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be out of it, and as free as themselves. On this occasion he observed, "A Bull of excommunication follows me wherever I go." He, however, crossed the Pawtucket, and went to a place called Mooshausick, which on account of the gracious interposition of Heaven, he afterwards called Providence! Here he fixed his humble abode, hoping to enjoy among savages, that liberty of conscience, which had been denied him by his christian brethren. Providence is now become one of the most flourishing towns in New-England. On visiting this place, it is said, that strangers often seek the spot where this christian pilgrim first rested, and not unfrequently drink at the spring which run before his door, and where he slaked his thirst during his weariness and perils.*
The banishment of Mr. Williams was in 1636,† in the depth of winter. In what manner he existed, is difficult for us to conceive. His preservation at this inclement season, in a wilderness of savages, seems almost miraculous. That his sufferings were very great, no one can possibly doubt. The following notice is found in his journal: "I was sorely tossed for fourteen weeks, in a bitter winter season, not knowing what bread or bed did mean." He that caused the carnivorous ravens to feed Elijah by the brook Cherith, took care of this pious exile. Being now an actual outcast from civil society, he sought the friendshipand favour of the savages. His conduct towards them in all respects, was friendly and pacific, and marked with the most scrupalous uprightness and integrity. By these means he secured the entire confidence of the Indian Sachems. Of the Narraganset Indians, he purchased the land where he had fixed his residence, and on which the town of ProviVOL. I.
Mr. W. appears to be an excep tion, to a commouly received opinion, "that there is no sect of christians but would persecute, if they only had the power." The liberal sentiments of this good man may be seen, in almost every transaction of his life. In conveying to a number of friends a joint interest in the purchase which he made of Miantinomo,' he has the following remarkable. expressions: "Having made covenant of peaceable neighbourhood with all the Sachems and natives round about us, and having in a sense of God's merciful providence to me in my distress, called the place PROVIDENCE, I desired it might be for a sheiter for persons distressed for conscience. 1 then considering the condition of divers of my countrymen, I communicated my purchase unto my loving friends, John Throckmorton and others, who then desired to take shelter with me." After acknowledging a trifling consideration which they gave him, he says, "This sum (301) I received; aud in love to my friends, and with respect to a town and place of succour for the distressed as aforesaid, I do acknowledge this sum and payment a full satisfaction." Mr. Callender calls Mr. Williams "one of the most disinterested men that ever lived, a most pious and heavenly soul." Dr. Mather, however, compares him to "a windmill, whose rapid motion set the churches on fire."
Those who opposed and persecuted Mr. Williams, nevertheless considered him a man of the most pure and unbending integ rity. Hence, strange as it may appear, within two years after his banishment, we find him employ
† Dr. Eliot places it 1635, but Mr. Backus as above.
# Hist. Col.
ed by the government of Massachusetts as their agent in transacting their business with the Indian tribes. He was particularly employed by the Magistrates of the Colony to make a league, offensive and defensive, with the Narragansetts. "In all these concerns he acted with wisdom, disinterestedness, and fidelity." Governor Hutchinson, reflecting on the life of this good man, says, "Instead of showing any revengeful temper, or resentment, he was continually employed in acts of kindness and benevolence to his enemies." This temper was particularly manifested on a certain occasion, when the Narragansetts were determined to make a sudden attack upon the people of Massachusetts. Mr. Williams gave information, and the evil was prevented.
A number of brethren, whose sentiments corresponded with Mr. Williams', from Massachusetts, and Plymouth colonies, voluntarily exiled themselves for the sake of enjoying with him that liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. Being now delivered from the control of civil magistrates, and at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they were desirous of uniting together as a visible church. Their situation was peeuliar. They were fully convin ced of the nature and design of believers' baptism by immersion; but from a variety of circumstances, had hitherto been prevented from embracing the ordinance in the appointed way. To obtain a suitable administrator, appeared to be a matter of considerable consequence. But after viewing the subject in all its bearing, as far as they were able, the candidates for communion nominated and appointed Mr. Ezekiel Holliman, a man of gifts and piety, to baptize Mr. Williams; and who in return baptized Mr. Holliman, and ten • Hist. Coll.
others. They were soon joined by twelve other persons who came to this new settlement for the sake of fiberty of conscience. These were all of one accord, and abode together in harmony and peace.‡ Thus commenced the first Baptist church, gathered on this western continent. With this church Mr. Williams continued to exercise his pastoral functions only about four years, and then resigned his office to Mr. Brown and Mr. Wickenden, or, as Mr. Backus says, to Mr. Olney; and not long after went to England to solicit the first charter of that colony.
It is painful bere to remark, that notwithstanding the important services he had rendered his English neighbours, in pacifying the irritated and jealous Indians, particularly in being instrumental in breaking up their grand coufederacy in 1637; yet when about to embark for England in 1643, to obtain a charter for his colony, he was not permitted to pass through the coasts from which he had been banished, but was obliged to repair to the Dutch at New-York, to obtain a passage! "Yea," says Mr. Backus, "it must needs be so, because the blessings of a peacemaker, were to come upon him among the Dutch, as well as among the English." The Dutch at this time were engaged in a bloody conflict with different Indian tribes. At Stanford, (now in Connecticut) the enraged savages killed many, and among the rest, Mrs. Ann Hutchinson, who had been banished from Massachusetts for what was called Antinomianism. "On Long-Island they assaulted the house of the Lady Moody, who not long before moved from Lynn in the vicinity of Boston, on account of Ana-baptism; but she was defended by 40 men, that gathered to her house, which was several times assaulted. But by the mediation of Mr. Williams, the Long-Island Indians
were pacified, and peace re-established between the Dutch and them.*
When Mr. Williams arrived in England, Sir Henry Vane who had been Governor of Massachusetts in the time of the Pequot war, had returned, and was now a member of the British Parliament. From a thorough knowledge of Mr. Williams' sufferings and services, aud from the great regard which he had for him, Sir Henry exerted his influence in obtaining for him a charter of a considerable part of the present State of Rhode-Island, to be known by the name of "The Corporation of Providence Plantations in the Narraganset-bay, in New-England."
The persons who signed this charter, addressed a very interesting letter to the rulers and other friends in the Massachusetts, from which we give the following extract:-"Taking notice, some of us of long time, of Mr. Roger Williams, his good affections and Conscience, and of his sufferings by our common enemies, the prelates, and also of his great industry and travel in his printed Indian labours in your parts, the like whereof we have not seen from any part of America, and in which respect it hath pleased both houses of Parliament, freely to grant unto him aud to his friends with him, a free and absolute charter of civil government for these parts of his abode; and withal sorrowfully regreting, that among good men and friends, driven to the ends of the earth, exercised with the trials of a wilderness, and who mutually give good testimony of each other, as we observe you do of him, and he abundantly of you, there should be such a distance."
In September, 1644, when Mr. Williams returned from England, he landed at Boston, and was per
mitted to pass on to Providence unmolested; but his sentence of banishment was not revoked, nor the validity of the charter of his civil government acknowledged until 1656 ‡
While in England, Mr. Williams published a book, called "The bloody Tenet, or, a Dialogue between Truth and Peace." pp. 247.
A writer in the Collections of the Historical Society in Boston, has the following remarks on this book. "It required great boldness of thinking, and uncommon abilities to write this book. Here are disclosed sentiments which have been admired in the writings of Milton and Furneaux. His ideas of toleration he carried further than Mr. Locke, but not beyond the generality of Dissenters in England."
Mr. Cotton, one of the Boston ministers, wrote a reply which he called, "The bloody Tenet washed in the blood of the Lamb." Mr. Williams published a rejoinder entitled, "The bloody Tenet, yet more bloody, by Mr. Cotton's endeavour to wash it white."
"From this time, says the above writer, we are to view Mr. Williams as a very different character from what he was, when teacher of particular congregations in Salem. His sphere of usefulness was very extensive, and where religious opinions had no influence, he conducted wisely. We are to view him as a Father of one of the Provinces, and a writer in favour of civil and religious freedom; more bold, and just, and liberal, than any other who appeared in that generation."
"Many would smile," continues the same writer, "at seeing the name of Roger Williams enrolled with the legislators of ancient times, or with the statesmen of modern Europe, or with such a man as Penn, the proprietor of
+ Mr. W. often preached to the Indians, and while in England printed a Key to the Indian language,
Pennsylvania, whose steps were more majestic upon the theatre of the great world. But this man was equal to conducting the affairs of this infant colony, as well, as if a complete system of legislation had been formed. And as a me diator between the Aboriginals and the English inhabitants, if he was the instrument of preserv ing peace, of teaching the Indians some of the arts of life, and of illuminating the minds of the heathen with the light of Christianity, he is certainly worthy of more credit, than some of the mighty hunters of the earth, or those sages, whose maxims have made men fierce and revengeful, and caused human blood to flow in streams." "The true grounds of liberty of conscience, (says Mr. Callender,*) were not understood, until Mr. Williams and John Clark, publickly avowed, that "Christ alone is king in his own kingdom, and that no others had authority over his subjects in the affairs of conscience and eternal salvation."
"Roger Williams," says governor Hopkins, "justly claims the honour of having been the first legislator in the world, in its latter ages, that fully and effectually provided for, and established a free, full, and absolute liberty of conscience. This beneficent principle he made the foundation, and, as it were, the chief corner-stone of his infant colony; this was made the test of admission to all new comers this was the chief cause that united the inhabitants of Rhode Island and those of Providence, and made them one people and one colony. It was often objected to Mr. Williams, that such great liberty in religious matters tended to licentiousness and every kind of disorder. To such objections I will give the answer he himself made, in his own words; for thereby his real sentiments may be best discovered."
"To the town of Providence, «Loving friends and neighbours,
"IT pleaseth God yet to cons tinue this great liberty of our townmeetings, for which we ought to be humbly thankful, and to im prove these liberties to the praise of the Giver, and to the peace and welfare of the town and colony, without our own private ends. I thought it my duty to present you this my impartial testimony, and answer to a paper sent you the other day from my brother, "That it is blood-guiltiness, and against the rule of the Gospel, to execute judgment upon transgressors, a gainst the public or private weal." That ever I should speak or write a tittle, that tends to such an infinite liberty of conscience, is a mistake, and which I have ever disclaimed and abhorred. To prevent such mistakes, I at present shall only propose this case :There goes many a ship to sea, with many a hundred souls in one ship, whose weal and wo is common, and is a true picture of a commonwealth, or an human combination or society. It hath fallen out sometimes, that both Papists and Protestants, Jews and Turks, may be embarked into one ship. Upon which supposal, I do affirm, that all the liberty of conscience that ever I pleaded for, turns upon these two hinges, that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks, be forced to come to the ship's prayers or worship; nor, secondly, compelled from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practise any. I further add, that I never denied, that notwithstanding this liberty, the com➡ mander of this ship ought to command the ship's course; yea, aud also to command that justice, peace and sobriety be kept and practised, both among the seamen and all the passengers. If any of the seamen refuse to perform their service, or passengers to pay their freight; if any refuse to help in
person or purse, towards the common charges, or defence; if any refuse to obey the common laws and orders of the ship, concerning their common peace and preserva tion; if any shall mutiny and rise up against their commanders and officers; if any shall preach, or write, that there ought to be no commanders nor officers, because all are equal in Christ, therefore no masters nor officers, no laws nor orders, no corrections nor punishments-I say, I never denied but in such cases, whatever is pretended, the commander or commanders may judge, resist, compel, and punish such transgressors, according to their deserts and merits. This, if seriously and honestly minded, may, if it so please the Father of Lights, let in some light to such as willingly shut not their eyes. I remain, studious of our common peace and liberty,
ROGER WILLIAMS." In 1671, when king Philip was making preparations for his war, Governor Prince of Plymouth, and two of his assistants, met three gentlemen from the Massachusetts colony at Taunton, to examine into the matter. Philip, Indian like, was suspicious of the mance avres of white men ; he kept in his camp at a distance, and sent for the commissioners to come to him. All solicitations were ineffectual, until Mr. Williams, then over 70, and Mr. Brown, supposed to be of Swansea, offered to remain as hostages in his camp; by which means he was prevailed with to meet the commissioners, to deliver up about 70 guns, and to promise future fidelity; which suspended the war four years.
his staff, and went over to meet them, hoping to pacify their rage, as he had often done before; but when some of the old men saw him, they came out to meet himtold him that those who had long known him would not hurt him, but that the young warriors could not be restrained; upon which he returned to the garrison.
"As the best and most useful men," says Governor Hopkins, "have ever, in all free States, been the subjects of popular clamour and censure, so we find that Mr. Williams, did not escape the rude attacks of the licentious tongue of freedom," &c. By some he was accused of a bigoted attachment to his peculiar opinions; by others he was compared to a weathercock for instability. From the accusations of enemies, a true character cannot be obtained of him, nor of any other man. His friends uniformly maintain, that he lived and died a pattern of piety and benevolence. It is certain, however, from his own writings, that he was one of the few Baptists, whose minds have been bewildered about the doctrine of succession; and it was probably on that account he ceased travelling in the Baptist communion not long after he founded the church at Providence. But there is no evidence that he renounced the peculiar tenets of the Baptists; and it is certain he did not embrace those of any other sect. He had a long and sharp dispute with the Quakers, for which some of them feel not very well disposed towards him at this day. But it ought to be observed, at the same time, that Gov. Hopkins, of that persuasion, has doneample justice to his character.
In 1676, while this bloody war Although Mr. Williams was alwas going on, tradition says, that most constantly engaged in the when the Indians appeared on the affairs of the colony, at home and hill north of Providence, near the abroad, yet we are assured that place where Col. Smith's house he preached frequently at Provinow stands, Mr. Williams took dence, and used to go once a
Backus, Vol. i. p. 418.