Seeking religious freedom and refuge from the Anglican Church, the Puritans from England embarked on a voyage to the New World, with the intention of establishing a colony in Massachusetts. As their leader and later governor, Jonathan Winthrop, on board the Arbella, gave a famous sermon called “Model of Christian Charity”. In this sermon, Winthrop uttered the legendary words about a “city upon a hill”, which originated in the Bible in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. With this phrase, Winthrop encouraged his followers to become a model colony, a city upon a hill, for all eyes to see and be inspired by.
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. 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 by-word through the world.
Jonathan Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”
This sermon became the impetus for a growing and a widespread belief that America is God blessed, with great power but also great responsibility towards the world. This belief that Americans and their deeds are visible to all people, and thus that America acts as beacon of light for the world, took root and grew into the concept of American exceptionalism. (Winthrop)