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Models for Reformation: John Winthrop, Massachusetts (1588-1649)

By Jay Rogers
Published March 31, 2008

Long before becoming the governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop had a deep understanding of God’s divine purposes for the colony. “We shall be a city set on a hill,” he said of Boston – where the church was the center of life during those early years of the city’s history.

While en route to the New World on board the Arbella, Winthrop wrote a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity,” in which he outlined the purposes of God for New England. He described a harmonious Christian community whose laws and government would logically proceed from a godly and purposeful arrangement.

John Winthrop recognized the plans and purposes that Jesus Christ had for our nation. “A New Order of the Ages” was to be set up in which the individual was free to act and choose according to his free will; yet be dedicated to a lawful social order.

But Winthrop also gave a warning “The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause us to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.

These and many other ideas are contained in “A Model of Christian Charity” a sermon which Winthrop delivered somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the Arbella. He set out clearly the revealed purposes of God and warned that the success or failure of their endeavors would depend on their dedication to the ideal of selfless community.

History shows us that this ideal was never realized. However, Winthrop himself was a man of unquestionable integrity and deep humanity. He laid the foundation for generations yet to come. God Himself will shortly raise up a new generation of young people who will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

CHRISTIAN CHARITIE: A Modell hereof By John Winthrop

A MODEL OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY: The modern language version

See also: The Boston Awakening


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Your comments are welcome!

Are you a Congregationalist?! What do you make of the Cambridge Platform of 1648, bringing the Plymouth and Boston
Colonies Religious order into more or less one following-just wondering!-Cathy

Posted by Cathy on 12/02/2008 08:33 PM #

We remember Anne Hutchinson. Where was Winthrop’s understanding of God’s divine purposes when he banished a faithful servant of God for speaking the truth.

Posted by Anne Lives on 11/15/2009 12:11 AM #

Real heroes are the people who in the face of adversity, refuse to betray their ideals or ethics, no matter what the cost. Sounds to me as if Anne was the real hero and Winthrop was a tyrant and an oppressor.

Posted by Jennifer Gray on 01/16/2011 02:53 PM #

I just happened to come accross this website while doing research on Anne Hutchinson. If you take a look at the diaries of John Winthrop you can see that he had already formed an oppinion of her before the trial, and that all he needed to do was stroke the male egos of the men on the jury. Plain and simple, she was a women, and unlike Winthrop’s wife, Hutchinson had a mind of her own, shaped by her father and mother. The thinking of the men in the 1500’s was that women should be silent in the church, however, if you read your bible, as Anne so justly pointed out, the book of Titus, states that women should fellowship with other women and also be teachers. Since we did not live in the colony days, we cannot attest to the characters of the people who lived back then. We can, however, read the diaries and transcrips left behind. I think that these are a testaments to the true nature of the people that lived back then.My oppinion is that Winthrop was threatened by Hutchinson and others who thought like she did. The fact that she was a mere woman made it easier for him to “win” his case against her. He was anything, but a great man.

Posted by Nicole Lose on 09/15/2011 04:27 PM #

I am a descendant of a George Phillips who is said to have come to the “colonies” with Gov. Winthrop. Is there available a list of the passengers or the like ??

Posted by William (Bill) Cramer on 03/14/2016 05:15 PM #

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