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Previous Lesson: I. Introduction and Comments on Calvinist Revisionism of the History of Rhode Island.
Next Lesson: II. Roger Williams Flees English Tyranny and Comes to Massachusetts; His Banishment by the Massachusetts Court
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Copyright © February 26, 2018
The Calvinist revisionist account of Williams does not chronicle the facts. Instead, it is a distortion of facts. Williams did not super-spiritualize Christianity. He pointed out that the Bible teaches that a church and a Gentile nation are to operate under different rules than did Judaism and the nation Israel. He did not remove Christianity from all contact with the sinful realities of daily living. He correctly argued that the church deals with those realities in a manner differing from that of Judaism and the nation Israel in the theocracy. He believed that man should have freedom of conscience in all things spiritual, a concept diametrically opposed to the theology of the established church of Massachusetts. He believed that penal laws should deal only with man’s relationship with his fellow man. He believed, contrary to Puritan theology, that the church should not merge with the state for any reason, and that the state should enforce only those commandments dealing with man’s relationship with man (the last six of the Commandments), not the first four of the Commandments which deal with man’s relationship to God. He condemned the king’s patent and taught that it was wrong to take the land of the natives without payment.
Marshall and Manuel continue their distortions and inaccuracies. They define liberty of conscience as meaning, “Nobody is going to tell me what I should do or believe.” As to the issue of “liberty of conscience,” they state:
“Liberty of conscience is indeed a vital part of Christianity—as long as it is in balance with all the other parts. But taken out of balance and pursued to its extremes (which is where Williams, ever the purist, invariably pursued everything), it becomes a license to disregard all authority with which we do not happen to agree at the time. This was the boat which Williams was rowing when he landed at Boston. Since, at its extreme, liberty of conscience stressed freedom from any commitment to corporate unity, Williams was not about to hear God through Winthrop or anyone else. (And tragically, he never did.)”
Williams did not believe that liberty of conscience becomes a license to disregard all authority with which we do not happen to agree. He correctly believed that the laws of a civil government should protect freedom of conscience, and that God limited the jurisdiction of every Gentile civil government to certain actions by citizens against other citizens—to the Second Table of the Ten Commandments.
Williams believed that both church and state were to be under God. He wrote and taught concerning the jurisdiction of civil government and the church. Here is one example:
- “I acknowledge [the civil magistrate] ought to cherish, as a foster-father, the Lord Jesus, in his truth, in his saints, to cleave unto them himself, and to countenance them even to the death, yea, also, to break the teeth of the lions, who offer civil violence and injury to them.
- “But to see all his subjects Christians, to keep such church or Christians in the purity of worship, and see them do their duty, this belongs to the head of the body, Christ Jesus, and [to] such spiritual officers as he hath to this purpose deputed, whose right it is, according to the true pattern. Abimelech, Saul, Adonijah, Athalia, were but usurpers: David, Solomon, Joash, &c., they were the true heirs and types of Christ Jesus, in his true power and authority in his kingdom.”
Marshall and Manuel attribute the qualities of the leaders of the established church in Massachusetts to Roger Williams instead. They assert that he “desperately needed to come into reality and see his sin—how arrogant and judgmental and self-righteous he was.” They assert that he could have been “a great general in Christ’s army” since “he was tremendously gifted: in intellect, preaching, personality, and leadership ability.” However, he had one tragic flaw: he believed in freedom of conscience, held other views contrary to that of the established church, and could not be persuaded otherwise, or, as Marshall and Manuel put it:
“[H]e would not see his wrongness, and he was so bound up in his intellect that no one could get close to the man, because he was forever hammering home points on ‘the truth.’ Trying to relate to him on a personal level was like trying to relate to cold steel—highly polished and refined.”
On the other hand, Marshall and Manuel have nothing but praise for the Puritans. Every page of The Light and the Glory dealing with the Puritans and their leaders is filled with praise and notations as to how the providence of God was opening the door for the right people, at the right time, in the right place to correct all the errors of Christendom. For example, they write:
- “Since God’s will was made known to them [the Puritans] through His inspired word in the Bible, they naturally wanted to get as close to a Scriptural order of worship as possible. Indeed, what they ultimately wanted was to bring the Church back to something approximating New Testament Christianity.
- “The Puritan dilemma was similar to that of many newly regenerate Christians of our time. They faced a difficult choice: should they leave their seemingly lifeless churches to join or start a live one, or should they stay where they were, to be used as that one small candle to which William Bradford referred?
- “God was bringing the Puritans into compassion and humility.
- “As historian Perry Miller would say, ‘Winthrop and his colleagues believed … that their errand was not a mere scouting expedition: it was an essential maneuver in the drama of Christendom. The [Massachusetts] Bay Company was not a battered remnant of suffering Separatists thrown up on a rocky shore; it was an organized task force of Christians, executing a flank attack on the corruptions of Christendom. These Puritans did not flee to America; they went in order to work out that complete reformation which was not yet accomplished in England and Europe.’”
The Puritans grew into such compassion and humility that they horribly persecuted Christians and others who did not agree with the unbiblical doctrines which they proudly believed to be inerrant.
Marshall and Manuel follow the example of prior Puritan Revisionists such as John Quincy Adams who stated, “in the annals of religious persecution is there to be found a martyr more gently dealt with by those against whom he began the war of intolerance.” Few accept this verdict. The facts are clear: they banished him because of his religious opinions. “Charles Francis Adams states the case thus:
“The trouble with the historical writers who have taken upon themselves the defense of the founders of Massachusetts is that they have tried to sophisticate away the facts…. In Spain it was the dungeon, the rack and the fagot; in Massachusetts, it was banishment, the whip and the gibbet. In neither case can the records be obliterated. Between them it is only a question of degree—one may be in color a dark drab, while the other is unmistakably a jetty black. The difficulty is with those who, expatiating with great force of language on the sooty aspect of the one, turn and twist the other in the light, and then solemnly asseverate its resemblance to driven snow. Unfortunately, for those who advocate this view of the Old and New World records, the facts do not justify it.”
Williams, in his relationship to the religious leaders of Massachusetts, was a lot like the Lord Jesus and the apostles in their relationship to the religious Jews. The religious leaders of Massachusetts made a mistake—they did not call upon the civil government (which was at their disposal) to kill Williams as they did with some other dissenters. Had they done so, we might not have our present form of civil government. They only banished him, to them a tragic error of highest proportions as it turned out.
As to the issue of persecution by the established church, Marshall and Manuel are hypocrites. They condemn the persecution of the Separatists (later called Pilgrims) and the Puritans in England, but glorify the Puritans when they were persecuted and when they persecuted those dissenters such as the Baptists and Quakers who did not conform to their theology in the New World. They complain that the Separatists:
- “were hounded, bullied, forced to pay assessments to the Church of England, clapped into prison on trumped-up charges, and driven underground. They met in private homes, to which they came at staggered intervals and by different routes, because they were constantly being spied upon. In the little Midlands town of Scrooby, persecution finally reached the point where the congregation to which Bradford belonged elected to follow those other Separatists who had already sought religious asylum in Holland.”
- As to the Puritans … they write, “[The Puritans accepted the pressure of the mounting persecution] with grace and, as persecution often does, it served to rapidly deepen and mature the movement, bonding them together in common cause and making them more determined than ever to live as God had called them…. For a number of Puritans, [the marking of the Puritans for suppression by Charles I] was a watershed. It appeared no longer possible to reform the Church of England from within.”
Under the theology of Marshall and Manuel, and those of like mind, the government of Rhode Island—which provided a model for the First Amendment—would not have existed nor would the United States exist in its present form. America would have no First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the amendment written and adopted to provide for freedom of religion and conscience. Men would still be forced to accept infant baptism, pay taxes to support the established church, attend the established church, proclaim allegiance to the established church, etc. Dissenters would still be persecuted. The church would still be working with the state to build a “city set upon a hill.” Fittingly, the Puritan experiment was already falling apart by 1660 as is shown in The Results of Puritan Theology in Massachusetts Soon Came to Fruition. The Puritans, like all prior and future combinations of church and state brought corruption to Massachusetts, to the church, and to the people. True to form, Calvinism, being spiritually dead, killed the Puritan churches.
 Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977), p. 146.
 Ibid., p. 194.
 Roger Williams and Edward Bean Underhill, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848), pp. 100-101. In this book, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered, Williams addresses the arguments presented by Covenant Theologians.
 Marshall and Manuel, The Light and the Glory, p.194.
 Ibid., pp. 194-195.
 Ibid., p. 195.
 Ibid., pp. 150, 151, 152, 159.
 John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, Volume II, (Texarkana, Ark.-Tex.: Bogard Press, 1922), p. 33.
 Ibid., p. 33, citing Adams, Massachusetts: Its Historians and Its History, 34, 1893.
 Marshall and Manuel, The Light and the Glory, pp. 108-109.
 Ibid., p. 152.