Winthrop (and Christianity) v. Rand (and the Worship of the Self)

Winthrop (and Christianity) v. Rand (and the Worship of the Self) January 16, 2015

In contrast to Ayn Rand’s refusal to recognize even relatives as having any claim upon her, as I mentioned earlier today, John Winthrop in his “A Modell of Christian Charity,” preached onboard a ship to the new world in 1630. Christians are governed by the “double law” of nature and of grace, or the moral law and the law of the gospel, he says.

By the first of these laws man as he was enabled so withal is commanded to love his neighbor as himself. Upon this ground stands all the precepts of the moral law, which concerns our dealings with men. 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 perform this out of the same affection which makes him careful of his own goods, according to that of our Savior, (Math.)Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you. This was practiced by Abraham and Lot in entertaining the angels and the old man of Gibea.

. . . This law of the Gospel propounds likewise a difference of seasons and occasions. There is a time when a christian must sell all and give to the poor, as they did in the Apostles times. There is a time also when Christians (though they give not all yet) must give beyond their ability, as they of Macedonia, Cor. 2, 6. Likewise community of perils calls for extraordinary liberality, and so doth community in some special service for the church. Lastly, when there is no other means whereby our christian brother may be relieved in his distress, we must help him beyond our ability rather than tempt God in putting him upon help by miraculous or extraordinary means.

This duty of mercy is exercised in the kinds, Giving, lending and forgiving.—

Winthrop then deals with two objections and explains what this double law requires of us in specific situations. He sees what Rand in her self-absorption could not see:

Phoebe and others are called the servants of the church. Now it is apparent that they served not for wages, or by constraint, but out of love. The like we shall find in the histories of the church, in all ages; the sweet sympathy of affections which was in the members of this body one towards another; their cheerfulness in serving and suffering together; how liberal they were without repineing, harbourers without grudging, and helpful without reproaching; and all from hence, because they had fervent love amongst them; which only makes the practice of mercy constant and easy. . . .

In regard of the pleasure and content that the exercise of love carries with it, as wee may see in the natural body. The mouth is at all the pains to receive and mince the food which serves for the nourishment of all the other parts of the body; yet it hath no cause to complain; for first the other parts send back, by several passages, a due proportion of the same nourishment, in a better form for the strengthening and comforting the mouth.

2ly the labor of the mouth is accompanied with such pleasure and content as far exceeds the pains it takes. So is it in all the labor of love among Christians. The party loving, reaps love again, as was showed before, which the soul covets more then all the wealth in the world.

3ly. Nothing yields more pleasure and content to the soul then when it finds that which it may love fervently; for to love and live beloved is the soul’s paradise both here and in heaven. . . .[L]et such as have tried the most, say if there be any sweetness in that Condition comparable to the exercise of mutual love.

The whole sermon is well worth reading. The text (with spelling unmodernized) can be found here.

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