“A City upon a Hill” is a phrase derived from the teaching of Jesus Christ in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Its use in political rhetoric is used in United States politics as a declaration of American Exceptionalism, referring to America acting as a “beacon of hope” for the world.
Four hundred years ago, on November 11, 1620, was a Momentous Occasion when the Pilgrims came ashore at Plymouth Rock. That is now in Province-town on Cape Cod. The Pilgrims’ story is a central theme in the history and culture of the United States of America. The Pilgrim Fathers were that band of Puritans who founded the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Another group of Pilgrims sailed in 1630 to colonize Massachusetts Bay in Boston. Their leader, John Winthrop made a historic speech referring to them being “as a city on a hill.” There were thirteen original colonies.
This scripture was cited at the end of Puritan John Winthrop’s lecture, “A Model of Christian Charity” delivered on March 21, 1630, at Holyrood Church in Southampton. This was the first group of Massachusetts Bay colonists who embarked on the ship Arbella to settle Boston. In quoting Matthew’s Gospel (5:14) in which Jesus states, “a city on a hill cannot be hid,” Winthrop warned his fellow Puritans that their new community would be “as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us“. This meant that if the Puritans failed to uphold their Covenant with God, then their sins and errors would be exposed for all the world to see.
“So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story/proverb and a byword through the world“.John Winthroup
A Proverb and a Byword
“For now disasters have come upon the whole world, and you will stay among them, for God will not deliver you, because you have sinned against Him.”2 Esdras 15:27 (The Apocrypha)
“If you turn away and forsake My statutes and My Commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of My land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for My Name, I will cast out of My sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.”
“And this house, which is exalted, shall be a desolation to everyone that passes by it; so that he shall say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus unto this land, and unto this house?’ And it shall be answered, ‘Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them, and served them: therefore has He brought all this evil upon them.’”2 Chronicles 7:19-22
Enemies, Foreign and Domestic
In 2017, former FBI Director James Comey used the phrase in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. This was in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election:
“…We have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time, but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for, except other Americans, and that’s wonderful and often painful. But we’re talking about a foreign government that […] tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. […] They’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about. And they will be back, because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill, and they don’t like it.”James Comey, former FBI Director
The Shining Example of Truth
“…Blessed are the peaceable: for they shall be called the Children of God… You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
You are the Light of the world. A City that is set on a Mountain cannot be hid.”Jesus Christ, Gospel of Matthew 5:9-14
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the Name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, and in the Remnant whom the LORD shall call.”Joel 2:32
“Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a City of Truth; and the Mountain of the LORD of hosts the Holy Mountain.”Zechariah 8:3
“…Come here, I will show you the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high Mountain and showed me that Great City, the Holy Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God. Having the Glory of God: and her Light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the Twelve Tribes of the Children of Israel.”The Book of Revelation 21:9-12
The roots of the people that came from England to colonize America can be very easily traced to those Lost Tribes of the House of Israel. The reason they got lost was because they were worshiping Baal and Ashtoreth and they ended up in the Assyrian Captivity.
“And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: Because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed His Covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them. Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways, and keep My Commandments and My Statutes, according to all the Law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers that did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected His statutes, and His Covenant that He made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the Commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made an image/idol of Asherah/Ashtoreth/Ishtar, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. Therefore, the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah/Jews only. Also, Judah did not keep the Commandments of the LORD their God but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until He had cast them out of His sight.”2 Kings 17:13-20