« PreviousContinue »
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 persons 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 of 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;* '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 whatsoever crosses it is not authority,
*We are al the worse for it.
but a distemper thereof. This liberty is maintained in a way of subjection to authority; and the authority set over you will in all administrations 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;* 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 gentleman, 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 66 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 like the floating bottels wearing this motto: Si Collidimur Frangimur.† 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 unlawfulness 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 thereunto, distinguished between a theological and a moral goodness; adding, that when Juries were first used in *By yielding the point.
† If we come into collision, we break.
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 the little, 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, άγοντι οιδεις ποτηριον προσέφερε, Nolenti poculum nunquam prabuit,)* considered the impertinency and insignificancy 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 Æquales Calices, et Nefas Respondere.† 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.‡
§ 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
Never urged the reluctant to drink.
It is a deadly sin to challenge another to a drinking match, and it is impious to accept such challenges.
A bias towards the forbidden indulgence.