A Model of Christian Charity
John Winthrop and the “City Upon a Hill”
Purity of Faith and Purpose
• In 1629, in response to
government hostility
toward Puritans, John
Winthrop helped
negotiate the charter to
create the Massachusetts
Bay Company
Purity of Faith and Purpose
• Unlike the separatist Puritans at
Plymouth, Winthrop and his flock
sought to reform the church from within
• They believed they were party to a
covenant, or contract, with God and
were to serve as an example of how to
live a pious life
A Model of Christian Charity
• In 1630, John
Winthrop delivered
the lay sermon “A
Model of Christian
Charity” on board
the Arbella, as the
Puritan settlers
approached New
“…a city upon a hill…”
• His famous
proclamation that the
new colony must be
“as a city upon a hill,”
a model society,
continues to resonate
as an enduring myth
of America
Community and the Individual
• In the following excerpt, Winthrop
gives reasons why his congregation
is compelled to travel to New
England to found a new colony.
• Pay particular attention to the
relative importance of what serves
the community and what serves
the individual.
Pay attention to words that suggest a
subordination of the individual
“things of our brethren”
“bond of marriage”
“knit together”
“members of the same body”
From “A Model of Christian Charity”
(look at the bottom of page 6 of your handout)
“It rests now to make some
application of this discourse, by the
present design, which gave the
occasion of writing it. Herein are
four things to be propounded; first
the persons, secondly, the work,
thirdly, the end, fourthly, the
“First, for the persons. We are a
company professing ourselves
fellow members of Christ, in which
respect only, though we were
absent from each other many
miles, and had our employments as
far distant, yet we ought to account
ourselves knit together by this
bond of love and live in the
exercise of it. . .”
“Secondly for the work we have in
hand. It is by a mutual consent,
through a special overvaluing
providence and a more than
ordinary approbation of the
churches of christ, to seek out a
place of cohabitation and
consortship under a due form of
government both civil and
“In such cases as this, the care of
the public must oversway all
private respects, by which, not only
conscience, but mere civil policy,
doth bind us. For it is a true rule
that particular estates cannot
subsist in he ruin of the public.”
“Thirdly, 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, that ourselves and
posterity may be the better
preserved from the common
corruptions of this evil world, to
serve the Lord and work out our
salvation under the power and
purity of his holy ordinances.
“Fourthly, for the means whereby
this must be effected. They are
twofold, a conformity with the work
and the end we aim at. These we
see are extraordinary, therefore we
must not content ourselves with
the usual ordinary means.
Whatsoever we did, or ought to
have done, when we lived in
England, the same we must do,
and more also where we go.”
“That which the most in their
churches maintain as truth in
profession only, we must bring into
familiar and constant practice; as in
this duty of love, we must love
brotherly without dissimulation, we
must love one another with a pure
heart fervently. We must bear one
another’s burdens. We must not
look only on our own things, but
also on the things of our brethren.
Continue with a partner…
1. Finish reading the remainder of the sermon,
paying attention to words and phrases that
highlight the importance of the individual
vs. the importance of the community
2. Be prepared to discuss your thoughts on
these findings. What are the benefits of
working for the greater good? Who may be
a member of this society? What happens to
those who dissent?
The Puritans of Boston believed they
were living predestined lives as
described in the Bible. They developed
a system called typology as a mode
for both reading scripture and
understanding the significance of
historical and current events.
1. Google “typology” or click the link on
my website to develop some context
for Puritans’ Biblical beliefs.
2. Re-read “A Model of Christian Charity”
to locate typologizing moments.
3. Mark up your text! You’ll need to
reference specific lines tomorrow in
our Socratic seminar.
Consider the significance of the Puritans’
insistence on understanding their own
history as prefigured by the Bible:
What kinds of pressures might this
tendency to read divine significance
into everyday affairs put on individuals
and on communities? How might it
work to comfort and reassure people?

A Model of Christian Charity