Paige Hudson Midterm Exam
English 461 Draft 1
Professor Mark Miller
2 March 2018
“Charity” versus “Self-Reliance:” Winthrop and Emerson
Experience has a different effect on everyone—time can teach a man to be thankful, or to be humbled. Whether or not man should devote his time to serving others, or if he should protect and serve himself and his family, and which better serves God, is a matter of opinion. John Winthrop preaches the necessity and requirement of a commitment to other Christians in his sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity,” while Ralph Waldo Emerson has quite a different point of view in “Self-Reliance.” Both men have chosen to take on this “fundamental ironical [duality] of existence,” in the words of Robert Penn Warren, to attempt to convince an audience whether a part is more important than the whole.
“A Model of Christian Charity” is a call to all Christians to become a part of a body, one body of Christ, to “become the most perfect and best proportioned body in the world” (96). Winthrop holds Christian men above all else, noting on page 92 that there is a difference between Christians and others. He believes that this body will be all-supportive, so long as its parts will contribute to each other in their times of need. “The end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord; the comfort and increase of the body of Christ whereof we are members…to serve the Lord and work out our salvation under the power and purity of His holy ordinances” (100). Winthrop is stressing the importance of the health and growth of this divine body, and that the only way to do this is to serve each other.
Winthrop threatens his audience with the wrath of God. On page 101, Winthrop explains that if a person fails to understand and follow God, there is a wrath against them, and that “the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to…do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.” In other words, to do justice to one’s fellow Christians, to be thankful for the mercy that God shows, and not to think that God is any less great than oneself. Winthrop explains early on in the sermon that the most important part of serving God is to give all of oneself to him, and to his followers. “To apply this to the works of mercy, this law requires two things: first, that every man afford his help to another in every want or distress; secondly, that he performed this out of the same affection which makes him careful of his own goods” (92). This theme, of donating one’s time, energy and resources, resurfaces several times in this address.
It appears during this narrative that Winthrop is under the impression that giving all of his wealth is a necessity at one time in his life, in order to both serve other men, and to avoid the wrath of God. “We must entertain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of other’s necessities” (101). Meaning,...