In 1633 my great (X10) grandfather, John Prince, left Oxford and came to America. In so doing, he left behind a privileged life and his pursuit to follow in his father’s footsteps as clergy in the Church of England. John, with strong determination, boarded a one way boat for Plymouth Colony. He left everything and came. He would now be labeled among the Puritans. He came for pure worship.
John Prince began his time in America under the ward of his uncle until he worked out his debt and became a Freeman. He ultimately settled in Hull, MA where he became known as the Rev. Elder John Prince. Though, he preferred merely the title of Elder because he didn’t finish at Oxford. He preached on Sunday’s, led his flock and was a fisherman during the week. The congruence is glaring; fishing the depths of great Atlantic during the week, cherishing the depths of scripture and fishing for the souls of men on Sunday.
Though, I’ve often wondered why he came. The curiosity turned to research a few years back and the research (with divine intervention) afforded us a day with Gordon Conwell’s leading church history scholar who specializes in the New England region and the Great Awakening. My husband and I rode with him as he told stories and shared what he knows of the “Prince boys” and I shared what I had uncovered. We visited churches and even a rocky knoll where Whitefield preached.
The Rev. Elder John’s grandchildren became close friends with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. So close, Rev. Thomas Prince (Old South Boston) wrote forwards to some of Edward’s books. Joseph Prince who is known as the blind preacher of Newburyport is buried beside George Whitefield. Whitefield requested to be buried with his two best friends — Prince was one of them. (But that’s another story.)
But, why did the Rev. Elder John come? Why does one leave the comforts of home and cross an ocean on a rickety sailing vessel? Why did Joseph preach thousands of sermons as a blind itinerate evangelist? Why did Thomas build Old South Boston?
The Rev. Elder John was a Puritan – which simply means he came seeking pure worship. But why?
Scripture teaches we are to worship in spirit and truth. Have you ever had those moments, moments when worship was pure? Beautiful, like it was somehow joined with the worship of saints and angels around the throne? Seems to me such worship comes when we are loving God. Richard of Chicester (1197-1253) wrote about degrees of love. The first is loving self for one’s own sake, the second is loving God for one’s own sake, the third is loving God for God’s own sake and the fourth is loving self for God’s sake.
Volumes could be written on the wisdom of Chicester’s words. Yet, in today’s world when the words love and God are used in the same sentence, the speaker, writer, preacher, or friend is describing God’s love for us. But, what about the first and greatest commandment? Do you love God? With heart, soul, mind and strength? Do you desire his presence? Do you relish time with God? Do you hunger to know more of God?
Would you lay it all down and cross an ocean in a wooden ship — for the love of God? When love for God is the reason, you are on the right path – even if it is a one way boat across the Atlantic.
If the Rev. Elder John hadn’t obeyed God’s call would there have been a grandson named Thomas? No, because he would have likely married someone else. Would Old South Boston have been built without Thomas? Where would the tea party begin without Old South Boston? Would we still be a colony? Oh wait, I wouldn’t be here either. You see it all matters and what matters most is what we do — for the Love of God