H105, American History I

John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” (1630).

God Almightie in his most holy and wise providence, hath soe disposed of the Condicion of mankinde, as in all times some must be rich[,] some poore, some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjeccion.

The Reason hereof.

1st Reason.  First, to hold conformity with the rest of his workes, being delighted to shewe forth the glory of his wisdome in the variety and differance of the Creatures and the glory of his power, in ordering all these differences for the preservacion and good of the whole, and the glory of his greatnes that as it is the glory of princes to have many officers, soe this great King will have many Stewards counting himselfe more honoured in dispenceing his guifts to man by man, then if hee did it by his owne immediate hand.

2nd Reason.  Secondly, That he might have the more occasion to manifest the worke of his Spirit:  first, upon the wicked in moderateing and restraineing them:  soe that the riche and mighty should not eate upp the poore, nor the poore, and dispised rise upp against theire superiours, and shake off their yoake; 2ly, in the regenerate in exerciseing his graces in them, as in the greate ones, theire love[,] mercy, gentlenes, temperance etc., in the poor and inferiour sorte, theire faithe[,] patience, obedience etc.

3rd Reason.  Thirdly, That every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knitt more nearly together in the Bond of brotherly affeccion:  from hence it appeares plainly that noe man is made more honourable then another or more wealthy etc., out of any perticuler and singuler respect to himselfe but for the glory of his Creator and the Common good of the creature, man; Therefore God still reserves the propperty of these guifts to himself as Ezek. 16.17. he there calls wealthe his gold and his silver etc.  Prov. 3.9. he claims theire service as his due [“]honour the Lord with thy riches[”] etc.  All men being thus (by divine providence) rancked into two sortes, riche and poore; under the first, are comprehended all such as are able to live comfortably by theire owne meanes duely improved; and all others are poor according to the former distribution.

There are two rules whereby wee are to walke one towards another:  Justice and Mercy.  These are allwayes distinguished in theire Act and in theire object, yet may they both concurre in the same Subject in each respect; as sometimes there may be an occasion of shewing mercy to a rich man, in some sudden danger or distresse, and allsoe doing of meere Justice to a poor man in regard of some perticuler contract, etc.

There is likewise a double Lawe by which wee are regulated in our conversacion towardes another:  in both the former respects, the lawe of nature and the lawe of grace, or the morrall lawe or the lawe of the gospell, to omitt the rule of Justice as not propperly belonging to this purpose otherwise then it may fall into consideracion in some perticuler Cases:  By the first of these lawes man as he was enabled soe withall [is] commaunded to love his neighbour as himselfe[.]  upon this ground stands all the precepts of the moralle lawe, which concernes our dealings with men.  To apply this to the works of mercy this lawe requires two things[:]  first, that every man afford his help to another in every want or distress[.]  Secondly, That hee performe this out of the same affection, which makes him carefull of his owne good according to that of our Saviour Math [7:12]:  Whatsoever ye would that men should doe to you.  This was practiced by Abraham and Lott in entertaineing the Angells and the old man of Gibea.


Thus stands the cause betweene God and us, wee are entered into Covenant with him for this worke, wee have taken out a Commission, the Lord hath given us leave to draw our owne Articles[.]  we have professed to enterprise these Accions upon these and these ends, wee have hereupon besought him of favour and blessing:  Now if the Lord shall please to heare us, and bring us in peace to the place wee desire, then hath hee ratified this Covenant and sealed our Commission, [and] will expect a strickt performance of the Articles contained in it, but if wee shall neglect the observacion of these Articles which are the ends wee have propounded, and dissembling with our God, shall fall to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnall intencions, seekeing greate things for our selves and our posterity, the Lord will surely break out in wrathe against us [and] be revenged of such a perjured people and make us knowe the price of the breache of such a Covenant.

Now the onely way to avoyde this shipwracke and to provide for our posterity is to followe the Counsell of Micah, to do Justly, to love mercy, to walke humbly with our God, for this end, wee must be knitt together in this worke as one man, wee must entertaine each other in brotherly Affeccion, wee must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, wee must uphold a familiar Commerce together in all meekenes, gentlenes, patience and liberallity, wee must delight in eache other; make others Condicions our own[,] rejoyce together, mourne together, labour, and suffer together, allwayes haveing before our eyes our Commission and Community in the worke, our Community as members of the same body, soe shall wee keepe the unitie of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us, as his owne people and will command a blessing upon us in all our wayes, soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome power goodnes and truthe then formerly wee have been acquainted with, wee shall find that the God of Israell is among us, when tenn of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when he shall make us a prayse and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantacions:  the Lord make it like that of New England:  for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if we shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speak evill of the ways of god and all professours for Gods sake, wee shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are goeing....