Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

eloquence, and great self-reliance; an acute disputant, chores but, like most of the leading colonists, very much under the influence of religious enthusiasm, not unmixed, as 1637. often happens, with a little vanity and a great love of power. Though occupied with the cares of a numerous family, she presently assumed to hold meetings in Boston, at which, under pretense of repeating sermons, she soon began to criticise them, assuming to instruct the sisters of the Church in the most recondite doctrines of theology. She maintained with energy that leading tenet of the Reformation, justification by faith alone— an involuntary faith, as, indeed, all faith must be, God's free grace to the elect. It was this faith, she alleged, not the vain repetition of acts of devotion, nor the vainer performance of acts of morality, that made the religious man—a doctrine, indeed, which the fathers of Massachusetts were very forward to admit. But if so, what was the value, what the necessity or use, of that formal and protracted worship, that system of life so ascetic and austere, to which those fathers ascribed so much importance 2 This question, rather covertly insinuated than openly asked, was the basis of what was denounced in New England as Antinomianism—a heresy revived in our own day under another form—the more detestable, because it was so very difficult to meet. In the mouth of Luther that same question had availed to overthrow the ancient and gorgeous fabric of papal superstition and Roman ceremonial; how, then, could the new, frail, illcompacted system of New England Congregationalism expect to stand against it? This doctrine struck, in fact, a most deadly blow at the self-esteem and the influence of the present leaders. Their “sanctification,” Mrs. Hutchinson alleged, on which they so much prided themselves, their sanctimonious car

chapTER riage and austere lives, furnished no evidence whatever IX

of their “justification,” their change of heart, and ac

1637. ceptance with God. The only evidence of that was an

internal revelation, an assurance, an intimate conscious-
ness on the part of the believer that the Holy Ghost
dwelt in him, and was personally united to him. Here
again Mrs. Hutchinson's opponents were very much em-
barrassed. They held, also, to internal convictions and
supernatural assurances; but all such assurances must
be false and deceptive, they alleged, unless accompanied
by outward evidences of sanctity, in life and conversa-
tion; and they denied the pretended personal union with
the Holy Ghost as no better than blasphemy.
Mrs. Hutchinson had a friend in Vane, the young
governor, a man of kindred spirit, who delighted in en-
thusiastic subtleties. She was also supported by Wheel-
wright, her brother-in-law, a minister lately arrived, and
much in favor with the Boston Church. Even the in-
fluential Cotton, in whose house Vane lodged, seemed to
lean to her opinions, while she carried with her a de-
cided majority of the Boston Church. But in Winthrop
and Wilson, and in most of the other magistrates and
ministers, she found stern and active opponents, very
cautious, indeed, how they impugned the doctrines of faith
and free grace, but zealous in upholding the value, in-
deed, the absolute necessity of that system of worship and
austere self-denial which they had come so far, and had
labored so hard to establish, and which they commended
and Mrs. Hutchinson derided, under the name of “good
works.” - -
Discussions had already occurred on this subject, in
which the governor, two assistants, and two ministers
had been found on the side of Mrs. Hutchinson, who
presently distinguished the ministers and church mem-

[ocr errors]

and the rest, including most of the old leaders, as “un-
der a covenant of works.” This invidious distinction was
maintained, at least to a certain extent, in a sermon
preached by Wheelwright at a special fast ordered by
the General Court on account of the Indian war and the
religious differences—a sermon which gave such offense
that Wheelwright was presently summoned before the
magistrates on a charge of sedition. The whole colony
was torn with the controversy, and the members of the
Boston Church, “frequenting the lectures of other minis-
ters, did make much disturbance by public questions and
objections to their doctrines.”
At an adjourned session of the General Court, not-
withstanding several petitions in his favor, one, especially,
signed by many principal inhabitants of Boston, Wheel-
wright was found guilty of sedition, and also of contempt,
“for that the court had appointed the fast as a means
of reconciliation of differences, and he purposely set him-
self to kindle them.” A protest was offered by the gov-
ernor and others, but the court refused to receive it. It
was also resolved that the Court of Elections and the
next General Court should be holden, not at Boston, but
at Newtown, out of the immediate sphere of Mrs. Hutch-
inson's influence. Till then, the sentence of wheelwright
was postponed. -
It had been ordered, in consequence, probably, of the
Indian war, that all freemen should come armed to the
election, and thus a body of armed men was assembled
at Newtown, inflamed by enthusiasm, and excited to
the highest pitch by theological differences. Wilson, who
was short of stature, mounted on a tree, and from that
elevation harangued the assembly. There was great
danger of a tumult that day; inflamed opponents more

1637.

Feb.

March.

corn than once laid hands upon each other. The majority,

however, was sufficiently decisive to prevent a resort to

1637. violence. Winthrop was elected governor, while Vane,

Coddington, and Dummer, supporters of Mrs. Hutchinson, were left out of the magistracy. The danger of such scenes was prevented for the future by a law, presently passed, dispensing with the attendance of all the freemen at the Court of Elections, and allowing them to give their votes in their own towns for governor and assistants, and to send them, sealed up, by the hand of their deputies. Vane and Coddington were immediately chosen deputies for Boston, that town having delayed its choice till after the general election. Some alleged informality was set up to prevent them from taking their seats; but they were immediately rechosen, and this time the court was not able to find “how they might reject them.” The Hutchinsonians were beaten, but not yet subdued. The vergers who had walked before Vane to and from meeting on the Lord's day, threw down their halberds and refused to attend upon Winthrop, “so as the new governor was fain to use his own servants to carry two halberds before him, whereas the former governor had never less than four.” In contempt of Winthrop's gracious invitation, Coddington and Vane refused to sit in meeting in the magistrates' seat, but went and sat with the deacons; and on the fast day presently appointed, instead of staying to hear themselves berated by Wilson, they went to Mount Wollaston, and kept the day with Wheelwright. Wheelwright's sentence was respited to the next court, while the theological questions raised by Mrs. Hutchinson were referred to a synod or conference of delegates from the churches, summoned to take them into consideration. Divers writings were now published about these differences—in manuscript, for as yet there was no print

ing press in the colony—an “Apology” by the magis chores

trates for their condemnation of Wheelwright, a “Tract

ate” by Wheelwright in defense of his sermon, and an 1637.

“Answer” to that sermon by the other ministers. Seeing how matters were going, Cotton bent to circumstances, explained, distinguished, and prepared to yield. . Resolved to prevent any accessions to their opponents from abroad, the triumphant party enacted a law, by which all new comers were required to obtain a permit from one of the magistrates before they could be allowed to settle in Massachusetts; nor was any inhabitant to let a house to a new comer, or entertain him above three weeks, without-like permission. A great outcry being raised against this law, Winthrop put forth a manuscript treatise in its defense, to which Vane replied. Vane, however, presently retired from the colony, to act in England on a broader stage. His experience in America was not, perhaps, without its effect; in England he became a leader of the new party of the Independents, a zealous opponent not of the bishops only, but of that Presbyterian faction which, after the downfall of the Royalist party, sought to establish a religious despotism not unlike that which existed in Massachusetts. Orthodoxy having thus triumphed, attention was directed toward the Pequod war. The new towns on the Connecticut had continued to suffer during the winter. The attack on Wethersfield has been mentioned already. Fort Saybrook was beleaguered; several colonists were killed, and two young girls were taken prisoners, but were presently redeemed and sent home by some Dutch traders. It had been resolved in Massachusetts to raise a hundred and sixty men for the war, and already Underhill had been sent, with twenty men, to re-enforce Fort Saybrook; but, during Vane's administration, these prep

« ПредишнаНапред »