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Winthrop And Rowlandson: Common Puritan Ideals

2683 words - 11 pages

During the 17th century, many Puritans set sail for New England in order to escape religious persecution and re-create an English society that was accepting of the Puritan faith. John Winthrop, an educated lawyer from England who later became governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was one of the first in North America to advocate Puritan ideals and lifestyle. Winthrop delivered his sermon A Model of Christian Charity, in hopes of encouraging his shipmates to establish a truly spiritual community abroad. Almost fifty years later, a Puritan named Mary Rowlandson, daughter of a wealthy landowner and wife of a minister, wrote A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, describing her 11-week captivity by native Indians after an attack on Lancaster. Rowlandson recounts her story with heroism and appreciation for God. Although John Winthrop and Mary Rowlandson were in entirely different situations when composing their literary works, both writings reflect many of the same ideals that characterize the Puritan mind, such as the belief in God's mercy, the acceptance of one's condition in life, and the importance of a strong community.

According to both Winthrop and Rowlandson, if one has true faith in God, he will be able to witness God's mercy in his own life. Winthrop clearly underscores this point in his sermon, where he stresses that the Puritans must uphold their covenant with God in order to have a harmonious and successful colony. If one is faithful and obedient to God, he will be the recipient of God's providence: "Now if the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He ratified this covenant and sealed our commission, [and] will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it; but if we shall neglect the observation of these articles...the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us" (216). Dependent upon the clemency of God, the Puritans use their faith to ensure success in a new, foreign land. Ultimately, Winthrop implies that if the colonists genuinely dedicate themselves to Christ, their lives will be improved, in that God will help them in their endeavors: "The end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord...that ourselves and posterity may be the better preserved from the common corruptions of this evil world, to serve the Lord and work out our salvation under the power and purity of His holy ordinances" (215). By using the phrase "corruption of this evil world," Winthrop suggests that the only way to attain a virtuous and upright character is through spirituality and trust in God, who can help His followers to lead moral, meaningful lives. Winthrop insinuates that the Puritans have an obligation to God; they must leave their native land and establish a community abroad where God's people can live freely, strengthening their spiritual lives. If this is accomplished, then God too will aid the Puritans and bring mercy upon them:...

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