"A Sermon Preached At Boston in New England upon a Fast Day, the XVIth of January 1636, by Mr John Wheelewright"
I must ask my American readers – are these names known to you? If not, you are missing some very important history in the birth of our nation.
A lot is made about how Puritans came to America for religious freedom. There is no doubt that in Europe – an in their own England – Christianity was divided and Christians of one thought persecuted Christians of another. What is not usually studied is that in New England there was dissention among Christians, often between works and grace. If you’ve read the last few blogs, you’ll know that question remains today.
What saves us? The easy answer is God – through His Son, Jesus Christ. A dividing answer, though, is works – what we do good pleases God and He saves us; what we do bad separates us from God and He turns His back on us.
That is separate from another dividing answer, grace – Jesus’ death on the cross was the sacrifice that saves. Then comes the question, is accepting Him as savior a work? There are divisions there. And, there are extrapolated scripture to support all of the divisiveness. The same divisiveness that moved into the political arena in Boston, removing and returning governors in our American history.
Governor John Winthrop is my husband’s 10th great-uncle. Since it was a rather small community of Puritans, he also counts Governor Thomas Dudley a 11th great-grandfather. These two men were at odds over the governing of their Massachusetts Bay Colony, and at odds with Wheelwright over works vs. grace.
I was reminded of this while rereading “The Winthrop Woman,” realizing that same division in Christianity exists today. I do not see why it should, since James addressed it so very well in his letter:
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:18 KJV)
I do suggest the full reading of James’ book. It is not very long, but is well worth indepth study.
Any person can tell me they have faith in God and His provision of salvation through His Son, Jesus – the Christ – and I cannot refute that. It is personal and only God knows the heart of that person. I can, however, see the work that person does in God’s name.
I can see if the works follow scripture. I can study, as the Bereans:
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:10-11 KJV)
Jesus read scripture – and declared prophecy fulfilled (Luke 4:14-21), knew the scripture of David and shewbread (Matthew 12:1-8); and others, but you are capable of locating those yourself. My continued question is – how well do we know scripture and apply it to our lives? Do our “works” really show other people what Jesus is? Do we act as though He is the light of the world? Do people in darkness see His light in us?
That these questions remain never ceases to amaze me – especially when applied to myself.