by Debra Conley
Another prominent Christian settlement in America was the 1630 Puritan colony of Boston. They chose the name Puritan because they wanted to remain within the Church of England but purify its practices. This came to an irreconcilable frustration that prompted the group’s voyage to the new world. Here they hoped to begin the church they envisioned, one free of the corrupt practices they had fought in England. Their leader and governor was John Winthrop. The Pilgrims in Plymouth and the Puritans in Boston had various disagreements over church practices, but each was respectful of the other’s choices for worship. Winthrop, while still on board his transport ship Arbella, said: “Now if the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then He has ratified this covenant and sealed our commission, and will expect a strict performance of the articles contained therein.” This respect for individual and religious freedom within a biblical framework became a primary tenant of early America and one that is woven into our Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
G.K. Chesterton, commenting on this covenant in his book, What I Saw in America, explains his view between America and all other nations: “America is the only nation whose Constitution is established upon a creed. Americans live by this creed; others live by nationalism which could include any moral or non-moral creed or code and thus have not received the blessings of the society found in America. The U.S. Constitution defines the integrity that is expected through this moral creed.” He goes on to explain how this integrity of moral character was written into our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. This, Chesterton asserts, gave America its unique self-governing success. Other nations simply expect nationalism or patriotism without a moral code except as laws regulate them. So those citizens may take any moral path and that diversion creates a kind of moral chaos not conducive to self-government, Chesterton explains.
These two early colonies sought to govern themselves morally in accordance with principles set out by God in His Word. They believed that if each individual followed the Christian precepts, we would remain free from the tyranny they had fled.
1. Winthrop, John “A Model of Christian Charity” of 1630 (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1976) Vol.
2. Chesterton, G.K. What I Saw in America (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923) page 4, 10