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 desertio
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


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


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,


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'├ętat 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


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


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