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were true, that he was the author of the custom, and wasted his time in establishing it, we should regard it as a venial weakness, springing from a reverence for the Scriptures, and a desire for the decorum of public worship. Before we condemn him, we should call to mind, that other divines of great name in New-England, such as President Chauncy and John Elliot, preached vehemently against wigs, and that, in 1649, the magistrates signed a grave protest against the custom among men of wearing long hair, and requested the clergy to preach against it, “as a thing uncivil and unmanly, whereby men do deform themselves, and offend sober and modest men, and do corrupt good manners."*
The other charge is of more importance. It is said, that in consequence of Mr. Williams' preaching, Mr. Endicott cut the cross out of the military colors, as a relic of antichristian superstition. This act was doubtless unjustifiable, because the colors were established by the authority of the King, and ought to have been viewed as a merely civil regulation. But there is no evidence that Mr. Williams advised the measure. It seems rather to have been a practical application, by Mr. Endicott, of the doctrine maintained by Mr. Williams on the unlawfulness of the ceremonies and symbols which had been used in the service of idolatry and of Popery. The great controversy between the Puritans and the Prelates in England mainly turned on the use of the surplice, and the sign of the cross, and other Popish ceremonies, which the Ěnglish Church retained. The Puritans would not conform to the church, on account of these ceremonies, which they regarded as abominable relics of Popery. It was a principle among them, on which they
sign of the woman's subjection, they were not commanded by the apostle. Mr. Endicott opposed, and did maintain it by the general arguments brought by the apostle. After some debate, the Governor, perceiving it to grow to some earnestness, interposed, and so it brake off.” Vol. i.
p. 125. Hutchinson (vol. i. p. 379) says, on the authority of Hubbard, that “Mr. Cotton, of Boston, happening to preach at Salem, soon after this custom began, he convinced his hearers that it had no sufficient foundation in the Scriptures. His sermon had so good an effect, that they were all ashamed of their veils, and never appeared covered with them afterwards."
* Hutchinson, vol. i. p. 142.
acted, that “such rites and ceremonies as had been abused to idolatry, and manifestly tended to lead men back to Popery and superstition, were no longer indifferent, but to be rejected as unlawful.”
Mr. Williams probably preached this doctrine at Salem, and Mr. Endicott deemed it his duty, as a magistrate, to remove from the colors the cross, which was the favorite symbol of Popery.t Dr. Bentley asserts, that Mr. Williams was the “innocent, though the real cause of it.”[ Mr. Endicott was summoned before the Court, admonished, and declared incapable, for one year, of holding any public office, as a punishment for the act; but neither he, nor the Court, appear to have attributed any blame to Mr. Williams, which we may, without a want of charity, suppose they would have done, if there had been any reasonable pretence.
* Neal's Hist. Puritans, vol. i. p. 184.
+ The question about the lawfulness of the cross caused much agitation and controversy. “ Some of our chief worthies,” says Cotton Mather, (Magnalia, b. vii. c. ii. § 9) “ maintained their different persuasions, with weapons indeed no more dangerous than easy pens, and effects no worse than a little harmless and learned inkshed. Mr. Hooker wrote a tract of nearly thirteen pages, in defence of the cross. Winthrop says, that the Court were a doubtful of the lawful use of the cross in an ensign.” The militia refused to march with the mutilated banners. The matter was finally settled, by leaving out the cross in the colors for the trained bands, and retaining it in the banners of the castle and of vessels.
#1 His. Col. vi. p. 246.
Proceedings which led to his banishment-freeman's oath-various
charges against him-sentence-birth of his second child-leaves Salem for Narraganset Bay—review of the causes of his banishment.
We will now proceed to narrate the measures which issued in the banishment of Mr. Williams. We shall follow the guidance of Winthrop, as to the facts, because this truly great man wrote without the angry temper which most of the early writers on the subject exhibited.
1634, Nov. 27. The Court was informed, that Mr. Williams, of Salem, had broken his promise to us, in teaching publicly against the King's patent, and our great sin in claiming right thereby to this country, &c. and for usual terming the churches of England antichristian. We granted summons to him for his appearance at the next Court.” Winthrop, vol. i. p. 151.
We are not informed of the terms of Mr. Williams' promise, here referred to, and cannot decide how far he had broken it. The epithet which he is said to have applied to the churches in England, might, in his judgment, have been well deserved by many of them. He, of course, referred to the established churches, then practising, as the Puritans believed, idolatrous ceremonies, and under the direction of wicked men. Mr. Cotton, in his “Bloody Tenet Washed,” (p. 109) acknowledges it to be a source of grief to himself and others, “ that there is yet so much of those notorious evils still continuing in the parishes, (in England) worldliness, ignorance, superstition, scoffing, swearing, cursing, whoredom, drunkenness, theft, lying; I may add, also, murder, and malignity against the godly, suffered to thrust themselves into the fellowship of the churches, and to sit down with the saints at the Lord's table.”. We may be allowed to think, that Roger Williams was not remarkably bigoted, if he did call such churches as these antichristian, and deem it a sin to hold fellowship with them. He obeyed the summons of the Court :
“ 1635, Mo. 2, 30.* The Governor and Assistants sent for Mr. Williams. The occasion was, for that he had taught publicly, that a magistrate ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man, for that we thereby have communion with a wicked man in the worship of God, and cause him to take the name of God in vain. He was heard before all the ministers, and very clearly confuted. Mr. Endicott was at first of the same opinion, but he gave place to the truth. Vol. i. p. 157.
We may repeat, here, what ought to be constantly borne in mind, that the statements of Mr. Williams' opinions come, not from himself, but from his opponents. We need not insist on the liability to mistake, in cases where a man's sentiments are thus disjoined from all those explanations and arguments with which he would himself have accompanied them. In the present case, we are not informed of the precise views of Mr. Williams respecting oaths. He
* That is, April 30. Winthrop adopted, a few months before, this mode of denoting time. It seems to have arisen from a desire to avoid the Roman nomenclature, as heathenish. Perhaps an aversion to the Romish church had a share in producing the change. The custom continued for more than fifty years, when it was gradually abandoned, except by the Friends, or Quakers, and Hutchinson thinks, that the popular prejudice against them hastened the decline of the custom. The months were called 1st, 2d, &c. beginning with March, and the days of the week were designated in the same way.
+ Since these remarks were written, the author has found in Mr. Williams' “Hireling Ministry none of Christ's," an " Appendix as touching oaths, a query. This Appendix is as follows: "Although it be lawful (in case) for Christians to invocate the name of the Most High in swearing; yet since it is a part of his holy worship, and therefore proper unto such as are his true worshippers in spirit and in truth ; and persons may as well be forced unto any part of the worship of God as unto this, since it ought not to be used but most solemnly, and in solemn and weighty cases, and (ordinarily) in such as are not otherwise determinable; since it is the voice of the two great lawgivers from God, Moses and Christ Jesus, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses (not swearing) every word shall stand: Whether the enforcing of oaths and spiritual covenants upon a nation, promiscuously, and the constant enforcing of all persons to practise the worship in the most trivial and common cases in all courts (together with the ceremonies of book and holding up the hand, &c.) be not a prostituting of the holy name of the Most High
every unclean lip, and that on slight occasions, and a taking of it by millions, and so many millions of times in vain, and whether it be not a provoking of the eyes of his jealousy who hath said, that he will not hold him (what him or them soeyer) guiltless, that taketh
had taken the freeman's oath in 1631. Many others have entertained doubts of the propriety of oaths, in any case, and our laws allow an individual, who feels these scruples, to substitute an affirmation. The unlawfulness of all oaths might be plausibly argued, from the words of our Saviour, Matthew, v. 34, and from those of the Apostle James, v. 12. On this ground, however, they would be equally unlawful to all men, and the distinction which Mr. Williams is said to have made between Christians and unregenerate men could not be sustained. If, however, an oath were considered, as he viewed it, as a religious act, implying devout reverence for the Supreme Being, a fear of His displeasure and desire of His favor, it would not be easy to show how an irreligious man can sincerely take an oath. Mr. Williams had probably seen oaths taken in England with such scandalous levity, and used for purposes so iniquitous, as to awaken in his mind a strong aversion to their being administered indiscriminately to the pious and the profane. We may, nevertheless, admit, that he was unnecessarily scrupulous on this point, without impeaching either his piety or his judgment. The ministers seem to have been satisfied with their success in confuting him. It is usual for disputants to claim the victory. Perhaps if Mr. Williams had recorded the event, he might have told us of the unimpaired vigor of his arguments. We have reason to believe, however, that the offensiveness of Mr. Williams' opinions respecting oaths consisted not so much in his abstract objections to their use, as in his opposition to the new oath
his name in vain.” It seems, from this paragraph, that he considered taking an oath to be an act of worship; that a Christian might take one on proper occasions, though not for trivial causes; that an irreligious man could not sincerely perform this act of worship; and that no man ought to be forced to perform this act, any more than any other act of worship. His own practice was agreeable to his theory. He says,
in his George Fox digged out of his Burrowes, (Appendix, pp. 59, 60). "cases have befallen myself in the Chancery in England, &c. of the loss of great sums, which I chose to bear, through the Lord's help, rather than yield to the formality (then and still in use) in God's worship, [alluding, perhaps, to the use of a book, holding up the hand, &c.] though I offered to swear, in weighty cases, by the name of God, as in the presence of God, and to attest or call Ğod to witness; and the judges told me they would rest in my testimony and way of swearing, but they could not dispense with me without an act of Parliament."