Images de page
PDF
ePub

and a corrupt spring;" just as if one had thrown poison into a well that all the town was to fetch water at. So were the heathen of old poisoned, when they said, Christiani sancte vixissent si Christus sancta docuisset.* Alas, how often have we seen this lamentable thing! Satan, who is often the execu tioner of the "wrath of God" upon a sinful world, hath desired leave to single out some high professors of religion, and push them on to some scandalous enormities; he hath desired leave to do the part of a devil, it may be, on some one man, that he might poison all the town by the jars of that man. The dreadful justice of God, who "gives none account of his matters," has permitted the experiment; and, lo! upon the experiment, some strict, and, it may be, some old professor that had been former y troublesome to all the sinners in the neighbourhood; he has not on y proved a covetous, and a self-seeking sort of a person, in his whole conduct of himself; but some unclean devil, or some drinking devil, or some chest ing devil, or some lying devil, has drawn him to do monstrous things, and he hath played the devil horribly! Such doleful instances hereof there have been among us, as would poison a whole neighborhood-yea, a who colony with Atheism, if the Lord Jesus Christ had not an Almighty arm to secure his own religion. "Wo" hath been to hundreds of souls among us for the "offences" that have thus been given! The scandalous fall of David is by as transcendant a mystery of divine sovereignty recorded, as it was ordered. Some of the Pagans in the primitive times would not be Christians, because David was one of our greatest saints, though he dic such damnable things; and many of the Christians would sin as damnably as the Pagans, pleading, Si David, cur non et ego?" Why mayn't I, as wel as David?" I believe there are a million of men in hell whose damnation was occasioned by the fall of David, though David himself be gone t heaven after all: But perhaps in his fall, and not in his rise again, Davi has been sometimes too much followed by some eminent professors o religion in this land; and the land has been filled with temptation by s venomous a mischief.

-Quis talia fando
Temperet a lachrymis ? †

Such as these have all along been the more comprehensive temptation that have exercised the churches of New-England. But we will procee unto an history of troubles more particular.

⚫ Christians would have led holy lives, if Christ had taught holiness.

At such a story, though it be his own,
Who can refrain from tears!-VIRGIL.

CHAPTER II.

LITTLE FOXES;

OR, THE SPIRIT OF RIGID SEPARATION IN ONE REMARKABLE ZEALOT,

VEXING THE CHURCHES OF NEW-ENGLAND; AND THE spirit of gidDY FAMILISM IN ANOTHER;
AND SOME LESSER CONTROVERSIES ARISING ABOUT THE CROSS IN THE BANNER,
AND ABOUT SWEARING ON THE GOSPELS.

Hic se aperit Diabolus!*

1. Ir is remarkable, that in the sacred annals of that matchless and Blessed church-history, which our God has given us in our Bible, there is a special mark often set upon the first persons that were eminent in this or that way of sinning, and were upon that score, "the chief of sinners:" and they who have observed this remarkable, have particularly marked the famous Corah, the first rebel against the divine church-order established in the wilderness, as one instance to confirm the observation. There are some, not thoughtless persons, who, in numerating the troublesome and scandalous things that have disturbed us in our New-English wilderness, ave complained of a crime, which they have distinguished by the name of CORAHISM; or that litigious and levelling spirit, with which the separaton has been leavened. Now, tho' I would chuse rather to leave a veil than a scar upon the memory of any person, that by his miscarriage hath made himself too memorable; yet our church-history will be but an unfinhed piece, if we do not set a mark upon that man who was one of the first that made themselves notable by their opposition to the church-order of these plantations; and this we may the more freely do, because of an injunction upon us, "to mark them that cause divisions."

§2. In the year 1654, a certain Windmill in the Low Countries, whirlground with extraordinary violence, by reason of a violent storm then blowing; the stone at length by its rapid motion became so intensely hot, as to fire the mill, from whence the flames, being dispersed by the high winds, did set a whole town on fire. But I can tell my reader that, about twenty years before this, there was a whole country in America like to be set on fire by the rapid motion of a windmill, in the head of one particular Know, then, that about the year 1630, arrived here one Mr. Roger Williams; who being a preacher that had less light than fire in him, hath by his own sad example, preached unto us the danger of that evil which the apostle mentions in Rom. x. 2: "They have a zeal, but not according to knowledge." Upon his arrival, the church of Salem invited him to assist Mr. Skelton in the charge of their souls; but the governour and council, fearing least not only that church would soon come to have nothing

Here the devil shows himself.

of Salem in it, but also that the whole political, as well as ecclesiastical constitution of the country, would suffer by employing a minister of his character, did advise them to desist from "laying hands too suddenly upor him." And that which increased in them the suspicion of his ill character was partly, indeed, his refusing to communicate with the church of Boston. because they would not make a publick and solemn declaration of repent ance for their communicating with the church of England, while they were in the realm of England; (which the New-English reformers though then would be to carry the matter as far beyond their sense, as the vulga translation hath done to the text in Luke xv. 8, where, instead of everri domum-"(she swept the house"-it reads, evertit domum, or "she overse it:)" but partly his violent urging, that the civil magistrate might not punish breaches of the first table in the laws of the ten commandments which assertion, besides the door which it opened unto a thousand profan ities, by not being duly limited, it utterly took away from the authority all capacity to prevent the land, which they had purchased on purpose fo their own recess from such things; its becoming such a "sink of abomina tions," as would have been the reproach and ruin of Christianity in thes parts of the world. The church taking the advice of their fathers in the State, on this occasion, Mr. Williams removed unto Plymouth, where he was accepted as a preacher for the two years ensuing.

§ 3. But at Plymouth his turbulent and singular opinions not finding the entertainment which he expected, he desired a dismission back to Salen from them; and they, perceiving the giddy courses of separation, wheret he would abandon himself, and whereby he might endanger them, wisely humour'd what he desir'd. Coming to Salem, in the time of Mr. Skelton's illness, the church, affected with the fierceness of his talking in publick and the starchtness of his living in private, so far forgot themselves, as to renew their invitations unto him to become their pastor; and tho' th government again renewed their advice unto the people to forbear a thing of such ill consequence, yet they rashly pursued their motion, and h quickly accepted it. It happened that soon after this, the church mad suit unto the court for a parcel of land, which lay commodious for thei affairs; but the court, offended at the slight lately put upon them, delay' their grant of what the church petitioned for; whereupon, incensed Mr Williams enchants the church to join with him in writing letters of admon ition unto all the churches whereof any of the magistrates were members that they might admonish the magistrates of "scandalous injustice" fo denying this petition. The neighbouring churches, both by petitions and messengers, took such happy pains with the church of Salem, as presently recovered that holy flock to a sense of his aberrations; which Mr. Wi liams perceiving, though he had a little before bragg'd, "that of all the churches in the world, those of New-England were the purest;-and of a in New-England, that whereof himself was the teacher;" yet he now, stay

at home, sent unto the church of Salem, then assembled, a letter, to give them notice, "that if they would not separate, as well from the earches of New-England as of old, he would separate from them." His . ore considerate church not yielding to these lewd proposals, he never would come to their assemblies any more; no, nor hold any communion in any exercise of religion with any person, so much as his own wife, that went ap unto their assemblies; but at the same time he kept a meeting in his own house, whereto resorted such as he had infected with his extravagancies.

§ 4. These things were, indeed, very disturbant and offensive; but there were two other things in his quixotism, that made it no longer convenient for the civil authority to remain unconcerned about him. For, first, whereas the king of England had granted a royal charter unto the "gov. mour and company" of this colony; which patent was indeed the very

of the colony; this hot-headed man publickly and furiously preached against the patent, as an "instrument of injustice," and pressed both rulers ad people to be humbled for their sin in taking such a patent, and utterly row it up; on an insignificant pretence of wrong thereby done unto the indians, which were the natives of the country, therein given to the subjects of the English crown.. Secondly, an order of the court, upon some jast occasion had been made, that an "oath of fidelity" should be, though Lot imposed upon, yet offered unto the freemen, the better to distinguish those whose fidelity might render them capable of imployment in the governTent: which order this man vehemently withstood, on a pernicious pretence at it was the prerogative of our Lord Christ alone to have his office estabhed with an oath; and that an oath being the worship of God, carnal perts, whereof he supposed there were many in the land, might not be put pon it. These crimes at last procured a sentence of banishment upon him.

§ 5. The court, about a year before they proceeded unto the banishment of this incendiary, sent for the pastors of the neighbouring churches, to intimate unto them their design of thus proceeding against him; which yet they were loth to do, before they had advised the elders of it, because

was himself an elder. Mr. Cotton, with the consent of the other ministers, presented a request unto the magistrates, that they would please to perbear prosecuting of him, till they themselves, with their churches, had in a church-way endeavoured his conviction and repentance; for they alledged, that they hoped his violences proceeded rather from a misguided conscience, than from a seditious principle. The governour foretold unto them, "You are deceived in the man, if you think he will condescend to learn of any of you;" however, the proposal of the ministers was approved And allowed. But several of the churches having taken the best pains they could, tho' they happily brought the church of Salem to join with them in dealing with the man, yet the effect was, that he renounced them. all, as no churches of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whereupon the court ordered his removal out of the jurisdiction.

VOL. II.-32

§ 6. One passage that happened at his trial was a little odd. He complained in open court, that he was wronged by a slanderous report, as if he "held it unlawful for a father to call upon his child to eat his meat.”

Mr. Hooker, then present, being moved hereupon to speak something, replied, "Why? You will say as much again, if you stand to your own principles, or be driven to say nothing at all." Mr. Williams expressing his confidence that he should never say it, Mr. Hooker proceeded: "If it be unlawful to call an unregenerate person to pray, since it is an action of God's worship, then it is unlawful for your unregenerate child to pray for a blessing upon his own meat. If it be unlawful for him to pray for a blessing upon his meat, it is unlawful for him to eat it; for it is sancti fied by prayer, and without prayer, unsanctified: [1 Tim. iv. 4, 5.] If it be unlawful for him to eat it, it is unlawful for you to call upon him to eat it; for it is unlawful for you to call upon him to sin." Hereupon Mr Williams chose to hold his peace, rather than make any answer: such the giddiness, the confusion, the antocatacritic of that sectarian spirit. I have read of a gentleman who had an humour of making singular and fanciful expositions of Scripture: but one Doctor Sim gave him a dose of physick, which, when it had wrought, the gentleman became orthodox in mediately, and expounded at the old rate no more. Pity this Dr. Sim had but undertaken the cure of our Mr. Williams.

§ 7. Upon the sentence of the court, Mr. Williams with his party going abroad (as one says) to "seek their providences," removed into the southe ern parts of New-England, where he, with a few of his own sect, settled a place called Providence. There they proceeded not only unto the gather ing of a thing like a church, but unto the renouncing of their infant-bap tism; and at this further step of separation they stopped not, but Mr Williams quickly told them, "that being himself misled, he had led them likewise out of the way;" he was now satisfied that there was none upor earth that could administer baptism, and so that their last baptism, as wel as their first, was a nullity, for the want of a called administration; advised them therefore to forego all, to dislike every thing, and wait for the coming of new apostles: whereupon they dissolved themselves, and became that sort of sect which we term Seekers, keeping to that one principle, "that every one should have the liberty to worship God according to the light of his own conscience;" but owning of no true churches or ordinances now in the word. It is a memorable reflection made on this occasion by Mr. Cotton, in a book which he published for his own vindication from the printed calumnies of Mr. Williams:

"It is a wise proverb," saith he, "of a wiser than Solomon: the 'backslider in heart [from any truth or way of God] shall be filled with his own ways.' They that separate from their brethren further than they have just cause, shall at length find cause, or at least think they have found cause just enough to separate from one another. I never yet heard of any instance to the contrary, either in England or Holland; and for New-England, there

« PrécédentContinuer »