Page images

a time, lost. He did not undervalue the benefits of church fellowship, but ardently longed for the restoration of the church. In his reply to George Fox, written about 1672, he says, (p. 66,) After all my search, and examinations, and considerations, I said, I do profess to believe, that some come nearer to the first primitive churches, and the institutions and appointments of Christ, than others; as in many respects, so in that gallant, and heavenly, and fundamental principle, of the true matter of a Christian congregation, flock or society, viz. actual believers, true disciples and converts, living stones, such as can give some account how the grace of God hath appeared unto them, and wrought that change in them. I professed, that if my soul could find rest, in joining unto


of the churches professing Christ Jesus now extant, I would readily and gladly do it, yea unto themselves, whom I now opposed."*

As a minister of the Gospel, we have evidence that he did not wholly discontinue his labors ; though he must, according to his principles, have confined himself to “prophecy,” or a declaration of truth and witness against error. Mr. Callender says, (p. 57,)

" Mr. Williams used to uphold a public worship, sometimes, though not weekly, as many now alive [1738] remember, and he used to go once a month, for many years, to Mr. Smith's, in the Narraganset, for the same end.” If persons alive in 1738, were present at Mr. Will ms' meetings, as Mr. Callender's expression seems to imply, those meetings must have been held towards the close of his life. His visits to Narraganset were designed, it has been supposed, for the benefit of the Indians; but this is doubtfúl. There is reason to believe, that his object was to instruct the whites, who either

6. In

* In thus living disconnected with any church, he followed the example of Milton and Cromwell. Of Milton, Toland says: his early days, he was a favorer of those Protestants, then opprobriously called by the name of Puritans. In his miadle years, he was best pleased with the Independents and Anabaptists, as allowing of more liberty than others, and coming nearest, in his opinion, to tlie primitive practice ; but in the latter part of his life, he was not a professed member of any particular sect among Christians; lie frequented none of their assemblies, nor made use of their peculiar rites in his family.” Ivirney's Life of Milton, p. 251.

lived in that neighborhood, far from any Christian teacher, or who were occasionally at Mr. Smith's tradinghouse."

He did, however, endeavor to instruct the Indians. “He made,” says Mr. Callender, (p. 84) “some laudable attempts to instruct them, yet he was much discouraged, not only by want of a lawful warrant, or an immediate commission to be an apostle to them, but especially by (as he thought) the insuperable difficulty of preaching Christianity to them in their own language, with any propriety, without inspiration.” On this subject, he speaks, in his “ Bloody Tenet more Bloody.” He says, that he and others have found “how hard it is for any man to attain a little propriety of their language in common things, (so as to escape derision among them) in many years, without abundant of conversing with them, in eating, travelling and lodging with them.” He refers, for proof, to the case of Mr. Eliot, who, notwithstanding his intimacy with the Indians, could not always make himself understood.f Mr. Williams seemed to think, that when the ministry should be restored, the gift of tongues would be bestowed on missionaries, to qualify them for their work.

* In a letter, dated May 8, 1082, he requests Governor Bradstreet, of Boston, to assist him in printing some “ discourses, which (by many tedious journies) I have had with the scattered English at Narraganset, before the war, [Philip’s war, of 1675-6] and since.” 2 Ilin. Col. viii. p. 197.

+ Mr. Williams says, that Mr. Eliot promised a suit of clothes to an old Indian, who, not understanding him, asked another Indian, what Mr. Eliot said. This reminds us of the well known anecdote respecting his translation of the Bible : “ While Eliot was engaged in translating the Bible into the Indian language, he came to the following passage in Judges,5: 23: “ The mother of Sisera looked out at the window, and cried through the lattice,' &c. Not knowing an Indian word to signify lattice, he applied to several of the natives, and endeavored to describe to them what a lattice resembled. He described it as frame work, netting, wicker, or whatever occurred to him as illustrative, when they gave him a long, barbarous and unpronouncable word, as are most of the words in their language. Some years after, when he had learned their dialect more correctly, he is said to have laughed outright, upon finding that the Indians had given him the true term for ecl-pot. i The mother of Sisera looked out at the window, and cried through the ecl-pot.Bigelow's History of Natick, p. 84. This anecdote illustrates the difficulties of translating, and may suggest a useful caution to translators.

The Narraganset Indians were strongly opposed to the Gospel. It is said, that they allowed Mr. Williams to preach to them, but would permit no one else. They loved him, but they rejected his doctrines. His Key and his letters prove, nevertheless, that his benevolent efforts were not tirely in vain, and authorize the hope, that at the last day, he may share, with Eliot, Mayhew and Brainerd, the blessing of ransomed souls from among the unhappy native tribes.

Of Mr. Williams' private affairs, we know little. Notices respecting lands occasionally appear on the records of the town.*

His public spirit, and disposition to serve his fellowcitizens, appear on various occasions. In 1666, a vote of the town was passed, "remitting to him an engagement made by him to the town, for clapboards and nails for the building of a town house." The inference is, that the project which he, perhaps, devised, and offered to promote, failed.

The following letter to the town, relates to a bridge. On the first Monday of June, 1662, the town had ordered a bridge to be built over Moshassuck river, “ by Thomas Olney his house, to be done before the next haytime. It would seem, that this order was not accom


*5 February 19, 1665. Ordered, That Roger Williams shall have his first choice, after William Hawkins and John Steere, of the fifty acres of land on the east side of the north line, which beginneth seven miles from Fox's Hill, west."

“ June 4, 1666. It-is granted unto Roger Williams, that he may change three acres of land lying in the neck, and take it up somewhere about the third lake, if it may, with conveniency, without damage to the highways, or other men's lands, which are already laid

September 30, 1667, he was allowed to change three acres of land, which was laid out to him, in addition to his house lot, and take it up

in any part of the common which is not prohibited. May 2, 1667, there were laid out to him w fifty acres between the seven mile and the four line." This four mile line seems to have been the original line, about four miles west from Fox's Hill. Additional land being purchased of the Indians, the seven mile line was established, June 4, 1660, beginning seven miles west of Fox's Hill, and running north to Pawtucket river, and south to Pawtuxet riyer.

plished, and that the following letter refers to the same project:

Providence, 10 Feb. 1667–8. “Loving friends and neighbors, “Unto this day, it pleased the town to adjourn for the answering of the bill for the bridge and others. I have conferred with Shadrach Manton and Nathaniel Waterman, about their proposal, and their result is, that they cannot obtain such a number as will join with them, to undertake the bridge upon the hopes of meadow. I am, therefore, bold, after so many anchors come home, and so much trouble and long debates and deliberations, to offer, that if you please, I will, with God's help, take this bridge unto my care, by that moderate toll of strangers of all sorts, which hath been mentioned; will maintain it so long as it pleaseth God that I live in this town.

“2. The town shall be free from all toll, only I desire one day's work of one man in a year from every family, but from those that have teams, and have much use of the bridge, one day's work of a man and team, and of those that have less use, half a day.

“3. I shall join with any of the town, more or sew, who will venture their labor with me for the gaining of meadow.

“4. I promise, if it please God, that I gain meadow in equal value to the town's yearly help, I shall then release that.

5. I desire, if it please God to be with me, to go through such a charge and trouble as will be to bring this to a settled way, and then suddenly to take me from hence, I desire that before another, my wife and children, if they desire it, may engage in my stead to these conditions.

“6. If the town please to consent, I desire that one of yourselves be nominated, to join with the clerk to draw up the writing

R. W."

It does not appear, whether the br was built, at this time, or not. In February, 1711-12, Mr. Daniel Abbot was sent as an agent to Massachusetts and Connecticut, to solicit aid in building “ three great bridges, upon the road leading from Connecticut toward Boston, viz. one at Pawtuxet Falls, one at Weybosset in Providence,* and the other over Pawtucket river."

Mr. Williams omitted no opportunity of serving the Indians. The following letter was written, apparently, to the government of Massachusetts :

Providence, 7th of May, 1668, (so called.) “I humbly offer to consideration my long and constant experience, since it pleased God to bring me unto these parts, as to the Narraganset and Nipmuck people.

“First, that all the Nipmucks were, unquestionably, subject to the Narraganset sachems, and, in a special manner to Mexham, the son of Canonicus, and late husband to this old squaw sachem, now only surviving. I have abundant and daily proof of it, as plain and clear as that the inhabitants of Newbury or Ipswich, &c, are subject to the government of the Massachusetts colony.

2. I was called by his Majesty's Commissioners to testify in a like case between Philip and the Plymouth Indians, on the one party, and the Narragansets on the other, and it pleased the committee to declare, that the King had not given them any commission to alter the Indians' laws and customs, which they observed amongst themselves : most of which, although they are, like them


* John Howland, Esq. says: “I think there must have been a bridge at Weybosset before 1712.” Perhaps the bridge ordered to be built over Moshassuck river, in 1662, and to which Mr. Williams' letter may refer, was intended to be somewhere between the present Great Bridge and Smith's Bridge, for the purpose of getting access to the natural meadows at the head of the cove. The mention of “hay time," and the references of Mr. Williams to the “ hopes of meadow," may strengthen this supposition. Mr. Howland says, “I have frequently been told by Nathan Waterman, that teams and men on horseback used to cross the river (before his day) across the clam: bed, opposite Angell's land (at low tide) and land somewhere on the western shore. The Thomas Olney lot was where the Knight Dexter tavern now is, and Angell's was the next south, including part of the Baptist meeting-house lot, and Steeple street. In front of this, lay the shoal place, called the clam-bed." May 14, 1660, in a petition of the town to the General Assembly, against an assessment on the town of thirty pounds, to build a prison at Newport, the town said, that they had just spent one hundred and sixty pounds in building a bridge. April 27, 1663, George Sheppard gave all his lands west of seven mile line to the town, for maintaining a bridge at Weybosset."

« PreviousContinue »