« PrécédentContinuer »
who by one of the best pens in those times is described as “a most prodigious Minter of exhorbiant novelties, and the very dregs of familism. This Gorton continued at Boston till some directions were sent hither to demand from him considerable sums of money, which he had borrowed at London; and then he removed out of the Massachuset-Colony. Coming to Plymouth, he began to spread his blasphemous and enormous opinions; but being upon some civil controversie with a neighbour brought before the court, he behaved himself so mutinously, seditiously and outrageously, that he was fined and sent out of that colony. From thence he went into Rhode Island, where he affronted what little government they had with such intolerable insolences, that he was there whipped and sent out of that colony. The Knight Errant then made his progress over to Providence, with a misled knot of squires, where the humanity of Mr. Williams to them in that winter-season was requited, snake-fashion, with such cruel stings as made the inhabitants implore aid from the Massachuset-Bay. These wicked Gortonians began to seize the lands of certain Indians which had submitted themselves unto the protection of the King of Eng. land, and sow such discords among the English, as threatened all manner of bloody confusion. Wherefore the authority of the Massachuset-Bay, being addressed by the distressed people, sent their agents to adjust the differences which had happened, and prevent the ruin of the King's interests, not merely in that "fag-end of the world,” but in all these plantations. In the mean time, this crew of miscreants not only kept blowing up a flame of war between the English and the Indians, but also sent unto the English in the Bay one libel upon the back of another, stuff'd with scores of such envenomed reproaches against the rulers and churches, denials of all order, and blasphemies against every sacred thing, that the Massachu. set-Colony could not in this extremity do God and the King better service, than by "going out of their line," (if it were a going out of it, for to send thus unto the help of our confederates, under whose weaker jurisdiction those wretches were so obstreperous, and upon whose earnest application it was undertaken) to lay hold on these malefactors as the “enemies of mankind.” Accordingly, being by a band of men brought unto Boston, whither Mr. Williams and his fellow-planters had referred their cause, against a knot of incendiaries that had expressly declared, "All courts whatsoever to be idols, and the devices of Satan, and all pretended officers and lieutenants of Christ to be destroyers of the Holy One of Israel.” The court proceeded unto an examination of their misdemeanours. About six of the chief ringleaders received sentence to be kept at work, in so many several towns, during the pleasure of the court; and they were also required, on a very severe penalty, to utter none of their profane herents, except in conference with ministers, or such as might be allowed thereupon to confer with them; thus they were confined for one winter, and then banished. It were endless to reckon up the frenzies of this exhorbitant
and extravagant generation; but they held, “that Christ was but a shadow and figure of what is done in every Christian;" they held, "that Christ was incarnate in Adam, and was that image of God wherein Adam was Teated;" they held, “that our Lord's being born afterwards of the Virgin, and suffering, was but a manifestation of his suffering in Adam;" they said, "that man's losing of God's image was the death of Christ;" they said, " that faith and Christ is all one;" Sermons they called "lies, tales and falsehoods;" Churches, their name for them was, "devised platforms;" Baptism, they called, “vanity and abomination;" the Lord's Supper, they calied, "An abomination and a spell;" and they called ministers, “magicians.” Now, tho' the ministers, whom they so called, used all due pains to charm these adders with convincing disputations, when they were in the Bay, and indeed often drove them to a bay with argument, yet they would obstinately maintain their unmaintainable tenets. By the same token, that unto that nonsensical assertion of Gorton, that the death of Christ Fas the death of God's image in the fall of Adam;" it being reply'd by Nr. Cotton, “that the death of Christ was the price of our redemption; whereas the fall of Adam was not the price of our redemption, but the cause of our condemnation;" the man by silence thereupon, loudly prodaimed himself confounded, and yet he would not revoke or disclaim his beretical nonsense. Gorton lived many years after this; degenerated into such a beast that professedly, as well as practically he declared, “that there is no happiness to be expected but in this life;" and he would advise his to:lowers, "to make much of themselves, because they must have no more than what they should enjoy in the world.” But it pleased God thus mercifully to deliver this his New-English people from the troubles with which these, pestilences did endanger them.
$13. Reader, be content that the same chapter wbich has related the controversies that have sometimes disturbed the churches of New-England about matters, the lawfulness whereof has been scrupled, should leap over half an hundred years to grasp at another of those controversies, which, as late as the year 1688, was an occasion of some further disturbance; The ujinity, rather than the chronology of the thing inviting us, in this place to lodge the bistory of that controversie.
When the charter of New-England were taken away, the governour, who with a treasonable and an arbitrary commission then tyrannized over the colonies, at length drove the New-Englanders to imitate the whole English nation, in an happy revolution, on the eighteenth of April, 1689. And in the declaration, which they published at and for this revolution, one article was this:
* To plunge the poor people every where into deeper incapacities, there was one very erimprehensive abuse given to us: multitudes of pious and sober men thro’ the land scrupled the mode of swearing on the book, desiring that they might swear with an uplifted hand, egy erable to the ancient custom of the colony; and tho' we think we can prove that the
common law amongst us (as well as in some other places under the English Crown) does not only indulge, but even command and enjoin the rite of lifting the hand in swearing, yet they that had this doubt were still put by from serving upon any juries, and many of them were most unaccountably fined and imprisoned. This one grievance is a Trojan horse, in the belly of which tis not easie to recount how many insufferable vexations have been contained."
The Christians of New-England were not the only persons that have scrupled the lawfulness of swearing, Tactis Evangeliis, * on and by the gospels. Those famous divines, Rivet, Paræus and Votius, have all of them written against it; Dr. Goodwyn and Mr. Nye reckoned it "the worst of all the English ceremonies:" and that blessed martyr, Mr. William Thorp, did refuse to comply with that mode of swearing; declaring that Chrysostom long before him was against a book-oath, as well as he; aril arguing, “If I touch the book, the meaning of that ceremony is nothing else but that I swear by it, when it is not lawful to swear by any creature." It is well known that in Scotland, and the reformed churches abroad, that ceremony is not used; and even in the English Courts of Admiralty, another form of swearing is frequently practised: yea, there was once an ordinance of Parliament in England, for the ease of those consciences which doubted such a form of swearing. The varieties among the primitive Christians, in the modes of swearing, are too many, and some of them too fuulty, to be recited; but this I am sure of, Athanasius of old would use no rite in swearing, but that of lifting up the hand unto Heaven. However, it may be the Christians of New-England are the only ones in the world that ever suffered a formal persecution, by fines and gaols, for bearing their testimony unto "purity of worship,” in that great point of worship, an oath: and perhaps these Christians might bear a part in finishing the testimony to be born unto the laws of our Lord Jesus Christ in the world, by patiently suffering this persecution, while the Quakers, who refused all swearing at all, did undergo no such hardships from the government. Now, the reasons that moved these confessors hereunto are easily understood. They were of this old Puritan principle; that all religious worship not commanded by God is forbidden; and that all symbolical ceremonies enjoined on men in religious worship, are made parts of it. More closely; they judged that our swearing on the gospel, is a swearing by the gospel
, and therefore idolatrous. That this mode of swearing was originally a signi fication of swearing by the gospel, is evident from all the interpretation, which not only the old canon-law, but also the old common-law, explain'd in old precedents, has given of it; and no particular magistrate has power to put any other interpretation upon the law, than what the law has given of it self; much less can a private person do so. Yea, the mode is natu rally and necessarily, as well as originally, a swearing by the gospel; for else it must signifie only the presence and consent of the person that swears But first, our statute-law has positively superseded any such pretence
+ With the wand of the gospels.
herein the “oath of supremacy” concludes, “by the contents of this kok:” and besides, there is no proportion of things to countenance that pretence: the touching of a table, would signifie this, as much as the wuching of the Bible. The Bible is a sacred thing; to put it unto a meer coil use, is a profane abuse of it, in such a solemn and serious business, as the dispensing of right between man and man: why? it leaves out a respect unto the Bible, which is always due unto it. With a contingent and overly act, I may perhaps look on the Bible only as a book, made of paper and cover ; but in a stated, solemn, serious act, such as a "process of law," the Bible may not be singled out for a less use than what the word of the Most High God is to be preferred for. Whereas, if we take the general acknowledgment of them that swear on the gospel, they tell us, tis to procure devotion, and affect them with the consideration of the rules they are to use in swearing, and the woes they incurr if they use them not. Now, say we, our Lord hath directed us to do this, by hearing and reading his word; not by a bare touching of it: nor may a transient motive to piety be made a stated medium. Or else, they tell us, 'tis to express devotion; 'tis in this way that they make their imprecation and their invosation; 'tis their external declaration, "that they swear by the God who made this book, and expect the plagues written in this book, if they swear a falsehood.” Now, this is a way of worship which the Lord never institated. In fine, 'tis a wrong religious application in a prayer; an oath is a prayer, and a creature is in this mode of swearing applied unto, as well as Almighty God; yea, God is applied unto thro' a creature: and non-conformists reckon the second commandment violated by such applications. The religious forms of addressing to God, we say, are to be appointed by Tone but God himself: whereas the elevation of the hand has,' even for Buted as well as for civil uses, and in an oath particularly, had such unexceptionable approbation, that the faithful of New-England chose it, and “chose rather to suffer affliction,” than to use a rite in the worship of God, which they suspected sinful.
Reader, we will only take this occasion to recite a good passage of Dr. Owen's: “If, instead of driving all sorts of persons, the worst, the vilest
men, on slight, or light, or no occasions unto swearing, none might be in any case admitted thereunto, but such as evidence in their conversations such a regard unto the Divine rule and government of the world, as is required to give the least credibility to an oath, it would be much better with humane society." And now we'll pass on to other matters.
OR, THE FIRST SYNOD OF NEW-ENGLAND, QUELLING A STORY OF ANTINOMIAN OPINIONS,
EVENTS RELATING THEREUNTO.
Sic Deus inducta nostras Caligine Terras Occuluit.
$ 1. The church of God had not long been in this wilderness, before the dragon cast forth several floods to devour it; but not the least of those floods was one of Antinomian and familistical heresies, with which the countrey began betimes to be infested. That which was then the most considerable of our churches, had several considerable persons belonging thereunto, who broached certain opinions; first of an Antinomian, and then of a Familistical tendency; and the stir which they made about these opinions grew so general, that they quickly affected all the public affairs of the countrey; but that which made the whole business to be the more perplexed was, that as that horrid montanist, Wightman, professed that he had all his grounds from the great ARTHUR HILDERSHAM, so the name of the no less great John Cotton, was abused by these busie sectaries, for the patronage of their whimsies. 'Tis believed that multitudes of persons, who took in with both parties, did never to their dying hour understand what their difference was: by the same token, in the heighth and heat of all the difference, when some ships were going from hence to England, Mr. Cotton, in the whole congregation, advised the passengers to tell our countrymen at home, "that all the strife here was about magnifying the grace of God; the one person seeking to advance the grace of God within us, as to sanctification; and another person seeking to advance the grace of God towards us, as to justification;" and Mr. Wilson stood up after him, declaring, on the other side, "that he knew none that did not labour to advance the grace of God in both.” Nevertheless, there did arise in the land a distinction between such as were under a COVENANT OF WORKS, and such as were under a COVENANT OF GRACE; wherein the bigger part of the countrey, in the management of that enquiry, “By what evidence must a man proceed in taking to himself the comforts of his justification;" laid upon our sanctification the first and main stress of our comfortable evidence. But the opinionists were for another sort of evidence as their chief; namely, “The spirit of God by a powerful application of a promise, begetting in us, and revealing to us a powerful assurance of our being justified. Now, though the truth might easily have united both of these perswasions; yet they that were of the latter way, carried the matter on to a very perillous door, opened not only for new enthusiastical revelations,
• The hydra beheaded. + Thus God shrouded our earth with overshadowing darkness.