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A Modell of Christian Charity by John Winthrop: Summary & Analysis

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  • 0:01 Who Was John Winthrop?
  • 1:20 The Model of Christian Charity
  • 2:12 Summary & Analysis
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Learn about John Winthrop, a religious leader who oversaw a Puritan colony in Massachusetts Bay. Find out about his famous sermon, 'A Modell of Christian Charity,' and discover why Winthrop wrote this sermon and gave it to the Puritans before they began their colony.

Who Was John Winthrop?

John Winthrop (1588-1649) was one of the major leaders of the first Puritan settlement in the United States. The son of landed gentry - in other words, the landowning ruling elite of England - Winthrop became a deeply religious person as he matured into adulthood. He believed that his soul was specifically chosen by God to be saved, and this led him to become part of the Puritanical movement in England.

Religious Leader John Winthrop
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Unfortunately for Winthrop, the ruling king at the time, Charles I, was very much anti-Puritan. Puritans across the country were feeling the heat from the king and his anti-Puritanical laws, and Winthrop himself was removed from a court post for being a strict Puritan. Puritans were hostile to King Charles, and the king in turn wanted to be rid of Puritans. This animosity made the colonization of America by the Puritans a welcome idea for everybody involved.

Winthrop thus joined the Massachusetts Bay Colony as its leader, or governor, and agreed to settle in the Massachusetts Bay area. Eventually, twenty thousand settlers came to the colony in the 1630s, where Winthrop spent the rest of his life. During his time in Massachusetts, he was an extremely well-respected religious leader and sermon writer.

'A Modell of Christian Charity'

As Winthrop sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Massachusetts on a ship named the Arbella in 1630, he thought about how hard it would be to survive in a rough new land. The Puritans on the boat had no idea what sort of weather or food they could expect or what dangers they might come across.

Furthermore, Winthrop and the Puritans wanted to show that their Puritanical beliefs were truly the way to serve God. They were run out of England by Charles I for their beliefs, and they wanted to validate them in this new land and create a thriving community that was successful because of their ideals.

With these two things in mind, Winthrop wrote a sermon titled 'A Modell of Christian Charity' in order to arrange his ideas about how the Puritan settlers should treat one another in order to help each other - and the colony - survive.

Summary and Analysis

Winthrop's 'A Modell of Christian Charity' presents a deeply religious idea about how the Puritans should treat one another in order to ensure the survival of their colony. In this short sermon, Winthrop starts by saying that God has created men of different ranks in life - rich, poor, powerful and powerless - for three reasons:

1. Because God wants to show wisdom in creating these different types of people.

2. Because God wants to have the rich, the poor, the powerful and the powerless respect and help one another.

3. Because God wants to have these different types of people come together as one religious community that serves both God and one another through their different strengths.

Winthrop warns that as Puritans, they have entered an agreement with God to show kindness toward one another and help each other, and that if they do not do this, God will punish them by ruining their colony.

Therefore, Winthrop makes it clear that they all must do what God wants: help one another in any way possible, share with one another and function as a tight-knit community that realizes that if one Puritan has a problem, it is a problem of every Puritan in the colony.

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