William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Home
Sermons
 
Back
 
Magnalia Christi Americana


Chapter IV
by Cotton Mather


Nehemias Americanus1

THE LIFE OF JOHN WINTHROP, ESQ., GOVERNOR OF THE MASSACHUSETTS COLONY.
Quicungue venti erunt, Ars nostra certe non aberit. -Cicero.2

1. LET Greece boast of her patient Lycurgus, the lawgiver, by whom diligence,
temperance, fortitude and wit were made the fashions of a therefore long-lasting
and renowned commonwealth: let Rome tell of her devout Numa, the lawgiver, by
whom the most famous commonwealth saw peace triumphing over extinguished war and
cruel plunders; and murders giving place to the more mollifying exercises of his
religion. Our New-England shall tell and boast of her WINTHROP, a lawgiver as
patient as Lycurgus, but not admitting any of his criminal disorders; as devout
as Numa, but not liable to any of his heathenish madnesses; a governour in whom
the excellencies of Christianity made a most improving addition unto the
virtues, wherein even without those he would have made a parallel for the great
men of Greece, or of Rome, which the pen of a Plutarch has eternized.
A stock of heroes by right should afford nothing but what is heroical; and
nothing but an extream degeneracy would make any thing less to be expected from
a stock of Winthrops. Mr. Adam Winthrop, the son of a worthy gentleman wearing
the same name, was himself a worthy, a discreet, and a learned gentleman,
particularly eminent for skill in the law, nor without remark for love to the
gospel, under the reign of King Henry VIII., and brother to a memorable favourer
of the reformed religion in the days of Queen Mary, into whose hands the famous
martyr Philpot committed his papers, which afterwards made no inconsiderable
part of our martyr-books. This Mr. Adam Winthrop had a son of the same name
also, and of the same endowments and imployments with his father; and this third
Adam Winthrop was the father of that renowned John Winthrop, who was the father
of New-England, and the founder of a colony, which, upon many accounts, like him
that founded it, may challenge the first place among the English glories of
America. Our JOHN WINTHROP, thus born at the mansion-house of his ancestors, at
Groton in Suffolk, on June 12, 1587, enjoyed afterwards an agreeable education.
But though he would rather have devoted himself unto the study of Mr. John
Calvin, than of Sir Edward Cook; nevertheless, the accomplishmentsof a lawyer
were those wherewith Heaven made his chief opportunities to be serviceable.
3. Being made, at the unusually early age of eighteen, a justice of peace, his
virtues began to fall under a more general observation; and he not only so bound
himself to the behaviour of a Christian, as to becomeexemplary for a conformity
to the laws of Christianity in his own conversation, but also discovered a more
than ordinary measure of those qualities which adorn an officer of humane
society. His justice was impartial,and used the ballance to weigh not the cash,
but the case of those who were before him: prosopolatria3 he reckoned as bad as
idolatria.4 his wisdom did exquisitely temper things according to the art of
governing, which is a business of more contrivance than the seven arts of the
schools; oyer still went before terminer in all his administrations: his courage
made him dare to do right, and fitted him to stand among the lions that have
sometimes been the supporters of the throne: all which virtues he rendred the
more illustrious, by emblazoning them with the constant liberality and
hospitality of a gentleman. This made him the terror of the wicked,and the
delight of the sober, the envy of the many, but the hope of those who had any
hopeful design in hand for the common good of the nation and the interests of
religion.

4. Accordingly when the noble design of carrying a colony of chosen people into
an American wilderness, was by some eminent persons undertaken, this eminent
person was, by the consent of all, chosen for the Moses, who must be the leader
of so great an undertaking: and indeed nothing but a Mosaic spirit could have
carried him through the temptations, to which either his farewel to his own
land, or his travel in a strange land, must needs expose a gentleman of his
education. Wherefore having sold a fair estate of six or seven hundred a year,
he transported himself with the effects of it into New-England in the year 1630,
where he spent it upon the service of a famous plantation, founded and formed
for the seat of the most reformed Christianity: and continued there, conflicting
with temptations of all sorts, as many years as the nodes of the moon take to
dispatch a revolution. Those persons were never concerned in a new plantation,
who know not that the unavoidable difficulties of such a thing will call for all
the prudence and patience of a mortal man to encounter therewithal; and they
must be very insensible of the influence, which the just wrath of Heaven has
permitted the devils to have upon this world, if they do not think that the
difficulties of a new plantation, devoted unto the evangelical worship of our
Lord Jesus Christ, must be yet more than ordinary. How prudently, how patiently,
and with how much resignation to our Lord Jesus Christ, our brave Winthrop waded
through these difficulties, let posterity consider with admiration. And know,
that as the picture of this their governour was, after his death, hung up with
honour in the state-house of his country, so the wisdom, courage, and holy zeal
of his life, were an example well-worthy to be copied by all that shall succeed
him in government.

5. Were he now to be considered only as a Christian, we might therein propose
him as greatly imitable. He was a very religious man; and as he strictly kept
his heart, so he kept his house, under the laws of piety; there he was every day
constant in holy duties, both morning and evening, and on the Lord's days, and
lectures; though he wrote not after the preacher, yet such was his attention,
and such his retention in hearing, that he repeated unto his family the sermons
which he had heard in the congregation. But it is chiefly as a governour that he
is now to be considered. Being the governour over the considerablest part of
NewEngland, he maintained the figure and honour of his place with the spirit of
a true gentleman; but yet with such obliging condescension to the circumstances
of the colony, that when a certain troublesome and malicious calumniator, well
known in-those times, printed his libellous nick-names upon the chief persons
here, the worst nick-name he could find for the governour, was John Temper-well;
and when the calumnies of that ill man caused the Arch-bishop to summon one Mr.
Cleaves before the King, in hopes to get some accusation from him against the
country, Mr. Cleaves gave such an account of the governour's laudable carriage
in all respects, and the serious devotion wherewith prayers were both publickly
and privately made for his Majesty, that the King expressed himself most highly
pleased therewithal, only sorry that so worthy a person should be no better
accommodated than with the hardships of America. He was, indeed, a governour,
who had most exactly studied that book which, pretending to teach politicks, did
only contain three leaves, and but one word in each of those leaves, which word
was, MODERATION. Hence, though he were a zealous enemy to all vice, yet his
practice was according to his judgment thus expressed: "In the infancy of
plantations, justice should be administered with more lenity than in a settled
state; because people are more apt then to transgress; partly out of ignorance
of new laws and orders, partly out of oppression of business, and other straits.
[LENTO GRADU]5 was the old rule; and if the strings of a new instrument be wound
up unto their heighth, they will quickly crack." But when some leading and
learned men took offence at his conduct in this matter, and upon a conference
gave it in as their opinion, " That a stricter discipline was to be used in the
beginning of a plantation, than after its being with more age established and
confirmed," the governour being readier to see his own errors than other men's,
professed his purpose to endeavor their satisfaction with less of lenity in his
administrations. At that conference there were drawn up several other articles
to be observed between the governour and the rest of the magistrates, which were
of this import: "That the magistrates, as far as might be, should aforehand
ripen their consultations, to produce that unanimity in their publick votes,
which might make them liker to the voice of God; that if differences fell among
them in their publick meetings, they should speak only to the case, without any
reflection, with all due modesty, and but by way of question; or desire the
deferring of the cause to further time; and after sentence imitate privately no
dislike; that they should be more familiar, friend and open unto each other, and
more frequent in their visitations, and not any way expose each other's
infirmities, but seek the honour of eachother and all the Court; that one
magistrate shall not cross the proceedings of another, without first advising
with him; and that they should in all their appearances abroad, be so
circumstanced as to prevent all contempt of authority; and that they should
support and strengthen all under officers. All of which articles were observed
by no man more than by the governour himself.

6. But whilst he thus did, as our New-English Nehemiah, the part of a ruler in
managing the public affairs of our American Jerusalem, when there were Tobijahs
and Sanballats enough to vex him, and give him the experiment of Luther's
observation, Omnis qui regit est tanquam signum, in quod omnia jacula, Satan et
Mundus dirigunt;6 he made himself still an exacter parallel unto that governour
of Israel, by doing the part of a neighbour among the distressed people of the
new plantation. To teach them the frugality necessary for those times, he
abridged himself of a thousand comfortable things, which he had allowed himself
elsewhere: his habit was not that soft raiment, which would have been
disagreeable to a wilderness; his table was not covered with the superfluities
that would have invited unto sensualities: water was commonly his own drink,
though he gave wine to others. But at the same time his liberality unto the
needy was even beyond measure generous; and therein he was continually causing
"the blessing of him that was ready to perish to come upon him, and the heart of
the widow and the orphan to sing for joy:" but none more than those of deceased
Ministers, whom he always treated with a very singular compassion; among the
instances whereof we still enjoy with us the worthy and now aged son of that
reverend Higginson, whose death left his family in a wide world soon after his
arrival here, publickly acknowledging the charitable Winthrop for his
foster-father. It was oftentimes no small trial unto his faith, to think how a
table for the people should be furnished when they first came into the
wilderness! and for very many of the people his own good works were needful, and
accordingly employed for the answering of his faith. Indeed, for a while the
governour was the Joseph, unto whom the whole body of the people repaired when
their corn failed them; and he continued relieving of them with his open-handed
bounties, as long as he had any stock to do it with; and a lively faith to see
the return of the "bread after many days," and not starve in the days that were
to pass till that return should be seen, carried him cheerfully through those
expences.

Once it was observable that, on February 5, 1630, when he was distributing the
last handful of the meal in the barrel unto a poor man distressed by the "wolf
at the door," at that instant they spied a ship arrived at the harbour's mouth,
laden with provisions for them all. Yea' the governour sometimes made his own
private purse to be the publick: not by sucking into it, but by squeezing out of
it; for when the publick treasure had nothing in it, he did himself defray the
charges of the publick. And having learned that lesson of our Lord, "that it is
better to give than to receive," he did, at the general court, when he was a
third time chosen governour, make a speech unto this purpose: "That he had
received gratuities from divers towns, which he accepted with much comfort and
content; and he had likewise received civilities from particular persons, which
he could not refuse without incivility in himself: never- theless, he took them
with a trembling heart, in regard of God's word, and the conscience of his own
infirmities; and therefore he desired them that they would not hereafter take it
ill if he refused such presents for , the time to come." 'Twas his custom also
to send some of his family upon errands unto the houses of the poor, about their
meal time, on purpose to spy whether they wanted; and if it were found that they
wanted, he would make that the opportunity of sending supplies unto them. And
there was one passage of his charity that was perhaps a little unusual: in an
hard and long winter, when wood was very scarce at Boston, a man gave him a
private information that a needy person in the neighbourhood stole wood
sometimes from his pile; whereupon the governour in a seeming anger did reply,
"Does he so ? I'll take a course with him; go, call that man to me; I'll warrant
you I'll cure him of stealing." When the man came, the governour considering
that if he had stolen, it was more out of necessity than disposition, said unto
him, "Friend, it is a severe winter, and I doubt you are but meanly provided for
wood; wherefore I would have you supply your self at my wood-pile till this cold
season be over." And he then merrily asked his friends, " Whether he had not
effectually cured this man of stealing his wood?"

7. One would have imagined that so good a man could have had no enemies, if we
had not had a daily and woful experience to convince us that goodness it self
will make enemies. It is a wonderful speech of Plato, (in one of his books, De
Republica,) "For the trial of true vertue, 'tis neces. sary that a good man
(greek) Though he do no unjust thing, should suffer the infamy of the greatest
injustice." The governour had by his unspotted integrity procured himself a
great reputation among the people; and then the crime of popularity was laid
unto his charge by such, who were willing to deliver him from the danger of
having all men speak well of him. Yea, there were persons eminent both for
figure and for number, unto whom it was almost essential to dislike every thing
that came from him; and yet he always maintained an amicable correspondence with
them; as believing that they acted according to their judgment and conscience,
or that their eyes were held by some temptation in the worst of all their
oppositions. Indeed, his right w orks were so many, that they exposed him unto
the envy of his neighbours; and of such power was that envy, that sometimes he
could not stand before it; but it was by not standing that he most effectually
withstood it all. Great attempts were sometimes made among the freemen to get
him left out from his place in the government upon little presences, lest by the
too frequent choice of one man, the government should cease to be by choice; and
with a particular aim at him, sermons were preached at the anniversary Court of
election, to disswade the freemen from chusing one man twice together. This was
the reward of his extraordinary serviceableness! But when these attempts did
succeed, as they sometimes did, his profound humility appeared in that equality
of mind, wherewith he applied himself cheerfully to serve the country in
whatever station their votes had alloted for him. And one year when the votes
came to be numbered, there were found six less for Mr. Winthrop than for another
gentleman who then stood in competition: but several other persons regularly
tendring their votes before the election was published, were, upon a very
frivolous objection, refused by some of the magistrates that were afraid lest
the election should at last fall upon Mr. Winthrop: which, though it was well
perceived, yet such was the self-denial of this patriot, that he would not
permit any notice to be taken of the injury. But these trials were nothing in
comparison of those harsher and harder treats, which he sometimes had from the
frowardness of not a few in the days of their paroxisms; and from the faction of
some against him, not much unlike that of the Piazzi in Florence against the
family of the Medices: all of which he at last conquered by conforming to the
famous Judge's motto, Prudens qui Patiens.7 The oracles of God have said, "Envy
is rottenness to the bones;" and Gulielmus Parisiensis applies it unto rulers,
who are as it were the bones of the societies which they belong unto: "Envy,"
says he, "is often found among them, and it is rottenness unto them." Our
Winthrop encountred this envy from others, but conquered it, by being free from
it himself.

8. Were it not for the sake of introducing the exemplary skill of this wise man,
at giving soft answers, one would not chuse to relate those instances of wrath
which he had sometimes to encounter with; but he was for his gentleness, his
forbearance and longanimity, a pattern so worthy to be written after, that
something must here be written of it. He seemed indeed never to speak any other
language than that of Theodosius: " If any man speak evil of the governour, if
it be through lightness, 'tis to be contemned ; if it be through madness, 'tis
to be pitied ; if it be through injury, 'tis to be remitted." Behold, reader,
the "meekness of wisdom" notably exemplified! There was a time when he received
a very sharp letter from a gentleman who was a member of the Court, but he
delivered back the letter unto the messengers that brought it, with such a
Christian speech as this: " I am not willing to keep such a matter of
provocation by me! Afterwards the same gentleman was compelled by the scarcity
of provisions to send unto him that he would sell him some of his cattle;
whereupon the governour prayed him to accept what he had sent for as a token of
his good will ; but the gentleman returned him this answer: " Sir, your
overcoming of yourself hath overcome me." and afterwards gave demonstration of
it. The French have a saying, That Un honest homme, est un homme mesle! a good
man is a mixt man; and there hardly ever was a more sensible mixture of those
two things, resolution and condescension, than in this good man. There was a
time when the court of election being, for fear of tumult, held at Cambridge,
May 17, 1637, the sectarian part of the country, who had the year before gotten
a governour more unto their mind, had a project now to have confounded the
election, by demanding that the court would consider a petition then tendered
before their proceeding thereunto. Mr. Winthrop saw that this was only a trick
to throw all into confusion, by putting off the choice of the governour and
assistants until the day should be over; and therefore he did, with a strenuous
resolution, procure a disappointment unto that mischievous and ruinous
contrivance. Nevertheless, Mr. Winthrop himself being by the voice of the
freemen in this exigence chosen the governour, and all of the other party left
out, that ill-affected party discovered the dirt and mire, which remained with
them, after the storm was over; particularly the serjeants, whose office 'twas
to attend the governour, laid down their halberts; but such was the
condescension of this governour, as to take no present notice of this anger and
contempt, but only order some of his own servants to take the halberts; and when
the country manifested their deep resentments of the affront thus offered him,
he prayed them to overlook it. But it was not long before a compensation was
made for these things by the doubled respects which were from all parts paid
unto him. Again, there was a time when the suppression of an antinomian and
familistical faction, which extreamly threatned the ruin of the country, was
generally thought much owing unto this renowned man; and therefore when the
friends of that faction could not wreak their displeasure on him with any
politick vexations, they set themselves to do it by ecclesiastical ones.
Accordingly when a sentence of banishment was passed on the ringleaders of those
disturbances, who

Maria et Terras, Coelumque profundum, Quippe ferant Rapidi, secum vertantque
per Auras;8

many at the church of Boston, who were then that way too much inclined, most
earnestly solicited the elders of that church, whereof the governour was a
member, to call him forth as an offender, for passing of that sentence. The
elders were unwilling to do any such thing; but the governour undertanding the
ferment among the people took that occasion to make a speech in the congregation
to this effect:

"BRETHREN: Understanding that some of you have desired that I should answer
for an offence lately taken among you; had I been called upon so to do, I
would, first, have advised with the ministers of the country, whether the
church had power to call in question the civil court ; and I would, secondly,
have advised with the rest of the court, whether I might discover their
counsels unto the church. But though I know that the reverend elders of this
church, and some others, do very well apprehend that the church cannot enquire
into the proceedings of the court; yet, for the satisfaction of the weaker,
who do not apprehend it, I will declare my mind concerning it. If the church
have any such power, they have it from the Lord Jesus Christ; but the Lord
Jesus Christ hath disclaimed it, not only by practice, but also by precept,
which we have in his gospel, Matt. xx. 25, 26. It is true, indeed, that
magistrates, as they are church- members, are accountable unto the church for
their failings; but that is when they are out of their calling. When Uzziah
would go offer incense in the temple, the officers of the church called him to
an account, and vithstood him, but when Asa put the prophet in prison, the
officers of the church did not call him to an recount for that. If the
magistrate shall in a private way wrong any man, the church may call him to an
account for it; but if he be in pursuance of a course of justice, though the
thing that he does be unjust, yet he is not accountable for it before the
church. As for my self, I did nothing in the causes of any of the brethren but
by the advice of the elders of the church. Moreover, in the oath which 1 have
taken there is this clause: "In all cases wherein you are to give your vote,
you shall do as in your judgment and conscience you shall see to be just, and
for the publick good." And I am satisfied, it is most for the glory of God,
and the publick good, that there has been such a sentence passed ; yea, those
brethren are so divided from the rest of the country in their opinions and
practices, that it cannot sland with the publick peace for them to continue
with us ; Abraham saw that Hagar and Ishmael must be sent away."
By such a speech he marvellously convinced, satisfied and mollified the uneasie
brethren of the church; Sic cunctus Pelagi cecidit Fragor9 And after a little
patient waiting, the differences all so wore away, that the church, meerly as a
token of respect unto the governour when he had newly met with some losses in
his estate, sent him a present of several hundreds of pounds. Once more there
was a time when some active spirits among the deputies of the colony, by their
endeavours not only to make themselves a Court of Judicature, but also to take
away the negatlve by which the magistrates might check their votes, had like by
over-driving to have run the whole government into something too democratical.
And if there were a town in Spain undermined by coneys, another town in Thrace
destroyed by moles, a third in Greece ranversed by frogs, a fourth in Germany
subverted by rats; I must on this occasion add, that there was a country in
America like to be confounded by a swine. A certain stray sow being found, was
claimed by two several persons with a claim so equally maintained on both sides,
that after six or seven years' hunting the business from one court unto another,
it was brought at last into the General Court, where the final determination
was, "that it was impossible to proceed unto any judgment in the case." However,
in the debate of this matter, the negative of the upper-house upon the lower in
that Court was brought upon the stage ; and agitated with so hot a zeal, that a
little more, and all had been in the fire. In these agitations, the governour
was informed that an offence had been taken by some eminent persons at certain
passages in a discourse by him written thereabout ; whereupon, with his usual
condescendency, when he next came into the General Court, he made a speech of
this import:

"I understand that some have taken offence at something that I have lately
written; which offence I desire to remove now, and begin this year in a
reconciled state with you all. As for the matter of my writing, I kind the
concurrence of my brethren; it is a point of judg ment which is not at my own
disposing. I have examined it over and over again by such light as God has
given me, from the rules of religion, reason and custom; and I see no cause to
retract any thing of it: wherefore I must enjoy my liberty in that, as you do
your selves. But for the manner, this, and all that was blame-worthy in it,
was wholly my own; and whatsoever I might alledge for my own justification
therein before men, I wave it, as now setting my self before another Judgment
seat. However, what I wrote was upon great provocation, and to vindicate my
self and others from great aspersion ; yet that was no sufficient warrant tor
me to allow any distemper of spirit in my self; and I doubt I have been too
prodigal of my brethren's reputation; I might have maintained my cause without
casting any blemish upon others, when I made that my conclusion, 'And now let
religion and sound reason give judgment in the ease;' it looked as if I
arrogated too much unto my self, and too little to others. And when I made
that profession, 'That I would maintain what I wrote before all the world,'
though such words might modestly be spoken, yet I perceive an unbeseeming
pride of my own heart breathing in them. For these failings, I ask pardon of
God and man."

Sic ait, et dicto citius Tumida Aequora placat, Collectasque fugat Nubes,
Solemque reducit.10

This acknowledging disposition in the governour made them all acknowledge, that
he was truly "a man of an excellent spirit." In fine, the victories of an
Alexander, an Hannibal, or a Csar over other men, were not so glorious as the
victories of this great man over himself; which also at last proved victories
over other men.

9. But the stormiest of all the trials that ever befel this gentleman, was in
the year 1645, when he was, in title, no more than Deputy-governour of the
colony. If the famous Cato were forty-four times called into judgment, but as
often acquitted ; let it not be wondred, and if our famous Winthrop were one
time so. There happing certain seditious and mutinous practices in the town of
Elingham, the Deputy-governour, as legally as prudently, interposed his
authority for the checking of them: whereupon there followed such an enchantment
upon the minds of the deputies in the General Court, that upon a scandalous
petition of the delinquents unto them, wherein a pretended invasion made upon
the liberties of the people was complained of, the Deputy-governour was most
irregularly called forth unto an ignominious hearing before them in a vast
assembly ; whereto with a sagacious humilitude he consented, although he shewed
them how he might have refused it. The result of that hearing was, that
notwithstanding the touchy jealousie of the people about their liberties lay at
the bottom of all this prosecution, yet Mr. Winthrop was publickly acquitted,
and the offenders were severally fined and censured. But Mr. Winthrop then
resuming the place of Deputy-governour on the bench, saw cause to speak unto the
root of the matter after this manner:

"I shall not now speak any thing about the past proceedings of this Court, or
the person therein concerned. Only I bless God that I see an issue of this
troublesome affair. I am well satisfied that I was publickly accused, and that
I am now publickly acquitted. But though I am justified before men, yet it may
be the Lord hath seen so much amiss in my administrations, as calls me to be
humbled; and indeed for me to have been thus charged by men, is it self a
matter of humiliation, whereof I desire to make a right use before the Lord.
If Miriam's father spit in her face, she is to be ashamed. But give me leave,
before you go, to say something that may rectifie the opinions of many people,
from whence the distempers have risen that have lately prevailed upon the body
of this people. The questions that have troubled the country have been about
the authority of the magistracy, and the liberty of the people. It is you who
have called us unto this office; but being thus called we have our authority
from God; it is the ordinance of God, and it hath the image of God stamped
upon it ; and the contempt of it has been vindicated by God with terrible
examples ot his vengeance. I entreat you to consider, that when you chuse
magistrates, you take them from among your selves, 'men subject unto like
passions with your selves.' If you see our infirmities, reflect on your own,
and you will not be so severe censurers of ours. We count him a good servant
who breaks not his covenant: the covenant between us and you, is the oath you
have taken of us, which is to this purpose, 'that we shall govern you, and
judge your causes, according to God's laws, and our own, according to our best
skill.' As for our skill, you must run the hazard of it; and if there be an
error, not in the will, but only in skill, it becomes you to bear it. Nor
would I have you to mistake in the point of your own liberty. There is a
liberty of corrupt nature, which is affected both by men and beasts to do what
they list ; and this liberty is inconsistent with authority, impatient of all
restraint; by this liberty, Sumus Omnes Deteriores;11 'tis the grand enemy of
truth and peace, and all the ordinances of God are bent against it. But there
is a civil, a moral, a federal liberty which is the proper end and object of
authority; it is a liberty for that only which is just and good; for this
liberty you are to stand with the hazard of your very lives; and what ever
crosses it is not authority, but a distemper thereof. This liberty is
maintained in way of subjection to authority; and the authority set over you
will in all administration for your good be quietly submitted unto, by all but
such as have a disposition to shake off the yoke, and lose their true liberty,
by their murmuring at the honour and power of authority."

The spell that was upon the eyes of the people being thus dissolved, their
distorted and enraged notions of things all vanished; and the people would not
afterwards entrust the helm of the weather-beaten bark in any other hands but
Mr. Winthrop's until he died.

10. Indeed, such was the mixture of distant qualities in him, as to make a most
admirable temper; and his having a certain greatness of soul, which rendered him
grave, generous, courageous, resolved, well-applied, and every way a gentleman
in his demeanour, did not hinder him from taking sometimes the old Roman's way
to avoid confusions, namely Cedendo;12 or from discouraging some things which
are agreeable enough to most that wear the name of gentlemen. Hereof I will give
no instances, but only oppose two passages of his life.

In the year 1632, the governour, with his pastor, Mr. Wilson, and some other
gentlemen, to settle a good understanding between the two colonies travelled as
far as Plymouth, more than forty miles, through an howling wilderness, no better
accommodated in those early days than the princes that in Solomon's time saw
"servants on horseback," or than genus and species in the old epigram, "going on
foot." The difficulty of the walk, was abundantly compensated by the honourable,
first reception, and then dismission, which they found from the rulers of
Plymouth: and by the good correspondence thus established between the new
colonies, who were dike the floating bottels wearing this motto: Si Collidimur
Frangimur.13 But there were at this time in Plymouth two ministers, leavened so
far with the humours of the rigid separation, that they insisted vehemently upon
the uulawfulness of calling any unregenerate man by the name of "good-man such
an one," until by their indiscreet urging of this whimsey, the place began to be
disquieted. The wiser people being troubled at these trifles, they took the
opportunity of Governour Winthrop's being there, to have the thing publickly
propounded in the congregation: who in answer "hereunto, distinguished between a
theological and a moral goodness; adding, that when Juries were first used in
England, it was usual for the crier, after the names of persons fit for that
service were called over, to bid them all, "Attend, good men and true; whence it
grew to be a civil custom in the English nation, for neighbours living by one
another, to call one another " good man such an one ;" and it was pity now to
make a stir about a civil custom, so innocently introduced. And that speech of
Mr. Winthrop's put a lasting stop to th lttle, idle, whimsical conceits, then
beginning to grow obstreperous. Nevertheless, there was one civil custom used in
(and in few but) the English nation, which this gentleman did endeavour to
abolish in this country; and that was, the usage of drinking to one another. For
although by drinking to one another, no more is meant than an act of courtesie,
when one going to drink, does invite another to do so too, for the same ends
with himself; nevertheless the governour (not altogether unlike to Cleomenes, of
whom 'tis reported by Plutarch, (greek) Nolenti poculum nunquam proebuit,)14
considered the impertinency and insignifcancy of this usage, as to any of those
ends that are usually pretended for it ; and that indeed it ordinarily served
for no ends at all, but only to provoke persons unto, unseasonable and perhaps
unreasonable drinking, and at last produce that abominable health-drinking,
which the fathers of old so severely rebuked in the Pagans, and which the
Papists themselves do condemn, when their casuists pronounce it, Peccatum
mortale, provocare ad aequales calices, et Nefas Respondere.15 Wherefore in his
own most hospitable house he left it off; not out of any silly or stingy fancy,
but meerly that by his example a greater temperance, with liberty of drinking,
might be recommended, and sundry inconveniences in drinking avoided; and his
example accordingly began to be much followed by the sober people in this
country, as it now also begins among persons of the highest rank in the English
nation it self; until an order of court came to be made against that ceremony in
drinking, and then, the old wont violently returned, with a Nitimur in
Vetitum.16

11. Many were the afflictions of this righteous man! He lost much of his estate
in a ship, and in an house, quickly after his coming to NewEngland, besides the
prodigious expence of it in the difficulties of his first coming hither.
Afterwards his assiduous application unto the publick affairs, (wherein Ipse se
non habuit, postquam Respublica eum (Gubernatorem habere coepit)17 made him so
much to neglect his own private interests, that an unjust steward ran him 2,500
in debt before.he was aware; for the payment whereof he was forced, many years
before his decease, to sell the most of what he had left unto him in the
country. Albeit, by the observable blessings of God upon the posterity of this
liberal man, his children all of them came to fair estates, and lived in good
fashion and credit. Mreover, he successively buried three wives; the first of
which was the daughter and heiress of Mr. Forth; of Much-Stambridge in Essex, by
whom he had "wisdom with an inheritance;" and an excellent son. The second was
the daughter of Mr. William Clopton, of London, who died with her child, within
a very little while. The third was the daughter of the truly worshipful Sir John
Tyndal, who made it her whole care to please, first God, and then her husband ;
and by whom he had four sons, which survived and honoured their father. And unto
all these, the addition of the distempers, ever now and then raised in the
country, procured unto him a very singular share of trouble; yea, so hard was
the measure which he found even among pious men, in the temptations of a
wilderness, that when the thunder and lightning had smitten a wind-mill whereof
he was owner, some had such things in their heads as publickly to reproach this
charitablest of men as if the voice of the Almighty had rebuked, I know not what
oppression, which they judged him guilty of; which things I would not have
mentioned, but that the instances may fortifie the expectations of my best
readers for such afflictions.

12. He that had been for his attainments, as they said of the blessed Macarius,
a (greek) (an old man, while a young one,) and that had in his young days met
with many of those ill days, whereof he could say, he had "little pleasure in
them;" now found old age in its infirmities advancing earlier upon him, than it
came upon his much longer-lived progenitors. While he was yet seven years off of
that which we call "the grandl climacterical," he felt the approaches of his
dissolution ; and finding he could say,

Non Ilabitus, non ipse Color, non Gressus Euntis, Non species Eadem, quoe fuit
ante, manet;18

Be then wrote this account of himself: "Age now comes upon me, and infirmities
therewithal, which makes me apprehend, that the time of my departure out of this
world is not far off. However, our times are all in the Lord's hand, so as we
need not trouble our thoughts how long or short they may be, but how we may be
found faithful when we are called for." But at last when that year came, he took
a cold which turned into a fever, whereof he lay sick about a month, and in that
sickness, as it hath been observed, that there was allowed unto the serpent the
"bruising of the heel;" and accordingly at the heel or the close of our lives
the old serpent will be nibbling more than ever in our lives before; and when
the devil sees that we shall shortly be "where the wicked cease from troubling,"
that wicked one will trouble us more than ever; so this eminent saint now
underwent sharp conlicts with the tempter, whose wrath grew great, as the time
to exert it grew short; and he was buffeted with the disconsolate thoughts of
black and sore desertions, wherein he could use that sad representation of his
own condition:

Nuper eram Judex; Jam Judicor; Ante Tribunal Subsistens paveo; Judicor ipse
modo.19

But it was not long before those clouds were dispelled, and he enjoyed in his
holy soul the great consolations of God! While he thus lay ripening for heaven,
he did out of obedience unto the ordinance of our Lord, send for the elders of
the church to pray with him; yea, they and the whole church fasted as well as
prayed for him; and in that fast the venerable Cotton preached on Psal. xxxv.
13,14: "When they were sick, I humbled my self with fasting; I behaved my self
as though he had been my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily as one that
mourned for his mother:" from whence I find him raising that observation, "The
sickness of one that is to us as a friend, a brother, a mother, is a just
occasion of deep humbling our souls with fasting and prayer;" and making this
application.

"Upon this occasion we are now to attend this duty for a governour, who has
been to us as a friend in his counsel for all things, and help for our bodies
by physick, for our estates by law, and of whom there was no fear of his
becoming an enemy, like the friends of David: a governour who has been unto us
as a brother; not usurping authority over the church; often speaking his
advice, and often contradicted, even by young men, and some of low degree; yet
not replying, but offering satisfaction also when any supposed offences have
arisen; a governour who has been unto us as a mother, parent like distributing
his goods to brethren and neighbours at his first coming; and gently bearing
our infirmities without taking notice of them."

Such a governour, after he had been more than ten several times by the people
chosen their governour, was New-England now to lose ; who having, like Jacob,
first left his council and blessing with his children gathered about his
bed-side; and, like David, "served his generation by the will of God," he "gave
up the ghost," and fell asleep on March 26, 1649. Having, like the dying
Emperour Valentinian, this above all his other victories for his triumphs, His
overcoming of himself.

The words of Josephus about Nehemiah, the governour of Israel, we will now use
upon this governour of New-England, as his

EPITAPH.
(greek)
VIR FUIT INDOLE BONUS, AC JUSTUS:
ET POPULARIUM GLORIAE AMANTISSIMUS:
QUIBUS ETERNUM RELIQUIT MONUMENTUM,
NOVANGLORUM MOENIA. 20

Notes

1 The American Nehemiah.

2 Whatever winds may blow, this art of ours
can never be lost.

3 Face-worship, or respect of persons.

4 Idol-worship.

5 By slow degrees.

6 A man in authority is a target, at which
Satan and the world launch all their
darts.

7 He is prudent who is patient.

8 Rack and land and sky with mingled wrath,
In wild tumult of their stormy path.

9 To silence sunk the thunder of the wave.

10 He speaks--but ere the word is said,
Each mounting billow droops its head,
And brightening clouds one moment stay
to pioneer returning day.

11 We are all the worse for it.

12 By yielding the
point.

13 If we come into collision, we break.

14 Never urged the reluctant to drink.

15 It is a deadly sin to challenge another to
a drinking match, and it is impious to
accept such challenges.

16 A bias towards the forbidden indulgence.

17 He no longer belonged to himself, after the
Republic had once made him her Chief
Magistrate.

18 I am not wbat I was in form or face
In healthful color or in vigorous pace.

19 I once judged others, but now trembling
stand
Before a dread tribunal, to be judged.

20 He was by nature a man, at once benevolent
and just: most zealous for the honour of
his countrymen; and to them he left an
imperishable monument--the walls of
Jerusalem.

 

Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas