As I do understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway. He who has God’s grace in his heart can not go astray.
Boston was founded in Sixteen Hundred Thirty. The village was first called Trimountain, which was shortened as a matter of prenatal economy to Tremont.
The site was commanding and beautiful–a pear-shaped peninsula, devoid of trees, wind-swept, facing the sea, fringed by the salt-marsh, and transformed at high tide into an actual island.
The immediate inspirer of the Puritan exodus from England was Archbishop Laud, who had a cheerful habit of cutting off the ears of people who differed with him concerning the unknowable. The Puritans were people who believed in religious liberty. They rebelled from ritual, form, pomp and parade in sacred things. Their clergy were “ministers,” their churches were “meetinghouses,” their communicants “a congregation.”
The Boston settlers were Congregationalists, and stood about halfway between Presbyterianism and the Independents. Oliver Cromwell, it will be remembered, was an Independent. John Winthrop, a man very much like him, was a Congregationalist.
The Independents had no priests, but the Congregationalists compromised on a minister.
Charles the First and his beloved Archbishop Laud regarded these Congregationalists as undesirable citizens, and so obligingly gave John Winthrop his charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and said, “Go, and peace be with you,” although that is not the exact phrase they used.
In Sixteen Hundred Thirty-three, the Reverend John Cotton arrived at Tremont from Boston, Lincolnshire, England. In his honor, in a burst of enthusiasm, the settlers voted to change the name of their town from Tremont to Boston. And Boston Village it remained–Saint Botolph’s Town–governed by the town-meeting, until Eighteen Hundred Thirty-two, when it became a city, and Boston it is, even unto this day.
Boston now has considerably more than half a million people; at the beginning of the Revolutionary War it had twenty thousand inhabitants; in Sixteen Hundred Thirty-three, when John Cotton arrived, it had three hundred seven folk. The houses were built of logs–not of cut stone and marble–mostly in blockhouse style, chinked with mud. There were no wharves, but John Winthrop proudly says, “A ship can come within half a mile of my house, so deep is the channel.”
John Cotton was a very strong and earnest man, much beloved by all who knew him. Almost every family in the Massachusetts Bay Colony named a child after him. Increase Mather named one of his sons “Cotton.” The Colonists did not leave England by individuals or single families. They came in groups–church-groups–headed by the pastor of his flock. They were not in search of an Eldorado, nor a fountain of youth. It was distinctly a religious movement, the object being religious liberty. They wished to worship God in their own way. They believed that this world was a preparation for eternity. They believed that religion is the chief concern of mortals here below. Had they been told that man moves in a mysterious way his blunders to perform, the remark would have been lost on them.
Religion was the oil which caused the flame of their lives to burn brightly. They knew nothing of science, of history, of romance or of poetry. Their one book was the Bible, and by it they endeavored to guide their lives. Nature to them was something opposed to God, and all natural impulses were looked upon with suspicion. They never played and seldom laughed. They toiled, prayed, sang, and for recreation argued as to the meaning of Scriptural passages. To know what these passages meant was absolutely necessary in order to find a right location for your soul in another world. The fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom, but also its end.
And yet there was a recompense in their zeal, for it was the one thing which caused them to emigrate. In its holy flame all old ties were consumed, the past became ashes, hardships and dangers as naught, and although there was much brutality in their lives, they were at least different kinds of brutes from what they otherwise would have been. They were transplanted weeds. Religious zeal has its benefits, but they are often bought at a high price.