John Winthrop was not only a political leader and organizer for the Massachusetts Bay colony, but he was also the leader of forming the idealistic views of the Puritans. Winthrop began his life rich, coming from his families wealth, enjoying his lavish life and the pleasures that came with it. However, while he was under the weather, he realized that indulging in these meager worldly pleasures was not worthwhile in the eyes of the Lord.
Furthermore he went on to describe the current state of England as reminiscent of the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities burned to the ground by God’s wrath for its immeasurable amount of iniquities.
With this reality check fresh in his mind, Winthrop decided to side with the religion of the Puritans, whose main goal was to achieve the purification of all corruption within the church and its laws. As a Puritan, Winthrop tried multiple times to solve the “puritan dilemma,” or in other words, shape the new church and lay the foundation it stood upon.
By doing so, he led by example, living a life constantly influencing either solely or primarily by God and His word. The first of these instances came in the first few pages of the book, page five specifically, when Winthrop identifies the fact that “Puritanism required that a man devote his life to seeking salvation but told him he was helpless to do anything but evil. ” Or simply put “Puritanism required that man refrain from sin but told him he would sin anyhow. Winthrop combatted this idea by calling it parodoxal and it seemed that the only way to escape the sinful world presented to him, England, was to sail across the ocean to the New England and better himself and his religion there.
When in New England, Winthrop was entrusted with leading the Massachusetts Bay colony by making the rules. Winthrop expressed his idea to the colony that if they lived immoral lives with their sin going unpunished, then they would be subjecting themselves to the wrath of God, such as the afore entioned cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (64) The community took to his ideals and Morgan writes that with the whole community as the “police force,” it was easy to punish sin and to keep society in check. With such a unity, the colony was able to prosper a lot easier, and most people were able to co-exist without much incident. Another time he confronted the “puritan dilemma” was when he and the rest of the General Court debated Roger Williams on the standing of the church, whether Puritanism or Separatism was best for the new colony.
Williams claim was that the church, influenced heavily by both the past forefathers and the present corruption, had become too lost to set the standard of law. The only way to escape from the “dung heap” of the earth was to separate from the church completely. (121) Winthrop, however, had realized this during his revelation that led him to Puritanism: there was no getting away from the “dung heap” of the earth, because sin and immorality was and is everpresent. The only way to better the colony’s foundation, Winthrop believed, is to take the knowledge that is already given form the past, and to purify it.
Review the law and religion of the motherland and remove any harmful material that is viewed as wrong or self-seeking. As a matter of fact, Winthrop was even hurt at the fact that Williams was later excommunicated from the colony for his beliefs. He was willing to see the benefit of having someone of Williams’ enthusiasm and passion for their cause. His compassion in this case was an example of the overall view of the Massachusetts Bay colony: don’t do anything self-servingly, but be willing to do things the way God would want.
Winthrop’s final life demonstration of his Puritan beliefs was in a time of crisis for both him and New England in chaprter 12. With the Great Migration coming to a close, with some settlers abandoning their settlements and going back to England, with financial troubles on the rise for Winthrop due to a servant’s mistake, he still held firm in his belief that the colony he helped to found would become not just a good place, but a better place. He didn’t give up. He didn’t back out or go home, or anything.
Even when the scary thought came to him that he had called England a good place once, and now he lived in the Massachusetts Bay colony miles and miles across the sea just to get away from a country so religiously corrupt. (168) He stayed where he felt led by the Lord to be. This meant that he stayed where there was political problems as well, with the state pushing and urging for more judicial and legislative power over the area. Once again, Winthrop’s trust in God showed itself.
He constantly reminded himself that if God had wanted him or his neighbor, or the supply ships, or the whole colony to fail it would have. But the colony pressed on, as did Winthrop with his eyes ever turned upward. John Winthrop was a man of faith first, and his life was set on that cornerstone. The “puritan dilemma” that Winthrop is trying to solve the question of how a man can live a pure, unadulterated life with the many temptations of life and the inherited sinful human nature inside us all.
Throughout the course of his exploits, Winthrop is faced with problems and decisions that require him just to trust in the Lord and to have faith. This sybolizes the life of a Puritan because with all the corruption and deception even within the four most sacred walls there are supposed to be, the church, they decide to purify themselves, trusting in their society’s ability to do what’s right, punish what’s wrong, and have faith that their bond of holiness with God is enough for Him not to burn their colony up as He did to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Cite this Solving the Puritan Dilemma
Solving the Puritan Dilemma. (2016, Dec 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/solving-the-puritan-dilemma/