Aboard the ship Arbella, in 1630, John Winthrop wrote perhaps his most famous thesis "A Model Of Christian Charity." In past decades, this was required reading as American literature. Many Americans feel it remains applicable. According to the Winthrop Society, this was President Reagan's favorite Winthrop sermon. One of my favorite lines comes from the penultimate paragraph:
"For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world."Winthrop then exhorts his listeners to heed Deuteronomy 30:19 " I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:"
The full thesis is available athttp://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/charity.html andhttp://www.winthropsociety.org/doc_charity.php.
Why such an interest? Well, my Beloved Husband is the 10th great grand nephew of John Winthrop. John's son, Henry, was married to Elizabeth Fones, also John's niece and the subject of Anya Seton's 1958 historical novel "The Winthrop Woman." That means Elizabeth is the 11th great grandmother of Amanda, my granddaughter. Confusing? Well, a good genealogy program helps.
But, it's more than an earthly familial connection. Winthrop discusses love and likens Christians to a body, coming to conclusions:
First of all, true Christians are of one body in Christ (1 Cor. 12). Ye are the body of Christ and members of their part. All the parts of this body being thus united are made so contiguous in a special relation as they must needs partake of each other's strength and infirmity; joy and sorrow, weal and woe. If one member suffers, all suffer with it, if one be in honor, all rejoice with it.The Gospel of four hundred years ago remained the same as it was two thousand years ago. And it is the same today.
Secondly, the ligaments of this body which knit together are love.
Thirdly, no body can be perfect which wants its proper ligament.
Fourthly, All the parts of this body being thus united are made so contiguous in a special relation as they must needs partake of each other’s strength and infirmity, joy and sorrow, weal and woe. (1 Cor. 12:26) If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one be in honor, all rejoice with it.
Fifthly, this sensitivity and sympathy of each other's conditions will necessarily infuse into each part a native desire and endeavor, to strengthen, defend, preserve and comfort the other. To insist a little on this conclusion being the product of all the former, the truth hereof will appear both by precept and pattern. 1 John 3:16, "We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Gal. 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burden’s and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Now, go spread the good news!