Winthrop and Rowlandson: Common Puritan Ideals

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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 pe...

... middle of paper ... Indians. From the copious use of examples in Winthrop's work, and the concise detail in Rowlandson's narrative, one can imbibe such Puritans values as the mercy of God, place in society, and community. Together, these three elements create a foundation for Puritan thought and lifestyle in the New World. Though A Model of Christian Charity is rather prescriptive in its discussion of these values, Rowlandson's captivity narrative can certainly be categorized as descriptive; this pious young woman serves as a living example of Winthrop's "laws," in that she lives the life of a true Puritan. Therefore, both 17th century works are extremely interrelated; in order to create Winthrop's model community, one must have faith and closely follow Puritan ideals, as Rowlandson has effectively done in her A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.
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