Peter Sammons reflects on a word that has become something of a misunderstood cliché

 this one boldly went

 To boldly go

The word ‘enterprise’ has a deeper significance in American (and global) history than many realize. This has little to do with free market economy or the setting up private businesses. In the same vein, it has relatively little to do with the Oxford Dictionary definition of “bold or hazardous undertaking”, or “being adventurous”. This idea, of course, was popularized in Western, and especially American, culture via the memorable 1960s TV series “Star Trek” (as our image above).

The makers of “Star Trek” had ‘borrowed’ the name USS Enterprise directly from the US Navy’s most famous ship (image below). The real USS Enterprise (or “The Big E” as she was affectionately known) was the most decorated US ship of World War 2, with 20 battle stars awarded. Google her fascinating history if you want to know more!

this one bravely went

 The word ‘enterprise’ has arguably FAR deeper meaning than those considered above, however.


John Winthrop and his city

John Winthrop (born/died January 22 [January 12, Old Style], 1588, at Edwardstone, Suffolk; to April 5 [March 26], 1649, Boston, Massachusetts) was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and chief figure among the Puritan founders of New England. He was re-elected twelve times to this position, indicating his earned trust and popularity amongst his community. With a background in law, Winthrop played an important role in shaping the political and religious governance of the colony.

In addition, Winthrop’s sermon “A Modell of Christian Charity” offered a unifying image Puritanism as “a city upon a hill”. This was a biblical image of a community living openly in – and by – God’s light. “City upon a hill” was an oblique reference to Matthew’s Gospel in the Bible and suggests a community gathered together and living in accordance with God’s revealed Will and Purpose as understood from Scripture. This, indeed, was the project of the Puritans in general, and the Pilgrim Fathers in particular – indeed it was their ‘enterprise’.

“City upon a hill” has become a symbol extended – almost subliminally – to the larger civic project of the United States – almost as a national characteristic. Here is more information on Winthrop, but note that his legacy is today as fought-over (and as controversial) as any other figure in US history:

 Here is another useful summary:


The great ‘enterprise’

It is worth quoting Winthrop in full on this. In assessing the New World’s civic status and security, Winthrop projected forward to a circumstance in which the nation (remember that this was well before the foundation of the USA) failed to honour its obligations to Almighty God.

Withrop perceived that the New World was entering into a Covenant with God – analogous to the Covenants entered-into by God with Israel, whereby national security was intimately connected with following God’s Law as summarized in the ‘ten commandments’. Winthrop warned that America’s overall and pervasive situation of being blessed by God would continue only as long as it upheld it’s side this ‘new’ New World ‘covenant’. He wrote:

“Thus stands the cause between God and us. We are entered into covenant with Him for this work. We have taken out a commission. The Lord hath given us leave to draw our own articles. We have professed to enterprise these and those accounts, upon these and those ends. We have hereupon besought Him of favor and blessing.

Now if the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He ratified this covenant and sealed our commission, and will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it. But if we shall neglect the observation of these articles which are the ends we have propounded, and, dissembling with our God, shall fall to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnal intentions, seeking great things for ourselves and our posterity, the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us, and be revenged of such a people, and make us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.

Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.”
underscore enterprise by editor

Powerful words. Prophetic words! So this enterprise entered-into was that of covenant; to promise to God to be His people and to live by His standards, fully in the expectation that, in return, God would graciously uphold the civic integrity of the ‘nation’.

That enterprise has been the American enterprise for three centuries – to be God’s people and so to enjoy His blessings. Of course in reality it may not be quite so simple. And no one would suggest that America has flawlessly followed God’s precepts …..


Christian Comment

The idea of ‘covenant’ lies at the heart of both the Jewish faith (God’s covenants with his elect people – the Jews) and the Christian faith (God’s covenant promises enjoyed by those grafted-in to God’s elect people, specifically via the reality of the New Covenant (or should that be Renewed Covenant?)).

As explored in my book “The Prince of Peace” there are five key covenants entered-into by God with Mankind (*Noah, *Abraham, *Moses, *David and *Messiah (which implicitly incorporated the ‘New Covenant’ of Jeremiah 31:31). The enterprise that God initiates is that He, God, will bless, sustain and enlarge His peoples. In return they must seek to live by His precepts, most fully expressed in the life, mission, ministry and achievement of Jesus, God’s only begotten Son.

Big themes, indeed. When the term “enterprise” is encountered in a Western, and especially in a USA, context, it has its root in this idea of our main adventure in life , our bold and sometimes hazardous enterprise is to live as God’s people. Through sometimes harsh experience we know that living by God’s precepts is all but impossible in human strength alone. But Jesus Himself has paid the ‘wages’ of our shortcoming and outright rebellion (sin) against God. Jesus’ resurrection from the grave is His proof of the full efficacy of God’s solution to Mankind’s eternal problem, of our sin and of our mortality. Our problem is that we need to be saved; God’s response is to make possible the salvation of our bodies into eternity. Our eternal problem is ‘solved’ in Jesus. Praise God indeed! What an enterprise!


Peter Sammons © May 2023

Peter Sammons runs Christian Publications International and has authored several books including “One Flesh – What Jesus Teaches About Love, Relationships, Marriage – and a Lot More!” His most recent book “Last Days and End Times” is linked here:


 This article is an intriguing follow-on from the truths we have briefly explored in the preceding. John Winthrop’s contribution to the American enterprise is explored in this troubling yet thought – provoking piece which asks the simple question – are the ancient (and evil) “gods” returning to haunt us today? Bear in mind this article is written by someone who identifies as an atheist, so it is doubly interesting:–Naomi_Wolf.pdf