Providence Today: Religion Begat Prosperity
Religious freedom is a precious gift from God, but it has not always been the norm, even among Christian rulers. The early settlers of America were seeking religious freedom when they came here, and they ended up creating a land religious freedom ultimately spilled over into other freedoms. Our story begins in England with the death of King James the first, who was no friend of those who deviated from the state church including the Puritans.
In 1625, King James the first, a persecutor of Christian nonconformists died. His son Charles the first, ascended to the throne. As bad as James might have been as persecutor Charles was worse. Within two decades, the religious conflict in England grew so severe that the nation was plunged into civil war. The Puritans led by Independent Oliver Cromwell one, and King Charles was beheaded in 1649. Meanwhile back in 1630, Puritans were leaving England in a great migration that would result eventually in several thousands of them uprooting to the new world, specifically in new England. Thus, the Pilgrims had paved the way for this mass uprooting. For the most part, these Puritans were not your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. These men and women were among the cream of society, they were the well educated and well to do, but they were religious nonconformists. And they all cherished the biblical concept of covenant and agreement for self-government under God.
The Puritans were critical to the rise of covenantalism and to republicanism, and to American freedom at large. Now you have to say, the 17th century was as historians put it. Teaming with freedom, you had the Puritans yes, but they… You had the Levellers, and the Ranters, and the Shakers, and the Quakers, and the Agitators and there are absolutely decisive in shaping early American freedom.
Earlier, when he had studied at Cambridge University, Puritan leader John Winthrop joined with other like-minded students at Cambridge University. Made a covenant with each other, committing themselves to God first, and then to each other. Winthrop had a sizable estate, when he spent to help further the colony. He lost much material goods, but he was committed to the course.
Many were the inflictions of this righteous man. He lost much of his estate and a ship and another house, quickly after his coming to new England. Besides the prestigious expense of it in the difficulties of his coming here, Cotton Mather.
This uprooting from their homes and their wider families must have been traumatic, about 100 or so of the original settlers who created Boston in 1630, decided to return to England after several months. However, the vast majority stayed even as some of their brethren contended with fatal diseases.
Reverend John Winthrop was one of the first great Americans. He is the one that talked about out the shining city on a hill. And this is really important to understand that the American experiment and the idea of self-governance, and that objective moral truth is embedded in our society. Isn’t something that just came out of a vacuum or someone woke up with a great idea one day. It was something that came from a long line of understanding biblical truth that has been around eternally.
When they had set sail to America, John Winthrop’s wife was not with them, she was pregnant at the time. He set sail for America and they both decided it was better for her to come when it was safe for her and the child. Despite a harsh winter, and despite a number of difficulties, John Winthrop wrote a letter to her back in England in which he explained one challenge after another. But then he reminded her of the single purpose of their settlement.
We here enjoy God and Jesus Christ and is not this enough, John Winthrope.
One of the great Puritan writers, Reverend Cotton Mather wrote in 1702, how it was the desire for religious freedom that motivated so many of the original settlers to America to come to these shores. And that religious impulse, created a land with unprecedented freedom and prosperity. But Mather noted, religion began prosperity, and the daughter have consumed the mother, in our prosperity we have forgotten God. When you peel back the roots of American freedom, ultimately we see the gospel of Jesus Christ played a leading role and to lose the gospel, is to lose those rights in the big picture. For Providence forum, I’m Jerry Newcombe.