The Puritans’ Covenant With God, As Revealed In Narrative Of The Captivity & Restoration Of Essay

The Puritans Covenant With God As Revealed In Narrative Of The Captivity Restoration Of Essay

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The Puritans’ Covenant With God, As Revealed in Narrative of the Captivity & Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson When one thinks of the Puritans, images are conjured of Pilgrims sharing a Thanksgiving feast with their Indian neighbors. The Puritans settled in New England to exercise their religious freedom to worship God in their own devout (and some believed) overly zealous way. They were going to tame the savage Indian beasts, and all would live happily ever after. At least, that’s what the myth would have us believe. However, real life bears little resemblance to its mythical depictions, and the actual relationship between the English colonists and the Indian settlers was always uneasy at best. When cultures eventually collided in the late seventeenth century, there was inevitable bloodshed. The cornerstone of the Puritan religion is that believers were the chosen people of God, and it is this unique relationship and its resulting covenant which is at the heart of Mary Rowlandson’s harrowing 1682 memoir, Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. A ‘divine providence’ special covenant had been articulated in Governor John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” (Gleason hhr4-2.htm). The special relationship between Puritans and God was described as, “We are entered into Covenant with Him. ... we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us” (Gleason hhr4-2.htm). In order to satisfy this covenant, Winthrop believed that Puritans had an obligation to serve as the ideal Christians, exercising unwavering faith, regardless of the traumatic situations which confronted them. God would provide guidance and protection in return, which would allow these ‘chosen’ souls triumph over adversity (Gleason hhr4-2.htm). Mary Rowlandson’s narrative personifies this devotion to God, and while not always understanding God’s plan, the believer is always unquestioning. Mrs. Rowlandson’s narrative begins in February of 1675, when a group of Indians, led by King Philip, descended upon Lancaster, Massachusetts, and attacked the English settlers living there, including Pastor Joseph Rowlandson, his wife Mary, and their children. Mary recalled that when her sister was dead and that Mary was wounded, “She said, ‘And Lord, let me die with them,’ which was no sooner said, but she was struck with a bullet, and fell down dead over the threshold. I hope she is reaping the fruit of her good labors, being faithful to the service of God in her place” (299). Mary reasoned that her sister’s covenant with God had been satisfactorily fulfilled, so she was now free to join her Creator. Mary didn’t blame the Indians for being taken captive. Instead, she regarded it as God’s test of her loyalty. The Puritans may have considered themselves God’s chosen people, but this meant that much was expected of them. When assessing the mass destruction of her home in the aftermath of the Indian attack, she reasoned, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he has made in the earth” (299-300). As Mary, whose foot had been injured by a bullet, carried her critically wounded child in her lap, she mused, “But the Lord renewed my strength still, and carried me along, that I might see more of His power... Oh, I may see the wonderful power of God, that my Spirit did not utterly sink under my affliction: still the Lord upheld me with His gracious and merciful spirit, and we were both alive to see the light of the next morning” (301). As long as Mary had her faith, she truly believed that she could overcome any adversity, including the death of her beloved child. After all, it was the preservation of her relationship with God, which was of paramount importance, and took precedence over any and all earthly ties, no matter how intimate. Her Indian captors constantly moved Mary from place to place, and despite her injury and subservient status, she was occasionally given special consideration. Mary attributed this compassion to God, not to the benevolence of the Indians. According to Mary, “By the advantage of some brush which they had laid upon the raft to sit upon, I did not wet my foot (which many of themselves at the other end were mid-leg deep) which cannot but be acknowledged as a favor of God to my weakened body” (306). A special relationship with “the man upstairs” inevitably results in special treatment, which seems to defy conventional explanation. Mary believed God was keeping His ever-watchful eye firmly affixed to her, and would never give her a greater hardship than she could bear. This exclusive relationship the Puritans maintained with God is also evident in Mary Rowlandson’s observations about the Indians, and their success in their battles with the English. She wrote, “I cannot but take notice of the strange providence of God in preserving the heathen... On that very day came the English army after them to this river, and saw the smoke of their wigwams, and yet this river put a stop to them. God did not give them
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