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Salem would naturally regard him as their pastor still. It is a just remark of his biographer, that Mr. Williams may have judged it to be most conducive to the peace and welfare of his little colony, to erect at first no district church, but to gather the inhabitants into one assembly for worship until the number should have so increased, as to enable them to form separate churches, and maintain public worship conformably to their own views. it was an event of extraordinary character, a thing quite unprecedented in the annals of the world, for the founder of a colony to prepare the way for the division of the people into sects, relying only on argument and pursuasion to induce a conformity with his own opinions. How strong must have been his faith in the moral power and ultimate prevalence of truth! How clearly must he have seen that the union which christians should desire, is not so much a formal blending of all sects into one body, as a unity of spirit, cherished in spite of speculative differences, a mutual respect for each other's moral freedom, which inspires the hearts that feel it, with an abhorrence of all unchristian or unmanly means of gaining converts to a cause.
Having reached a land where in religious things he could speak and act without restraint or fear, he began to carry out the principle he
had adopted to their legitimate results. He counted not himself to have already attained or to be already perfect, but cherished the spirit of that admirable farewell address, delivered by the excellent Robinson of Leyden to the first Puritan company which sailed for New England. "I charge you," says he,“ before God and the blessed angels, to follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ; if God shall reveal anything to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it, as you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily persuaded that he has more truth yet to break forth out of his holy word. For my part I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no further than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of his will our God has revealed to Calvin they will rather die than embrace it, and the Calvinists you see stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. But take heed what you receive as truth, examine it, consider it, and compare it with other scriptures before you receive it, for it is not possible the christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-christian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once. In accordance with such a sentiment, Mr. Williams proceeded to study more largely the will of God. His mind was naturally clear sighted and impulsive, and doubtless ever disposed to carry a principle out to its just conclusion or else to give it up altogether. He had already obtained lucid views of the spiritual nature of the Christian dispensation, of the supremacy of Christ's word as the rule of faith and practice, of the free and voluntary character of genuine religion. It is not surprising therefore that he became dissatisfied in what was called a baptism, which resulted from no act of choice on his part, which was administered in unconscious infancy, which was defended by reasonings that tended to blend the Jewish and Christian dispensations, and which were thence at war with the spiritual constitution of the Christian church. As to the mode of it, his knowledge of the force of language would lead him to unite with the whole Greek church, when they say of the sprinkling or pouring practised in Western Europe, “it is no baptism.” As to the subjects of it, he could find no warrant for applying the rite to unconscious beings in the New Testament. There was no escaping the conclusion therefore, that according to the
command of Christ it was his duty to be baptized on a profession of his faith. In his view, this could not justly be called anabaptism, or second baptism, inasmuch as he could not admit that he had ever been baptized at all, and the rite which had been applied to him in his infancy, was classed by him amongst the corruptions of Christianity.
The difficulty which immediately arose however, was the want of a proper administrator, for at that time no ordained minister could be found in America, who had been immersed on a profession of his faith. A regard for order, would naturally lead Mr. Williams and those who were with him, to wish for such a person ; and if any of them had laid any stress on the prevalent idea of the necessity of a regular succession of baptized ministers from the apostles, in order to administer baptism properly, their case would be somewhat embarrassing. The same question had been discussed in London a short time before, in the year 1633, in a Baptist church which was formed by an amicable secession from a body of Independents, of which Rev. John Lathrop was the minister. Some of the members following out the same principles which Roger Williams promulgated in Massachusetts, came to the conclusion that there was no divine warrant for infant baptism. Among these was Kiffin, a
princely merchant well known in the court of Charles II., and from whom that monarch condescended to ask a loan of thirty thousand pounds; a request to which Kiffin replied that he could not command so much money just then, but at the same time presented to his Majesty one third of that sum. Kiffin left a manuscript containing an account of the formation of the new church, to which Crosby in his history of the Baptists, makes a reference. * It seems that some of these were very desirous to receive baptism in a manner the least objectionable ; and though there were Baptists in England who could have administered the ordinance to them, they chose to send to the Netherlands, where there were those whose baptism was said to have descended from the Waldensian Christians. One of their
* Thomas Crosby was a Mathematical teacher in London, the early part of the last century, and a deacon of the church of which Dr. John Gill was Pastor. He was led to publish his history of the Baptists, by the following circumstance :Having heard that Mr. Neal was preparing a history of the Puritans, he placed in the possession of that writer many val. uable materials from which a just representation of the condition and progress of the Baptists might have been drawn. But on the publication of Neal's work, it appeared that little use had been made of these papers, and that to the subjects of which they treated, the partialities of that author had rendered him incapable of doing historical justice. For an illustration of Neal's failure at this point, see Dr. Price's History of Pro. testant Nonconformity, vol. II. p. 319.