Gamble gives as his purpose in the first two chapters “to free the Puritans, John Winthrop, and the Model of Christian Charity from nearly 400 years of accumulated clutter.” That is, before embarking on his main argument, he needs to remove from the minds of his readers all the misconceptions and vagaries that we have about his subject, misconceptions that have naturally arisen around a historical fact that has acquired a place in the national mythology.
First, he points out what a vast gulf of time and mind separates 21st century America from the world of the Puritans. They lived in a world wholly different from our own, they thought of themselves as Englishmen, not Americans, and they would “no doubt be shocked” by the people and the nation that now claim them as their forebears.
One notable difference between the Puritans and modern America is their attitude towards religious liberty. To the Puritans, religious liberty was most emphatically not the right of anyone to worship was they pleased. It meant that the Puritans were free from the English government to worship as they pleased – which, as far as they were concerned, was the only way anyone should worship. They did not found a society for all religions, they founded one for their own. They were, in fact, hostile towards religious pluralism, a hostility the Quakers felt most painfully – look up the history of the Boston Martyrs.
Another disconnect is the popular impression that the Model has always been a well-known document in American history, and that Winthrop delivered the address aboard the Arbella. In fact, historical references to the Model are almost nonexistent, and there is no evidence that Winthrop made such a speech aboard ship, or indeed that he ever read the Model aloud. The title page of the discourse says only that it was written aboard the Arbella.
Next the author moves on to the audience and purpose of the Model. “Unmistakably” says Gamble “[Winthrop] wrote as a Christian to other Christians.” Winthrop assumes the necessity and inevitability of a hierarchical society, in which some men are richer and more powerful than other men, and this hierarchy is what makes Christian charity possible. This stands in direct opposition to anything that could be construed as a foundation for “egalitarianism, liberal democracy, or Christian socialism.” Winthrop was taking his conception of the kingdom of God, with its endless hierarchical chain of superiors showing charity to inferiors, and inferiors giving obedience to superiors, and set this before his audience as the model for their new earthly polity.