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   Chapter 4 — THE ANTINOMIANS.

The Emancipation of Massachusetts By Brooks Adams Characters: 50940

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Habit may be defined with enough accuracy for ordinary purposes as the result of reflex action, or the immediate response of the nerves to a stimulus, without the intervention of consciousness. Many bodily functions are naturally reflex, and most movements may be made so by constant repetition; they are then executed independently of the will. It is no exaggeration to say that the social fabric rests on the control this tendency exerts over the actions of men; and its strength is strikingly exemplified in armies, which, when well organized, are machines, wherein subjection to command is instinctive, and insubordination, therefore, practically impossible.

An analogous phenomenon is presented by the church, whose priests have intuitively exhausted their ingenuity in weaving webs of ceremonial, as soldiers have directed their energies to perfecting manuals of arms; and the evidence leads to the conclusion that increasing complexity of ritual indicates a densening ignorance and a deepening despotism. The Hindoos, the Spaniards, and the English are types of the progression.

Within the historic ages unnumbered methods of sacerdotal discipline have been evolved, but whether the means used to compass the end has been the bewildering maze of a Levitical code, or the rosary and the confessional of Rome, the object has always been to reduce the devotee to the implicit obedience of the trooper. And the stupendous power of these amazingly perfect systems for destroying the capacity for original thought cannot be fully realized until the mind has been brought to dwell upon the fact that the greatest eras of human progress have begun with the advent of those who have led successful insurrection; nor can the dazzling genius of these brilliant exceptions be appreciated, unless it be remembered how infinitely small has been the number of those among mankind who, having been once drilled to rigid conformity, have not lapsed into automatism, but have been endowed with the mental energy to revolt. On the other hand, though ecclesiastics have differed widely in the details of the training they have enforced upon the faithful, they have agreed upon this cardinal principle: they have uniformly seized upon the education of the young, and taught the child to revere the rites in which he was made to partake before he could reason upon their meaning, for they understood well that the habit of abject submission to authority, when firmly rooted in infancy, would ripen into a second nature in after years, and would almost invariably last till death.

But this manual of religion, this deadening of the soul by making mechanical prayers and genuflexions the gauge of piety, has always roused the deepest indignation in the great reformers; and, un-appalled by the most ghastly perils, they have never ceased to exhort mankind to cast off the slavery of custom and emancipate the mind. Christ rebuked the Pharisees because they rejected the commandment of God to keep their own tradition; Paul proclaimed that men should be justified by faith without the deeds of the law; and Luther preached that the Christian was free, that the soul did not live because the body wore vestments or prayed with the lips, and he denounced the tyranny of the clergy, who arrogated to themselves a higher position than others who were Christian in the spirit. On their side priesthoods know these leaders of rebellion by an unerring instinct and pursue them to the death.

The ministers of New England were formalists to the core, and the society over which they dominated was organized upon the avowed basis of the manifestation of godliness in the outward man. The sad countenance, the Biblical speech, the sombre garb, the austere life, the attendance at worship, and, above all, the unfailing deference paid to themselves, were the marks of sanctification by which the elders knew the saints on earth, for whom they were to open the path to fortune by making them members of the church.

Happily for Massachusetts, there has never been a time when all her children could be docile under such a rule; and, among her champions of freedom, none have been braver than those who have sprung from the ranks of her ministry, as the fate of Roger Williams had already proved. In such a community, before the ecclesiastical power had been solidified by time, only a spark was needed to kindle a conflagration, and that spark was struck by a woman.

So early as 1634 a restless spirit was abroad, for Winthrop was then set aside, and now, in 1636, young Henry Vane was enthusiastically elected governor, though he was only twenty-four, and had been but a few months in the colony. The future seemed bright and serene, yet he had hardly taken office before the storm burst, which not only overthrew him, but was destined to destroy that unhappy lady whom the Rev. Thomas Welde called the American Jezebel. [Footnote: Opinions are divided as to the authorship of the Short Story, but I conclude from internal evidence that the ending at least was written by Mr. Welde.]

John Cotton, the former rector of St. Botolph's, was the teacher of the Boston church. By common consent the leader of the clergy, he was the most brilliant, and, in some respects, the most powerful man in the colony. Two years before, Anne Hutchinson, with all her family, had followed him from her home in Lincolnshire into the wilderness, for, "when our teacher came to New England, it was a great trouble unto me, my brother, Wheelwright, being put by also." [Footnote: Hutch. Hist. ii. 440.] A gentlewoman of spotless life, with a kind and charitable heart, a vigorous understanding and dauntless courage, her failings were vanity and a bitter tongue toward those whom she disliked. [Footnote: Cotton, Way of New England Churches, p. 52.] Unfortunately also for herself, she was one of the enthusiasts who believe themselves subject to divine revelations, for this pretension would probably in any event have brought upon her the displeasure of the church. It is worth while to attempt some logical explanation of the dislike felt by the Massachusetts elders to any suggestion of such supernatural interposition. The half-unconscious train of reasoning on which they based their claim to exact implicit obedience from the people seems, when analyzed, to yield this syllogism: All revelation is contained in the Bible; but to interpret the ancient sacred writings with authority, a technical training is essential, which is confined to priests; therefore no one can define God's will who is not of the ministry. Had the possibility of direct revelation been admitted this reasoning must have fallen; for then, obviously, the word of an inspired peasant would have outweighed the sermon of an uninspired divine; it follows, necessarily, that ecclesiastics so situated would have been jealous of lay preaching, and absolutely intolerant of the inner light.

In May, 1636, the month of Vane's election, Mrs. Hutchinson had been joined by her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright, the deprived vicar of Bilsby. Her social influence was then at its height; her amiable disposition had made her popular, and for some time past she had held religious meetings for women at her house. The ostensible object of these gatherings was to recapitulate the sermons of the week; but the step from discussion to criticism was short, and it soon began to be said that she cast reproach "upon the ministers, ... saying that none of them did preach the covenant of free grace, but Master Cotton, and that they have not the seale of the Spirit, and so were not able ministers of the New Testament." [Footnote: Short Story, p. 36.] Or, to use colloquial language, she accused the clergy of being teachers of forms, and said that, of them all, Cotton alone appealed to the animating spirit like Luther or St. Paul.

"A company of legall professors," quoth she, "lie poring on the law which Christ hath abolished." [Footnote: Wonder-Working Providence, Poole's ed. p. 102.]

Such freedom of speech was, of course, intolerable; and so, as Cotton was implicated by her imprudent talk, the elders went to Boston in a body in October to take him to task. In the hope of adjusting the difficulty, he suggested a friendly meeting at his house, and an interview took place. At first Mrs. Hutchinson, with much prudence, declined to commit herself; but the Rev. Hugh Peters besought her so earnestly to deal frankly and openly with them that she, confiding in the sacred character of a confidential conversation with clergymen in the house of her own religious teacher, committed the fatal error of admitting that she saw a wide difference between Mr. Cotton's ministry and theirs, and that they could not preach a covenant of grace so clearly as he, because they had not the seal of the Spirit. The progress of the new opinion was rapid, and it is clear Mrs. Hutchinson had only given expression to a feeling of discontent which was both wide-spread and deep. Before winter her adherents, or those who condemned the covenant of works,-in modern language, the liberals,-had become an organized political party, of which Vane was the leader; and here lay their first danger.

Notwithstanding his eminent ability, he was then but a boy, and the task was beyond his strength. The stronghold of his party was Boston, where, except some half-dozen, [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 212.] the whole congregation followed him and Cotton: yet even here he met with the powerful opposition of Winthrop and the pastor, John Wilson. In the country he was confronted by the solid body of the clergy, whose influence proved sufficient to hold together a majority of the voters in substantially all the towns, so that the conservatives never lost control of the legislature.

The position was harassing, and his nerves gave way under the strain. In December he called a court and one day suddenly announced that he had received letters from England requiring his immediate return; but when some of his friends remonstrated he "brake forth into tears and professed that, howsoever the causes propounded for his departure were such as did concern the utter ruin of his outward estate, yet he would rather have hazarded all" ... "but for the danger he saw of God's judgment to come upon us for these differences and dissensions which he saw amongst us, and the scandalous imputations brought upon himself, as if he should be the cause of all." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 207.]

Such a flight was out of the question. The weight of his name and the protection given his supporters by the power of his family in England could not be dispensed with, and therefore the Boston congregation intervened. After a day's reflection he seems himself to have become convinced that he had gone too far to recede, so he "expressed himself to be an obedient child to the church and therefore ... durst not go away." [Footnote: Idem, i. 208.]

That a young and untried man like Vane should have grown weary of his office and longed to escape will astonish no one who is familiar with the character and the mode of warfare of his adversaries.

In that society a layman could not retort upon a minister who insulted him, nor could Vane employ the arguments with which Cromwell so effectually silenced the Scotch divines. The following is a specimen of the treatment to which he was probably almost daily subjected, and the scene in this instance was the more mortifying because it took place before the assembled legislature.

"The ministers had met a little before and had drawn into heads all the points wherein they suspected Mr. Cotton did differ from them, and had propounded them to him, and pressed him to a direct answer ... to every one; which he had promised. ... This meeting being spoke of in the court the day before, the governour took great offence at it, as being without his privity, &c., which this day Mr. Peter told him as plainly of (with all due reverence), and how it had sadded the ministers' spirits, that he should be jealous of their meetings, or seem to restrain their liberty, &c. The governour excused his speech as sudden and upon a mistake. Mr. Peter told him also, that before he came, within less than two years since, the churches were in peace.... Mr. Peter also besought him humbly to consider his youth and short experience in the things of God, and to beware of peremptory conclusions which he perceived him to be very apt unto." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 209.] This coarse bully was the same Hugh Peters of whom Whitelock afterward complained that he often advised him, though he "understood little of the law, but was very opinionative," [Footnote: Memorials, p. 521.] and who was so terrified at the approach of death that on his way to the scaffold he had to drink liquor to keep from fainting. [Footnote: Burnet, i. 162.]

"Mr. Wilson" also "made a very sad speech to the General Court of the condition of our churches, and the inevitable danger of separation, if these differences ... were not speedily remedied, and laid the blame upon these new opinions ... which all the magistrates except the governour and two others did confirm and all the ministers but two." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 209.] Those two were John Cotton and John Wheelwright, the preachers of the covenant of grace.

Their brethren might well make sad speeches, for their cup of bitterness was full; but they must be left to describe for themselves the tempest of fear and wrath that raged within them. "Yea, some that had beene begotten to Christ by some of their faithfull labours in this land" (England, where the tract was published,) "for whom they could have laid downe their lives, and not being able to beare their absence followed after them thither to New England to enjoy their labours, yet these falling acquainted with those seducers, were suddenly so altered in their affections toward those their spirituall fathers, that they would neither heare them, nor willingly come in their company, professing they had never received any good from them." ... "Now the faithfull ministers of Christ must have dung cast on their faces ... must be pointed at as it were with the finger, and reproached by name, such a church officer is an ignorant man, and knows not Christ; such an one is under a covenant of works: such a pastor is a proud man, and would make a good persecutor ... so that through these reproaches occasion was given to men, to abhorre the offerings of the Lord." [Footnote: Welde's Short Story, Pref. Sections 7-11.]

"Now, one of them in a solemne convention of ministers dared to say to their faces, that they did not preach the Covenant of Free Grace, and that they themselves had not the seale of the Spirit.... Now, after our sermons were ended at our publike lectures, you might have seene halfe a dozen pistols discharged at the face of the preacher (I meane) so many objections made by the opinionists in the open assembly against our doctrine ... to the marvellous weakening of holy truths delivered ... in the hearts of all the weaker sort." [Footnote: Welde's Short Story, Pref. Sections 7-11.]

John Wheelwright was a man whose character extorts our admiration, if it does not win our love. The personal friend of Cromwell and of Vane, with a mind vigorous and masculine, and a courage stern and determined even above the Puritan standard of resolution and of daring, he spoke the truth which was within him, and could neither be intimidated nor cajoled. In October an attempt had been made to have him settled as a teacher of the Boston church in conjunction with Wilson and Cotton, but it had miscarried through Winthrop's opposition, and he had afterward taken charge of a congregation that had been gathered at Mount Wollaston, in what is now Quincy.

On the 19th of January a fast was held on account of the public dissensions, and on that day Wheelwright preached a great sermon in Boston which brought on the crisis. He was afterward accused of sedition: the charge was false, for he did not utter one seditious word; but he did that which was harder to forgive, he struck at what he deemed the wrong with his whole might, and those who will patiently pore over his pages until they see the fire glowing through his rugged sentences will feel the power of his blow. And what he told his hearers was in substance this: It maketh no matter how seemingly holy men be according to the law, if ... they are such as trust to their own righteousness they shall die, saith the Lord. Do ye not after their works; for they say and do not. They make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments; and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues; and greetings in the market place and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved, for being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And the way we must take if so be we will not have the Lord Jesus Christ taken from us is this, we must all prepare a spiritual combat, we must put on the whole armor of God, and must have our loins girt up and be ready to fight, ... because of fear in the night if we will not fight the Lord Jesus Christ may come to be surprised.

And when his brethren heard it they sought how they might destroy him; for they feared him, because all the people were astonished at his doctrine.

In March the legislature met, and Wheelwright was arraigned before a court composed, according to the account of the Quaker Groom, of Henry Vane, "twelve magistrates, twelve priests, & thirty-three deputies." [Footnote: Groom's Glass for New England, p. 6.] His sermon was produced, and an attempt was made to obtain an admission that by those under a covenant of works he meant his brethren. But the accused was one whom it was hard to entrap and impossible to frighten. He defied his judges to controvert his doctrine, offering to prove it by the Scriptures, and as for the application he answered that "if he were shown any that walked in such a way as he had described to be a covenant of works, them did he mean." [Footnote: Wheelwright, Prince Soc. ed. p. 17, note 27.] Then the rest of the elders were asked if they "did walk in such a way, and they all acknowledged they did," [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 215. Wheelwright, p. 18.] excepting John Cotton, who declared that "brother Wheelwright's doctrine was according to God in the parts controverted, and wholly and altogether." [Footnote: Groom's Glass for New England, p. 7.] He received ecclesiastical justice. There was no jury, and the popular assembly that decided law and fact by a partisan vote was controlled by his adversaries. Yet even so, a verdict of sedition was such a flagrant outrage that the clergy found it impossible to command prompt obedience. For two days the issue was in doubt, but at length "the priests got two of the magistrates on their side, and so got the major part with them." [Footnote: Felt's Eccl. Hist. ii. 611.] They appear, however, to have felt too weak to proceed to sentence, for the prisoner was remanded until the next session.

No sooner was the judgment made known than more than sixty of the most respected citizens of Boston signed a petition to the court in Wheelwright's behalf, In respectful and even submissive language they pointed out the danger of meddling with the right of free speech. "Paul was counted a pestilent fellow, or a moover of sedition, and a ringleader of a sect, ... and Christ himselfe, as well as Paul, was charged to bee a teacher of New Doctrine.... Now wee beseech you, consider whether that old serpent work not after his old method, even in our daies." [Footnote: Wheelwright, Prince Soc. ed. p. 21.]

The charge of sedition made against them they repudiated in emphatic words, which deserve attention, as they were afterwards held to be criminal.

"Thirdly, if you look at the effects of his doctrine upon the hearers, it hath not stirred up sedition in us, not so much as by accident; wee have not drawn the sword, as sometimes Peter did, rashly, neither have wee rescued our innocent brother, as sometimes the Israelites did Jonathan, and yet they did not seditiously. The covenant of free grace held forth by our brother hath taught us rather to become humble suppliants to your worships, and if wee should not prevaile, wee would rather with patience give our cheekes to the smiters." [Footnote: Idem.]

The liberal feeling ran so strongly in Boston that the conservatives thought it prudent to remove the government temporarily to Cambridge, that they might more easily control the election which was to come in May. Vane, with some petulance, refused to entertain the motion; but Endicott put the question, and it was carried. As the time drew near the excitement increased, the clergy straining every nerve to bring up their voters from the country; and on the morning of the day the feeling was so intense that the Rev. Mr. Wilson, forgetting his dignity and his age, scrambled up a tree and harangued the people from its branches. [Footnote: Hutch. Hist. i. 62, note.]

Yet, though the freemen were so deeply moved, there was no violence, and Winthrop was peaceably elected governor, with a strong conservative majority in the legislature. It so happened that just at this time a number of the friends of Wheelwright and the Hutchinsons were on their way from England to settle in Massachusetts. The first act of the new government was to exclude these new-comers by passing a law forbidding any town to entertain strangers for more than three weeks without the consent of two of the magistrates.

This oppressive statute caused such discontent that Winthrop thought it necessary to publish a defence, to which Vane replied and Winthrop rejoined. The controversy would long since have lost its interest had it not been for the theory then first advanced by Winthrop, that the corporation of Massachusetts, having bought its land, held it as though it were a private estate, and might exclude whom they pleased therefrom; and ever since this plea has been set up in justification of every excess committed by the theocracy.

Winthrop was a lawyer, and it is but justice to his reputation to presume that he spoke as a partisan, knowing his argument to be fallacious. As a legal proposition he must have been aware that it was unsound.

Although during the reign of Charles I. monopolies were a standing grievance with the House of Commons, yet they had been granted and enforced for centuries; and had Massachusetts claimed the right to exclude strangers as interlopers in trade, she would have stood upon good precedent. Such, however, was not her contention. The legislation against the friends of Wheelwright was passed avowedly upon grounds of religious difference of opinion, and a monopoly in religion was unknown.

Her commercial privileges alone were exclusive, and, provided he respected them, a British subject had the same right to dwell in Massachusetts as in any of the other dominions of the crown, or, indeed, in any borough which held its land by grant, like Plymouth. To subject Englishmen to restriction or punishment unknown to English law was as outrageous as the same act would have been had it been perpetrated by the city of London,-both corporations having a like power to preserve the peace by local ordinances, and both being controlled by the law of the land as administered by the courts. Such arguments as those advanced by Winthrop were only solemn quibbling to cloak an indefensible policy. To banish freemen for demanding liberty of conscience was a still more flagrant wrong. A precisely parallel case would have been presented had the directors of the East India Company declared the membership of a proprietor to be forfeited, and ordered his stock to be sold, because he disapproved of enforcing conformity in worship among inhabitants of the factories in Hindostan.

Vane sailed early in August, and his departure cleared the last barrier from the way of vengeance. Proceedings were at once begun by a synod of all the ministers, which was held at Cambridge, for the purpose of restoring peace to the churches. "There were about eighty opinions, some blasphemous, others erroneous, and all unsafe, condemned by the whole assembly.... Some of the church of Boston ... were offended at the producing of so many errors, ... and called to have the persons named which held those errors." To which the elders answered that all those opinions could be proved to be held by some, but it was not thought fit to name the parties. "Yet this would not satisfy some but they oft called for witnesses; and because some of the magistrates declared to them ... that if they would not forbear it would prove a civil disturbance ... they objected.... So as he" (probably meaning Winthrop) "was forced to tell one of them that if he would not forbear ... he might see it executed. Upon this some of Boston departed from the assembly and came no more." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 238.] Once freed from their repinings all went well, and their pastor, Mr. Wilson, soon had the satisfaction of sending their reputed heresies "to the devil of hell from whence they came." [Footnote: Magnalia, bk. 3, ch. ii. Section 13.] Cotton, seeing that all was lost, hastened to make his peace by a submission which the Rev. Mr. Hubbard of I

pswich describes with unconscious cynicism. "If he were not convinced, yet he was persuaded to an amicable compliance with the other ministers; ... for, although it was thought he did still retain his own sense and enjoy his own apprehension in all or most of the things then controverted (as is manifest by some expressions of his ... since that time published,"...) yet. "By that means did that reverend and worthy minister of the gospel recover his former splendour throughout ... New England." [Footnote: Hubbard, p. 302.]

He was not a sensitive man, and having once determined to do penance, he was far too astute a politician to do it by halves; he not only gave himself up to the task of detecting the heterodoxy of his old friends, [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 253.] but on a day of solemn fasting he publicly professed repentance with many tears, and told how, "God leaving him for a time, he fell into a spirituall slumber; and had it not been for the watchfulnesse of his brethren, the elders, &c., hee might have slept on, ... and was very thankfull to his brethren for their watchfulnesse over him." [Footnote: Hypocrisie Unmasked, p. 76.] Nor to the end of his life did he feel quite at ease; "yea, such was his ingenuity and piety as that his soul was not satisfied without often breaking forth into affectionate bewailing of his infirmity herein, in the publick assembly, sometimes in his prayer, sometimes in his sermon, and that with tears." [Footnote: Norton's Funeral Sermon, p. 37.]

Wheelwright was made of sterner stuff, and was inflexible. In fact, however, the difference of dogma, if any existed, was trivial. The clergy used the cry of heresy to excite odium, just as they called their opponents Antinomians, or dangerous fanatics. To support these accusations the synod gravely accepted every unsavory inference which ingenuity could wring from the tenets of their adversaries; and these, together with the fables invented by idle gossip, made up the long list of errors they condemned. Though the scheme was unprincipled, it met with complete success, and the Antinomians have come down to posterity branded as deadly enemies of Christ and the commonwealth; yet nothing is more certain than that they were not only good citizens, but substantially orthodox. On such a point there is no one among the conservatives whose testimony has the weight of Winthrop's, who says: "Mr. Cotton ... stated the differences in a very narrow scantling; and Mr. Shepherd, preaching at the day of election, brought them yet nearer, so as, except men of good understanding, and such as knew the bottom of the tenents of those of the other party, few could see where the difference was." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 221.] While Cotton himself complains bitterly of the falsehoods spread about him and his friends: "But when some of ... the elders of neighbour churches advertised me of the evill report ... I ... dealt with Mrs. Hutchinson and others of them, declaring to them the erroneousnesse of those tenents, and the injury done to myself in fathering them upon mee. Both shee and they utterly denyed that they held such tenents, or that they had fathered them upon mee. I returned their answer to the elders.... They answered me they had but one witnesse, ... and that one both to be known." ... [Footnote: Cotton, Way of New England Churches, pp. 39, 40.] Moreover, it is a remarkable fact that, notwithstanding the advantage it would have given the reactionists to have been able to fix subversive opinions upon their prominent opponents, it was found impossible to prove heresy in a single case which was brought to trial. The legislature chosen in May was apparently unfit for the work now to be done, for the extraordinary step of a dissolution was decided on, and a new election held, under circumstances in which it was easy to secure the return of suitable candidates. The session opened on November 2, and Wheelwright was summoned to appear. He was ordered to submit, or prepare for sentence. He replied that he was guilty of neither sedition nor contempt; that he had preached only the truth of Christ, the application of which was for others, not for him. "To which it was answered by the court that they had not censured his doctrine, but left it as it was; but his application, by which hee laid the magistrates and ministers and most of the people of God in these churches under a covenant of works." [Footnote: Short Story, p. 24.] The prisoner was then sentenced to be disfranchised and banished. He demanded an appeal to the king; it was refused; and he was given fourteen days to leave Massachusetts. So he went forth alone in the bitter winter weather and journeyed to the Piscataqua,-yet "it was marvellous he got thither at that time, when they expelled him, by reason of the deep snow in which he might have perished." [Footnote: Wheelwright, Prince Soc. ed. Mercurius Americanus, p. 24.] Nor was banishment by any means the trivial penalty it has been described. On the contrary, it was a punishment of the utmost rigor. The exiles were forced suddenly to dispose of their property, which, in those times, was mostly in houses and land, and go forth among the savages with helpless women and children. Such an ordeal might well appall even a brave man; but Wheelwright was sacrificing his intellectual life. He was leaving books, friends, and the mental activity, which made the world to him, to settle in the forests among backwoodsmen; and yet even in this desolate solitude the theocracy continued to pursue him with persevering hate.

But there were others beside Wheelwright who had sinned, and some pretext had to be devised by which to reach them. The names of most of his friends were upon the petition that had been drawn up after his trial. It is true it was a proceeding with which the existing legislature was not concerned, since it had been presented to one of its predecessors; it is also true that probably never, before or since, have men who have protested they have not drawn the sword rashly, but have come as humble suppliants to offer their cheeks to the smiters, been held to be public enemies. Such scruples, however, never hampered the theocracy. Their justice was trammelled neither by judges, by juries, nor by laws; the petition was declared to be a seditious libel, and the petitioners were given their choice of disavowing their act and making humble submission, or exile.

Aspinwall was at once disfranchised and banished. [Footnote: Mass. Rec. i. 207.] Coddington, Coggeshall, and nine more were given leave to depart within three months, or abide the action of the court; others were disfranchised; and fifty-eight of the less prominent of the party were disarmed in Boston alone. [Footnote: Idem, i. 223.]

Thus were the early liberals crushed in Massachusetts; the bold were exiled, the timid were terrified; as a political organization they moved no more till the theocracy was tottering to its fall; and for forty years the power of the clergy was absolute in the land.

The fate of Anne Hutchinson makes a fit ending to this sad tale of oppression and of wrong. In November, 1637, when her friends were crushed, and the triumphant priests felt that their victim's doom was sure, she was brought to trial before that ghastliest den of human iniquity, an ecclesiastical criminal court. The ministers were her accusers, who came burning with hate to testify to the words she had spoken to them at their own request, in the belief that the confidence she reposed was to be held sacred. She had no jury to whose manhood she could appeal, and John Winthrop, to his lasting shame, was to prosecute her from the judgment seat. She was soon to become a mother, and her health was feeble, but she was made to stand till she was exhausted; and yet, abandoned and forlorn, before those merciless judges, through two long, weary days of hunger and of cold, the intrepid woman defended her cause with a skill and courage which even now, after two hundred and fifty years, kindles the heart with admiration. The case for the government was opened by John Winthrop, the presiding justice, the attorney-general, the foreman of the jury, and the chief magistrate of Massachusetts Bay. He upbraided the prisoner with her many evil courses, with having spoken things prejudicial to the honor of the ministers, with holding an assembly in her house, and with divulging the opinions held by those who had been censured by that court; closing in these words, which sound strangely in the mouth of a New England judge:-

* * *

We have thought good to send for you ... that if you be in an erroneous way we may reduce you that so you may become a profitable member here among us, otherwise if you be obstinate ... that then the court may take such course that you may trouble us no further, therefore I would entreat you ... whether you do not justify Mr. Wheelwright's sermon and the petition.

Mrs. H. I am called here to answer before you, but I hear no things laid to my charge.

Gov. I have told you some already, and more I can tell you.

Mrs. H. Name one, sir.

Gov. Have I not named some already?

Mrs. H. What have I said or done?...

Gov. You have joined with them in the faction.

Mrs. H. In what faction have I joined with them?

Gov. In presenting the petition....

Mrs. H. But I had not my hand to the petition.

Gov. You have counselled them.

Mrs. H. Wherein?

Gov. Why, in entertaining them.

Mrs. H. What breach of law is that, sir?

Gov. Why, dishonoring of parents....

Mrs. H. I may put honor upon them as the children of God and as they do honor the Lord.

Gov. We do not mean to discourse with those of your sex but only this; you do adhere unto them, and do endeavor to set forward this faction, and so you do dishonor us.

Mrs. H. I do acknowledge no such thing, neither do I think that I ever put any dishonor upon you.

* * *

And, on the whole, the chief justice broke down so hopelessly in his examination, that the deputy governor, or his senior associate upon the bench, thought it necessary to interfere.

* * *

Dep. Gov. I would go a little higher with Mrs. Hutchinson. Now ... if she in particular hath disparaged all our ministers in the land that they have preached a covenant of works, and only Mr. Cotton a covenant of grace, why this is not to be suffered...

Mrs. H. I pray, sir, prove it, that I said they preached nothing but a covenant of works....

Dep. Gov. If they do not preach a covenant of grace, clearly, then, they preach a covenant of works.

Mrs. H. No, sir, one may preach a covenant of grace more clearly than another, so I said.

* * *

Dudley was faring worse than Winthrop, and the divines, who had been bursting with impatience, could hold no longer. The Rev. Hugh Peters broke in: "That which concerns us to speak unto, as yet we are sparing in, unless the court command us to speak, then we shall answer to Mrs. Hutchinson, notwithstanding our brethren are very unwilling to answer." And without further urging, that meek servant of Christ went on to tell how he and others had heard that the prisoner said they taught a covenant of works, how they had sent for her, and though she was "very tender" at first, yet upon being begged to speak plainly, she had explained that there "was a broad difference between our Brother Mr. Cotton and ourselves. I desired to know the difference. She answered 'that he preaches the covenant of grace and you the covenant of works, and that you are not able ministers of the New Testament, and know no more than the apostles did before the resurrection.'"...

* * *

Mrs. H. If our pastor would show his writings you should see what I said, and that many things are not so as is reported.

Mr. Wilson. Sister Hutchinson, for the writings you speak of I have them not....

* * *

Five more divines followed, who, though they were "loth to speak in that assembly concerning that gentlewoman," yet to ease their consciences in "the relation wherein" they stood "to the Commonwealth and... unto God," felt constrained to state that the prisoner had said they were not able ministers of the New Testament, and that the whole of the evidence of Hugh Peters was true, and in so doing they came to an issue of veracity with Cotton.

An adjournment soon followed till next day, and the presiding justice seems to have considered his case against his prisoner as closed.

In the morning Mrs. Hutchinson opened her defence by calling three witnesses, Leverett, Coggeshall, and John Cotton.

* * *

Gov. Mr. Coggeshall was not present.

Mr. C. Yes, but I was, only I desired to be silent till I should be called.

Gov. Will you ... say that she did not say so?

Mr. C. Yes, I dare say that she did not say all that which they lay against her.

Mr. Peters. How dare you look into the court to say such a word?

Mr. C. Mr. Peters takes upon him to forbid me. I shall be silent....

Gov. Well, Mr. Leverett, what were the words? I pray speak.

Mr. L. To my best remembrance ... Mr. Peters did with much vehemency and entreaty urge her to tell what difference there was between Mr. Cotton and them, and upon his urging of her she said: "The fear of man is a snare, but they that trust upon the Lord shall be safe." And ... that they did not preach a covenant of grace so clearly as Mr. Cotton did, and she gave this reason of it, because that as the apostles were for a time without the Spirit so until they had received the witness of the Spirit they could not preach a covenant of grace so clearly.

* * *

The Rev. John Cotton was then called. He was much embarrassed in giving his evidence, but, if he is to be believed, his brethren, in their anxiety to make out a case, had colored material facts. He closed his account of the interview in these words: "I must say that I did not find her saying they were under a covenant of works, nor that she said they did preach a covenant of works."

* * *

Gov. You say you do not remember, but can you say she did not speak so?

Mr. C. I do remember that she looked at them as the apostles before the ascension....

Dep. Gov. They affirm that Mrs. Hutchinson did say they were not able ministers of the New Testament.

Mr. C. I do not remember it.

* * *

Mrs. Hutchinson had shattered the case of the government in a style worthy of a leader of the bar, but she now ventured on a step for which she has been generally condemned. She herself approached the subject of her revelations. To criticise the introduction of evidence is always simpler than to conduct a cause, but an analysis of her position tends to show not only that her course was the result of mature reflection, but that her judgment was in this instance correct. She probably assumed that when the more easily proved charges had broken down she would be attacked here; and in this assumption she was undoubtedly right. The alternative presented to her, therefore, was to go on herself, or wait for Winthrop to move. If she waited she knew she should give the government the advantage of choosing the ground, and she would thus be subjected to the danger of having fatal charges proved against her by hearsay or distorted evidence. If she took the bolder course, she could explain her revelations as monitions coming to her through texts in Scripture, and here she was certain of Cotton's support. Before that tribunal she could hardly have hoped for an acquittal; but if anything could have saved her it would have been the sanction given to her doctrines by the approval of John Cotton. At all events, she saw the danger, for she closed her little speech in these touching words: "Now if you do condemn me for speaking what in my conscience I know to be truth, I must commit myself unto the Lord."

Mr. Nowell. How do you know that that was the Spirit?

Mrs. H. How did Abraham know that it was God?...

Dep. Gov. By an immediate voice.

Mrs. H. So to me by an immediate revelation.

* * *

Then she proceeded to state how, through various texts which she cited, the Lord showed her what He would do; and she particularly dwelt on one from Daniel. So far all was well; she had planted herself on ground upon which orthodox opinion was at least divided; but she now committed the one grave error of her long and able defence. As she went on her excitement gained upon her, and she ended by something like a defiance and denunciation: "You have power over my body, but the Lord Jesus hath power over my body and soul; and assure yourselves thus much, you do as much as in you lies to put the Lord Jesus Christ from you, and if you go on in this course you begin, you will bring a curse upon you and your posterity, and the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

* * *

Gov. Daniel was delivered by miracle. Do you think to be delivered so too?

Mrs. H. I do here speak it before the court. I look that the Lord should deliver me by his providence....

Dep. Gov. I desire Mr. Cotton to tell us whether you do approve of Mrs. Hutchinson's revelations as she hath laid them down.

Mr. C. I know not whether I do understand her, but this I say, if she doth expect a deliverance in a way of providence, then I cannot deny it.

Gov. ... I see a marvellous providence of God to bring things to this pass.... God by a providence hath answered our desires, and made her to lay open herself and the ground of all these disturbances to be by revelations. . . .

Court. We all consent with you.

Gov. Ey, it is the most desperate enthusiasm in the world....

Mr. Endicott. I speak in reference to Mr. Cotton.... Whether do you witness for her or against her.

Mr. C. This is that I said, sir, and my answer is plain, that if she doth look for deliverance from the hand of God by his providence, and the revelation be ... according to a word [of Scripture] that I cannot deny.

Mr. Endicott. You give me satisfaction.

Dep. Gov. No, no, he gives me none at all....

Mr. C. I pray, sir, give me leave to express myself. In that sense that she speaks I dare not bear witness against it.

Mr. Nowell. I think it is a devilish delusion.

Gov. Of all the revelations that ever I read of I never read the like ground laid as is for this. The enthusiasts and Anabaptists had never the like....

Mr. Peters. I can say the same ... and I think that is very disputable which our brother Cotton hath spoken....

Gov. I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion.

All the court but some two or three ministers cry out, We all believe it, we all believe it....

* * *

And then Coddington stood up before that angry meeting like the brave man he was, and said, "I beseech you do not speak so to force things along, for I do not for my own part see any equity in the court in all your proceedings. Here is no law of God that she hath broken, nor any law of the country that she hath broke, and therefore deserves no censure; and if she say that the elders preach as the apostles did, why they preached a covenant of grace and what wrong is that to them, ... therefore I pray consider, what you do, for here is no law of God or man broken."

* * *

Mr. Peters. I profess I thought Mr. Cotton would never have took her part.

Gov. The court hath already declared themselves satisfied ... concerning the troublesomeness of her spirit and the danger of her course amongst us which is not to be suffered. Therefore if it be the mind of the court that Mrs. Hutchinson ... shall be banished out of our liberties and imprisoned till she be sent away let them hold up their hands.

All but three consented.

Those contrary minded hold up yours. Mr. Coddington and Colburn only.

Gov. Mrs. Hutchinson, the sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court shall send you away.

Mrs. H. I desire to know wherefore I am banished.

Gov. Say no more, the court knows wherefore and is satisfied. [Footnote: Hutch. Hist. vol. ii. App. 2.]

* * *

With refined malice she was committed to the custody of Joseph Welde of Roxbury, the brother of the Rev. Thomas Welde who thought her a Jezebel. Here "divers of the elders resorted to her," and under this daily torment rapid progress was made. Probably during that terrible interval her reason was tottering, for her talk came to resemble ravings. [Footnote: Brief Apologie, p. 59.] When this point was reached the divines saw their object attained, and that "with sad hearts" they could give her up to Satan. [Footnote: Brief Apologie, p. 59.] Accordingly they "wrote to the church at Boston, offering to make proof of the same," whereupon she was summoned and the lecture appointed to begin at ten o'clock. [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 254.]

"When she was come one of the ruling elders called her forth before the assembly," and read to her the twenty-nine errors of which she was accused, all of which she admitted she had maintained. "Then she asked by what rule such an elder would come to her pretending to desire light and indeede to entrappe her." He answered that he came not to "entrap her but in compassion to her soule...."

"Then presently she grew into passion ... professing withall that she held none of these things ... before her imprisonment." [Footnote: Brief Apol. pp. 59-61.]

The court sat till eight at night, when "Mr. Cotton pronounced the sentence of admonition ... with much zeal and detestation of her errors and pride of spirit." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 256.] An adjournment was then agreed on for a week and she was ordered to return to Roxbury; but this was more than she could bear, and her distress was such that the congregation seem to have felt some touch of compassion, for she was committed to the charge of Cotton till the next lecture day, when the trial was to be resumed. [Footnote: Brief Apol. p. 62.] At his house her mind recovered its tone and when she again appeared she not only retracted the wild opinions she had broached while at Joseph Welde's, but admitted "that what she had spoken against the magistrates at the court (by way of revelation) was rash and ungrounded." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 258.]

But nothing could avail her. She was in the hands of men determined to make her expiation of her crimes a by-word of terror; her fate was sealed. The doctrines she now professed were less objectionable, so she was examined as to former errors, among others "that she had denied inherent righteousness;" she "affirmed that it was never her judgment; and though it was proved by many testimonies ... yet she impudently persisted in her affirmation to the astonishment of all the assembly. So that ... the church with one consent cast her out.... After she was excommunicated her spirit, which seemed before to be somewhat dejected, revived again and she gloried in her sufferings." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 258.] And all this time she had been alone; her friends were far away.

That no circumstances of horror might be lost, she and one of her most devoted followers, Mary Dyer, were nearing their confinements during this time of misery. Both cases ended in misfortunes over whose sickening details Thomas Welde and his reverend brethren gloated with a savage joy, declaring that "God himselfe was pleased to step in with his casting vote ... as clearly as if he had pointed with his finger." [Footnote: Short Story, Preface, Section 5.] Let posterity draw a veil over the shocking scene.

Two or three days after her condemnation "the governor sent [her] a warrant ... to depart ... she went by water to her farm at the Mount ... and so to the island in the Narragansett Bay which her husband and the rest of that sect had purchased of the Indians." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 259.]

This pure and noble but most unhappy woman had sinned against the clergy, past forgiveness here or hereafter. They gibbeted her as Jezebel, and her name became a reproach in Massachusetts through two hundred years. But her crimes and the awful ending of her life are best read in the Christian words of the Rev. Thomas Welde, whose gentle spirit so adorned his holy office.

"For the servants of God who came over into New England ... seeing their ministery was a most precious sweete savour to all the saints before she came hither, it is easie to discerne from what sinke that ill vapour hath risen which hath made so many of her seduced party to loath now the smell of those flowers which they were wont to find sweetnesse in. [Footnote: Short Story, p. 40.] ... The Indians set upon them, and slew her and all the family. [Footnote: Mrs. Hutchinson and her family were killed in a general massacre of the Dutch and English by the Indians on Long Island. Winthrop, ii. 136.] ... Some write that the Indians did burne her to death with fire, her house and all the rest named that belonged to her; but I am not able to affirme by what kind of death they slew her, but slaine it seemes she is, according to all reports. I never heard that the Indians in those parts did ever before this, commit the like outrage ...; and therefore God's hand is the more apparently seene herein, to pick out this wofull woman, to make her and those belonging to her, an unheard of heavie example of their cruelty above al others." [Footnote: Short Story, Preface.]

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