This Week's Story

subscribe to podcast [click here] or play audio below

What could convince you to leave your country as John Winthrop did?

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Different Worlds: Challenged, part two

February 4, 1603 — journal entry of John Winthrop

Father told me when I left home, “John, you’ve not been tested. You’ve lived in a large manor, fished in our ponds, and hunted in our forests. Visitors have come from far and near. Good-willed arguments have attended our dinners. Your education has been good. You’re also sensitive to God.

“Now you’re leaving home and you’re fourteen. Are you wondering, Am I going to survive at Trinity College and then Cambridge University?

“Son, I don’t know the answer, but remember you have two years there, before you come home to learn how to manage our estate. You are going to a world you’ve never experienced. There will be pressure with school assignments, new people including new friends, and temptations. You may struggle. Don’t get side-tracked.”

As John wrote he remembered his father’s words well. Father was

right; I’m struggling. I’m homesick and miserable with a fever. I don’t concentrate well on my school assignments. Sometimes temptations nearly overpower me.

John Thought Can I get victory here? I’m used to reading the Bible and praying, but I need a more personal understanding of you, God. Please, guide me.

Everyone here is expected to attend the Church of England services, but they are so dry they make me angry. Sometimes the preachers don’t show up to preach. Their sermons don’t help me to understand God or the Bible or how to resist temptations.

I am beginning to know some Puritan students and teachers. They are part of a group of people that declare, “The Church of England needs to be reformed and return to teaching the Bible. It needs to teach right living and humble hearts. To see cruelty and dishonesty and do nothing to stop it, is not God’s will for His church. We must stop wasting time with rituals. Have they helped us to love and obey God?”

I, John Winthrop, am beginning to agree with the Puritans. They believe that God does not want the church to be under the authority of any king or queen or pope. The church should be independent of a hierarchy of rulers. Those are radical convictions. Some people say, “They’re treason!”

Queen Elizabeth has the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She is opposed to the Puritans. She believes everyone in England should attend the Church of England services. She would like all public and church officials to take the Oath of Supremacy, but the bishops of the church have resisted. So only public officials including Members of Parliament take the oath. It begins: “I,…,do utterly testify and declare in my conscience that the Queen’s Highness is the only supreme governor of this realm.”

Two years passed. John became a Puritan and learned to care for the family property. He studied law and attended Gray’s Inn law school. His first and second wife died, but his third marriage brought him and his wife tender love.

At age 38 he was appointed to a court with a terrible reputation for dishonesty and stealing – the Court of Wards and Liveries. When someone left an inheritance to a young person, the courts stole it. John Winthrop despised a rotten legal system that cheated the people who were to be protected.

What should he do? Could John and other Puritans change England’s courts and state church? Should they emigrate to America? Some friends advised John, “You are needed here.”

A large group of Puritans, who had formed the Massachusetts Bay Company, said, “We need you to lead us.”

John thoughtfully wrote a list of pros and cons, which helped many Puritans to decide, “We will go to America.”

This is Barbara Steiner. Please visit thisweeksstory.com.

<< previous story] [next story >>


Facebook Join the conversation.

This Week's Story is a non-profit supported by listeners. [click here to make a donation with ]