American Literature week 5 Cotton and Winthrop

Prompt: “How did Cotton and Winthrop view the emigrating people’s connection with the Old Testament?”

John Cotton was an English clergyman who gave an immense amount of encouragement and religious advice to the people who would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony. His 1630’s sermon God’s Promise to His Plantation assured the colonists that their journey to the Americas was holy, divinely intended, and monitored throughout by God. He was extremely optimistic for the colonists, stating that as long as they had faith in the Old Testament they would be protected by Gods mercy. He described the colonists as seeds, saying that God had provided them with a virgin land in which they could be planted. This is where the original definition of plantation comes from. The colonists had suffered through many religious, existential, and physical battles for freedom in Europe, but now God had sent them a new land and a chance at new life. Cotton wished them Godspeed, promising them that if they held strong to their faith they would prevail.

John Winthrop had his mind on hierarchy, economics, and how to realistically build a faith based society from the ground up. There would be no court in this new land, no ecclesiastical system of regulation. There would be no sovereign authority in which to report ones legal and personal challenges to, other than God of course. So Winthrop’s solution to this issue was Christian charity. An individual would be expected to give to his neighbor, and to help his community with any problems that may arise. If an early colonist wanted to avoid everlasting damnation they would have to treat their neighbors with the same graces they treated their families with. The Puritans wanted to be an ethical model for the world. They thrived to create a society where each person works their hardest for the sole reason of helping their brethren.

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