Archive for August 21st, 2013

A Model of Christian Charity

As you read, consider: How did Winthrop expect faithful Puritans to treat each other and why?

A Model of Christian Charity –excerpt
By John Winthrop, aboard the Arbella as it was sailing toward America

…First of all, true Christians are of one body in Christ (1 Cor. 12). Ye are the body of Christ and members of their part. All the parts of this body being thus united are made so contiguous in a special relation as they must needs partake of each other’s strength and infirmity; joy and sorrow, weal and woe. If one member suffers, all suffer with it, if one be in honor, all rejoice with it.

Secondly, the ligaments of this body which knit together are love.

Thirdly, no body can be perfect which wants its proper ligament.

Fourthly, All the parts of this body being thus united are made so contiguous in a special relation as they must needs partake of each other’s strength and infirmity, joy and sorrow, weal and woe. (1 Cor. 12:26) If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one be in honor, all rejoice with it.

Fifthly, this sensitivity and sympathy of each other’s conditions will necessarily infuse into each part a native desire and endeavor, to strengthen, defend, preserve and comfort the other. To insist a little on this conclusion being the product of all the former, the truth hereof will appear both by precept and pattern. 1 John 3:16, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Gal. 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burden’s and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

For patterns we have that first of our Savior who, out of his good will in obedience to his father, becoming a part of this body and being knit with it in the bond of love, found such a native sensitivity of our infirmities and sorrows as he willingly yielded himself to death to ease the infirmities of the rest of his body, and so healed their sorrows. From the like sympathy of parts did the Apostles and many thousands of the Saints lay down their lives for Christ. Again the like we may see in the members of this body among themselves. Rom. 9 — Paul could have been contented to have been separated from Christ, that the Jews might not be cut off from the body. It is very observable what he professeth of his affectionate partaking with every member; “Who is weak (saith he) and I am not weak? Who is offended and I burn not?” And again (2 Cor. 7:13), “Therefore we are comforted because ye were comforted.” Of Epaphroditus he speaketh (Phil. 2:25-30) that he regarded not his own life to do him service. So Phoebe and others are called the servants of the church. Now it is apparent that they served not for wages, or by constraint, but out of love. The like we shall find in the histories of the church, in all ages; the sweet sympathy of affections which was in the members of this body one towards another; their cheerfulness in serving and suffering together; how liberal they were without repining, harborers without grudging, and helpful without reproaching; and all from hence, because they had fervent love amongst them; which only makes the practice of mercy constant and easy….

… 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. We have professed to enterprise these and those accounts, upon these and those ends. We have hereupon besought Him of favor and blessing. Now 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; but if we shall neglect the observation of these articles which are the ends we have propounded, and, dissembling with our God, shall fall to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnal intentions, seeking great things for ourselves and our posterity, the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us, and be revenged of such a people, and make us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.

Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions 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. The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as His own people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with. 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 shall say of succeeding plantations, “may the Lord make it like that of New England.” For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.…

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The Differences Between the New England Confederation and the Dominion of New England

The colonies were very much separate in terms of their governance and operation regardless of our discussion of similarities in culture and beliefs among the Chesapeake and New England. However, there were some definite disadvantages to too much independence, especially when it came to matters of defense.

One of the earliest attempts at colonial unity (a theme that runs throughout the development of America to the present day) was the New England Confederation, which was formed in 1643. This was an invitation-only alliance among the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth, and the two colonies that eventually made up Connecticut. Only those who were orthodox Puritans were welcomed– Rhode Island didn’t make the cut. The main goal of the Confederation was, first of all, mutual defense against attacks from Native tribes or other European colonial powers. The Confederation also dealt with the extradition of runaway criminals or servants.

The Confederation was seen as necessary due to the salutary neglect from the mother country. As you may have noticed, there is always tension between liberty or freedom and security in making decisions about how much power to surrender to government or other outside groups. The Confederation is an example of this in a very mild way– the colonies in the Confederation were willing to give up a limited amount of autonomy (your text notes that the Confederation was very weak) in order to improve security. But note that each individual colony still retained much of its independence– which may have doomed the chances of success of this enterprise. Confederation by its very name implies cooperation.

Why were the colonists so leery of unity? The problem is, unity takes away autonomy. That is one of the reasons why England attempted to impose unity on the New England colonies to enhance control.

Just before the Glorious Revolution, the English government realized that its colonies had been given far too much leeway, particularly when it came to obedience to the Navigation Laws. These laws restricted the colonists to trade only with the mother country or other English possessions. The laws also listed, or enumerated, goods that colonists were not allowed to manufacture– usually goods produced in the mother country. This kind of law would create an artificial monopoly and prevent competition from developing manufactures in the colonies. Lack of enforcement of these laws was costing the mother country money in the form of taxes and higher prices.

Therefore, the Dominion of New England was created in 1686 by the English government under James II and was imposed upon the colonies. The use of the term “Dominion” is indicative of the desire of England to — rightfully in its view– dominate colonial affairs and trade. Amalgamating the several colonies into one organizational struction would enhance English control. In this much more powerful structure, town meetings– a staple of New England’s political landscape– were sharply limited and civil rights, such as freedom of the press and colonial courts (as in a “jury of one’s peers”) were limited to enhance English authority over its colonial subjects. Under the direction of the autocratic Sir Edmund Andros, enforcement of the Navigation Laws– and severe restrictions on smuggling– ensued.

Naturally, intense resentment arose on the part of many colonists at this new attempt to restrain their independence and liberty. Thus when the Glorious Revolution of 1688 produced a massive upheaval of English political structures, the colonists utilized the chaos to run Andros out of town– in a dress, no less. The Dominion of New England then collapsed again, and salutary neglect resumed.

The ultimate difference between the New England Confederation and the Dominion of New England is that the Confederation was imposed upon the member colonies at their own instigation, and was only as powerful as the colonists were willing to allow it to be. The Dominion of New England was imposed from without, and was an attempt to strip the colonies of autonomy and independence that was seen as a threat to the interests of the mother country. The Dominion left the colonists ever more leery of ceding their autonomy to anyone– a fear that would make their dealings with England much more complex.