love among Christians is a real thing, not imaginary…as absolutely necessary to the [well] being of the Body of Christ, as the sinews and other ligaments of a natural body are to the [well] being of that body….We are a company, professing ourselves fellow members of Christ, [and thus] we ought to account ourselves knit together by this bond of love….Thus, stands the cause between God and us: we are entered into covenant with Him for this work. We have taken out a commission; the Lord hath given us leave to draw our own articles…. If the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He ratified this Covenant and sealed our commission, [and] will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it…We must delight in each other, make one another’s condition our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace….We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and glory, that men of succeeding plantations shall say, ‘The Lord make it like that of New England.’ For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill….
John Winthrop and the Puritans desired to found a land where all citizens could freely love God and each other. It would be a land where everyone could freely raise their family and freely pursue an occupation without undue Governmental restrictions.
Ronald Reagan, in the 1970s, placed that line, “a city on a hill,” at the center of his political career. Tracing the story of America from John Winthrop forward, Reagan built a powerful articulation of American exceptionalism—the idea, as he explained, “that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.”
It was because of a strong belief in Creator God and the principles of freedom found in the Bible, that the framers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 wrote one of the great sentences in the history of nations,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I believe God founded America to be a great nation, a city on a hill, that would be a guiding light to other nations. God originally called this nation to be a land marked by generosity, love, compassion, and freedom for all people.
America is at a crossroads. Never have Americans been so willing to give up their freedoms of worship, speech, and constitutional liberties. From Covid19 restrictions to a presidential election marred by accusations of voter fraud and deception, we are a country in deep trouble. This Thanksgiving, it is my prayer that God would revive in the hearts of His people a passion for the very purposes that once made our nation great.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,