A Model of Christian Charity
Governor John Winthrop
(1630 on board the Arbella)
This is Winthrop’s most famous thesis, written on board the Arbella, 1630…. In an age not long
past, when the Puritan founders were still respected by the educational establishment, this was
required reading in many courses of American history and literature. However, it was often
abridged to just the first and last few paragraphs….
Winthrop’s intent was to prepare the people for planting a new society in a perilous environment.
Redacted and introduced by John Beardsley, Editor in Chief, the Winthrop Society Quarterly.
GOD ALMIGHTY in His most holy and wise providence, hath so disposed of the condition of
mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and
dignity; others mean and in submission.
The Reason hereof:
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
Secondly, that He might have the more occasion to manifest the work of his Spirit:
first upon the wicked in moderating and restraining them, so that the rich and mighty should not
eat up the poor, nor the poor and despised rise up against and shake off their yoke….
Thirdly, that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all
knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection. From hence it appears plainly that no
man is made more honorable than another or more wealthy etc., out of any particular and
singular respect to himself, but for the glory of his Creator and the common good of the creature,
There are two rules whereby we are to walk one towards another: Justice and Mercy. These are
always distinguished in their act and in their object, yet may they both concur in the same subject
in each respect; as sometimes there may be an occasion of showing mercy to a rich man in some
sudden danger or distress, and also doing of mere justice to a poor man in regard of some
particular contract, etc.
There is likewise a double Law by which we are regulated in our conversation towards another. In
both the former respects, the Law of Nature and the Law of Grace (that is, the moral law or the
law of the gospel)…. . By the first of these laws, man as he was enabled so withal is commanded