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The Planting Of The Church In Ne





The attitude of the Church of England Puritans toward the Separatists
from that church was the attitude of the earnest, patient, hopeful
reformer toiling for the removal of public abuses, toward the restless
come-outer who quits the conflict in despair of succeeding, and,
without tarrying for any, sets up his little model of good order
outside. Such defection seemed to them not only of the nature of a
military desertion and a weakening of the right side, but also an
implied assertion of superior righteousness which provoked invidious
comparison and mutual irritation of feeling. The comparison must not be
pressed too far if we cite in illustration the feeling of the great mass
of earnest, practical antislavery men in the American conflict with
slavery toward the faction of come-outer abolitionists, who,
despairing of success within the church and the state, seceded from
both, thenceforth predicting failure for every practical enterprise of
reform on the part of their former workfellows, and at every defeat
chuckling, I told you so.

If we should compare the English Separatist of the seventeenth century
with this American Separatist of the nineteenth, we should be in still
greater danger of misleading. Certainly there were those among the
Separatists from the Church of England who, in the violence of their
alienation and the bitterness of their sufferings, did not refrain from
sour and acrid censoriousness toward the men who were nearest them in
religious conviction and pursuing like ends by another course. One does
not read far in the history of New England without encountering
reformers of this extreme type. But not such were the company of true
worshipers who, at peril of liberty and life, were wont to assemble each
Lord's day in a room of the old manor-house of Scrooby, of which William
Brewster was lessee, for Christian fellowship and worship, and for
instruction in Christian truth and duty from the saintly lips of John
Robinson. The extreme radicals of their day, they seem to have been
divinely preserved from the besetting sins of radicalism--its
narrowness, its self-righteousness, its censoriousness and intolerance.
Those who read the copious records of the early New England colonization
are again and again surprised at finding that the impoverished little
company of Separatists at Leyden and Plymouth, who were so sharply
reprobated by their Puritan brethren of the Church of England for their
schismatic attitude, their over-righteousness and exclusiveness, do
really excel, in liberality and patient tolerance and catholic and
comprehensive love toward all good men, those who sat in judgment on
them. Something of this is due to the native nobleness of the men
themselves, of whom the world was not worthy; something of it to their
long discipline in the passive virtues under bitter persecution in their
native land and in exile in Holland and in the wilderness; much of it
certainly to the incomparably wise and Christ-like teaching of Robinson
both at Scrooby and at Leyden, and afterward through the tender and
faithful epistles with which he followed them across the sea; and all of
it to the grace of God working in their hearts and glorified in their
living and their dying.

It would be incompatible with the limits of this volume to recite in
detail the story of the Pilgrims; it has been told more amply and with
fuller repetition than almost any other chapter of human history, and is
never to be told or heard without awakening that thrill with which the
heartstrings respond to the sufferings and triumphs of Christ's blessed
martyrs and confessors. But, more dispassionately studied with reference
to its position and relations in ecclesiastical history, it cannot be
understood unless the sharp and sometimes exasperated antagonism is kept
in view that existed between the inconsiderable faction, as it was
esteemed, of the Separatists, and the great and growing Puritan party at
that time in disfavor with king and court and hierarchy, but soon to
become the dominant party not only in the Church of England, but in the
nation. It is not strange that the antagonism between the two parties
should be lost sight of. The two are identified in their theological
convictions, in their spiritual sympathies, and, for the most part, in
their judgment on questions concerning the externals of the church; and
presently their respective colonies, planted side by side, not without
mutual doubts and suspicions, are to grow together, leaving no visible
seam of juncture,

Like kindred drops commingling into one.[84:1]

To the Puritan reformer within the Church of England, the act of the
Pilgrims at Scrooby in separating themselves from the general mass of
English Christians, mingled though that mass might be with a multitude
of unworthy was nothing less than the sin of schism. One effect of the
act was to reflect odium upon the whole party of Puritans, and involve
them in the suspicion of that sedition which was so unjustly, but with
such fatal success, imputed to the Separatists. It was a hard and
doubtful warfare that the Puritans were waging against spiritual
wickedness in high places; the defection of the Separatists doubly
weakened them in the conflict. It is not strange, however it may seem
so, that the animosity of Puritan toward Separatist was sometimes
acrimonious, nor that the public reproaches hurled at the unpopular
little party should have provoked recriminations upon the assailants as
being involved in the defilements and the plagues of Babylon, and should
have driven the Separatists into a narrower exclusiveness of separation,
cutting themselves off not only from communion with abuses and
corruptions in the Church of England, but even from fellowship with good
and holy men in the national church who did not find it a duty to
secede.

Nothing of this bitterness and narrowness is found in Robinson.
Strenuously as he maintained the right and duty of separation from the
Establishment, he was, especially in his later years, no less earnest in
condemning the Separatists who carried their separation too far and had
gone beyond the true landmarks in matters of Christian doctrine or of
Christian fellowship.[85:1] His latest work, found in his studie after
his decease, was A Treatise of the Lawfulness of Hearing of the
Ministers in the Church of England.

The moderateness of Robinson's position, and the brotherly kindness of
his temper, could not save him and his people from the prevailing odium
that rested upon the Separatist. Many and grave were the sorrows through
which the Pilgrim church had to pass in its way from the little hamlet
of Scrooby to the bleak hill of Plymouth. They were in peril from the
persecutor at home and in peril in the attempt to escape; in peril from
greedy speculators and malignant politicians; in peril from the sea and
from cold and from starvation; in peril from the savages and from false
brethren privily sent among them to spy out their liberties; but an
added bitterness to all their tribulations lay in this, that, for the
course which they were constrained in conscience to pursue, they were
subject to the reprobation of those whom they most highly honored as
their brethren in the faith of Christ. Some of the most heartbreaking of
their trials arose directly from the unwillingness of English Puritans
to sustain, or even countenance, the Pilgrim colony.

In the year 1607, when the ships of the Virginia Company were about
landing their freight of emigrants and supplies at Jamestown, the first
and unsuccessful attempt of the Pilgrims was made to escape from their
native land to Holland. Before the end of 1608 the greater part of them,
in scattering parties, had effected the passage of the North Sea, and
the church was reunited in a land of religious freedom. With what a
blameless, diligent, and peaceful life they adorned the name of disciple
through all the twelve years of their sojourn, how honored and beloved
they were among the churches and in the University of Leyden, there are
abundant testimonies. The twelve years of seclusion in an alien land
among a people of strange language was not too long a discipline of
preparation for that work for which the Head of the church had set them
apart. This was the period of Robinson's activity as author. In erudite
studies, in grave debate with gainsayers at home and with fellow-exiles
in Holland, he was maturing in his own mind, and in the minds of the
church, those large and liberal yet definite views of church
organization and duty which were destined for coming ages so profoundly
to influence the American church in all its orders and divisions. He
became a reformer of the Separation.[87:1]

We pass by the heroic and pathetic story of the consultations and
correspondences, the negotiations and disappointments, the embarkation
and voyage, and come to that memorable date, November 11 (= 21), 1620,
when, arrived off the shore of Cape Cod, the little company, without
charter or warrant of any kind from any government on earth, about to
land on a savage continent in quest of a home, gathered in the cabin of
the Mayflower, and after a method quite in analogy with that in which,
sixteen years before, they had constituted the church at Scrooby,
entered into formal and solemn compact in the presence of God and one
of another, covenanting and combining themselves together into a civil
body politic.

It is difficult, in reading the instrument then subscribed, to avoid the
conviction that the theory of the origin of the powers of civil
government in a social compact, which had long floated in literature
before it came to be distinctly articulated in the Contrat Social of
Jean Jacques Rousseau, was familiar to the minds of those by whom the
paper was drawn. Thoughtful men at the present day universally recognize
the fallacy of this plausible hypothesis, which once had such wide
currency and so serious an influence on the course of political history
in America. But whether or not they were affected by the theory, the
practical good sense of the men and their deference to the teachings of
the Bible secured them from the vicious and absurd consequences
deducible from it. Not all the names of the colonists were subscribed to
the compact,--a clear indication of the freedom of individual judgment
in that company,--but it was never for a moment held that the
dissentients were any the less bound by it. When worthless John
Billington, who had somehow got shuffled into their company, was
sentenced for disrespect and disobedience to Captain Myles Standish to
have his neck and heels tied together, it does not seem to have
occurred to him to plead that he had never entered into the social
compact; nor yet when the same wretched man, ten years later, was by a
jury convicted of willful murder, and sentenced to death and executed.
Logically, under the social-compact theory, it would have been competent
for those dissenting from this compact to enter into another, and set up
a competing civil government on the same ground; but what would have
been the practical value of this line of argument might have been
learned from Mr. Thomas Morton, of Furnivall's Inn, after he had been
haled out of his disorderly house at Merry Mount by Captain Standish,
and convented before the authorities at Plymouth.

The social-compact theory as applied to the church, implying that the
mutual duties of Christian disciples in society are derived solely from
mutual stipulations, is quite as transparently fallacious as when it is
applied to civil polity, and the consequences deducible from it are not
less absurd. But it cannot be claimed for the Plymouth men, and still
less for their spiritual successors, that they have wholly escaped the
evil consequences of their theory in its practical applications. The
notion that a church of Christ is a club, having no authority or
limitations but what it derives from club rules agreed on among the
members, would have been scouted by the Pilgrims; among those who now
claim to sit in their seats there are some who would hesitate to admit
it, and many who would frankly avow it with all its mischievous
implications. Planted in the soil of Plymouth, it spread at once through
New England, and has become widely rooted in distant and diverse
regions of the American church.[89:1]

The church of Plymouth, though deprived of its pastor, continued to be
rich in faith and in all spiritual gifts, and most of all in the
excellent gift of charity. The history of it year after year is a
beautiful illustration of brotherly kindness and mutual self-sacrifice
among themselves and of forgiving patience toward enemies. But the
colony, beginning in extreme feebleness and penury, never became either
strong or rich. One hundred and two souls embarked in the Mayflower,
of whom nearly one half were dead before the end of four months. At the
end of four years the number had increased to one hundred and eighty. At
the end of ten years the settlement numbered three hundred persons.

It could not have been with joy wholly unalloyed with misgivings that
this feeble folk learned of a powerful movement for planting a Puritan
colony close in the neighborhood. The movement had begun in the heart of
the national church, and represented everything that was best in that
institution. The Rev. John White, rector of Dorchester, followed across
the sea with pastoral solicitude the young men of his parish, who, in
the business of the fisheries, were wont to make long stay on the New
England coast, far from home and church. His thought was to establish a
settlement that should be a sort of depot of supplies for the fishing
fleets, and a temporary home attended with the comforts and safeguards
of Christian influence. The project was a costly failure; but it was
like the corn of wheat falling into the ground to die, and bringing
forth much fruit. A gentleman of energy and dignity, John Endicott,
pledged his personal service as leader of a new colony. In September,
1628, he landed with a pioneering party at Naumkeag, and having happily
composed some differences that arose with the earlier comers, they named
the place Salem, which is, by interpretation, Peace. Already, with
the newcomers and the old, the well-provided settlement numbered more
than fifty persons, busy in preparation for further arrivals. Meanwhile
vigorous work was doing in England. The organization to sustain the
colony represented adequate capital and the highest quality of character
and influence. A royal charter, drawn with sagacious care to secure
every privilege the Puritan Company desired, was secured from the
fatuity of the reigning Stuart, erecting in the wilderness such a free
commonwealth as his poor little soul abhorred; and preparation was made
for sending out, in the spring of 1629, a noble fleet of six vessels,
carrying three hundred men and a hundred women and children, with
ample equipment of provisions, tools and arms, and live stock. The
Company had taken care that there should be plentiful provision
of godly ministers. Three approved clergymen of the Church of
England--Higginson, Skelton, and Bright--had been chosen by the Company
to attend the expedition, besides whom one Ralph Smith, a Separatist
minister, had been permitted to take passage before the Company
understood of his difference in judgment in some things from the other
ministers. He was permitted to continue his journey, yet not without a
caution to the governor that unless he were found conformable to the
government he was not to be suffered to remain within the limits of its
jurisdiction. An incident of this departure rests on the sole authority
of Cotton Mather, and is best told in his own words:

When they came to the Land's End, Mr. Higginson, calling up
his children and other passengers unto the stern of the ship
to take their last sight of England, said, 'We will not say,
as the Separatists were wont to say at their leaving of
England, Farewell, Babylon! farewell, Rome! but we will say,
Farewell, dear England! farewell, the church of God in
England, and all the Christian friends there! We do not go to
New England as Separatists from the Church of England, though
we cannot but separate from the corruptions in it; but we go
to practice the positive part of church reformation and
propagate the gospel in America.'

The story ought to be true, for the intrinsic likeliness of it; and it
is all the likelier for the fact that among the passengers, kindly and
even fraternally treated, and yet the object of grave misgivings, was
the honest Separatist minister, Ralph Smith.[91:1] The ideal of the new
colony could hardly have been better expressed than in these possibly
apocryphal words ascribed to Mr. Higginson. These were not fugitives
seeking asylum from persecution. Still less were they planning an asylum
for others. They were intent on the planting of a new commonwealth, in
which the church of Christ, not according to the imperfect and perverted
pattern of the English Establishment, but according to a fairer pattern,
that had been showed them in their mounts of vision, should be both free
and dominant. If this purpose of theirs was wrong; if they had no right
to deny themselves the comforts and delights of their native land, and
at vast cost of treasure to seclude themselves within a defined tract of
wilderness, for the accomplishment of an enterprise which they conceived
to be of the highest beneficence to mankind--then doubtless many of the
measures which they took in pursuance of this purpose must fall under
the same condemnation with the purpose itself. If there are minds so
constituted as to perceive no moral difference between banishing a man
from his native home, for opinion's sake, and declining, on account of
difference of opinion, to admit a man to partnership in a difficult and
hazardous enterprise organized on a distinctly exclusive basis, such
minds will be constrained to condemn the Puritan colonists from the
start and all along. Minds otherwise constituted will be able to
discriminate between the righteous following of a justifiable policy and
the lapses of the colonial governments from high and Christian motives
and righteous courses. Whether the policy of rigorous exclusiveness,
building up communities of picked material, homogeneous in race,
language, and religion, is on the whole less wise for the founders of a
new commonwealth than a sweepingly comprehensive policy, gathering in
people mutually alien in speech and creed and habits, is a fairly open
question for historical students. Much light might be thrown upon it by
the comparative history of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, of New
England and Pennsylvania. It is not a question that is answered at once
by the mere statement of it.

We do not need to be told that to the little Separatist settlement at
Plymouth, still in the first decade of its feeble existence, the
founding, within a day's journey, of this powerful colony, on
ecclesiastical principles distinctly antagonistic to their own, was a
momentous, even a formidable fact. Critical, nay, vital questions
emerged at once, which the subtlest churchcraft might have despaired of
answering. They were answered, solved, harmonized, by the spirit of
Christian love.

That great spiritual teacher, John Robinson, besides his more general
exhortations to brotherly kindness and charity, had spoken, in the
spirit of prophecy, some promises and assurances which came now to a
divine fulfillment. Pondering sundry weighty and solid reasons in
favor of removal from Holland, the pilgrims put on record that their
pastor would often say that many of those who both wrote and preached
against them would practice as they did if they were in a place where
they might have liberty and live conformably. One of the most
affectionate of his disciples, Edward Winslow, wrote down some of the
precious and memorable words which the pastor, who was to see their face
no more, uttered through his tears as they were about to leave him.
'There will be no difference,' he said, 'between the unconformable
ministers and you, when they come to the practice of the ordinances out
of the kingdom.' And so he advised us to close with the godly party of
the kingdom of England, and rather to study union than division, viz.,
how near we might possibly without sin close with them, rather than in
the least measure to affect division or separation from them.

The solitude of the little starving hamlet by the sea was favorable to
the springing and fructifying of this seed in the good and honest hearts
into which it had been cast. Before the great fleet of colonists, with
its three unconformable Church of England clergymen, had reached the
port of Salem the good seed had been planted anew in other hearts not
less honest and good. It fell on this wise. The pioneer party at Salem
who came with Endicott, arriving there in an uncultivated desert, many
of them, for want of wholesome diet and convenient lodgings, were seized
with the scurvy and other distempers, which shortened many of their
days, and prevented many of the rest from performing any great matter of
labor that year for advancing the work of the plantation. Whereupon the
governor, hearing that at Plymouth lived a physician that had some
skill that way, wrote thither for help, and at once the beloved
physician and deacon of the Plymouth church, Dr. Samuel Fuller,
hastened to their relief. On what themes the discourse revolved between
the Puritan governor just from England and the Separatist deacon already
for so many years an exile, and whither it tended, is manifested in a
letter written soon after by Governor Endicott, of Salem, to Governor
Bradford, of Plymouth, under date May 11 (= 21), 1629. The letter marks
an epoch in the history of American Christianity:

To the worshipful and my right worthy friend, William
Bradford, Esq., Governor of New Plymouth, these:

RIGHT WORTHY SIR: It is a thing not usual that servants to
one Master and of the same household should be strangers. I
assure you I desire it not; nay, to speak more plainly, I
cannot be so to you. God's people are marked with one and the
same mark, and sealed with one and the same seal, and have,
for the main, one and the same heart, guided by one and the
same Spirit of truth; and where this is there can be no
discord--nay, here must needs be sweet harmony. The same
request with you I make unto the Lord, that we may as
Christian brethren be united by a heavenly and unfeigned love,
bending all our hearts and forces in furthering a work beyond
our strength, with reverence and fear fastening our eyes
always on him that only is able to direct and prosper all our
ways.

I acknowledge myself much bound to you for your kind love and
care in sending Mr. Fuller among us, and I rejoice much that I
am by him satisfied touching your judgments of the outward
form of God's worship.[94:1] It is, as far as I can yet
gather, no other than is warranted by the evidence of truth,
and the same which I have professed and maintained ever since
the Lord in mercy revealed himself to me, being very far
different from the common report that hath been spread of you
touching that particular. But God's children must not look for
less here below, and it is the great mercy of God that he
strengthens them to go through with it.

I shall not need at this time to be tedious unto you, for,
God willing, I purpose to see your face shortly. In the
meantime I humbly take my leave of you, committing you to the
Lord's blessed protection, and rest

Your assured loving friend and servant,

JOHN ENDICOTT.

The positive part of church reformation, which Higginson and his
companions had come into the wilderness to practice, appeared in a new
light when studied under the new conditions. The question of separation
from the general fellowship of English Christians, which had lain
heavily on their consciences, was no longer a question; instead of it
arose the question of separation from their beloved and honored
fellow-Christians at Plymouth. The Act of Uniformity and the tyrannous
processes by which it was enforced no longer existed for them. They were
free to build the house of God simply according to the teaching of the
divine Word. What form will the structure take?

One of the first practical questions to emerge was the question by what
authority their ministry was to be exercised. On one point they seem to
have been quite clear. The episcopal ordination, which each of them had
received in England, whatever validity it may have had in English law,
gave them no authority in the church of God in Salem. Further, their
appointment from the Company in London, although it was a regular
commission from the constituted civil government of the colony, could
confer no office in the spiritual house. A day of solemn fasting was
held, by the governor's appointment, for the choice of pastor and
teacher, and after prayer the two recognized candidates for the two
offices, Skelton and Higginson, were called upon to give their views as
to a divine call to the ministry. They acknowledged there was a twofold
calling: the one, an inward calling, when the Lord moved the heart of a
man to take that calling upon him, and fitted him with gifts for the
same; the second (the outward calling) was from the people, when a
company of believers are joined together in covenant to walk together in
all the ways of God. Thereupon the assembly proceeded to a written
ballot, and its choice fell upon Mr. Skelton and Mr. Higginson. It
remained for the ministers elect to be solemnly inducted into office,
which was done with prayer and the laying on of hands in benediction.

But presently there were searchings of heart over the anterior question
as to the constituency of the church. Were all the population of Salem
to be reckoned as of the church of Salem? and if not, who should
discern between the righteous and the wicked? The result of study of
this question, in the light of the New Testament, was this--that it was
necessary for those who intended to be of the church solemnly to enter
into a covenant engagement one with another, in the presence of God, to
walk together before him according to his Word. Thirty persons were
chosen to be the first members of the church, who in a set form of words
made public vows of faithfulness to each other and to Christ. By the
church thus constituted the pastor and teacher, already installed in
office in the parish, were instituted as ministers of the church.[96:1]

Before the solemnities of that notable day were concluded, a belated
vessel that had been eagerly awaited landed on the beach at Salem the
messengers of the church at Plymouth. They came into the assembly,
Governor Bradford at the head, and in the name of the Pilgrim church
declared their approbation and concurrence, and greeted the new
church, the first-born in America, with the right hand of fellowship.
A thoughtful and devoted student declares this day's proceedings to be
the beginning of a distinctively American church history.[97:1]

The immediate sequel of this transaction is characteristic and
instructive. Two brothers, John and Samuel Browne, members of the
council of the colony, took grave offense at this departure from the
ways of the Church of England, and, joining to themselves others
like-minded, set up separate worship according to the Book of Common
Prayer. Being called to account before the governor for their schismatic
procedure, they took an aggressive tone and declared that the ministers,
were Separatists, and would be Anabaptists. The two brothers were
illogical. The ministers had not departed from the Nationalist and
anti-Separatist principles enunciated by Higginson from the quarter-deck
of the Talbot. What they had just done was to lay the foundations of a
national church for the commonwealth that was in building. And the two
brothers, trying to draw off a part of the people into their
schism-shop, were Separatists, although they were doubtless surprised to
discover it. There was not the slightest hesitation on the governor's
part as to the proper course to be pursued. Finding those two brothers
to be of high spirits, and their speeches and practices tending to
mutiny and faction, the governor told them that New England was no place
for such as they, and therefore he sent them both back for England at
the return of the ships the same year.[98:1] Neither then nor
afterward was there any trace of doubt in the minds of the New England
settlers, in going three thousand miles away into the seclusion of the
wilderness, of their indefeasible moral right to pick their own company.
There was abundant opportunity for mistake and temptation to wrong-doing
in the exercise of this right, but the right itself is so nearly
self-evident as to need no argument.

While the civil and ecclesiastical foundations of the Salem community
are thus being laid, there is preparing on the other side of the sea
that great coup d'état which is to create, almost in a day, a
practically independent American republic. Until this is accomplished
the colonial organization is according to a common pattern, a settlement
on a distant shore, equipped, sustained, and governed with authority all
but sovereign by a commercial company at the metropolis, within the
reach, and thus under the control, of the supreme power. Suppose, now,
that the shareholders in the commercial company take their charter
conferring all but sovereign authority, and transport themselves and it
across the sea to the heart of the settlement, there to admit other
planters, at their discretion, to the franchise of the Company, what
then? This was the question pondered and decided in those dark days of
English liberty, when the triumph of despotism, civil and spiritual,
over the rights of Englishmen seemed almost achieved. The old officers
of the Company resigned; their places were filled by Winthrop and Dudley
and others, who had undertaken to emigrate; and that memorable season of
1630 not less than seventeen ships, carrying about one thousand
passengers, sailed from English ports for Massachusetts Bay. It was the
beginning of the great Puritan exodus. Attempts were made by the king
and the archbishop to stay the flow of emigration, but with only
transient success. At the end of ten years from Winthrop's arrival
about twenty-one thousand Englishmen, or four thousand families,
including the few hundreds who were here before him, had come over in
three hundred vessels, at a cost of two hundred thousand pounds
sterling.[99:1] What could not be done by despotism was accomplished by
the triumph of the people over the court. The meeting of the Long
Parliament in 1640 made it safe for Puritans to stay in England; and the
Puritans stayed. The current of migration was not only checked, but
turned backward. It is reckoned that within four generations from that
time more persons went to old England than originally came thence. The
beginnings of this return were of high importance. Among the home-going
companies were men who were destined to render eminent service in the
reconstruction of English society, both in the state and in the army,
and especially in the church. The example of the New England churches,
voluminously set forth in response to written inquiries from England,
had great influence in saving the mother country from suffering the
imposition of a Presbyterian hierarchy that threatened to be as
intolerant and as intolerable as the tyranny of Laud.

For the order of the New England churches crystallized rapidly into a
systematic and definite church polity, far removed from mere Separatism
even in the temperate form in which this had been illustrated by
Robinson and the Pilgrim church. The successive companies of emigrants
as they arrived, ship-load after ship-load, each with its minister or
college of ministers, followed with almost monotonous exactness the
method adopted in the organization of the church in Salem. A small
company of the best Christians entered into mutual covenant as a church
of Christ, and this number, growing by well-considered accessions, added
to itself from time to time other believers on the evidence and
confession of their faith in Christ. The ministers, all or nearly all of
whom had been clergymen in the orders of the Church of England, were of
one mind in declining to consider their episcopal ordination in England
as conferring on them any spiritual authority in a church newly gathered
in America. They found rather in the free choice of the brotherhood the
sign of a divine call to spiritual functions in the church, and were
inducted into office by the primitive form of the laying on of hands.

In many ways, but especially in the systematized relations of the
churches with one another and in their common relations with the civil
government, the settled Nationalism of the great Puritan migration was
illustrated. With the least possible constraint on the individual or on
the church, they were clear in their purpose that their young state
should have its established church.

Through what rude experiences the system and the men were tested has
been abundantly told and retold.[100:1] Roger Williams, learned,
eloquent, sincere, generous, a man after their own heart, was a very
malignant among Separatists, separating himself not only from the
English church, but from all who would not separate from it, and from
all who would not separate from these, and so on, until he could no
longer, for conscience' sake, hold fellowship with his wife in family
prayers. After long patience the colonial government deemed it necessary
to signify to him that if his conscience would not suffer him to keep
quiet, and refrain from stirring up sedition, and embroiling the colony
with the English government, he would have to seek freedom for that
sort of conscience outside of their jurisdiction; and they put him out
accordingly, to the great advantage of both parties and without loss of
mutual respect and love. A little later, a clever woman, Mrs. Ann
Hutchinson, with a vast conceit of her superior holiness and with the
ugly censoriousness which is a usual accompaniment of that grace,
demonstrated her genius for mixing a theological controversy with
personal jealousies and public anxieties, and involved the whole colony
of the Bay in an acrimonious quarrel, such as to give an unpleasant tone
of partisanship and ill temper to the proceedings in her case, whether
ecclesiastical or civil. She seems clearly to have been a willful and
persistent nuisance in the little community, and there were good reasons
for wanting to be rid of her, and right ways to that end. They took the
wrong way and tried her for heresy. In like manner, when the Quakers
came among them,--not of the mild, meek, inoffensive modern variety to
which we are accustomed, but of the fierce, aggressive early
type,--instead of proceeding against them for their overt offenses
against the state, disorderly behavior, public indecency, contempt of
court, sedition, they proceeded against them distinctly as Quakers, thus
putting themselves in the wrong and conceding to their adversaries that
crown of martyrdom for which their souls were hankering and to which
they were not fully entitled.

Of course, in maintaining the principle of Nationalism, the New England
Puritans did not decline the implications and corollaries of that
principle. It was only to a prophetic genius like the Separatist Roger
Williams that it was revealed that civil government had no concern to
enforce the laws of the first table. But the historical student might
be puzzled to name any other church establishment under which less of
molestation was suffered by dissenters, or more of actual encouragement
given to rival sects, than under the New England theocracies. The
Nationalist principle was exclusive; the men who held it in New England
(subject though they were to the temptations of sectarian emulation and
fanatic zeal) were large-minded and generous men.

The general uniformity of church organization among the Puritan
plantations is the more remarkable in view of the notable independence
and originality of the leading men, who represented tendencies of
opinion as widely diverging as the quasi-Presbyterianism of John Eliot
and the doctrinaire democracy of John Wise. These variations of
ecclesiastico-political theory had much to do with the speedy diffusion
of the immigrant population. For larger freedom in building his ideal
New Jerusalem, the statesmanlike pastor, Thomas Hooker, led forth his
flock a second time into the great and terrible wilderness, and with his
associates devised what has been declared to be the first example in
history of a written constitution--a distinct organic law constituting a
government and defining its powers.[102:1] The like motive determined
the choice company under John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton to refuse
all inducements and importunities to remain in Massachusetts, choosing
rather to build on no other man's foundations at New Haven.[102:2] At
the end of a hundred years from the settlement of Boston the shores and
river valleys of Massachusetts and Connecticut were planted with towns,
each self-governing as a pure democracy, each with its church and
educated minister and its system of common schools. The two colleges at
Cambridge and New Haven were busy with their appointed work of training
young men to the service of God in church or civil state. And this
great and prosperous and intelligent population was, with inconsiderable
exceptions, the unmingled progeny of the four thousand English families
who, under stress of the tyranny of Charles Stuart and the persecution
of William Laud, had crossed the sea in the twelve years from 1628 to
1640.

The traditions of the fathers of New England had been piously cherished
down to this third and fourth generation. The model of an ideal state
that had been set up had, meanwhile, been more or less deformed,
especially in Massachusetts, by the interference of England; the
dominance of the established churches had been slightly infringed by the
growth here and there of dissenting churches, Baptist, Episcopalian, and
Quaker; but the framework both of church and of state was wonderfully
little decayed or impaired. The same simplicity in the outward order of
worship was maintained; the same form of high Calvinistic theology
continued to be cherished as a norm of sound preaching and as a vehicle
of instruction to children. All things continued as they had been; and
yet it would have been a most superficial observer who had failed to
detect signs of approaching change. The disproportions of the
Calvinistic system, exaggerated in the popular acceptation, as in the
favorite Day of Doom of Michael Wigglesworth, forced the effort after
practical readjustments. The magnifying of divine sovereignty in the
saving of men, to the obscuring of human responsibility, inevitably
mitigated the church's reprobation of respectable people who could
testify of no experience of conversion, and yet did not wish to
relinquish for themselves or their families their relation to the
church. Out of the conflict between two aspects of theological truth,
and the conflict between the Nationalist and the Separatist conceptions
of the church, and especially out of the mistaken policy of restricting
the civil franchise to church-members, came forth that device of the
Half-way Covenant which provided for a hereditary quasi-membership in
the church for worthy people whose lives were without scandal, and who,
not having been subjects of an experience of conscious conversion, were
felt to be not altogether to blame for the fact. From the same causes
came forth, and widely prevailed, the tenet of Stoddardeanism, so
called as originating in the pastoral work, and, it is said, in the
personal experience, of Solomon Stoddard, the saintly minister of
Northampton from 1669 till 1729, when he was succeeded by his colleague
and grandson, Jonathan Edwards. It is the view that the Lord's Supper is
instituted as a means of regeneration as well as of sanctification, and
that those who are consciously in a natural condition ought not to be
repelled, but rather encouraged to come to it. From the same causes, by
natural sequence, came that so-called Arminianism[104:1] which, instead
of urging the immediate necessity and duty of conversion, was content
with commending a diligent use of means, which might be the hopeful
antecedent of that divine grace.

These divergences from the straight lines of the primeval New England
Calvinism had already begun to be manifest during the lifetime of some
of the founders. Of not less grave import was the deflection from the
lofty moral standard of the fathers. A great New Englander, Horace
Bushnell, maintaining his thesis that great migrations are followed by a
tendency to barbarism, has cited in proof this part of New England
history.[105:1] As early as the second generation, the evil tendency
seemed so formidable as to lead to the calling, by the General Court of
Massachusetts, of the Reforming Synod of 1679. No one can say that the
heroic age of New England was past. History has no nobler record to
show, of courage and fortitude in both men and women, than that of New
England in the Indian wars. But the terrors of those days of
tribulation, the breaking up of communities, the decimation of the
population, the long absences of the young men on the bloody business of
the soldier, were not favorable for maturing the fruits of the Spirit.
Withal, the intrigues of British politicians, the threatened or actual
molestations of the civil governments of the colonies, and the
corrupting influences proceeding from every center of viceregal
authority, abetted the tendency to demoralization. By the end of the
first third of the eighteenth century, New England, politically,
ecclesiastically, theologically, and morally, had come into a state of
unstable equilibrium. An overturn is impending.

* * * * *

The set and sturdy resolution of the founders of the four colonies of
the New England confederacy that the first planting of their territory
should be on rigorously exclusive principles, with a homogeneous and
mutually congenial population, under a firm discipline both civil and
ecclesiastical, finds an experimental justification in the history of
the neighbor colony of Rhode Island. No commonwealth can boast a nobler
and purer name for its founder than the name of Roger Williams. Rhode
Island, founded in generous reaction from the exclusiveness of
Massachusetts, embodied the principle of soul-liberty in its earliest
acts. The announcement that under its jurisdiction no man was to be
molested by the civil power for his religious belief was a broad
invitation to all who were uncomfortable under the neighboring
theocracies.[106:1] And the invitation was freely accepted. The
companions of Williams were reinforced by the friends of Mrs.
Hutchinson, some of them men of substance and weight of character. The
increasing number of persons inclined to Baptist views found in Rhode
Island a free and congenial atmosphere. Williams himself was not long in
coming to the Baptist position and passing beyond it. The Quakers found
Rhode Island a safe asylum from persecution, whether Puritan or Dutch.
More disorderly and mischievous characters, withal, quartered
themselves, unwelcome guests, on the young commonwealth, a thorn in its
side and a reproach to its principles. It became clear to Williams
before his death that the declaration of individual rights and
independence is not of itself a sufficient foundation for a state. The
heterogeneous population failed to settle into any stable polity. After
two generations the tyranny of Andros, so odious elsewhere in New
England, was actually welcome as putting an end to the liberty that had
been hardly better than anarchy.

The results of the manner of the first planting on the growth of the
church in Rhode Island were of a like sort. There is no room for
question that the material of a true church was there, in the person of
faithful and consecrated disciples of Christ, and therefore there must
have been gathering together in common worship and mutual edification.
But the sense of individual rights and responsibilities seems to have
overshadowed the love for the whole brotherhood of disciples. The
condition of the church illustrated the Separatism of Williams reduced
to the absurd. There was feeble organization of Christians in knots and
coteries. But sixty years passed before the building of the first house
of worship in Providence, and at the end of almost a century there had
not existed in the whole colony more than eight or ten churches of any
denomination, and these were mostly in a very feeble and precarious
state.[107:1]

Meanwhile the inadequate compensations of a state of schism began to
show themselves. In the absence of any organized fellowship of the whole
there grew up, more than elsewhere, a mutual tolerance and even love
among the petty sects, the lesson of which was learned where it was most
needed. The churches of the standing order in Massachusetts not only
admired but imitated the peace and love which societies of different
modes of worship entertained toward each other in Rhode Island. In
1718, not forty years from the time when Baptist churches ceased to be
religio illicita in Massachusetts, three foremost pastors of Boston
assisted in the ordination of a minister to the Baptist church, at which
Cotton Mather preached the sermon, entitled Good Men United. It
contained a frank confession of repentance for the persecutions of which
the Boston churches had been guilty.[107:2]

There is a double lesson to be learned from the history of these
neighbor colonies: first, that a rigorously exclusive selection of men
like-minded is the best seed for the first planting of a commonwealth in
the wilderness; secondly, that the exclusiveness that is justified in
the infancy of such a community cannot wisely, nor even righteously, nor
even possibly, be maintained in its adolescence and maturity. The
church-state of Massachusetts and New Haven was overthrown at the end of
the first generation by external interference. If it had continued a few
years longer it must have fallen of itself; but it lasted long enough to
be the mold in which the civilization of the young States should set and
harden.





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