John Winthrop (12 January 1587/88 – March 26, 1649) was an English Puritan lawyer and one of the leading figures in founding the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the second major settlement in New England following Plymouth Colony. Winthrop led the first large wave of immigrants from England in 1630 and served as governor for 12 of the colony’s first 20 years. His writings and vision of the colony as a Puritan “city upon a hill” dominated New England colonial development, influencing the governments and religions of neighboring colonies.
Winthrop was born into a wealthy land-owning and merchant family. He trained in the law and became Lord of the Manor at Groton in Suffolk. He was not involved in founding the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1628, but he became involved in 1629 when anti-Puritan King Charles I began a crackdown on Nonconformist religious thought. In October 1629, he was elected governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and he led a group of colonists to the New World in April 1630, founding a number of communities on the shores of Massachusetts Bay and the Charles River.
Between 1629 and his death in 1649, he served 18 annual terms as governor or lieutenant-governor and was a force of comparative moderation in the religiously conservative colony, clashing with the more conservative Thomas Dudley and the more liberal Roger Williams and Henry Vane. Winthrop was a respected political figure, and his attitude toward governance seems authoritarian to modern sensibilities. He resisted attempts to widen voting and other civil rights beyond a narrow class of religiously approved individuals, opposed attempts to codify a body of laws that the colonial magistrates would be bound by, and also opposed unconstrained democracy, calling it “the meanest and worst of all forms of government”. The authoritarian and religiously conservative nature of Massachusetts rule was influential in the formation of neighboring colonies, which were formed in some instances by individuals and groups opposed to the rule of the Massachusetts elders.
Winthrop’s son John was one of the founders of the Connecticut Colony, and Winthrop himself wrote one of the leading historical accounts of the early colonial period. His long list of descendants includes famous Americans, and his writings continue to influence politicians today.
Winthrop rarely published and his literary contribution was relatively unappreciated during his time, yet he spent his life continually producing written accounts of historical events and religious manifestations. His major contributions to the literary world were A Modell of Christian Charity (1630) and The History of New England (1630–1649, also known as The Journal of John Winthrop), which remained unpublished until the late 18th century.
The following of some of the excellent works of John Winthrop:
A Farewell from the “Arbella”
Yesterday he caused his seamen to keep a fast with us, wherein the Lord assisted us and our minister very comfortablyand when five of the clock came, I had respite to remember thee (it being Friday), and to parley with thee, and to meet thee in spirit before the Lord.
I am uncertain whether I shall have opportunity to send these to thee; for, if the wind turn, we shall soon be gone. Therefore I will not write much. I know it will be sufficient for thy present comfort, to hear of our welfare; and this is the third letter I have written to thee, since I came to Hampton, in requital of those two I received from thee, which I do often read with much delight, apprehending so much love and sweet affection in them, as I am never satisfied with reading, nor can read them without tears; but whether they proceed from joy, sorrow, or desire, or from that consent of affection which I always hold with thee, I cannot conceive. Ah, my dear heart, I ever held thee in high esteem, as thy love and goodness hath well deserved; but (if it be possible) I shall yet prize thy virtue at a greater rate, and long more to enjoy thy sweet society than ever before. I am sure thou art ; not short of me in this desire. Let us pray hard, and pray in faith, and our God, in his good time, will accomplish our desire. Oh, how loath am I to bid thee farewell! but, since it must be, farewell, my sweet love, farewell. Farewell, my dear children and family. The Lord bless you all, and grant me to see your faces once again.
Come, (my dear), take him and let him rest in thine arms, who will ever remain,
Thy faithful husband,
Commend my love to all our friends at Castleins, Mr. Leigh and his wife, my neighbor Cole and his wife, and all the rest of our good friends and neighbors, and our good friends at Maplested, when you see them, and those our worthy and kind friends at Assington, etc. My brother Arthur hath carried himself very soberly since he came on shipboard, and so hath Mr. Brand’s son, and my cousin Ro. Sampson. I hope their friends shall hear well of them.
To my very loving Wife, MRS. WINTHROP,
the elder, at Groton, in Suffolk, d’d.
OF LIBERTY AND AUTHORITY
our authority from God, in way of an ordinance, such as hath the image of God eminently stamped upon it, the contempt and violation whereof hath been vindicated with examples of divine vengeance. I entreat you to consider, that when you choose magistrates, you take them from among yourselves, men subject to like passions as you are. Therefore when you see infirmities in us, you should reflect upon your own, and that would make you bear the more with us, and not be severe censurers of the failings of your magistrates, when you have continual experience of the like infirmities in yourselves and others. We account him a good servant, who breaks not his covenant. The covenant between you and us is the oath you have taken of us, which is to this purpose, that we shall govern you and judge your causes by the rules of God’s laws and our own, according to our best skill. When you agree with a workman to build you a ship or house, etc.,
undertakes as well for his skill as for his faithfulness, for it is his profession, and you pay him for both. But when you call one to be a magistrate, he doth not profess nor undertake to , have sufficient skill for that office, nor can you furnish him with gifts, etc., therefore you must run the hazard of his skill and ability. But if he fail in faithfulness, which by his oath he is bound unto, that he must answer for. If it fall out that the case be clear to common apprehension, and the rule clear also, if he transgress herethe error is not in the skill, but in the evil of the will: it must be required of him. But if the case be doubtful, or the rule doubtful, to men of such understanding and parts as your magistrates are, if your magistrates should err here, yourselves must bear it.
For the other point concerning liberty, I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and or federal. The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man, as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he lists; it is a liberty to evil as well as to good. This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority, and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and in time to be worse than brute beasts: omnes
sumus licentia deteriores. This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it. The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal, it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions, amongst men themselves. This liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard (not only of your goods, but) of your lives, if need be. Whatsoever crosseth this, is not authority, but a distemper thereof.
This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. The woman’s own choice makes such a man her husband; yet being so chosen, he is her lord, and she is to be subject to him, yet in a way of liberty, not of bondage; and a true wife accounts her subjection her honor and freedom, and would not think her condition safe and free, but in her subjection to her husband’s authority. Such is the liberty of the church under the authority of Christ, her king and husband; his yoke is so easy and sweet to her as a bride’s ornaments; and if through frowardness or wantonness, etc., she shake it off, at any time, she is at no rest in her spirit, until she take it up again; and whether her lord smiles upon her, and embraceth her in his arms, or whether he frowns, or rebukes, or smites her, she apprehends the sweetness of his love in all, and is refreshed,
supported, and instructed by every such dispensation of his authority over her. On the other side, ye know who they are that complain of this yoke and say, let us break their bands, etc., we will not have this man to rule over us. Even so, brethren, it will be between you and your magistrates. If you stand for your
natural corrupt liberties, and will do what is good in your own eyes, you will not endure the least weight of authority, but will murmur, and oppose, and be always striving to shake off that yoke; but if you will be satisfied to enjoy such civil and lawful liberties, such as Christ allows you, then will you quietly and cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over you, in all the administrations of it, for your good. Wherein, if we fail at any time, we hope we shall be willing (by God’s assistance) to hearken to good advice from any of you, or in any other way of God; so shall your liberties be preserved, in upholding the honor and power of authority amongst you.
A MODEL OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY
The Reason Hereof
1 Reas. First to hold conformity with the rest of his world, being delighted to show forth the glory of his wisdom in the variety and difference of the creatures, and the glory of his power in ordering all these differences for the preservation and good of the whole; and the glory of his greatness, that as it is the glory of princes to have many officers, so this great king will have many stewards, counting himself more honored in dispensing his gifts to man by man, than if he did it by his own immediate hands.
2 Reas. Secondly, that he might have the more occasion to manifest the work of his Spirit: first upon the wicked in moderating and restraining them: so that the rich and mighty should not eat up the poor nor the poor and despised rise up against and shake off their yoke. Secondly, In the regenerate, in exercising his graces in them, as in the great ones, their love, mercy, gentleness, temperance, etc., in the poor and inferior sort, their faith, patience, obedience, etc.
3 Reas. Thirdly, that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the Bonds of brotherly affection. From hence it appears plainly that no man is made more honorable than another, or more wealthy, etc., out of any particular and singular respect to himself, but for the glory of his Creator and the common good of the creature, man.
All men being thus (by divine providence) ranked into two sorts, rich and poor; under the first are comprehended all such as are able to live comfortably by their own means duly improved; and all others are poor according to the former distribution. There are two rules whereby we are to walk one towards another:
Justice and Mercy. These are always distinguished in their act and in their object, yet may they both concur in the same subject in each respect; as sometimes there may be an occasion of showing mercy to a rich man in some sudden danger or distress, and also doing of mere justice to a poor man in regard of some particular contract, etc. There is likewise a double law by which we are regulated in our conversation towards another, in both the former respects, the law of nature and the law of grace, or the moral law or the law of the gospel; to omit the rule of justice as not properly belonging to this purpose otherwise than it may fall into consideration in some particular cases. By the first of these laws man as he was enabled so withal is commanded to love his neighbor as himself. Upon this ground stands all the precepts
of the moral law, which concerns our dealings with men….
Herein are four things to be propounded: First, the persons; secondly, the work; thirdly, the end; fourthly, the means. First, for the persons. We are a company professing ourselves fellow- members of Christ, in which respect only, though we were absent from each other many miles, and had our employments as far distant, yet we ought to account ourselves knit together by this bond of love, and live in the exercise of it, if we would have comfort of our being in Christ. This was notorious in the practice of the Christians in former times; as is testified of the Waldenses, from the mouth of one of the adversaries, AEneas Sylvius, “mutuo ament pere antequam norunt,” they use to love any of their own religion even before they were acquainted with them. Secondly, for the work we have in hand. It is by a mutual consent, through a special overvaluing providence and a more than an ordinary approbation of the Churches of Christ, to seek out a place of cohabitation and Consortship under a due form of Government both civil, and ecclesiastical. In such cases as this, the care of the public must oversway all private respects, by
which, not only conscience, but mere civil policy, doth bind us. For it is a true rule that particular estates cannot subsist in the ruin of the public.
Thirdly, the end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord; the comfort and increase of the body of Christ, whereof we are members; that ourselves and posterity may be the better preserved from the common corruptions of this evil world, to serve the Lord and work out our salvation under the power and
purity of his holy ordinances. Fourthly, for the means whereby this must be effected. They are twofold, a conformity with the work and end we aim at. These we see are extraordinary, therefore we must not content ourselves with usual ordinary means. Whatsoever we did, or ought to have done, when we lived in England, the same must we do, and more also, where we go. That which the most in their churches maintain as truth in profession only, we must bring into familiar and constant practice; as in this duty of love, we must love brotherly without dissimulation, we must love one another with a pure heart fervently. We must bear one another’s burdens. We must not look only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethren. Neither must we think that the Lord will bear with such failings at our hands as he doth from those among whom we have lived; and that for these three Reasons: First, in regard of the more near bond of marriage
between him and us, wherein he hath taken us to be his, after a most strict and peculiar manner, which will make them the more jealous of our love and obedience. So he tells the people of Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the Earth, therefore will I punish you for your Transgressions.” Secondly, because the Lord will be sanctified in them that come near him. We know that there were many that corrupted the service of the Lord; some setting up altars before his own; others offering both
strange fire and strange sacrifices also; yet there came no fire from heaven, or other sudden judgment upon them, as did upon Nadab and Abihu, who yet we may think did not sin presumptuously. Thirdly, when God gives a special commission he looks to have it strictly observed in every article. When he gave Saul a
commission to destroy Amalek, He indented with him upon certain articles, and because he failed in one of the least, and that upon a fair pretence, it lost him the kingdom, which should have been his reward, if he had observed his commission.
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; be revenged of such a [sinful] 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, “The Lord make it likely 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 agoing.
I shall shut up this discourse with that exhortation of Moses, that faithful servant of the Lord, in his last farewell to Israel (Deut. xxx.): Beloved, there is now set before us life and good, Death and evil, in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in his ways
and to keep his Commandments and his Ordinance and his laws, and the articles of our Covenant with him, that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship and serve other gods, our pleasure and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it;
Therefore let us choose life
that we, and our seed
may live, by obeying His
voice and cleaving to Him,
for He is our life and
A Night in the Forest
he barred her out; yet she stayed there a great while essaying to get in, and at last she went away, and he returned safe home, his servants having been much perplexed for him, and having walked about, and shot off pieces, and hallooed in the night, but he heard them not.
The Reconciliation of Winthrop and Dudley
SOME differences fell out still, now and then, between the governor and the deputy, which yet were soon healed. It had been ordered in court, that all hands should help to the finishing of the fort at Boston, and all the towns in the bay had gone once over, and most the second time; but those of Newtown being
warned, the deputy would .not suffer them to come, neither did acquaint the governor with the cause, which was, for that Salem and Sagus had not brought in money for their parts. The governor, hearing of it, wrote friendly to him, showing him that the intent of the court was, that the work should be done by those in the bay, and that, after, the others should pay a proportionable sum for the house, etc., which must be done by money; and therefore desired him that he would send in his neighbors. Upon this Mr. Haynes and Mr. Hooker came to the governor to treat with him about it, and brought a letter from the deputy full of bitterness and resolution not to send till Salem, etc.
The governor told them it should rest till the court, and withal gave the letter to Mr. Hooker with this speech: ” I am not willing to keep such an occasion of provocation by me.” And soon after he wrote to the deputy (who had before desired to buy a fat hog or two of him, being somewhat short of provisions) to desire him to send for one (which he would have sent him, if he had known when his occasion had been to have made use of it), and to accept it as a testimony of his good-will; and, lest he should make any scruple of it, he made Mr. Haynes and Mr. Hooker (who both sojourned in his house) partakers with him. Upon this the deputy returned this answer: “Your overcoming yourself hathovercome me. Mr. Haynes, Mr. Hooker, and myself, do most kindly accept your good-will; but we desire, without offence, to refuse your offer, and that I may only trade with you for two hogs;” and so very lovingly concluded. The court being two days after, ordered, that Newtown should do their work as others had done, and then Salem, etc., should pay for three days at eighteen pence a man.
How The Fathers Disciplined Governor Vane
THE governor, receiving letters from his friends in England, which necessarily required his presence there, imparted the same to the council and some others; and, being thereupon resolved of his return into England, called a court of deputies, to the end he might have free leave of the country, etc. They, being
assembled in court, and himself declaring the necessity of his departure, and those of the council affirming the reasons to be very urgent, though not fit to be imparted to the whole court, they desired respite to consider thereof till the morning; when one of the assistants using some pathetical passages of the loss of such a governor in a time of such danger as did hang over us, from the Indians and French, the governor brake forth into tears, and professed, that howsoever the causes propounded for his departure were such as did concern the utter ruin of his outward estate, yet he would rather have hazarded all, than have gone from them at this time, if something else had not pressed him more, viz., the inevitable danger he saw of God’s judgments to come upon us for these differences and dissensions, which he saw amongst us, and the scandalous imputations brought upon himself, as if he should be the cause of all; and therefore he thought it best for him to give place for a time, etc. Upon this the court concluded that it would not be fit to give way to his departure upon these grounds. Whereupon he recalled himself, and professed, that the reasons concerning his own estate were sufficient to his own satisfaction for his departure, and therefore desired the court he might have leave to go; as for the other passage, it slipped him out of his passion, and not out of judgment. Upon this the court consented, silently, to his departure. Then the
question was about supply of his place. Some were of opinion, that it should be executed by the deputy; but this scruple being cast in, that if the deputy should die, then the government would be vacant, and none have power to call any court, or preside therein, etc., it was agreed to call a court of elections, for a new governor and deputy, in case the present deputy should be chose governor; and an order was made (in regard of the season) that such as would might send their votes by proxy, in papers sealed up and delivered to the deputies. And so this court was adjourned four days, and two days after the court of elections was to assemble. These things thus passed, divers of the congregation of Boston met together, and agreed that they did not apprehend the necessity of the governor’s departure upon the reasons alleged, and sent some of them to declare the same to the court; whereupon the governor expressed himself to be an obedient child to the church, and therefore, notwithstanding the license of the court, yet, without the leave of the church, he durst not
Whereupon a great part of the court and country, who understood hereof, declared their purpose to continue him still in his place, and therefore, so soon as the day of election came, and the country were assembled, it was thought the best way for avoiding trouble, etc., not to proceed to election, but to
adjourn the court to the great general court in May. And so the court of deputies, etc., continued still (for the other court was not called).
At this court the elders of the churches were called, to advise with them about discovering and pacifying the differences among the churches in point of opinion. The governor having declared the occasion to them, Mr. Dudley desired, that men would be free and open, etc. Another of the magistrates spake, that it would much further the end they came for, if men would freely declare what they held different from others, as himself would freely do, in what point soever he should be opposed. The
governor said, that he would be content to do the like, but that he understood the ministers were about it in a church way, etc., which he spake upon this occasion: the ministers had met, a little before, and had drawn into heads all the points, wherein they suspected Mr. Cotton did differ from them, and had propounded them to him, and pressed him to a direct answer, affirmative or negative, to every one; which he had promised, and taken time for.
This meeting being spoke of in the court the day before, the governor took great offence at it, as being without his privity, etc., which this day Mr. Peter told him as plainly of (with all due reverence), and how it had sadded the ministers’ spirits, that he should be jealous of their meetings, or seem to restrain
their liberty, etc. The governor excused his speech, as sudden and upon a mistake. Mr. Peter told him also, that before he came, within less than two years since, the churches were in peace, etc. The governor answered, that the light of the gospel brings a sword, and the children of the bond-woman would persecute those of the free-woman. Mr. Peter also besought him humbly to consider his youth, and short experience in the things of God, and to be- ware of peremptory conclusions, which he perceived him to be very
A Puritan School-Master
AT the general court at Boston, one Mr. Nathaniel Eaton, brother to the merchant at Quilipiack, was convented and censured. The occasion was this: He was a school-master, and had many scholars, the sons of gentlemen and others of best note in the country, and had entertained one Nathaniel Briscoe, a gentleman born, to be his usher, and to do some other things for him, which might not be unfit for a scholar. He had not been with him above three days but he fell out with him for a very small occasion, and, with reproachful terms, discharged him, and turned him out of his doors; but, it being then about eight of the clock after the Sabbath, he told him he should stay till next morning, and, some words growing between them, he struck him and pulled him into his house. Briscoe defended himself, and closed with him, and, being parted, he came in and went up to his chamber to lodge there. Mr. Eaton sent for the constable, who advised him first to admonish him, etc., and if he could not, by the power of a master, reform him, then he should complain to the magistrate. But he caused his man to fetch him a cudgel, which was a walnut tree plant, big enough to have killed a horse, and a yard in length, and, taking his two men with him, he went up to Briscoe, and caused his men to hold him till he had given him two hundred stripes about the head and shoulders, etc., and so kept him under blows (with some two or three short intermissions) about the space of two hours, about which time Mr. Shepherd and some others of the town came in at the outcry, and so he gave over. In this distress Briscoe gate out his knife, and struck at the man that held him, but hurt him not. He also fell to prayer (supposing he should have been murdered), and then Mr. Eaton beat him for taking the name of God in vain.
After this Mr. Eaton and Mr. Shepherd (who knew not then of these passages) came to the governor and some other of the magistrates, complaining of Briscoe for his insolent speeches, and for crying out murder and drawing his knife, and desired that he might be enjoined to a public acknowledgment, etc. The magistrates answered, that they must first hear him speak, and then they would do as they should see cause.
Mr. Eaton was displeased at this, and went away discontented, etc., and, being after called into the court to make answer to the information, which had been given by some who knew the truth of the case, and also to answer for his neglect and cruelty, and other ill usage towards his scholars, one of the elders (not suspecting such miscarriages by him) came to the governor, and showed himself much grieved, that he should be publicly produced, alleging, that it would derogate from his authority and reverence among his scholars, etc. But the cause went on notwithstanding, and he was called, and these things laid to his charge in the open court. His answers were full of pride and disdain, telling the magistrates, that they should not need to do any thing herein, for he was intended to leave his employment. And being asked, why he used such cruelty to Briscoe his usher, and to other his scholars (for it was testified by another of his ushers and divers of his scholars, that he would give them between twenty and thirty stripes at a time, and would not leave till they had confessed what he required), his answer was, that he had this rule, that he would not give over correcting till he had subdued the party to his will.
Being also questioned about the ill and scant diet of his boarders (for, though their friends gave large allowance, yet their diet was ordinarily nothing but porridge and pudding, and that very homely), he put it off to his wife. So the court dismissed him at present, and commanded him to attend again the next day, when, being called, he was commanded to the lower end of the table (where all offenders do usually stand), and, being openly convict of all the former offences, by the oaths of four or five witnesses, he yet continued to justify himself; so, it being near night, he was committed to the marshal till the next
day. When the court was set in the morning, many of the elders came into the court (it being then private for matter of consultation), and declared how, the evening before, they had taken pains with him, to convince him to of his faults; yet, for divers hours, he had still stood to his justification; but, in the end, he was convinced, and had freely and fully acknowledged his sin, and that with tears; so as they did hope he had truly repented, and therefore desired of the court that he might be pardoned, and continued in his employment, alleging such further reasons as they thought fit.
After the elders were departed, the court consulted about it, and sent for him, and there, in the open court, before a great assembly, he made a very solid, wise, eloquent, and serious (seeming) confession, condemning himself in all the particutars, etc. Whereupon, being put aside, the court consulted privately
about his sentence, and, though many were taken with his confession, and none but had a charitable opinion of it; yet, because of the scandal of religion, and offence which would be given to such might intend to send their children hither, they all agreed to censure him, and put him from that employment. So, being called in, the governor, after a short preface, etc., declared the sentence of the court to this effect, viz., that he should give Briscoe 30, be fined 100 marks, and debarred teaching of children within our jurisdiction. A pause being made, and expectation that (according to his former confession) he would have given glory to God, and acknowledged the justice and clemency of the court, the governor giving him occasion, by asking him if he had aught to say, he turned away with a discontented look, saying, “If sentence be passed, then it is to no end to speak.” Yet the court remitted his fine to 20, and willed Briscoe to take but 20.
The church at Cambridge, taking notice of these proceedings, intended to deal with him. The pastor moved the governor, if they might, without offence to the court, examine other witnesses. His answer was, that the court would leave them to their own liberty but he saw not to what end they should do it, seeing there had been five already upon oath, and those whom they should examine should speak without oath, and it was an ordinance of God, that by the mouths of two or three witnesses every matter should be established. But he soon discovered himself; for, ere the church could come to deal with him, he fled to Pascataquack, and, being pursued and apprehended by the governor there, he again acknowledged his great sin in flying, etc., and promised (as he was a Christian man) he would return with the messengers. But, because his things he carried with him were aboard a bark there, bound to Virginia, he desired leave to go fetch them, which they assented unto, and went with him (three of them) aboard with him. So he took his truss and came away with them in the boat; but, being come to the shore, and two of them going out of the boat, he caused the boatmen to put off the boat, and because the third man would not go out, he turned him into the water, where he had been drowned, if he had not saved himself by swimming. So he returned to the bark, and presently they set sail and went out of the harbor.
Being thus gone, his creditors began to complain; and thereupon it was found, that he was run in debt about 000, and had taken up most of this money upon bills he had charged into England upon his brother’s agents, and others whom he had no such relation to. So his estate was seized, and put into commissioners’ hands, to be divided among his creditors, allowing somewhat for the present maintenance of his wife and children. And, being thus gone, the church proceeded and cast him out. He had been sometimes initiated among the Jesuits, and, coming into England, his friends drew him from them, but, it was very probable, he now intended to return to them again, being at this time about thirty years of age, and upwards.
The Penitence of Captain Underhill
CAPTAIN UNDERHILL being brought, by the blessing of God in this church’s censure of excommunication, to remorse for his foul sins, obtained, by means of the elders, and others of the church of Boston, a safe conduct under the hand of the governor and one of the council to repair to the church. He came at the time of the court of assistants, and upon the lecture day, after sermon, the pastor called him forth and declared the occasion, and then gave him leave to speak: and indeed it was a spectacle which caused many weeping eyes, though it afforded matter of much rejoicing to behold the power of the Lord Jesus in his own
ordinances, when they are dispensed in his own way, holding forth the authority of his regal sceptre in the simplicity of the gospel. He came in his worst clothes (being accustomed to take great pride in his bravery and neatness) without a band, in a foul linen cap pulled close to his eyes; and standing upon a
form, he did, with many deep sighs and abundance of tears, lay open his wicked course, his adultery, his hypocrisy, his persecution of God’s people here, and especially his pride (as the root of all, which caused God to give him over to his other sinful courses) and contempt of the magistrates. He justified God
and the church and the court in all that had been inflicted on him. He declared what power Satan had of him since the casting out of the church; how his presumptuous laying hold of mercy and pardon, before God gave it, did then fail him when the terrors of God came upon him, so as he could have no rest, nor could see any issue but utter despair, which had put him divers times upon resolutions of destroying himself, had not the Lord in mercy prevented him, even when his sword was ready to have done the execution. Many fearful temptations he met with beside, and in all these his heart shut up in hardness and impenitency as the bond-slave of Satan, till the Lord, after a long time and great afflictions, had broken his heart, and brought him to humble himself before him night and day with prayers and tears till his strength was wasted; and indeed he appeared as a man worn out with sorrow, and yet he could find no peace, therefore he was now come to seek it in this ordinance of God.
He spake well, save that his blubbering, etc., interrupted him, and all along he discovered a broken and melting heart, and gave good exhortations to take heed of such vanities and beginnings of evil as had occasioned his fall; and in the end he earnestly and humbly besought the church to have compassion of
him, and to deliver him out of the hands of Satanas . So accordingly he was received into the church again; and after he came into the court (for the general court began soon after) and made confession of his sin against them, etc., and desired pardon, which the court freely granted him, so far as concerned their private judgment.
A Puritan Opinion of Literary Women
MR. HOPKINS, the governor of Hartford upon Connecticut, came to Boston, and brought his wife with him (a godly young woman, and of special parts), who was fallen into a sad infirmity, the loss of her understanding and reason, which had been growing upon her divers years, by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing, and had written many books. Her husband, being very loving and tender of her, was loath to grieve her; but he saw his error, when it was too late. For if she had attended her household affairs, and such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way and calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are stronger, etc., she had kept her wits, and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place God had set her.
He brought her to Boston, and left her with her brother, one Mr. Yale, a merchant, to try what means might be had here for her. But no help could be had.
A Punishment of Parental Love
GOD will be sanctified in them that come near him. Two others were the children of one of the church of Boston. While their parents were at the lecture, the boy (being about seven years of age), having a small staff in his hand, ran down upon the ice towards a boat he saw, and the ice breaking, he fell in, but his staff kept him up, till his sister, about fourteen years old, ran down to save her brother (though there were four men at hand, and called to her not to go, being themselves hasting to save him) and so drowned herself and him also, being past recovery ere the men could come at them, and could easily reach ground with their feet. The parents had no more sons, and con- fessed they had been too indulgent towards him, and had set their hearts overmuch upon him.
This puts me in mind of another child very strangely drowned a little before winter. The parents were also members of the church of Boston. The father had undertaken to maintain the mill- dam, and being at work upon it (with some help he had hired), in the afternoon of the last day of the week, night came upon them before they had finished what they intended, and his conscience began to put him in mind of the Lord’s day, and he was troubled, yet went on and wrought an hour within night. The next day, after evening exercise, and after thev had supped, the mother put two children to bed in the room where themselves did lie, and they went out to visit a neighbor. When they returned, they continued about an hour in the room, and missed not the child, but then the mother going to the bed, and not finding her youngest child (a
daughter about five years of age), after much search she found it drowned in a well in her cellar; which was very observable, as by a special hand of God, that the child should go out of that room into another in the dark, and then fall down at a trap-door, or go down the stairs, and so into the well in the farther end of the cellar, the top of the well and the water being even with, the ground. But the father, freely in the open congregation, did acknowledge it the righteous hand of God for his profaning his holy day against the checks of his own conscience.
The Manner of Master Eliot’s Teaching
MENTION was made before of some beginning to instruct the Indians, etc., Mr. John Eliot, teacher of the church of Roxbury, found such encouragement, as he took great pains to get their language, and in a few months could speak of the things of God to their understanding; and God prospered his endeavors, so as he
kept a constant lecture to them in two places, one week at the wigwam of one Wabon, a new sachem near Watertown mill, and the other the next week in the wigwam of Cutshamekin near Dorchester mill. And for the furtherance of the work of God, divers of the English resorted to his lecture, and the governor and other of the magistrates and elders sometimes; and the Indians began to repair thither from other parts.
His manner of proceeding was thus: he would persuade one of the other elders or some magistrate to begin the exercise with prayer in English; then he took a text, and read it first in the Indian language, and after in English; then he preached to them in Indian about an hour (but first I should have spoke of the
catechising their children, who were soon brought to answer him some short questions, whereupon he gave each of them an apple or a cake); then he demanded of some of the chiefs, if they understood him; if they answered, yea, then he asked of them if they had any questions to propound. And they had usually two or
three or more questions, which he did resolve.
At one time (when the governor was there and about two hundred people, Indian and English, in one wigwam of Cutshamekin’s) an old man asked him, if God would receive such an old man as he was; to whom he answered by opening the parable of the workmen that were hired into the vineyard; and when he had opened it, he asked the old man, if he did believe it, who answered he did, and was ready to weep. A second question was, what was the reason, that when all Englishmen did know God, yet some of them were poor. His answer was, 1. that God knows it is better for his children to be good than to be rich; he knows withal, that if some of them had riches, they would abuse them, and wax proud and wanton, etc., therefore he gives them no more riches than may be needful for them, that they may be kept from pride, etc., to depend upon him, 2. he would hereby have men know, that he hath better blessings to bestow upon good men than riches, etc., and that their best portion is in heaven, etc…
The Indians were usually very attentive, and kept their children so quiet as caused no disturbance. Some of them began to be seriously affected, and to understand the things of God, and they were generally ready to reform whatsoever they were told to be against the word of God, as their sorcery (which they call
powwowing), their whoredoms, etc., idleness, etc. The Indians grew very inquisitive after knowledge both in things divine and also human, so as one of them, meeting with an honest plain Englishman, would needs know of him, what were the first beginnings (which we call principles) of a commonwealth. The Englishman, being far short in the knowledge of such matters, yet ashamed that an Indian should find an Englishman ignorant of any thing, bethought himself what answer to give him, at last resolved upon this, viz., that the first principle of a commonwealth was salt, for (saith he) by means of salt we can keep our flesh and fish, to have it ready when we need it, whereas you lose much for want of it, and are sometimes ready to
starve. A second principle is iron, for thereby we fell trees, build houses, till our land, etc. A third is, ships, by which we carry forth such commodities as we have to spare, and fetch in such as we need, as cloth, wine, etc. Alas! (saith the Indian) then I fear, we shall never be a commonwealth, for we can neither make salt, nor iron, nor ships.
A PREPARATION FOR PARTING
I must now begin to prepare thee for our long parting, which grows very near. I know not how to deal with thee by arguments; for if thou wert as wise and patient as ever woman was, yet it must needs be a great trial to thee, and the greater, because I am so dear to thee. That which I must chiefly look at in thee, for a ground of contentment, is thy godliness. If now the Lord be thy God, thou must show it by trusting in him, and resigning thyself quietly to his good pleasure. If now Christ, be thy Husband, thou
must show what sure and sweet intercourse is between him and thy soul, when it shall be no hard thing for thee to part with an earthly, mortal, infirm husband for his sake. The enlargement of thy comfort in the communion of the love and sweet familiarity of thy most holy, heavenly, and undefiled Lord and Husband, will abundantly recompense whatsoever want or inconvenience may come by the absence of the other. The best course is to turn all our reasons and discourse into prayers; for he only can help, who is Lord of sea and land, and hath sole power of life and death.
It is now near eleven of the clock, and I shall write again erelong (if God will). The good Lord bless thee and all thy company. My broth. and sister salute you all. Commend my hearty love to my good sister F. and all the rest. Tell her I wrote to Mr. Dummer so soon as I came to town; and, if I can, I will speak with him, before John go down. So I kiss my sweet wife, and rest
Thy frail, yet faithful husband,
January 31, 1629.