Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

of the times. Under the stern discipline of Elizabeth and James, the stupid bigotry of the First Charles, and the spiritual pride of Archbishop Laud, the spirit of the British liierarchy was very different from that which it assumed, when, after having been tamed and humanized under the wholesone discipline of Cromwell and his commonwealth, it yielded ilself to the mild influence of the principles of 1688, and to the liberal spirit of Tillotson.

But it is said, if they did not tolerate their ancient persecutors, they might, at least, have tolerated rival sects. That is, they ought to have tolerated sects imbued with the same principles of intolerance as the transatlantic hierarchies; sects, whose first use of power would have been to endeavor to uproot the liberty of our fathers, and persecute them, according to the known principles of sectarian action, with a virulence in the inverse ratio of their reciprocal likeness and proximity. Those, who thus reason and thus condemn, have considered but very superficially the nature of the human mind and its actual.condition in the time of our ancestors. pp. 25, 26.

After remarking, that the great doctrine, now so universally recognized, that liberty of conscience is the right of the individual, was scarcely, at that time, known, except in private theory, and that it is a hard lesson taught under the lash of severe discipline, he adds,

Had our early ancestors adopted the course we, at this day, are apt to deem so easy and obvious, and placed their government on the basis of liberty for all sorts of consciences, it would have been, in that age, a certain introduction of anarchy. It cannot be questioned, that all the fond hopes they had cherished from emigration would have been lost. The agents of Charles and James would have planted here the standard of the transatlantic monarchy and hierarchy. Divided and broken, without practical energy, subject to court-influences and court-favorites, NewEngland at this day would have been a colony of the parent state, her character yet to be formed and her independence yet to be vindicated. p. 28.

It ought not to be inferred, that the first colonists of New-England charged all their sufferings on the church from which they fled, or that they universally cherished against it strong feelings of hostility. They were, indeed, no believers in the divine right of episcopacy, and wished for greater liberty in the use of ceremonies, than the church was disposed to grant them; but of the church itself they often spoke with affection. They considered themselves as forcibly driven from its precincts, when the ecclesiastical authorities enjoined upon them observances, for which there was no warrant in the scriptures, and which their consciences rejected. Their real disposition towards the church of England is so well expressed in the address of the first emigrants to Massachusetts, as they were about sailing from Yarmouth, to their brethren of that church, that though often published, we will quote a single passage from it here. In this address they say,

“Howsoever your charity may have met with some occasions of discouragement through the nisreport of our intentions, or through the dis

affection, or indiscretion, of some of us, or rather amongst us, for we are not of those who dream of perfection in this world; yet we desire you would be pleased to take notice of the principals, and body of our company, as those who esteem it our honor to call the church of England, from whence we rise, our dear mother, and cannot part from our native country where she specially resideth, without much soreness of heart and many tears in our eyes, ever acknowledging that such hope and part as we have obtained in the common salvation, we have received in her bosom, and sucked it from her breasts; we leave it not, therefore, as loathing that milk wherewith we were nourished there, but blessing God for the parentage and education, as members of the same body, shall always rejoice in her good, and unfeignedly grieve for any sorrow that shall ever betide her," &c.

We would mention likewise in this connection, as illustrating the feelings of our ancestors towards the church of England, that in “the heads of agreement" adopted by the churches of Connecticut in 1708, it is said, that they think it a sufficient profession of faith, for any church to "own the doctrinal part of those commonly called the articles of the church of England." It is, indeed, so commion to charge the first settlers of New-England with an exclusive spirit as it respects other sects, and to hold them up as very ultras in bigotry, that we will here also introduce an extract from a sermon by the Rev. J. Robinson, the pastor of the church, which formed the first Plymouth colony. This extract, likewise, has been often printed, but our readers, it is hoped will excuse the printing of it again.

“ If God reveal any thing to you," says this puritan divine to his church, “ be as ready to receive it, by any other instrument of his, as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily persuaded, I am very confident, that the Lord has more truths yet to break forth out of his holy word. For my part I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present, no further than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw. Whatever part of his will our good God has revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it. And the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left, by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented, for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated vot into the whole counsel of God; but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light, as that which they first received. I beseech you, remember, it is an article of your church covenant, that you be ready to receive whatever truths shall be made known to you, from the written word of God. Remember that, and every other article of your sacred covenant. But I must herewithal, entreat you to take heed what you receive as truth. Examine it, consider it, and compare it with other scriptures of truth, before you receive it; for it is not possible that the christian world should come so latoly out of such thick anti-christian darkness, and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once."

We would here ask, who at that period expressed sentiments, we will not say, more catholic than these, but as catholic? If any VOL. II.

86

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

one, his name has not reached us. The Rev. Mr. Prince in his chronology, in reference to this extract, says very justly, that it contains " words almost astonishing in that age of low and universal bigotry, which then prevailed in the English nation.” In reference to the disposition of the first puritan emigrants to this country, we will add only, that there is good reason to adopt as correct the declaration of one of their early descendants as quoted by Hutchinson, “that if the bishops in the reign of king Charles the First had been of the same spirit with those of the reign of king William, there would have been no New-England.”

That one great object of the emigration of our ancestors was religious liberty, and that they were compelled to abandon their homes through dread of the English hierarchy, is well known; that civil independence was an object which they also had in view, as the necessary means of securing religious independence, has been less frequently insisted on, though it is abundantly evident from the records they have left us. On this subject Presideut Quincy remarks,

The question has often been raised, when and by whom the idea of independence of the parent state was first conceived, and by whose act a settled purpose to effect it was first indicated. History does not permit the people of Massachusetts to make a question of this kind. The honor of that thought, and of as efficient a declaration of it as in their circumstances was possible, belongs to Winthrop and Dudley, and Saltonstall, and their associates, and was included in the declaration, “ the only condition on which they with their families would remove to this country, was that the patent and chart:r should remove with them.”

This simple declaration and resolve included, as they had the sagacity to perceive, all the consequences of an effectual independence, under a nominal subjection. For protection against foreign powers, a charter from the parent state was necessary. Its transfer to New England vested, effectually, independence. pp. 22, 23.

This subject is further illustrated in a note to the address, by copious extracts from Chalmer's “Political Annals of the United Coİonies." That independence of the parent state was a favorite object with the principal civil characters among the first emigrants, and that this object was kept steadily in view by many of their descendants, there is no reason to doubt. That less should have been said on this subject, than on that of religious freedom and independence, is easily accounted for. Civil independence could not with safety be mentioned as the final object of the colonial politicians, so long as the colonies were in nominal subjection to England; and as much of our early history was written by the clergy, who naturally gave their chief attention to the predominating motive of the first colonists, which was certainy religious liberty, less attention has been paid to the opinions and designs of the early civilians. But the reason for surprise is not, that so little, but that so much

was said on a topic, which, though near the hearts of the first colonists, there was peculiar delicacy in openly discussing.

We will make one more extract from this address, as it contains observations, in the correctness and importance of which we suppose all our readers will unite.

What then, in conclusion of this great topic, are the elements of the liberty, prosperity, and safety, which the inhabitants of New England at this day enjoy? In what language, and concerning what comprehensive truths, does the wisdom of former times address the inexperience of the future?

Those elements are simple, obvious, and familiar.

Every civil and religious blessing of New England, all that here gives happiness to human life, or security to human virtue, is alone to be perpetuated in the forms and under the auspices of a free commonwealth.

The commonwealth itself has no other strength or hope, than the intelligence and virtue of the individuals that compose it.

For the intelligence and virtue of individuals, there is no other human assurance than laws, providing for the education of the whole people.

These laws themselves have no strength, or efficient sanction, except in the moral and accountable nature of man, disclosed in the records of the christian's faith ; the right to read, to construe, and to judge concerning which, belongs to no class or cast of men, but exclusively to the individual; who must stand or fall by his own acts and his own faith, and not by those of another.

The great comprehensive truths, written in letters of living light on every page of our history,—the language addressed by every past age of New England to all future ages is this;-Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom ;—freedom none but virtue ;- virtue none but knowledge; and neither freedom, nor virtue, nor knowledge has any vigor, or immortal hope, except in the principles of the christian faith, and in the sanctions of the christian religion. pp. 52, 53.

The munificence of Boston towards objects of public interest or charity is universally acknowledged; and in this respect, among the cities of our country, it has long held a most honorable distinction. From the statements in this address it appears, that for objects of a public nature, for the relief of suffering, and the patronage of distinguished merit or talent, the citizens of Boston have given within the last thirty years, by voluntary donation or bequest, a sum exceeding one million eight hundred thousand dollars. This amount is supposed to be much short of the reality, and to be only an approximation to the truth.

The existence of WATERTOWNasa distinct corporation, dates from the same day as that of Boston. On the arrival of the fleet of Governor Winthrop in 1630, some of the adventurers, who then came to NewEngland, selected a place on the banks of Charles river for their plantation. On the 7th of September, (or the 17th according to our present reckoning,) of the same year, it was ordered by the proper authority, that “Trimontain be called Boston; Mattapan, Dorchester; and the town upon Charles river, Watertown.” The

address of the Rev. Mr. Francis at the celebration of the completion of the second century from the settlement of Watertown, has been enlarged by the author, and published as an " historical sketch." This sketch is very judiciously executed, and contains an interesting detail of facts, to those who are lovers of minute accounts of the the early transactions in the first New-England towns. It must be peculiarly valuable to the inhabitants of Watertown; and to others it may be recommended as containing in its outline, the principal topics of bistorical inquiry, to be expected or desired in the annals of the original establishments made by our ancestors. A considerable proportion of this history, is of course ecclesiastical. The civil part is somewhat diversified by the events in the first part of the revolutionary contest. In the year 1776, the provincial congress held their session at Watertown, and this congress was succeeded by the General Assembly of the colony. The inhabitants of Boston held also in Watertown several town meetings. It is not easy to abridge this memoir. Some few circumstances only will be alluded to.

Sir Richard Saltonstall and the Rev. George Phillips, were the Moses and Aaron of Watertown. Sir Richard, however, staid in the colony but a short time. But though he returned to England, he left his two oldest sons to carry on the great work which he had begun; and the interests of Massachusetts were always uppermost in his thoughts and affections. He was one of the earliest benefactors of Harvard College; and his letter to Mr. Cotton and Mr. Wilson ministers of Boston, on the subject of religious toleration, is “remarkable for the times in which he lived, and presents to the eye of the historical inquirer, a trait of character as honorable and attractive as it was uncommon.” His interest in New-England extended beyond the Massachusetts plantation. As a patentee, in company with Lord Say and Seal, and Lord Brook, and others, he was engaged in the settlement of Connecticut. He died about the year 1658, and is justly reckoned among the fathers of New-England. The Rev. George Phillips died in 1644, and his loss was felt through the town and colony. The late lieutenant-governor Phillips of Boston, was a descendant of the first minister in Watertown.

Mr. Phillips was succeeded in the ministry by the Rev. John Sherman. This gentleman came to New-England in 1634. He afterwards removed to New Haven, but returned to Massachusetts, quitted his profession, went into civíl life, and was chosen a magistrate of the colony. On the death of Mr. Phillips, he resumed the sacred office, and became pastor of the church in Watertown. Mr. Sherman, besides being distinguished as a divine and a preacher made uncommon attainments in mathematical and astronomical knowledge. He died in 1685, aged eighty-two years.

It is related as one of the remarkable circumstances in his history,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »