Изображения страниц

holding the office of Commissioner for Plymouth-were especially earnest advocates of tolerance. A letter which Cudworth wrote to a friend in England, in the year 1658, for which he was afterwards called to account by the General Court, shows the intolerant spirit of the government, under Prince, the dissatisfaction which its action awakened in many minds, and specially his own noble character. We give only a part of it:

As to the state condition of things amongst us, it is sad, and so like to continue. The anti-christian persecuting spirit is very active, and that in the powers of this world. He that will not lash, persecute and punish men that differ in matters of religion must not sit on the bench, and myself discharged of my captainship because I had entertained some Quakers at my house, thereby that I might be the better acquainted with their principles. I thought it better to do so, than with the blind world to censure, condemn, rail and revile them, when they neither saw their persons, nor knew any of their principles. But the Quakers and myself cannot close in divers things, and so I signified to the Court; but told them withal, that as I was no Quaker, so I would be no persecutor. . . . All these carnal and anti-christian ways, being not of God's appointment, effect nothing to the hindering of them in their course. It is only the Word and the Spirit of the Lord that is able to convince gain-sayers. They have many meetings and many adherents; almost the whole town of Sandwich. And give me leave to acquaint you a little with their sufferings, which is grievous, and saddens the hearts of most of the precious saints of God; it lies down and rises up with them, and they cannot put it out of their minds, when they see poor families deprived of their comforts, and brought into penury and want. . . . We are wrapped up in a labyrinth of confused laws, that the freeman's

is quite gone.

... Sandwich men may not go to the Bay, lest they be taken up for Quakers-warrants lie in wait to apprehend and bring them before a magistrate, to give account of their busi

Through mercy we have yet amongst us the worthy Mr. Dunster [four years before dismissed from the Presidency of Harvard College for embracing Baptist principles), whom the Lord hath made boldly to bear testimony against the spirit of persecution.

In Massachusetts, after they have whipped them and cut off their ears, they have now gone the furtherest step they can; they have banished them, upon pain of death if they ever come there again; we expect we must do the like; we must dance after their pipe, for it is well if in some there be not a desire to be their apes and imitators, in all their proceedings of this nature. They have banished six on pain of death, and I wish that blood be not shed.

This was written a few months before two Quakers were executed in Boston. The man who, under such circumstances, in such a place and at such a time, could write such noble sentiments, deserves the gratitude of posterity.


[ocr errors]

On the whole, it must be conceded that the Pilgrims, as well as the Puritans, were far from holding or practicing the true principles of religious liberty. There was intolerance and persecution at Plymouth as well as in Massachusetts Bay; though, in this unfortunate business, the latter colony showed itself much the more forward and proficient. We have seen that Winslow, one of the Pilgrims, very early took decided ground against general toleration, in which he was resolutely and successfully seconded by Prince, who came over soon after the Mayflower, and by others; and the repeated election to the highest office, of Winslow and Prince, the latter being governor through the whole period of the Quaker persecution, shows that a majority of the voters agreed with them in their treatment of these unfortunate people. And while the bold opposition to the oppressive laws, of not a few noble men, among whom Cudworth, Hatherly and Brown were most conspicuous, forms a bright spot in the history of those times, yet the treatment which they received at the hands of the ruling powers proves the dominant spirit to have been that of persecution. Cudworth, we have seen, complained of the activity in the colony of “the anti-christian persecuting spirit,” and said that none could hold office who would not “lash, persecute, and punish men that differ in matters of religion.” And it is worth noting, as bearing upon the statement of Mr. Scott that none of the original colonists were persecutors, that when Cudworth and Hatherly were put out of office for their tolerant opinions, William Bradford, a son of Governor Bradford, and Thomas Hinchley were put in their place. Was the difference between the Pilgrims and the Puritans “irreconcilable"? In the persecution of the Quakers, were not the governments of the two colonies in full accord, though in its measures the Plymouth Court did not go to the full extreme of its sister colony? If it be said that, in her intolerance, Plymouth was influenced by Massachusetts, we grant it; but this fact, while it affords some extenuation to the smaller and weaker colony, cannot absolve her from the guilt of partnership in wrong, against the better traditions of the father of the colony. Those principles deserve little praise which cannot stand out against the pressure of superior force or state-craft. If the original colonists, the Mayflower Pilgrims, were men of catholic views, incapable of persecution, as is claimed for them, it certainly detracts from their glory that so many of their immediate descendants could so soon and so thoroughly forget the good lessons of their fathers, and “lash, persecute, and punish” men of a different faith.

An old rhymester, quoted in a book found in the Prince Collection,


in the Boston Public Library, A Reply to Johnson's Answer to My Book, by John Bolles, thus vents his views of the supposed inconsistency of the New England settlers :

New England for Religion did leave her native land,
And came into a Desart amongst a Tawny Band;
And surely for Religion she made this Resolution,
To come, and leave her native Place to shun her Persecution ;
But soon she turns to Persecute, by which it does appeare;
That she is not the same she was when first she did come here.

No such inconsistency can be charged upon the Puritans or the Pilgrims. They did not come here to establish "freedom to worship God,” except for themselves. They were not hypocrites, though they were persecutors. They acted up to their professions ; and they builded better than they designed. Their simple and lofty faith, their severe virtues, their earnest zeal in the cause of education and religion, and a certain stubborn love of liberty which runs in the English blood, blossomed providentially into forms fairer than they purposed or conceived, and from which, as dimly seen by them, they drew back with even abhorrence. They were a grand stock; and, in spite of all their errors, the world has scarce seen their like. What Mr. Froude so felicitously says with reference to Sir Thomas More—“the spirit of persecution is ro peculiar attribute of the pedant, the bigot, or the fanatic, but may co-exist with the fairest graces of the human character," was well illustrated also in the case of our Pilgrim and Puritan forefathers.




HIS is one of the vital questions of our day: How shall the

: followers of Jesus Christ, now ranged under different banners, be rallied and united under one standard, when party names shall be known no more, the distinctions they represent pass away, and whatever of reproach or of hindrance to more extensive and aggressive work arises from existing separations will be removed, their cause having ceased to exist ?

The solution of this problem is most difficult. It has been repeatedly attempted, but no generally satisfactory conclusions have yet been reached. That it will be solved we believe. But this is certain—such union cannot be forced. The various organizations of Christ's followers cannot be compelled to disband and merge themselves into another in which all the truth they hold in common shall be retained, and their points of difference either ignored and buried, or else entering into a compact to allow perfect freedom of opinion with reference to them, thus "agreeing to disagree."

Neither can any one body of Christians claim infallibility, and therefore, refusing to discuss points of conscientious dissent with others, require unquestioning submission to their standards.

Such is the boasted unity of Rome. Wherever she has had the power she has enforced submission to her decrees, punishing with

imprisonment, confiscation or death all who questioned her assumptions or denied her claims, and preferred to obey the law of Christ rather than the decrees of her councils and the mandates

of her popes.

The spirit of the age, the freedom of thought and of speech we now enjoy, and the right of private judgment in matters of religion, which is one of the fundamentals of Protestantism, forbid any such method of effecting Christian union. We cannot compel men to think as we think. That day has we hope passed forever in our land, and the last relics of its once irresistible potency in Europe are rapidly being removed and destroyed, by the advance of freedom of thought and of conscience. At the outset, therefore, of our discussion of this subject, we lay it down as a fixed principle, that the most perfect freedom of the individual conscience must be respected in all endeavors to practically realize Christian union. It must spring from within. It cannot be enforced from without. It must come from liberty of thought, of investigation, of feeling, and of conscience. Before it is realized, men must “see and flow together," just as the streamlets from the hills and mountains flow perfectly free toward, and finally into, one another, mingling their waters and forming the river.

Now, in observing the progress of the discussion of the question before us in the last few years, it has seemed to us that those who have written upon it, and others who have spoken on it in union meetings, have measurably lost sight of the position just stated. They have written and spoken in a dogmatic, peremptory tone. They have made demands which, if complied with, require on the part of some portions of evangelical Christians the surrender of what they most conscientiously hold to be the truth of God.

Schaff, Schmucker, and Barnes, each lays down a plan of union which respectively he judges will solve this problem. We will not here give a detailed statement of their schemes, or show wherein they differ from each other, and for what reasons we judge them to be impracticable in application, because unsound in theory, and untenable in the assumptions on which they rest. They have, however, this feature in common—that they require a compromise of all existing differences. Their common and essential principle is, that the ministry and membership of each denomination shall be recognized by all the others; that no member shall be expelled from any confederated denomination for holding or practising anything enjoined by the creed or ritual of another; and that there shall be free sacramental and ministerial communion. This is substantially advocated by Rev.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »