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City on a hill

City on a hill

City on a hill

Somewhere in the United States, there is a hill that people come together to watch a sunset. Most days this hill can be found in a city. Every time I see its silhouette, I can tell that there are people living and thriving on that hill. But it's not just the city. I can see the faith in me, who is watching the sunset.Winthrop warned his fellow Puritans that their new community would be "as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us", meaning, if the Puritans failed to uphold their covenant with God, then their sins and errors would be exposed for all the world to see: "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 byword through the world". Winthrop's lecture was forgotten for nearly two hundred years until the Massachusetts Historical Society published it in 1838. It remained an obscure reference for more than another century until Cold War era historians and political leaders made it relevant to their time, crediting Winthrop's text as the foundational document of the idea of American exceptionalism.

NEW

In 1630, aboard the Arbella before the ship's departure for the New World, Winthrop recited a sermon to his fellow travelers. Drawing upon Matthew 5:14–15, Winthrop articulated his vision of the prospective Puritan colony in New England as "a city upon a hill": an example to England and the world of a truly godly society. According to historian Perry Miller, Winthrop believed that this religious utopia would be acclaimed and imitated across the Old World, precipitating the Puritans' glorious return to England. This never happened; instead, as settlements like Boston became prosperous, material success and demographic change undermined the religious imperative. I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. "We must always consider", he said, "that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us". Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities. For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arabella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these. For of those to whom much is given, much is required ..

Winthrop warned his fellow Puritans that their new community would be "as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us", meaning, if the Puritans failed to uphold their covenant with God, then their sins and errors would be exposed for all the world to see: "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 byword through the world". Winthrop's lecture was forgotten for nearly two hundred years until the Massachusetts Historical Society published it in 1838. It remained an obscure reference for more than another century until Cold War era historians and political leaders made it relevant to their time, crediting Winthrop's text as the foundational document of the idea of American exceptionalism. Winthrop’s prediction "we will become a story" has been fulfilled several times in the three centuries since, particularly in Wayward Puritans: a study in the sociology of deviance by Kai T. Erikson in 1966. He presents the Massachusetts Bay Colony as the "New England Way" based on "the Bible as their spiritual parentage, England as the political parentage, and a trading company as their economic parentage, the colonist of the Bay owed their corporate identity to a wide assortment of elements." (Source: en.wikipedia.org)

CITY

Winthrop warned his fellow Puritans that their new community would be "as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us", meaning, if the Puritans failed to uphold their covenant with God, then their sins and errors would be exposed for all the world to see: "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 byword through the world". Winthrop's lecture was forgotten for nearly two hundred years until the Massachusetts Historical Society published it in 1838. It remained an obscure reference for more than another century until Cold War era historians and political leaders made it relevant to their time, crediting Winthrop's text as the foundational document of the idea of American exceptionalism. I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. "We must always consider", he said, "that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us". Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities. For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arabella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within. History will not judge our endeavors—and a government cannot be selected—merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these. For of those to whom much is given, much is required ...

I have quoted John Winthrop's words more than once on the campaign trail this year—for I believe that Americans in 1980 are every bit as committed to that vision of a shining city on a hill, as were those long ago settlers ... These visitors to that city on the Potomac do not come as white or black, red or yellow; they are not Jews or Christians; conservatives or liberals; or Democrats or Republicans. They are Americans awed by what has gone before, proud of what for them is still… a shining city on a hill. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still. (Source: en.wikipedia.org)

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