What are the most important concerns of Winthrop's sermon?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most overwhelming concerns in Winthrop's "A Model of Christian Charity" is to outline the course of Puritanism in the new world.  In beginning this exploration, Winthrop identifies how there is natural diversity in the human condition.  This diversity is critical to understanding the reality that Winthrop confronts all individuals:

First to hold conformity with the rest of His world, being delighted to show forth the glory of his wisdom in the variety and difference of the creatures, and the glory of His power in ordering all these differences for the preservation and good of the whole, and the glory of His greatness, that as it is the glory of princes to have many officers, so this great king will have many stewards, counting himself more honored in dispensing his gifts to man by man, than if he did it by his own immediate hands.

With this difference understood, Winthrop sets out to make the critical argument that Puritanism can be a religious doctrine to bring together the divergent condition of humanity.  It is in Puritanism that Winthrop makes the argument that human beings are able to "walk towards one another:"

First: This love among Christians is a real thing, not imaginary. Secondly: This love is as absolutely necessary to the being of the body of Christ, as the sinews and other ligaments of a natural body are to the being of that body. Thirdly: This love is a divine, spiritual nature free, active, strong, courageous, permanent.... this makes us nearer to resemble the virtues of our Heavenly Father. Fourthly: It rests in the love and welfare of its beloved.

If this notion of the divine is fully understood, Winthrop argues that this can enable individuals to be "knit together by love."  In pulling from Scripture, one of Winthrop's critical concerns is that individuals recognize of what they are a part.  For Winthrop, the ability to grasp the importance of Puritanism is of vital importance.  It is from this element that Winthrop sees the settlement of "New England" as representative of a "city upon a hill."  The Puritans are not seen as fleeing.  Rather, Winthrop makes it his mission to construct the Puritans as bringing light to that which is dark, and to serve as an example for others.  This becomes a critical concern that Winthrop has.

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