What are some specific similarities and differences in religious values between Franklin's Autobiography and Winthrop's "Model of Christian Charity?"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A Deist, Benjamin Franklin writes his Autobiography in a much different style from that of Governor John Winthrop

DIFFERENCES

  • Wit -Franklin employs anecdotes, wit, and dialogue that develop morals for the reader without proselytizing. On the other hand, the Puritan John Winthrop lacks Franklin's wit and homespun style. A strict Puritan, like so many of his sect, Winthrop does not include wit in his writings, nor such things as dialogue. 
  • Individualism - Whereas Winthrop perceived the social classes as "made" by God and established so that "all men would have need of one another." This mutual need knits mankind "more nearly together in the Bonds of Brotherly affection," Benjamin Franklin affirms individualism rather than negate it.  In his section "Leaving Boston," Franklin asserts that "a fresh difference" between his brother and him was that he took upon himself "to assert my freedom."
  • Religiosity - Franklin engaged in "indiscreet disputations" about religion while Winthrop was a strict Puritan, who believed the community should follow strictly the precepts of his religion.
  • Logic - Franklin is very logical in his reasoning; Winthrop sometimes is too fanatical in his Puritanism

SIMILARITIES 

  • Brotherly Love - In one section of his work, Winthrop concludes that "Love is divine, free, active, strong, courageous, permanent."  Franklin exemplifies this brotherly love when a "drunken Dutchman" falls overboard in a squall and he saves him.
  • Social Responsibility - The aphorisms of Franklin exemplify his sense of social responsibility: "One today is worth two tomorrows." Winthrop speaks of the Puritans' being"as a city upon hill, the eyes of all people are upon us....That is, the members should be able to live by the laws and regulations presented in the Bible and live exemplifying lives.He writes,

Lastly, when there is no other means whereby our Christian brother may be relieved in his distress, we must help him beyond our ability rather than tempt God in putting him upon help by miraculous or extraordinary means. This duty of mercy is exercised in the kinds: giving, lending and forgiving (of a debt).

  • Virtue - Winthrop further argued that for love to be effective, men must "cultivate and use the virtues reaped to the best of our abilities." Likewise, Franklin was convinced that the cultivation of virtue is of paramount importance. He insists upon paying for his passage when he arrives in Philadelphia despite the the initial refusal by the people of the boat because he has rowed; this act demonstrates his sense of pride and uprightness. Later in his discourse, he enumerates thirteen virtues with their precepts. e.g.

Sincerity.Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

        Both Winthrop and Franklin are diligent, orderly, and organized. 

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