III. Old World Patterns of Church-State Union Were Transplanted to the Colonies through the Puritans, Episcopalians, and Others


A Publication of Separation of Church and State Law Ministry.



Jerald Finney
Copyright © February 24, 2018


Jesus said, “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”[1] In fulfillment of prophecies of the Lord, the established churches thought they were doing God’s will. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”[2] The Old World patterns of church-state union and religious oppression were transplanted to the New World with all their rigor.[3] Eleven of the original thirteen colonies established a church prior to the Revolution. One of those eleven was Massachusetts which was founded by Puritans who were Congregationalists. All New England colonies, except Rhode Island, had established churches based upon the same theology. As noted by the Rhode Island Baptist, John Callender, in the early nineteenth century:

  • Puritans hung 4 Quakers for returning to Massachusetts after being banished for their religious beliefs.

    “[The Puritans] were not the only people who thought they were doing God good service when smiting their brethren and fellow-servants. All other Christian sects generally, as if they thought this was the very best way to promote the gospel of peace, and prove themselves the true and genuine disciples of Jesus Christ—‘sic,’ who hath declared, his kingdom was not of this world, who had commanded his disciples to call no man master on earth, who had forbidden them to exercise lordship over each other’s consciences, who had required them to let the tares grow with the wheat till the harvest, and who had, in fine, given mutual love, peace, long-suffering, and kindness, as the badge and mark of his religion.”[4]

The fight for religious liberty started in the New England colonies and then spread throughout the other colonies. The seventeenth century ended with firmly established church-states in all New England colonies except Rhode Island. The ecclesiocracies there were as absolute as the world has known, with persecution of “heretics;” but, because of intervention by England, not as brutal as past ecclesiocracies in Europe.

The beating of Obadiah Holmes by the Puritans in Massachusetts

The Church of England was established in the southern colonies. In the Southern colonies, “the church enjoyed the favor of the colonial governors but it lacked the one pearl without price which the Congregational Church had. No Anglican ever left England to secure freedom of worship; no Virginia Episcopalian had the fervent motivation of a Massachusetts Puritan. In Massachusetts the church was the state. In Virginia and, to a lesser degree, in the rest of the South the Church was formally part of the State although hardly a part that loomed large in southern minds” (Marnell, pp. 63-64).

The theology of the established churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire led to a combining of church and state; infant baptism; taxing for payment of clergy, church charities, and other church expenses; persecution of dissenters such as Baptists; and many other unscriptural practices.[5] Persecution of dissenters follows the example of the theocracy in Israel where, for example, Moses killed the three thousand who turned from the Lord into idolatry and immorality while he was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments,[6] and Elijah had the four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal killed.[7]



Endnotes

[1] Jn. 16.2.

[2] Jn. 16.3.

[3] See, e.g., Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), p. 63.

[4] [4] John Callender, The Civil and Religious Affairs of the Colony of Rhode-Island (Providence: Knowles, Vose & Company, 1838),  p. 71

[5] William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Foundations in the South (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), p. 1; Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Boston, Mass., Toronto, Canada: Little, Brown and Company, 1958.

[6] Ex. 32.27.

[7] 1 K. 18.40.

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