OUR FOREFATHERS’ COVENANT
January 10, 2020
As you will see (and continue to see) in the following documents, the term, “religion” did not mean, Buddhist, Muslim, Confucianism, or any of a host of other non-Jesus Christ honoring beliefs. For our early settlers and founding fathers, “religion” simply meant differing denominations or sects, but all believing in the same fundamental tenets of Christianity. They could differ on doctrines, but NOT on the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Take a look at what the younger John Winthrop wrote as he put together the charter for the Connecticut Colony:
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
January 14, 1639
For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connectecotte and the lands thereunto adjoining; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require;
Do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed as followeth: ..........."
Did you see that?
"[We] do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one Public State or Commonwealth; and do for ourselves and our successors and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into Combination and Confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed..."
The younger John Winthrop, son of the same John Winthrop that governed Massachusetts Bay Colony, took the spiritual heritage of his father and implemented it in like manner for the Connecticut Colony. He was even more specific in his wording than was his father.
Connecticut was chartered "to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus." Further, he uses the Gospel, and its discipline to guide and govern all civil affairs."
Separation of church and state? Yeahh, Riiiiiigggghhhhtt! Separation from denominational and doctrinal impositions that may divide different groups of believers, sure, but NOT separation from the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Sure puts a different light on things, doesn't it?
Throughout the years, I've heard a myth repeated more times than I can count: namely, that Maryland was founded for the purpose of establishing a base for Roman Catholics in this country, and that it gained its name specifically as "Mary Land" to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus.
In actual fact, there were a sizeable number of Roman Catholics who participated in the founding of the colony, but the original charter -- granted in 1632 by Charles I to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore -- actually provided the name of the colony. It gained its name from Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.
The settlers and colonists, seeing the disagreements and arguments and even persecution of professing Christians by other professing Christians, resolved to bring the matter to William Stone, who was the governor of the colony. In 1649 he drew up the following document, titled:
An Act Concerning Religion
(Note: I have corrected the spelling of the archaic English in order to make it more readable.)
Forasmuch as in a well governed and Christian Commonwealth matters concerning Religion and the honor of God ought in the first place to bee taken, into serious consideration and endeavored to be settled. Be it therefore ordered and enacted by the Right Honorable Cecilius Lord Baron of Baltimore, absolute Lord and Proprietary of this Province, with the advice and consent of this General Assembly. That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto belonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to be the son of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachful Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shall be punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heirs,
And be it also Enacted by the Authority and with the advice and assent aforesaid. That whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth use or utter any reproachful words or Speeches concerning the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of our Saviour or the holy Apostles or Evangelists or any of them shall in such case for the first offence forfeit to the said Lord Proprietary and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province the sum of five pound Sterling or the value thereof to be Levied on the goods and chattels of every such person so offending, but in case such Offender or Offenders, shall not then have goods and chattels sufficient for the satisfying of such forfeiture, or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfied that then such Offender or Offenders shalbe publicly whipped and be imprisoned during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary or the Leivet (Tax Collector, RAC) of Chief Governor of this Province for the time being. And that every such Offender or Offenders for every second offence shall forfeit ten pound sterling or the value thereof to be levied as aforesaid, or in case such Offender or Offenders shall not then have goods and chattels within this Province sufficient for that purpose then to bee publicly and severely whipped and imprisoned as before is expressed. And that every persons or persons before mentioned offending herein the third time, shall for such third Offence forfeit all his lands and Goods and be for ever banished and expelled out of this Province.
(The above paragraph contains the phrases which have led to the myth that Maryland was established to enforce Catholicism. The following paragraph makes clear that -- in fact -- this Act was written to prevent the persecution of ANYONE who named the name of Christ.)
And be it also further Enacted by the same authority advise and assent that whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth upon any occasion of Offence or otherwise in a reproachful manner or Way declare call or denominate any person or persons whatsoever inhabiting, residing, trafficking, trading, or commercing within this Province or within any Ports, Harbors, Creeks or Havens to the same belonging an heretic, Schismatic, Idolator, puritan, Independent, Presbyterian, popish priest, Jesuit, Jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian, Barrowist, Roundhead, Separatist, or any other name or term in a reproachful manner relating to matter of Religion shall for every such Offence forfeit and lose the sum of ten shillings sterling or the value thereof to be levied on the goods and chattels of every such Offender and Offenders, the one half thereof to be forfeited and paid unto the person and persons of whom such reproachful words are or shall be spoken or uttered, and the other half thereof to the Lord Proprietary and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province; But if such person or persons who shall at any time utter or speak any such reproachful words or Language shall not have Goods or Chattels sufficient and overt within this Province to be taken to satisfy the penalty aforesaid or that the same be not otherwise speedily satisfied, that then the person or persons soe offending shalbe publicly whipped, and shall suffer imprisonment without bail or mainprise until he, she, or they, respectively, shall satisfy the party so offended or grieved by such reproachful Language by asking him or her respectively forgiveness publicly for such his Offence before the Magistrate or Chief Officer or Officers of the Town or place where such Offence shall be given.
If the language sounds harsh and unforgiving, you have to understand how determined those colonial leaders were in preventing discrimination against anyone who professed to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, no matter how they differed doctrinally with others.
These colonists were absolutely determined that America would become a place where Jesus Christ could and would be worshiped in total and absolute freedom. There was no doubt about the fact that stark differences existed (and still do to this day) between the various groups. There were, however, some fundamental areas of agreement between all of the Christian groups and sects that permitted them to set aside their differences.
First, they all agreed that God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, was THE Supreme Governing Force in the universe and that all good government was derived from Him.
Secondly, they all agreed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and that His death on the Cross was the means by which relationship with God was obtained.
Thirdly, they all agreed with the Apostle Peter's statement that "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
Fourth, they without exception believed that the Bible was the Holy and Inspired Word of God, and that the laws and commandments written therein formed the basis for all orderly societies.
Fifth, they without exception agreed that these colonies in the New World they called America were being formed and created so that despite any other differences, Jesus Christ would be honored as King and Lord of all; that the worship of God manifested in triune manner could take place freely, without interference and without personal attacks on the integrity of worshipers, even if others saw things differently and had differing doctrinal persuasions.
When you realize that these were the fundamentals of their agreement between each other, they could have widely varying interpretations of a hundred other doctrines; and yet still manage to coexist in peace in the same villages, towns and places of habitation. These colonists were absolutely determined that America would become a place where Jesus Christ could and would be worshiped in total and absolute freedom. They were absolutely determined that this new land was going to be different from any and every other nation on the face of the earth.
The Lord WOULD BE God in this land! This would be a land and a country in which the Gospel would grow, mature, prosper and spread. It would be a place from which Truth -- the Truth of Salvation through Jesus Christ -- would ring forth throughout the earth.
It was a vision of what was to be. Even though there were certainly non-Christians among the colonists, there wasn't a one of them who had a problem with this vision; and none of them felt discriminated against because of the wording set forth in each of the various charters. They were just glad to be able to be in a land free of the imposition of unjust laws, far away from tyrants, dictators and despots who exacted their personal vengeance upon anyone they pleased.
The language of the Act DOES sound overbearing and harsh, but the governor and legislators of the colony felt a strong compulsion to enforce a complete freedom of religious worship of God Almighty. There was a clear mandate to protect Christianity and Christians.
No such freedom was afforded those who worshiped false gods. No such freedom was afforded those who honored false prophets and religions that excluded Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Amazing, isn't it, how far this nation has backtracked, and how it has affected the liberties of Christians today?
We will continue this next week.
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
Email Contact: CapenerMinistries@protonmail.com
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