The Puritans, Part 7

Phil Jensen


Pilgrim_exiles,_Plymouth,_Mass_(78376)To those who have faith, God gives the wisdom to know what to do:

Winthrop’s first move was to look for a roomier place than Salem in which to settle.  There was not enough open land there, and the drab surroundings were bad for morale.  Three days after landing he was off to explore the bay that lay to the south.  He cruised for several miles up the Mystic River and took note of the meadows (Englishmen called them “champion land) with their fat black earth. [1]

This bay to the south was the bay for Boston.  If you were to bring up a map of the Boston area on the internet, you would see that there are two rivers which flow into the water way that leads to the bay.  One is now called the Charles and the other is called the Mystic.  The Mystic comes in from the Northwest.

Rick Kriebel 2016


Coming back, he stopped and spent the night at the fine house which Samuel Maverick had built at the mouth of the river on the north side.

Here was sufficient proof of what a little effort and courage would do.  Maverick, a well-bred young man, had come over with his bride six years before, had built this house and fortified it, and now lived there like a king, offering hospitality to all who came.

He seemed to have passed his six years in the wilderness as comfortably and civilly as if he had been in London. If one man could do so well in his own cause, how much more could a thousand do in the cause of God? [2]

Woodrow Wilcox


Notice what ran through Winthrop’s mind when he met Samuel Maverick and saw what Maverick had accomplished.  If Maverick could do what he did, there was hope for those who had come to build a colony that honored God.

To a believer like Winthrop, his encounter with Maverick was a manifestation of God’s grace designed to encourage him. This is what happens when we are looking for a way to move forward. God puts people on our path who provide us with the encouragement to take another step. They may actually encourage us with words, or like Maverick, through what we see in their life, God may be saying to us, “If he or she can do it, you can do it.”

With that attitude in mind, no doubt, Winthrop  looked at all the land he saw with a new hope.  As he did, God gave him another reason to be encouraged. He came across a large frame house on the Charlestown peninsula which had been constructed by some settlers the year before. In any event, Winthrop came back convinced of what needed to be done:

There was no point in trying to crowd a thousand people into Salem when this land of Canaan lay waiting. Winthrop packed up the expedition again and landed it at Charlestown.  From here the settlers fanned out and soon had plantations stretched around the bay. [3]

After moving the people to this new location, Winthrop immediately began to take steps to see that there would be enough provisions.  He made plans to send men out to find sources of food.  But that wasn’t the only thing he did:

The most reliable of the ship captains, Master William Peirce of the Lyon, he dispatched to Bristol will a bill of exchange and a letter to John (Winthrop’s son who had stayed behind), to see that money was furnished at once to buy provisions. [4]

Things were beginning to come together, but then a problem arose with the water at Charlestown. People were starting getting sick, and they were convinced it was the water.

It was yet another troubling situation. Then it got worse. The settlement at Charlestown lost two very important people. The Lady Arbella died at the end of August, and her husband, Isaac Johnson, died the last day of September.  Their deaths were a tragic loss, for they were people who were heavily committed to the cause and heavily invested in the cause. They were good people then who had meant a lot to John Winthrop.

Obviously, Winthrop and those with him had to make a decision.  They couldn’t just stay there and die.  They had to try another place.

Winthrop and most of the others in Charlestown crossed over to the peninsula of Boston, bringing with them the frame of a house that Winthrop had begun to erect in Charlestown. [5]

One would hope that the move to what would become Boston signaled the end of their troubles.  However this was not the case. People continued to get sick and die.  Among those who died were eleven of Winthrop’s servants.  This reminds me of what Satan said to the Lord about Job:

Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? …But now stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” —Job 1:10a, 11

As a test of faith, the Lord allowed Satan to bring trouble into Job’s life.  Job lost his children and his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his camels and most of his servants.  But did Job curse God after these troubles?  No. He said:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” —Job 1:21

Neither did Winthrop curse God. Perhaps, it was because Winthrop realized this was spiritual warfare.  This new land was Satan’s kingdom.  No doubt, Satan did not like the fact that Winthrop was bringing Christians here to set up the kingdom of God on earth.  Satan tried to destroy the faith of these Christians, but he could not destroy the faith of John Winthrop.  Winthrop moved ahead.

This is what we need to do when we are trying to get victory in a new part of our life.  We need to be determined to press on with faith.  We need to do this even though we know more trouble is probably on the horizon.

And more trouble came for the Puritans.  For winter came:

Winter struck with a freezing northwest gale on the day before Christmas, and thereafter the settlers, unaccustomed to the temperatures, got their hands and feet frozen and sometimes died on short trips undertaken too casually.

In their crude huts they built up the fires too large, so the chimneys daubed together out of clay and wood took fire, and so did the highly combustible thatched roofs, with no means at hand to extinguish them. [6]

Two hundred would die that winter. However help was on the way, and I will cover that in part eight.

[1]  MORGAN, EDMUND S., THE PURITAN DILEMMA; THE STORY OF JOHN WINTHROP, 3rd Ed., © 2007.  Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York,  , p. 53.

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  MORGAN, EDMUND S., THE PURITAN DILEMMA; THE STORY OF JOHN WINTHROP, 3rd Ed., © 2007.  Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York,  p. 54.

[4]  Ibid.

[5] MORGAN, EDMUND S., THE PURITAN DILEMMA; THE STORY OF JOHN WINTHROP, 3rd Ed., © 2007.  Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York, p. 54.

[6]  MORGAN, EDMUND S., THE PURITAN DILEMMA; THE STORY OF JOHN WINTHROP, 3rd Ed., © 2007.  Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York,   p. 56-57.



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Bob Wittstruck was a pastor for 33 years, was the associate director of the Black Hills Creation Science Association, and is a supporter of both Christian schooling and home schooling. His latest book, The Forgotten Factor of History God Rules, is being printed in February or March of 2016. His email address is [email protected]
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