“A Model Of Christian Charity” By John Winthrop

John Winthrop lived from 1588 to 1649; as he was born into a wealthy family of land-owning merchants he received a good education. His father took a position at Cambridge University when John was young. As a result, John Winthrop was exposed to complex ideas from a very young age. In addition, he often joined his father and listened to the theological discussion with local clergy and scholars. Hence, John Winthrop was familiar with the intellectual discourse and developed an interest in theology during his young years. Later he became a lawyer and worked in London.

For a deeper understanding of the historical context of John Winthrop’s work, it is important to elaborate on the key phases of colonization and its specific characteristics. The process of colonization involves discovering settling and thriving stages. At the discovery stage, a wealthy nation’s expedition travels to a remote location with the goal of finding and claiming the territory, gathering information and returning home. The phase of settling is a much more complex process. A group of settlers consists of people who are sturdy and resourceful. In order for a settlement to be successful and become permanent, it is critical that all members of the group of settlers cooperate in unity and “brotherly affection.” (Winthrop 3). The mutual trust between the settlers is an essential part that increases the chances of successful colonization by the principles of “giving, lending and forgiving” (Winthrop 7). Some of the most common ideas that unified colonizers was the pursuit of money and profits: “A man must lay up for posterity, the fathers lay up for posterity and children, and he is worse than an infidel that provideth not for his own” (Winthrop 5). In other cases, religion can also act as a unifying factor.

Hence, A Model of Christian Charity is an example of writing that promotes strict adherence to religious principles as a unifying feature within the colony. Religion can bind the community together and ensure that the necessary work will be done to create order among chaos. The text outlines the type of utopian society that the Massachusetts Bay Colony will be “We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of other’s necessities” (Winthrop 9). It emphasizes the pursuit of personal holiness (individualism) as a means to form a stable community. Therefore, John Winthrop was not only a successful governor and theologies, but also a writer that managed to achieve an impact on his readers and followers.

One of the remarkable literary features of A Model of Christian Charity is placed at the very end. It ends with a quote, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” (Winthrop 11). This can be considered a climactic moment of A Model of Christian Charity, and it is a literary allusion that refers to the Sermon on the Mount from the Book of Matthew in the Bible. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus mentions this line: “You are the light of the world; a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in Heaven.” (Hagner 14). Hence, John Winthrop managed to integrate the Biblical idea into his writing and unify his fellow settlers with a divine idea of being an example to others (Rodgers 32). In other words, the work that they will be doing will represent the glory of God, which will become evident to others.

One of the remarkable things about the famous quote from A Model of Christian Charity is that it later became one of the foundations of the American exceptionalism idea. In other words American exceptionalism can be described a belief into unique and special way the United States have. Hence, it is important to learn and remember the origins of the quote to avoid being manipulated into the supremacist ideology. Originally the quote was meant to connect the God’s Kingdom with Earth’s kingdom: “So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Winthrop.8). In addition, Winthrop’s intent was to provide people with an encouraging and motivating idea into putting their best effort of creating something that will be remembered.

The ideas expressed in A Model of Christian Charity include the reflection on who in the church can have authority? The text also elaborates on the relationship between the kingdom of God and the Kingdom of men and the role that believers play in modeling the Kingdom of God: “The end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord; the comfort and increase of the body of Christ, whereof we are members” (Winthrop.8) Such thoughts had became a foundation of a belief system that served the settlers for generations, inspiring them to work and do the best they can to achieve prosperity.

In conclusion, A Model of Christian Charity by John Winthrop is an example of influential writing that had a massive impact on the settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Due to the successful integration of Biblical ideas in his Sermon, John Winthrop managed to unify the colonizers with a religious idea and the understanding that what they do will represent the glory of God and will be an example to others. Such willingness can be seen in the last lines of the sermon: “Therefore let us choose life—that we and our seed may live, by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity” (Winthrop 10). In addition, the usage of literary allusion at the end of the text became one of the signature ideas that impacted the development of American exceptionalism, which had a massive influence on American culture. A Model of Christian Charity is an achievement of theological theory, organizational manifesto, and an impactful writing.

Works Cited

Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 14-28, Volume 33B. Zondervan Academic, 2018.

Rodgers, Daniel T. “As a City on a Hill.” As a City on a Hill. Princeton University Press, 2018.

Winthrop, John. “From A Model of Christian Charity.” Writing New England. Harvard University Press, 2013. 3-11.

Winthrop, Robert C. Life, and Letters of John Winthrop: Volume II. BoD–Books on Demand, 2020.