(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The lives of John Wilson, John Norton, and John Davenport"

LIBRARV 

OF THE 

University of California. 

aiF^T OR 

(^iy^iitr. , isgi. 



/^ 



Received 
Accession No 



Class No, 




DAX 



LIVES 

OP THE 

CHIEF FATHERS OF NEW ENGLAND. 

The Lord our God "be with, us, as he -was with our 
fathers ; let him not leave us, nor forsake us. 

1 EiNGs 8; 57. 

VOL. II. 



THE LIVES 



JOHN WILSON, JOHN NORTON, 



JOHN DAVENPORT, 



BY A. W. M'CLURE. 



LTBRAKY EDITION, 100 COPIES, 




BOSTON 
18 7 0. 



-) 3^^7 



f'5 



L.n 



y, 2- 



PREFACE 



It is now two hundred and twenty-five years, since 
"the May-flower furled her tattered sail," by the 
bleak and wintry shores of Plymouth. A handful of 
wayworn and careworn pilgrims planted their feet 
upon that famous rock, bedewing it with tears, still 
freezing as they fell. That handful of seed-corn 
has increased and multiplied by successive harvests, 
till the fruit thereof now shakes like Lebanon, and 
flourisheth like the grass of the earth. The foun- 
dation of the Roman State was as weak and un- 
promising as that of New England. But we may 
expect for our people a wider predominance than 
ever all-conquering Rome attained, — a dominion far 
more noble than that which is won by force of arms. 
Ours is the dominion of mind, girded with the armor 
of truth, and victorious under the banners of freedom 
and religion. 

To achieve the triumph for which we hope, and for 
which our fathers struggled, it is needful to keep alive 
their memory, and diffuse their principles. This vol- 
ume is offered as an humble aid in this great work. 
As our fathers have been noisily charged with having 
a spirit of extreme bigotry, and unequaled intoler- 
1=* 



VI PREFACE. 

ance ; and as this charge, more than any other, tends 
to impede the good influence of their principles and 
examples, it was thought best to meet it once for all. 
This will be found attempted at some length, and, it 
is thought, with the necessary eflfect, in the third 
chapter of the Life of John Wilson. The rest of the 
volume is composed of biographical matter. It may 
b*e expected, that this series will soon be extended by 
other volumes, from several writers, descriptive of the 
compeers of those good men who are commemorated 
here. 

May the descendants of the Pilgrims and Puritans 
follow their faith, order, and piety. Let us pray with 
Solomon ; — " O Lord God of our fathers, keep this for- 
ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of 
thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee." 

Boston, May 1, 1846. 




LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 



CHAPTER I. 

All true ministers sent of God. John Wilson's birth— parentage- 
education. Eton school. King's College, Cambridge. Fellow- 
ship. Slander. Conversion. Prejudice against Puritans. Richard 
Rogers. Mr. "Wilson joins the Puritans. Dr. Ames. Mr. Wilson 
obliged to leave the University. Inns of court. Return to Cam- 
bridge. Called to his father's deathbed. Troubled for non-con- 
formity. " Some Helps to Faith." Countess of Leicester. Lec- 
turers. Chaplain. Lady Scudamore. Sabbath-keeping. Mr. 
Wilson settled at Sudbury. His success there. His troubles in 
the bishop's courts. Suspended. Silenced. Restored. Death of 
Harsnet. Mr. Wilson departs to America. 

One of the most famous of the Lord's ministers 
with whom the Bible acquaints us, is thus intro- 
duced — *' There was a man sent from God 
whose name was John." All true ministers are 
sent of God. In this sense, they are all mis- 
sio7iaries, all apostles; both of which terms, 
according to their derivations, have the same 
meaning. They designate such as are com- 
missioned to go upon God's errand, to do his 



8 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

work, and bear his messages to men. John, 
the son of Zecharias, was thus sent, as the text 
asserts, from God. He was a sort of herald, to 
precede and announce the near advent of our 
Lord. And a glorious office it was, to sound 
the trumpet in Zion, and make proclamation of 
the coming of the Son of Man. Great was the 
honor, to be the day-star to that rising orb. 

In a lower sense, it may be said of him of 
whom we are to speak at this time, " there was 
a man sent from God, whose name was John." 
This man, like his illustrious namesake, that 
lone prophet of the desert, was a sort of fore- 
runner of our Lord, proceeding before his face 
into this part of the wide wilderness. He was 
the first voice which cried upon the desert pen- 
insula of Shawmut ; — " Prepare ye the way of 
the Lord, make his paths straight ! " 

But the apostolic man whom we now com- 
memorate, more resembles in character that 
other John, the favored disciple, beloved of God 
and man. Like that last surviving apostle, the 
first pastor of Boston, united a burning flame of 
zeal with a love-breathing spirit of the tenderest 
charity. Our fathers considered him to excel 
other men in love, as much as their venerated 
Cotton exceeded them in light. 

John Wilson was born at Windsor, in Eng- 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 9 

land, in the year 1588. His family was highly 
respectable. His father, Rev. Dr. William 
Wilson, was a well-beneficed clergyman, being 
a prebend of St. Paul's, of Rochester, and of 
Windsor, and rector of the parish of Cliff. The 
mother was a niece of Dr. Edmund Grindall, 
the pious archbishop of Canterbury, who, in the 
reign of Queen Elizabeth, favored the Puritans 
to the extent of his power, and at the cost of the 
severe displeasure of the imperious Queen. 
Under the care of his parents, John Wilson, 
who was their third son, was trained to an ab- 
horrence of every form of vice, and especially of 
every appearance of falsehood. At the age of 
ten, he was placed under what was then the 
rigorous discipline of Eton college. While 
here he was twice rescued with difficulty from 
drowning. Such was his proficiency in study, 
that, when yet the smallest boy in school, he was 
appointed prepositor, or overseer of the other 
scholars. When the French ambassador, the 
Duke de Biron, visited the Seminary, our hope- 
ful youth made a Latin oration so much to the 
Duke's satisfaction, that he gave him for lar- 
gesse three angels ; a sort of gold coin so called, 
of ten shilling's value. After four years' stay 
at Eton, he was admitted to King's College, 
Cambridge, in 1602, being then in his fifteenth 



10 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

year. In due time, he was elected to a fellow- 
ship in his college. This election, effected by 
the warm interposition of the provost in his be- 
half, he had like to have lost, in consequence of 
some slanders which had been maliciously cir- 
culated to prevent the choice. This affliction 
led his mind to serious reflections, and disposed 
him to be much in prayer. 

The injurious reports were soon cleared up, 
and vanished into forgetfulness. It has been 
said by one who was himself most unreasonably 
calumniated ; — " A slander that has no truth to 
support it, is only a great fish upon dry land ; it 
may flounce, and fling, and make a fretful 
pother, but it will not bite you ; you need not 
knock it on the head, it will soon be still, and 
die quietly of itself." The weapons of the slan- 
derer are never more completely foiled, than 
when met by silent contempt. From that im- 
penetrable shield, how often have the enven- 
omed darts rebounded upon the assailant ! It 
was wisely sung by one of our older poets ; — 



' And I do count it a most rare revenge, 
That I can thus, with such a sweet neglect, 
Pluck from them all the pleasure of their malice ; 
For ihat's the mark of all their enginous drifts, 
To wound my patience, howso'er ihey seem 
To aim at other objects ; which, if missed, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 11 

Their envy's like an arrow shot upright, 
That, in the fall, endangers their own heads." 

The trouble of mind which young Mr. Wilson 
suffered from the malice of his detractor, proved 
to be an advantageous affliction ; it is so true, 
that " the eye which sin shuts, affliction opens." 
" Certain it is," says Jeremy Taylor, " unless 
we first be cut and hewn in the mountains, we 
shall not be fixed in the temple of God." 

Mr. Wilson, through the divine blessing upon 
the restraints of a careful and virtuous educa- 
tion, had ever continued in a course of serious 
and irreproachable morality. Strange as it may 
seem to such as have not known it by experi- 
ence, persons of this character often endure the 
most distressing and protracted convictions of 
sinfulness before God ; and are often the most 
earnest in renouncing, even with horror, all 
thought of relying on their own righteousness, 
and in trusting for salvation to the merits of 
Christ alone. There is no hopeful sign of grace 
in these " moral sinners," till they begin to 
manifest a painful consciousness of the native 
corruption of their hearts and their guiltiness in 
the sight of a holy God. Though sin be the 
cause of all our misery, yet a sense of sin is the 
first step to all the happiness of the Christian 
life. 



12 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

Under the preaching of several godly divines, 
who were then the lights of the University, Mr. 
Wilson became an anxious inquirer for that one 
thing he yet lacked. And now the grace of 
Christ, which no one ever sought sincerely, and 
sought in vain, taught him to make strenuous 
exertions, that others might know that grace, 
and rejoice in its power. He regularly visited 
the prisons ; and, through his patient and labo- 
rious efforts, many of the hardened convicts 
were softened, and melted to repentance. 

This young and ardent Christian was filled 
with educational prejudices against the Puri- 
tans. Though his devout and zealous life 
caused him to be regarded as one himself, his 
high-church notions led him to shun their 
acquaintance. His strong prepossessions against 
a class of men whom he had ever been accus- 
tomed to hear decried, without knowing what 
their sentiments really were, at last were re- 
moved. Making purchases in a bookseller's 
shop, to increase his well-stocked library, he 
fell upon a highly esteemed work of the Rev. 
Richard Rogers, styled " The Seven Trea- 
tises." The reading of this book so affected 
Mr. Wilson's mind, that he made a journey to 
Weathersfield, in Essex, in order to listen to the 
preaching of its author. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 13 

Mr. Rogers was then an old minister, and 
had often heen suspended, and silenced, and 
otherwise troubled for his non-conformity. He 
was a most faithful and laborious minister ; and 
it is said, that " the Lord honored none more in 
the conversion of souls." He was an admired 
preacher. He used to say ; — " I should be 
sorry if every day were not employed as if it 
were my last." He was called the Enoch of his 
day; and Bishop Kennet said of him, "that 
England hardly ever brought forth a man who 
walked more closely with God." He was grave 
and serious in all company. A gentleman once 
said to him ; — " Mr. Rogers, I like you, and 
your company, very well, only you are too pre- 
cise.'''' To this he replied ; — " Oh Sir, I serve a 
•precise Gody 

Enlightened by the instructions, public and 
private, of this divine, and by the study of able 
writers, Mr. Wilson clearly saw, that the Puri- 
tans were far preferable to the Impuritans as 
companions of one who was diligently seeking 
eternal life. Returning to the University, he 
sought the counsels of Dr. "William Ames, who 
was about this time, in 1610, driven to Holland, 
where he spent the rest of his days in great 
fame for learning, piety and usefulness. He 
died just as he was upon the point of embarking 

VOL. II. 2 



14 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

for New England, whither his widow and chil- 
dren soon after went, carrying his valuable 
library. Mr. Wilson, following the advice of 
Dr. Ames, gathered around him a company of 
pious associates, who statedly met in his college 
chambers, for fasting, conference and prayer. 

It was not long, before, like most other Pu- 
ritans, he began to scruple at some of the rites 
imposed by the National Church. He procured 
all the books he could find on either side of the 
question, and seriously weighed the arguments 
they contained. Though early impressions and 
personal interests must have made the scale 
gravitate strongly in favor of conformity, yet 
conscience and duty preponderated the other 
way. As the result of this long and solemn 
deliberation, he began, in the worship of God, 
to omit some ceremonies, which he felt to be 
instituted in derogation from the kingly power 
of Christ in his Church. For these omissions, 
the Bishop of Lincoln, at a visitation of the 
University, pronounced against him the sen- 
tence of quindenum, or expulsion within fifteen 
days, unless he should desist from the offence. 
This news stirred up all the affection of his dis- 
tressed father, who urgently wrote to him to 
conform ; and exercised his influence with the 
bishop to procure three months' indulgence, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 15 

within which time the son must conform, or 
resign his fellowship and hopes of promotion. 
His father sent him to several divines of note, 
in hopes they would succeed in removing his 
scruples. But after much interchange of talk- 
ing and writing, Mr. Wilson was more decided 
than before. Upon this, his father sought to 
withdraw him from the ministry, and placed 
him at the Inns of Court as a student of the law. 
Here too he found pious acquaintances, with 
whom he constantly met for devotional exer- 
cises. He also derived much benefit from the 
acquaintance of Scultet, the learned chaplain 
of the Prince Palatine of the Rhine, who was 
then making some stop in England. 

After three years spent in the inns of court 
in pursuits uncongenial to his feelings, Mr. 
"Wilson's father yielded to his wishes to enter 
the ministry, and consented that he should 
return to the University to take his degree of 
Master of Arts. He applied for this purpose to 
a different college from that in which he had 
formerly met with trouble. But Dr. Gary, vice- 
chancellor of the University, being aware of the 
old difficulty, would not admit him to his de- 
gree, unless he would subscribe to the articles 
of the Church by law established. Distressed 
by this impracticable condition, he went to his 



16 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

father's house. There, at that time, was visit- 
ing a gentleman of influence, who had business 
with the Earl of Northampton, then Chancellor 
of the University. At the intercession of that 
gentleman, the Earl immediately wrote in Mr. 
Wilson's favor to the Vice-Chancellor. All 
difficulty gave way before this potent recom- 
mendation. The candidate obtained the desired 
degree, and resided for a while in Emanuel 
College. This was to him a matter of import- 
ance, by reason of the power which the Univer- 
sity enjoyed of licensing persons to preach 
throughout the realm, without previous applica- 
tion to the diocesans. For this purpose, he 
made frequent journeys into the adjoining 
counties. At this time, Mr. Wilson made a 
solemn resolution before God ; — " That if the 
Lord would grant him liberty of conscience, 
with purity of worship, he would be content, 
yea, thankful, though it were at the furthermost 
end of the world." To this resolution he faith- 
fully adhered, and God granted his desire. 

Soon after he had preached his first sermon 
at Newport, he was summoned to his father's 
death-bed. According to the patriarchal cus- 
tom, the children kneeled in succession for 
their dying parent's blessing. When the staunch 
young Puritan kneeled in his turn, there bowed 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 17 

at his side the lady to whom he was betrothed, 
Elizabeth, the virtuous daughter of Sir John 
Mansfield. Upon this, the expiring father 
said ; — " Ah John, I have taken much care 
about thee, such time as thou wast in the Uni- 
versity, because thou wouldest not conform. I 
would fain have brought thee to some higher 
preferment than thou hast yet attained unto. I 
see thy conscience is very scrupulous, concern- 
ing some things that have been observed and 
imposed in the Church. Nevertheless I have 
rejoiced to see the grace and fear of God in thy 
heart ; and seeing thou hast kept a good con- 
science hitherto, and walked according to thy 
light, so do still ; and go by the rules of God's 
holy Word. The Lord bless thee, and her 
whom thou hast chosen to be the companion of 
thy life." 

Consoled by this paternal benediction, Mr. 
Wilson gave himself wholly to the work of the 
gospel. Among other places, he preached in 
Moreclake. Here his non-conformity involved 
him in a tempest of troubles ; from which, how- 
ever, he found shelter, partly by a mistake of 
those who informed against him ; and partly by 
the favor of the magistrate before whom he was 
cited, who happened to be Sir William Bird, a 
kinsman of Mr. Wilson's wife. 
2# 



18 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

This storm being blown over, Mr. Wilson 
was occupied as chaplain in several honorable 
families. One was that of the Countess of 
Leicester, to whom he dedicated the only book, 
except a small poem, he ever published. It is 
entitled, " Some Helps to Faith ; shewing the 
necessitie, guounds, kinds, degrees, and Signes 
of it ; clearing divers doubts, and answering 
objections made by the Soule in temptation. 
Seruing also for a tryall of a man's spirituall 
estate. The third Edition, explaining and in- 
larging something in the former. By John 
Wilson, Preacher of God's Word in Guilford. 
Philip. 1.25,26. For your furtherance, and 
ioy of faith, that you may more abundantly 
reioyce in Jesus Christ. London, Printed for 
Robert Milbourne, and are to be sold at his 
Shop at the sign of the Grayhound in Paul's 
Churchyard. 1630." The first edition was 
probably printed ten or twelve years before. 
This little volume, with its large title, indicat- 
ing, as the custom then was, the contents of the 
book, is excellent of its kind. It abounds in 
divisions, and still more in appropriate Scripture. 
It is such a treatise of practical piety as none 
but a devout Calvinist could write. The cele- 
brated Hannah More, who liked not the dis- 
tinctive sentiments of such men, was very fond 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 19 

of reading what they wrote upon experimental 
religion. She used to say, that she " loved the 
lean of their fat." Her taste is to be com- 
mended : for, in truth, to the devout soul, hun- 
gering for " strong meat," there is but little 
nourishment afforded by "the lean kine," of the 
Pelagian herd, or " the bulls of Bashan," who 
push with the horns of Arminius, and bellow in 
his tones. 

The " Helps to Faith," is inscribed " to the 
truly noble ladie. The Ladie Lettice ; Coun- 
tesse of Leicester." In this address, Mr. Wilson 
says ; — " It hath pleased God to stirre up your 
Ladyshippe for my good : First, in calling mee 
to bee a minister to your Honorable Family, 
how weake soeuer ; yet not without some fruite 
by his blessing, whose power is seene in weake- 
nesse ; where, how I was cared for, my Con- 
science doeth witnesse : Secondly, in your op- 
portunitie, (preferring publique good, so were 
your wordes,) giving mee a free and comfortable 
entrance into this charge, wherin I now labor, 
according to my measure. And from that time, 
I have been followed with kindnesse from that 
house : but it especially refresheth mee to re- 
member, that for the worke of my Ministerie, 
your Honour willed mee to account you as my 
Mother." It is probable, that the duty to which 



20 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

he was called in Guilford by his pious pat- 
roness, was that of " lecturer." 

In those days, very many of the ministers, 
even of large parishes, were incompetent for 
their work. The patron, who had livings in his 
gift, or the right of conferring the parish on 
whom he would, too often abused this right 
which he had acquired by inheritance or pur- 
chase. Men who entered the ministry from the 
lowest motives would " come and crouch to 
him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread," 
and say, " Put me, I pray thee, into one of the 
priests' offices, that I may eat a piece of bread." 
Many of these incumbents were incapable of 
praying except by a book, and incapable of 
preaching in any way. The reading of the 
Common Prayer, and sometimes of a printed 
Homily authorized by the government for the 
purpose, was all that they attempted for the 
instruction of their flocks. To " supply this 
lack of service," religious persons of wealth 
would often support a lecturer, to preach statedly 
in some church thus unprovided with a preach- 
ing pastor. Nearly all these lecturers, and 
indeed almost all other zealous preachers, were 
of the Puritan stamp. Of course, they were 
viewed with much dislike by those whom the 
good martyr and bishop Latimer commonly 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 21 

called " the unpreaching prelates." These 
prelates, and others who were inclined to des- 
potism in Church and State, were quite of Queen 
Elizabeth's mind, who thought, that " one 
preacher was enough for a whole county." The 
lecturers were not, usually, suffered to pursue 
their labors without interruption. They were 
usually driven off under some charge of non- 
conformity. It is probable, that Mr. Wilson 
continued but a short time to be " preacher of 
God's Word in Guilford," though of this we 
have no certain information. 

We have mentioned, that he was employed 
as domestic chaplain in several families of dis- 
tinction. The last of these was the family of 
the pious lady Scudamore. While here, he 
was grieved to notice the worldly and unsuitable 
conversation of the gentry at the table on the 
Sabbath. At last he rose, and said ; — " I will 
make bold to speak a word or two. This is the 
Lord's holy day, and we have been hearing his 
holy Word. We should think and speak about 
such things as have been delivered in the name 
of God ; and not lavish out the time in discourse 
about hawks and hounds." Upon this one of 
the gentlemen very handsomely thanked him 
for the reproof; and expressed the hope that it 
might not be uttered in vain. However, the 



22 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

next Sabbath, the gentlefolks were at their old 
table-talk again. Mr. Wilson did not fail to tell 
them ; — " that the hawks they talked of, were 
the birds that picked up the seed of the Word 
after it was sown:" he also entreated them to 
talk of " such things as might sanctify the day, 
and edify their own souls." The same gentle- 
man who had thanked him for the first admoni- 
tion, again thanked him for his faithful warning. 
But Mr. Leigh, the husband of the lady of the 
house, was deeply offended. Lady Scudamore 
wished her chaplain to say something to appease 
him. But Mr. Wilson was ready to leave the 
family, rather than make any apology for having 
discharged his duty. When it was found that 
neither the kindness nor the displeasure of his 
patrons could make the good man swerve from 
his fidelity, Mr. Leigh and the others amended 
their fault ; and the day of sacred rest was no 
longer profaned by unsuitable discourse. 

After he left this family, Mr. Wilson preached 
a while at Henley. He then, for three years, 
preached in rotation at four neighboring places, 
in Suffolk county, namely, Bumstead, Stoke, 
Clare, and Candish. At one of these places, 
some people of Sudbury happened to hear him ; 
and he was, in consequence, invited to become 
minister there, as successor to Mr. Jenkyn, an 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 23 

eminent Puritan, who died in 1618. His call 
to this place was signed by many scores of the 
people, and the leading men among them. He 
would not accept this pastoral charge, till he 
was freely elected by the people on a day of 
solemn prayer and fasting, at which the neigh- 
boring ministers assisted. He was the more 
willing to settle in this town, because it placed 
him in the neighborhood of the aged Mr. 
Rogers, from whose counsels both he and his 
predecessor, Mr. Jenkyn, had obtained much 
spiritual aid ; and from whose dying lips Mr. 
Wilson afterwards received a blessing among 
that good man's children. It was here, that 
Mr. Wilson became acquainted with the excel- 
lent John Winthrop, then living in the neigh- 
borhood, and afterwards the prime leader of the 
Massachusetts colony, and with whom Mr. 
Wilson first came to these shores. 

During his ministry in Sudbury, Mr. Wilson, 
like a faithful ambassador for Christ, strictly 
followed his Master's instructions. He became 
eminent for the success with which God crowned 
his evangelical labors. Many remarkable cases 
of conversion attested that the Lord was with 
him. One instance is related of a tradesman 
in that place, who was much addicted to vicious 
practices ; and, among them, to pilfering. One 



24 LIFE OF JOHN "WILSON. 

day, as this man was observing the people 
flocking to Mr. Wilson's lecture, the thought 
occurred to him ; — " Why should I tarry at 
home to work, when so many go to hear a ser- 
mon ? " And so he went with the multitude. 
But when there, he heard a sermon specially 
applicable to himself, from the text ; — " Let him 
that stole, steal no more." Receiving this as 
God's message to his soul, the penitent hearer 
became a reformed and pious man. 

In those persecuting times, it was not to be 
expected, that a servant of God so eminent for 
zeal and usefulness as Mr. Wilson, should 
escape unharmed. There was a sort of upstart 
preacher among the Puritans at Sudbury, who, 
irritated at the superior respect paid to Mr. 
Wilson, became a conformist. In him the 
smoke of apostacy, as too often happens, burst 
forth into the blaze of persecution. This person 
made his complaints to the Bishop's courts, 
from whose sentence our worthy pastor escaped 
only by the powerful intercession of some influ- 
ential men who exerted themselves in his behalf. 
On one occasion, his prosecutor employed a 
pursuivant, noticed above all others for his 
activity in such business, to arrest Mr. Wilson. 
But though this " mighty hunter," whose " prey 
was man," arrested scores of people, who were 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 25 

returning from lecture, he dismissed them all, 
because he had missed of taking the preacher, 
who, by a good providence, had gone out of his 
way to visit a friend. 

After this, a lady of rank, not intending any 
offence, chanced to speak too favorably of Mr. 
Wilson's preaching in comparison with that of a 
certain reverend doctor. Upon this the angry 
divine applied to the Bishop of London, who 
suspended Mr. Wilson from office for the scan- 
dalous offence of preaching better than some of 
his neighbors. 

This suspension had not been long taken off, 
when he was wholly silenced, with several 
other worthy ministers, by Dr. Harsnet, Bishop 
of Norwich. After a while, the Earl of War- 
wick, a very potent nobleman, signed a letter to 
this Bishop, which letter Mr. Wilson drew up 
at the Earl's desire. Hereupon he Was at once 
restored to the freedom of his ministry. That 
same Bishop, not long after, went forth upon an 
expedition to the northern part of his diocese, 
to put down the non-conforming pastors and 
people there. Meanwhile the ministers in the 
southern region set apart a day of fasting, to 
pray for the help of heaven in behalf of their 
brethren. On that very day, the oppressive 
prelate was taken with a violent fit, which 

VOL. II. 3 



26 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

forced him to stop at a wretched inn on the 
road, when he suddenly expired. This is one 
out of the numberless instances which church 
history affords, of the miserable end which per- 
secutors have commonly met. " The Lord is 
known by the judgment which he executeth." 

But persecution died not with Dr. Harsnet. 
The harrassed and worn out Puritans began to 
sigh for that repose and security, which the old 
world could not offer them. They began to say 
one to another ; — " The sun shines as pleasantly 
on America as on England, and the Sun of 
Righteousness much more clearly. Let us re- 
move whither the providence of God calls, and 
make that our country, which will afford us 
what is dearer than property or life, the liberty 
of worshiping God in the way which appears 
to us most conducive to our eternal welfare."* 
Mr. Wilson, after he had ministered at Sud- 
bury for ten or twelve years, embarked with 
many of his neighbors in the large company of 
fifteen hundred settlers, which came over with 
John Winthrop in the year 1630. They left 
the Isle of Wight on the 8lh of April ; and by 
the 12th of June, the principal vessel of their 
fleet of thirteen, arrived at Salem, which had 



* Neal's Hist. Vol. II. p 207. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 27 

begun to be settled some three or four years 
before. Thus these good men went from one 
sore trial to another. They left behind them 
the home from which it was so painful parting ; 
and before them were the sorrows of the wil- 
derness. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



CHAPTER II. 

Hard times. Mr. Wilson's activity. Church formed at Charles- 
town Mr. Wilson installed as teacher of the church. Removal to 
Boston. Mr. Wilson returns to England. His second voyage to 
America. House of worship built. Prognostications. Excursion to 
Plymouth: Sabbath, and order of worship there. Mr. Wilson in- 
stalled as pastor of Boston. Arrival of John Cotton, who becomes 
teacher. Mr. Wilson's labors among the Indians. Account of 
Sagamore John. His death and the destruction of his band. His 
son committed to Mr. Wilson's care. Treatment of the Indians, 
Land-title. John Cotton. Penn's treaty. Low price of wild 
lands. Revival in Boston Church. Intercourse between the min- 
istry and magistracy. The clergy, the friends of liberty. Adven- 
ture at Naniasket. Mr. Wilson again returns to England. Dan- 
gers on the Irish coast. Driven to Ireland. Travels in England. 
Legacy of Dr. Wilson. Visit to Sudbury. Visit to Nathaniel Rog- 
ers. Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson. Good Mr. Dod's message to her. 
Her husband in peril. Edward Johnson. Sails for America the 
last time. His fellow voyagers, Shepard, Hugh Peters, &c. Ar- 
rival at Boston. Antinomian controversy. 

Mr. Wilson was about forty-two years of age 
when he came to this country. He exerted 
himself most energetically to encourage the 
people under the inconceivable difhculties of a 
new settlement. His " over-doing liberality," 
knew no bounds except his limited means. 
Morton, naming him as " eminent for love and 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 29 

zeal," says that he " bare a great share of the 
difficulties of these new beginnings with great 
cheerfulness and alacrity of spirit." He was 
fully up to the spirit of that time of primitive 
zeal and love, when no disciple said, '* that 
aught of the things which he possessed was his 
own; but they had all things common." Such 
were their hardships as to afford full scope for 
his active benevolence. Some idea of their suf- 
ferings may be derived from the fact, that, with- 
in three months from their landing, they buried 
near two hundred of their number : those who 
survived were sadly prostrated by sickness : and 
two hundred of them abandoned the colony that 
fall. These distresses were owing to insuffi- 
cient shelter as they lay " up and down in 
booths," and to the want of suitable food and 
remedies. Mr. Wilson was indefatigable in his 
endeavors to console the afflicted, and revive 
the hopes of the faint-hearted. There is a tra- 
dition of his preaching a comforting discourse 
upon the example of the patriarch Jacob, who 
was not discouraged though his beloved Rachel 
died by the way, as he was removing in obedi- 
ence to the divine command. 

In the face of disaster, Mr. Wilson still urged 
on the main design of the colony, which was, 
" to settle and enjoy the ordinances of the gos- 
3* 



50 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

pel, and worship the Lord Jesus Christ accord- 
ing to his own institutions." Having settled 
at Charlestown in the month of July, with a 
considerable part of the colony, on the thirtieth 
of that month, a day of fasting was observed on 
account of the prevailing mortality. The servi- 
ces were held, as we derive from that old wor- 
thy, Roger Clap, under a shady oak ; where, 
says that delightful example of purilanism in 
private life, " I have heard many a good sermon 
from Mr. Wilson and Mr. Phillips." In truth 
it was " a brave old oak," which springing from 
a poor acorn, but growing up till it becomes the 
branching monarch of the forest, was the fit em- 
blem of their church and commonwealth. When 
the public services of that day were closed, four 
men, agreeable to previous arrangement, formed 
themselves into a visible church of God, by en- 
tering into a solemn covenant with God, and 
with each other. They were the Governor 
Winthrop, the Deputy governor Dudley, Mr. 
Isaac Johnson, and Rev. Mr. Wilson. Many 
others were soon after added to their commun- 
ion which was formed by signing the following 
covenant : — 

" In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and 
in obedience to his holy will and divine ordi- 
nance. 



LIFE OP JOHN WILSON. 31 

" We whose names are here underwritten, be- 
ing by his most wise and good providence 
brought together into this part of America, in 
the Bay of Massachusetts, and desirous to unite 
into one congregation or church, under the Lord 
Jesus Christ, our Head, in such sort as be- 
cometh all those whom he hath redeemed, and 
sanctified to himself, do hereby solemnly and re- 
ligiously, as in his most holy presence, promise 
and bind ourselves to walk in all our ways ac- 
cording to the rule of the gospel, and in all sin- 
cere conformity to his holy ordinances, and in 
mutual love and respect to each other, so near 
as God shall give us grace." 

At the first Court of Assistants, which was 
held in Charlestown, the twenty-third of Au- 
gust, 1630, the first business taken into consid- 
eration was the maintenance of the ministry. 
It was ordered, that houses be built for Mr. Wil- 
son and Mr. Phillips, with convenient speed at 
the public charge. Sir Eichard Saltonstall un- 
dertook to see it done for Mr. Phillips, at Wa- 
tertown, and the governor was to do the same 
for Mr. Wilson, at Charlestown settlement. Mr. 
Phillips was to have thirty pounds a year, be- 
ginning at the first of September following. Mr. 
Wilson was to have twenty pounds a year, till 
his wife should join him, beginning from the 



32 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 



tenth of July preceding. These dates, doubt- 
less, indicate the times in which their stated 
labors respectively began. These salaries were 
to be paid at the common charge of the colony, 
excepting the settlers at Salem and Dorchester. 
Four days after the meeting of the court, be- 
ing the last Friday in August, another fast was 
held, when Mr. Wilson was chosen teaching 
elder ; Mr. Increase Nowell, who was after- 
wards Secretary of the colony till his death in 
1655, was chosen ruling elder ; William Gager 
was chosen deacon, whom Governor Dudley 
calls " a right godly man, a skilful chyrurgean," 
and who died in less than four weeks after. 
The other deacon was William Aspinwall, who 
was a notary public. These were all set apart 
to their respective offices by the laying on of the 
hands of the brethren. Governor Winthrop, 
who was active on the occasion, says ; — " We 
used imposition of hands ; but with this protes- 
tation by all, that it was only as a sign of elec- 
tion and confirmation; not of any intent that 
Mr. Wilson should renounce his ministry he re- 
ceived in England."^ It is singular that most 
of our historians should pay so little regard to 
this distinct and explicit protestation, as to repre- 



*■ Savage's Winthrop, Vol. I., p. 32. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 33 

sent our fathers of this colony as renouncing the 
ordination received from the Church in the 
mother country. They had no such intention. 

Thus they organized, and furnished with its 
officers, that which was afterwards known as 
the First Church of Boston, to which place 
most of the members removed within a few 
weeks from these transactions. At first those 
who removed went over to Charlestown to wor- 
ship on the Sabbath. Very soon divine service 
was celebrated alternately on each side of the 
river : and ere long the First Church worship- 
ed altogether on the trimontane peninsula. 
Long shone that Church as a light to the world, 
and eminent " as a city that is set on an hill." 

The next year Mr. Wilson sailed for Eng- 
land. Before going, on the twenty-ninth of 
March, 1631, he met with the principal mem- 
bers of the congregation at the governor's resi- 
dence. Having prayed with them, he exhorted 
them to love, union and fidelity; and advised 
them, during his absence, to use the liberty of 
prophesying, — that is, to avail themselves of the 
gifts of the lay -brethren in exhortation and re- 
ligious instruction. He designated Governor 
Winthrop, Mr. Deputy governor Dudley, and 
Mr. Nowell the ruling elders, as specially fitted 
to this duty. These worthy men accepted the 



34 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

charge, " knowing well," as good Mr. Hubbard 
says, " that the princes of Judah, in king Heze- 
kiah's reign, were appointed to teach the people 
out of the law of God." The interview was 
closed with prayer by the devout governor, at 
Mr. Wilson's request, who was then conducted 
to the boat on his way to Charlestown, from 
whence he went by land to Salem. From this 
port he sailed, with many other passengers, on 
the first of April, and arrived at London on the 
twenty-ninth of the same month. His place 
was speedily supplied by Rev. John Eliot, who 
arrived soon after Mr. Wilson's departure. 

He appears to have been unsuccessful in what 
had probably been the chief object of his voyage, 
the attempt to persuade his wife to accompany 
him into the formidable desert. The good re- 
port that he brought of the land, greatly stirred 
up the hearts of others to seek it. Mrs. Mar- 
garet Winthrop, one of the noblest spirited of 
the old puritan dames, fired by his representa- 
tions, burned to be crossing the ocean to join her 
beloved husband, who impatiently waited for 
her coming. In a letter to her son upon this 
subject, she says ; — " Mr. Wilson is now in 
London. He cannot yet persuade his wife to 
go, for all he hath taken this pains to come and 
fetch her. I marvel what mettle she is made of. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 35 

Sure she will yield at last, or else we shall want 
him exceedingly in New England." 

It is a strong proof of Mr. Wilson's zeal and 
resolution in the path of duty, that he returned 
lo his flock, though unable to prevail with a 
wife to whom he was tenderly attached to join 
him in the way. He reached Boston the twen- 
ty-sixth of May, 1632. He took the freeman's 
oath on the ensuing third of July. This latter 
step evinced his fixed purpose to settle perma- 
nently in this country. 

During that month, the congregation began to 
erect their first house of worship. For this, and 
for Mr. Wilson's dwelling-house, they made a 
voluntary contribution of one hundred and twenty 
pounds. Wilson's Lane, leading from State 
Street to Dock Square, derives its name from 
the parsonage which stood therein. The meet- 
ing-house stood near the corner of Exchange 
and State streets. With its walls of mud, and 
its low thatched roof, it was indeed an humble 
structure to be the dwelling-place of the Most 
High. But " though the Lord be high, yet 
hath he respect unto the lowly." The Son of 
God himself dwelt in a tabernacle of clay : and 
when he arose from the dead, and ascended on 
high, he glorified that mortal dust. It has been 
the ordinary course of divine providence, " that 



36 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

great endings should start from small begin- 
nings." Morton in his "New England's Me- 
morial," speaking of this very church, remark- 
ed ; — " Thus out of small beginnings greater 
things have been produced by his hand that 
made all things of nothing : and as one small 
candle may light a thousand, so the light here 
kindled hath shone unto many; yea, in some 
sort, to our whole nation. Let the glorious 
name of Jehovah have the praise in all ages." 

In Governor Winthrop's journal, under the 
date of the fifth of July, 1632, there is a curious 
entry, which suits well to this connection, and 
which is characteristic of the time when it was 
penned."^ " At Watertown, there was, in the 
view of divers witnesses, a great combat between 
a mouse and a snake ; and, after a long fight, 
the mouse prevailed and killed the snake. The 
pastor of Boston, Mr. Wilson, a very sincere, 
holy man, hearing of it, gave this interpreta- 
tion : That the snake was the devil ; the mouse 
was a poor contemned people, which God had 
brought hither, which should overcome Satan 
here, and dispossess him of his kingdom." Upon 
the same occasion, he told the governor, that is 
to say, Winthrop himself, " that, before he was 



Savage's Winthrop, I, 81. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 37 

resolved to come into this country, he dreamed 
he was here, and that he saw a church arise out 
of the earth, which grew up and became a mar- 
velous goodly church." 

Had our good Mr. Wilson lived among the 
Pharaohs, he would have been styled, like Jo- 
seph, Zaphnath-paaneah, which is by interpreta- 
tion, " A revealer of secrets." His explanation, 
of the combat and his significant dream, must be 
regarded as prophetic, if it be allowed that every 
prediction which actually comes to pass, is a true 
prophecy. Our fathers, no doubt, paid too much 
attention to signs and omens of that futurity 
which is so dark to all, but into which all are 
prone to look with anxious and searching gaze. 
It may be, that, in the explanation of the une- 
qual contest between the mouse and snake, Mr. 
Wilson meant no more than to turn the incident 
into an allegory. Men were formerly much de- 
lighted with such parables. The excellent Fla- 
vel wrote one sizeable book called " Husbandry 
Spiritualized," and another named " Navigation 
Spiritualized," in both of which, those callings 
are allegorically treated in a very ingenious and 
instructive manner, without any thing like super- 
stition. The night-vision of the rising church 
speaks for itself. It needs no " Belteshazzar " to 
expound its import. To a thoughtful and imag- 

VOL. II. 4 



38 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

inative man, without being at all regarded as a 
special revelation, it might well seem to encour- 
age high expectation and strenuous effort. Many- 
instances are on record, of men of ardent piety 
who, in difficult circumstances, have been guided 
to happy issues by hints of this nature. Why 
should it be deemed incredible, that He " who 
heareth prayer" should in such ways intimate 
his will, and lead the minds of his servants to- 
ward the best results ? 

On the twenty-fifth of October, Mr. Wilson 
with the governor, and a few other men of note, 
set out on a friendly visit to the colony at Ply- 
mouth. Here they had a very generous and 
hospitable reception, having gone in a pinnace 
as far as Weymouth the first day, and traveled 
the rest of the way the next day, in independent 
style, on foot. On the Sabbath, a sacrament was 
held, at which the guest's partook. In the after- 
noon a singular scene took place, which gives us 
a view of the mode in which public worship was 
maintained by the emigrants from Leyden. Rev. 
Roger Williams, their teacher, proposed a ques- 
tion for consideration. The pastor, Mr. Ralph 
Smith spoke briefly upon it. Then Mr. Wil- 
liams " prophesied," or explained upon it. Next 
Governor Bradford of Plymouth, a learned man, 
discussed the matter : and after him William 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 39 

Brewster, the ruling- elder, and also a man of 
cultivated mind, continued the discussion. He 
was followed by two or three of the brethren of 
that church. Then the ruling elder, according to 
a custom used in the synagogues in the time of 
the apostles, called upon Governor Winthrop and 
Mr. Wilson to speak to the point in hand, which 
they severally did. The matter having been 
thus thoroughly deliberated, the deacon, Samuel 
Fuller, reminded the congregation of the duty of 
contributing to the gospel. Upon this. Governor 
Bradford, that "right worshipful man," goes to the 
deacon's seat, and others after him ; ^nd having 
deposited their offerings in the bag, they returned 
to their places. This religious exercise was origi- 
nally introduced by their revered John Robinson, 
who grounded it upon the practice of the Christ- 
ians at Corinth, as described by Paul in his first 
epistle to the church in that place. It was, after 
a while, disused, as being peculiarly appropriate 
only in an age when those who prophesied did 
so by direct revelation from God. Such a prac- 
tice could hardly work to advantage, except in a 
church where some of the brethren have the gift 
of speaking to edification ; and the rest have the 
rarer and richer gift of holding their peace. 
There is great truth in the rabbinical proverb ; 
— " Speech may be silver, but silence is gold." 



40 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

On the "Wednesday following the Sabbath just 
described, the Boston company, having been 
honorably entertained, and affectionately escorted 
on their way out of Plymouth, set out for home 
with great contentment. Governor Winthrop 
returned in grander state than he went, on Gov- 
ernor Bradford's horse. In those slow and sure, 
and steady times, as they plodded along their 
weary way, we may be sure that " the Old Col- 
ony Railroad " was not in their thoughts. 

The congregation at Boston held a solemn fast 
on the 22d of November. This day Mr. Thomas 
Oliver was chosen a ruling elder, and was or- 
dained by the laying on of the hands of the 
teacher and the two deacons, in the name of the 
congregation. Mr. Wilson, who had before been 
ordained teacher, was now chosen to be pastor of 
the church, and was set apart to that office by 
the imposition of hands of the ruling elder, and 
the deacons. This circumstance confirms the 
remark that was made in regard to Mr. Wilson's 
installation as teacher, that our fathers did not 
consider this ceremony of laying on of hands as 
any renunciation of a ministry previously re- 
ceived. So they declared by express protestation 
in the first instance ; and in this second instance, 
they manifest the same in practice, for it is cer- 
tain they had no thought of nullifying their own 



OF TBTK 

LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 41 

act in the first. Undoubtedly both Paul and 
Barnabas had been fully clothed with the minis- 
terial office, before the church at Antioch sent 
them on their famous mission to Asia Minor : 
and yet they were specially set apart to that work 
by fasting and prayer, and laying on of hands 
of certain prophets and teachers, certainly of no 
higher rank than Paul and his companion. 

During the first and second years, the Massa- 
chusetts colony received but small reinforcement 
of numbers from the mother country. But in 
1633, and for seven years after, the accessions to 
its strength were very numerous and valuable, 
and the new settlements spread themselves in all 
directions. Among others who " were famous 
in the congregation, men of renown," was Rev. 
John Cotton. He was ordained, in the capacity 
of teacher of the church, as colleague with Mr. 
Wilson, on the fourth of September, 1633. 
These luminaries shone together, though with 
different colored rays, in the same conspicuous 
sphere. If the teacher shone with more of bril- 
liance and illumination, the pastor glowed with 
a warmer and more genial radiance. 

Mr. Wilson's missionary spirit led him to ex- 
tend his labors to the destitute settlements which 
were then springing up in what we may call 
*' the front-woods " of this forest-world. Thus, 
4^ 



42 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

on the twenty-sixth of November, he went, by- 
special leave from his own congregation, to 
Agawam, now called Ipswich, to preach to that 
plantation, which was not yet furnished with a 
minister. Here, notwithstanding the earliness 
of the season, he was detained for some days 
beyond his intention by the depth of the snow, 
and the freezing of the river. Long and rigor- 
ous as our winters appear to us, the climate seems 
to be much ameliorated from what it was in the 
hard times of our fathers. This change has been 
ascribed to the disafforesting of so large a part of 
the continent, and laying the soil more open to 
the sun. 

The missionary efforts of Mr. Wilson extended 
to the unevangelized savages. Johnson, of "won- 
der-working " memory, informs us, that " the " 
English at their first coming did assay and en- 
deavor to bring them to the knowledge of God : 
and, in particular, the reverend, grave and godly 
Mr. John Wilson, who visited their sick, and 
instructed others as they were capable to under- 
stand him." From Johnson's further remarks, 
it appears that the venerable pastor of Boston, 
was the first protestant minister, who attempted 
as he had opportunity, to impart the gospel to 
the North American Indians. The work was 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 43 

soon after undertaken with great diligence and 
success by the apostolic Eliot and others. 

When our fathers came here, Sagamore John 
or Wonohaquaham, was the chief to whom be- 
longed the territory about Charlestown, having 
under him about thirty warriors. He was the 
eldest son of the " squaw-sachem," whose second 
husband was the priest Webcowet. In 1644, she 
submitted, with several other chiefs, to the gov- 
ernment of the colony ; and agreed that the chil- 
dren of her subjects should be taught the Bible. 
It is supposed that she died in 1667, at a great 
age, blind and helpless, at a fort of the Nipmuks, 
in consequence of ill-treatment from a hostile 
party of the Narragansetts. Sagamore John's 
father was the sachem Nanepashemet, who was 
slain by the Tarrentines or Eastern Indians, 
about 1619. 

Sagamore John is spoken of in Charlestown 
records, as a chief " of gentle and good disposi- 
tion," who gave leave to the emigrants from 
Salem to settle in that place, then known as 
Mishawum. From the first, he was friendly to 
the English. In April and May of 1630, the 
colonists were in great alarm because of a con- 
spiracy among most of the Indian tribes to cut 
off the new settlements, beginning with an attack 
upon Plymouth. The plot was exposed by 



44 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

Sagamore John ; so that the English were ena- 
bled to break it up. He had ever been extremely 
courteous to the English, and tried to learn their 
language, and imitate their customs. Convinced 
of the superiority of their religion, he even de- 
sired to adopt it, and live among them as a fellow 
Christian : but was hindered by the bitter oppo- 
sition of the heathen Indians. In the year 1632 
he was seized by a disease then most terrible, 
and which has not lost all its terrors now, — the 
small-pox. This fatal malady had never been 
known among the natives before the arrival of 
Europeans. Poor Sagamore John now sadly 
lamented his want of decision. At his own 
desire, he was removed among the English ; 
and promised, if he recovered, to live with them, 
and serve their God. He soon relinquished the 
hope of recovery. " Now," said he, " I must 
die. The God of the English is much angry 
with me, and will destroy me. Ah, I was afraid 
of the scoffs of the wicked Indians. Yet my 
child shall live with the English, and learn to 
know their God when I am dead." Mr. Wilson 
visited this forlorn and perishing creature, and 
with christian tenderness ministered to the wants 
of his body and his soul. To his care the dying 
chieftain committed his only child, saying; — 
" Mr. Wilson is much good man, and much love 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 45 

me." This son of the forest, once the savage 
lord of these peopled hills, expired soon after, on 
the fifth day of December. Governor Winthrop 
says ; — " He died in a persuasion that he should 
go to the Englishman's God." It may be, he is 
known in a better world, as " the first fruits of" 
New England " unto Christ." 

He gave to the governor a good quantity of 
wampumpeague, a sort of current-coin among the 
Indians. It was composed of beads, made from 
various colored marine shells, and often arranged 
in very tasteful figures on belts, and other articles 
of dress. In old times it served, in part, as a 
currency in the dealings of the English with 
each other, as well as with the Indians. The 
dying sagamore gave gifts to several other Eng- 
lishmen : and took order for the payment of his 
own debts, and the debts of his men. His will 
was, that all the wampum and coats left, should 
be given to his mother : and his land about 
Powder-horn Hill, in Chelsea, which was proba- 
bly his usual residence, was to go to his son ; 
and in case of his son's decease, it was to pass 
to his brother George, the sachem of Naumkeag 
or Salem, and ultimately the claimant of all the 
domain of his father Nanepashemet. 

Mr. Wilson cheerfully accepted his difficult 
charge. He took into his family the fatherless 



46 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

child, of whom we only know, that he was dead 
some time, perhaps a considerable time, before 
the eleventh of May, 1651, when his uncle 
George petitioned the General Court for the land 
conditionally left him by his brother. Almost 
the whole tribe perished about the same time 
with sagamore John, and with the same fell dis- 
ease. Mr. Maverick of Winnesimmet, who, 
with his whole family, made the most honorable 
exertions to relieve the sufferers, had the melan- 
choly task of burying thirty of them in one day. 
Many of the orphan children were distributed 
among families in the towns on the Bay : but 
most of them died soon after of the same wasting 
plague, which had proved so fatal to their pa- 
rents. But three of these poor children survived 
to maturer age. One of them, taken by the gov- 
ernor, was called Know- God ; because it was 
the Indians usual answer, when questioned on 
the subject of their knowledge of a Supreme 
Being: — "Me no know God." 

Many of them, in their last sickness, owned 
that the Englishmen's God was a good being ; 
and professed a resolution to serve him, if life 
should be spared. As to the cause of this im- 
pression, " it wrought much with them," writes 
Winthrop, " that when their own people forsook 
them, yet the English came daily, and minis- 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 47 

lered to them : and yet few, only two families, 
took any infection by it." How often has it 
been found that a courageous benevolence is also 
the safest. How often too has the key of kind- 
ness unlocked the heart which was firmly fast- 
ened against the entrance of force or persuasion. 

Among the neighboring tribes, civilization and 
religion went hand in hand. Mr. Wilson, with 
three other ministers and some of the brethren, 
visited the " praying Indians " at Nonantum in 
1647, for the twofold purpose of instructing them 
and supplying their necessities. Here they had 
built with their own hands a house of worship 
fifty feet by twenty-five, which Mr. Wilson says, 
" appeared like the workmanship of an English 
house Wright.'* 

Our fathers have been very unjustly taxed with 
neglecting the spiritual v/elfare of the Indians. 
Whoever informs himself as to the life and labors 
of John Eliot, will see, that the charge is utterly 
groundless : and that they labored in this field 
with great zeal, perseverance and success. The 
blessing of God has never rested on Indian mis- 
sions more largely than it did in their day. 
They were, many of them, the more ready to 
engage in this holy undertaking, in their eager- 
ness to disappoint the devil. For " finding it 
difficult to account for the first peopling of the 



48 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

western hemisphere, many in New England 
ascribed it to the aid of the devil, who thought 
by removing a part of the human race thither, 
they would be forever placed out of the reach of 
the gospel." This explanation will not seem to 
us very plausible : but it has the poor merit of 
being quite as much so as almost any that has 
been propounded by the learned. 

Our ancestors have been heavily charged with 
injustice in dispossessing the Indians of the soil. 

The Massachusetts settlers found the country, 
in a manner, depopulated by a wasting pesti- 
lence which swept away some entire tribes, 
about the year 1618. Most of the remnants of 
the people were very few and feeble, who culti- 
vated but a very small portion of the country, of 
which, by far the greater part lay waste, and 
without inhabitant. King James' charter speci- 
fies this as one of the reasons for planting a 
region, which our forefathers, in legal phrase, 
called a " vacant domicile." 

However contrary it may be to the prevailing 
impression, it is still the fact, that the coming of 
the pilgrims served to prolong the existence of 
these enfeebled tribes. John Cotton has made 
the following record ; — " The Indians in these 
parts being by the hand of God swept away, 
many multitudes of them, by tlie plague, the 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 49 

manner of the neighbor-Indians is, either to des- 
troy the weaker countries, or to make them trib- 
utary ; which danger, ready to fall upon their 
heads, in these parts, the coming of the English 
hither prevented."^ This explains why most of 
the smaller bands were, from the first, disposed 
to form close alliances with the white men ; 
while the more powerful tribes were disposed to 
look with hostile aspect on these foreign protec- 
tors of the weak. 

The treaty made with the Indians by William 
Penn in 1682, has been extolled beyond measure 
for the fairness and justice of its provisions. 
And yet it differs in no important respect, from 
all the treaties which the New England colo- 
nies had made long before, for similar purposes. 
The earliest instructions sent from the mother 
country to Endecot, upon the settling of Salem, 
required him to extinguish the Indian title to the 
soil on equitable terms. Though the title of 
many of the Indian claimants to the tracts which 
they ceded, was exceedingly dubious, yet the 
settlers were always scrupulous in quieting such 
claims, however slight the grounds on which 
they were made. The late President, John 
Adams, remarked that, in all his legal experience, 



* Way of Congregational Churches cleared, p. 21. 
VOL. II. 5 



50 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

he never knew a land-title contested in the courts, 
without its being traced up to the original pur- 
chase from the Indians. It cannot be pretended, 
that the treaty for which Penn is so much 
praised, made a compensation for the land ac- 
quired by him, more just and equal than what 
the New England colonists bestowed in like 
cases. There are no means of knowing what 
consideration he gave for the territory he ob- 
tained. It cannot be said, that it was more or 
less than what the pilgrims and their associates 
were in the habit of giving. 

We hear of large tracts, comprising perhaps, 
whole townships now of great v|ilue, as being 
bought of the savages for a sum so small as to 
seem little better than nominal. At first, this 
may appear like an unrighteous imposition on 
the ignorance of the savage sellers. But it was 
not so. The colonists paid for their land all 
that it was worth at the time of the purchase. 
In fact, it had no value, except what it was to 
acquire under the change of ownership, by the 
industry of the new occupants. It could not be 
estimated at any fixed price, until it was subdued 
and cultivated by the sturdy settlers who began 
to make it what it is. The whole site of some 
of the wealthiest cities in the United States, like 
Cincinnati, Lowell and Rochester, were, each of 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 51 

them, bought for a few thousands of dollars of 
their American proprietors not many years ago. 
But who thinks of reproaching the present own- 
ers on this account? Their enterprise and 
industry created a vast increase in the value of 
the property : and it is but just, that they should 
enjoy the work of their hands. 

There is a further proof that our ancestors 
paid for their land all that it was worth to its 
former possessors. They sold it out to other 
Europeans at prices equally .insignificant. Much 
of it was given away on condition of being set- 
tled within a limited time : for it was not worth 
so much as the presence of another settler and 
fellow-helper in the infant community. Even 
after it was transferred from the hands of the 
Indians to those of white men ; its value did not 
begin to be enhanced till it was put into a way 
of being turned from a wilderness to a fruitful 
field. So late as the year 1716, in the old col- 
ony of Connecticut, more than one hundred and 
seven thousand acres of land were sold for six 
hundred and eighty-three pounds of New Eng- 
land currency ; which is at the rate of two cents 
an acre. It is well known that in all new coun- 
tries, settlers are encouraged to come, at the out- 
set by donations of land, and sometimes by ad- 
ditional gratuities. This is clear proof that 



62 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

their coming is a greater favor to the grantor, 
than the gift of a farm is to the grantee, who, in 
improving his lot, raises the value of all the 
land around it. A little reflection will show 
that the Indians suffered no injustice in the 
terms on which they transferred their territory 
to our fathers. It ill becomes the present gen- 
eration to reproach their ancestors upon this 
point. Never did the Indians receive at the 
hands of our fathers such treatment as they 
have suffered from our people within the present 
century. The removal of the Cherokees, if 
there were no other case of the kind, may well 
seal our lips to silence on this subject. 

It is certain, that the conversion of the natives 
to Christianity was one of the leading motives 
which induced our fathers to engage in their 
venturous enterprise on these shores. They 
omitted no opportunity to instruct the " untutor- 
ed mind," in the worship of God. The haughty 
Miantonomoh, the sachem of the Narragansetts, 
when he was the guest of the honored Win- 
throp, was the auditor of Mr. Wilson, in that 
low-browed temple with its overhanging eaves 
of thatch. 

The Boston church was highly prospered 
under Mr. Wilson and his colleague, John Cot- 
ton. Soon after the latter commenced his labors, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 53 

there was a revival of religion, in which, among 
Other converts, " divers profane and notorious 
evil persons were brought to experience the 
power of religion." "Also the Lord pleased 
greatly to bless the practice of discipline, where- 
in he gave the pastor, Mr. Wilson, a singular 
gift, to the great benefit of the church." So 
high was his repute in this particular, that the 
renowned Dr. Ames is known to have said; — 
" If he might have his option of the best condi- 
tion he could propound unto himself on this side 
heaven, it would be, that he might be the teacher 
of a congregational church, whereof Mr. Wilson 
should be the pastor. 

In common with other leading ministers in 
the colony, Mr. Wilson was often consulted by 
the magistrates in difficult and important mat- 
ters. And so far as the ministerial counsels are 
recorded, it is noticeable that, in all cases, they 
strenuously maintained the chartered rights of 
the colony. They favored no timid or half- 
way courses, no compliances or concessions, 
which could impair their cherished liberties. 
Sometimes the royal prerogative advanced to the 
very verge of absolute sway, and demanded 
instant surrender of the precious immunities of 
the infant commonwealth. But the ministers 
,ev.ej: lengthened the hands of ibe-ngyagistrates to 
5* 



54 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

cling to their charter with closer grasp. They 
never advised open resistance, which must have 
led to instant destruction ; but always suggested 
plausible grounds of evasion ; and proposed 
grounds of delay, and protracted negotiation. 
It is wonderful to observe how long these meas- 
ures availed, in connection with favoring provi- 
dences, to preserve their patent from violation. 
And when, at last, the treasure was wrested 
away, it was found that the young community 
had grown up to be strong enough to bear the 
loss without fainting. The clergy cherished the 
spirit of liberty among the people, as a religious 
passion : and it wrought intensely, till it worked 
out entire political independence. 

There is a curious instance of the disposition 
of our fathers to seek the counsel of the minis- 
ters in matters very foreign to their calling; 
and which is related in Winthrop's Journal. 
It seems there was reason to fear, that the 
French were intending to become too near 
neighbors. Among other precautions, it was 
proposed to begin a plantation and fort at Nan- 
tasket, to prevent the French from taking pos- 
session of that place. An expedition was got 
up to view the spot, and decide what should 
be done there. On the twenty-first of Feb- 
ruary, being a very sunshiny, vernal sort of day, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 55 

the governor, and four of the assistants, and 
three of the ministers, of whom Mr. Wilson was 
undoubtedly one, with others, making twenty- 
six in all, went to Nantasket in three boats. 
"While they were there, the wind suddenly 
changed to the North-west, extremely cold, and 
so violent as to detain them there two nights. 
They had to lie on the ground in an open hut, 
upon a little old straw pulled from the thatch. 
They were forced to lie in a heap, to keep from 
freezing : and to eat raw muscles, for want of 
other fare. On the third day, they got safe 
home ; having come to the conclusion, that it 
was needless, for the present, to fortify a place 
which was so sternly defended by the severity of 
its climate. 

Mr. Wilson returned to England, for the last 
time, late in the fall of 1634. He sailed for 
Barnstable, with John Winthrop, the younger, 
in whom shone all the virtues of his father with 
undiminished lustre. The ship was small and 
weak, and they were repeatedly in imminent 
danger of being wrecked. They were driven 
by a tempest upon the perilous coast of Ireland, 
with which no one in the ship was acquainted. 
After escaping some desperate risks, they got 
into Galloway. From this place, Mr. Winthrop 
Went by land to Dublin. Mr. Wilson proceed- 




66 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

ing in the ship by sea, came within sight of the 
mouth of the Severn, when another furious 
storm drove his vessel back to Kinsale on the 
Irish coast, where a number of vessels perished 
in full view. Being thus forced to make some 
stay in Ireland, both he and the governor's wor- 
thy son exerted themselves strenuously to pro- 
mote the interests of religion in New England, 
wherever they came. At last they got safe 
back among old friends in England, with hearty 
and joyous welcome. Their travels extended 
into Scotland and the north of England : and 
wherever they went, they gave much satisfac- 
tion to Christian people about the prospects of 
New England, and stirred up many to make it 
their future home. 

One object of Mr. Wilson's voyage was to 
secure a legacy of a thousand pounds, which his 
brother, the Rev. Dr. Wilson had bequeathed to 
the colony. If this large bequest had been left 
to our Boston pastor, he would have been no 
better pleased. He was happy to see the country 
benefited, though at the expense of his own in- 
heritance. This sum was laid out in procuring 
artillery for the defence of Boston settlement. 
The purchase of cannons may seem an unca- 
nonical use of a clergyman's gift, which should 
have thundered in the pulpit rather than on the 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 57 

battery. But in those warlike and troublous 
times, even men of God wielded either the civil 
or the ecclesiastical sword, according to the na- 
ture of the dangers which assailed their beloved 
flocks. They built the walls of Jerusalem, as 
in Nehemiah's day, with the implements of labor 
in their hands, and the weapons of defence 
ready girded to their side. 

On all occasions, Mr. Wilson held up the fa- 
vorable representations, which he had before sent 
over in writing, of the admirable civil and relig- 
ious order which was now well settled in the 
new plantation. He strove to engage as many 
good men as he could in this great enterprise. 
He had a joyful visit with his old parishioners, 
at Sudbury, according to what he had intimated 
when bidding them farewell previous to his last 
voyage to America. " It may be," he said, 
" John Wilson may come and see Sudbury once 
again." He thus fulfilled this long indulged 
desire of his affectionate heart, which clung 
fondly to those scenes of former and successful 
labor in the gospel. Such spots no servant of 
God can ever forget, or cease to love. From 
thence he went to visit the Rev. Nathaniel Rog- 
ers, who afterwards came to this country, and 
lived and died as pastor of the church in Ips- 
wich. Mr. Wilson happened to arrive at his 



58 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

friend's house just before morning prayers. He 
was requested to offer some remarks upon the 
chapter which was read, and which chanced to 
be the first chapter of the First Book of Chroni- 
cles. Though it is a mere genealogical chapter, 
made up of proper names, and apparently sug- 
gesting no matter for remark, the pious pilgrim- 
guest soon showed that to a devoutly studious 
mind "all. Scripture is profitable." He com- 
mented on the passage with such pertinence and 
fullness of edifying matter, that a good man, 
who was present, was amazed, and could never 
after rest till he had followed him to America. 

But though so successful in directing the 
steps of many excellent people toward this dis- 
tant land, he failed to persuade one who was 
dearer to him than all. His wife long remained 
unwilling to accompany him. The gentle 
daughter of Sir John Mansfield was bound to 
her native soil by clinging affections which not 
all the power of conjugal love seemed likely to 
loosen. Her discouraged husband made his last 
appeal to Him who has all hearts in his hand, 
to turn them as he will. On a day of fasting, 
which he observed for this special object, his 
many prayers were answered. His wife became 
willing and cheerful to cross with him the wil- 
derness of waters to this wilderness of woods. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 59 

Upon this, her kinsman, the good old Puritan 
Dod, singularly renowned for wit and holiness, 
sent her a curious present for her consolation. 
It consisted of a brass counter, a silver crown, 
and a gold jacobus ; each wrapped in a separate 
envelop. The gentleman who carried it was 
told to deliver first the brass counter ; and if, on 
opening the envelop, she betrayed any discon- 
tent, he was to come away and take no further 
notice of her. But if she accepted the trifle 
kindly for the giver's sake, then he was to give 
her, first the silver piece, and next the gold. 
Lastly, by way of moral, he was to tell the 
lady ; — " That such would be the dispensations 
of God towards her, and the other good people 
of New England : — if they would be content 
and thankful with such little things as God at 
first bestowed upon them, they should, in time, 
have silver and gold enough." It is pleasant to 
be able to state, that Mrs. Wilson so pleasantly 
accepted what seemed such a trifling token of 
remembrance from her good old friend, that the 
gentleman delivered the more valuable parts of 
the present, together with the annexed advice, 
more precious than the present itself. Though 
this prediction was uninspired, it has come to 
pass. The wealth of the goodly cities, and 
flourishing commonwealth of New England, is 



60 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 



God's reward of our father's piety, who " des- 
pised not the day of small things," but were 
humbly grateful for the least tokens of God's 
provident bounty. 

While Mr. Wilson was exerting himself in 
England for the good of the people here, he was 
not forgotten by them. On the thirteenth of 
January, " the church of Boston kept a day of 
humiliation for the absence of their pastor and 
other brethren, gone to England, and like to be 
troubled and detained there." The special 
causes of this trouble and threatened detention 
it is not now in our power to trace. They were 
owing to that jealous and arbitrary spirit on the 
part of the persecuting powers, which so often 
prevented the embarkation of the emigrants. 
Edward Johnson gives us the following account. 
" Here, my endeared Reader, I must mind thee 
of the industrious servant of Christ, Mr. John 
Wilson, who this year landed the third time 
upon this American shore from his native coun- 
try ; where now again, by the divine providence 
of Christ, he narrowly escaped the hunters' 
hands, being clothed in a countryman's habit, 
passing from place to place, declared to the peo- 
ple of God what great works Christ had already 
done for his people in New England, which 
made many Christian souls long to see these 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 61 

admirable acts of Christ, although it were not to 
be enjoyed but by passing through an ocean of 
troubles, voyaging night and day upon the great 
deep, which this zealous servant of God had 
now five times passed over.'"^ The attempt to 
prevent the Puritans from leaving the land of 
oppression, was a policy fatal to its authors. In 
forbidding the flight of these men, so deeply dis- 
affected toward the tyranny in Church and 
State, it compelled them to stay at home, and 
bend all the formidable energies of their minds 
toward the overthrow of that despotism from 
whose presence they might not depart. Thus 
there were at one time in the river Thames, 
eight sail of ships bound for New England ; 
and crowded with Puritan passengers, among 
whom were Oliver Cromwell, Sir Arthur Hasel- 
rig, and John Hampden. An order in council 
was despatched, which compelled them to come 
on shore, and gird themselves for a contest, in 
the course of which those men and their asso- 
ciates sent the king and his chief counselors to 
the scaffold. 

Having finished the business which brought 
him to England, Mr. Wilson left his native 
shores, as has been mentioned, for the third 



* Wonder-working Providences, Chap. XXXII. 
VOL. II. 6 



62 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

and last time, and accompanied by his wife and 
four children. There came two large ships in 
consort, the Defence and the Abigail, with near 
two hundred passengers ; many of them, persons 
of estate and repute. Among them, besides 
other ministers, was Thomas Shepard, after- 
wards the great luminary of the Cambridge 
Church. There was also the no less famous 
Hugh Peters, pastor of the English church at 
Rotterdam, from whence he had been newly 
driven by the persecutions of the British ambas- 
sador. Of his active life and tragical death, we 
need say nothing. His character having been 
only portrayed by his bitter foes, or such as 
took their opinions from his foes, has suffered 
extreme historic injustice. His only child be- 
came the wife of the younger Winthrop ; and 
their descendants who yet live among us are 
happy to be able to trace their lineage to men 
neither noble nor priestly by the power of man ; 
but yet " nobles by an earlier creation, and priests 
by the imposition of a mightier hand." 

This company sailed about the tenth of Au- 
gust, 1635. They had some rough weather, in 
which the decayed and unseaworthy ship was 
greatly endangered by a frightful leak, which 
could not, for a while, be found. The devout 
passengers betook themselves to their usual and 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 63 

often successful resource. They held a day of 
solemn fasting and prayer, in the course of 
which, the cause of their danger was discovered 
and removed, just as they were thinking of 
going back. They arrived at Boston on the 
third of October, 1635. The Church, concerned 
that their pastor did not return so soon as they 
expected, had appointed a humiliation day for 
united prayer in his behalf. He arrived the 
afternoon before, in season to turn the mournful 
day, as reason required, into an extemporaneous 
thanksgiving. As painful as was the final part- 
ing of himself and wife from endeared connec- 
tions at home, so joyful was their reception by 
their expectant friends, who had been looking 
for them here with longing eyes. 

Soon after Mr. Wilson's return, the Antino- 
mian controversy broke out, and raged for two 
or three years with a fury that threatened the 
destruction of his church. He with Governor 
Winthrop, and a very few other members, 
found themselves arrayed against Mr. Cotton, 
and almost the entire body of the communicants. 
All the neighboring churches sided with Mr. 
Wilson. The excitement lasted till the mind of 
Mr. Cotton, who had been imposed upon by the 
seeming sanctity of the leaders in the disturb- 
ance, was disabused. By his vigorous meas- 



64 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

ures to repair his mistake, and the resolution of 
the civil authority to expel the two leading An- 
tinomians, quiet was at last restored. A synod 
held at Cambridge conduced much to the res- 
toration of quiet. That body drew up a list of 
the errors to be condemned. When it was 
asked, what was to be done with them, the 
zealous Mr. Wilson bluntly exclaimed ; — " Let 
them go to the devil of hell, from whence they 
came ! " This fiery outbreak may be more 
easily excused in this " son of thunder," if we 
consider th% corrupt and demoralizing tend^cy 
of the heresy in question. Of Antinomianism 
an old writer says ; — " It ham-strings all indus- 
try, and cuts off the sinews of men's endeavors 
towards salvation. For ascribing all to the 
wind of God's Spirit, which bloweth where it 
listeth, it leaveth nothing to the oars of man's 
diligence." 

This controversy ran out into nice and com- 
plicated speculations, which are exceedingly 
wearisome and well-nigh unintelligible. Almost 
the only thing that relieves the painfulness of 
this violent contest, is the fact that the church 
retained as its ministers the heads of the oppos- 
ing parties. There appears to have been no 
thought of removing either of them. There can 
be no more striking proof of the prudence and 






LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 65 

good temper of the ministers ; or of the modera- 
tion and reasonableness of the people, even 
amid the tempest of excitement. Both Mr. 
Wilson and his colleague suffered much re- 
proach, but lost not their benevolence and 
charity. 

" Let narrow natures, how they will, mistake, 
The great should still be good for their own sake." 



6* 



66 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



CHAPTER III. 

Decision in religion not bigotry. Odium attached to bigotry. 
Fatiiers of New England wrongfully reproached. Timid defences 
of their memory. Veneration cherished for them. Bigotry not 
confined to any class. President Edwards. Independence of char 
acter frowned down. Spurious liberality. True liberality. Wei 
gand Von Theben. Augustine. Dr. Owen. Thomas Fuller, 
Characteristics of the Puritans. Their cheerfulness. Their shades 
of difference. English Independents the main champions of toler- 
ation. Dr. Owen at Oxford. Dr. Goodwin. AUedged intolerance 
in New England compared with actual intolerance elsewliere 
Mather to Lord Harrington. Object of the Pilgrims in emigrating. 
Liberty for their otcn consciences. Injustice of disorganizing 
intruders. Feelings of our fathers toward them. Hubbard. Ne 
cessiiy in those times of banishing the turbulent and seditious, 
W. Sloughton. Governor Winthrop. Katharine Chidley. Special 
necessity for excluding Church of England men. Hon. Josiah 
Quincy. The first author of free toleration. United Provinces of 
Holland. Henry Jacob. London Baptists. The Puritans, like 
Shakspeare, to be tried by the standard of their own age. 
D'Israeli. Macaulay. Puritan administration compared with that 
of Henry VIII., Elizabeth, &c. Bartholomew Act. English laws 
against absence from public worship. Virginia laws. Temper of 
Roger Williams. Windmill on fire. Peculiar opinions of Williams. 
Necessity of his exclusion Williams and Gorton. Hon. J. Q. 
Adams. Origin of the Baptists. Fears of the Puritans. Law of 
1644. Declaration of 1646. Peaceable Baptists never molested. 
Speedy and entire toleration. Abusive Quaker pamphlets. Bishop 
Burnet. Rhode Island treatment of Quakers. Misdeeds of the 
Quakers. Would be punished for such conduct at the present day. 
History of proceedings. Quaker treatment of Williams. Reflec- 
tions on the whole subject. 

In the character of Mr. Wilson there was a 
singular mixture of qualities. Although there 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 67 

have been many other examples of this mixture, 
and although it is required by the gospel to be 
in every believer, yet there are many who are 
unable to comprehend the possibility of it. Mr. 
Wilson blended an intense love of truth with as 
intense a hatred of error. He abhorred the 
error, and loved the errorist, with equal fervor. 
In our day, such a character is not easily under- 
Stood. Every man is now regarded as a relent- 
less bigot, who is not an easy liberal, believing 
that one man is as likely to be right as another, 
and who attaches no importance to abstract 
principles, whether true or erroneous. 

Mr. Wilson combined a most compassionate 
and loving nature, with a flaming zeal for 
orthodoxy. His dread of false doctrines and 
their practical influence was extreme. He 
would have had all the power of the magistrate 
exerted for their suppression and exclusion. 
Had it been possible, he would have drawn a 
sanitary cordon around the colony, established 
a theological quarantine, and sternly prohibited 
the smuggling in of infectious heresies. And 
yet the benevolence of his heart was most ex- 
panded, and glowed with pity to the mistaken 
men whose errors he anathematized without 
mercy. 

In this respect, he was one of the best speci- 



68 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



mens of our Puritan fathers, who were so 
enamored of the truth, that they watched over 
its purity with all the fire of passion and all the 
jealousy of love. Their zeal impelled them to 
lift at once the sword at the first advances of its 
assailants. Not every bosom is capable of feel- 
ing this fervid sentiment. They felt it : and it 
filled them with the spirit of power. Had they 
not felt it, they would have had no nerve to 
accomplish their mighty deeds. 

" The laboring bee, when his sharp sting is gone, 
Forgets his golden work, and turns a drone ; 
Such is their nature, if you talce away 
That generous rage wherein their noble vigor lay." 

It ought to be conceivable, that love to man 
may make us hate what is hurtful to man. To 
love him, is to hate that which injures him ; and 
to hate it the more, the more injurious it 
may be. 

" It is thy skill 
To strike the vice, but spare the person still : 
As he, who, when he saw the serpent wreathed 
About his sleeping son, and as he breathed 
Drink in his soul, did so the shot contrive, 
To kill the beast, but keep the child alive." 

Happy indeed is he, who can boldly lift his 
hand, and strongly strike at error, from feelings 
of pure benevolence toward such as may be its 
victims. Thrice happy is he of whom it may 
be justly said, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 69 



" That malice never was his aim ; 
He lashed the vice, but spared the name." 

Though Mr. Wilson was in England when 
Roger Williams was banished, he yet approved 
the sentence as necessary and wholesome. In 
the expulsion of Mrs. Hutchinson, he fully con- 
curred, as also in the exclusion of the Quakers 
at a later period. As he and his associates have 
been more universally and bitterly condemned 
for these measures than for any other of their 
actions, we will here, once for all, look to see 
what may be offered in their defence. We shall 
vindicate them as far as they may, and ought to 
be vindicated. 

It is one evident mark of the progress of the 
human mind, and of the advancement of society 
in the knowledge of human rights, that religious 
bigotry and intolerance have come to be held in 
general reprobation. To be charged with such 
fault is now regarded as one of the darkest 
accusations which can be brought against the 
living or the dead. 

There be many who, for selfish purposes, are 
ever ringing and resounding this odious charge 
against our pilgrim fathers. The most studious 
efforts are made to depict them as " the chief of 
sinners" in this respect, as a race of " graceless 
bigots," and remorseless persecutors. In our 



70 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

days, their enemies have mostly had the telling 
of the story. The haters of their memory and 
their sentiments have risen up, and ransacked 
every garret, and raked into every old cellar, to 
find matter wherewith to asperse their charac- 
ters. These literary scavengers have plunged 
into forgotten reservoirs of slander, and have 
come out reeking with the antiquated filth, and 
have steeped themselves in obsolete infamy, in 
the vain hope of being able to pour lasting ob- 
loquy on the reputation of our holy and vener- 
ated dead. Musty pamphlets have been recalled 
from just oblivion. There has been a general 
resurrection of old publications, some of which 
died of their own inborn venom, and others 
dropped dead-born from the presses which gave 
birth to these abortive slanders. These writings 
were chiefly penned by bitter foes, and most of 
the authors of them were smarting under right- 
ful punishment inflicted by the Puritans. From 
these sources have been culled every railing 
accusation, every calumnious fabrication, every 
disingenuous, wrested and falsified statement of 
things, which can be made to bear hard upon 
the memory of men of whom, in truth, the 
world was not worthy. All these assertions, 
which, in the time when they were first made, 
our fathers either refuted in full, or deemed too 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 71 

absurd and contemptible for refutation, are now 
eagerly retailed by our modern venders of anti- 
puritanical slander, as if every word must be 
unquestionable truth. The partisan statements 
of maddened opposers are recited over and over 
again, without the least apparent misgiving as 
to their total inaccuracy and want of candor. 
Whatever can be picked up that makes against 
the pilgrims, is given out again as true of 
course, without farther inquiry. 

This mode of procedure has gone on so long, 
that even many who cherish the names of our 
fathers with deep and affectionate respect, are 
not uninfluenced by these one-sided and wrong- 
sided declarations. Such persons will begin 
with almost angrily denouncing them as perse- 
cutors, and for a while are " outrageously vir- 
tuous " in their condemnation of such infringe- 
ment of the rights of conscience. Having thus 
pacified with this high-seasoned sop, the irritated 
public sentiment of the day, they take another 
step. They suggest that our fathers went with 
the current of their times, were no worse than 
their contemporaries, and that if we had lived 
in " those times of ignorance" on the subject of 
toleration, we have no reason to think that we 
should have acted any better than they. Pres- 
ently we are told, that our fathers acted accord- 



72 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

ing to the light they had; and though its 
dimness misled them, they were conscientious 
and sincere in the steps they took. At last it is 
pretty plainly hinted, that unhappy circumstances 
constrained them to pursue the course they did ; 
and that, taking every thing into view, it is not 
easy to see how they could have done any 
differently without exposing themselves and 
their cause to destruction. Such is substanti- 
ally the way in which the subject is disposed of 
by Rev. Charles Emerson, and other later 
writers. They begin by viewing the subject 
according to the ideas of the present age, and 
speak the language of violent reprobation. But 
the longer and closer they examine it, the cooler 
does their indignation become, till they reach 
their natural temperature. 

" The calmer grown for so much anger spent, 
Aa is the case with rash and passionate men." 

Such critics are often heard to say; — 
" Surely there have never been better or more 
useful men than our ancestors ; but alas, the 
best of men have their faults ! it is a pity that 
they were so uncharitable and intolerant." And 
yet our fore fathers,, who abounded in every kind 
of good sense, did not regard themselves as 
justly obnoxious to this condemnation. It ought 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 73 

to be considered, that there is another side to 
the story, which may wear a very different 
aspect when the whole truth shall come out. 
That our fathers sometimes erred, we shall 
frankly acknowledge : for it is the lot of poor 
humanity to present some weak spots in her 
strongest specimens, some blots on her fairest 
copies. But in their case, it will be found that 
a fair and equitable distribution of the blame 
will take off the greater part of what has been 
heaped upon them ; and put it back where it 
properly belongs, — even on the shoulders of 
those whom they are said to have persecuted. 
It is a matter of high satisfaction, that the char- 
acter of the pilgrims still stands so elevated in 
the minds of their descendants. Throughout 
New England, with ihe exception of a few 
degenerate renegades, their memory is held in 
the greatest veneration. As you leave New 
England, the farther South or West you go, the 
less will you find of this filial regard for the first 
settlers of the soil. And when you come to 
those countries first subjugated and colonized by 
other nations, you will find the people even ab- 
horring the memory of their sires. Thus in 
1823, the patriot mob in Mexico, in their detes- 
tation of the old Spaniards, " prepared to break 
open the tomb which held the ashes of Cortes," 

VOL. II. 7 



74 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

the founder of that community, and to scatter 
them to the winds. The authorities declined 
to interfere on the occasion ; but the friends of 
the family, as is commonly reported, entered the 
vault by night, and secretly removed the relics.^ 
The great traveler Humboldt informs us, that 
we may traverse the whole length of Spanish 
America, and in no quarter shall we meet with 
a national monument which the public gratitude 
has raised to Christopher Columbus, or Her- 
nando Cortes. t How different is the case with 
the sons of New England ! With what filial 
enthusiasm do they maintain the renown of 
their fathers ! The children pay an ample trib- 
ute of love and gratitude to the illustrious 
parents of the commonwealth, to whom we are 
indebted for our most valued institutions, our 
dearest social privileges, and our best traits of 
national character. Of this generous homage, 
not all the reproach of their malignant adversa- 
ries has been able to deprive them. 

As the matter seems not to be properly under- 
stood, it may be well to say what bigotry is. It 
is such a blmd attachment to our opinions as 
would force others to embrace the same ; or 
would hate and injure them if they will not be 



* Preacott. Conquest of Mexico, III. 350. 
t Essai Politique, IL 60. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 75 

SO forced. The matter is well expressed by 
Macaulay ; — " The doctrine which, from the 
very first origin of religious dissensions, has 
been held by all bigots of all sects, when con- 
densed into a few words, and stripped of all 
rhetorical disguise, is simply this, — I am in the 
right, and you are in the wrong ; when you are 
the stronger, you ought to tolerate me, for it is 
your duty to tolerate truth; — but when I am 
the stronger, I shall persecute you ; for it is my 
duty to persecute error." 

The persecuting spirit is an essential element 
of bigotry, and its ruthless oppressions have been 
deplorable indeed. It has made i'self " drunk 
with the blood of the saints," and in the mad- 
ness of that intoxication has reveled in the 
agonies of the martyrs. The truths which such 
people hold seem only to confirm them in their 
phrenzy: like monomaniacs, in whom their 
sanity only strengthens their insanity. They 
who are hurried away by this terrible passion 
will perpetrate any atrocity in the sacred names 
of love and goodness; and seem, in the ener- 
getic phrase of Sir Walter Scott, to have 
invented " a new way of going to the devil for 
God's sake." 

Nor do we find this odious vice of the mind 
confined to any class of men. There is a bigotry 



76 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

of liberality, as well as a bigotry of illiberality. 
We have seen attempts strenuously made to 
compel people into free discussion, and force 
them into free inquiry. And a century ago, 
President Edwards thus uttered his complaints ; 
— " I have observed that these modern fashion- 
able opinions, however called noble and liberal, 
are commonly attended, not only with a haughty 
contempt, but an inward malignant bitterness of 
heart, toward all the zealous professors and de- 
fenders of the contrary spiritual principles, that 
do so nearly concern the vitals of religion, and 
the power of experimental godliness. I have 
known many gentlemen, especially in the min- 
istry, tainted with these liberal principles ; who, 
though none seem such warm advocates as they 
for liberty and freedom of thought, or condemn 
a narrow and persecuting spirit so much as 
they ; yet, in the course of things, have made it 
manifest, that they themselves had no small 
share of a persecuting spirit."^ It is quite cer- 
tain, that were the excellent president now 
alive, he would have abundance of occasion to 
renew his complaints. 

The spurious liberality of these times will 
allow a man to be decided only in one way, that 



* Works, I. 514. N. Haven Ed. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 77 

is, in its own favor. It tells you, that you must 
seek for the truth ; but you must never feel sure 
that you have found it. You must not say ; — " I 
have sought the truth of God with humble dili- 
gence, and, by his blessing, have found it." For 
people will turn upon you and ask ; — " What ! 
do you say, that you are certain you are right ? 
In so saying you condemn all who think differ- 
ently from you. Do you mean to say, that you 
are right, and all others are wrong ? " Perhaps 
you dare answer ; — " I concede to others the 
same privilege of forming their own opinions I 
claim for myself: but assured as I am, that I 
am right, of course, I must think that such as 
embrace opposite views are wrong. If I am 
right, they are in error : and so deeply as I am 
convinced in my soul that I am right, even so 
deeply must I feel that they are in error." 
Now if you should be honest and decided 
enough to answer in this reasonable manner, 
the liberal public would cry out against you ; — 
" Away with this bigot, who pretends no body 
is right who does not think as he does! " 

The tyranny of public sentiment now-a-days, 
insists that we shall allow that one man is just 
as likely to be right as another. It allows me to 
say; — " I believe my opinions are correct:" — 
provided, I will own that opinions precisely the 
7:^ 



78 LIFE OF JOHN WTLSON. 

reverse of mine are quite as likely to be correct. 
Thus are we only permitted to believe as though 
we believed not ; to know, as though we neither 
knew, nor could know. Thus are we required 
to stultify ourselves, and put on the fool's cap, by 
affecting to assent to a flat contradiction and utter 
impossibility. We must profess to be fully as- 
sured that we have the truth : and to be as well 
assured that we may be altogether deluded. If 
we will not agree to this absurdity, we are 
denounced at once as uncharitable, censorious, 
arrogant, bigoted, and intolerant. 

Now what is this, but to require a universal 
skepticism ? What is it, but to declare that the 
certainty of truth is unattainable ? What is it, 
but to assert that the man who imagines that 
white is black, is, in all probability, as near right 
as I am, who am positive that white is white, 
and not black ? How can a character for manly 
independence, truthful sincerity, and energetic 
decision, be formed under these preposterous 
dogmas of the spurious and abusive liberalism 
now in vogue. 

No wonder that persons who entertain such 
sentiments should look upon our fathers as 
unmitigated bigots. Our fathers were not of 
their sort. They scorned such enervating incon- 
sistencies. Our fathers were decided men. 






Of 
LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 79 



They searched for the truth in earnest. And 
when they had found it, they held it firm ; not 
wavering in the presence of errorists, nor flinch- 
ing before the frowns of the despot. Strong in 
this christian grace of decidedness, they were 
valiant for the truth, and endured unequaled 
sufferings, and achieved incomparable success. 

It matters not how firm and uncompromising 
a man may be in holding to his opinions. This 
will not make him a bigot, provided he still 
have his mind open to conviction, and manifest 
no animosity against those whom he cannot con- 
strain to agree with him. Decision of character 
is totally different from bigotry ; though many 
there be, who cannot see the difference. It is 
far easier to persuade decided people to embrace 
a truth they have once opposed, than to produce 
the same effect upon the irresolute and unstable. 

" 'Tis easiest dealing with the firmest mind, 

More just when it resists, and when it yields, more kind." 

How vain is the attempt to bring about a 
forced uniformity of opinions. So diverse are 
the minds of men as to temper, breeding, habit 
and prejudice, that the attempt must be as vain 
as to reduce them all to the same stature and 
complexion of body. This matter was once 
quaintly illustrated by Weigand von Theben,the 



80 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

facetious parson of Calemberg, who, some cen- 
turies since, was a great favorite with Otho, 
archduke of Austria. This strange genius once 
took a basket full of skulls to the top of a moun- 
tain, and emptying it there, exclaimed, as he 
saw them roll down, each pursuing a different 
course ; — " So many heads, so many opinions ! 
If they do thus when they are dead, what would 
they have done had they been alive ?" 

The Puritans were indeed remarkably decided 
in their ways: but they rejoiced in all new light, 
if it deserved the name, let it shine from what 
quarter it might. They expected no new reve- 
lations : but they did expect, like John Robin- 
son, that God would cause more light to break 
forth from his Word. Accordingly we find that 
there was scarcely any man of distinction among 
them but what, like Robinson, he changed his 
views upon important matters as he increased in 
years and knowledge. Of all the writings of 
Augustine, scarce any are so creditable to his 
piety, wisdom and firmness of mind, as his Con- 
fessions and Retractations. That leading Puritan, 
Dr. John Owen, said in his reply to Daniel 
Cawdry; — " He that can glory, that, in fourteen 
years, he hath not altered nor improved his con- 
ception of some things of no greater importance 
than that mentioned, shall not have me for his 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 81 

rival." It was said by that good conforming 
Puritan, Thomas Fuller, with his usual felic- 
ity; — " To live, and not to learn, is to loiter, and 
not to live. Confession of our former mistakes 
is the honorable trophy of our conquest over our 
own ignorance." 

" It is a conquest to submit to right, 
Nor so to yield think it the least despite." 

As the race of Puritans was scattered along 
from the morning twilight of the protestant re- 
formation to the brightness of its noon-day, they 
could not but experience a great improvement of 
their views, attended with much diversity as 
to the lights and shades of their opinions. 

It is a great delusion to imagine, as many 
seem to do, that our fathers were all fashioned 
of the same molten mass of opinion and senti- 
ment, and run in the same mould with cast-iron 
faces, hard and grim, which never relaxed into 
a smile of mirth or tenderness. Nay, to read 
some of their satirical pamphlets, such as " The 
Simple Cobbler," and many others, we might even 
suspect that they loved a good joke occasionally 
only too well. The truth is, they were full- 
blooded Englishmen : and their character was 
marked with a broad streak of nationality. They 
had all the British hardihood of endurance and 



82 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

perseverance, as well as scrupulosity of con- 
science and tenacity of right. With this they 
had a due share of that hearty, cheery temper 
which belongs to the Anglo-Saxon composition, 
and which gets through troubles by keeping up 
a good heart and making light of them. It was 
this that helped to reconcile them here in the 
wilderness to their coarse and scanty meals. It 
was a saying often in their mouths at such 
times ; — " Brown bread with the gospel is very 
good fare !" They were mostly of the middle 
class of English: a people of whom a foreign 
traveler long since said, that they were like a 
barrel of their own beer, of which the top is froth ; 
the bottom, dregs ; but the middle is a strong, 
substantial liquor. Belonging to this " middling 
interest," our fathers partook of its best peculiar- 
ities. It is not the nature of such men, when 
pious and intelligent, and such our fathers 
unquestionably were, to be blind and brutish 
bigots. 

The English Puritans were arrayed in several 
divisions. Of the state Puritans, or political 
reformers, whose whole endeavor was to carry 
out the most free and liberal construction of the 
British constitution, we have no occasion here to 
speak. 

Of those who studied to accomplish a thorough 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 83 

reformation of religion, there were some strong 
prelatists, who were never separated from the 
hierarchal establishment. They conformed to 
practices which, nevertheless, they struggled to 
abolish. 

Then, at the other extreme, were the rigid 
separatists, like Roger Williams, who not only 
abjured all connection with the national church, 
but renounced the communion of all who would 
not denounce their former relation to that church, 
and partaking in its worship, as a crime requir- 
ing repentance and open confession. This class, 
which was called Brownist, Barrowist, and other 
uncouth names, was never very numerous, nor 
was it of long continuance. 

Between the conforming Puritans and the 
Separatists, were the Presbyterians and the Con- 
gregationalists. The Presbyterians were for a 
modified hierarchy, with a large mixture of the 
popular element. The sentiments of the Con- 
gregationalists are too well known to need 
description here. The latter are often confounded 
with the Separatists or Brownists, though they 
abundantly protested against being so regarded, 
and vigorously controverted matters with the 
separating brethren. The Congregationalistsare 
also sometimes confounded with the Presbyteri- 
ans ; although the distinction was broad enough 



84 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



in those days, when the Presbyterians first 
hurled the king and his prelates from their seats 
of power ; and then were themselves ejected by 
Cromwell and the Independents. No man will 
ever suppose, that these two parties were but 
one, after he has read the tremendous invectives 
of Cawdry and Edwards against the Congrega- 
tionalists, and the intensely passionate retorts of 
the poet Milton and other Independents. During 
the interregnum, the Presbyterians, when the 
dominant party, said ; — " It seems to us that the 
Independent brethren desire liberty, not only for 
themselves, but for all men." Hence they call tol- 
eration^ "the great Diana of the Independents."^ 
Dr. John Owen, a leading Congregationalist, 
was made vice-chancellor of Oxford University, 
by the Protector Cromwell. No man ever filled 
that place who, for piety and learning, was more 
meet for it than Dr. Owen. Many foreign 
divines, who had read his Latin works, learned 
the English tongue merely to have the benefit of 
reading his voluminous publications in his native 
language. During his government of that seat 
of science, he would not suflfer the members of 
the old prelatic church in his near vicinity to 
be disturbed in their worship, which they were 



* Bogiie and Bennett's History, I, 13S. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 85 

seeking to carry on in secret. The numerous 
church-livings in his gift, he presented to the 
Presbyterians. At that time, Dr. Thomas Good- 
win was President of Magdalen College, in 
Oxford, where he formed a Congregational 
church, in which the celebrated Theophilus 
Gale, a distinguished benefactor of Harvard 
College, was a member, as was also the equally 
celebrated Stephen Charnock. John Howe, well 
worthy to be mated with these famous divines, 
was a member of the same College, and agreed 
with them in sentiment. When asked by Dr. 
Goodwin, why he did not join their church, Mr. 
Howe replied; — " Because you lay more stress 
upon some peculiarities than I approve ; if you 
will admit me upon catholic principles, I will 
gladly unite with you." It is a sufficient proof 
of the liberal and tolerant spirit of these men, 
that he was received at once upon his own terms. 

It would be easy to multiply proofs that the 
Congregationalists, when they had the power in 
England, though they were decided Calvinists, 
and root-and-branch reformers, manifested a 
freedom from bigotry and intolerance wholly un- 
exampled in their times. But we must pass on 
to discuss the accusations alledged against their 
department in the early days of New England. 

And here we may as well remark at the out- 

VOL. II. 8 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 

set, that what has been unjustly regarded as the 
reign of intolerance in New England, was nei- 
ther severe, nor was it of long continuance. 
There is a letter written by Dr. Cotton Mather, 
doubtless to Lord Barrington,and dated the fourth 
of November, 1718. Here it is stated ; — " That 
no church upon earth at this day so notably 
makes the terms of communion run parallel with 
the terms of salvation, as they are made among 
this people. The only declared basis for union 
among them is that solid, vital, substantial pitty, 
wherein all good men, of different forms, are 
united. And Calvinists with Lutherans, Pres- 
byterians with Episcopalians, Pedobaptists with 
Anabaptists, beholding one another to fear God 
and work righteousness, do with delight sit down 
together at the same table of the Lord ; nor do 
they hurt one another in the holy mountain. '"^ 

Let us first ask for the errand which brought 
our fathers across the water. With what object 
in view did they brave the perils of the deep in 
that day of comparatively unskillful navigation ? 
Why left they a country, which they loved with 
an almost idolizing passion ? Why did they 
part with the comforts of their English homes, 



* Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, First Series, I., 105. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 87 

to plant their cheerless cottages in a savage wil- 
derness of rigorous clime ? 

Did they come and subdue the uncultivated 
wastes, with the intention of opening an asylum 
for all sorts of opinions, and a refuge for all sorts 
of characters ? Nay, verily, they l^ad no notion 
of any such Quixotical knight-errantry. It was 
far from their thoughts to establish a general re- 
ceptacle for all manner of disorganizers, innova- 
tors, and rash experimenters in social reforms. 
Their tremendous personal sacrifices were not 
made for the purpose of clearing a space where 
every kind of sectarians, fanatics, enthusiasts 
and moral revolutionizers might rush in like 
winds from all quarters, and keep up an ever- 
lasting whirlwind of excitement. How ground- 
less, then, the charge of inconsistency so loudly 
urged against them, because, though they fled 
from intolerance at home, they were not tolerant 
here of every interloping vagrant who strove to 
force himself into their community, for the sake 
of destroying all that the pilgrims had toiled and 
suffered to establish. It would seem that some 
sympathy is due to our fathers, who anxiously 
watched over the institutions they had founded 
at such fearful cost to themselves, and longed to 
preserve from the ruthless hands of disturbers 
and destructives. With what anguish did they 



88 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

see the wild boar out of the woods, endeavoring 
to uproot the tender vine which they had plant- 
ed with such care, and to water which they had 
poured out their prayers and tears, their blood, 
and their very souls ! What, wonder, if, in the 
desperation of their grief, they assailed the 
dreaded intruder with arrows and lances ! They 
felt it to be a cruel persecution upon them, to be 
followed into their sad retreat, by those who 
were eager to thwart their last hope for them- 
selves and their whole posterity. 

And what was their mission to these stern 
and rocky shores, these rough and woody soli- 
tudes ? What was the grand design so dear to 
their hearts, and so precious in their eyes, and 
which they prized so much above home, and 
friends, and life itself ? 

It was their cherished object to establish a 
Christian Commonwealth. They wished to 
model the frame of their Church and their State 
after the principles of the Bible, and according 
to the free spirit of Christianity, as they under- 
stood the matter. And this they had an un- 
doubted right to do, so long as they interfered 
with no previous enterprise, or pre-existing set- 
tlements. 

Truly this was a noble object. The plan was 
original, vast and comprehensive ; and exceed- 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 89 

ingly difficult to be carried into execution. In 
the infancy of their enterprise, the least unto- 
ward event might have made shipwreck of their 
expectations : and there is every reason to be- 
lieve, that, had they been less peremptory and 
resolute in their treatment of those who came 
among them to oppose them, their whole under- 
taking would have proved a disastrous failure. 

With extreme difficulty, our fathers obtained 
a royal charter, which gave them the powers 
necessary to effect their object. As free born 
subjects of the British crown, they claimed the 
protection of the monarch who claimed allegiance 
of them. Under that protection, they exercised 
the invaluable rights of electing their own mag- 
istrates, and enacting their own laws. It is 
true, that they restricted the privilege of becom- 
ing freemen or citizens to members of the 
churches which they had formed on the New 
Testament plan. But for this a very good and 
sufficient reason can be assigned. The charter 
was obtained for a specific purpose ; namely, 
the founding of a Christian Commonwealth ac- 
cording to their own views of what the Bible 
taught. Now under the charter, the freemen 
were the corporators, to whom pertained the 
duty of carrying the intention of the charter into 
effect. How evident then the propriety of pro- 
8=^ 



90 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 

viding, that those corporators, so far as might 
be, should understand that intention, and cor- 
dially befriend it. And this, in general, could 
only be expected at that time from the members 
of the Church. 

What company of men, having obtained an 
act of incorporation for the purpose of mutual 
insurance, would allow persons to become stock- 
holders who avowed the design of turning the 
whole affair into a manufacturing concern ? 
Who would blame the original undertakers for 
resisting to the utmost, such a gross perversion 
of their chartered rights ? Each restless spirit 
who came here to trouble our fathers, knew per- 
fectly well with what object they had pitched 
their tents upon this unpromising soil. And if 
that object was unacceptable to such restless 
natures, why were they so ungenerous as to 
take advantage of the supposed weakness of our 
fathers ? If they wished to set up some differ- 
ent sort of commonwealth, why thrust themselves 
in where others had pre-occupied the ground, 
and laid out so much toil and expense upon it ? 
Such intrusion was needless, injurious and cul- 
pable. Surely the new world was wide enough 
for a thousand independent experiments of the 
kind, all disconnected from each other. Our 
fathers regarded these aggressors upon their 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 91 

rights very much as we might regard some law- 
less squatter, who should raise his log hut in the 
very midst of our home-lot which we had pur- 
chased, cleared and enclosed. And if they gave 
the unruly encroachers notice to quit, it was no 
.more than any body would do to-day, under sim- 
ilar circumstances. 

One of our older historians thus presents the 
matter ; — " The inhabitants of the place having 
purchased the country for themselves, they ac- 
counted it an unreasonable injury for any to 
come presumptuously, without license or allow- 
ance, to live amongst them, and to sow the seeds 
of their dangerous and perverse principles 
amongst the inhabitants, tending to the subver- 
sion of all that was good, whether sacred or 
civil ; and therefore thought themselves bound 
to hold out the sharp, against any that should 
attempt, without leave, to thrust themselves 
amongst them : which renders them that obsti- 
nately and willfully would do so, felones de se, 
like them that will break into a man's dwelling 
house, whether he will or no."^ 

This colony, at the outset, was a voluntary 
association for a special purpose. No one en- 
tered into it, except by his own choice and de- 



* Hubbard's Hist., Chap. LXYI, ^vnfwi-^.^i'^rj 'g.wMim^r*k 



92 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



sire, and with a full understanding of the object 
to be attained. And it is a settled maxim of the 
common law, that every voluntary association 
has the right of prescribing its own terms of 
admission and membership. If any one should 
dislike the conditions, they are no ways unjust 
as to him. Let him either stay away, or join 
some other association constructed on principles 
which accord with his own. 

That our forefathers, in the first days of their 
republic, should exclude from their society all 
disaffected and turbulent characters, is to be re- 
garded as an act of self-defence, rather than as 
an aggression upon those whom they expelled. 
Thus in the sentence of banishment passed upon 
the insidious Anne Hutchinson, this very reason 
is given for her banishment, that she was a per- 
son unfit for their society : — that is, unfit to be 
a member of their body politic, whose existence 
was endangered by her residence among them. 
They sent her off, not by way of punishing her 
corruf>t sentiments or disorderly practices against 
the peace of the country : but for their own se- 
curity, and the preservation of the state of things 
they had risked and sacrificed so much to estab- 
lish. With them it was a struggle between life 
and death. And, by a dire necessity, they must 
maintain their ground or die. They had not 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 93 

then a social state so thoroughly organized and 
settled down in a fixed condition, having strength 
to stand safe against all the earthquakes and 
hurricanes of revolution. No : in their weak, 
unsteady plight, they were reasonably alarmed 
at disturbances and commotions which, now that 
we are strong and well fenced, only excite the 
contemptuous smile of conscious security. That 
our ancestors took this view of the case, is quite 
certain. It was said by one who was afterwards 
a worthy governor of the colony, but then one 
of its excellent ministers ; — " Certainly a weaker 
body cannot, ought not, to do that, or suffer that 
upon itself, or in itself, upon the account of char- 
ity to another, which a stronger body may, and 
in some cases may be bound to do or suffer."* 
When Governor Winthrop was called in ques- 
tion by numerous members of the Boston Church, 
for his agency in the banishment of the antino- 
mians, he first made an effectual protestation 
against being made answerable to the Church 
for his official acts as a magistrate, though re- 
sponsible for his private conduct as a man. But 
for the satisfaction of weaker brethren, he con- 
descended to justify his course by several rea- 
sons. In doing this he alluded to the following 



* W. Stoughton's Election Sermon, 1668, p. 33. 



94 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



clause in his oath of office ; — " In all causes 
wherein you are to give your vote, &c., you are 
to give your vote as, in your judgment and 
conscience, you shall see to be most for the pub- 
lic good." " And so for his part," he adds, "he 
was persuaded that it would be most for the 
glory of God, and the public good, to pass sen- 
tence as they did. He saw, that those brethren 
were so divided from the rest of the country in 
their judgment and practice, as it could not 
stand with the public peace, that they should 
continue amongst us. So, by the example of 
Lot in Abraham's family, and after Hagar and 
Ishmael, he saw they must be sent away."*" 
His explanations seem very satisfactory now, as 
they were, at the time when made, to those for 
whom they were designed. So true was the 
remark which "Winthrop elsewhere made about 
the Boston people ; — " They were generally of 
that understanding and moderation, as that they 
would be easily guided in their way by any rule 
from Scripture or sound reason." 

Much light is shed upon this subject by a 
pamphlet of eighty-one quarto pages, published 
in 1641, by Katharine Chidley.t It is entitled, 



* Journal I. 250. 

t See an account of the tract in Hanbury's Memorials, II. 112. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 95 

" The Justification of the Independent Churches 
of Christ." It was written in reply to one whom 
Milton has doomed to everlasting fame as " shal- 
low Edwards," often mentioned also as " Gan- 
grene Edwards." He had asserted, that the 
New England men " will not give a toleration 
for any other ecclesiastical government or church- 
es." In her reply, Mrs. Chidley tells him, 
among other things, that if it had been so, it 
was because they had, in England, taken upon 
them the oath of conformity. She then goes on 
to argue, that her co-religionists in New Eng- 
land were afraid, that, if they suffered any noto- 
rious disorders and dangerous sects to spring up 
among them, they should be summoned to Lon- 
don to answer for their negligence. It had been 
a grand charge against Congregationalism, that 
the laxity of its discipline opened the door for all 
manner of irregularities and fanatical explosions. 
It had been so often and so reproachfully alledged, 
that this was the tendency of their system, that 
our fathers had a natural sensitiveness upon the 
subject, and felt constrained to put down every 
thing among themselves which was likely to 
give currency to this charge. Knowing how 
closely they were watched for some pretence to 
deprive them of their colonial privileges, they 
trembled lest sects should arise in the midst ol 



96 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 



them, whose numbers, outbreaks and extrava- 
gances might furnish the adversaries with a 
plea for destroying the whole enterprise. 

Our fathers sundered the heart-strings of at- 
tachment which tied them to the home and 
friends of their youth, and fled into the wilder- 
ness from the dragon of persecution to obtain 
liberty for their own consciences ; and not for 
all other consciences, however unconscionable 
and perverted. 

Why should they have been tolerant of the 
Church of England men who straggled in among 
them, when they knew that that terrible oppres- 
sor, archbishop Laud, and others, had obtained 
so early as 1635, a royal commission for the 
government of the plantations, with absolute 
power " to make laws and constitutions, con- 
cerning either their state public or the utility of 
individuals, and for the relief of the clergy to 
consign convenient maintenance unto them by 
tithes and oblations and other profits according 
to their discretion." This commission also gave 
power to punish all opposers by imprisonment, 
or by the taking of life, or dismemberment of 
limbs. The formidable prelate and infatuated 
king, to be sure, found themselves too much 
busied with work nearer home, to carry this 
atrocious commission into eifect. But mean- 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 97 

while our fathers were quaking under apprehen- 
sions, that they would soon see ship loads of the 
ecclesiastical fetters, from which they had fled, 
sent after them. And what person in his senses 
can blame them for doing all they could to dis- 
courage the residence among them of men, who 
would be all ready to rivet those fetters on as 
soon as they could be landed ? The Puritan 
settlers chose rather to bear themselves the 
charge of bigotry, than to sutTer their children 
to be enslaved under the Romanized hierarchy 
of the tyrannical Stuarts. Now to keep out, if 
possible, that abhorred hierarchy, they must 
have a general rule for the excluding of all sects 
from political power and influence. It would 
not have answered to tolerate all other sects, and 
to exclude only that which was established by 
law in the mother country, and which would 
have required nothing more than the pointed 
aflront of such an exclusion to provoke it to 
wield the dread powers with which it had been 
armed by the royal commission. They must 
tolerate all or none. To have tolerated all, 
would have been suicidal, for it would have in- 
vited the coming of those who were empowered 
to wrest away the whole of their dear-bought 
liberties. And therefore, though they silently 
overlooked much quiescent dissent from their 

VOL. II. 9 



98 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

own views, and connived at many peaceable 
dissenters, they professed no open toleration of 
any. 

The English court well understood the mo- 
tives of all this defensive policy. This was the 
reason why Charles the Second interposed to 
protect the Quakers in Massachusetts, though 
he suppressed them in England. He made 
common cause with them in this country, be- 
cause he saw that the exclusion of the Quakers 
was part of a policy intended to keep out those 
who would co-operate with him, in the introduc- 
tion of his hierarchal idols. He knew that if 
he could effect a toleration for the Quakers, it 
must also extend to his minions and the minis- 
ters of his will. 

Moreover those other dissenting sects, were 
imbued with the same spirit of intolerance as 
the hierarchy : and could any one of them have 
obtained the numerical ascendancy here, there 
is reason to think, that it would have proceeded 
to root up at once all that had been done by our 
fathers. Thus we see that when the Quakers 
obtained the ascendancy in Rhode Island, they 
turned upon Roger Williams, stripped him of 
his political influence, subverted his arrange- 
ments, and reduced him nearly to a nullity in 
the very refuge he had opened for them. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 99 

Our fathers have been ably vindicated by the 
Honorable Josiah Quincy, L. L. D., in an ad- 
dress delivered to the citizens of Boston, at the 
second centennary of the settlement of that place. 
He has defended them with the penetration of a 
jurist, and the wisdom of a scientific politician. 
He has made it manifest, that common prudence, 
and not a blind bigotry, led to the course they 
pursued. " It cannot be questioned," he says, 
" that the constitution of the State, as sketched 
in the first laws of our ancestors, was a skillful 
combination of both civil and ecclesiastical pow- 
ers. Church and State were very curiously and 
efficiently interwoven with each other. It is 
usual to attribute to religious bigotry the sub- 
mission of the mass of the people to a system 
thus stern and exclusive. It may, however, 
with quite as much justice, be resolved into love 
of independence and political sagacity.'"^ Their 
plan was to base the liberties of the country on 
a system of independent churches. And while 
this plan gave much political influence to the 
ministers, there was a safeguard against the 
abuse of that influence, in the right of each 
church to make a final determination in its own 
affairs. 



* Address, page 32. 



100 LIFE OP JOHN WILSON. 

As the result of the course pursued by the 
early settlers of New England, we see a com- 
monwealth in which their great object has been 
happily accomplished. We see an almost unex- 
ampled religious prosperity, and the most ample 
enjoyment of personal liberty and security, in 
" a church without a prelate, and a state without 
a king." 

Nor can we drop the discussion of this subject 
without the remark, that it is wrong to try the 
actions of men in one age, by the standard of 
another. Tried by the standard of their own 
age, our fathers would not be found an intoler- 
ant class. The rights of conscience and of re- 
ligious liberty, as matters lying exclusively 
between the soul of man and his God, were 
points which few had considered. It has been 
said, that Roger Williams was the first to claim 
entire freedom for the conscience from all hu- 
man control. This is a great mistake. Before 
he was born, the United Provinces of Holland, 
in 1573, had established by law a universal tol- 
eration of sects. And while little Williams 
was handling his horn-book at his grandma's 
knee, the excellent Henry Jacob, the founder of 
the first Congregational Church ever gathered 
in England, printed the first document which 
ever plead with Authority for entire religious 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 101 

toleration. It is a quarto, of forty -eight pages. 
It is addressed " To the Right High and Mighty- 
Prince , James, by the Grace of God, King of 
Great Brittanie, France and Ireland, Defender 
of the Faith, &c. — An Humble Supplication for 
Toleration^ and Liberty to enjoy and observe 
the Ordinances of Jesus Christ in the adminis- 
tration of his Churches in lieu of human Consti- 
tutions, 1609.'"^ Five or six years later, 
appeared some tracts on the same subject by 
persons of the Baptist persuasion, on which 
Crosby and others have grounded a mistaken 
boast of the priority of that sect in this good 
work. This honor belongs to Henry Jacob, the 
father of the modern Independents. Still these 
were but the speculations of a few individuals. 
The united current of public sentiment in the 
whole Christian world set strongly the other 
way. So that our ancestors appear to great 
advantage, as far in advance of their own times, 
even in this particular wherein they seem so 
much below the standard of ours. 

It has happened with the Puritans as with 
Shakspeare. There are many passages in the 
dramas of that poet, which must mark him as 



* For an account of this interesting Tract, see Hanbury's Memo- 
rials of the Independents, I. 224, 7. 

9* 



102 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

an impure man and polluted writer, if we try 
him by the rules of decorum now observed. 
But if we compare him with the authors of his 
own day, we shall be surprised to see how far 
he exceeded them in decency, and the sense of 
that beauty and loveliness with which virtue is 
so delicately graced. When our fathers are 
compared with the men of their own times, we 
see them leading on the van as well of religious 
as of civil liberty. 

It has been justly said, by D'Israeli ; — " Men 
who appear at certain eras of society, however 
they be lauded for what they have done, are 
still liable to be censured for not doing what 
they ought to have done." It is easy for our 
modern smatterers and whipsters to start up, 
and petulantly condemn our sires for not 
seeing some things as clearly as we do after the 
increasing light of two centuries. " Just so," 
says Macaulay, " we have heard a baby mounted 
on the shoulders of his father, cry out, ' How 
much taller I am than papa!' " It is too much 
to expect that such prating sciolists will ever 
have reflection enough to consider, that our an- 
cestors then lived in the midst of great moral 
changes: — and that, "in sudden alterations, it 
is not to be expected that all things be done by 
the square and compass." 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 103 

Look at the English commonwealth uhder 
the protectorate of Cromwell, when religious 
affairs were conducted according to the ideas of 
the Independents who were then in the ascen- 
dant. Cromwell's senate enacted a law, abolish- 
ing all penal statutes for religion, and allowing 
every one to think and worship as he pleased, 
on taking an oath of allegiance to government. 

Compare the conduct of the Puritans as to 
the spirit of toleration in either hemisphere, with 
that of any other governments, in or near their 
own times. Compare it with the behavior of 
that regal butcher, the eighth Henry. Of Ed- 
ward the Sixth, we may speak in just commend- 
ation, for he was a Puritan so far as a crowned 
prince could be. But look at the " bloody 
Mary ; " and Elizabeth, with crimson stains 
almost as deep as her sister's ; and Charles the 
First, whose bigotry was of the most insensate 
kind. Compared with these, Endicott and the 
harshest of the Puritans, were mildness and 
liberality itself. Or contrast Puritan adminis- 
tration with that of Charles the Second after 
the restoration, whose hypocrisy and profligacy 
made his Stuart bigotry the more dark and hid- 
eous. This perjured and debauched head of 
the Anglican Church, by the act of uniformity, 
silenced in one day two thousand Puritan miioi- 



104 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

isters, who were deprived of their livings, for- 
bidden from preaching, keeping schools, taking 
boarders, or living within five miles of any 
place where they had lived before, and might 
have friends who would relieve them. And 
yet, the historians record the pleasing fact, that, 
" during twenty-eight years of sufferings, their 
enemies were never gratified by any resistance ; 
nor was any of them imprisoned for debt." 
During the reign of that " lord of misrule," and 
of his brother, James the Second, near eight 
thousand non-conformists perished in prison, for 
dissenting from the national worship ; and a 
list was made of some sixty thousand persons 
who suffered in various ways for the same 
oflfence. 

Speaking of the divines ejected by the Act of 
Uniformity, it was observed at the time, by a 
person who was not a dissenter ; — " I am glad 
so many have chosen suffering, rather than con- 
formity to the establishment ; for, had they com- 
plied, the Vorld would have thought there had 
been nothing in religion ; but now they have 
given a striking proof, that there are some sincere 
in their professions." Some ministers, who had 
conformed from worldliness rather than con- 
science, once taunted Mr. Christopher Jackson, 
who was of the immortal two thousand, with 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 105 

having " a bare coat." He tartly retorted ; — 
"If it is bare, it is not turned." How much 
more honorable is such poverty, than the afflu- 
ence gained by the sacrifice of principle ! In 
the many revolutions of the English Church 
from Henry VIII., to William III., there were 
enough of ministers who changed with the 
times, subscribed all the articles required, swore 
all the oaths exacted, and followed all the relig- 
ions imposed by law, without the slightest 
regard to consistency, except in the one point 
of keeping their benefices, like " the vicar of 
Bray." They were like vessels riding at anchor 
in tide-water, heading either way as the current 
changed, but without quitting their moorings. 
Or, to vary the comparison, they were like the 
millers, who, though they cannot turn the wind, 
can turn their mill -sails, so that however it 
blows, they are sure to grind their grist. In 
such times, it was no small praise, that the 
Puritans with so great constancy, bore persecu- 
tions very far exceeding in severity aught that 
they have been charged with inflicting. 

Thus great complaint has been made against 
our fathers, because they had laws by which 
persons who absented themselves from public 
worship a certain number of times in succession, 
without good and sufficient reason, were liable 



106 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

to fines and other penalties. But were they 
alone in this sin of enforcing attendance on 
public worship ? By a law passed in England 
in the thirty-fifth year of Queen Elizabeth, per- 
sons obstinately refusing to come to church, 
were doomed to banishment, and were sentenced 
to death if they returned from banishment. Or 
turn, if you please, to " the old dominion," the 
ancient colony of Virginia, settled by cavaliers 
and zealous Church of England men. In the 
first code of laws adopted for that government, 
we find the following sanguinary clause : — 
*' Likewise no man or woman shall dare to 
violate or breake the Sabboth by any gaming, 
publique, or priuate abroad, or at home, but 
duly sanctifie and obserue the same, both him- 
selfe and his familie, by preparing themselues 
at home with priuate prayer, that they may be 
the better fitted for the publique, according to 
the commandments of God, and the orders of 
our Church, as also euery man and woman shall 
repaire in the morning to the diuine seruice, 
and sermons preached vpon the Sabboth day, 
and in the afternoon to diuine seruice, and 
Catechising, vpon paine for the first favlt to 
lose their prouision, and allowance for the 
whole weeke following, for the second to lose 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 107 

the said allowance, and also to be whipt, and 
for the third to suffer death." ^ 

In comparison with these severe statutes, the 
penal laws of the New England colonies com- 
pelling the same duties, are mildness itself. 
But how comes it to pass, that men are ever 
declaiming with such bitterness against our 
" Blue-Laws," most of which indeed never ex- 
isted except in imagination ? And yet the same 
men have never a word to say against the 
Black-Laws of " good queen Bess," nor the 
Blood-Laws of the gay cavaliers of Roanoke ? 
If the enactments of our fathers on this point 
were based upon an erroneous principle, it is 
certainly contrary to the truth of history and 
moral justice, to represent them as sinning in 
this respect above all that dwelt on the earth in 
their time. 

The age will arrive when the Pilgrims will 
be regarded as having been surprisingly in 
advance of their generation, even in the matter 
for which they have been so much reproached. 
They strove to find a moderate or middle way 
of procedure. Their maxim was ; — " To tol- 
erate all things, and to tolerate nothing, are both 



* See the Laws at large in the third volume of Force's Historical 
Tracts. 



108 LIPE OF JOHN WILSOH. 

alike intolerable." The maxim is not so very- 
bad. They sometimes erred in its application. 
Our fathers have been severely blamed for 
the banishment of Roger Williams. It has been 
a matter of wonder, that they could not bear 
with such a sir ' ?re good man in his harmless 
peculiarities. That he was a good man, we 
make no doubt ; — that he was a safe or harmless 
man, is not so clear. This fiery Welchman 
had a conscience which was a snarl of tangled 
scrupulosities ; and he was frantic to cast the 
same intricate net over the heads of all around 
him. His principles and practices were such as 
must have frustrated the whole design of the 
colony, and must have been fatal to its peace 
and permanence. Mather uses the following 
singular similitude in regard to him. " In the 
year 1654, a certain windmill in the Low Coun- 
tries, whirling round with extraordinary vio- 
lence, 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 man. Know then, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 109 

that about the year 1630, arrived here one Mr. 
Roger Williams ; who being a preacher that had 
less light than^^re in him, hath, by his own sad 
example, preached to us the danger of that evil 
which the apostle mentions ; — They have a zealy 
but not according to knoioledgey ^ 

At his first coming, he would not join any 
church here, whose members would not profess 
repentance for having formerly communed in 
the parish churches of England. He held that 
the magistrates could not rightfully punish 
offences against " the first table ; " that is to 
say, the first four commands of the decalogue : — 
an opinion which has never yet been acceded to 
by the good people of Massachusetts ; whose 
Revised Statutes still contain enactments against 
blasphemy and Sabbath-breaking. At Salem, 
he taught that the patent, or charter of the col- 
ony, was a mere nullity ; thus destroying all the 
rights of property acquired under it. He in- 
sisted that it should be hurled back to the 
monarch, whom he taxed with uttering lies and 
blasphemy in that very document. He refused 
the oath of allegiance, and disowned the au- 
thority of the existing government. He not 
only denied the right of the government to pro- 



* Magnalia. Book VII. Ch. II. Sec. 2. 
VOL. II. 10 



110 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

vide for the raising of money for religious 
purposes, but even for the support of schools ; 
and thus would have bereft the children of New 
England of the glorious birthright of free and 
universal education. He refused to hold com- 
munion with his own church, unless its mem- 
bers would renounce all fellowship with the 
other churches : — an act which must have sepa- 
rated all the freemen in it from civil, as well as 
ecclesiastical, connection with the other mem- 
bers of the body politic. He wrote to the 
churches of which the magistrates were indi- 
vidually members, complaining of their official 
acts, and urging that they should be disciplined 
for the same : — this too was a plain moving of 
sedition ; for the excommunication of a magis- 
trate must have taken away his franchise, — and 
with it, the capacity to hold his office. 

This good-hearted and wrong-headed man 
held many other extravagant notions of minor 
importance ; refusing to commune with his own 
wife, because she would not cast off all Christ- 
ian fellowship but his ; causing Endicott to cut 
the cross out of the flag which protected the 
country, thereby involving the colony in ex- 
treme perplexity and considerable peril ; deny- 
ing that magistrates may administer an oath to 
an unregenerate man ; opposing family prayer, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. Ill 

if any unregenerate soul were present ; contend- 
ing that thanks must not be returned after 
meals ; and upholding many other such like un- 
socialities and absurdities. 

Can we think it strange that our fathers were 
filled with consternation at the movements of 
this erratic genius ? At every expense, they 
were toiling to rear the frame-work of their new 
social state. And now they felt the fabric reel- 
ing and tottering under his frantic and convul- 
sive efforts to lay the whole in ruins : for the 
structure was then far from being braced, and 
pinned, and knit together with the garnished 
strength it now exhibits. With many excellent 
traits of character, Mr. Williams was a reckless, 
turbulent, seditious " non-resistant and no-hu- 
man-government man." Even in our day, such 
an one has been "lynched" in the city of Bos- 
ton by " a mob of gentlemen," and protected 
from farther violence only by a sort of incarce- 
ration : — and this was done at an era when we 
have nothing to fear, as to our social institu- 
tions, from such wild opinionists. Inexcusable 
as such a measure has now become, who are 
we, that we should reproach our sires with 
their treatment of Williams ? With them the 
case was far different. He was jeopardizing 
the whole success of their costly experiment, 



112 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

and threatening to demolish their dearest hopes. 
*And shall they be blamed for hurling the fire- 
brand out of doors, and quenching the flames 
before they had kindled among the chips and 
shavings, and spread through the whole of the 
unfinished building ? No man can charge 
them with inconsistency for refusing tolerance 
to one, who was madly striking at their very 
vitals, and endangering their existence. At 
least, no man can so charge them, who does not 
senselessly shut his eyes to the facts as they 
then stood. For our fathers in their then ex- 
isting circumstances, to have let this ruthless 
agitator go on without stopping him, would 
have been to consent to their own destruction. 

It has been ailed ged, that his banishment was 
attended with needless and aggravated harsh- 
ness ; — that he was forced to fly in the winter, 
and to find a refuge among savages. But these 
hardships he precipitated upon himself by his 
restless turbulence. He could have tarried till 
the spring : but abusing this indulgence to carry 
on his machinations, the rulers were preparing 
to send him for trial to England, in a ship 
which was about sailing. Knowing that much 
severer handling would await him in the mother 
country, he secretly withdrew. In his new 
refuge he was never molested; though his 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 113 

vicinity, and the influence he exercised through 
his writings and his emissaries, caused great 
uneasiness to our ancestors. 

Governor Winthrop befriended him in his 
difficult undertaking ; and scores of amicable 
letters passed between them. Winslow, then 
Governor of the Plymouth colony, visited him at 
his rude habitation, and aided his wife with 
money. When his occasions required it, he 
was permitted to pass, untroubled, through our 
territory. On his own part, he showed such 
generous magnanimity toward the Massachu- 
setts settlers, as sets his Christian character in a 
commendable light, and disposes us to grant 
such absolution as we may for his many previ- 
ous errors. 

It is quite remarkable, that Mr. Williams 
should afterwards indirectly sanction the justice 
of the procedure against himself, by procuring 
a similar sentence of banishment upon Samuel 
Gorton. This Gorton was a strange fanatic, a 
self-styled " Professor of Mysteries," who hav- 
ing been sued in Massachusetts for debt, 
behaved in court so mutinously and abusively, 
that he was fined and expelled from the juris- 
diction. He then betook himself to the Rhode 
Island colony, " where he affronted what little 
government they had with such intolerable in- 
10^ 



114 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

solericies, that he was then whipped and sent 
out of that colony." He then repaired to the 
Providence Plantations, where he committed 
such outrages, that Mr. Williams and his peo- 
ple entreated the Massachusetts government for 
protection from Gorton and his outlaws. The 
result of this application was, that Gorton was 
banished again. 

Now Williams was an offender of the same 
class with the " Gortonists ; " and the laws un- 
der which he had suffered some seven years 
before, were the same laws which he waked up 
against that crazy crew. If it was right for him 
to procure the banishment of Gorton, then was 
it right for the people of Massachusetts to ex- 
clude Mr. Williams from their community. He 
has afforded the strongest practical proof of the 
necessity of such legislation in the circumstances 
of the infant colonies. " And against necessity, 
there is no law." As Seneca has said ; — " Ne- 
cessity excuses whatever it exacts." 

No man can say, what the consequences 
would have been, had Mr. Williams remained 
in Massachusetts, to leaven the people with his 
incongruous mixture of sound sentiments and 
fantastical opinions. The character of the man 
has left its impress upon the genius of the peo- 
ple of Rhode Island. The demonstrations of 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 115 

the mob-spirit there and in Pennsylvania, have 
been regarded by judicious persons as the natu- 
ral result when a people has been extensively 
pervaded by the non-resistant leaven. After a 
while, that leaven will pass from the vinous 
to the acetous fermentation. Its repugnance to 
the divine ordinance of magistracy and lawful 
order will remain, and will operate with explo- 
sive violence, whenever the counteracting repug- 
nance to the use of physical force shall have 
evaporated and passed away. Every commu- 
nity which is not trained to venerate the law 
and its ministers, must have a strong tendency 
to anarchy and confusion. 

The course pursued by our fathers has been 
amply vindicated by those best able to judge of 
its propriety. Among others, we may refer to 
one whom it is needless to style the honorable 
John Quincy Adams. In a discourse recently 
published by him, after a candid recital of the 
insurrectionary spirit and intolerable proceed- 
ings of Mr. Williams at Salem, he asks; — 
" Can we blame the founders of the Massachu- 
setts colony for banishing him from within their 
jurisdiction ? In the annals of religious perse- 
cution, is there to be found a martyr more gent- 
ly dealt with by those against whom he began 
the war of intolerance ? whose authority he per- 



116 LIFE OP JOHN WILSON. 

sisted, even after professions of penitence and 
submission, in defying, till deserted even by the 
wife of his bosom ? and whose utmost severity 
of punishment upon him was only an order for 
his removal as a nuisance from among them? " ^ 
Let newspaper witlings scribble as they may, 
their detractions cannot blast the memory of the 
men whom "the sage of Quincy" has thus 
frankly justified. 

Our fathers have been severely rebuked for 
not tolerating the Baptists at their first appear- 
ance among us. No one has undertaken to 
apologize for them in this matter. And yet, in 
addition to the general considerations already 
advanced, there are such as greatly alleviate the 
blame which may attach to their treatment of a 
sect now so respectable. 

It had never been known as an organized 
body till the rise of the Anabaptists in Germany, 
in the sixteenth century. They who have read 
the history of that period are well aware, that, 
in all the fury of fanaticism, that sect waged a 
wild crusade against every government which 
would not join them, laying waste the country, 



* The New England Confederacy of MDCXLIII. A Discourse da- 
livered before the Mass. Hist. Soc. 1843. pp. 25—30. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 117 

and giving Ihemselves up to the most shocking 
excesses, till they were with difficulty sup- 
pressed and dispersed. This is no place to 
recount the horrors they enacted. We are un- 
willing to dwell upon them. Suffice it to say, 
that our fathers, in whose memory these trage- 
dies were fresh, regarded an Anabaptist even as 
Edmund Burke would have regarded a French 
Jacobin reeking from the atrocities of " the 
reign of terror." Now this infelicity attending 
the origin of the Baptists as a distinct denomi- 
nation, occasioned them, at the first forming of 
their churches in Britain, which was about the 
time of the settlement of this country, to be re- 
garded with extreme anxiety and foreboding of 
direful results. Though these dark suspicions 
have proved to be groundless and unjust, yet, 
under the circumstances, they were very natu- 
ral ; and it is not strange, that the Baptists 
were subjected to strong opposition from such 
as feared that they would walk in the bloody 
tracks of their German predecessors. Thus one 
of the historians speaks of the laws made to 
restrain their proceedings, in these terms ; — 
" The General Court were so afraid lest mat- 
ters might at last, from small beginnings, grow 
into a new Munster tragedy, that they enacted 
some laws to restrain anabaptist exorbitances ; 



118 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

which laws, though never executed unto the ex- 
tremity of them, yet were soon laid by, as to 
any execution of them at all." ^ 

This explanation has been boldly denied by 
some, who maintain, that the Baptists were too 
well known as to their principles and temper, to 
leave them liable to such suspicions. It is cer- 
tain, however, that, though the German anabap- 
tists had been for near a century endeavoring to 
spread their sentiments in Great Britain, they 
met with little or no success. No churches of 
that order were formed till about the time the 
New England emigrants left that country : nor 
did such churches become at all numerous, till 
the time of the civil wars, when they were 
greatly favored by Cromwell's famous army. It 
is clear, therefore, that our ancestors could have 
had no special knowledge of their character, ex- 
cept what they inferred from the behavior of 
those unhappy Germans. 

That we have assigned the true reason of the 
proceedings of our fathers, is evident from the 
very terms of the law, as it stands on the Mas- 
sachusetts' records, under date of the thirteenth 
of November, 1644. 

" Forasmuch as experience hath plentifully 



* Magnalia, Book VII., Ch. IV., Sec. 4. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 119 

and often proved, that, since the first rising of 
the Anabaptists, about one hundred years since, 
they have been the incendiaries of the common- 
weahhs, and the infectors of persons in main 
matters of religion, and the troublers of churches 
in all places where they have been, and that they 
who have held the baptizing of infants unlawful 
have usually held other errors or heresies to- 
gether therewith, though they have (as other 
heretics use to do) concealed the same till they 
spied out a fit advantage and opportunity to vent 
them, by way of question or scruple, &c., &;c. ; 
it is ordered and agreed, that if any person or 
persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either 
openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of in- 
fants, or go about secretly to seduce others from 
the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely 
depart the congregation at the administration of 
the ordinance, or shall deny the ordinance of 
magistracy, or their lawful right and authority 
to make war, or to punish the outward breaches 
of the first table, and shall appear to the court 
willfully and obstinately to continue therein after 
due time and means of conviction, every such 
person or persons shall be sentenced to banish- 
ment ^ '^ 



* Mass. Hist. Soc. Collections, Second Series, I. 210. 



120 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



Such was the law : from which it plainly ap- 
pears, that the practice of rebaptism was closely 
connected, in the minds of the legislators, with 
the German atrocities, as well as with hostility 
to government, and to the magistrates' care over 
good manners and morality. It is readily ad- 
mitted, that, in the case of the Baptists of Mas- 
sachusetts, there was no occasion for these fears. 
But it is no less true, that our fathers felt those 
fears, and acted honestly, though mistakenly, 
under the influence of those fears. They felt 
compelled to suppress what they deemed to be 
sentiments dangerous to the peace of civil soci- 
ety. It has been already intimated, that this 
law, the result of misapprehension, was not 
rigorously enforced. It was intended only for 
such as were deemed turbulent and factious 
offenders. This appears from a Declaration of 
the General Court holden at Boston, November 
fourth, 1646 ; and issued by order of court. 
From this we take the following paragraph. 
" They are offended also at our la we against 
Anabaptists. The truth is, the great trouble 
we have been putt unto, and hazard also, by 
familisticall and anabaptislicall spirits, whose 
conscience and religion hath been only to sett 
forth themselves and raise contentions in the 
country, did provoke us to provide for our safety 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 121 



by a lawe, that all such should take notice, how 
unwelcome they should be unto us, either come- 
ing or staying. But for such as differ from us 
only in judgment, in point of baptism or some 
other points of lesse consequence, and live 
peaceably amongst us, without occasioning dis- 
turbance, &c., such have no cause to complaine ; 
for it hath never beene as yet putt in execution 
against any of them, although such are knowne 
to live amongst us." ^ Thus did our fathers 
speak for themselves : and there is no reason to 
call their sincerity in question. The devastated 
fields of Germany were, in a manner, still 
smoking before their eyes. They knew, that 
there anabaptism was a conspiracy, whose de- 
clared object was the destruction by fire and 
sword, of every government and individual who 
would not submit to the new baptism. We may 
smile at these terrors of our good fathers, and 
we may regret the measures they adopted with 
a view to secure themselves from similar disas- 
ters. But to them the danger seemed real and 
imminent : and it is no wonder that they acted 
like people in a state of alarm, who think 
of safety, rather than of questions of abstract 
rights. Time, and the good behavior of the 



•* Hutchinson's State Papers, p, 216. 
VOL. n. 11 



122 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

Baptists, at last dispelled their fears, and gradu- 
ally and speedily brought about an entire tolera- 
tion. 

As some fault may be found with every one, 
so the Baptists themselves were not wholly 
without blame. They disturbed the public wor- 
ship during the administration of infant baptism, 
and at other times, by openly manifesting their 
contempt in ways that gave great offence. They 
resorted also to other irregularities, which even 
good men are prone to do when excited by the 
ardor of a new reform, or the expectation of 
resistance to their views. These things tended 
still further to excite the apprehensions to which 
the community were already predisposed, that 
the Anabaptist sentiments had a natural and in- 
nate connection with contempt of magistrates and 
laws. 

Yet, from the beginning, men of that persua- 
sion who were peaceably disposed, lived quietly 
among us, and even retained their membership 
in our churches. Two of the early presidents 
of Harvard College were known to be of this 
class. There was no disposition to trouble people 
merely for holding Baptist sentiments ; unless, 
they also, in some way, infringed the public 
peace. Perhaps of all the sects which have 
become rather numerous in the world, the 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 123 

Baptists have been the least persecuted of any. 
In this country, a few, who made unnecessary 
difficuhy, were banished : but, in general, they 
were patiently borne with, and suffered less and 
less of molestation ; till the people became satis- 
fied that they were an orderly and exemplary sect 
of Christians, and they have obtained the fullest 
equality of privileges, whether civil or religious. 
So early as the time of Dr. Increase Mather, we 
find him assisting to ordain the pastor of a Bap- 
tist church in his neighborhood. =^ At the present 
time, it cannot be said, that there is any want of 
kind fraternal feeling between those brethren and 
" the standing order." The latter are certainly 
not the most backward to cultivate mutual charity 
and fraternal communion. 

Our fathers have been violently censured for 
their proceedings in reference to the Quakers, 
which is the only remaining point belonging to 
this subject which requires our consideration. 

Most of the allegations against the Puritans 
are derived from the writings of the Quakers 
themselves, which are violent and abusive beyond 
what any one can imagine who has not read 
them. 

Indeed much misapprehension has arisen in 



* Remarkablea of Dr. I. Mather, p. 61. 



124 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

respect to the merits of this business, from igno- 
rance of what the Quakers were in that day. It 
is a huge mistake, to suppose, as many do, that 
they were the same sort of excellent, inoffensive 
personages, as those whom we now see arrayed 
in sanctified drab, and hats with pious breadth 
of brim. Because this people are noted in our 
times, for their mild spirit and moral virtues, and 
are, in the main, good members of society, we 
are not to suppose at once, that they have been 
so from the beginning. 

In truth, they were then a dangerous sect. 
Bishop Burnet wrote a letter to the Princess 
Sophia of Hanover, the mother of the first 
George, and ancestress of the present royal fam- 
ily of England. He penned this letter under the 
impression that that princess might soon be called 
to the British throne. He gives her information 
respecting the diflferent sects of dissenters, con- 
sidered in a political point of view ; — or as to the 
manner in which their respective principles bore 
on the probable welfare of the government. 
Among other things, he says ; — " The most ridic- 
ulous, and yet the most dangerous sect we have 
among us, is the Quakers." For this assertion 
the good bishop has been laughed to scorn ; — 
" What ! the Quakers dangerous ! a people so 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 125 

intensely opposed to the shedding of blood, 
dangerous to the State ! What folly ! " 

But after all, the bishop of Old Sarum was 
apt to know what he was talking about. He 
thought that people might be dangerous, though 
without dagger in hand, or pistol in belt. He 
saw that their transcendental notions about 
" inward light " were perilous to revealed relig- 
ion, the main defence and support of Christian 
States. He saw, that their non-resistance senti- 
ments must disarm the magistracy, and deprive 
justice of her sword, and subvert the order of 
society. Even the government of Rhode Island, 
in a letter to the General Court of Massachusetts, 
dated October, 1557, makes the following re- 
mark ; — " We conceive, that their doctrines tend 
to very absolute cutting down and overturning 
relations and civil government among men, if 
generally received.'"^ In 1655, the government 
and council of Rhode Island passed an order for 
outlawing the people called Quakers, because 
they would not bear arms, and to seize their 
estates ; but the people in general rose up against 
these severe orders, and would not suffer it.t 

In these colonies, the early Quakers did noth- 



* Hutchinson's History. I, 526. 
t Mass. Hist. Soc. Col. First Series. V. 219. 
11* 



V26 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

ing- but inveigh with astonishing bitterness and 
rancor against the magistrates and ministers, 
whom, without waiting for any provocation they 
denounced with every odious epithet, stirring 
up with all their might the spirit of insubordina- 
tion. Any one who knows in what profound 
veneration our ancestors held both Moses and 
Aaron, both the magistrate and the minister, 
must see what indignation the Quakers must 
have excited by their rabid railings against whom 
they called the " charter tyrants and the charter 
priests." 

The followers of George Fox, without firing 
guns, or smiting with the sword, were wholesale 
breakers of the peace. Not content to operate 
within their own sphere, or to hold forth to such 
as were willing to hear them, they broke in 
everywhere without regard to decency and the 
just rights of others. In courts of justice they 
volunteered to assail the judges on the bench with 
furious tirades against them and their offices. 
If, tomorrow, any one were to be guilty of one 
tithe of the " contempt of court " they practiced, 
he would feel, with instant rigor, the strong arm 
of the law. In the churches, they would tumul- 
tuously disturb the order of public worship with 
their vociferous harangues. Men and women 
would carry on noisy' mechanical operations in 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 127 

the midst of divine service, by way of practically 
testifying their devout scorn of all carnal ordi- 
nances: — and this would be done through a 
succession of Sabbaths, unchecked by the inflic- 
tion of the ordinary penalties for misdemeanors of 
that nature. Of late, we have seen certain noted 
men and women taken out of conventions and 
churches by main strength, because they would 
not restrain that unruly member, the tongue. 
Nay, our own civil tribunals have dealt with 
these characters according to course of law, for 
breaking the peace ; — and yet the mal-practices 
so punished were trifling in comparison with 
those which harrowed the feelings and exhausted 
the patience of our forefathers. Perhaps the 
recent acts of our municipal tribunals may be 
cited a hundred years hence, to prove that the 
spirit of religious intolerance lingered even unto 
this day. 

If, instead of giving full credence to the col- 
ored, distorted and falsified statements of the an- 
gry Quaker pamphlets, we have recourse to the 
records of our courts, as would be done in regard 
to any other matter, we shall find, that much of 
what has been called persecution, was but the 
punishment of gross misconduct committed under 
fanatical excitement. Such offences, if perpe- 
trated to-day, would be as promptly punished by 



128 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

our correctional police as by that of our fathers. 
It is true that some of the penalties imposed by 
the latter may seem, according to our ideas, ex- 
cessively severe. But we must remember, that 
the penal codes of all Europe were then far 
more severe than at present. According to the 
scale of penal inflictions then in use, our fathers 
meant to apportion no sorer retribution than 
would now be imposed for the like misdeeds. 

The Quakers were punished, in general, not 
as religious offenders, not as heretics, — but as 
civil offenders, transgressing against the peace 
and dignity of the Commonwealth. It is true, 
that, according to the records, they were arraigned 
as Quakers : but this was because the class of 
civil offences which the law was intending to 
take hold of, was then known by that name. If 
we read the minutes of evidence, we shall see 
the stress laid upon the disorderly behavior of 
the accused. Good Mr. Norton, in his doleful 
sermon, entitled " The Heart of New England 
Rent at the Blasphemies of the present Genera- 
tion," strongly disclaims the right of the magis- 
trate to interfere with Quakers, or any other 
heretics, who were of quiet and peaceable 
deportment. But he argues, that they ought to 
be suppressed, when they become factious, tur- 
bulent and insurrectionary. These were the 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 129 

views of our fathers : and it is believed that they 
are the views of all sober, humane and law- 
abiding people, at this present time. In the 
application of these principles, the Puritans may 
possibly have erred in some particular cases, 
without being more prone to error than mortals 
generally are. 

Other measures failing to put a stop to the 
disturbances, a law was made for banishing 
such as were convicted thereof, on pain of 
death in case they returned. Some may be 
shocked at this, as well as at the extreme com- 
monness of capital punishments for minor offences 
throughout the civilized world in that sterner 
age. But they who condemn them for resorting 
so freely to this dreadful penalty ought to con- 
sider that this country was not then provided 
with prisons fit for the confinement and employ- 
ment of convicts for life or long terms of years. 
If a criminal could not be adequately punished 
by fines and personal chastisement, the legislators 
knew not how to dispose of him except by hang- 
ing, or banishment under pain of hanging in case 
of returning to the jurisdiction. 
^ Under this statute four quakers were hanged 
for so returning. Some of these had repeated 
the offence. The court felt compelled to enforce 
the law, or give up the attempt to maintain civil 



130 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

government. Upon the execution of two of these 
unhappy enthusiasts, the General Court printed 
a declaration, dated the eighteenth of October, 
1659, explaining the grounds of their proceed- 
ings. From this document it appears evident, 
that they considered the sufferers to be engaged 
in seditious and treasonable designs to overthrow 
the government of the country. Be it, that this 
was a mistake, which is by no means admitted, 
our fathers sincerely thought that such was the 
fact ; and felt constrained to resort to strong 
measures for their own security. Remarking 
that other penalties had proved to be " too weak 
a defence against the impetuous fanatic fury " of 
these intruders, they say that they were "neces- 
sitated to endeavor their own security," by 
enacting a law, " that such persons should be 
banished on pain of death, accordi7ig to the 
example of England in their provision against 
Jesuits." They contend that their " own just 
and necessary defence called upon them, other 
means failing, to offer the point which these per- 
sons have violently and willfully rushed upon, 
and thereby become felones de se." They appeal 
to the repeated reprieves which were easily 
granted to some of the offenders ; which, say 
they, "will manifestly evince we desire their 
lives absent, rather than their death present." 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 131 

And truly, the circumstances are calculated to 
call to mind the characteristic remark of Luther ; — 
*' He that bringeth himself into needless dangers, 
dieth the devil's martyr." Thus poor Mary 
Dyer, having been sentenced to execution for 
" rebellious sedition and and obtruding herself 
after banishment upon pain of death," was 
reprieved on condition that she speedily departed 
and did not return. Return she did, within a 
few months, and suffered accordingly. She was 
the last who suffered under that law, which was 
suspended soon after by order of the king ; as 
would have been voluntarily done by the General 
Court itself, had it not been anticipated by the 
royal rescript, after the law had been in force 
about three years. "^ 

Among other instances we read of the whip- 
ping of two Quaker women at Salem. Upon 
this, our hearts are ready to ache, that these hap- 
less females should thus suffer merely for relig- 
ion. But how was it? Were they scourged 
merely for cherishing Quaker principles? By 
no means : — ^but for appearing in the churches in 
open day wholly divested of apparel. The poor 
misguided creatures professed to be acting pro- 
phetically, under special divine inspiration, as a 



* Hubbard's History. Ch. LXV. 



132 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

sign of the naked truth, and as a sign of the na- 
kedness of the land. It would be hard to say when 
gentle castigation was ever merited, if not then ! 
When Roger Williams afterwards reproached 
George Fox with this scandalous procedure on 
the part of his female disciples, Fox, in his print- 
ed reply, applauds it as a pious and admirable 
action, and raises a horrid outcry of indignation 
against the persecuting magistrates who punished 
them for it. 

The Quakers, in their way, and an ugly way 
it was, were as intolerant as possible. Williams, 
who, next to Perm, was the greatest benefactor 
they ever had, received the most thankless 
usage at their hands, and his old age was em- 
bittered by them. He held public debates with 
them at Newport and Providence ; of which he 
published an account, under the title, " George 
Fox digged out of his Burrows ;" — Burroughs 
being the name of one of Fox's subalterns. 
Whoever reads this book is ready to regard it as 
the most abusive and scurrilous that ever was 
penned. But when he comes to read the reply 
by Fox and Burnyeai, entitled, " A New Eng- 
land Firebrand Quenched," he will presently 
begin to think that Williams' work is all milky 
mildness and silky softness. 

The Quakers sometimes dealt pretty hard 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 133 

measure to one another. In the year 1694, one 
of the followers of George Keith published a 
tract containing the following clauses ; — " Since 
the English in New England hanged their 
countrymen for religion is thirty six years : — 
since at Philadelphia, some did little less, by 
taking away goods, and imprisoning some, and 
condemning others without trial, for religious 
dissent, is three years." 

But it is a painful and undesirable task to 
bring back to remembrance the errors of those 
who have so long reposed in their forgotten 
graves. There would we gladly leave them to 
rest in oblivion, 

" Nor draw their frailties from their dread abode." 

We wish to do no more than was needful to 
remove the unjust aspersions which had been 
cast upon our fathers, as though they had per- 
secuted the most meek and inoffensive char- 
acters, for no other cause than mere difference 
of opinion on disputable points in religion. We 
have arrayed facts sufficient to show, that most 
of what is called their persecution was but the 
punishment of such violations of public order, as 
must ever be punished so long as the public 
peace is to be secured by law. We have 
showed, that the rest of their persecution nat- 

VOL. II. 12 



134 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

urally grew out of these irritating cases of mis- 
demeanor. We have argued that whatever 
judicial proceedings of our forefathers are called 
intolerant, were either dictated by the law of 
self-preservation ; or by the spirit of the age, 
rather than by the temper of the men. 

Our fathers were the first to emerge from 
that deep and wide-spread pool of persecution 
for conscience sake, under which the world had 
stagnated during ages of Popish oppression. 
Nor will men of sense be astonished, if, at their 
first coming forth from the miry brink, they 
dripped for a while with the ooze from which 
they were escaping. Soon they purged them- 
selves from these last remaining impurities : 
and became the spotless champions of the free- 
dom of the human mind. 

And here we rest our defence of that noble 
race of men, the Puritans ; of whom, their bitter 
enemy, the historian Hume was compelled to 
own, "that for all the liberty of the English 
constitution that nation is indebted to the Puri- 
tans." 

But why speak we of defending these wor- 
thies, who stand impregnable, at a lofty height 
of goodness unassailable by their weak and 
dwarfish detractors. They were men, the blest 
consequences of whose heroic and holy exer- 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 135 



tions must occupy the pen of history, " to the 
last syllable of recorded time," and whose vir- 
tues must be resounded as with angels' trumpets 
to the ends of the world. Let us praise the 
grace of God in them. Be it ever owned as one 
of our chief debts to a bounteous Heaven, that it 
gave us this godly ancestry. Whoever shall 
dishonor such a parentage, may well expect the 
anathema of the Most High, to which all the 
people will say, Amen. 

The topic we have been considering, teaches 
us to set a high estimate upon Christian charity. 
There is no virtue in which even good men 
have been so apt to be wanting. " This grace," 
says War burton, " regulates and perfects all the 
other virtues ; and is, itself, in no want of a 
reformer." It is this which draws together the 
bonds of union. It closes up the breaches of 
Zion, and joins her walls in impregnable 
strength. It teaches men to " love alike, though 
they may not think alike." We may hope that 
this heavenly temper is more generally spread- 
ing among all evangelical Christians at the 
present day. May the past ravages of the spirit 
of proscription and persecution stimulate the 
growth of this divine disposition among men, 
even as the ashes of the herbage over which the 



136 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

fire has passed promotes the springing of a 
fairer and tenderer growth. 

The subject which has been before us, in- 
spires us with confidence in the indestructible 
nature of truth. No force can keep it down. 
The blasts of opposition only blow each spark of 
it into a flame. Like the gold of Ophir, the 
fiery furnace can but purge out its alloy, and 
prove its worth. The very shreds and filings of 
truth are precious. It is the treasure of eter- 
nity, and the currency of heaven. It is the light 
of immortality, and the breath of angels. It is 
the sceptre of Jesus, and is of the essence of 
godhead. How vain the eflforts of earth and 
hell to suppress it, or distort it into shapes of 
falsehood. It rises again in its original beauty, 
and defies the power of corruption. It must 
triumph in the end. 

" The destined hour must come, 
When it shall blaze with sun-surpassing splendor, j. 

And the dark mists of prejudice and falsehood 
Fade in its strong effulgence." 

Meanwhile let us venerate our fathers for the 
sacrifices they so cheerfully made for the truth 
they loved, and which they felt in their hearts 
like a life that could not die. To permit their 
sufferings in behalf of principle to be forgotten, 
would wrong posterity, which needs to see their 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 137 

example and the reverence it inspires. " To go 
on the forlorn hope of truth," as they did, " is 
a service of peril. Who will undertake it, if it 
be not also a service of honor ? " 

The memory of the Pilgrims should awaken 
our gratitude for the noble legacy of liberty. 
Of all the rich heritage they have left us, this is 
the chief blessing. They learned its value by 
what it cost to win it. And how are we, in 
these times of peaceful enjoyment of the wealthy 
bequest, — how are we to estimate its worth, ex- 
cept by recurring to the price they had to pay 
to obtain it. Let us be thankful to God who 
conferred it upon them, and through them, 
transmitted the inestimable boon to us. An 
eloquent writer has said of religious liberty; — 
" Human agency is insufficient to extinguish it. 
Oceans may overwhelm it. Mountains may 
press it down. But, like the earth's central 
fires, its own violent and unconquerable force 
will heave both sea and land, and some time or 
other, and in some place or other, the volcano 
will burst forth, and blaze to heaven." 

To the young men and young women of 
New England may this humble vindication of 
our pilgrim sires not prove unacceptable or un- 
availing. May they never feel ashamed of that 
noble stock whence they are sprung, nor ever 
12=^ 



138 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

prove recreant to the principles and faith of 
their ancestors. May they emulate the virtues 
of the sainted dead, and add fresh laurels to 
their urns, and cover their lineage with new 
honors. May they be, not only the sons and 
daughters of the Pilgrims, but pilgrims them- 
selves in very deed, following the same bright 
path through the dark and dreary wilds of 
earth, in radiant progress to a glorious home in 
heaven. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 139 



CHAPTER IV. 

The Pequod war. Mr. Wilson goes as chaplain. His faith. J. Nor- 
ton made his colleague, and dies soon after. Mr. Wilson's old 
age. His last illness. Parting with his brethren. Anticipations 
of the future world. Closing scene. His funeral. His property 
disposed of. His afflictions in life. Repeatedly burned out. 
Death of his eldest son. Death of his wife Elizabeth. Death of 
his daughter, Mrs. Rogers. Deaths of his grandchildren. Hia 
behavior under his sorrows. Answers to prayer. John Hull. An 
undutiful son. Mr. Bird and Dr. Duke. A secret Papist admon- 
ished. Mr. Adams' child. Thomas Venner. A troubler of Israel. 
Sickness and recovery of Mary Wilson. Severe fall and remarka- 
ble recovery of John Wilson, Jr. Edmund Wilson and the Italian 
Inquisitor. Edmund's escape from " the snare of the strange 
woman," and his father's dream. Mr. Wilson's manner of preach- 
ing. His last "Thursday Lecture." His last sermon. The 
weekly lectures in the days of old. Mr. Wilson's pastoral quali- 
ties. His pastoral visits. His personal appearance. Admissions 
to the church. Baptisms. His zeal against error, tempered with 
love to the errorist. His popularity. Muster on the common. 
His poetry. Anagrams. His humility. An example of its excess. 
Refusal to sit for his portrait. Cotton Mather's touches. Con- 
clusion. 

In the midst of the Antinomian contest, in 
which he bore so active a part, Mr. Wilson was 
enlisted in another whose weapons were more 
carnal. Those were days in which it was said 
of the saints ; — " Let the high praises of God be 



140 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their 
hand ; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, 
and punishments upon the people ; to bind their 
kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters 
of iron ; to execute upon them the judgments 
written." When the expedition was sent out 
against the Pequods, which was " a just and 
necessary " defensive war, if ever there was one, 
it was thought as indispensable to send a chap- 
lain to pray as a captain to fight. So the min- 
isters set apart two of their number ; " and a lot 
was cast between them in a solemn public invo- 
cation of the name of God." The chaplain's 
lot fell on Mr. Wilson, of whom Johnson says ; — 
" Having formerly passed through perils by sea, 
perils by land, and perils among false brethren, 
he now followed the war purposely to sound an 
alarm before the Lord with his silver trumpet." 
He did not fail, on this occasion, to fight the 
better fight of faith; for dreadful as was the 
savage and numerous foe, he did not hesitate, 
before his departure, to profess himself "as 
fully satisfied, that God would give the English 
a victory over those enemies, as if he had seen 
the victory already obtained." The event ac- 
corded with his faith. Another instance of what 
was called his " particular faith," occurred 
during this expedition. A Pequod, in his canoe, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 141 

was carrying off a captive English maid. 
Though passing within gun-shot of our soldiers 
on the shore, they were afraid to fire, lest they 
should kill the prisoner. Mr. Wilson told them 
never to fear. He confidently exclaimed ; — " God 
will direct the bullet ! " The shot was sped 
accordingly, and killed the savage, while the 
captive was rescued unharmed and untouched. 
The result of this war is sufficiently known. 
The few Pequods who escaped, and who became 
blended with other tribes, always acknowledged 
that the blame lay with themselves, and that 
the English were a just and righteous nation. 

On the lamented death of Mr. Cotton in 
1652, the church was much troubled to find a 
teaching elder to fill the place of that luminary, 
whose extinction had left them in darkness. 
Their eyes and hearts were fixed on Mr. Nor- 
ton, who occupied the same office in the Ipswich 
church. As that was much the smaller church, 
and as it was also furnished with a very able 
pastor in Mr. Rogers, a descendant of the Mari- 
an martyr of Smithfield, it was thought that 
they ought to relinquish Mr. Norton. A warm 
dispute arose between the respective claimants. 
It was argued that Ipswich ought to part with 
her teacher, on the ground of the gospel pre- 
cept; — " He that hath two coats, let him impart 



145 LIFE OP JOHN WILSON. 

to him that hath none ! " To this plea one of 
the Ipswich brethren replied"; — " Nay, but Bos- 
ton hath one coat now ! " meaning the pastor. 
Mr. Wilson, who was very zealous in the mat- 
ter, and whose humility outran even his zeal, 
exclaimed ; — " Who ? Me ! I am nothing ! " 
When some of his people told Mr. Rogers, that 
they were afraid Mr. Wilson would at last get 
Mr. Norton away from them by his arguments 
or entreaties, or both, Mr. Rogers replied, that 
he was " more afraid of his faith than of his 
arguments." After several councils had been 
called, and after four years of contest for this 
prize, the governor and magistrates interfered 
so effectually that Mr. Norton was installed in 
Boston on the twenty-third of July, 1656. 

After the decease of Mr. Norton, which took 
place in 1663, seven years after his installation, 
Mr. Wilson was left alone in his labors, at the 
advanced age of seventy-six. For four years 
he bore the burden of all that charge on his 
enfeebled shoulders ; and yet the prosperity of 
religion was not lessened. When his head and 
hands were benumbed with the frosts of age, the 
vital warmth retreated to the heart, and glowed 
intenser there. The central heat of the chief 
grace, charity, burned quenchless to the last. 
Like the beloved and last surviving disciple, in 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 143 

his extreme old age at Ephesus, this venerable 
pastor could do little more than repeat with 
tremulous accents the fervent exhortation ; — ' 
" Little children, love one another ! " He had 
a strong presentiment, that, during his time, no 
public judgment or calamity should fall upon 
New England. In him was fulfilled the angelic 
benediction ; 

" So mayst thou live, till, like the ripe fruit, thou 
Drop into thy mother's lap, or be with ease 
Gathered, not harshly plucked ; for death mature." 

His infirmities at last assumed the form of a 
sickness which long confined him. Patient and 
resigned he awaited the result, desiring to return 
to that God in whose errand his life had been 
spent. " Now there was leaning on Jesus' 
bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved." 
Few men have more resembled the son of 
Zebedee in personal character than this old dis- 
ciple. 

So strong was the confidence felt by his 
friends in his prayers which had been so often 
answered, and in the power of his blessings, 
that the principal persons in the country came, 
some from a distance, bringing their children to 
receive the benedictions of this patriarch. There 
was a sort of prophetic tone to his remarks. As 



144 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

the curtain which hides eternity was slowly 
withdrawn to give him a passage thither, he 
seemed to catch some glimpses which had less 
of earth than of heaven. He could adopt the 
lines with which Edmund Waller, when about 
fourscore years of age, ended his " Divine 
Poems." 

" The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed, 
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made ; 
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become, 
As they draw nearer to their eternal home ; 
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view, 
That stand upon the threshhold of the new." 

At the same time, his friends, unable to spare 
him, could accord with the verses in which 
Dryden responded to the aged Waller ; — 

" Still here remain, still on the threshhold stand, 
Still at this distance view the promised land ; 
That thou mayst seem, so heavenly is thy sense. 
Not going thither, but new come from thence." 

In his last illness, Mr. Wilson took solemn 
leave of the ministers, who had long held their 
weekly meetings at his hospitable mansion, and 
who were then assembled from all parts to their 
annual convention in the election week. They 
asked him what he thought might be the sins 
which threatened the most to bring down the 




LIFE OF JOHN WILSON* 145 

displeasure of heaven upon the land. He 
replied, that he had long feared several sins ; 
but especially the sin of Corah ; that is, lest the 
people, like Corah, and his company, should 
rise up against the Lord's ministers, and proudly 
contemn the counsels and ordinances by them 
dispensed agreeable to the word of Christ. 

When his brethren had retired, he engaged 
in a fervent prayer, in which, after the example 
of the dying patriarchs, he pronounced his part- 
ing blessing upon each of his relations and 
attendants, one by one. This was done in a 
sort of prophetical manner : and it was observed, 
that his death -bed aspirations for them were 
remarkably fulfilled in his children, and his 
children's children. 

He then began to comfort himself with the 
sweet thought, that he should ere long be with 
his old friends, who were gone before him. He 
instanced by name those famous divines of the 
University, who had been the guides of his 
youth ; his colleagues, who had shared the toils 
of his ministry ; and his consort, with such of 
their children and grandchildren as had pre- 
ceded him to the kingdom of God ? When 
some that stood by began to speak of his great 
usefulness, and the loss they must suffer in 
parting with him, he cried out ; — " Alas, alas ! 

VOL. II. 13 



146 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

use no such words concerning me ; for I have 
been an unprofitable servant, not worthy to be 
called a servant of the Lord : but I must say, 
The Lord be merciful to me a sinner ! and I 
must say, Let thy tender mercies come unto 
me, O Lord ; even thy salvation according to 
thy word." 

The evening before he died, his daughter 
asked after his health. Lifting his hand, he 
said ; — " Vanishing things ! vanishing things ! *' 
He then prayed most affectionately with and for 
his friends. After this he reposed in quiet, till 
he gave up the ghost into the hands of his 
fellow-servants, the angels. This weary pil- 
grim reached the heavenly rest, on the seventh 
day of August, in the year of grace 1667, in the 
seventy-ninth year of his age. Thus went 
home that ripened saint, of whom, when he left 
the land of his birth, an eminent personage 
said ; — " New England shall flourish, free from 
all general desolations, as long as that good 
man liveth in it." 

His funeral obsequies were attended with 
mournful solemnity. A lamentation was then 
pronounced by Rev. Richard Mather, from the 
appropriate text ; — " Your fathers, where are 
they ? and the prophets, do they live forever ? " 
Years afterward, one who knew him exclaimed > 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 147 

on a great public occasion ; — " Blessed Wilson ! 
thy body, thy dust, remaineth still in Bos- 
ton. But where is thy spirit? where is thy 
zeal ? " 

His movable property, at his death, was 
valued at £419. 14s. 6d. It was distributed by 
his will chiefly to his son Rev. John Wilson, jr. 
of Medfield, to his daughter Mary, wife of Rev. 
Samuel Danforth, of Roxbury, and to John 
Wilson, a minor child of his son Edward, 
" Doctor of Physick, and late of London." 
Very numerous small bequests were made, as 
one to " my ancient and good friend, Mrs. 
Norton, as a small expression of my affectionate 
love to her." Similar testimonials were left to 
nine or ten of the neighboring ministers : nor 
were the poor of his church forgotten. 

During his sojourn in this wilderness, Mr. 
Wilson had his share of those afflictions by 
which God chastens his children. He was 
several times burnt out with considerable loss of 
his property, to which he cheerfully submitted. 
He was once returning from a journey, when a 
person met him on the road w^ith the intelli- 
gence ; — " Sir, I have sad news for you : while 
you have been abroad, your house is burnt." 
To which the homeless man, nothing discon- 
certed, promptly replied ; — " Blessed be God ! 



148 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

He has burnt this house, because he intends to 
give me a better." He probably meant in these 
words to speak figuratively, of a heavenly habi- 
tation : but it was granted unto him according to 
the letter. 

Sore bereavements came upon him, by which 
he was broken with breach upon breach. His 
eldest son, a truly pious and accomplished gen- 
tleman, had completed his education by study- 
ing first in Holland and then in Italy, where he 
took his degree as doctor in medicine. He then 
went back to England adorned with every 
quality which could excite the fond expectations 
of his friends. Their hopes were blasted. He 
died about the year 1658. This sorrow has- 
tened the death of his mother, ere the year 
came round, more than doubling the father's 
grief. Still deep called unto deep to make his 
afflictions more profound. His eldest daughter, 
the wife of the excellent and reverend Ezekiel 
Rogers, the founder of the church and town of 
Rowley, soon after died, as also her only 
child. The widowed and heart-broken father 
stood by her grave in patient sorrow. The 
funeral service done, he took the spade himself, 
and threw in the first shovelful of dust unto 
dust ; — " In token," as he said, " of his grounded 
and joyful hopes, to meet her again in the 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 149 

morning of the resurrection ; and of his willing- 
ness to resign her into the hands of Him who 
would make all things work together for good." 
Mr. Wilson suffered a succession of griefs in 
the family of his second daughter, the wife of 
•the learned and reverend Samuel Danforth, 
minister of Roxbury. When this worthy couple 
were affianced, sometime previous to their mar- 
riage, which took place in 1651, Mr. Cotton 
preached a betrothal sermon, according to an 
old custom of New England. In December, 
1659, the eldest child of this family suddenly 
died. Though less than six years old, this little 
one was so bright an example of piety, that she 
was quoted as a sort of commentary on that ex- 
pression of the prophet ; — " The child shall die 
an hundred years old." The affectionate grand- 
parent vented his sorrows and consolations in 
some verses, among which were the follow- 
ing ;— 

" And what if God their other children call, 
Second, third, fourth, suppose it should be all? " 

And it was even so. Within a fortnight's time, 
the three were carried away by the croup, 
which had proved so fatal to the first. The old 
man wept for these darlings, to whom he was 
attached with all the doating fondness that often 
marks that relationship. But while one of the 
13=^ 



150 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

bodies was lying by the walls of the church 
waiting its interment, which was on a day of 
public thanksgiving, the aged sufferer preached 
" a most savory sermon," from the words of the 
bereaved and patient Job ; — " The Lord hath 
given, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessedf 
be the name of the Lord ! " It is indeed easy 
to bless a giving God : — but ah, what grace it 
needs to be able with full contentment to bless a 
taking God ! 

Other children were afterwards given to this 
desolated family, of whom some lived, and 
attained to distinction. The first of these was 
so weakly an infant, that no one thought he 
could live. But his grandfather would have the 
child named for himself, saying ; — " Call him 
John. I believe in God he shall live, and be a 
prophet too, and do God service in his genera- 
tion." That child grew up before the Lord; 
and, for near half a century, was the faithful 
minister of Dorchester. 

Mr. Wilson, in his numerous bereavements, 
could respond to the sentiment of one of the 
Greek fathers ; — *' Was Job miserable when he 
had lost all that God had given him ? No, he 
had still that God who gave him all." He felt 
with one of his non-conforming brethren in 
England at that time, Rev. James Burdwood, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 151 

that " it is better to be preserved in the brine of 
affliction, than to rot in the honey of prosperity." 
As good Mr. Danforth said in the hearing of 
his father-in-law, at the obsequies of the very 
children of whom we have been speaking; — 
" The holy fire is not to be fetched out of such 
a flint as I am, without smiting." 

Like most men in whom the habit of prayer 
is become intense and all-absorbing, he often 
felt great confidence that his supplication should 
be granted. The Sadducees of our times coolly 
call these things, when the event coincides with 
the expectation, " singular coincidences," " re- 
markably accidental ! " But when we consider 
that the people of God, in the long continuing 
Bible times, often had such assurance of faith as 
to the success of their petitions ; and when we 
consider that the Bible promises that God in all 
ages shall be the hearer of effectual, fervent and 
believing prayer ; we ought not to be utterly 
faithless as to such matters. It is true, that 
great caution ought to be exercised in regard to 
a " particular faith," so deceitful is the heart, 
and so prone to receive its own wayward impul- 
ses for the movements and suggestions of the 
Spirit of God. Some of the best of men, like 
Cromwell's chaplain, and the eloquent White- 
field, have found themselves grossly mistaken in 



152 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON 



some strong impressions to which they gave 
utterance. But let us learn to be cautious, 
without doubting the efficacy of prayer. Let us 
neither believe too much nor too little. It is 
a wise faith, says a sound divine, " which is 
neither over-froward, nor over-forward." 

We have already incidentally touched upon 
several instances of Mr. Wilson's special gift of 
faith. Many others are recorded, of which 
some were only such prognostications as an 
aged man might draw from long observation of 
the ordinary course of God's providence. Thus 
observing a young man exceedingly kind and 
duteous to a poor and infirm mother, Mr. 
Wilson said ; — " I charge you to take notice of 
what I say. God will certainly bless that young 
man : John Hull shall grow rich, and live to be 
a useful servant of God." John Hull accord- 
ingly became a wealthy and most beneficent 
man, and died a respected magistrate. At an- 
other time Mr. Wilson was crossing a ferry. A 
young man in the boat spoke very insolently to 
his aged father. The faithful pastor, greatly 
troubled, rebuked the offender, saying ; — 
" Young man, I advise you to repent of your 
undutiful, rebellious carriage towards your 
father. I expect else to hear, that God has cut 
you off, before a twelvemonth come to an end ! " 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 153 



And sure enough, within that time, this un- 
happy breaker of the fifth commandment, strag- 
gling off to the southward, was taken and cut to 
pieces by the hostile Pequods. In these two 
cases, the man of God doubtless ventured his 
predictions by reason of his extensive observa- 
tion of the fact, that filial piety is usually 
rewarded, and filial impiety commonly punished 
in the life that now is. 

But there are other instances recorded of his 
foresight of events, which are not so easily 
accounted for. A few of them will be here 
rehearsed. 

When Mr. Wilson was living at Sudbury in 
England, he and other worthy ministers were 
silenced by the Bishop of Norwich, as has 
already been related. The informer and prose- 
cutor was a man by the name of Bird, who 
proved to be " a bird of ill omen." This person 
was taken sick, and attended by a celebrated 
physician. Dr. Duke of Colchester. The phy- 
sician left his patient, as he thought, safely 
recovered : and calling upon Mr. Wilson, men- 
tioned the occurrence. " Recovered! " exclaimed 
Mr. Wilson, "you are mistaken, Mr. Doctor: 
he is a dead man." The physician confidently 
replied ; — " If ever I recovered a sick man in 
my life, that man is recovered." But Mr. 



154 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

Wilson as confidently insisted ; — " No, Mr. 
Doctor ; he is a dead man. He shall not live. 
Mark my words ! " Dr. Duke gave an incred- 
ulous smile : but as it happened, before he 
departed, the tidings came, that his patient was 
no more. We may imagine his emotions at 
hearing this news under such circumstances. 

During his ministry at Sudbury, he seems to 
have had something approaching to the special 
gift of " discerning of spirits." He was ad- 
ministering the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, 
when a man presented himself as a communi- 
cant, who for some time had been absent, and 
consorted with the Papists. Mr. Wilson pub- 
licly addressed him to the following effect. 
" Brother, you here present yourself, as if you 
would partake in the holy supper of the Lord. 
You cannot be ignorant of what you have done 
in withdrawing yourself from our communion, 
and how you have been much conversant for a 
considerable while with those whose religion is 
anti-christian. Though we cannot absolutely 
charge you with it, God, who is the Searcher of 
hearts, knows whether you have defiled yourself 
with their worship and way. If it be so, and 
you have not repented of it, by offering to par- 
take at this time in the Holy Supper, you will 
eat and drink your own damnation. But if you 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 155 



are clear, and have nothing of this wherewith 
to charge yourself, which you yourself know, 
then may you receive." Under this solemn 
adjuration, the man ventured to take the sacra- 
ment : but soon after, goaded by the stings of 
a remorseful conscience, ended his life as Judas 
did. 

Mr. Wilson was once going from Hartford to 
Weathersfield. He was attended by a Mr. 
Adams, who was followed by the news, that his 
daughter was taken suddenly and dangerously 
ill. Mr. Wilson, raising his eyes to heaven, 
began to wrestle mightily in prayer for her life. 
" Lord," said he " wilt thou now take away thy 
servant's child, when thou seest he is attending 
on thy poor unworthy servant in most Christian 
kindness ? Oh, do it not ! " Then turning to 
the distressed parent, he said ; — " Brother, I 
trust your daughter shall live. I believe in God 
she shall recover of this sickness." It was 
indeed granted to him according to his faith. 
The young woman was remarkably restored to 
health, and lived to become the mother of a 
worthy family. 

About the year 1655, the Lord Protector 
Cromwell, tried to induce the New England 
settlers to migrate to the West Indies, and peo- 
ple the islands he had wrested from the Span- 



156 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

iards. In this scheme he enlisted the excellent 
Daniel Gookin, the Major-General of Massachu- 
setts : but without succeeding. There was, 
however, a company of the colonists very intent 
upon the project ; and headed by a frantic en- 
thusiast, Thomas Venner, a cooper of Salem. 
They called the chief magistrates and ministers 
to a sort of synod, to give advice about the un- 
dertaking. They counseled the company, with 
very weighty reasons to abandon the plan. 
Venner, however, w^ith some of his crew, stood 
up and declared, that, notwithstanding this 
advice, they were certain that they were called 
of God to remove. Mr. Wilson arose, and 
sternly replied ; — " Aye ! do you come to ask 
counsel in so weighty a matter as this, and to 
seek help from an ordinance of God in respect 
to it ? And yet were aforehand resolved, that 
you will go on ? Well, you may go, if you 
will : but you shall not prosper. What ! do 
you make a mock of God's ordinance ? " They 
went on ; and the enterprise resulted in a com- 
plete failure. Venner, who had spent some 
twenty years in New England, betook himself 
to London. He was one of those confused, but 
fiery fanatics, whom Carlyle oddly describes as 
a sooty kitchen-chimney all in a roaring blaze, 
fumy and flamy. Here he engaged with some 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 157 

Other frantic fifth-monarchy-men, in a plot to 
blow up Cromwell with gunpowder in White- 
hall. But Oliver's vigilant police exploded the 
plot. For leading an insurrection for the same 
cause soon after the restoration of Charles II., 
poor Venner was hanged and quartered January 
the nineteenth, 1661. It required, indeed, but 
little of the prophetic spirit to foresee that such 
a person would come to an untimely and miser- 
able end. 

In Mr. Wilson's view, it augured ill to any 
one, to be an opposer of ecclesiastical order and 
discipline. It boded no good. He was once on 
a council called to settle some differences in a 
church. He observed a man who was extremely 
perverse, and a sore troubler of the peace of the 
church. Upon this Mr. Wilson expressed to 
the council his confidence, " that the jealousy 
of God would set a mark upon that man, and 
that the ordinary death of men should not befall 
him." Nor was it long after, that the hapless 
mortal fell into the power of the Indians, and 
expired under the hands of his savage tor- 
mentors. 

In some of the affairs of his own family, Mr. 
Wilson's faith was powerfully exercised. 

His daughter Mary appears to have been his 
youngest child, and the only one of his children 

VOL. II. 14 



158 LIFE OF J'OHN WILSOIf. 

born in this country. He took great delight in 
her, and often called her " his New England 
token." She was seized with a malignant 
fever, which brought her so low, that every one 
despaired of her life, except her father. He 
summoned several ministers, and other Christian 
friends, to keep a sort of household fast-day, to 
pray for her life and soul. While listening to 
the prayers of Mr. Cotton on this occasion, he 
found his hopes raised to such a pitch, that he 
did not hesitate to declare ; — " While I heard 
Mr. Cotton at prayer, I was confident the child 
should live ! " And live she did, to a good age, 
eminent for her piety, and the mother of a 
numerous and distinguished family. She became 
the wife of Rev. Samuel Danforth, the faithful 
pastor of Roxbury. 

Mr. Wilson's younger son, when he was a 
child, fell headlong, from a loft four stories 
high, into the street. He was taken up for 
dead, so battered and gored by his fall as to 
strike the beholders with horror. But the fath- 
er's importunate prayers were wonderfully an- 
swered in the recovery of his child to life and 
sense. He too, having taken a new lease of his 
clay cottage, remained its tenant to a good old 
age : and finally departed from it at Medfield, 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 159 

where he had been for forty years, the useful 
and honored pastor. 

The elder son, Edmund, traveled in Italy, 
with a view to perfect himself in the study of 
medicine ; his chosen calling, which was then 
cultivated with greater success in that country 
than anywhere else. While there, he was in 
continual peril from the popish Inquisition. The 
constant prayers of the distressed father were 
answered by a signal preservation. The young 
gentleman was seized by that most unhallowed 
" Holy Office." While he was under examina- 
tion, a friend of the Chief Inquisitor suddenly 
arrived. Not having met this friend for many 
years, the Inquisitor was put into such good 
humor, as to invite his prisoner to dine with 
him. At the table they became very sociable. 
The Inquisitor here astonished the young Mr. 
Wilson, by calling him by his true name, 
instead of that which he had assumed for 
greater safety during his travels. The formi- 
dable man also showed himself well acquainted 
with the character of the father, and with .the 
zeal and industry by which he served the here- 
tics of New England. In this country, we 
know not what espionage is. 

Released from this peril, Edmund Wilson 
was delivered from another of a different and 



160 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 



more formidable kind, and with a more noticea- 
ble interference of his faithful father's prayers. 
We are about to relate an event which is extra- 
ordinary and right marvelous : but which no 
studious, or philosophical, or devout mind will 
pronounce to be incredible in itself. While the 
young man was traveling in Italy, the anxious 
father dreamed that he was himself transported 
into that country, where he saw a fair tempter in 
his son's apartment, striving with a thousand 
blandishments to lure him from the path of vir- 
tue. Upon this the father was overheard by a 
person who occupied the same couch, making 
prayers to God full of agony, and then vehe- 
mently warning his tempted son to beware. 
And now for the "singular coincidence," as 
some will term it. A considerable time after- 
wards, the younger Mr. Wilson writes to his 
father, that, on a certain night, which was found 
to have been the same with that of the dream, 
he was situated even as he appeared to be in his 
parent's vision ; and that his chastity would 
have been overcome by those caresses, had he 
not been suddenly and powerfully impressed 
with a remembrance of his father's prayers over 
him, and the warnings he had so often given. 
It was this that broke the snare of the fowler, 
and enabled him, like the youthful Joseph in 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 161 

Egypt, to avoid the pit, from which "whoso 
pleaseth God shall escape," but " he that is 
abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein." 

It is a natural transition, to pass from Mr. 
Wilson's praying to his preaching. During his 
ministry in England, he had been much ad- 
mired as an argumentative and logical preacher. 
But when he came to Boston, and was associ- 
ated as pastor with such famous teachers as 
Cotton and Norton, he restricted himself chiefly 
to exhorting and admonishing the flock. He 
usually spoke in the later services, taking the 
same text which his colleague had previously 
handled in a doctrinal manner. He strove to 
put an edge upon the truth which had been de- 
livered, and drive it home to the heart. Such 
was the pastoral unction with which he spake, 
that the celebrated Mr. Shepard would say ; — 
" Methinks I hear an apostle, when I hear this 
man." Th§ last time he preached the Boston 
Thursday lecture, which was then a great occa- 
sion, he was obliged to take the place of a 
preacher who had disappointed them. It was 
on the sixteenth of November, 1665. Mr. Wil- 
son spoke extemporaneously on a text which 
had caught his attention in the chapter, Jere- 
miah 29, read at morning prayer in his family. 
The words were these ; — " For thus saith the 
14# 



162 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, let not your 
prophets, and your diviners, that be in the midst 
of you, deceive you ; neither hearken to your 
dreams which ye cause to be dreamed." This 
discourse was taken in short hand, and printed 
about twelve years after his death. It is a most 
pathetic warning against the dreamers of his 
day, to wit, the Quakers, who were then caus- 
ing much disturbance. Every line seems trem- 
ulous with the anxieties of the shepherd for his 
flock, while the howling of the wolves is rend- 
ing his ears. " Go not after these enthusiasts," 
was his monitory cry, " for, whatever they may 
pretend, they will rob you of your ordinances, 
rob you of your souls, rob you of your God." 

The last time Mr. Wilson spoke in the pul- 
pit, was in that of Mr. Danforth, his son-in-law, 
at the weekly lecture in Roxbury. His text was 
gathered from the beginnings and endings of the 
last five Psalms, sometimes called, from this 
peculiarity, the Hallelujah Psalms. Having 
read them with great animation and spirit, he 
exclaimed ; — " If I were sure this were to be 
the last sermon that ever I should preach, and 
these the last words that ever I should speak, 
yet I would still say, Hallelujah, hallelujah, 
praise ye the Lord ! " With him it was but a 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 163 

natural transition from the Alleluias of earth to 
those of heaven. 

Speaking of these weekly lectures, it may be 
well to mention, that the ministers with many of 
their people, attended not only their own, but 
those in the neighboring towns, which, for this 
reason, were held on different days of the week, 
either weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly, as the 
case might be. They were occasions of great 
resort. The diaries of Winthrop, Sewall, and 
other distinguished magistrates, make constant 
allusions to them. It was a godly sight, to see 
large companies of Christians, with their pastors 
at their head, flocking to the lecture in the neigh- 
bor-town, and communing of Christ by the way, 
till their hearts burned within them. Till the 
infirmities of old age prevented, Mr. Wilson de- 
lighted to attend this duty, through storm or 
shine, with unweariable constancy. He feared 
not the unventilated and unwarmed churches. 
One of his brethren said, in some home -spun 
elegiacs, containing more truth than poetry, 

" Christ's word, it was his life ; Christ's church his care : 
And so great with him his least brethren were. 
Nor heat, nor cold, not rain, or frost, or snow, 
Could hinder, but he'd to their lectures go." 

The fathers of New England manifested an in- 
comparable zeal in the duties of private and 



164 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 



public devotion, family religion and govern- 
ment, and sanctification of the Sabbath. Shall 
that " golden age'' ever return ? " Oh Lord 
God, thou knowest ! " 

After what has been incidentally said, it is 
scarcely necessary to speak of Mr. Wilson's 
pastoral qualities. In him was verified the 
beautiful similitude of the fond and faithful 
shepherd, watching, defending, guiding and 
feeding his flock ; a flock which knew his 
voice, loved his person, and followed his lead- 
ing to "the pastures of tender grass" and to 
" the waters of quietness." ^ When " grievous 
wolves" drew nigh, he failed not to assail them 
with the utmost boldness and vigor, assisted by 
his sagacious watch-dog§, the godly magis- 
trates. As a pastor, he knew that he had a 
special charge from the Great Shepherd to 
" feed his lambs," which are in truth " the hope 
of the flock." He "gathered them with his 
arm, and carried them in his bosom." He 
strenuously insisted, that Christ's own mark 
should be put upon them, the sacred seal of 
baptism : and contended earnestly for their cov- 
enant-rights, and especially that they should be 



* Psalm 23 : 2, marginal readings. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 165 

" nourished up in the words of faith and of good 
doctrine." 

He cheerfully, and not ungraciously, stooped 
to the humblest means of rendering himself ser- 
viceable to the souls of men. And when, in his 
old age, the failure of his voice cut him off from 
public ministrations in his great congregation, 
he spent the last remainders of his strength in 
visiting his people from house to house. He 
still put to good use his eminent powers of con- 
versation. To many he sent, as need required, 
warnings or consolations, by letters and copies 
of verses. To the last of his life, he never abated 

" His care to guide his flock, and feed his lambs, 

By words, works, prayers, psalms, alms and anagrams." 

There was nothing imposing in his personal 
appearance. " His bodily presence was weak." 
Johnson of Woburn, who knew him well and 
greatly revered him, speaks of him in this par- 
ticular as " a weak, sorry man," and casually 
alludes to his " thick utterance." But these 
outward disadvantages were so compensated by 
spiritual succors, that his usefulness was not 
diminished. The grace of God often and won- 
derfully renders such slender reeds the firm and 
sufficient supports of his eternal temple. 

During his ministry of thirty-seven years in 



166 -LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

Boston, there were added to his church four 
hundred and ninety-nine males, and five hun- 
dred and forty-eight females. The total of one 
thousand and forty -seven gives an average of 
nearly thirty annual admissions for the whole 
period of his ministry. Taking into considera- 
tion his labors in the gospel for near twenty 
years in his native country, of which we only 
know that they were eminently successful in 
winning souls to Christ, we must regard him as 
a servant whom his Lord delighted to honor. 
We doubt not that he shines in the firmament of 
glory, as one who, by the grace of God, " turned 
many to righteousness." 

The number of children baptized by him 
during his pastorship in Boston was, of males, 
nine hundred and thirty-one ; and of females 
eight hundred and twenty-two. The total ot 
one thousand seven hundred and fifty-three, 
gives an annual average of nearly fifty, thus 
enfolded in the embrace of the church, and 
cherished on her bosom. Of these, two-fifths, 
probably, were soon laid to sleep in their grass- 
covered cradles, and " went unto Jesus" in their 
infancy. 

We have already alluded to his extreme gen- 
erosity, ever emptying his purse to relieve the 
needy. Though this Boanerges was a son of 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 167 

thunder, ready to flash fire from heaven upon 
the heads of gross errorists and seducers of the 
people, he had withal a heart of melting pity 
when he saw them struck down to the ground 
by the electric stroke. He testified with a 
dauntless zeal against all offences. Like the 
beloved apostle whose name he bore, he showed 
no quarter to false teachers. He could say ; — 
" If there come any unto you, and bring not this 
doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither 
bid him God speed." And yet, like that same 
apostle, he had an overflowing tenderness of 
heart, full of love and endearment. " When 
malefactors had been openly scourged upon the 
just sentence of authority, he would presently 
send for them to his house : and having first ex- 
pressed his bounty to them, he would then 
bestow upon them such gracious admonitions 
and exhortations, as made them to become, 
instead of desperate, remarkably penitent." It 
may be questioned whether the boasted peniten- 
tiary system of our times is any very marked 
improvement upon his. 

He is a proof of the mistake of those, who 
take their ideas wholly from Dr. South, and 
king Charles' cavalier preachers. They look 
upon an ancient Puritan as resembling one of 
the old-fashioned box-stoves we used to have 



168 LIFE OP JOHN WILSON. 

in our churches some twenty years ago, with its 
stiff plates, its sharp angles, its grim and gloomy 
complexion, looking as if devoid of feeling itself, 
but ready to blister you, if you so much as touch 
it with your finger. Such notions of the Puri- 
tans may well be dissipated by one little inci- 
dent. Mr. Wilson was once looking at a great 
muster of soldiers on the common. A gentle-, 
man said to him ; — " Sir, I will tell you a great 
thing : here is a mighty body of people, and 
there is not seven of them all but what loves 
Mr. Wilson." The good man pleasantly re- 
plied ; — " Sir, I will tell you as good a thing as 
that : here is a mighty body of people, and 
there is not so much as one of them, but what 
Mr. Wilson loves." Surely the secret of being 
loved, is to be loving ourselves. 

For hospitality he was renowned. His house 
was the stranger's home. 

No less was he famed for his poetic gift, 
which the taste of his times held in high esti- 
mation. He was continually exercising this 
faculty ; sending his effusions in all directions, 
especially for the consolation of mourners. His 
verses were carried, like the handkerchiefs from 
Paul, for the healing of wounded souls. His fer- 
tile fancy could see an allegory in every event. 
In the year 1626, he published some verses at 



# OF THTB 

[-UNIVERSITY . 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 169 

London, upon the famous deliverances of the 
English nation. They were reprinted by his 
son at Boston, in 1680 : but no copy of them is 
known to be in existence. Though Poesy may 
not mourn the loss, Piety may regard the priva- 
tion with regret. 

Another fancy which Mr. Wilson indulged 
was the making of anagrams on the names of 
all his friends and acquaintance."^ He made 
these *' difficult trifles" both numerously and 
nimbly. And if they were not often ingenious 
or exact, they were always instructive. If he 
could not readily fetch good matter from some 
untractable name, he would force it, rather than 
lose the moral. The scion was often more fruit- 



* An anagram is such a transposition of the letters which compose 
a person's name, as to form some significant word or phrase. Thus 
Mr. Wilson, hearing Increase Mather, then a young man, preach 
upon the glory of Christ, made on the spot an anagram of his name 
in Latin, Crescentius Matherus, which he turned into " En, Christus 
merces tua,"— " Lo ! Christ is thy reward." A nearly perfect ana- 
gram, and quite characteristic of the man, was made on the name 
John Willson, often so spelled ; — " Wish no one ill." On his hearse 
was the following, which shows the taste of the times, though Cot- 
ton Mather tells us, that "some thought the Muses looked very 
much dissatisfied " to see them there. 

" JOHN AVILSON. 

Anagram. 

John Wilson. 

Oh ! change it not ; no sweeter name or thing, 

Throughout the world, within our ears shall ring ! " 

VOL. II. 15 



170 LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 

ful than the stock on which it was grafted. The 
best anagram made upon his own name was by 
Rev. Nathaniel Ward of Ipswich, alias Theo- 
dore de la Guard, alias " The Simple Cobbler of 
Agawam." This queer writer, alluding to the 
generous and unbounded hospitality of the Bos- 
ton pastor, said of him ; — " The anagram of 
John Wilson is, I pray you, come in, you are 

HEARTILY WELCOBIE ! " 

This good man's humility was the preserva- 
tive of his graces. It was a fitting casket for 
those jewels, a casket as rare and precious as 
any thing it contained. Sometimes, indeed, his 
unfeigned modesty was excessive. He had once 
promised to preach for a neighboring minister : 
but afterwards came in sufficient good season to 
excuse himself. " Sir," said he, " I told you 
that I would preach for you, but it was rashly 
done of. me ; I have on my knees begged the 
pardon of it from the Lord, that I should offer 
thus to deprive his people of your labors, which 
are so much better than any of mine can be. 
Wherefore, Sir, I now come seasonable to tell 
you, that I shall fail you." No persuasion 
could induce him to change this last purpose of 
his excessive humility. He may be the more 
easily pardoned for this fault, considering that it 
is so rarely committed. 



LIFE OF JOHN WILSON. 171 

From the same cause, he would never suffer 
his portrait to be taken. Though often and 
urgently importuned by his friends, their en- 
treaties on this point were unavailing. He 
would still reply ; — " What ! such a poor vile 
creature as I am ! shall my picture be drawn ? 
I say, No; it never shall." His honored kins- 
man, Edward Rawson, long the secretary of the 
Colony, once introduced the artist with all his 
apparatus ; but he could neither be surprised 
nor supplicated into yielding his consent. There 
is, it is true, a portrait of him, most venerable to 
behold, in the gallery of the Massachusetts His- 
torical Society. But it was probably taken after 
his decease, as is often done. It has the rigid 
and cadaverous look, which, in such cases, the 
best skill of the limner cannot wholly avoid. 

Cotton Mather, however, to whom we are 
greatly indebted for the materials wrought into 
this sketch, has well delineated Mr. Wilson's 
character, the features of which are more impor- 
tant than those of his countenance. His words 
may suitably close this imperfect delineation of 
an admirable man. " If the picture of this 
good, and therein great, man, were to be exactly 
given, great zeal, with great love, would be the 
two principal strokes, that, joined with ortho- 
doxy, should make up his portraiture." 



172 LIFE OF JOHN "WILSON. 

And now we drop the curtain over the acts 
and scenes in the life of this worthy. When the 
curtains of eternity shall be drawn aside, and 
the heavens rolled away as a scroll, at the sig- 
nal of the last trumpet, in what blessedness 
shall we see him, robed in righteousness, 
crowned with light, and throned in glory for- 
evermore ! 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON 



15* 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 



CHAPTER I. 

Preliminary Remarks. Birth of John Norton. Education. Peter- 
Hou3e, Cambridge. Romish Priest. Teacher and curate at Storford. 
Conversion. Becomes a zealous Puritan. Ciiurch Reform. Mr. 
Norton declines a benefice and a fellowship. Becomes a Chaplain. 
Marries. Resolves to repair to America. With T. Shepard at 
Yarmouth. Adventure with Pursuivant. Embarkation. Perilous 
Storm. Driven back to Yarmouth. Mr, Norton resumes his voy- 
age next year. Sails for Plymouth with Gov. Winslow. Another 
terrible Storm. Winter at Plymouth. Removal to Boston. Debate 
with French Friar. Mr. Norton's scholastic learning. John Cot- 
ton on the Schoolmen. Synod of 1637. Mr. Norton ordained at 
Ipswich. New England Prayer-meetings. Giles Firmin's account. 
Morality of the Colony. N. Ward's testimony. New England's 
first Fruits. Sir James Mackintosh. Reply to ApoUonius. Horn- 
beck. Fuller, Fraternal Reproof Letter to Dury. Union of 
Sects. Evils of division. New England divines thetrue " Reformed 
Catholics," Election Sermons. Synod of 1646. Boston Church 
refuses attendance. Persuaded by Mr. Norton. Cambridge Plat- 
form. Richard Baxter. Mr. Pyncheon's heretical book. Confuted 
by Mr. Norton. " Orthodox Evangelist." Scheme of Doctrine. 
Political influence of Calvinism. Macaulay. Bancroft, The ben- 
efits conferred by Calvinism in New England, 

There are some dark lanterns, which burn, 
but shine not : men of illuminated minds, who 
yet shed no light upon the minds of others. And 



176 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON, 



some there are, like an ice-block glistening in the 
moon-beams, which shines indeed, but with the 
cold and cheerless rays of far-fetched and oft- 
reflected light. But he is the man of God, in 
whom the burning fire of love and zeal radiates 
the cheering light of truth and salvation. Such 
an one was that John, to whom Jesus bare wit- 
ness, that he was both a burning and a shining 
light. 

Happy is the church, in which, like the tab- 
ernacle of old, the fire that comes down from 
heaven kindles in the golden candlestick, and 
burns on the glowing altar. The flame of the 
branching lamp, fed by the oil of grace, shines 
as it was wont in heaven, revealing something 
of heaven itself. And the same hallowed fire, 
as it blazes on the altar, sheds abroad the fra- 
grance of its incense breathing sweets ; and, 
with its genial heat, warms into life and action 
the sacred passions of the soul. 

He, of whom we are now to speak, was a 
luminary of this kind, and of no inferior magni- 
tude. He burned with heavenly love, and shone 
with living light. " There was light in his fire, 
and fire in his light." He was "a bright, par- 
ticular star," in Christ's right hand : and though 
now far down toward the horizon, yet in the time 
of his ascendant, there were many that rejoiced 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 177 

in his light, and were guided by it, like the wise 
men, unto Christ. They hailed it as a star of. 
hopeful guidance through the perilous night- 
voyage of life, and over its surging seas. 

John Norton was born of respectable parent- 
age, on the sixth of May, 1606, at Storford in 
Hartfordshire. In the spring-time of his life, 
he blossomed profusely with such flowers of the 
mind, as gave promise of rich fruit in his riper 
years. He early acquired the power of writing 
Latin with uncommon elegance, which proved to 
him in after years a very useful accomplishment. 

At fourteen years of age, he was entered at 
Peter-House in the University of Cambridge. 
Here he remained, noted for his scholarship, till 
he had taken his first degree. Soon after grad- 
uating, in consequence of the utter ruin of his 
father's estate, he was forced to leave the Uni- 
versity, and betake himself to active employment 
for the means of subsistence. During his abode 
at that seat of learning, his eminent talents drew 
the attention of a Romish priest, who, coveting 
such a prize, used his best endeavors to win him 
over to the papal cause. But the youth, though 
as yet a stranger to the grace of God, resisted 
the temptations of this seducer of souls. 

Being naturally of a gay and light-hearted 
temper, he indulged in dancing, card-playing, 



178 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

and other youthful vanities. The admonitions 
of a pious servant of his father, first led him to 
more serious thoughts, and induced him to follow 
''such things as are of good report." 

On leaving the University, he at once, young 
as he was, became usher to the school and curate 
to the church in Storford, his native place. In 
that town a weekly lecture was maintained by a 
company of devout aad able ministers, with sev- 
eral of whom he became acquainted. One of 
these was Rev. Jeremiah Dyke, rector of Epping; 
a divine of considerable note. Under the search- 
ing ministry of Mr. Dyke, the young curate was 
awakened to a deep sense of the sin and misery 
of his unregenerate state. The deep conviction 
of guilt he felt in his heart, till he was driven 
nearly to despair. Thus he mourned a while 
beneath the dark and boding cloud which lower- 
ed over his drooping soul. The Spirit of God, 
the only efficient Comforter of such mourners, 
disclosed to him the grace of Christ, and the 
consoling promises of the gospel. His rejoicing 
was equal to his sorrow. He now felt himself 
truly called of God to the work of the ministry ; 
and felt it his duty, now that he was converted, 
to strengthen his brethren. 

His thorough classical studies well fitted him 
for the study of theology, to which Lord Bacon, 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 179 

himself no mean theologian, assigns the throne 
as queen of the sciences, who are her ministrant 
princesses. Addicting himself to divinity, which 
he cultivated with the life and affection of an 
experimental christian, he became an able min- 
ister, and rose to high repute. He wrote in a 
sententious and vigorous style. He was fond of 
pointed and figurative expressions. His senten- 
ces, though not polished in our fine modern 
fashion, were usually condensed and forcible. 
He delighted in the warm and living presentation 
of the Saviour ; and came up to his own admira- 
ble maxim, that " Christ evidently held forth is 
divine eloquence." 

He was one of the old staunch Puritans, 
immovably grounded upon the doctrines of 
grace ; and with a conscience perfectly inflexible, 
when once set right. His dislike of Arminian- 
ism rose even to an antipathy, from the time 
when he was " touched by the sceptre of grace." 
His orthodoxy, and much more his unwillingness 
to submit to things which had been imposed on 
the church in derogation from the kingly power 
of Christ, kept Mr. Norton down. He could not 
expect to rise to the quiet enjoyment of any 
preferment, in an age when the lordly prelates 
used to say, that men of his stamp " must not be 
allowed to rise till the resurrection day." 



180 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

The history of the Church, in the main, pre- 
sents a succession of corruptions and reforms. 
The Jewish church, at intervals, was like gold 
seven times refined. But, during intervening 
ages, corruption dimmed the burnished metal, 
and destroyed its ductility by large alloys 
of base and drossy mineral. By his prophetSj 
God promised his people a thorough purification; 
as when he said ; — " I will turn my hand upon 
thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take 
away all thy tin." Refining is a work which 
may diminish the quantity, but it much more 
increases the value of what remains. All that 
is lost by it proves to be clear gain. By the 
removal of what is taken away, the precious 
residue is restored to its real worth, utility and 
beauty. Happy is the Church when thus 
*' purely purged " and reduced to her primitive 
state and order. Then is the promise fulfilled ; — 
** I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy 
counselors as at the beginning : afterward thou 
shalt be called. The city of righteousness. The 
faithful city." 

The Christian Church furnishes a striking 
parallel to that of the Mosaic. Here too, the 
golden age of pristine purity was short. The 
rich mass of virgin ore soon suffered repeated 
alloys of the soft tin of human additions, and be- 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 181 

gan to be cankered with the eating rust of cor- 
ruption. At last, the pious beholder was forced 
to cry out with the prophet bewailing the captive 
daughter of Zion ; — " How is the gold become 
dim ! how is the most fine gold changed !" 
Then, in the times of reformation, God purified 
his Church in the hot crucible of divine judg- 
ments and fiery trials. And so the word came 
to pass ; — " He is like a refiner's fire ; — and he 
shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver ; and 
he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them 
as gold and silver, that they may oflTer unto the 
Lord an ofiering in righteousness." 

By his royal prerogative, God recalled the 
Church into his mint, and purged the debased 
and adulterated currency; and then re-coined 
and re-issued it, pure and bright, and stamped 
afresh with his own sovereign image and super- 
scription. 

But this grand reformation was not wrought 
out without the use of the fire and the hammer. 
It was in the height of this terrible, but necessary 
operation, that our puritan fathers lived and 
acted. As Mr. Norton said ; — " The best of the 
servants of God have lived in the worst of times." 
It was in the midst of such trials and excite- 
ments, that his character was formed, and his 
religious principles developed. He there attained 
VOL. n. 16 



182 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON 



to that conscientious integrity, which no worldly- 
interest could warp. 

His uncle would have presented him to a 
valuable benefice, which he was obliged to de- 
cline in consequence of his scruples against the 
ceremonies which were enforced to the infringe- 
ment of the royal rights of Jesus in his kingdom. 
He was also earnestly solicited by Dr. Sibbs, 
Master of Katharine Hall in Cambridge, to accept 
a fellowship in the University, for which his 
abilities eminently fitted him. This too, he 
declined, because the office was hampered with 
conditions which he conscientiously held to be 
unlawful in the sight of God. 

Thus precluded from other employment, he 
contented himself with the duties of chaplain in 
the house of Sir William Masham, at High 
Lever, in Essex. Here he resided for some 
time, waiting for a more public opportunity to 
exercise his ministry, preaching as he had oppor- 
tunity, and rapidly improving all his qualifica- 
tions for so great a work. Though highly 
esteemed for his abilities, he was, after a time, 
utterly silenced for his non- conformity. 

Convinced, at last, that he could not hope to 
worship God according to the decisions of his 
enlightened conscience, in his native land, he 
turned his thoughts to America, and to " the 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 183 

church in the wilderness." Mr. Norton was 
then recently married to a lady of handsome 
property, and of estimable character, and who 
cheerfully accompanied him to what was the 
" Far West " of those times : a region so remote, 
that it was fancied the last conflict with anti- 
christ must be decided there. 

They accordingly repaired to Yarmouth, 
about the middle of September, 1634, to take 
ship for New England. Here they were joined 
by that famed servant of God, Rev. Thomas 
Shephard, afterwards pastor of Cambridge, where 
Harvard College was located for the express 
purpose of placing the scholars under the influ- 
ence of his powerful ministry. While these 
clergymen tarried at Yarmouth awaiting the 
sailing of their vessel, which was near two 
months, a few pious people privately resorted to 
their preaching. This was matter of no small 
peril, as vigilant measures were adopted for their 
apprehension. Mr. Shepard was in great dan- 
ger, as the animosity of archbishop Laud was 
excited to special fury against him. 

The chief pursuivant made an arrangement 
with a boy, some sixteen years of age, who 
lived in the house where these ministers were 
secreted, and to which they had been tracked. 
The youth, on the promise of a considerable 



184 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

sum of money, agreed to open the door for these 
emissaries at a certain hour of the night. After 
this plot was laid, the unhappy traitor was much 
affected by hearing the solemn and religious 
conversation of Mr. Shepard, and began to re- 
pent. His pensive and troubled appearance 
roused his master to question him for the cause; 
and, after much urging, he made full confession 
of his intended treachery. The good man of 
the house obtained the aid of some trusty friends, 
who conveyed the ministers away by a retired 
lane, and carried them in a boat to another hid- 
ing-place. The officers came at the time ap- 
pointed : but, on lifting the latch, were thoroughly 
vexed to find the door firmly closed against 
them. In their irritation, they exceeded their 
authority by attempting a forcible entry. They 
had thrust their staves under the door, and were 
in the act of lifting it from the hinges, when 
they were caught in this house-breaking busi- 
ness by some friends of the owner who had 
employed them for the purpose. The ungentle 
handling they received, added to the mortification 
of the officers at losing the prey of whose cap- 
ture they felt so sure. This was one of the little 
comic scenes which sometimes relieved the 
many and melancholy acts of the tragedy of 
persecution. The incident may serve a more 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 185 

important purpose, as illustrating the power of 
a holy conversation to awaken the conscience of 
the wicked, as in the case of that misguided 
youth. It also teaches a lesson of trust in the 
providential protection of God over his suffering 
servants, who are often snatched from the very 
jaws of the lion. 

It was late in that year, 1634, when these 
good men succeeded at last in setting sail from 
Harwich, in the Great Hope, a ship of four hun- 
dred tons, commanded by an able captain, of the 
name of Girling. Within a few hours from 
their setting out, they met with a succession of 
disasters. At night, they came to anchor in a 
dangerous place. In the morning, the wind be- 
came violent, and drove the ship toward the 
sands near Harwich harbor, till she grated heav- 
ily upon them. But she still drifted along, in the 
direction of Yarmouth. At this juncture one of 
the seamen was washed overboard. It was 
sometime before any effort could be made to save 
him : but after he had been about an hour in the 
sea, though unable to swim, he was picked up 
by three of the men in a boat, before life was 
extinct. 

The vessel came to anchor in Yarmouth road. 
The next morning, there arose a terrible west- 
erly gale of such devastating fury, that the day 
16^ 



186 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

was long afterwards known as " the windy Sat- 
urday." Many vessels, some in full view, per- 
ished with their crews. The Great Hope lost 
all her upper works and her anchors, and drifted 
till she was but little more than a cable's length 
from the sands. The master cried out that they 
were all dead men : and the whole ship's com- 
pany betook themselves to prayer. Thousands 
of people on shore looked with unavailing pity 
upon their distress, as they were still drifting 
toward the raging breakers, where the staunch- 
est ship must soon " melt amid the yeast of waves." 
Some compassionate spectators offered large 
sums of money to any that would go to help 
them : but none durst venture. An officer of 
rank, on the walls of Yarmouth castle, scoffingly 
remarked, that he felt sorry for a poor collier in 
the road: "but," said he, "as for the Puritans 
in the other ship, I am not concerned ; their 
faith will save themy This unbelieving scoff 
turned out very differently from the expectation 
of him who uttered it. 

Among the passengers, there was one Mr. 
Cork, an intemperate man, who was no sailor, 
though he had often been to sea. He had been 
taken with the whim of going to New England, 
to view the country. He saw what needed to 
be done, and called upon the captain, who was 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 187 

stupified with consternation, to cut away his 
masts. The captain being unwilling, Cork pro- 
cured hatchets, called upon the master to be a 
man, and encouraged the desponding seamen, 
till they cut the mainmast away, just as they 
had given themselves up for lost. They had 
one small anchor left, which they dropped : but 
the ship still drifted toward the spot where they 
expected shortly to be swallowed up by the 
waves. The trembling passengers saw the 
breakers tumbling in their might, and roaring 
for their prey, which the yelling winds were 
forcing resistlessly toward them. The victims 
were no strangers to the power of prayer, which 
is able to save from death ; or, what is better 
still, to prepare for death the children of the 
resurrection. Mr. Shepard assembled the mar- 
iners upon deck, and Mr. Norton gathered the 
passengers, two hundred in number, below. 
They then applied themselves to fervent prayer, 
and found that their hope in God was the "best 
bower," — an anchor both sure and steadfast. 
The wind speedily abated : and the ship ceased 
drifting just at the last extremity. They found 
that their last cable had not parted, as they sup- 
posed it had ; but only dragged the anchor, 
which was not quite heavy enough to break it, 
along the sandy bottom. The vessel rode out 



188 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

the storm, though still very rough, and though 
the cable was let out so far, that it was held only 
by a small rope. One of the company observed 
this, and remarked; — " That thread we hang by 
will save us !" And so indeed it did. The 
passengers, astonished at their deliverance, felt 
that if ever the Lord brought them to shore again, 
they would live like men who had risen from the 
dead. The next morning, being the Sabbath, 
they were conveyed to shore by boats from the 
town. How applicable to them were the words 
of the Psalm ; — " They cried unto the Lord in 
their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their 
distresses : he maketh the storm a calm, so that 
the waves thereof are still." 

The voyage of the ministers was thus de- 
feated for that season. Mr. Norton spent the 
winter with his friends in Essex county ; where 
his spiritual father, the excellent Mr. Dyke, joy- 
fully received him as one restored from another 
world, rejoicing that his friend had so well sus- 
tained the trial of his failh. 

Undaunted by his brief, but rough experience 
of the dangers of the sea, Mr. Norton was ready 
to resume his voyage the next year. Governor 
Winslow was then in England as agent for the 
Plymouth Colony. He was also authorized to 
procure a teaching elder, to be colleague with 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 189 

Rev. Ralph Smith, pastor of the church. The 
worthy governor was happy to obtain for that 
office a man so able as Mr. Norton. They 
were fellow- voyagers to this country. At their 
departure, an aged minister said; — " I believe 
there is not more grace and holiness left in all 
Essex, than what Mr. Norton has carried away 
with him." 

Unavoidable delays made it late in 1635, be- 
fore they began the voyage. They came upon 
our coast in the month of October. Here arose 
another terrific tempest, which raged for eight 
and forty hours with such force, that the ship 
must have been knocked to pieces had she not 
been built with more than usual strength. As 
it was, " they used helps, undergirding the ship" 
with the cable, to assist in holding her battered 
sides together. It would seem as though " the 
prince of the power of the air" raised all his 
storms, to prevent these men of God from pro- 
ceeding on an enterprise which was destined to 
endamage so greatly his kingdom of darkness. 
They then saw " the works of the Lord, and his 
wonders in the deep." Among other marvels, 
they shipped a sea, which washed several of the 
sailors overboard, and then threw them in again. 
Such an event, though rare, has not been with- 
out other, and well authenticated examples. 



190 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

Ten days afterwards, the ship came safe into 
Plymouth harbor. 

There Mr. Norton remained, and preached 
through the winter. The church very courte- 
ously and importunately urged him, with large 
offers, to settle among them. Mr. Smith also 
resigned in his favor. But all would not do. 
He alledged, that " his spirit could not close with 
them : " though to his dying day, as Morton's 
Memorial tells us, " he retained a good afl^ec- 
tion unto them." The state of affairs in the 
Massachusetts colony, was more congenial to 
his feelings : and he removed to that jurisdic- 
tion in 1636, being then thirty years of age. 

He speedily received a call to be teacher of 
the church at Ipswich. Such things were not 
hastily concluded in those days ; and he re- 
mained sometime in Boston, deliberating the 
matter. The neighboring ministers entertained 
the highest opinion of him : and some that were 
noted men, and older than he was, consulted 
him in their most important afl^airs, as a sort of 
oracle of wisdom. The magistrates also soon 
began to avail themselves of his great abilities 
in conducting some arduous matters. Among 
other things, he held a public debate with a 
French friar, who had roamed into these anti- 
Roman parts. The Frenchman relied mainly 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 191 

on the old scholastic logic :" but he found in the 
young Puritan a ripe scholar, and one thoroughly 
■versed in all the chief writings of the school- 
men. The friar retreated, surprised at his own 
discomfiture in this trial of skill at dialectic 
fencing. 

Mr. Norton, Mr. Stone, and others of our old 
divines, though they despised the doctrines of 
the schoolmen, had a high opinion of their 
mode of arguing, on account of its brevity and 
nice distinctions. John Cotton, in an introduc- 
tory epistle to one of Mr. Norton's volumes, 
thus explains the pre-eminence of the school- 
men, which lay, he says, " not in the light of 
divine grace, whereof most of them were wholly 
destitute ; nor in their skill in tongues and 
polite literature, wherein they were barbarians ; 
nor in their deeper insight into the holy Script- 
ures, in which they were far less conversant 
than in Peter Lombard and Aristotle : but in 
their rational disputes, with distinct solidity and 
succinct brevity." Mr. Norton was a match for 
any of them in their own craft : 

" For he a rope of sand could twist, 
As tough as learned Sorbonist." 

His controversial skill was often called into 
exercise : for in those days, as now, every thing 



192 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

had to be discussed. He was an influential 
member of the synod of 1637, which brought 
the antinomian war to a close in a decisive 
pitched battle, so that no severe conflict with 
that heresy has since been waged in New Eng- 
land. Antinomianism was so effectually killed, 
that it has never lifted up its head, not even in 
this* general resurrection of dead, buried and 
long-forgotten errors, which is now taking place 
around us. 

It was not till the 20th of October, 1638, that 
Mr. Norton was ordained as teacher of the 
church in Ipswich, which was his first parochial 
charge. On the same day, the Rev. Nathaniel 
Rogers was ordained as pastor of that church. 
Mr. Rogers himself preached the ordination 
sermon, a much admired discourse from the 
text ; — " Who is sufficient for these things ? " 
That church was then renowned for its many 
enlightened Christians and distinguished mem- 
bers ; and felt itself happy in its celebrated 
ministers, who, " with difl^erent gifts, but united 
hearts," labored for them in the Lord. Mr. 
Norton was followed to that place by a number 
of families which came all' the way from Eng- 
land on purpose to enjoy his ministry. 

We may here take occasion to remark, that 
for the first half century, the Massachusetts 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 193 

churches were not only served by a very 
learned, orthodox and zealous ministry : but 
that the private brethren were exceedingly 
active in the duties of social piety. The coun- 
try was full of their meetings for prayer and 
religious conference, and continued to be so for 
near a ceTrrtury. In these, the younger candi- 
dates for the ministry, made trial of their gifts, 
and accustomed themselves to speak to the edi- 
fication of the church. Questions relating to 
practical religion were there debated. A very 
usual exercise in these small assemblies, was 
the repeating of the sermons last preached by 
the pastors, and which were taken down for the 
purpose in short hand, an art more common 
then than now. This repetition of the sermons 
gave occasion to profitable comparisons of the 
Tiews of different hearers, as each stated how 
his mind was affected by the truths delivered 
from the pulpit. Thus was suggested an abun- 
dance of fruitful remarks, and the instructions 
of the sanctuary were more deeply and indelibly 
impressed. In these social meetings whole 
days were sometimes spent in fasting and 
prayer; especially if any in the neighborhood 
were in affliction, or the administration of the 
Lord's Supper were at hand. Those old Christ- 
ians were nobly skilled in the holy work of 

VOL. IT. 17 



194 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

prayer. In a book printed at London in 1681, 
Giles Firmin, makes the following statement of 
what he had often seen in this country; — 
" Plain mechanics have I known, well catechized 
and humble Christians, excellent in practical 
piety. They kept their station, and did not 
aspire to be preachers : but for gifts of prayer, 
few clergymen must come near them. I have 
known some of them, when they did keep their 
fasts, — as they did often, — they divided the 
work of prayer. The first begun with con- 
fession ; the second went on with petition for 
themselves ; the third with petition for Church 
and kingdom ; the fourth with thanksgiving. 
Every one kept his own part, and did not 
meddle with another part. Such excellent mat- 
ter, so compacted without tautologies, each of 
them for a good time, about an hour, if not more 
a piece ; to the wondering of those which joined 
with them. Here was no reading of liturgies. 
These were old Jacob's sons : they could 
wrestle and prevail with God." From such 
witnesses as these, it is evident, that the pro- 
fessing Christians of those times eminently 
prospered in religion, and grew strong in grace 
under the laborious ministrations of their able 
teachers. 

The tone of public morality was high. The 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 195 

Rev. Nathaniel Ward was Mr. Norton's prede- 
decessor at Ipswich. In a book once very cele- 
brated, Mr. Ward remarks; — "I thank God I 
have lived in a colony of many thousand English 
almost these twelve years, and am held a very 
sociable man. Yet I may considerately say, I 
never heard but one oath sworn, nor never saw 
one man drunk, nor never heard of three women 
guilty of adultery, in all that time, that I can 
call to mind." In a document of those times, it 
is said of New England ; — " As Ireland will not 
brook venomous beasts, so will not that land 
vile persons, and loose livers.'"^ " To God's 
praise be it spoken, one may live there from 
year to year, and not see a drunkard, hear an 
oath, or meet a beggar."! Though we live in 
sadly degenerate times, and the ancient simplic- 
ity and purity of manners are much impaired, 
the traces of better days are still distinctly 
visible. In a recorded conversation of Sir James 
Mackintosh, that distinguished and philosophical 
historian is reported to have said ; — " The 
remarkable private morality of the New Eng- 
land States is worth attention, especially when 
taken in connection with the very moral char- 



* New England's First Fruits. Lond. 1613. p. 26. 
t II'. p. 23. 



196 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON 



acter of the poorer people in Scotland, Holland 
and Switzerland. It is rather singular that all 
these countries, which are more moral than any 
others, are precisely those in which Calvinism 
is predominant." Being told, upon this, that 
Boston and Cambridge, for it was some thirty 
years ago when this conversation took place, 
had in a great measure abandoned Calvinism, 
Sir James replied ; — " I am rather surprised at 
that : but the same thing has happened in other 
places similarly situated. Boston, Geneva and 
Edinburgh might once have been considered as 
the three high places of Calvinism ; and the 
enemy is now, it seems, in full possession of 
them all. The fact appears to be a consequence 
of the principle of reaction, which operates as 
universally in the moral as in the physical 
world. '"^ Since then, there has been another 
" reaction " back again, which is still going on. 
The much commended Orthodox morality can- 
not long survive the destruction of the Orthodox 
truth and piety. Unless the tree shall revive, 
the fruits must disappear. 

The General Court, fully sensible that the 
labors of the ministers diminished the cares of 
government, by cherishing good order in the 



* Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, &c. by Alexander H. Everett, 
p. 301. 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 197 

community, encouraged the clergy to the extent 
of their means. Among numerous grants of 
the kind, we find two hundred acres of land 
voted to Mr. Norton, on the fifth of November, 
1639. 

Besides his exertions for the benefit of his 
flock, he made himself useful to the religious 
community at large. He performed one special 
service to the cause. In 1644, William Apol- 
lonius, pastor of Middleburg, in Holland, at the 
request of the divines of Zealand, sent a series 
of questions, relating to church government, to 
the Congregational ministers of London. The 
London divines referred the matter to those of 
New England : and these last unanimously 
devolved the duty of replying upon Mr. Norton. 
With that modesty and humility which he never 
lost, he for some time declined the duty. His 
reply, published the next year, was elegantly 
written in Latin, and is said to have been the 
first book prepared in that language in this 
country. It has an elaborate Introductory Epis- 
tle, signed " Johannes Cotton, in Ecclesia Bos- 
toniensi Presbyter Docens." It is a valuable 
exposition of the church-practice of our fathers : 
and gave great satisfaction to those at whose 
instance it was drawn up. Dr. Hornbeck, a 
learned professor of divinity at Leyden, though 
17# 



198 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

Strongly opposed to it, as being a strict Presby- 
terian himself, warmly commended the work for 
the singular acumen joined with ingenuous 
candor, which it manifested. In his Church 
History of Great Britain, Dr. Fuller, one of the 
best divines of the Church of England, re- 
marks ; — " Of all the authors I have perused 
concerning these opinions, none to me was more 
informative than Mr. John Norton, one of no 
less learning than modesty, in his answer to 
Apollonius." 

While Mr. Norton was deeply engaged in 
the preparation of this important work, an inci- 
dent occurred which illustrates the times and 
the men. Some of his critical hearers imagined 
that his absorption in that study prevented him 
from bestowing that careful preparation upon his 
pulpit discourses, to which he had accustomed 
them. Upon this, one of them went, not directly 
to his pastor, but to Rev. Samuel Whiting, the 
excellent minister of Lynn. This gentleman 
took occasion, in a very kind and respectful 
manner, to say to Mr. Norton; — " Sir, there are 
some of your people, who think that the services 
wherein you are engaged for all the churches, 
do something take off from the edge of the 
ministry wherewith you should serve your own 
particular church. I would intreat you. Sir, to 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 199 

consider this matter ; for our greatest work is, 
to preach the gospel unto that flock whereof we 
are overseers." This admonition, precise and 
formal as it may seem to us, had the desired 
effect. It was as kindly taken, as it was well 
meant : so true is the wisdom of Solomon, 
which saith; — "Rebuke a wise man, and he 
will love thee." 

Some years afterwards, Mr. Norton drafted 
a letter in Latin, signed by himself and forty- 
three other ministers, and addressed to John 
Dury. This Dury was a visionary man, who 
spoiled an immense number of reams of paper, 
in writing and printing upon the subject of a 
general pacification and union of all Protestant 
churches. In one of his prefaces, he says; — " I 
think myself bound to declare this. That I am 
under a vow to prosecute upon all occasions, as 
long as I live, the ways of evangelical reconcili- 
ation among Protestants." Many were his 
votive offerings at the shrine of peace. There 
have been many such pleasant schemers, and 
there are some such now, who seem to have 
taken the hint of their plan of union from 
Aaron's rod, which swallowed up all its com- 
petitors. What a beautiful union it would 
make, if all other denominations would only be 
Sood natured enough to come over to the be- 



200 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

nevolent writer's sect ! Some have even started 
new sects for this purpose, which, like so many 
cuttings of a polypus, have each become com- 
plete organizations, and increased, rather than 
diminished, the great sectarian swarm. Dury 
carried on an immense correspondence to pro- 
mote his project : and officiated as clergyman in 
several denominations successively. He finally 
fulfilled his vow oddly enough by dying, so they 
say, a Quaker ! 

The multiplicity and distraction of sects has 
long been regarded as a sore evil. Mr. Norton, 
in his " Life of Mr. John Cotton," makes the 
following striking remarks ; — " The present 
vexation of consciences, and of the civil estates, 
with uncertainty and manifold heresy in matter 
of faith, hath no small tendency to bring back 
the Infallible Chair. People will accept of a 
quiet harbor, though upon hard conditions, 
rather than be afflicted with continual tossings 
upon stormy seas. It is natural to man to covet 
any quiet land, rather than to dwell with the 
terror of a continual earthquake." These words 
were prophetic. They indicate the motives 
which afterwards made Papists of Dryden and 
many others. In our times, many have taken 
shelter from the contending winds of faction in 
the solemn cave of prelacy : but alas for them ! 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 201 

they have found it to be the cave of Eolus, 
where not the wind-god himself hath power to 
bind his rebellious subjects. In running from the 
rain, men have stumbled into the ditch. While 
human nature remains what it has been ever 
since the fall, party spirit will stalk through the 
sanctuaries : and like a demon, whom no exor- 
cist hath power to cast out, will haunt the 
cathedral, no less than the chapel. 

In the Latin epistle to Dury, which Mr. Nor- 
ton drew up in 1645, for himself and the other 
angels of the churches in Massachusetts, they 
utterly disclaim the charge of being moved by a 
schismatical temper."^ *' We must ingenuously 
confess," say they, " that then, when all things 
were quiet, and no threatening signs of war ap- 
peared, seeing we could not be permitted by the 
bishops at that time prevailing, to perform the 
office of the ministry in public, nor yet to enjoy 
the ordinances without subscription and conform- 
ity, as they were wont to speak, nor without the 
mixture of human inventions with divine insti- 
tutions, we chose rather to depart into the re- 



* A copy of this document, in the handwriting of Rev. John Wil- 
son, and bearing the autographs of the subscribing ministers, ia in 
the possession of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester. 
This proof that those good men were what the puritan Perkins 
called Reformed Catholics, is a curious and precious relic. 



202 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

mote and unknown coasts of the earth, for the 
sake of a purer worship, than to lie down under 
the hierarchy in the abundance of ail things, but 
with the prejudice of conscience. But that in 
flying from our country, we should renounce 
communion with such churches as profess the 
gospel, is a thing which we confidently and sol- 
emnly deny. Certainly, so far as concerns our- 
selves, in whatever assemblies among us the 
whole company of them that profess the gospel, 
the fundamentals of doctrine, and essentials of 
order are maintained, although in many niceties 
of controversial divinity they are at less agree- 
ment with us, we do hereby make it manifest, 
(which yet we would always have understood, 
so as the least part of truth, according to the 
nature of that reverence which ought exactly to 
be yielded thereunto, may be preserved,) that 
we do acknowledge them, all and every one, for 
brethren : and that we shall he ready to give 
unto them the right hands of fellowship in the 
Lord, if in other things they be peaceable, and 
walk orderly." This public act and testimony 
is sufficient to evince that the principles of our 
fathers in the matter of communion were truly 
Christian and catholic. 

Mr. Norton preached the annual election ser- 
mon in 1645, before the Great and General 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 203 

Court. This ancient custom is still maintained 
among us. Very many of the early discourses 
preached upon this occasion are extant in printed 
form, and furnish a lively picture of the times. 
Many of them are noble patterns of ministerial 
boldness, fidelity and zeal. 

Mr. Norton took a leading part in the cele- 
brated synod which met at Cambridge in 1646, 
and drew up the Platform of Church discipline. 
It was at first proposed that this synod should 
be summoned by order of the civil authority. 
But great objection being made, lest this might 
lead to some encroachment on the liberty of the 
churches, the General Court refrained from a 
positive order, and merely passed a vote recom- 
mending to the churches to send their pastors 
and delegates. Even this modification would 
not appease the jealous scruples of some of the 
churches ; and that of Boston especially refused 
to send a delegation. As it was very important 
that a church so influential should not stand 
aloof from the undertaking, strenuous efforts 
were made to overcome the reluctance of its 
members, till a majority of four-sevenths was 
obtained in favor of the measure. As that 
church had always before this acted unanimous- 
ly in matters of consequence, there was an un- 



204 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

willingness to proceed against the wishes of so 
large a minority. 

In this emergency Mr. Norton came forward 
and united the breach. Coming over from 
Cambridge with the whole synod, he preached 
the Thursday lecture in the Boston Church 
from Exodus 4 : 27, where the history tells how 
Aaron met Moses in the mount of God, and 
kissed him. He showed, that the ecclesiastical 
power should meet the reasonable requirements 
of the civil authority ; and the ministry co-oper- 
ate with the magistracy, when called upon by 
the latter, in deliberating for the public peace 
and welfare. He explained, that the synod had 
no power, except to consult, declare and advise : 
and that it claimed no judicial or coercive au- 
thority. Mr. Norton's suggestions were so well 
taken, that the dispute was ended ; and Boston 
Church sent her pastor, and teacher, and three 
lay delegates to the synod. When the result of 
the synod was declared, Mr. Norton used all his 
influence to procure its acceptance with the 
churches. The Platform having thus received 
a full ecclesiastical sanction, was then presented 
to the General Court, which gave it what fur- 
ther sanction the civil government had to be- 
stow. The Cambridge Platform was highly 
approved by many of the most eminent divines 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 205 

across the water. Richard Baxter, one of the 
holiest and most studious men that ever lived, 
but a few months before his death, wrote to Dr. 
Increase Mather; — " I am as zealous a lover of 
the New England Churches as any man, ac- 
cording to Mr. Norton's and the synod's model." 

In 1646, the colony stood in need of agents 
to attend to its affairs in England : and Gover- 
nor Winthrop and Mr. Norton were selected for 
that business. But the matter was dropped from 
the fear, that if they once got to England, it 
being the time of the civil wars, these eminent 
men would be detained there in public employ- 
ments, to the great detriment of the colony 
which could not spare them. It was an honor- 
able appointment, showing the great trust re- 
posed in them : and the recall of it was still 
more honorable to them, as showing the fear 
that was felt of losing them. 

A Mr. Pyncheon had written a dialogue, 
which went against the doctrine of the vicarious 
sufferings of Christ, and the imputation of his 
righteousness for the justification of the believer. 
The General Court was zealous for the ortho- 
doxy they sincerely loved, and fearful that 
Christians abroad might be led by Pyncheon's 
book to doubt whether their New England 
brethren were sound in the faith. The Court 
VOL. n. 18 



206 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 



called upon Mr. Norton, as "a ready scribe," 
on such occasions, to confute the objectionable 
book. He accordingly prepared a confutation 
of it, in which he discusses Christ's " active and 
passive righteousness, and the imputation there- 
of." This reply was presented to the Court in 
December, 1651, when it was read to the offend- 
er, who appears not to have yielded his objec- 
tionable opinions. However the work was sent 
to England, and printed at the colony's charge. 
It contains a dedication to the General Court of 
the Massachusetts Colony, which says ; — " You 
have been among the first of magistrates which 
have approved and practiced the Congregational 
way : no small favor from God, nor honor to 
yourselves with the generation to come." 

Mr. Norton's last work of importance was 
published at London, in 1654, under the title of 
"The Orthodox Evangelist." It is a compre- 
hensive system of divinity, written in the taste 
of the times, full of careful divisions, removing 
objections, abounding in texts of Scripture, and 
arraying a host of theological authorities. His 
style is that of a man who thinks nothing about 
it, in his anxiety to make each link in the chain 
of his argument as strong as possible. No time 
was spent in filing and polishing. As a soldier 
of the cross, he was not decked like a " carpet- 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 207 

knight," to make a figure in a pompous proces- 
sion, or a courtly levee. As his friend, John 
Cotton said of him, he arrayed himself not for 
the parade ground, but for the battle-field. 
" There was a noble negligence in his style ; 
for his great mind could not stoop to the affected 
eloquence of words." 

The doctrines which Mr. Norton chiefly 
taught from the pulpit, are systematically 
presented in his Orthodox Evangelist. In this 
work, he treats of the being and perfections of 
the Triune God, with all imaginable nicety and 
subtlety of distinction and inference. The divine 
and human agency, and the doctrine of decrees, 
are discussed with great ability ; and all con- 
ceivable objections are stated and removed. It 
is an abbreviation, though long enough, of the 
whole controversy relative to these points. The 
reader can hardly fail to be struck with the 
reflection, that there has been but little progress 
in this "high argument;" wherein almost every 
thing, which can now be said upon either side, 
was anticipated so long ago. Mr. Norton 
maintains, that the will of God is the cause of 
all other causes. " Second causes are the effects 
of the First Cause. The will of man is an 
instrument disposed, and determined unto its 
action, according to the decree of God. The 



208 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

rod is not more subordinate unto the hand of 
the smiter, nor the staff to the hand of the 
mover, nor the axe to the hand of the hewer, 
nor the saw to him that shaketh it, Isa. 10 : 5, 
15, nor any other passive instrument to the 
hand of a free agent ; than the will of man is 
unto the decree of God." "Man, even in vio- 
lating God's command, fulfilleth God's decree." 
" Though sin, as sin, be evil, yet the being of 
sin for a better end is good." Though sin be 
voluntary, yet God controls and overrules it for 
good. " The water whilst it runneth its own 
course, serveth the end of the artificer in turn- 
ing about the mill according to his intent. An 
illegitimate child is a creature of God ; but its 
illegitimacy is the crime of its parents." Mr. 
Norton earnestly contends, that, though God has 
decreed the existence of sin, he is not the 
author of sin. The idea that God is the au- 
thor of sin, is spoken of as "a blasphemy, 
which the devil has spit out at the divine provi- 
dential purposes." " The liberty of man, though 
subordinate to God's decree, freely willeth the 
very same thing, and no other, than that which 
it vyould have willed, if (upon a supposition of 
that impossibility,) there had been no decree. 
Man acts as freely, as if there were no decree ; 
yet as infallibly, as if there were no liberty. 
Liberty is the effect of the decree, so far is the 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 209 

decree from being a prejudice to liberty." Rep- 
robates freely commit such a measure of sin, as 
shall fit them for the intended measure of 
wrath : and yet will certainly commit neither 
more nor less. " God determineth the will 
suitably and agreeably to its own nature ; that 
is, freely. He so determineth the will, as that 
the will determineth itself. The efficiency of 
God ofTereth no violence, nor changeth the 
nature of things ; but governeth them according 
to their own natures." " Necessity doth not 
prejudice liberty. God is necessarily good, yet 
freely good." Man is a free agent, having a 
real, though subordinate, efficiency. 

In the book we are reviewing, it is taught, 
that all mankind partook in Adam's sin, which 
is justly imputed to them ; and that original sin 
is a hereditary and habitual opposition of the 
heart to the divine will ; that God, of his wis- 
dom and. mercy, hath elected whom he would 
to eternal life ; that these are converted by the 
Spirit of God ; that the whole guilt of their sins 
is imputed to Christ, and his perfect obedience 
is imputed to them, and is received by faith 
alone ; that the faith of the elect is the effect of 
irresistible grace ; and that the soul is passive 
in the first reception of faith, because faith is 
first a faculty, and then an act. 
18^ 



210 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

Such are some of the positions sustained in 
the Orthodox Evangelist, with a vast variety of 
reasons, and illustrations, and authorities, and 
Scriptures. All objections are diligently sought 
for and confuted ; and the whole is done with a 
marvelous method and brevity. The volume 
ends with some striking speculations upon the 
state of the blessed after death, and after the 
resurrection. It closes in the following strain : 
" Add this consideration of the blessedness of 
our souls, which immediately follows upon our 
dissolution from the body, and admits no delay. 
The soul is no sooner out of this earthly, than 
it is in its heavenly house. In a moment, in the 
twinkling of an eye, before the eyes of the dead 
body are closed, the eye of the living soul shall 
behold the face of Jesus Christ. Amen. Even 
so, come Lord Jesus." 

Such }V3iS the system of doctrine with which 
the puritan preachers fed the souls of their 
people. With this " strong meat," they were 
raised up to that elevated stature of piety, and 
giant strength of character, which their great 
work required. The diluted diet of a laxer 
theology would have so dwarfed and enfeebled 
their minds, as to spoil them for their destiny, 
and marred or prevented its fulfillment. 

The moral and political influence of Calvin- 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 



211 



ism is one of the most interesting and instructive 
studies among all the lessons of history. It has 
ever been remarkable for generating a high 
tone of principle, and a spirit of firmness and 
independence. Of its disciples in the seven- 
teenth century, it is said by the most eloquent 
of modern essayists ; — " The very meanest of 
them was a being to whose fate a mysterious 
and terrible importance belonged, — on whose 
slightest action the spirits of light and darkness 
looked with anxious interest, — who had been 
destined, before heaven and earth were created, 
to enjoy a felicity which should continue when 
heaven and earth should have passed away. 
Events which short-sighted politicians ascribed 
to earthly causes had been ordained on his 
account. For his sake, empires had risen, and 
flourished, and decayed. For his sake, the 
Almighty had proclaimed his will by the pen of 
the evangelist, and the harp of the prophet. He 
had been rescued by no common deliverer from 
the grasp of no common foe. He had been 
ransomed by the sweat of no vulgar agony, by 
the blood of no earthly sacrifice. It was for 
him, that the sun had been darkened, that the 
rocks had been rent, that the dead had arisen, 
that all nature had shuddered at the sufferings 



212 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

of her expiring Lord ! "* A character bred and 
trained under the influence of the doctrines of 
personal election and redemption, must reach to 
something of that sublimity which tramples on 
earthly crowns and distinctions ; and with still 
higher flight, attains to a glorious prostration at 
the feet of God. 

As a sort of pendent, or parallel to the 
splendid effusion of Macaulay, we may present 
the sketch of a living American writer. " Every 
individual who had experienced the raptures of 
devotion, every believer, who, in his moments 
of ecstacy, had felt the assurance of the favor of 
God, was in his own eyes a consecrated person. 
For him the wonderful counsels of the Almighty 
had chosen a Saviour; for him the laws of 
nature had been suspended and controlled, the 
heavens had opened, earth had quaked, the sun 
had veiled his face, and Christ had died and 
had risen again ; for him prophets and apostles 
had revealed to the world the oracles and the 
will of God. Viewing himself as an object of 
the divine favor, and in this connection dis- 
claiming all merit, he prostrated himself in the 
dust before heaven : looking out upon mankind, 
how could he but respect himself, whom God 



* Edinburgh Review. No. LXXXIV. 1825. 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 213 

had chosen and redeemed. He cherished hope ; 
he possessed faith ; as he walked the earth, his 
heart was in the skies. Angels hovered round 
his path, charged to minister to his soul ; spirits 
of darkness leagued together to tempt him from 
his allegiance. His burning piety could use no 
liturgy ; his penitence could reveal his trans- 
gressions to no confessor. He knew no superior 
in sanctity. He could as little become the slave 
of a priestcraft as of a despot."^ Such is the 
natural tendency of truth. " Election implies 
faith, and faith freedom." Says the same able 
writer; — " The political character of Calvinism, 
which, with one consent and with instinctive 
judgment, the monarchs of that day feared as 
republicanism, and which Charles II. declared 
a religion unfit for a gentleman, is expressed by 
a single word — predestination. Did a proud 
aristocracy trace its lineage through generations 
of a high-born ancestry ? — the republican re- 
former, with a loftier pride, invaded the invisible 
world, and from the book of life brought down 
the record of the noblest enfranchisement, de- 
creed from all eternity by the King of kings. 
His few converts defied the opposing world as a 
world of reprobates, whom God had despised 



* Bancroft, Hist. U. S. I. 461,2. 



214 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

and rejected. To them the senses were a 
totally depraved foundation, on which neither 
truth nor goodness could rest. They went forth 
in confidence that men who were kindling with 
the same exalted instincts, would listen to their 
voice, and be effectually " called into the brunt 
of the battle " by their side. And standing 
serenely amidst the crumbling fabrics of centu- 
ries of superstitions, they had faith in one 
another."^ 

We have here the testimony of two eminent 
scholars, richly endowed with the historical 
spirit, and with the rare gift of discerning the 
operation of moral causes. Neither of them can 
be -charged with being biassed by an undue 
partiality to Calvinism. The leaning of their 
minds is rather in the opposite direction. It is 
not from experience, that they describe the 
workings of the ancient orthodoxy upon the 
souls of its adherents. But as keen-eyed inves- 
tigators, they have looked upon the results it 
wrought out : and they have traced its noble 
and lasting consequences in their lofty strains of 
eulogy. We see in what mould of doctrine 
those minds were cast, whose iron strength 
subdued kingdoms and wildernesses, triumphed 



* Bancroft. II. 462,3. 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 215 

over native infirmity, shattered the chains of 
darkness in every link, and proclaimed the 
jubilee of freedom to the children of God. The 
Pauline theology bred that courageous reckless- 
ness which broke in pieces the enslaving images 
of civil and ecclesiastical oppression, before 
which servility had crouched, and superstition 
had groveled, for ages. No matter for the costly 
carvings of the seats of irresponsible and abso- 
lute power : no matter how gorgeous the 
stainings which glazed the oriel windows of the 
fanes, where priestly usurpation dwelt amid 
congenial gloom. All, all must be courageously 
demolished, as monuments and supports of 
tyranny and corruption. The Puritans were the 
men for this work. The tenets of their faith 
cast them upon the Lord in almost superhuman 
confidence : and " through God, they did val- 
iantly." 

To the labors of Mr. Norton and his brethren 
in the inculcation of religious truth. New Eng- 
land is indebted for nearly all that constitutes 
her happiness and renown. Her character of 
dauntless independence, public spirit, resolute 
enterprise, and invincible perseverance, was 
cherished by the orthodoxy which fed and exer- 
cised her infancy and youth. This was the 
nursing-mother of her greatness, " severely 



216 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

kind," careful of her childhood, and prodigal to 
her maturity. Each family of the early colonists 
has multiplied, on the average, to more than a 
thousand souls. Their descendants are now 
numbered by millions ; and, true to the coloniz- 
ing spirit, have spread the puritan influence 
over the newer states, and the most distant set- 
tlements, of our land. Bible orthodoxy was the 
fountain-head of those extending influences, so 
salutary to our nation and the world. 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 217 



CHAPTER II. 

Mr. Cotton on his death-bed recommends that Mr. Norton should be 
his successor. Mr. Norton invited to Boston. Removes. Reclaimed 
by Ipswich. Contentions and Councils. Interference of Govern- 
ment. Mr. Norton installed in Boston. His influence. His second 
marriage. " Heart of New England Rent." Quakers. Alledged 
persecutions. Bancroft's vindication of theFathers. Mr. Norton's 
views. His commission to England with Governor Bradstreet. 
Letters of General Court to Boston Church and neighboring min- 
isters. Audience at Whitehall. Commissioners return. Discon- 
tents. Mr. Norton's Death. His last discourses printed. Norton's 
Memorial. Anagrams. Elegy. Last will and testament. Rela- 
tives. Mrs. Norton's benefactions to Old South Church. Her ex- 
travagant funeral expenses. Mr. Norton's natural disposition. His 
hilarity. Ann Hibbens hung for witchery. Beach's Letter. Mr. 
Norton's opposition to the execution. Witchcraft delusion univer- 
sal. Sweden. England. Scotland. France. Last executions for 
witchcraft. Massachusetts the first jurisdiction to abolish the 
practice. False impressions of Puritan character. Puritan women. 
Mr. Norton's scholarship. His Diary. I. Mather. Mr. Norton's 
extraordinary gift in prayer. Conclusion. 

When Mr. Cotton Jay upon his death-bed, his 
church requested him to recommend a fit person 
to be his successor. The sick man, Avhile re- 
volving in his mind what advice to give, dreamed 
that he saw Mr. Norton riding into Boston on a 
white horse to succeed him. The dream, as it 
happened, afterwards came to pass in every cir 

VOL. II. 19 



218 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 



cumstance. The dying patriarch, finding his 
waking thoughts could not better his dreaming 
cogitations, nominated the teacher of Ipswich, if 
he could be obtained, to take the place which 
was about to be vacated. Mr. Cotton, however, 
was not directed in his advice by his night-vis- 
ion ; but by his knowledge of the fact, that Mr. 
Norton had gained the consent of his people to 
his leaving them, and returning to England 
within twelve months, unless some contingency 
should prevent. 

When Mr. Cotton had departed to his rest, his 
church acted upon his advice, and sent brethren 
to Ipswich to obtain the consent of that people to 
part with him who had been their guide for fif- 
teen years. There the matter was long debated, 
till an honest member of the Ipswich Church 
remarked ; — *' Brethren, a case in some things 
like to this, was once that way determined, — 
' We will call the damsel, and inquire at her 
mouth : ' wherefore I propose that our teacher 
himself be inquired of, whether he be inclined to 
go." 

Mr. Norton, who had resolved to have no 
responsibility in the business, was much troubled 
at the question. He answered, that if it were 
judged that as good reasons as caused his removal 
to America, now called for his removal to Boston, 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 219 

he should resign himself, but could not take an 
active part in the business. It was at last agreed 
to postpone a final decision, and that meanwhile 
he should reside in Boston, and wait for plainer 
intimations of the pleasure of Providence. The 
General Court, May eighteenth, 1653, ordered a 
letter of thanks to the Ipswich Church for their 
self-denial in this particular. 

"When he had been about tv»ro years in Boston, 
the excellent Nathaniel Rogers, who was pastor 
at Ipswich, died in gospel peace. That church 
now loudly reclaimed their teacher : and there 
is a tradition that he was almost persuaded to 
return. But the Boston flock refused to give up 
the precious deposit, to which they had become 
exceedingly attached. A large council was con- 
vened, which advised the Ipswich church to grant 
Mr. Norton a fair dismission, so that in Boston 
he might serve all New England. Several 
lesser councils labored to get this advice carried 
into effect, but they labored in vain. Mr. Nor- 
ton, wearied with the contentions of the two 
churches about his dismission, was on the point 
of dismissing them both, by carrying out his 
former purpose of returning to England. 

This was during the protectorate of Cromwell, 
when the tide of emigration which had been 
forced this way by hierarchal persecution, was 



220 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

ebbing^ back again to the beloved mother country. 
They, who were for remaining, were sorely dis- 
tressed to find themselves so much weakened by 
these numerous departures. And when it was 
found that a man so considerable as Mr. Norton 
was about to abandon them, it was thought to 
be high time to awake. The governor and 
other magistrates summoned a council of twelve 
churches whose expenses were paid by the colo- 
ny, to prevent, if possible, so sad a discourage- 
ment. Under this potent influence the dispute 
came to an end. Mr. Wilson, the pastor of 
Boston, obtained the colleague he desired : and 
the Boston church joyfully installed their teacher 
on the twenty-third of July, 1656, after the lapse 
of four years. They had previously given him 
two hundred pounds towards the purchase of a 
house. It appears that he purchased Governor 
Winthrop's estate, called " The Green," at the 
corner of Milk and Washington streets ; and 
which was afterwards given by Mr. Norton's 
widow to the Old South church, to whom it still 
belongs. The Ipswich people soon consoled 
themselves " by doing as they had been done 
by." They called from Lynn, Rev. Thomas 
Gobbet, a minister of the highest repute. 

Mr. Norton's settlement in Boston was re- 
garded as a very auspicious event. Ministers 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 221 

fifty years of age, were not then considered as 
old and superannuated. His former parishion- 
ers would often come all the way from Ipswich, 
to hear him preach at the Thursday lecture. 
He exerted a wide influence through the country, 
and visited the remotest settlements to assist in 
settling ecclesiastical difficulties. The rulers 
also profited by his wisdom and prudence : for 
he counseled the councilors. It was mainly 
owing to his discreet interposition, that actual 
hostility was prevented from breaking out between 
our people, and the Dutch who were settled at 
Manhadoes. 

It is not known when his fiirst wife deceased. 
He married Mary Mason of Boston, on the same 
day in which he was installed in that place. It 
does not appear that he ever had any children. 
At any rate, there were none who survived him. 

He published a treatise in 1660, under the 
title ; — " The Heart of New England rent at the 
Blasphemies of the Present Generation." This 
pamphlet he prepared at the request of the Leg- 
islature. It is a piteous invective against the 
Quakers, containing an athletic exposure of their 
practices, and confutation of their principles. 
According to his account of them, those old Fox- 
ian Quakers were as diflerent from the worthy 
people who now bear that name, as a wolf is from 



222 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

a sheep. ** For the security of the flock," he 
says, speaking of the law for the imprisonment 
and banishment of the Quakers, " we pen up the 
wolf; but a door is purposely left open whereby 
he may depart at his pleasure." On this point, 
it is justly remarked by Bancroft; — "Prohibiting 
the arrival of Quakers was not persecution ; and 
banishment is a term hardly to be used of one 
who has not acquired a home. When a pauper 
is sent to his native town, he is not called an 
exile. "^ Our forefathers had an instinctive *dread 
of confusion ; and guarded against its approach 
with a jealousy, which, but for its occasional ex- 
tremes, must have received the commendation of 
all men of sense. " Religion," said Mr. Norton, 
" admits of no eccentric motions !" To them, the 
movements of the Quakers, those " wandering 
stars " which shot so madly from their spheres, 
seemed eccentric and portentous to the last 
degree. They shuddered at the flight of those 
baleful meteors. 

The accomplished historian already quoted, 
himself an enthusiastic champion of the utmost 
freedom of inquiry and action, has so candidly 
stated the case, that it would be wrong to omit 
his statement in this connection. " It was in 



* History I, 454;5, 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 223 

self-defence that Puritanism in America Legan 
those transient persecutions of which the excesses 
shall find in me no apologist ; and which yet 
were no more than a train of mists, hovering, of 
an Autumn morning, over the channel of a 
fine river, that diffused freshness and fertility 
wherever it wound. The people did not attempt 
to convert others, but to protect themselves ; they 
never punished opinion as such; they never 
attempted to torture or terrify men into ortho- 
doxy. The history of religious persecution in 
New England, is simply this ; — The Puritans 
established a government in America such as 
the laws of natural justice warranted, and such 
as the statutes and common law of England did 
not warrant; and that was done hymen who 
still acknowledged the duty of a limited allegi- 
ance to the parent State. The Episcopalians had 
declared themselves the enemies of the party, 
and waged against it a war of extermination ; 
Puritanism excluded them from its asylum. 
Roger Williams, the apostle of soul-liberty, 
weakened the cause of civil independence by 
impairing its unity; and he was expelled, even 
though Massachusetts always bore good testimony 
to his spotless virtues. Wheelwright and his 
friends, in their zeal for strict Calvinism, forgot 
their duty as citizens, and they also were exiled. 



224 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 



The Anabaptist, who could not be relied upon as 
an ally, was guarded as a foe. The Quakers 
denounced the worship of New England as an 
abomination, and its government as treason ; and 
therefore they were excluded on pain of death. 
The fanatic for Calvinism was a fanatic for lib- 
erty : and he defended his creed ; for, in the 
moral warfare for freedom, his creed was a part 
of his army, and his most faithful ally in the 
battle."^ 

In the " Heart of New England Rent," Mr. 
Norton contends, that originally this country 
" was a religious plantation, not a plantation for 
trade. The profession of the purity of doctrine, 
worship and discipline, was written on her fore- 
head." Hence he cries out bitterly against the 
cruel aggressions of such as came on purpose to 
break up the declared object of this costly enter- 
prise. He strongly asserts, that neither Qua- 
kers, nor other heretics, ought to be punished 
for their consciences. He even maintains, that 
it is impossible to do so, because there is no 
means of ascertaining judicially what a man's 
conscience is. The law, he declares, takes hold 
only of their outward acts ; and that only when 
they are subversive of the public peace and 



* History I, 463,4. 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 225 

established order of the land. It is on this 
ground, that he vindicates the penalties inflicted 
upon the Quakers ; and warmly insists that they 
were not punished for their consciences ; but for 
their factious, seditious and turbulent proceed- 
ings. Had the Worcester Asylum been then in 
existence, most of the convicted Quakers would, 
no doubt, have been sent there for appropriate 
treatment. Such matters, like many other points 
of medical jurisprudence, w^ere not then under- 
stood as well as now. The world was then, and 
always had been, in midnight darkness on the 
subject of religious toleration. In New England 
they had the morning twilight just dawning, in 
which they w^ere looking anxiously about ; but 
saw not all things distinctly. It was one hun- 
dred and fifty years later, ere the daylight 
shone so strong upon the piercing eye of Napo- 
leon, that the imperious autocrat saw his way 
clear to say ; — " My dominion ends, where that 
of conscience begins." His present majesty, the 
king of the French, seems to be mystified in a 
thick and unwholesome fog which invests the 
subject there. In Great Britain and Ireland, 
entire religious freedom and equality has never 
been granted even to this very day, except during 
the brief protectorate of Cromwell. Nor have 
these just principles any where obtained full 



226 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON 



acknowledgment, except in this land, where the 
Puritans introduced them, and prepared the way 
for their perfect triumph. 

Before closing his active and useful career, 
Mr. Norton performed one more general service 
for these colonies. At the restoration of Charles 
II. in 1660, it was thought necessary to send 
deputies to address him in behalf of New Eng- 
land. This was a difficult and delicate mission. 
The people felt, that they had little to hope 
from a prince of Charles' temper. They were 
apprehensive, that he would despotically snatch 
away their charter, and wrest out of their grasp 
all the liberties they had found and cherished 
in this wilderness. They were solicitous in the 
extreme to obtain, if it might be, some satisfac- 
tory assurance upon a matter of such vital inter- 
est. 

Mr. Norton was commissioned to go upon 
this errand with Governor Simon Bradstreet, 
who was called the " venerable Mordecai of his 
country." In this case, the honored commission- 
ers seem to have " had greatness thrust upon 
them." They evidently shrank from the ap- 
pointment, and many tedious preliminaries had 
to be adjusted. No one could foresee in what 
temper the restored monarch would receive 
them. It was feared, that the envoys of a 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 227 

people so thoroughly puritanical would find but 
little favor in his eyes ; and that not improbably, 
fines and imprisonment might be the reward of 
their temerity in appearing before him. The 
colonial government pledged itself, as far as it 
could, to support them to the utmost of its power. 
They were furnished with letters to various 
noblemen of influence at court, calculated to 
secure their good offices with the king, or to 
deprecate any hostile sentiments. Among 
others, there were letters to lord viscount Say 
and Seal, and to the earls of Clarendon and 
Manchester. In the instructions given to the 
commissioners, the General Court manifested 
its usual and commendable jealousy of any en- 
croachment upon the chartered rights of the 
colony. It was said even to these trusty messen- 
gers ; — " You shall endeavor the establishment 
of the rights and privileges we now enjoy." — 
" You shall not engage us by any act of yours 
to any thing which may be prejudicial to our 
present standing, according to patent." — "You 
shall give us a speedy and constant account of 
all your transactions, and what else may be of 
concernment to us." "^ 



* Many documents relating to this mission are printed in Hutch- 
inson's Collection, pp. 315,-380. 



228 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

There is preserved among the Massachusetts 
Records a letter from both branches of the 
General Court, " to the more ancient church of 
Christ at Boston." The letter says ; — " This 
Court having, vi^ith serious advice from the 
reverend elders, and no small deliberation, at 
length concluded, for the preservation of the 
order of the gospel in all the churches of Christ 
here established, to send for England the rev- 
erend, beloved and much desired Mr. John 
Norton from amongst you ; wherein we are 
sufferers with yourselves in parting with so 
worthy an instrument of spiritual good, (al- 
though, we hope, but for a time,) and cannot 
but expect, that the same arguments which have 
guided this Court may also work a readiness in 
yourselves to concur with us herein, because, 
namely, the Lord hath need of him." The 
church is also informed, that the Court has 
taken order with the reverend elders in the 
Colony to assist the church, during the absence 
of its Teacher. This letter is dated the eleventh 
of May, 1661. There is another letter of the 
same date, addressed by the General Court to 
the ministers by whose " reverend advice and 
counsel " the Court had acted ; and requesting 
them to assist in supplying the wants of " the 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 229 

more ancient church of Christ in Boston where- 
of Mr. Wilson is pastor ; " and which is, " for 
the present, left destitute of so able an ' help ' 
as is the reverend, pious, prudent and laborious 
minister of Christ Jesus, Mr. John Norton." 
So fraternal, in those days, were the relations 
of " Moses and Aaron ! " 

The envoys sailed on the eleventh of Febru- 
ary, 1662 ; having been long delayed by Mr. 
Norton's sickness. His place in the pulpit was 
supplied during his absence by the neighboring 
ministers in rotation. On arriving at Whitehall, 
they had an audience of the king. They pre- 
sented an address which plainly and frankly 
asserted the motives which led to the settle- 
ment of this country. It declared that the 
colony was undertaken by men who wished to 
escape the yoke of hierarchal impositions ; and 
sought " liberty to walk in the faith of the gos- 
pel, with all good conscience, according to the 
order of the gospel." This document says ; — 
" We are not seditious as to the interests of 
Csesar, nor schismatical as to the matters of 
religion. We distinguish between churches 
and their impurities." It expresses an earnest 
desire to "enjoy divine worship, free from hu- 
man mixtures, without offence to God, or man, 
VOL. n. 20 



230 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 



or their own consciences." For this, with 
leave, but not without tears, they departed from 
their country, kindred and homes, and fled to 
this Patmos. The reception of the commission- 
ers was more favorable than they had anticipated. 
Charles treated them with courtesy, for he was 
always polite : and made them fine promises, 
such as he always broke, like the other Stuarts, 
when convenience required. He agreed to con- 
firm the charter ; and granted an amnesty for 
all political offences committed during the late 
disturbances ; but required certain large altera- 
tions in the colonial legislation and religious 
practices under the charter. 

The commissioners having most faithfully 
performed their duty, and brought every influ- 
ence possible to bear in favor of the Colony, 
returned in September of the same year. They 
had gone, very reluctantly, on a mission which 
they felt to be impracticable ; for they were 
expected to conciliate the unfriendly monarch, 
and yet secure the independence of their coun- 
try. Their English friends thought that they 
had succeeded wonderfully in both respects. 
But the people here, ever jealous of the liber- 
ties which had cost them so dear, were always 
discontented with their agents at their first re- 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 231 

turn from England. In this case, many were 
much dissatisfied with the faithful Norton and 
Bradstreet for not having somehow exacted from 
a tyrant, surrounded as he was by their bitterest 
enemies, an unconditional pledge that every 
thing should remain unaltered. Some began 
to cry out, that the agents had " laid the founda- 
tion of ruin to all our liberties." Mr. Brad- 
street, in his incorruptible patriotism, outlived 
for many years these unreasonable clamors. 
But they embittered the short residue of Mr. 
Norton's days. It has been supposed, that the 
troubles of his too sensitive mind on this ac- 
count, hastened his death. But there is good 
reason to think, that the dissatisfaction felt at 
the result of his mission was neither general 
nor deep enough to have such an effect. Emer- 
son mentions a tradition " that even the venera- 
ble and benevolent Wilson was heard to say 
that he must have another colleague." But this 
would seem to be sufficiently confuted by the 
manner in which that patriarch, when on his 
death-bed, three or four years after, spoke of 
Mr. Norton ; as well as by his manner of men- 
tioning Mrs. Norton in his will. 

The truth is, that Mr. Norton's constitution, 
worn out by a life of study, had been breaking up 



232 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON 



for some time before. He died about six months 
subsequent to his return from England, at the 
age of fifty-seven. He passed the gates of death 
so easily and so quickly, as scarce to feel the 
transit. It was on the fifth of April, 1663. 
In the forenoon he was well, and expecting to 
preach in the afternoon ; but was taken with an 
apoplectic fit, and shortly- after expired. 

His death filled Boston with such lamenta- 
tions, as caused that mournful night long to be 
remembered ; and his funeral, which took place 
at the Thursday lecture, was attended with 
great sorrow and solemnity. His dear friend, 
Rev. Richard Mather, "wept over him a sermon 
most agreeable to the occasion." 

His old friends the Quakers did not fail to 
represent the sudden death of " the chief priest 
of Boston," as a judgment of God upon him for 
the treatise he had published against their delu- 
sions. His parishioners, on the contrary, thought 
that, in this case, it was " sudden death, sudden 
glory ! " The short-hand writers sent to the 
press their notes of his last sermons, three in 
number. One of them was the election sermon, 
which he had recently preached, having been 
repeatedly called to the discharge of that duty. 
The text is Jeremiah 10 : 17, and the title is 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 233 

" Sion, the Outcast, healed of her Wounds." It 
contains many excellent and seasonable instruc- 
tions ; and also the anti-schismatical assertion 
which was usually made in some form on those 
august occasions, that " in matters of religion, 
we are for reformation, and not for separation." 
The second of these sermons is the last of his 
Sabbath performances ; it is entitled ; — " The 
Believer's Consolation," and is a devout medi- 
tation on the heavenly mansions. The third of 
these sermons is the last of his Thursday 
lectures ; it is entitled ; — " The Evangelical 
"Worshipper," and goes to prove, that, in divine 
worship, every thing must correspond with the 
prescriptions of God's Word. The text is very 
happily selected from Hebrews 8 : 5 ; " See 
that thou make all things according to the pat- 
tern showed to thee in the mount." These 
three discourses, thus published together, were 
the death-song of the expiring swan. His affec- 
tionate people regarded them, in their beautiful 
phrase, as the falling mantle of the ascending 
prophet. 

Secretary Morton, in an obituary notice con- 
tained in his '' New England's Memorial," 
makes honorable mention of him whose depart- 
ure was thus lamented. " Although the church 
of Boston in a more special manner felt the 
20=^ 



234 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

smart of this sudden blow, yet it reflected upon 
the whole land. He was singularly endowed 
with the tongue of the learned, enabled to speak 
a word in due season, not only to the wearied 
soul, but also a word of counsel to a people in 
necessity thereof, being not only a wise stew- 
ard of the things of Jesus Christ, but also a wise 
statesman ; so that the whole land sustained a 
great loss of him." All the customary tokens of 
respect were paid to his memory. The letters 
of his name Iohn Norton, were fondly 
transposed, till they stood Into Honnor; where- 
unto he had gone to abide. Not content with this, 
his anagrammatizing friend, Mr. Wilson, first 
turned the name into Latin form, Iohannes 
NoRTONUs; and then turned the helpless 
letters over and over, till, with clever success, 
he brought them into satisfactory shape, as 
NoNNE Is HoNORATUs ! Nor were there want- 
ing some of those uncouth and rugged elegiacs 
which would have made Quinctilian " gasp and 
stare ; " and doubtless forced the agonized 
Muses to muffle their unfortunate ears. Rev. 
Thomas Shepard, of blessed memory, vented 
his sorrows in some metres, which abounded in 
sincerity in inverse proportion to their want of 
the spirit of poesy. We give a few of the least 
unendurable of his rhymes, those dried salt-fish 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 235 

from Helicon. Having compared Mr. Norton 
with the most famous of the scholastic doctors, 
very much to their disadvantage, he says of his 
hero ; — 

" Of a more heavenly strain his notions were, 
More pure, sublime, scholastical and clear, 
More like the apostles Paul and John, I wist, 
Was this our Orthodox Evangelist, 

Among other commendations, he speaks of 
him as a father to all the churches ; 

" Zealous for order ; very critical 
For what was truly Congregational." 

The good man's reputation must have been 
formed of lasting material to survive such ex- 
cruciating praises. 

By his last will and testament it appears, that 
Mr. Norton left a brother William, living at 
Ipswich, Mass., where he cultivated a large 
farm ; and that he had an aged mother, a broth- 
er Thomas, and three sisters, Martha, Mary and 
Elizabeth, residing at London. To the poor of 
his church he left a bequest of ten pounds. His 
widow, who was his second wife, as has been 
stated, gave to the Old South church in Bos- 
ton, during her life-time, most of the valuable 
estate now held by that society ; and nearly all 



236 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

the residue, she gave, by her will, after her 
decease. There is in the Probate Office an ac- 
count of her funeral expenses, which is so singu- 
lar, and so illustrates the customs of those days, 
that it is inserted here, at the ri^Jc of shocking 
the modern ideas of temperance and economy. 



167 7-8, Jan. 20. Account of Funeral Charges 


of Mrs. 


Mary Norton. 




Jan. 20. 


51 1-2 gallons of best 
Malaga with cask and 






carriage, at £10. 13. £10. 13. 




50 1-2 ells of best broad 






Lutestring silk at 10 






s. ell. 


25. 5. 


" 25. 


Paid money to Wm. and 
Joseph Gridley for 






opening the tomb, 


1. 16. 


" 28. 


Money Solomon Rans- 
ford for coffin and 






plate. 


1. 18. 


({ (( 


Gloves 6 doz. 'pair. 


5. 12. 6. 


(( (( 


do. 2 do. do. 


2. 


Feb. 5. 


do. 10 do. and 3 pair. 


10. 19. 9. 


" 16. 


do. 12 do. 6 do. 


12. 8. 


(( (( 


do. 2 do. 10 do. 


2. 8. 2. 



73. 0,5, 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 237 

This enormous bill of seventy-three pounds 
currency, amounting to nearly two hundred and 
fifty dollars, contains but two necessary items, 
not much exceeding twelve dollars. The offer- 
ing of gloves and refreshments to the mourning 
attendants was the usual practice. If each 
receiver of a pair of gloves had his share of the 
other articles provided for distribution, he would 
have had a strip of silk some five inches wide 
as a badge of his grief, and about a pint of Mal- 
aga foif his consolation ! The disposition to 
testify respect for the dead by extravagant and 
stately funerals is much abated among us ; and 
it must be owned, that, in this one instance, the 
children, if less loving, are more wise than 
their fathers. 

In his natural temper, Mr. Norton was quick 
and somewhat irascible. Whitefield used to 
tell of " grace grafted on a crab-stock." And 
truly those trees which naturally yield the 
sourest and harshest fruit ; when their crabbed 
branches are pruned away, and they are grafted 
with fairer scions, their fruit will often be the 
most abundant and the sweetest. Such was the 
effect of the engrafted grace of God in Mr. 
Norton's soul. He was noted for his affable 
and winning behavior, and became one of the 
most amiable of men. 



238 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 



Another natural infirmity of this good man 
was a strong- inclination to levity. Some of his 
humorous table-talk is on record; enough to 
indicate the hilarity of his temper. A single 
instance of this may suffice. Ann Hibbens, an 
unhappy woman, whose husband had been a 
magistrate, and a Boston merchant of note, and 
who was sister to Governor Bellingham, was 
arraigned for witchcraft in 1656. She appears 
to have been a sad termagant. Her temper, 
naturally bad, was further soured by her hus- 
band's losses in business ; and after his death, 
she became so violent, as to make herself ex- 
tremely odious to her neighbors. She was ex- 
communicated from the church for her strange 
malevolent behavior; which at last provoked 
against her the fatal charge under which Joan of 
Arc was doomed to die. The truth of the ac- 
cusation was as much disputed in the case of 
Ann Hibbens as in that of the "Maid of Or- 
leans." The jury brought her in guilty ; the 
magistrates set aside the verdict ; but the Depu- 
ties in the General Court confirmed it, and she 
was executed accordingly. She was the second 
person who died under this charge in Massa- 
chusetts. Mr. Beach, a minister in Jamaica, in 
a letter to Dr. Increase Mather, gives the fol- 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 239 

lowing relation ; — " You may remember what 
I have sometimes told you your famous Mr. 
Norton once said at his own table, before Mr. 
Wilson the pastor, elder Penn, and myself and 
wife, and others, who had the honor to be his 
guests : — That one of your magistrates' wives, 
as I remember, was hanged for a witch only for 
having more wit than her neighbors. It was 
his very expression ; she having, as he explain- 
ed it, unhappily guessed that two of her perse- 
cutors, whom she saw talking in the street, 
were talking of her. Which proving true, cost 
her her life, notwithstanding all he could do to 
the contrary, as he himself told us." 

It must be owned, that Mr. Norton's taunting 
expression, on this festive occasion in the pres- 
ence of his colleagues, the pastor and the ruling 
elder, and other guests of consideration, had in 
it more of wit than of fun. It is likely that he 
had the laugh mostly to himself. But it is 
honorable to his independence and soundness of 
judgment, that he withstood the popular preju- 
dices on this exciting point. One of our histori- 
ans has said ; — " Witchcraft had not been made 
the subject of skeptical consideration; and in 
the years in which Scotland sacrificed heca- 
tombs to the delusion, there were three victims 



240 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

in New England. Dark crimes, that seemed 
without a motive, may have been pursued under 
that name ; I find one record of a trial for witch- 
craft, where the prisoner was proved a murder- 
ess.'"^ 

During the last few years of the seventeenth 
century, there was an epidemic on the minds of 
the Massachusetts colonists, during which nine- 
teen persons were executed for witchcraft, and 
one was pressed to death for refusing to plead 
to the indictment. We cannot sufficiently de- 
plore this delusion by which our forefathers 
were hurried to such shedding of innocent 
blood. But it is astonishing to observe how 
much reproach has been heaped upon them, as 
if, in this particular fault, they were sinners 
above all who dwelt on the earth in their day. 
These reproaches can only come from persons 
of very limited information on this subject. Any 
one who wishes to see the literature of the sub- 
ject, may find the most of it collected by Sir 
Walter Scott, in his work on Demonology. 
Such local delusions were very common in that 
age. During the seventeenth century, many 
thousands were put to death in England for 



* Bancroft. Hist. I. 465. 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 241 

alledged witchcraft. *' In Scotland, during the 
last forty years of the sixteenth century, the ex- 
ecutions were not fewer than seventeen thou- 
sand ! " ^ About the time of what is called the 
" Salem Witchcraft," there was another very 
similar, but more destructive excitement in 
Sweden. During that century, reputed witches 
perished by thousands in France, and the same 
took place in the other European States, both 
Protestant^ and Romanist. Perhaps in no civil- 
ized country were there so few victims as in 
New England, where there were no executions 
later than 1692 ; and in some of whose colonies 
there were never any sufferers of the sort. The 
English statute against witchcraft, enacted un- 
der James I., in 1603, when the great philoso- 
pher, lord Bacon, was a member of the house of 
commons, was not repealed by act of Parliament 
till 1736, not much above a century since. The 
last judicial execution in England was at Hun- 
tingdon, in 1716; the last in Scotland was at 
Dornoch, Sutherlandshire, in 1622 ; some of 
the last that ever took place in a civilized coun- 
try were at Wurtzburg, Bavaria, in 1749, and 
in the Swiss canton of Glarus, in 1780, much 



* Edinburgh Review, CLXI. p. 128. See also Encyclopedia Ameri- 
cana, article " Witchcraft." 
VOL. II. 21 



242 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

less than a hundred years ago. All these, and 
many others, occurred long after such sorrowful 
scenes had wholly ceased in New England. 
Strange as it may seem to some who have 
listened all their days to calumnies on this sub- 
ject, it is nevertheless true, that Massachusetts 
was the first civilized government to abolish 

THE PRACTICE OF EXECUTION FOR WITCHCRAFT. 

In this, as in so many other respects, that noble 
commonwealth has led the way, and strode 
foremost in the path of reform ! 

It has been observed that Mr. Norton could 
unbend his bow of steel ; and relax the tension 
of his laborious mind amid the cheerfulness of 
social intercourse. This has been the more 
willingly mentioned, because some who have 
considered his deportment only when under ex- 
treme perplexity and trouble have termed him 
" the melancholic Norton." This notion is too 
commonly extended to all the Puritans. It is 
true, that, as compared with a vain and frivolous 
world, they were serious and sedate. If deep 
religious meditation and experience had not 
made them sober and grave in their ordinary 
deportment, they had enough to make them so 
in the pains, perils and privations with which 
they were ever conversant. But it is a great 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 243 

mistake, to suppose that they never had their 
seasons of relaxation. They had high social 
enjoyments, and knew how to indulge a becom- 
ing cheerfulness. It is a mere prejudice to con- 
ceive of them only according to those caricatures 
of "the godly," which the profane cavaliers 
were fond of drawing. Their enemies loved to 
depict them as gloomy and unsocial beings, 
mortally opposed to the courtesies, refinements 
and endearments of life. We have too long 
been told of their grim visages and sour aspect ; 
as if " hanging out a devil in their faces, were 
a sign that an angel dwelt within." Far differ- 
ent was the truth ! They were men of the 
most generous sympathies, and the most en- 
larged public spirit. And their women were 
patterns unsurpassed of conjugal tenderness and 
maternal love. How honorable it is to the fe- 
male character in that day, *' that their sensi- 
bility was not greater than their fortitude." 
They could act, as well as pray ; they could 
endure, as well as weep. If their affections 
were tremulous, they were also muscular. How 
sweet and precious is their memory, embalmed 
in the spices of piety and goodness ! 

After what has been said of Mr. Norton, it is 
needless to dilate upon his learning. He was 



244 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON 

not only a skillful linguist, but a universal 
scholar. But all that he gained from secular 
literature he consecrated, by applying it to the 
adornment and illustration of the doctrine of the 
cross. It was with the spoils of the Egyptians, 
that Moses enriched the tabernacle of the Lord. 
President Stiles, no incompetent judge of such 
things, ranks Mr. Norton in the first quaternion 
of the ancient divines of New England, who 
were " equal to the first characters in theology, 
in all Christendom, and in all ages." 

Of the character of his daily religious experi- 
ence we are not so fully informed, as we are in 
regard to many of his coevals. That was " an 
age of diaries ; " and he, like others, kept one of 
those diurnal transcripts of the frames of his 
mind. It is not known to be in existence. Dr. 
Increase Mather, who was for several years his 
pupil, and who greatly loved and honored him, 
had seen it, and gives this testimony to his ven- 
erated teacher. "He was much in prayer; he 
would very often spend whole days in prayer, 
with fasting before the Lord alone in his study. 
He kept a strict daily watch over his own heart. 
He was an hard student. He took notice in a 
private dairy, how he spent his time every day. 
If he found himself not so much inclined to dili- 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 245 

gence and study as at some other times, he 
would reflect on his heart and ways, lest haply 
some unobserved sin should provoke the Lord to 
give him up to a slothful, listless frame of spirit. 
In his diary, he would sometimes have these 
words ; — " Leve desiderium ad studendum : for- 
san ex peccato admisso." '^ 

As a part of the fruit of his labors, he left 
some writings which he designed for the press 
if his life had been prolonged. The principal 
work is a large " Body of Divinity " preserved 
among the manuscripts of the Massachusetts 
Historical Society. 

As a preacher, he was remarkable for that 
" copious eloquence, which is equally captivat- 
ing to the scholar and to the unlettered Christ- 
ian." But he is even more celebrated for his 
extraordinary gift in prayer. His whole soul 
was let loose in the public devotions, and swept 
along in a torrent of emotion. His hearers 
were carried away by these overflowings of the 
fullness of his heart. The aged magistrates and 
the men of cultivated mind, would unite in his 
supplications above an hour together, with un- 
flagging interest ; transported, in a manner, by 



* " Slight inclination to study : owing perhaps to sdlowed sin." 

21=^ 



246 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

the vast variety, the fitness, and the fervency of 
his petitions. One godly man would ordinarily 
travel on foot from Ipswich to Boston, which 
was then a journey of thirty miles, merely to 
attend the Thursday lecture in the First church. 
And if any notice was taken of his singular 
perseverance, he would say ; — " It is worth a 
great journey, to be a partaker in one of Mr. 
Norton's prayers." Nor did this man of prayer 
plead with God in vain. His ministry was 
greatly blessed: and the multitudes converted 
to God by means of his labors, are the jewels of 
his crown. Long has he slept in silence with 
his flock. Their mingled dust reposes together 
in their earthy bed. What an awakening awaits 
them ! How joyously that clustered band shall 
assemble around their pastor in the destined 
morning when their slumbers shall be broken by 
the welcome voice of the Son of Man ! 

But their departed spirits are now with 
Christ. Ere we were born, our pilgrim sires, 
who found, and cleared for us the good old 
paths, which for ages had been forsaken, and 
overgrown, and obstructed; — our fathers, whose 
hallowed memory must be our shame and con- 
demnation if we forsake those paths again ; — 
our fathers, sainted and made perfect, have long 



LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 247 

been blest with Jesus. They have sung the 
victor's song. They have been harping with 
their harps of gold. They have mingled in the 
raptured chorus of angelic praise. They have 
lost themselves in the ecstasy of those mighty 
thunderings rolling evermore their tuneful peals. 
The anthem is like " the voice of many waters :" 
and the undulations of that ever-rising tide shall 
forever swell and break, like the booming bil- 
lows of the resounding sea. 



The following is a list of John Norton's printed works: 

1. A Latin letter to John Dury on the pacification of the Protestant 
Churches, signed by nearly all the New England ministers. 

2. Responsio ad totum Quaestionum Syllogen a clarissimo viro 
dom. Gul. ApoUonio propositam, ad componendas controversias in 
Anglia. Lond. 8vo. 1648. 

3. A Discussion of the sufferings of Christ, and the questions 
about his righteousness active and passive, and the imputation 
thereof, in answer to a dialogue of Mr. Pinchin. Lond. 12mo. 1653 : — 
written at the request of the General Court. 

4. The Orthodox Evangelist, or a treatise wherein many great 
evangelical truths are briefly discussed. Lond. 4to. 1654. 

5. Election Sermon. 1657. 

6. The Life of Mr. Cotton. 1658. A very small quarto. 

7. The Heart of New England Rent by the Blasphemies of the 



248 LIFE OF JOHN NORTON. 

present Generation : a treatise concerning the doctrine of the Quakers, 
by the desire of the General Court. 8vo. 1660. 

8. Election Sermon. 1661. 

0. A Catechism. Date unknown. 

10. Three choice and profitable sermons on several texts, being the 
last sermons, which he preached at the election, at the Thursday 
lecture, and on the Sabbath. Small quarto. 1664. 



LIFE OE JOHN DAVENPORT. 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT, 



It is to meet the wants of the human mind, that 
the Old and New Testaments are so much 
occupied with narrative and chronicle. No later 
history is so instructive as that of the Church 
and its chief members. Ecclesiastical history, 
including- religious biography, is theology taught 
by example, and is the most impressive and 
profitable teaching. " It is velvet study, and 
recreation work." 

The early history of New England and its 
settlers is a choice part of this fruitful field. It 
was to " raise up the foundations of many gen- 
erations," that they came to these " old waste 
places," which from time immemorial had lain 
desolate and almost untrodden. Scarce could 
these wilds be said to be peopled by the thin and 
scattered bands which roamed them at random. 
Of the savage inhabitants it was said, that they 
were never away from home : for one spot was 
as much home to them as another, even where 
the wigwam chanced for the time to be pitched. 

Here, in this vast, vacant domicil, the Puri- 



252 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

tans toiled at their foundation work. Their great 
right-angled corner-stone, massive and moveless, 
was the Bible. On this firm basis they reared 
amain their spiritual masonry. They were for 
strong abutment work to begin with. It was to 
last for many generations. And so, amid the 
old waste places, they builded up their social 
fabric of imperishable minds, cemented with im- 
perishable truth. And the stately structure rose 
in fair proportions, reared 

" With pyramids and towers, 
From diamond quarries iiewn and roclcs of gold. " 

Among these " wise master-builders," John 
Davenport was one of chief renown. We now 
propose to give some account of him, as one of 
the founders of our political and religious insti- 
tutions. His reputation does not rest upon feats 
of arms or military prowess. But, as " a good 
soldier of Jesus Christ," he endured much 
hardness, waged many a hard-fought contest, 
and won many a righteous conquest. For, as 
Milton has grandly said, 

" Peace hath lier victories, 
No less than war." 

Mr. Davenport was born at Coventry, in Eng- 
land, in the year 1597. He was the child of 
worthy and respectable parents. His father, 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 253 

who was at one time mayor of that ancient city, 
belonged to a family of good repute in the county 
of Chester. He had a pious mother, " who, hav- 
ing lived just long enough to devote him, as 
Hannah did her Samuel, unto the service of the 
sanctuary, left him under the more immediate 
care of Heaven to fit him for that service." And 
gracious Heaven accepted the charge of this 
child of the covenant. The mother's dying 
prayer is the infant's best legacy. She follows 
the prayer to heaven with such speed, that it is 
doubtful which enters first. Let not such little 
ones be accounted of as orphanized or forlorn. 
They have a shepherd to feed, and a fold to 
guard them. As one of the old puritan divines 
has said ; — " Jesus opens to them his arms and 
the bosom of his Church, to warm them into 
spiritual life to be manifested in due time." ^ 

The mother's last prayer was so effectually 
answered, that the child gave evidence of the 
grace of God ere he was sent to the university, 
and lived all his days a devout and conscien- 
tious life, without one blemish left on record 
against him. 

At the age of fourteen, he had made great 



* J. Angier, 1652. 

VOL. II. 22 



254 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

proficiency in his studies, and was admitted to 
Brazen-Nose College at Oxford, in 1611. Here 
he addicted himself to the closest mental appli- 
cation, and formed those habits of intense and 
protracted study which he maintained through 
life. The vigorous buddings of his youth de- 
cidedly indicated " the growth and greatness of 
his honorable age." At that seat of science he 
remained about five years : but left it, soon after 
taking his first degree, to enter, young as he 
was, upon the active duties of that ministry, to 
which he had been consecrated by his mother's 
expiring breath. 

He appears to have officiated at first as chap- 
lain at Hilton castle, in the neighborhood of 
Durham. In this sort of duty many of the 
most distinguished divines of that day began 
their ministrations. When he was nineteen 
years of age, he was called to London, where he 
labored, at first, as assistant to another clergy- 
man ; but was, soon after, made vicar of St. 
Stephen's Church, in Coleman street. 

One of his parishioners here was Theophilus 
Eaton, who, though somewhat older than Dav- 
enport, was his fellow-townsman and the friend 
of his childhood. Eaton's father was one of the 
ministers of Coventry, where Davenport's father 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 255 

was chief civic magistrate. Eaton, declining to 
enter the ministry to which he had been urged 
by his friends, became a substantial and suc- 
cessful London merchant. It is probable that 
Eaton's influence was active in bringing his 
early friend, the youthful preacher, to the great 
metropolis. From that time they lived in the 
closest intimacy, and afforded a lovely example 
of religious friendship. Together they came to 
these shores, together they settled the New 
Haven colony, where they presided for many 
years, the one as governor, and the other as 
pastor, over the rising fortunes of that commu- 
nity. The ties which united them are un- 
broken ; 

' Bonds, which defying still all Fortune's power, 
Time could not loosen, nor could Death divide.' 

Blessed is the man who has even one such tried 
and trusted confidant. He can never be wholly 
wretched. 

* True happiness 
Consists not in the muliitude of friends, 
But in the worth and choice.' 

Mr. Davenport's youthfulness gave some 
celebrity to his early ministry, to which his high 
accomplishments as a preacher conduced still 
more. About this time too, the city of London 



256 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

was visited by a dreadful plague, which swept 
away its victims with ruthless rapidity. While 
many of the pastors forsook their flocks, and 
fled from the wasting pestilence, the young 
vicar of St. Stephen's continued to watch over 
his charge, and courageously visited the af- 
flicted and the dying with the consolations of 
the gospel. His Christian fidelity raised him to 
notice and to high esteem. 

As Mr. Davenport " sowed beside all waters," 
he, by the grace of God, laid the Baptist denom- 
ination under some obligation ; as being, about 
this time, the means of the conversion of Wil- 
liam Kiffen, who afterwards became a minister 
of note in that communion. 

Although removed from the University, and 
burdened with the care of a great parish, he 
intermitted none of the studies needful to a 
"universal scholar." He went to Oxford in 
1625, and passed the customary trials with 
much approbation ; receiving at the same time 
the degrees of Master of Arts, and of Bachelor 
in Divinity. He continued all his days to be an 
indefatigable scholar. With him, "the mid- 
night lamp " was no figure of speech, but a 
customary matter of fact. The habit of late 
studies, which has proved fatal to so many 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 257 

Others, appears in him to have had no injurious 
effect. 

He bestowed great care upon the preparation 
of his sermons, writing them out more fully 
than was usual with the ministers of his day, 
and then enlarging in the delivery. In his 
manner of speaking was combined a calm 
gravity with an intense earnestness, which 
fixed the attention of his hearers in an extraor- 
dinary manner. His veriest enemies were con- 
strained to own that he was " the prince of 
preachers." Indeed one of his friends has said, 
that " he was worthy to be a preacher to 
princes." 

During his ministry in London, he was 
" acquainted with great men, and great things, 
and was great himself, and had a great fame 
abroad in the world." Some of the most dis- 
tinguished men around him were his intimate 
friends. Of these we may mention Dr. John 
Preston, Master of Emmanuel College, Cam- 
bridge. His popularity as a teacher was such, 
that Fuller calls him the greatest pupil-7nonger 
ever known in England. This man, a learned 
theologian, and most eloquent preacher, was 
also a deep politician. James I. made him 
chaplain to the Prince of Wales, and to himself; 



258 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

and urged upon him the rich bishopric of Glou- 
cester. On the death of James, Dr. Preston 
rode up to London in a close coach with the 
young king and the Duke of Buckingham. 
He was again offered a bishopric, and the office 
of Lord-Keeper of the Great Seal, which was 
the highest office in the State, and entitled the 
holder to preside in the house of peers. These 
tempting lures were offered, in the hopes of 
bringing over the puritan party to the king's 
side by means of Dr. Preston's vast influence. 
But the good man was not to be bought. Here 
was a man with a conscience. He held fast his 
integrity : choosing to bear the frown of the 
tyrant, and the scoffs of minions, and the perse- 
cution of hierarchs, rather than swerve from his 
integrity, or be enticed from his principles. 
Before he died, which was in 1628, this cele- 
brated man showed his confidence in the young 
vicar of St. Stephen's, by leaving his writings 
to be published under Mr. Davenport's care ; by 
whom, accordingly they were edited. 

A year or two before Dr. Preston's death, and 
while he was chief manager of the affairs of the 
Puritans, there was an association formed, about 
the year 1626, for the purpose of supplying with 
an able ministry such parts of England as were 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 259 

destitute. The greater part of the church liv- 
ings were in the hands of men, who pocketed 
the profits without discharging the duties of 
their sacred office. These duties were usually 
delegated to miserable starvelings, hired at the 
very shabbiest wages, incapable of preaching, 
and whose labors extended only to the reading 
of the Book of Common Prayer, and sometimes 
of a printed homily. This was all the spiritual 
instruction provided for many, even of the 
largest, parishes. The ministry was thus brought 
into contempt, religion degraded into a merce- 
nary affair, and the souls of the people pined 
under a famine of the Word of God. 

The case was made still worse by what are 
called "lay-impropriations." By the laws of 
the land, one tenth part of all the annual pro- 
ducts of the soil belongs to the established 
Church. These tithes should, properly, be paid 
to the rector of the parish. But in the popish 
times, when the country abounded in monas- 
teries, the tithes of very many of the parishes 
were appropriated to the support of different 
monastic establishments. In such cases the 
monastery was bound to furnish a priest to serve 
the parish, who as he acted vicariously, in their 
behalf, was called the vicar. The tithes, after 



260 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

paying the vicar his stipend, went to increase 
the weahh of the monastery. When the con- 
ventual establishments were suppressed by 
Henry VIII., he scattered their riches among 
his courtiers and satellites. Among the rest, 
these appropriated tithes became the property of 
laymen, and are called " lay-impropriations : " — 
and very gross improprieties they are ! This 
enormous abuse, and perversion of funds, con- 
tinues to the present time. Many of the 
wealthiest noblemen and commoners of England 
luxuriate in these spoils of the Church, spoils 
which did not originally belong even to the 
Church by any law of Christ, or any righteous 
ordinance of man's enacting. Lay-impropria- 
tions are bought and sold, like any other species 
of property. The lay-owner grasps the revenues 
wrested from the Church, and doles out some 
pittance thereof to his clerical vicar ; who in his 
turn, perhaps, squeezes out a paltry modicum to 
some lean and hungry curate on whom it de- 
volves to feed the flock as well as he may. The 
people, all the while, have no voice in the 
matter, and no privilege but that of paying over 
their money, whether they conform or dissent, 
to men who render not the slightest equivalent. 
To say nothing of the atrocious injustice of 



LIFEOF JOHN DAVENPORT. 261 

this system, it is evident that its tendency must 
be to depress the working-clergy, and to consign 
their duties to men incompetent, and of the 
lowest order of qualifications. It occurred to the 
Puritans in Dr. Preston's time, to apply a 
remedy to this shameful state of things. A 
fund was raised by voluntary contribution for 
the purchase of as many of these lay-impropria- 
tions as possible. The income of them was to 
be expended in the support of preachers called 
lecturers, who were to preach statedly in those 
parish-churches where the incompetency of the 
minister in charge made such assistance desir- 
able. It was a sort of home-missionary society. 
It met with very great favor, so that in a short 
time above six thousand pounds were collected, 
and invested in the purchase of thirteen impro- 
priations. It seemed as though this association 
in no long period would be able to buy in all 
this description of property, and restore it to 
those religious uses from which it had been so 
scandalously alienated. 

But as all the lecturers employed by this 
association were zealous Puritans, the persecut- 
ing party soon took the alarm. Dr. Heylin, one 
of Laud's sycophantic underlings, raised a pro- 
digious panic : and it was not long before the 



262 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

trustees who conducted the business, or, as they 
were called, the " feoffees in trust," found them- 
selves arraigned before the Court of Exchequer. 
The feoffees were twelve in number : four of 
them clergymen, of whom our Mr. Davenport 
was one ; four of them were lawyers, of whom 
one was a king's sergeant ; and four of them 
were citizens, one of whom was the Lord Mayor 
of London. At the instigation of attorney-gen- 
eral Noy, the Exchequer condemned the asso- 
ciation as dangerous and illegal ; confiscated to 
the king's use the whole of the property it had 
acquired; and referred the punishment of the 
feoffees, as criminals, to that infamous tribunal 
the star chamber."^ The unpopularity of the 
prosecution, however, prevented the matter from 
being carried any further : and Mr. Davenport 
and his associates in this pious and laudable 
undertaking, after suffering much anxiety, were 
permitted to escape the fines and other penalties 
with which they had been threatened. 

On this afflictive occasion, Mr. Davenport 
wrote the following passages in his great 
Bible ;— 

"Feb. 11, 1632. The business of the feoffees 



* Hanbury's Hist. Memorials. Vol. I., p. 470-2. 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 263 

being to be heard the third time at the Ex- 
chequer, I prayed earnestly that God would 
assist our counselors in opening the case, and 
be pleased to grant, that they might get no 
advantage against us, to punish us as evil doers; 
promising to observe what answer he gave. 
Which, seeing he hath graciously done, and de- 
livered me from the thing I feared, I record to 
these ends ; — 

" 1. To be more industrious in my family. 

" 2. To check my unthank fulness. 

" 3. To quicken myself to thankfulness. 

" 4. To awaken myself to more watchfulness 
for the time to come, in remembrance of his 
mercy. 

" Which I beseech the Lord to grant ; upon 
whose faithfulness in his covenant, I cast myself 
to be made faithful in my covenant. 

"John Davenporte.'"^ 

In the year 1631, he was convened before 
bishop Laud, and subjected to trouble and ex- 
pense, on the gTound of his Puritanism. He 
was also convened before the High Commission 
Court as a notorious delinquent, though in a 
matter very honorable to him. The Queen of 



* He always apelled his name with this final letter. 



264 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

Bohemia, the king's sister, had earnestly so- 
licited Charles, that collections might be made 
throughout England in aid of the poor banished 
ministers of the Palatinate of the Rhine. This 
part of her husband's dominions had been sub- 
jugated in a religious war by the papist emperor 
of Germany : and the ministers were driven into 
exile. The king was disposed to grant the 
desired brief for the collections : but Laud 
interposed to prevent it, first, because those 
impoverished ministers, suffering as they were 
for the faith, were Calvinists and Presbyterians ; 
and secondly, because, in the brief, the Church 
of Rome is said to be anti-christian. From 
whence it would follow, as his lordship inferred, 
that Rome " was in no capacity to confer sacer- 
dotal power in ordinations, and, consequently, 
the benefit of the priesthood, and the force of 
holy ministrations, would be lost in the English 
Church, forasmuch as she has no orders but 
what she derives from the Church of Rome." 
As the result of Laud's opposition, the brief was 
altered, and the undertaking fell through. Upon 
this, Mr. Davenport united with Doctors Sibbs, 
Gouge, and other puritan divines, who pitied the 
necessities of their exiled brethren of Germany, 
in promoting a private subscription for their re- 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 265 

lief. As soon as the bishop, whom Milton calls 
" the grim wolf," heard of this charitable pro- 
ceeding, he arraigned its promoters before his 
infamous High Commission, and stopped the 
business. This is the man so fondly lauded by 
the "Oxford divines," as the "martyred Saint 
William ! " And this, indeed, was one of the 
least of his misdoings. 

Up to this time, Mr. Davenport had been a 
conformist. Though disliking many things en- 
joined in the established church, and resolute to 
have them reformed, he persuaded himself that 
it was his duty, for the present, to practice 
them. When he heard that John Cotton had 
resigned his church at Boston in old England, 
and was endeavoring to escape to America, Mr. 
Davenport sought a conference with him, not 
doubting but he should convince Mr. Cotton, 
that he ought to conform, rather than to leave 
his flock. In the " Life of John Cotton," we 
have given some account of the interesting con- 
ferences held for this purpose, in which Mr. 
Davenport was assisted by two other learned 
and noted ministers. Instead of bringing Mr. 
Cotton over to their views, the result was, that 
they went entirely over to him. There was no 
resisting the meekness and mildness of that 
VOL. II. 23 



266 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

godly and erudite man. Mr. Davenport also 
discussed these matters with bishop Laud, who, 
trusting to the terrors of ecclesiastical penalties, 
made the remark ; — " I thought I had settled his 
judgment." The prelate was vexed to find him- 
self mistaken, and to learn that Mr. Davenport 
had resigned his benefice, and fled across the 
seas from the pursuivants who were after him 
with their warrants. And yet the relentless 
oppressor testified to the moral worth of the 
fugitive in a speech to the house of Lords, 
speakhig of him as "a most religious man, who 
fled to New England for the sake of a good con- 
science ! " =^ 

From the time of his becoming an avowed 
non-conformist, Mr. Davenport was made to 
feel the wrath of his diocesan. Being seasona- 
bly warned of what was in preparation against 
him, he felt it his duty to secure himself by 
flight. He was too conscientious to leave his 
flock without their full consent. He was not 
one of those who " too slightly and suddenly 
quit, what they had before so seriously and sol- 
emnly accepted : as if their pastoral charges 
were like their clothes or upper garments, to be 



* Answer to Lord Say's speech. 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 267 

put off at pleasure, to cool themselves in every 
heat." He convened the principal members of 
St. Stephen's church. Owning their right in 
him as their pastor, he declared that no danger 
should drive him from any service or exposure 
they might require at his hands. He then 
asked their advice in regard to the existing exi- 
gency. After sad and serious deliberation, they 
discharged him from all special obligation to 
them, and sorrowfully consented to accept his 
resignation. 

Finding that his retirement from his sphere 
of pastoral duty did not exempt him from the 
eager pursuit of the bishop's officials, he betook 
himself to Holland, in the latter part of 1633. 
The blasts of persecution only convey the 
winged seeds of truth upon the pinions of the 
wind. The stormy breath of opposition may 
blow with all its fury. It cannot quench the 
flame. It will but scatter the glowing sparks, 
and kindle each of them to a living blaze, and 
spread around a wider conflagration. 

On getting to Holland, Mr. Davenport became 
colleague with Rev. John Paget, for many years 
pastor of an English church at Amsterdam. For 
some six months, affairs went on happily. But 
the senior pastor, an aged man, was a violent 



268 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

Presbyterian ; and, among other things, insisted 
that baptism should be administered to all chil- 
dren who might be presented for the purpose. 
This indiscriminate baptism of all children with- 
out regard to the character of the parents, was 
the practice of the Dutch churches. Mr. Dav- 
enport utterly refused to sanction such a prac- 
tice, and argued strenuously against it. A warm 
controversy on this subject arose between him 
and Mr. Paget. The latter procured a decision 
of the Dutch classis or presbytery, to which 
their church belonged, adverse to his colleague. 
Mr. Davenport, who was as much opposed to 
presbyterial government as he was to the profa- 
nation of the sacrament of baptism, would not 
acquiesce in that decision. Being constrained, 
after some six months, to retire from the public 
duties of his ministry, he restricted himself to 
lecturing catechetically on Sabbath evenings to 
a small assemblage which met at his lodgings. 
But even this private meeting was forbidden by 
the civil authority. Beside ihe usual strife of 
tongues, this dispute occasioned a pamphletary 
war ; of which the last publication was Mr. 
Davenport's " Apologetical Reply," printed at 
Rotterdam in 1636. 

Satisfied by this time, that the yoke of Dutch 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 269 

presbyterianism was nearly as insupportable as 
that of English prelatism, he resolved to betake 
himself to the free wildernesses of America. 
He had received letters from Mr. Cotton giving 
a glowing account of matters here ; and telling 
him, " that the order of the churches and the 
commonwealth was now so settled in New 
England, by common consent, that it brought 
into his mind the new heaven and the new 
earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Mr. 
Davenport had always been a warm advocate of 
that colonial enterprise. He was one of those 
by whose means the Massachusetts patent was 
obtained. At his own request, his name was 
not inserted among those of the patentees, for 
fear it might provoke a fiercer opposition in the 
privy council, from his old adversary Laud, who 
was then bishop of London. He contributed 
the generous sum of fifty pounds to help in pro- 
curing the charter, and exerted his influence 
every way he could, to promote the under- 
taking. He felt that the leadings of Providence 
were drawing him to this western strand. "He 
that openeth, and no man shutteth ; and shut- 
teth, and no man openeth," — He, with provi- 
dential hand, had closed every door of usefulness 
against him, except that which stood open beyond 
the Atlantic. 

23* 



270 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

To prepare for this voyage, Mr. Davenport 
returned to London. Ever tenacious of his prin- 
ciples, he told his old friends there, " that he 
thought God carried him over into Holland, on 
purpose to bear witness against that promiscuous 
baptism." He and his faithful companion, The- 
ophilus Eaton, collected a band of colonists, 
whom they led out of spiritual Egypt, the house 
of bondage and oppression, into the distant land 
of promise. He who divided the Red Sea 
before the Israelites, gave this little company as 
safe a passage across the ocean. They arrived 
at Boston in the Hector and another ship, on the 
twenty-sixth of June, 1637. Among other pas- 
sengers, who came with this expedition, was 
Edward Hopkins, son-in-law of Governor Eaton, 
and himself for many years governor of Con- 
necticut colony. By his will, he became a 
distinguished benefactor of Harvard College, 
and several other institutions of learning in 
New England. With these came also Lord 
Leigh, son and heir of the Earl of Marlboro', a 
youth of nineteen, humble and pious, who came 
merely to see the country ; and returned to 
England a few weeks after, in company with 
Sir Henry Vane. 

Mr. Davenport was heartily welcomed by 




LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 271 

Mr. Cotton and his associates. His arrival 
occurred while the whole country was agitated 
by the antinomian convulsion. On the seven- 
teenth of August, he preached in the clay-built 
church of Boston, from the text ; — " Now I 
beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, 
and that there be no divisions among you ; but 
that ye be perfectly joined together in the same 
mind, and in the same judgment." 1 Cor. 1 : 10. 
In this sermon, as Governor Winthrop, who 
heard it, tells us, " as he fully set forth the 
nature and danger of divisions, and the disor- 
ders which were among us, so he clearly discov- 
ered his judgment against the new opinions and 
bitter practices which were sprung up here. He 
at once took an active part in the adjustment of 
that perilous controversy : and his wisdom and 
knowledge were made conspicuous in the Synod 
of 1637, by which those dangerous errors were 
suppressed. At the request of the Synod, he 
closed the proceedings by a sermon on the text, 
Phil. 3 : 16 ; — " Nevertheless, whereunto we 
have attained, let us walk by the same rule, let 
us mind the same thing." In this discourse, he 
declared the result of the assembly, and, "with 
much wisdom and sound argument," urged to 
unity and harmony. 



272 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

This troublesome business being disposed of, 
he set himself in earnest to find a place of abode 
for his colony. This body of emigrants was 
composed of " very desirable folk," and the 
Massachusetts people were very earnest to have 
them settle in " the Bay." The Charlestown 
settlers made them large offers of their territory ; 
the grantees of Newbury offered them their 
whole town; and the General Court begged 
their acceptance of any ungranted region within 
the bounds of the patent. The refusal of these 
urgent invitations was regarded as almost an 
unkindness by those who coveted this accession 
to their strength. 

But Mr. Davenport and Mr. Eaton had already 
visited Quinipiac, to which they afterwards gave 
the name of New Haven. They were much 
taken with the beauty and fertility of that tract 
of country : and, inasmuch as they had no royal 
grant or patent, and that region was not included 
in the limits of any patent already given, they 
hoped, by living there, to be exempted from the 
authority of any governor general. The peo- 
ple, at that time, were apprehensive that such a 
governor would be sent out by the king to re- 
strain their liberties ; and the wish to escape 
from such authority was very natural. More- 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 273 

over, it was taken into consideration, that it was 
important to forestall the Dutch colonists of New 
Amsterdam, now New York, who were intend- 
ing to secure Quinipiac for themselves. Another 
advantage likely to result from the forming of 
this English settlement was, the strengthening 
of the infant colony of Connecticut, whose head- 
quarters were at Hartford. These two colonies 
continued to be entirely distinct for many years. 
It was also thought, that Mr. Davenport's resi- 
dence in Massachusetts might tend to draw 
down upon that colony the speedier wrath of 
archbishop Laud, who loved them not before. 
When he heard, that Mr. Davenport had fled to 
New England to avoid the storm of prelatic in- 
dignation, that bitter persecutor grimly said ; — 
" My arm shall reach him there ! " It was sup- 
posed that the scattering of those who were 
obnoxious to Laud into different places, might 
lessen the motives for stretching out his potent 
arm against them. As it was, that arch-priest of 
unrelenting superstition had obtained a commis- 
sion from the king to exercise his ghostly 
tyranny over these colonies, and compel con- 
formity by the severest measures. But the 
political excitements at home obliged him and 
his monarch to confine their activity to resisting 



274 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

a revolution whose whirlings threw their heads 
from off their shoulders. As John Cotton ex- 
pressed it ; — " God rocked three nations with 
shaking dispensations, in order to procure some 
rest for these infant churches." 

Mr. Davenport and his companions gave as 
their principal reason for removing to New 
Haven after nine months' stay in the older 
colony, that most of them were Londoners, who 
were not so well fitted for an agricultural, as for 
a commercial, settlement ; which they thought 
might be formed with better prospects at Quini- 
piac than at any unoccupied place on the Bay. 
They sailed from Boston for the place of their 
destination on the thirtieth of March, 1638. 
They left a letter, dated the twelfth of the same 
month, and addressed to the government at 
Boston. In this affectionate farewell, they ac- 
knowledge gratefully the kindness they had 
experienced. They anticipate the future ser- 
vices which shall be mutually rendered by the 
older plantation and that which they are going 
to make. These plantations, they say, " the 
Divine Providence hath combined together in as 
strong bond of brotherly affection, by the same- 
ness of their condition, as Joab and Abishai 
were, whose several armies did mutually 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 275 

Strengthen them both against several ene- 
mies : — or rather they are joined together as 
Hippocrates his twins, to stand and fall, to grow 
and decay, to flourish and wither, to live and 
die together." 

After all, it is not unlikely, that one of the 
principal motives which induced Mr. Davenport 
to urge his companions to plant themselves in 
an unsubdued part of the wilderness, was an in- 
clination to have their own way. They wished 
to frame their church and commonwealth on a 
model more thoroughly scriptural than could be 
found anywhere else. Mr. Davenport, as well 
as John Robinson, had observed, that reforma- 
tion is seldom carried further in any place than 
where the first reformers left the work. Mr. 
Davenport remarked, that " as easily might the 
ark have been removed from the mountains o 
Ararat, where it first grounded, as a people get 
any ground in reformation after and beyond the 
first remove of the reformers." With such sen- 
timents, it was natural, that he should wish to 
have the religious and civil affairs of his colony, 
from the outset, fashioned in the strictest con- 
formity with the rules of the Bible. This could 
be best eflfected where every thing was to be 
begun anew. 



276 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

This band of pilgrims reached Quinipiac, the 
future New Haven, on the fourteenth of April, 
1638. Mr. Davenport was then forty-one years 
of age. The next day is the Sabbath. A drum 
beats in the rude and hasty encampment. The 
armed men, with their wives and children, 
gather at this signal under a branching oak. 
They meet to consecrate to God a new region 
reclaimed from heathen darkness. For the first 
time the aisles of that forest-temple resounded 
with the praises of the Most High. Here are 
men who were nurtured in the halls of Oxford 
and Cambridge ; and women used to all the 
elegant refinements of the British metropolis. 
They are gathered under the oaken tree. Why 
are they here ? Why this change in their con- 
dition ? Why are they here, far from the haunts 
of civilization, confronting privation and suffer- 
ing in every form ? It is for conscience, to keep 
that sacred thing unspotted : — it is for pos- 
terity : — for eternity : — for God ! Surely angels 
rejoiced, while Infinite Love smiled upon the 
scene. Mr. Davenport preached from the text, 
Matthew 4: 1, — "Then was Jesus led up of 
the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of 
the devil : " — and his subject was, " the tempta- 
tions of the wilderness." Every place, however 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 277 

sequestered, has its trials. In every place, we 
have need to watch and pray. 

The colonists were in no rash haste to frame 
their institutions. During the fourteen months 
in which they were laboriously erecting their 
dwellings, and clearing their lands, they were 
much occupied in social prayer and conference, 
with reference to the important undertaking 
before them, During this period Mr. Daven- 
port prepared his " Discourse about civil govern- 
ment in a New Plantation whose Design is 
Religion." This treatise was published many 
years after, in 1673. It is a vindication of the 
practice, long maintained by our fathers, of 
restricting the rights of voting, and of holding 
office, to such as are members of the Church. 

When ripe for action, ''all the free planters " 
assembled on the fourth of June, 1639, in a 
barn, for the purpose of organizing a civil gov- 
ernment. There was a sermon by Mr. Daven- 
port from Proverbs 9: 1, — "Wisdom hath 
builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven 
pillars." After much other discourse by differ- 
ent individuals, they formed a literal " social 
contract," and erected themselves into a body 
politic by a mutual compact. It was then unani- 
mously agreed to choose twelve men to lay the 
VOL. n. 24 



278 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

foundation of the church. These twelve men 
were empowered to select seven out of their own 
number to constitute the new church. This 
number may have been suggested as an allusion 
to the seven pillars of Wisdom's house : but 
more probably it was adopted because our fath- 
ers considered seven to be the smallest number 
which could issue a case of discipline according 
to the directions of our Saviour in the eigh- 
teenth chapter of Matthew. Of this particular 
seven, Mr. Davenport was one. He, with the 
six, entered into a covenant, and constituted the 
first church in New Haven on the twenty-sec- 
ond of August, 1639. Being thus gathered, 
they proceeded to admit others into their fel- 
lowship. 

Shortly after the church was organized, Mr. 
Davenport was chosen pastor. He was ordained 
by the hands of two or three of the lay -brethren, 
though Mr. Hooker and Mr. Stone, the rever- 
end pastors of the church in Hartford, were 
present, and one of them made the prayer. 
This ceremony was used, notwithstanding the 
validity of Mr. Davenport's ordination in the 
Church of England was not doubted. But it 
was held, that his earlier ordination could not 
constitute him a minister of this new church, 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 279 

any more than a man's being a lawful magis- 
trate in England would make him a magistrate 
in a foreign jurisdiction without further commis- 
sion. Such ordinations of one who had pre- 
viously been admitted to the ministry, our 
fathers regarded just as we do what we call 
installations. The laying on of hands was 
used, as often as a minister was translated from 
one pastoral charge to another. It was intended 
merely as a solemn recognition of him in his 
new relation to a particular church. 

Ordination by laymen, usually the ruling 
elders and deacons of the church, was practiced 
only in a few instances in the first settlement of 
this country : and soon went into disuse. 

Other churches rapidly sprung up around 
New Haven ; and religion in its highest purity 
as to faith and order flourished among them. 
They could soon sing with satisfaction Stern- 
hold's antiquated stave ; — 

" Go walk about all Syon hill, 

Yea, round about her go : 

And tell the towres that thereupon 

Are builded on a roe : 

And marke you well her bulwarkes all, 

Behold her towres there, 

That ye may tell thereof to them 

That after shall be here. 

For this God is our God forevermore is hee ; 

Yea, and unto the death also, our guider shall he be." 



2S0 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

Their minister was an original genius, and the 
plan he adopted was his own, " and if success 
be any evidence of merit, he certainly has high 
claims to the veneration and gratitude of na- 
tions." " There the famous church of New 
Haven, as also the neighboring towns, enjoyed 
his ministry, his discipline, his government, and 
his universal direction for many years. The 
holiness, the watchfulness, and the usefulness of 
his ministry, are worthy of the remembrance of 
all who would set before them an example of 
ministerial excellence." ^ 

From this time Mr. Davenport exercised his 
ministry in great peace, and with the happiest 
effects. He was the spiritual father of the com- 
munity which grew up around him, taking its 
character from the strong impression of his irre- 
sistible influence. He was regarded with the 
reverence and love which belonged to the patri- 
archs of old : and rejoiced in many seals of his 
ministry whom he gathered into the church, not 
without a most careful, and yet gentle examina- 
tion, on which duty he laid the greatest stress. 

The society of his old friend, the excellent 
Eaton, for twenty years the governor of the new 



* Brooke's Puritans, III. 450, 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 281 

colony, was a great solace to the exiled Puritan. 
An eloquent passage from Dr. Bacon's invalua- 
ble " Historical Discourses" is entitled to inser- 
tion here. " He and his friend Eaton build 
their dwellings over against each other on the 
same street ; and the intimacy begun when they 
were children, and strengthened in their early 
manhood, is prolonged without interruption, till 
in a good old age, death separates them for a 
season, to meet again in heaven. They were 
never out of each other's thoughts ; and rarely 
could a day pass by, in which they did not see 
each other, and take counsel together. The 
voice of prayer, or the evening psalm, in one of 
their dwellings, might be heard in the other. 
Whatever changes came upon one family, the 
other was sure to partake immediately in the 
sorrow or the joy. In such neighborhood and 
intimacy, these two friends passed their days 
here, till the full strength of manhood in which 
they came, had gradually turned to venerable 
age. They saw trials, many and various ; 
trials such as weigh heaviest on the spirit, and 
cause the heart to faint ; but, in all their trials, 
they had one hope, one consolation ; and how 
refreshing to such men, in such vicissitudes, is 
the sympathy of kindred souls, well-tried an4 
24* 



282 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

true. Strong in themselves, with the gifts of 
nature, the endowments of education and expe- 
rience, and the unction of Almighty grace ; 
strong in their individual reliance upon God, 
their help and Saviour ; they were the stronger 
for their friendship, the stronger for their mutual 
counsels, the stronger for the sympathy by which 
each drew the other towards the great Fountain 
of strength, and love, and life. Such are the 
friendships of good men. Their intimacies make 
them better, holier, happier, more patient for en- 
durance, wiser for counsel, stronger for every 
godlike action." 

In 1651, the Second Church in Boston, 
which was then recently formed, invited Mr. 
Davenport to become their pastor : but he was 
too firmly attached to his flock, to leave it with- 
out clearer convictions that such was his duty 
than he felt at that time. 

As he became an old man, he saw the face of 
society around him changing. His beloved 
Eaton and many more of his fellow-pilgrims 
had gone the way of all the earth, and others 
were coming up in their room. But nothing 
could quench his zeal, or slacken his industry. 
He made strenuous and successful exertions to 
bring about the establishment of a college in 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 283 

New Haven, which, in time, was effected. The 
common-school system of New England rose up 
very much from his influence, being ever zealous 
for universal education. 

On the restoration of Charles II., in 1660, 
some who had been active in the times of the 
commonwealth, were brought to the scaffold; 
and others fled for their lives. The surviving 
members of the court which condemned Charles 
I. to the scaffold, were pursued with special fury. 
Of these regicide judges, as they were called, 
four, at least, escaped to this country. One of 
them, Thomas Revel, died in Braintree ; one, 
Col. Dixwell, died in New Haven, and two 
more in the town of Hadley. These two were 
Whalley and Goffe, who had been major gen- 
erals ; and stood in the same relation to Crom- 
well, wherein Napoleon's marshals stood to that 
" man of destiny." Goffe and Whalley were 
too conspicuous marks of royal vengeance to be 
allowed an easy escape. 

Great efforts were made by the partizans of 
the king to effect the arrest of this pair of com- 
patriots, who were men of interesting personal 
character and eminent piety, as well as distin- 
guished for the high stations they had filled. 
They sought concealment in one place after 



284 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

another ; avoiding arrest, only through the 
strong sympathy of the magistrates and people. 
They came to New Haven on the seventh of 
March. On this occasion Mr. Davenport 
preached a sermon whose boldness bordered on 
temerity. He courageously and successfully 
sought to awake the strongest public sentiment 
in behalf of the fugitives. He applied to the 
case those striking words of the prophet ; — 
" Take counsel, execute judgment ; make thy 
shadow as the night in the midst of the noon- 
day ; hide the outcasts, bewray not him that 
wandereth : let mine outcasts dwell with thee, 
Moab ; be thou a covert to them from the face 
of the spoiler." 

The people were thus prepared to do their 
utmost to screen the hunted men. Of the 
many individuals who must have been aware of 
their hiding-places, not one was tempted either 
by fear of punishment, or hope of rich reward, 
to betray them. Among other places, they 
were concealed for more than a month in Mr. 
Davenport's house. Chased from one retreat to 
another, they were secreted for some three 
months in a cave in the vicinity of New Haven. 
Learning, while there, that Mr. Davenport was 
in danger of being arrested under a charge of 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 285 

concealing them, they came into the town, and 
showed themselves openly, for the purpose of 
clearing him of the charge. After " wandering 
in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and 
caves of the earth," the violence of pursuit 
gradually died away. They passed many years 
in devout seclusion, and died at last in peace. 

In Mr. Davenport's conduct on this occasion, 
was blended great courage and adroitness. 
"Not fearing the wrath of the king," he dis- 
played a generous and magnanimous friendship 
worthy of those heroic times, when good men 
felt, that " opposition to tyrants is obedience to 
God." 

The people of the Connecticut colony, in 
1662, obtained a charter from Charles II., of the 
most favorable character. In this charter the 
New Haven territory was added to theirs ; and 
they at once claimed jurisdiction. The New 
Haven colony, for a time, warmly resisted the 
change ; but was at last constrained to acquiesce. 
This change was exceedingly distasteful to Mr. 
Davenport, who feared that the civil and relig- 
ious order he had fostered with such care might 
be impaired as to its purity or efficacy. 
P Another thing which sorely afflicted him was, 
the introduction of what was called the " Half- 



2S6 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

Way Covenant," into the New England church- 
es. After many attempts to bring in this prac- 
tice, it was decided in a synod held in Boston 
in 1662, that all persons who had been baptized 
in their infancy, and who would come forward 
and own their covenant obligations, should have 
the privilege of baptism for their children. 
The next innovation was, to consider this class 
of persons as members entitled to the actual 
enjoyment of all the privileges of the church, 
except the right of coming to the Lord's table. 
Ht required but one step more to make such per- 
sons members in full communion, though pro- 
fessing to be total strangers to any such thing as 
a work of grace in the heart. At last it was 
argued that such as were members of the church, 
might also enter the ministry ; and accordingly 
many confessedly unregenerate persons were 
inducted into the sacred office. It took some 
seventy years or more to complete all these suc- 
cessive declensions. But a hundred years ago 
these corruptions had nearly reached the lowest 
depth of laxity. The glory of New England 
had mostly departed. Arminianism had made 
great inroads ; and although speculative ortho- 
doxy still held the most of the ground, it was for 
the most part dead and barren. The great 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 287 

revival in the time of Edwards and Whitefield, 
for a season, checked the decay of evangelical 
sentiments. But the process of corruption soon 
resumed its course, until the early part of this 
century witnessed that terrible apostacy from 
the faith of our fathers and the doctrines of the 
gospel, over which the Massachusetts churches 
are still mourning in sackcloth. 
\^This train of innovations was not started 
without a warm opposition. When the result 
of the synod in 1662 was published, the whole, 
country was at once divided into parties, which 
were distinguished by the names of Synodist 
and Anti-synodist. Among the Synodists, 
strange and sad to say, were some of the most 
beloved and venerated of the old stock of puri- 
tan ministers. Alas, these good men saw not 
whither the path they were opening would tend. 

^ut Mr. Davenport fully anticipated the deplora- 
ble results which were reached at last.-J Many 
years before, he had combated the same erro- 
neous principles while an exile in Holland. 

\ And now that they had broken out in New 
England, he opposed them with the firmness of 
age, as well as the unabated fire of his youth. 
He became the leader of the Anti-synodists, and 
discharged some of the heaviest guns in that 



288 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT 



pamphlet-war. Several of his manuscripts re- 
lating to this contest are preserved by the Anti- 
quarian Society at Worcester. 

While this controversy was waging, the 
First church in Boston was deprived by death 
of both its pastors. The learned Norton and 
the beloved Wilson were gone. Both of these 
good men were in favor of that unfortunate 
synod ; and the greater part of the church-mem- 
bers had assented to its canons. But in those 
difficult and exciting times, it was thought that 
no young man, and no man not bred at the 
English universities, could be competent to take 
the charge of that important church. The eyes 
of the majority were turned towards Mr. Dav- 
enport. He was then in his seventieth year, 
and had been an invalid for a long time ; but he 
was at the height of his reputation, and his pow- 
ers in the pulpit were unimpaired by age. The 
changes which had taken place at New Haven, 
where he had ministered for thirty years, made 
him more willing than formerly to leave it. He 
felt too, that he had a great duty in reference to 
withstanding the dangerous deviations which 
were going on at Boston. He accepted the call 
which was tendered him. The church of New 
Haven clung to him with a desperate tenacity ; 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 289 

utterly refused to grant him any kind of dis- 
mission ; and, after long- and tedious correspond- 
ence, would only passively acquiesce in letting 
him do as he pleased. They adopted the lan- 
guage of the saints at Cesarea, when Paul would 
not desist from going to Jerusalem ; — " When 
he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying. 
The will of the Lord be done." 

At the same time his settlement at Boston 
was vigorously opposed by a minority of the 
members of the church, many of them persons 
of note and eminence. They were warm up- 
holders of the Synod ; and, of course, were 
vehemently opposed to coming under the minis- 
try of the leading divine on the other side of the 
question, which then was *' the most exciting 
topic of the day." Their resistance was una- 
vailing. Mr. Davenport and Mr. James Allen 
were, on the ninth of December, 1668, installed 
as co-pastors of the First Church. 

The disaffected members, to the number of 
twenty-eight, withdrew, and were organized at 
Charlestown into what in now known as the 
Old South Church. This division produced a 
long and disturbing contest between these two 
churches, in which most of the ministers and 
churches in the colony took part. Seventeen 
VOL. n. 25 



290 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

ministers, probably of the council atCharlestown, 
gave their public testimony against the proceed- 
ings of the First Church, and especially of the 
pastors, Davenport and Allen, and ruling-elder 
James Penn. The old church published a re- 
ply. Some of the members of the new church 
appear to have been fined and imprisoned for 
the supposed irregularity of their proceedings. 
The whole colony w^as drawn into the contest. 
Governor Bellingham, who was a member of 
the First Church, espoused its cause with zeal. 
Of this we find an instance preserved among 
the Massachusetts Records. In 1669, his pas- 
tor, Mr. Davenport, preached the Annual Elec- 
tion Sermon, which was published. In this, he 
expressed his sentiments on the controverted 
point. The Deputies who, in that Court, favored 
his views, were for passing the customary vote 
of thanks for the discourse. The Magistrates 
or Assistants, who formed the other branch, 
hearing of the pending vote, sent a communica- 
tion, on the twenty -fifth of May, 1669, to the 
Deputies about it, saying that they " conceive 
the same to be altogether unseasonable, many 
passages in the said sermon, being ill-resented 
by the reverend elders of other churches and 
persons present; and, therefore, they would 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 291 

forbear further proceeding therein." The Sec- 
retary of the " upper house," Edward Rawson, 
attests, that the Governor, who was the pre- 
siding officer, and who agreed with the Depu- 
ties in sentiment, refused to put this resolve to 
the vote ; and so the vote was taken by Mr. 
Bradstreet, who was called by the Magistrates 
so to do. The Deputies, of course, did as they 
pleased in the premises. The next year also, 
Governor Bellingham tried in vain to get the 
Council of Magistrates to unite with him in 
measures for preventing the erection of the new 
house of worship. But though he had no suc- 
cess in that quarter, he was warmly supported 
by the Deputies ; who, at their session in May, 
1670, censured the formation of the new church 
as "irregular, illegal and disorderly." Great 
agitation was the result ; and parties were or- 
ganized among the people at large. The next 
election turned upon this point ; and the new 
house of Deputies, at the petition of many of the 
ministers, annulled the censure. Thus the new 
church triumphed at last. The origin of all this 
disturbance, and this ardor in favor of the Half- 
Way Covenant, was political. According to the 
basis of the government as it then stood, none 
could be freemen of the colony, entitled to vote 



m 



292 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

and be voted for, except such as were members 
of some church acknowledged by the laws of 
the land. 'The Half-Way Covenant was in- 
tended to bring in a multitude of church-mem- 
bers, who could be admitted in no other way ; 
and who thus became capable of admission to 
all the civil privileges of the colony. This was 
the object of most of the Synodists.J VJVIr. Dav- 
enport, with the Anti-synodists, was for keeping 
up the primitive order, both in church and com- 
monwealth. With him, it was altogether a 
religious question ; with the Synodists, it was, 
in great part, a question of civil rights, though 
they too rested their defence mostly on consider- 
ations of a religious kind. 

Thus the connection between the Church and 
State, though at first intended for the advantage 
and security of the former, resulted in its cor- 
ruption. And it is singular, that most of the 
laws which were framed, at intervals, to favor 
the Orthodox and Congregational order, in the 
process of time and change, came to operate 
against that order with ruinous effect, till the 
last of those laws was repealed in 3834. The 
history of Congregationalism in Massachusetts 
is an instructive commentary on such laws, and 
proves their pernicious and disastrous bearing 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 293 

upon the communities which they are designed 
to favor. By no people on earth would the 
union of Church and State be more strenuously 
resisted than by the good people of Massachu- 
setts, whose experience has bitterly taught them 
the impolicy of such measures. 

The contentions between the First and Third 
Churches of Boston were sharp and violent. 
We have not room to give the particulars. 
Suffice it to say, that, after fourteen years of 
strife, the First Church and the Old South were 
happily reconciled. It is a matter of serious 
meditation, that the First Church, in those days, 
represented the primitive and high-toned ortho- 
doxy of the land; while the Third, or, as we 
now say, Old South Church, was considered as 
leaning toward a laxer discipline. 

Mr. Davenport's ministry, which had lasted 
nearly twenty years in London, and nearly thirty 
years in New Haven, was of short duration at 
Boston. "It is ill transplanting a tree that 
thrives in the soil." In less than two years 
after his last removal, he died very suddenly, of 
apoplexy, on the fifteenth of March, 1670, 
being seventy-two years of age. He was buried 
with every testimonial of respect in the tomb of 
the venerated Cotton. 



294 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

Mr. Davenport was too familiar with the 
thoughts of death to be disconcerted at this 
sudden call. Such was his habitual state of 
preparation, that he could have adopted the 
language of another good man ; — " I bless God 
I can lie down with comfort at night, without 
being solicitous whether I awake in this world 
or another." He who had spent his life in 
communing with Christ and his saints on earth, 
was ever ready to go and commune with Christ 
and saints in heaven. As good Mr. Hooker 
said of himself, in his dying hours, he was only 
going to change his place, but not his company. 

So quickly was Mr. Davenport's life taken 
away, — or rather, so quickly was death given to 
him, — that he left none of those golden words 
which so many expiring saints have bequeathed 
as a treasured legacy, to help such as are com- 
ing after them to die. , 

It may have been a presentiment that his end 
might be too sudden to allow of a long death- 
prayer, that made Mr. Davenport constantly 
use those devout ejaculations which were his 
wont. He once solemnly counseled a young 
minister, " that he should be much in ejacula- 
tory prayer ; for indeed ejaculatory prayers, as 
arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 295 

they. Happy is the man that has his quiver 
full of them." Those who knew him best, 
were satisfied of his skill in this spiritual archery. 
He was not only uniform in stated devotions, 
whether secret, domestic, or social; but at every 
pause or turn in his daily affairs, he was ever 
tying the desires of his soul to these winged 
missives ; and vigorously drawing the bow of 
faith, he sped them over the walls of heaven. 
His example taught what has been beautifully 
expressed by Quarles; 

" Dart up thy soul in groans ; thy secret groan 
Shall pierce His ear, shall pierce His ear alone ; 
Dart up thy soul in vows ; thy sacred vow 
Shall find Him out where heaven alone shall know ; 
Dart up thy soul in sighs; thy whispering sigh 
Shall rouse His ears, and fear no listener nigh ; 
Shoot up the bosom-shafts of thy desire, 
Feathered with faith, and double-forked with fire ; 
And they will hit ! — Fear not where Heaven bids come, 
Heaven's never deaf, but when man's heart is dumb." 

Mr. Davenport was a laborious student 
throughout his long life. So unremitted was his 
application, that it excited the attention of the 
wild Indians in his vicinity, who used to call 
him, according to their custom of applying sig- 
nificant or descriptive names, " So-big-study- 
man.' Most of his published treatises relate to 



296 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

the obsolete controversies of his day ; and have 
little interest now, except for the historian or the 
antiquary. One volume of his, a work of ex- 
perimental piety, called " The Saint's Anchor- 
hold, in all Storms and Tempests," is worthy 
of the republication it would receive, could a 
perfect copy be found. He left some expository 
and practical writings prepared for publication ; 
but, to use one of John Cotton's singular meta- 
phors, these fair clusters of grapes have never 
passed under the press, that all who would 
might quaff the juice, and rejoice. 

" This grave and serious-spirited man," was 
regarded as one of the first preachers of his day. 
One who knew him well has said ; — " He was 
a person beyond exception and compare, for all 
ministerial abilities." Increase Mather, who, in 
his earlier life was the intimate friend of Mr. 
Davenport's old age, gives him this testimony ; 
— " I have heard some say, who knew him in 
his younger years, that he was then very fer- 
vent and vehement, as to the manner of his 
delivery. But, in his later times, he did very 
much imitate Mr. Cotton ; whom, in the gravi- 
ty of his countenance, he did somewhat resem- 
ble." 

Venerable man ! We can almost see him 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 297 

rising up in the antiquated pulpit of the First 
Church ; the thinness of his frame, wasted by 
hard study and disease, concealed by the gown 
which the ministers of " the standing order " 
then generally wore, when abroad, as a custom- 
ary article of dress. Being university-men, 
they used it, rather as an academical, than a 
clerical garb. We notice next the benevolent 
visage, mild even to an expression almost femi- 
nine, were it not for the trim tufts of silvery 
beard upon either lip. We see a few bleached 
locks escaping from the confinement of the old 
" Roundheads' close black cap." The broad 
bands of " formal cut " smoothly cover his neck 
and bosom. And we are caught by the radia- 
ting eyes, those windows of the soul, through 
which is seen the inward burning, the quench- 
less life-fire, which age and sorrow cannot dim. 
While he is pronouncing his text in measured 
tones and slow, the congregation rises up from 
the seats as a token of respect for the eternal 
word of God. The audience is again seated, to 
listen intently to strains of oratory, impassioned, 
but well-controlled; such as is the child of entire 
conviction, and the mother of full persuasion. 
Says the historian, Hubbard, who knew him 
w^ell, speaking of him in his old age ; — "Yet 



298 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

was he of that vivacity, that the strength of his 
memory, profoundness of his judgment, and 
floridness of his doctrine, were little, if at all 
abated." 

This was John Davenport ; — " old when 
young, such was his gravity of behavior ; and 
young when old, such was the quickness of his 
endowments." 

Shall it be said, that this race of men is ex- 
tinct ? Is there no survivor to be found ? Nay : — 
where is that father, or that venerated grand- 
sire, — that conscientious, devout. Sabbath-keep- 
ing Puritan whom you knew in your best, your 
youthful days ? Have you forgotten the gather- 
ing of the household to the morning and evening 
sacrifice of the family altar ? Do you no longer 
remember the godly man, who, ere he bowed in 
prayer, recited a portion of Holy Writ "with 
judicious care," with an altered voice, and an 
intonation which bespoke his awful sense of the 
majesty of the oracles of God, read as no other 
book was read ? Does not every sight of the old 
Family Bible, between whose Testaments is the 
written record of your own birth and baptism, 
bring up ihe patriarchal form to view ? And is it 
in your heart to forsake your father's faith and 
your father's God ? Will you seem to discredit 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 299 

the wisdom and goodness of your parent by for- 
saking " the good old ways " he chose and 
loved ? Will you turn aside to courses, which, 
if he be yet living, must bow that reverend head 
beneath the weight of sorrow ? Is there left in 
your soul no cherished memory of that mother 
in Israel, whose holy living looked so saintly 
and heavenlike in your youthful days ? Do you 
verily feel that the course she took conducted 
her safely through the gloomy vale of death to 
the city of God, the eternal home of the pure ? 
O follow on in that luminous track, that radiant 
path to heaven's gate, which opened so brightly 
at her coming. 

But if ever there was danger, that the Pu- 
ritans might be forgotten, all such danger is now 
rapidly passing away. If their offspring could 
ever prove so degenerate as to forget them, their 
memory will be devoutly blessed by others. 
Never can the writer of these pages cease to 
remember the emotions with which he once lis- 
tened to that immortal lay, — " The Landing of 
the Fathers." It was in the unpuritanical, but 
lovely clime of Florida. The accomplished 
daughter of one of the old Spanish families, her- 
self a Romanist, and bred within convent-walls, 
took her place at the instrument amid a brilliant 



300 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

assembly gathered from many distant regions. 
As her fingers ran along the keys, he thought he 
could not be mistaken in the familiar symphony 
and " soft prelusive strain." But when her rich 
full voice burst forth in the stirring words, 

" The breaking waves dashed high 
On a stern and rock-bound coast," — 

he was lost in surprise and pleasure. The spell 
was ended all too soon, as the last solemn notes 
died away, — 

" Aye, call it holy ground. 

The soil where first they trod: 
They have left unstained, what there they found, 
Freedom to worship God ! " 

Her gratified hearer could not refrain from ad- 
vancing to the side of this bright daughter of the 
sunny South, and accosting her in the words of 
Coleridge to a truly noble Duchess, 

" O lady, nursed 'mid pomp and pleasure, 
Whence learned you that heroic measure? " 

She turned upon him her intense dark eye, 
which flashed with the humid fire peculiar to 
the women of her race, and her countenance 
kindling with enthusiasm ; and replied, — " O 
Sir, this is my favorite song. Where can you 
find such sentiments combined with such mu- 
sic? " This incident, in a far-oflf region, among 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 301 

people of other lineage, was felt as a proud 
tribute to our pilgrim-sires. 

While engaged in these humble, but affec- 
tionate endeavors to keep alive the memory of 
the good old Puritans of New England ; — and 
while rehearsing the mighty deeds of some of 
" the chief fathers " of the tribes of our Israel, 
it has been like preaching their funeral sermons. 
So vital and operative is their surviving influ- 
ence, that, though dead and silent in the tomb, 
they " still speak in reason's ear." So active 
are they yet among us, and so familiar to our 
contemplations, that they seem almost like old 
acquaintances, with whom we have held reverent 
and endearing converse. Let us bless God for 
the power of religion, so gloriously exemplified 
in them ! Let us adore him for the grace which 
made them what they were ! 

We have been wandering pensively " in the 
place of graves," among the memorials of the 
noble and pious dead. We have raised up the 
sinking tablets, and retouched the time-worn 
and moss-grown inscriptions. It has been a 
labor of sweet, grateful love to twine the fresh 
garlands of remembrance around the old sepul- 
chral urns. And now what does natural piety 
and filial gratitude demand of us, who inherit 
VOL. n. 26 



302 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

the rich fruits of the wisdom, the prayers, and 
the sufferings of our sires ? Can we do less than 
maintain our stand upon their approved princi- 
ples and practices ? Can we do less than use, 
and act upon, the customary petition of the 
pious Deans, to be *' delivered from right-hand 
extremes, and from left-hand defections ? " Shall 
we ever permit ourselves to relapse into that 
hierarchal thraldom from which our fathers so 
conscientiously fled ? Or to sink down into 
those heresies which they so religiously ab- 
horred ? May the God of our fathers forbid it ! 
We are told of the ancient Scythians, that when 
forced to retreat in battle, if they chanced to 
come to the graves of their ancestors, they 
would give back no further. There they would 
stand immovable : and either conquer, or die 
upon the spot. Oh, let us take our stand where 
our fathers sleep in God, and where their dust 
is resting in hope. Let us be steadfast to their 
faith and order in the gospel ; and be firm, in 
cherishing, like them, the life and power of 
godliness. So shall we either win the day, or 
achieve a death more glorious than victory 
itself. 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 303 



The. folloicing list of Mr. Davenport's printed works, to which, 
after very careful research, but little in addition could be found, 
is mostly taken front Rev. Dr. Bacon's Historical Researches. 

A Royal Edict for Military Exercises, published in a Sermon 
preached to the captains and gentlemen that exercise arms in the 
Artillery Garden, at their general meeting in Saint Andrews Under- 
shaft in London. Lond. 1629. There is a copy in the Atheneum 
Library, Boston. 

A Letter to the Dutch, containing a Just Complaint against an Un 
just Doer : Wherein is declared the miserable Slavery and Bondage 
that the English Church of Amsterdam is now in, by reason of the 
Tyrannical Government and Corrupt Doctrine of Mr. John Paget, 
their present Minister. By John Davenport.— Amst. 1634. 4to. 

Certain Instructions delivered to the Elders of the English Church 
deputed, which are to be propounded to the pastors of the Dutch 
Church in Amsterdam, 1634. Wood, (Athenae Oxonienses,) calls it 
a quarto paper. 

I. A Report of some passages or proceedings about his calling to 
the English Church in Amsterdam, against John Paget. 2, Allega- 
tions of Scripture against the baptizing of some kind of infants. 
3. Protestation about the publishing of his writings. These three 
" little scripts," as Wood calls them, were all printed in quarto at 
Amsterdam, in 1634. Mr. Paget replied in a book of 156 pages 
quarto, entitled, " An Answer to the Unjust Complaints, &c." To 
this book Mr. Davenport made a rejoinder in the following article. 

An Apologetical Reply to a book called " An Answer to the Unjust 
Complaint of W[illiam] B[est,] &c." quarto. Rotterdam, 1636. A 
copy of this is among the books deposited by the Old South Church 
in the Library of the Mass. Historical Society. 

Profession of Faith made publicly before the Congregation at his 
admission into one of the Churches of New England ; containing 
twenty several heads. 1. Concerning the Scriptures, &c. Lond. 
1642. One sheet, quarto. 

The Messiah is already come. A Sermon on Acts 2 : 36. Lond. 
1653. Quarto. 



304 LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT. 

The Knowledge of Christ, &c., wherein the types, prophecies, 
genealogies, miracles, humiliation, Sec, of Christ are opened and ap- 
plied. Quarto, printed 1658 or before. 

Catechism containing the chief heads of the Christian Religion. 
Lond. 1659, octavo. Published at the desire and for the use of the 
Church of Christ in New Haven. 

The Saints' Anchor-hold, in all storms and tempests, preached in 
sundry sermons, and published for the support and comfort of God's 
people in all times of trial. Lond. 1661. I2mo. 

Another Essay for investigation of the truth, in answer to two 
questions, &c. Cambridge, 1663. Quarto. There is a copy in the 
possession of Rev. Thomas Robbins, D. D., of Hartford, Conn. 

Election Sermon, at Boston, 1669. 

God's Call to his People to turn unto him, &c., in two sermons on 
two public fasting days in New England. Lond. 1670. Quarto 

The Power of Congregational Churches Asserted and Vindicated ; 
In answer to a Treatise of Mr. J. Paget, Intituled, "The Defence of 
Church Government, exercised in Classes and Synods." By John 
Davenport, B. D., and Pastor to the Church in New Haven in New 
England. — Isai. 1 : 26.— Lond. Printed in the year 1672. 16nio. pp. 
179. There is a copy in the Library of Harvard University. It was 
not published till twenty-seven years after it was first wiilten ; the 
original draft being lost at sea on its way to the press. See a good 
abstract in the second volume of Hanbury's Memorials. 

A Discourse about Civil Government in a New Plantation whose 
design is Religion. Cambridge, 1673. Quarto. This is the Tract 
erroneously bearing the name of John Cotton on the title-page. 

He also published a Latin epistle to John Dury on the Union of 
Protestant Churches. 

He wrote several Introductories to other men's works: among 
which his epistle before Scudder's Daily Walk is mentioned as worthy 
to be reckoned itself a book. 

His Exposition of the Canticles was just going into the press at 
London, when the death of the undertaker of the publication stopped 
it. This is to be lamented, because it was prefaced by a life of the 



LIFE OF JOHN DAVENPORT 



305 



author, drawn up by Increase Mather, which is now lost. Mr. Dav- 
enport also wrote an unprinted life of John Cotton, which was once 
in Governor Hutchinson's hands; but is now lost. Several of his 
manuscripts relative to the Synodalian controversy are in the Library 
of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, Mass. 



VOL. n. 27 





THIS BOOK IS DUE ON THE LAST DATE 
STAMPED BELOW 



AN INITIAL FINE OF 25 CENTS 

WILL BE ASSESSED FOR FAILURE TO RETURN 
THIS BOOK ON THE DATE DUE. THE PENALTY 
WILL INCREASE TO 50 CENTS ON THE FOURTH 
DAY AND TO $1.00 ON THE SEVENTH DAY 
OVERDUE. 



'^^y 29 1 934 



l.'JAV 80 1934 



230ct'58 SK 



SEg^ 



t^fj— 



^CT 



lOj^ 



Mmm 



OC T 14 i SS9 



nn-r2 6 1990 



^fro met 



JS 



-^ 
^ 



-^ 



^ 



^^rrm 



LD 21-100nj-7,'33 



/^ 



'imm^?m^ 



S'^^t 




JSftAS/Ej 



C03i 



''50S3e 



/ . 



'1L7 



/f% 



I 




\J '. -i-^ 



-7« V ^ /