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perfectly, as we hope, to cure him. Good Mr. Parker, of Boston, passing from Prudence Island, at his coming on shore, on Seekonk land, trod awry upon a stone or stick, and fell down, and broke the small bone of his leg. He hath lain by of it all this winter, and the last week was carried to Boston in a horse litter. Some fears there were of a gangrene. But, Sir, I use too much boldness and
prolixity. I shall now only subscribe myself, “ Your unworthy friend,
“R. W. “Sir, my loving respects to Mr. Stone, Mr. Lord, Mr. Allen, Mr. Webster, and other loving friends."
“ To my honored, kind friend, Mr. Winthrop, Governor of Connecticut, these presents.
“ Providence, 8, 7, 60 (so called.)
“A sudden warning gives me but time of this abrupt salutation to your kind self and Mrs. Winthrop, wishing you peace. I promised to a neighbor, a former servant of your father's, (Joshua Windsor,) to write a line, on his behalf, and at his desire, unto you. His prayer to you is; that when you travel toward Boston, you would please to come by Providence, and spare one hour to heal an old sore,-a controversy between him and most of his neighbors, in which, I am apt to think, he hath suffered some wrong. He hath promised to submit to your sentence. His opposite, one James Ashton, being desired by me to nominate also, he resolves also to submit to your sentence, which will concern more will and stomach than damage ; for the matter only concerns a few poles of ground, wherein Joshua hath cried out of
these many years. I hope, Sir, the blessed Lord will make you a blessed instrument of chiding the winds and seas; and I shall rejoice in your presence amongst us. There are greater ulcers in my thoughts at present, which, I fear, are incurable, and that it hath pleased the Most Wise and Most High to pass an irrevocable sentence of amputations and cauterizations upon the poor Protestant party. The clouds gather mighty fast and thick upon our heads from all the Popish quarters. It hath pleased the Lord to glad the Romish conclave with he departure of those two mighty bulwarks of the Protestants, Oliver and Gustavus; to unite, (I think by this time) all the Catholic kings and princes, for Portugal was like, very like, of late, to return to the yoke of Spain, whose treasure from the Indies it hath pleased God to send home, so wonderfully great and rich this year, that I cannot but fear the Lord hath some mighty work to effect with it. We know the Catholic King was in debt, but he now overflows with millions, which God is most like to expend against the Protestants or the Turks, the two great enemies, (the sword-fish and the thrasher) against the Popish leviathan. The Presbyterian party in England and Scotland is yet very likely to make some struggle against the Popish invasions; and yet in the end I fear (as long I have feared, and long since told Oliver, to which he much inclined,) the bloody whore is not yet drunk enough with the blood of the saints and witnesses of Jesus. One cordial is, (amongst so many the merciful Lord hath provided) that that whore will shortly appear so extremely loathsome, in her drunkenness, bestialities, &c. that her bewitched paramours will tear her flesh, and burn her with fire unquenchable. Here is a sound that Fairfax, and about two hundred of the House with him, differ with the King. The merciful Lord fit us to hear and feel more. thick and dreadful mist and swamp, with which the Lord hath a great while suffered us to labor in, as hoping to wade out, break through, and escape shipwreck. In Richard Protector's Parliament, they fell into three factions presently : royalists, protectorians, (which were most Presbyterian, and earned it,) and commonwealth's men. The Presbyterians, when General Monk brought in the secluded members, carried it again, of late, clearly, and so vigorously against the Papists, that stricter laws than ever.
There must surely, then, be great flames, before the King can accomplish his engagements to the Popish party.
"You know well, Sir, at sea, the first entertainment of a storm is with, down with top-sails. The Lord mercifully help us to lower, and make us truly more and more low, humble, contented, thankful for the least crumbs of
mercy. But the storm increaseth, and trying with our mainsails and mizzens will not do. We must, therefore, humbly beg patience from the Father of Lights and God of all mercies,
It is a very
to lay at Hull, in hope. It was a motto in one of the late Parliaments : cornets, under a shower of blood. • Transibit.'
“Sir, my neighbor, Mrs. Scott, is come from England; and, what the whip at Boston could not do, converse with friends in England, and their arguments, have, in a great measure drawn her from the Quakers, and wholly from their meetings. Try the spirits. There are many abroad, and must be, but the Lord will be glorious, in plucking up whatever his holy hand hath not planted. My brother runs strongly to Origen’s notion of universal mercy at last, against an eternal sentence.
Our times will call upon us for thorough discussions. The fire is like to try us. It is a wonderful mercy the barbarians are yet so quiet. A portion of our neighbors are just now come home, re infecta. The Mohegans would not sally, and the Narragansets would not spoil the corn, for fear of offending the English. The Lord mercifully guide the councils of the commissioners. Mr. Arnold, Mr. Brenton, and others, struggle against your interest at Narraganset ; but I hope your presence might do much good amongst us in a few days. “Sir, I am, unworthy, yours,
“ R. W."
Infant baptism-half-way covenant-laws to support religion-char
ter from Charles II.—first meeting of Assembly-Mr. Clarkedifficulties about boundaries-charges against Rhode Island, concerning Catholics and Quakers.
may be useful to look, for a moment, at the difficulties which arose, about this time, in the other colonies, respecting infant baptism. This rite had been hitherto administered to those children, whose immediate parents were both members of a church. But as the country increased, many persons, who were not members of a church, had children, for whom, nevertheless, they desired baptism. The question accordingly arose, whether the children of such parents could properly be admitted to baptism. It was, on the one hand, a departure from the principle, that as faith is required in the Scriptures as a prerequisite to baptism, and as the infant could not exercise faith, it must consequently be baptized on the ground of its parents' faith. It seemed hard, on the other hand, that if there was any virtue in infant baptism, the innocent child should be deprived of it, because its parents were not pious. The question began to be publicly agitated. The magistrates of Connecticut, about the year 1656, sent several queries on the subject to the magistrates of Massachusetts.* A meeting of ministers was held in Boston, June 4, 1657, at which the “half-way covenant," as it was called, was adopted. “It provided, that all persons of sober life and correct sentiments, without being examined as to a change of heart, might profess religion, or become members of the church, and have their children baptized, though they did not come to the Lord's table.”+ This disastrous departure from the Scriptures, and from the former practice of the churches, was not unanimously adopted. Many ministers and churches were opposed to it. A synod was held, in
* Hubbard, chap. lxiv.
Boston, in September, 1662, including all the ministers in Massachusetts. This body ratified the decision of the council of 1657. But parties were immediately formed, for and against the synod. The Rev. Charles Chauncey, President of Harvard College, and the Rev. Increase Mather, wrote against the decision, while others wrote on the opposite side. The country was thrown into a ferment. A division took place in the First Church in Boston, and the Old South Church was formed in May, 1669, by a minority of the First Church, the majority of whose members opposed the decision of the synod, while the seceding minority approved it. The General Court took up the subject, and at its session, in May, 1670, pronounced the formation of the new church to be irreligious, illegal and disorderly. But public opinion set in favor of the halfway covenant. At the next election, the members who had opposed the new church were lest out, and others, of different opinions, elected. The Court then passed a vote in favor of the new church, and the cause of innovation and corruption of the purity of the churches triumphed.* This result generally ensues, when questions pertaining to religion are decided at the polls.
The half-way covenant was, at first, opposed by many churches, but it afterwards extensively prevailed, and “ wherever," says Dr. Hawes, “it did prevail, the consequences were eminently unhappy. Great numbers came forward to own the covenant, as it was called, and had their children baptized; but very few joined the church, in full communion, or partook of the sacrament. Satisfied with being half-way in the church, and enjoying a part of its privileges, they settled down in a state of dull and heartless formality, and felt little or no concern respecting their present condition, or future prospects.”+ But all men
were not content to be half-way in the church. About the year 1700, Mr. Stoddard, a distinguished minister of Northampton, came to the conclusion, that the Lord's Supper is a converting ordinance, and that all
persons ought to come to this ordinance. Thus all the barriers which separate the church from the world were
* Dr. Wisner's Historical Discourses, p. 10.