OUR FOREFATHERS’ COVENANT
January 3, 2020
After our Christmas and New Year’s holiday break, let’s continue looking at the specific wording that our early settlers used in describing the covenants they made with each other in the establishing of this country.
Two weeks ago, I said that we would take a look at the charter that John Winthrop wrote (actually, he wrote it jointly with roughly a dozen other men) for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It would take up all of today's Coffee Break, and then some, if we were to quote the entire charter; but there is a paragraph in the charter germane to our ongoing discussion, and that's where I'd like to begin today.
"And, Wee doe of our further Grace, certen Knowledg and meere Motion, give and graunte to the saide Governor and Company, and their Successors, That it shall and maie be lawfull, to and for the Governor or Deputie Governor, and such of the Assistants and Freemen of the said Company for the Tyme being as shal be assembled in any of their generall Courts aforesaide, or in any other Courtes to be specially sumoned and assembled for that Purpose, or the greater Parte of them (whereof the Governor or Deputie Governor, and six of the Assistants to be alwaies seaven) from tyme to tyme, to make, ordeine, and establishe all Manner of wholesome and reasonable Orders, Lawes, Statutes, and Ordinances, Directions, and Instructions, not contrairie to the Lawes of this our Realme of England, aswell for setling of the Formes and Ceremonies of Government and Magistracy, fitt and necessary for the said Plantation, and the Inhabitants there, and for nameing and setting of all sorts of Officers, both superior and inferior, which they shall finde needefull for that Governement and Plantation, and the distinguishing and setting forth of the severall duties, Powers, and Lymytts of every such Office and Place, and the Formes of such Oathes warrantable by the Lawes and Statutes of this our Realme of England, as shalbe respectivelie ministred unto them for the Execution of the said severall Offices and Places; as also, for the disposing and ordering of the Elections of such of the said Officers as shalbe annuall, and of such others as shalbe to succeede in Case of Death or Removeall, and ministring the said Oathes to the newe elected Officers, and for Impositions of lawfull Fynes, Mulcts, Imprisonment, or other lawfull Correction, according to the Course of other Corporations in this our Realme of England, and for the directing, ruling, and disposeing of all other Matters and Thinges, whereby our said People, Inhabitants there, may be soe religiously, peaceablie, and civilly governed, as their good Life and orderlie Conversation, maie wynn and incite the Natives of Country, to the Knowledg and Obedience of the onlie true God and Savior of Mankinde, and the Christian Fayth, which in our Royall Intention, and the Adventurers free Profession, is the principall Ende of this Plantation."
I realize that this may be somewhat hard to read because of the archaic English spelling, and the terminology used, but let me point out the phrases toward the end of this paragraph which read (with spelling corrected for today's English):
"...and for the directing, ruling, and disposing of all other Matters and Things, whereby our said People, Inhabitants there, may be so religiously, peaceably, and civilly governed, as their good Life and orderly Conversation, may win and incite the Natives of Country, to the Knowledge and Obedience of the only true God and Savior of Mankind, and the Christian Faith, which is our Royal Intention, and the Adventurers free Profession, is the principal End of this Plantation."
Following the approval of the Massachusetts Bay Charter, John Winthrop wrote in his own diary,
"For this end we must be knit together. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to give up our superfluities to supply others' necessities...We must delight in each other; make others' conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together... So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. The Lord will be our God, and...make us a praise and a glory, that men shall say of later plantations, "May the Lord make it like that of New England."
"We must delight in each other, make others' conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together...."
Brother! THIS man understood the nature of covenant!
I quoted a couple weeks ago from a historical work that John Schafer of Penn State put together on the life of John Winthrop. Let me share a bit more of that work here to put things in perspective.
"When the settlers saw what the new land was like, scores of them refused to get off the ships and decided to sail back to England immediately. Others were so weakened by malnutrition that they were already dying. Within a few days of their arrival, John's son Henry drowned in a river. The situation was more than a mortal man could bear. But John Winthrop refused to give up. He seized control of the situation, confident that God was with them and would see them through. Rather than giving orders, he rolled up his sleeves and began to build shelters. He led by example and soon the whole company was working as hard as he.
"Realizing that they did not have enough provisions to last through the coming winter, he sent a ship back to England with one message for his son: Send food now! But the ship would take a long time to arrive. Governor Winthrop collected provisions while the settlers made shelters for the winter. They carved caves in the hillsides and dug holes in the ground. When autumn came, many began to fall sick and die. By November, Winthrop had lost eleven servants from his household. But he never wavered; he set the example in bravery.
"Fall turned to winter, and hundreds died. The whole company was tottering on the brink of starvation. In February, their supplies totally ran out. John Winthrop reached into a barrel to pull out their last handful of grain to give to a starving settler. Just as his hand was coming out of the barrel, someone shouted, "It's here!" At that very moment a ship arrived, bringing new supplies of food. John Winthrop distributed the food and proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to God.
"Out of one thousand who had come to the New World, two hundred died the first winter. When spring came, another two hundred gave up and went back to England. Many of the British investors decided this was a losing business and pulled out, leaving the colonists without support or supplies. John Winthrop took his own money which he had acquired from the sale of his estate and used it to buy more provisions. In that first year, Winthrop almost single-handedly fed the colony out of his own pocket. Later that year, his wife Margaret and the rest of his children arrived. Winthrop found that two more of his children had died that year, including the newborn baby daughter whom he never saw. But he praised God for bringing his family to the New World, and he never wavered in his conviction that the Lord was with them.
"Over the next ten years, twenty thousand settlers poured into Massachusetts. Winthrop governed them as if they were his own children. He required that they treat the Indians with dignity and respect, so that they might be won over to Christ. A few settlers resented his power and influence. But no one could deny that the very existence of Massachusetts was due to the courage, faith, and sacrifice of their governor. Even secular historians marvel at his kindness, wisdom, and leadership, and agree that John Winthrop was one of the princes of our civilization."
Is there any doubt in your mind that the American Colonies were established so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be spread and so that folks could freely worship the Lord?
We've all heard and most of us have been taught just how stern and rigid those Puritan colonists were. We've all read or heard about the abuses and the intolerance that existed between the various groups of Christians -- the Separatists, the Puritans, the Quakers, the Anglicans, and the Baptists -- as they settled their own communities and colonies, but what is often missed in the discussion is that almost all of these colonists were, as one historian noted, "children of the Reformation."
The Reformation was barely a hundred years old. Societies were just beginning to come out of the superstition and blindness of the Dark Ages. Drastic changes were taking place within the body of Christ around the world as Truth was finally beginning to dawn once again in the hearts of men and women. The Holy Spirit was at work, bringing revelation to people of many fundamental truths of the Gospel long buried, shrouded in the darkness of centuries of spiritual blindness, hierarchical rule and the politicization of offices and callings.
That abuses and intolerance still existed is no surprise. The body of Christ was still steeped in rigidity. (Come to think of it, there are today large portions of the body of Christ still bound within the confines of their religious doctrines and understanding -- many of whom are highly intolerant toward folks who have moved beyond those strictures.) Those whose development of faith in the Lord had gone beyond the limits of understanding that prevailed in traditional church structure were persecuted regularly, and each new revelation from the Holy Spirit brought new persecution to those whose understanding had yet to be opened.
In order to see things in their true perspective, therefore, one must get beyond the intolerance and bickering that went on between those of differing Christian doctrines and understanding. It is mandatory that we see the individuals who braved the intolerance, risked personal hardship and death, and covenanted with others of like faith to establish these colonies so that people could finally shake the rigidity of state-sponsored religion and provide an environment in which people could truly grow in their faith and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let's make something very clear. The establishing of these colonies was NOT for the purpose of allowing people who were Muslim, Buddhist, or any other non-Christian religion to establish themselves and their un-Godly beliefs. The driving force behind these adventurers was faith in Jesus Christ, and the desire to worship Him without the imposition of doctrines they simply couldn't accept.
We need to get to the Connecticut Charter. I wanted to follow up with all that I had shared concerning John Winthrop's work to establish a government for the Massachusetts Bay Colony that honored Jesus Christ and made clear that the purpose of creating that body politick was to engender an environment in which the Gospel could prosper.
As I noted two weeks ago, the establishing of these colonies was NOT for the purpose of allowing people who were Muslim, Buddhist, or any other non-Christian religion to establish themselves and their un-Godly beliefs. The driving force behind these adventurers was faith in Jesus Christ, and the desire to worship Him without the imposition of doctrines they simply couldn't accept.
Not for one moment did they ever conceive the idea that they were becoming state sponsors of a particular religion, since none of them considered that Christianity as a whole was a religion. To those early settlers, Christianity was the ONLY free way for a people to live. This nation was established so that people would have the total freedom to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, they sought to provide for an orderly society, founded upon Christian principles, which allowed for religious differences such as those that prevailed between different groups of Christians.
We talked two weeks ago about Roger Williams' creation of the Rhode Island Colony and writing of a charter that clearly recognized that all government was subject to God the Creator, and His Son, Jesus Christ; and yet rejected the imposition of doctrinal beliefs.
It is extremely important for us to recognize that every single colonial charter -- and every subsequent state charter -- recognized the Lord as the author -- and the final authority -- of all good government. NONE of our nation's founders and forefathers ever considered that as an establishment of religion. "Establishment of religion" meant to them the incorporating of the doctrines of particular church denominations.
We've been cursed as a nation during the past 50-plus years since the FDR Supreme Court declared that honoring God violated "The Establishment Clause" in the Constitution. Obviously, that Court ignored the words of our founding fathers.
They ignored the writings of James Madison, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers -- writings which articulated the thought processes which went into the making of the Constitution of the United States.
They ignored the historical precedent established with every single one of the 13 original American Colonies. They ignored the words that were incorporated into the charters of each of these United States in which the Lord receives honor and is clearly spelled out as the governing force behind this nation and its establishment.
Well, I thought I was going to get to the charter of the Connecticut Colony today, but I guess that will wait for next week. Have a good weekend, everybody!
In case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:30AM Pacific. That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#. We are now making these gatherings available on video using ZOOM. If you wish to participate by video on ZOOM, our login ID is 835-926-513. If you miss the live voice-only call, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later. The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.
Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76504
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