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truth, the greater was their zeal to extirpate, with a strong hand, every noxious weed from the garden of the Lord.* It was not, therefore, a bigoted preference merely for their own views which made them persecute others, but a conviction that they only embraced the truth, and that all op
sing doctrines were pernicious, and must not be allowed. It was not, in their judgment, inconsistent to act thus towards others, after having themselves endured persecution; for they regarded themselves as having been sufferers for the truth, and they were urged, by these very sufferings, to be more faithful in upholding that truth, and suppressing what they deemed to be error. It is due to the Pilgrims to remember, that they acted from principles, erroneous certainly, and deplorable in their effects, but sincerely adopted and cherished in hearts which, nevertheless, glowed with love to God. The grand doctrine of LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE was then a portentous novelty, and it was the glory of Roger Williams, that he, in such an age, proclaimed it, defended it, suffered for it, and triumphantly established it.
The principles of Roger Williams stood in the atti
** About the same time that Bossuet, the most illustrious champion of the Church of Rome, was engaged in maintaining, with all the force of his overwhelming eloquence, and inexhaustible ingenuity, that the sovereign was bound to use his authority in extirpating false religions from the state, the Scotch Commissioners in London were remonstrating, in the name of their national Church, against the introduction of a sinful and ungodly toleration in matters of religion;' whilst the whole body of the English Presbyterian Clergy, in their official papers, protested against the schemes of Cromwell's
party, and solemnly declared, that they detested and abhorred toleration. My judgment,' said Baxter, a man noted in his day for moderation, 'I have always freely made known. I abhor unlimited liberty or toleration of all.'— Toleration, said Edwards, another distinguished divine, will make the kingdom a chaos, a Babel, another Amsterdam, a Sodom, an Egypt, a Babylon. Toleration is the grand work of the Devil, his master-piece, and chief engine to uphold his tottering king, dom. It is the most compendious, ready, sure way to destroy all religion, lay all waste and bring in all evil. It is a most transcendent, catholic and fundamental evil. As original sin is the fundamental sin, having the seed and spawn of all sins in it, so toleration hath all errors in it, and all evils. Verplank's Discourses, pp. 23, 24. Similar language was used in this country. The Rev. Mr. Ward, in his Simple Cobler of Agawam, written in 1647, utters his detestation of toleration, and says:
“ He that is willing to tolerate any religion, or decrepant way of religion, besides his own, unless it be in matters merely indifferent, either doubts of his own, or is not sincere in it.”
tude of irreconcilable opposition to the system which the Pilgrims had established in New England. They could not blend with it. They came into collision with it, at every point. We have accordingly seen, that Mr. Williams was continually at variance with the government, because their measures were adjusted to their settled policy, but were repugnant to his great doctrine. There could be no peace between them, unless he yielded, or they abandoned their system. He was firm, and they were unconvinced. They possessed the power, and they banished him; not so much to punish him, as to remove from the colony a man whose doctrines they believed to be wrong, whose influence they feared, and whom they could neither intimidate nor persuade to abandon his principles.
It is intimated by Dr. Bentley,* that the rivalry of Salem and Boston had some effect to induce a rigorous treatment of Mr. Williams. He had great influence in Salem. He had drawn thither some persons from Plymouth, and it was, perhaps, feared, that his popularity gave an importance to Salem, which might be prejudicial to the metropolis.
It is due to the principal actors in these scenes, to record the fact, of which ample evidence exists, that personal animosity had little, if any, share in producing the sentence of banishment. Towards Mr. Williams, as a Christian and a minister, there was a general sentiment of respect. Governor Winthrop was a generous friend to him throughout his life; and it is asserted by Dr. Bentley, that “had Governor Winthrop been at liberty to concur with Endicott, and not have been deterred by the competition of Boston and Salem, Williams would have lived and died at Salem.”
Mr. Haynes was Governor at the time Mr. Williams was banished, and Mr. Winthrop lost for a while his salutary influence over the public councils.f He endeavored, at a subsequent period, to procure a repeal of the sentence of * 1 His. Col. vi. p. 248.
+ Mr. Haynes was preceded by Mr. Dudley, who was a stern man, and particularly opposed to toleration. He died soon after, with a copy of verses in his pocket, written with his own hand. The two following lines made a part of it:
" Let men of God in court and churches watch
“ O'er such as do a toleration hatch." Mr. Haynes also accused Governor Winthrop as too mild, Winthrop, vol. i. p. 178.
banishment against Mr. Williams; but a more rigid policy prevailed, and the founder of Rhode-Island continued till his death an outlaw from Massachusetts.
Mr. Cotton was, at that time, the most powerful man in the commonwealth ; and well did his piety, learning and intrepid love of pure religion merit the respect and affections of the colonists. · Whatever share he may have had in procuring the banishment of Mr. Williams,* it is certain, that there was no personal feud between them. They had been acquainted with each other in England, and had alike suffered from the intolerance of the Prelates. Mr. Cotton sincerely thought Mr. Williams' principles wrong, and dangerous to the church and the state. He felt it to be the duty of the government to protect the colony, by removing from it this source of peril. In the controversy which subsequently arose between Mr. Cotton and Mr. Williams, the latter uniformly spoke of Mr. Cotton in the most respectful terms ;t a circumstance, which is the more remarkable, because at that day the style of polemic discussion was less decorous than it is at the present time, and disputants lavished upon each other, with unsparing virulence, the bitterest epithets of obloquy. While we lament, therefore, that a man of so many admirable qualities as Mr. Cotton, was misled by wrong views of religious liberty, and thus betrayed into intolerance, we owe it to his honorable fame to remember, that the best men are imperfect, and that no personal hostility inflamed his zeal.
We may express the verdict, which, at this distant period, all calm and fair minds will, it is presumed, pronounce : that Mr. Williams was unnecessarily scrupulous about some minor points of conduct and of policy, though these scruples may be candidly traced to the agitated condition of
* Mr. Cotton denied, in his Reply to the Bloody Tenet, that he had any agency in the banishment of Mr. Williams, but avowed that he approved of it. Mr. Williams asserts, “ Some gentlemen who consented to the sentence against me, solemnly testified with tears, that they did it by the advice and counsel of Mr. Cotton.” These two assertions may be reconciled, perhaps, by the remark of Mr. Cotton, that “ if he did counsel one or two, it would not argue the act of the government.”
+ In the Bloody Tenet such phrases as these are repeatedly applied to Mr. Cotton: “I speak with honorable respect for the answerer”“the worthy answerer”—“a man incomparably too worthy for such a service.”
the public mind in England and America, and to his own delicacy of conscience; that he may bave erred in maintaining his principles with too little of that meek patience which he who would effect a reform in the opinions of men must possess, though candor will admit, that the constant opposition which Mr. Williams encountered might have irritated a gentler spirit than his; that his behavior to the civil rulers was not indecorous, unless a firm opposition to what he considered as wrong in their measures might be viewed as indecorum, for he yielded to their authority, in every point which his conscience would allow; that his private character was pure; and that the cause of his banishment may be found, in his distinguishing doctrine, that the civil power has no control over the religious opinions of men; a doctrine which no man, in our country, would, at the present day, venture to deny. Mr. Williams was banished, therefore, because his spirit was too elevated and enlarged, for the community in which he lived. Like Aristides, the prominent excellence of his character was the cause of his banishment.
But the same impartial verdict will do justice to the Pilgrims. They felt it to be not merely their right, but their duty, to protect their theocracy from persons, whose opinions or conduct, in their judgment, disturbed its peace or endangered its purity. They believed, that the sword of the magistrate was to be used for the defence of the church, as in the days of Moses and Aaron. To deny this principle, was to subvert the foundation of their civil and religious institutions; and it became, in their opinion, a measure of self-preservation, and of paramount duty to God, to expel Mr. Williams from the colony. That the grounds of this measure were wrong, will not now be disputed; but we ought to rejoice, that we can ascribe it to a sincere, though misdirected, desire to uphold the church, and to advance the honor of God. Were these excellent men now alive, they would be foremost in lamenting their own error, and in vindicating those principles of religious liberty, for which Mr. Williams incurred their displea
And we may on this occasion, as on many others, observe the wonderful wisdom of Divine Providence, which so controls the mistakes and sins of men, as to accomplish the most important results. The banishment of Mr. Williams contributed in the end to his own happiness and fame. Another colony was established, and thus civilization and religion were diffused. And we shall soon see how this event, though springing from wrong views, and producing much immediate suffering, was the means, a few years after, of that interposition of Mr. Williams between the colonists and the Indians, which apparently rescued the whites throughout New-England from total destruction.