Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America--Winthrop, Jefferson, and Lincoln

By Matthew S. Holland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Two Cities upon a Hill

Winthrop begins the last section of his “Model” speech by making “some application” of the previous material to present circumstances (¶ 37). He has four things in mind: a discussion of (1) the “persons” involved, (2) the “work” they are facing, (3) the “end” of that work, and (4) the “means” for accomplishing such. In this final section, the more attractive elements of Winthrop's model of caritas emerge with such rhetorical force that we still quote the speech today. At the same time, this section reveals the grounds for certain Puritan practices to which none of us would wish to return.


The “Persons”

Winthrop indicates that he and his listeners constitute “a Company professing ourselves fellow members of Christ” (¶ 38). Resounding here the dominant theme of the address, Winthrop concludes that therefore they “ought to account [themselves] knit together by this bond of love, and live in the exercise of it.” Use of the term “company” is a reminder that Winthrop and his audience were part of the Massachusetts Bay Company, a trading enterprise as much as a means of refuge for Puritans escaping English corruption. But if some were making the move for reasons more financial than spiritual, Winthrop had good reason to believe that most of his listeners held some “comfort of our being in Christ.”1 Thus, for Winthrop, a communal condition of caritas, of living together in a “bond of love,” was meant both as description and prescription. The company's effective religious unity at the moment of Winthrop's speech justified hopes that a substantial state of charity would be immediately visible. However, Winthrop's previously noted conviction that God's grace typically works “little by little” meant that charity's full and pure

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