What the Editors Are Reading

I expected something quite different than I got when I began reading As A City on a Hill: The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon, by Daniel T. Rodgers and just released by Basic Books.  I am not yet very far into it, but plan on taking it to read at odd moments on a deer hunt in Kansas—and afterward.

The author of the famous line in the title was John Winthrop, of whom the intellectual historian Perry Miller said in 1954, he “stands at the beginning of our [American] consciousness.”  If that is so, then America’s consciousness has always been a false one.  But it is not so.  Winthrop, who was among the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, composed his lay sermon “Model of Christian Charity” in mid-Atlantic aboard the Arbella.  He wrote it as governor-elect of his small band of Puritans headed for the New World to effect what Professor Rodgers calls “a striking break in human affairs” by founding one particular settlement in North America that he proposed should be governed according to his “Model.”  Its theme was, therefore, “not nationalistic but local and intense.”  Yet, as Rodgers says, from the middle of the 20th century the “Model” has been accepted as “holding in embryo the nation’s most powerful and...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here