Winthrop and Cotton & the Old Testament

   In Cotton’s work: God’s Promise to His Plantation, he quotes many Old Testament verses on how he believed those verses applied to him and the rest of the Puritans as they made their way to the New World.  The Model of Christian Charity by John Winthrop is about why he believed his group of the Massachusetts Colony Puritans should go to the New World.  Both used Bible versus to back up their reasons.

  God’s Promise to His Plantation by John Cotton is all about a group of Puritans in hopes of forming their own colony in North America.  In their decisions of going to such a new place, they seeked the help of the Bible.  In particular, they asked help from the Old Testament books: 2 Samuel and Exodus among the others.

God speaks to the Israelites who had just been exiled from Egypt where they were beaten slaves in Exodus 19:4:

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

 The Puritans took this as God calling them to Him in America, where they could worship him as they and He pleased.

 In 2 Samuel 7:10, God reassures the Israelites,

And I will provide a homeland for my people Israel, planting them in a secure place where they will never be disturbed. Evil nations won’t oppress them as they’ve done in the past.”

  Like the Israelites and David, their king, the Puritans were being surrounded by their enemies.  David at the time of the verses finally had a time of peace for he was a war with the surrounding rulers.  The Puritans were being attacked and were attacking back at the church of England and King James I.  But like David, they wanted a break.  God gave this promise found in the verse above.  However, David conquered his enemies and kept the land on which his palace stood.  The Puritans believed their palace would be in North America.

“You will bring them in and plant them

on the mountain of your inheritance—

the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,

the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.” – Exodus 15:17

   This reassured the Puritans that going to the New World was the right thing to do.


   Instead of using stories from the Bible, Winthrop took a different approach: charity.  He did say that they should go to America because he believed they were God’s chosen people.  However, he talked mostly about enemies and those he believed less fortunate in terms of wealth than the Puritans.

Massachusetts Bay Colonist Sharing the Word with the Indians

   In Deuteronomy 15:7-8, it says:

“7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be open handed and freely lend them whatever they need.”


   Winthrop used this as an example.  He was saying that they, the Puritans, were the “you”.  The “anyone” were the Indians in “need”.  The Puritans had money and compassion and Winthrop believed they would show God’s love to the less fortunate Indians in “the land the Lord your God is giving you”.  More verses go on to say the same message:

   Deuteronomy 15:4 puts it in the following way:

“4 However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.”

   Isaiah 58:11:

The LORD will guide you continually,

giving you water when you are dry

and restoring your strength.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like an ever-flowing spring.”

   Not only did they go to the New World to escape the church of England, but apparently to help the poor Indians and to build their own church.



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