When the Pilgrims came to New England they were entering an already-occupied land. John Winthrop was governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and declared the land a “vacuum” saying the Indians had been unsuccessful at taming the land and only had a natural right to the land, not a “civil” right, which had a legal connotation. The Puritans appealed to the Bible in which they found reasons to believe they should take the land. Winthrop was in charge during a war with the Pequot and Narragansett Indians. The English decided to attack non-combatants as a way to psychologically break the Indian warriors.
At the very start of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, the governor, Winthrop, had declared the philosophy of the rulers: “… in all times some must be rich, some poore, some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjection.” Rhode Island and New York at this time were becoming feudal kingdoms.
Winthrop wanted to reform the national church from within by purging it of old Roman ways, especially the hierarchy of the clergy and all the traditional Catholic rituals. At the same time, Winthrop could not openly defy the king; instead he petitioned the king to emigrate. In 1629 a group of Puritan merchants were able to get a charter from the Council for New England for land in the New World calling themselves “The Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England.”
Winthrop delivered his sermon A Model of Christian Charity while on the trip to the new land. This sermon contained ideals of Christian community. Fifty years after Winthrop’s death, Cotton Mather wrote of Winthrop as a model of a perfect earthly ruler. Winthrop’s ideal of a selfless community was impossible to realize. Winthrop is known as a man of unquestioned integrity and deep humanity.
A Model of Christian Charity
A Model Hereof
There will always be rich, poor, high and low, mean and nice.
The Reason Hereof
1) God has always made his kingdom with a variety of differences for the preservation of the whole.
The Lord makes the wicked so he can moderate and restrain them. He makes the rich so He can teach them to honor the poor; he makes the poor to teach them not to rebel and cause anarchy. He makes degenerates to practice their faith, patience and obedience.
We all need each other and should treat each other with affection. No man is more honorable or more wealthy than another. We must honor the Lord with our riches.
Two rules: justice and mercy. There is the law of nature, of grace and a moral law. Every man should afford his help to another in every want or distress and should perform this out of the same affection he has for his own things.
The law of nature is one in which we are saved. Do good to all. Consider all a friend and love thy enemy. Christians must sell and give to the poor. Sometimes we must give beyond our ability. When there is no other way for our brother to be relieved, we must help him beyond our ability. Giving, lending and forgiving. Give out of your abundance, or set some extra aside to give to others later when they are in need.
Every man must provide for his family. The first that gives to the poor lends to the Lord. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth. A woman must give before she must serve her own family.
We have to stand aside till His turn be served. If a man asks to borrow, but you see
he cannot pay you back, give according to his necessity. Thou must lend him, though there be danger of losing it. If you see a man cannot repay you you must forgive him. If there are no poor around, save until you see someone with whom you need to share.
What do we do when our community is in need? The same as before, but larger with less respect towards ourselves and our own right.
Such as have been most bountiful to the poor saints, God hath left them highly commended to posterity; be over liberal in this manner. He who shutteth his ears from hearing the cry of the poor shall cry and shall not be heard. The definition which the Scripture gives us of love is this: Love is the bond of perfection. First, it is a bond or ligament. Secondly it makes the work perfect.
True Christians are of one body in Christ. If one member suffers, all suffer with it. Ye ought to lay down your lives for brethren.
Adam rent himself from his creator, rent all his posterity also one from another; whence it comes that every man is born with this principle in him, to love and seek himself only, and thus a man continueth till Christ comes and takes possession of the soul and infuseth another principle: love to God and our brother. Exercise of this love is twofold: inward or outward.
In regard that among the members of the same body, love and affection are reciprocal in a most equal and sweet kind of commerce.
Four things will be explained: people, work, the end and the means.
People: we profess ourselves members of Christ. No matter how physically apart we may be, this knits us together.
Our work is that we want to seek out cohabitation under a form of government both civil and ecclesiastical. The group is more important than the individual; this is our civil policy.
The end is to improve our lives so that we may increase our service to the Lord.
The means to accomplishing our goals are twofold: a conformity with the work and end at which we aim. What we view as truth must be our everyday practice. Love thy brother and help with his burdens. We must serve the Lord without fail or we may be punished. When he gives us direction he expects strict observance. We have entered into a covenant with the Lord and shall not break our agreement. “Do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.” Let us overlook small differences so we can supply our necessities. Meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must make each other’s conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together. People are looking to see how we will perform; we must live rightly as a beacon of hope. If we perform poorly we will besmirch God’s name.