John Winthrop

by Francis J. Bremer

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What thesis statement would compare jeremiad ideas in John Winthrop and Mary Rowlandson's works?

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To understand your request, it is best to understand the term "jeremiad."

jeremiad is a long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in poetry, in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of society's imminent downfall.

The word is an eponym, named after the Biblical prophet Jeremiah. ...Generally, the term jeremiad is applied to moralistic texts that denounce a society for its wickedness, and prophesy its downfall. The jeremiad was a favorite literary device of the Puritans...

Many historians have presented Winthrop as an intolerant Puritan. Ironicially, however, he lost his leadership position in the Massachusetts Bay area when his critics found him to be too lenient. Leaders of the New England Company chose Winthrop to lead the new colony—and prior to his departure, he delivered a sermon that is remembered and studied today.

“A Model of Christian Charity,” the lay sermon that Winthrop delivered to his fellow emigrants immediately before their departure for the New World based on a passage in the Gospel of Saint Matthew that “we shall be as a city on a hill,” has become Winthrop’s chief claim to immortality. This role, Winthrop cautioned, could end in humiliating failure. He closed his sermon with a grim reminder that without a firm commitment to love of both God and neighbor, the colonists would “surely perish.”

This dire warning from Winthrop to his fellow-travelers certainly seems to be in keeping with what one would expect of a "jeremiad" piece of literature.

Mary Rowlandson, living in New England in the 1600s, was captured by Indians, along with some of her children. She remained a captive for eleven weeks until her ransom could be paid.

After her release, she authored  her account of her experiences, first as something she shared with friend, which would later be published in four editions. It was called The Soveraignty & Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed; Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682).

What makes this a piece of jeremiad literature is summarized as follows:

Throughout, Rowlandson casts her story as a spiritual autobiography...a test or punishment from God...using the occasion as an opportunity for a close examination of her soul.

As both Winthrop and Rowlandson present a common theme of what will befall one if he/she is not right with God, or what has happened for the same reason, we can classify both works as examples of jeremiad literature. For a thesis statement:

A jeremiad text is one with the purpose to denounce one's wicked actions, and a prophetic warning of doom should one remain removed from God's will. John Winthrop, in his sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity” and Mary Rowlandson's The Soveraignty & Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed; Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson are examples of jeremiad literature. Winthrop's piece warns of the wages of sin if God's dictates are not followed, whereas Rowlandson refers to her personal trials and challenges as God's judgment against her.

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