Analysis of John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity”
America’s roots in Puritanism are still evident nearly 400 years after the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Winthrop, in his sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity,” not only lays out the mission ahead, as he sees it, for the settling of the New Land, but he lays the foundation for American society. Seeing the founding of this colony (and by extension this country) as a holy, sacred mission, Winthrop contends that absolute unity, even conformity, must be insisted upon.
Through his diction and use of metaphor that both reinforce that unity and combine the sacred and governmental, his targeted biblical and ...view middle of the document...
He speaks of “the more near bond of marriage between [God] and [the Puritans],” binding them not only to one another but to the higher purpose God intends. Phrases such as “government both civil and ecclesiastical,” “holy ordinances,” and “God ratif[ying] this covenant and seal[ing] our commission,” combine the language of government with that of religion, foreshadowing the theocracy to come and at the same time dramatically exemplifying the spiritual-physical unity Winthrop seems to desire among his people and between his people and God.
Winthrop, not surprisingly, quotes from scripture and makes biblical allusions throughout the sermon, but it seems that always his point is to place prominently the Puritans and their struggle to escape oppression and found a “holy commonwealth” in the continuum of world and religious history, insisting, so it seems, that this event is as important as any of the others he mentions. He compares the “special commission” God has given the Puritans to the commission given Saul to destroy Amaleck in the Old Testament. He quotes Moses speaking to the Israelites on their way from slavery to the promised land, “’Beloved there is now set before us life and death, good and evil,” implying himself as a kind of law giver directly from God and the Puritans as a new chosen people. Of all the colonies established in North America and elsewhere around the world, it seems to Winthrop that the creation of this colony is of
biblical importance, as though when scripture is read in the future, the Puritans’ founding of Massachusetts would be included.
This sense of self-importance on behalf of his people pervades Winthrop’s sermon, and to dramatically emphasize this grandeur, Winthrop’s tone shifts from the most elevated, lofty and celebratory in describing the colony’s success to the most dark, dire and foreboding when describing the consequences of potential...