Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Light Upon The Hill...

This Wednesday will be our second GWU class meeting. We are discussing the books of Genesis, Leviticus, Exodus, and Deuteronomy in relationship with John Winthrop's writing entitle A Model of Christian Charity.

My attention is directed to Lev. chapter 26 and Deut. ch 28 as I've thought about this group of Puritans coming to the Massachusetts Bay area. If I'm understanding anything, it seem that these people saw themselves as the new children of Israel. They had made a covenant to obey god, to love and support each other through the bond of charity (1 Corinthians chapter 13).

God shows his wisdom and glory through the diversity of man. Thus some are poor and some are rich says Winthrop. And this he says is allowed that "this great king will have many stewards, counting himself more honored in dispensing his gifts to man by men, then if he did it by his own immediate hands".

Here are these pilgrims, getting ready to embark upon the ship Arbella in 1630. And like the Israelites lead by Moses, they too had a sea to cross. Granted the Atlantic is larger yet perhaps their faith was not lacking as it was for the Hebrews as the Egyptians were coming upon them.

The way Winthrop talks about helping and sustaining and forgiving debts if they can't be paid back, and the use of Justice, Mercy, the Law of Grace and the Law of Nature had to set the stage in the minds of every passenger their commitment to God. This reminded me today of the Farmers Market. A booth across from me is trying to develop awareness for the idea of Co-housing. Bingo! These early arrivals to America must have been all for Co-housing. You had to be if you wanted to survive.

The keys he says in order to avoid a "shipwreck" and to provide for their posterity is to follow the counsel of Micah; to do justly, love mercy, to walk humbly with God. And if they would do this (here I see what the Lord is saying in the 26 the 28 chapters I mentioned earlier. Jehovah said you are blessed if you obey or you will be plagued if you don't). These faithful pioneering pilgrims realized they could become " a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work...and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us we shall be made a story, a by-word through the world."

I read that Winthrop did not feel that the American Indians had civil right to the land because they had not subdued it. I don't know if it's right, yet if you use what Jehovah said to the Israelites in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and place a different nation as the subject then it opens the potential of the meaning. For example in Deut. 28 verse 1( relate it to America at our Founding) The Lord will set thee on high above all nations. v12...shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. (Relate this to America today! The lack of respect because American spending has no virtuous or moral control) but then if you don't obey God (and by the way the 4th fundamental belief of our Founding Fathers says that "without religion, the government of a free people will not be maintained.") verse 49 says the Lord shall bring a nation against thee from afar (I'm thinking China) whose tongue thou shalt not understand.

Now just because these scriptures are old, doesn't mean they aren't relatable to our time. The 27th founding principle says,"The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest."

Three quarters of the way through this motivating speech (which I'm sure everyone understood his mode of talking. I don't in our modern type of English) Winthrop starts to talk of a mother and her love for family and community. Two points enlightened my learning here.

Firstly, Proverbs 31 the glory of a virtuous women. My mind was opened to relating the deeds of this women to the less known concepts of public virtue, liber, georgics, providence (founding point #5 is the fact that we are created by God and thus mankind is equally dependent upon Him and equally responsible to Him). The fifth concept being freedom which we still use today but I know I don't understand the full meaning.

Secondly, the core unit which determines the strength of any society is the family; therefore, the government should foster and protect it's integrity. So says founding point 26. Existence started with family. There is not only a loving Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ, there is a heavenly mother who probably feels like the mother that Winthrop describes in this paragraph. "...She sets no bounds to her affections, nor hath any thought of reward. She finds recompense enough in the exercise of her love towards it."

I can see John Winthrop end his oration with these final words that probably did what he needed.
"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 our prosperity."


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