Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

eminent laymen gave their assistance to promote the design. By the influence of Governor Winslow, of Plymouth colony, a society was formed in England, to further this good work. Rev. Mr. Eliot, of Roxbury, labored more abundantly than any other, except Mayhew, of the Vineyard. The result of their early labors gave promise of great success, which was never fully realized. There were, indeed, many cases of faith and conformity to the gospel; but after nearly thirty years of inissionary service among them, Eliot lamented, “that it was a day of small things with them.” It is difficult to pronounce whether this want of success were owing to the obstinate habits of the Indians, and their aversion to the manners of civilized society, or to the disputes among the professed disciples of Christ, and the immoral conduct of many who assume the name, without the spirit of christianity. Exertions have been also made in later times; but with no greater success.

The Indians of North America are more ready to iinitate the vices than the virtues of those who call themselves christians.

If the clergy, sometimes, gave their opinion and advice on political subjects, the magistrates and laymen considered it their duty to regulate, in some measure, ecclesiastical proceedings, and to provide for the order and peace of the churches. This will not create much surprise, when it is recollected, that they were all religious characters, and that one great object of the settlement was to enjoy the worship and ordinances prescribed in the gospel, as they interpreted it.

And yet they constantly disclaimed such a close connexion between the church and state, as existed in England. It is not to be denied, however, that in many instances, their practice was not strictly conformable to their theory. An order of the general assembly provided, that in calling and settling a ministei; the approbation of some magistrate in the vicinity should be obtained, as well as that of the neighboring clergyman. And some cases occurred of the interference of the civil authority in the ordination and continuance of ministers, till satisfaction was given of the regular proceedings of the church and of the sound doctrines of the preacher. But it was soon found to be in vain, and worse than vain, to produce entire uniformity, as to articles of faith, or as to church government, and modes and forms of outward worship. Wherever there is freedom of inquiry on theological subjects, or as to the rites and forms of religion, there will be some differences of opinion. But as this diversity of sentiment is not really unfavorable to the peace of society, nor to christian piety, persecution must be condemned, and an attempt to have perfect agreement of opinion hopeless.

Not only were different sects persecuted in Massachusetts, at this period, but individuals of the congregational churches were also censured for the expression of opinions at variance with the commonly received articles of faith. A member of a church was censured for his opinion, that the church of Rome was really a christian church. Mr. Pynchon, one of the first settlers of the colony, long an assistant, and the founder of Springfield, was severely rebuked for publishing a tract, in which he contended, that the sufferings of our Lord were trials of his virtue and obedience, rather than a vicarious sacrifice, according to the prevailing faith. He made a partial recantation of his error; and his treatise was ordered to be burnt. Afterwards, however, he explained his recantation : which showed that his sentiments were not materially changed. Mr. Pynchon was among the eminent men who contributed to the establishment of the colony. But whatever was supposed to be error or heresy, was sure to be visited with severe reprimand, however distinguished the individual who broached it. The principle was truly republican, but the application, in cases of speculative opinions, was alike unchristian, and unreasonable.*

The growth and condition of the colony, in 1655, about twenty-five years from the arrival of the large company with Winthrop, in 1630, may be in some good measure estimated, by a reference to the records and publications of that period. The number of incorporated towns were then forty-four or forty-five,t and of churches, forty-six, within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, including, probably, a few in the territory, afterwards a part of New Hampshire. And in Plymouth colony, there were ten or eleven towns, and as many churches. The college at Cambridge was fostered by the government; and at this period, in addition to former grants, two thousand acres of land were given to that seminary. Public schools, for the education of youth of all classes, were also required by law; and generally, the order was faithfully observed. A large majority of the inhabitants, as well as of the rulers and ministers, were fully convinced of the necessity of learning, to fit men to advocate the cause of religion, and to be useful and estimable citizens.

* It was observed by the celebrated Dr. Owen, about this period," that he would not be a rival to the theologian, who could boast, that in fourteen years, he had not altered or improved his conceptions, touching some things in religion.” This was said to one who was very positive and dogmatical, and who censured all further inquiry, or change of opinion after such exam. ination.

The following declaration of an early and eminent settler in Massachusetts, will show the views entertained as to liberty of conscience. " Above all · things, God has blest us, in giving us his own ordinances; and our endeavor is to have his own institutions, and none others; and these in their native simplicity, without any human dressings; having liberty to enjoy all God's commands, and yet urged to nothing more than he commands.

Northampton and Hadley were settled in 1656, in consequence of some religious contentions in the churches at Hartford, and Windsor, in the jurisdiction of Connecticut.

After 1642, when a large number came from England, and settled in Massachusetts, the emigrations from the parent country were far less than in former years; and many left the colony to reside in their native country: A great portion of those educated at the college in Cambridge, during the period of 1642 and 1658, visited England, and there took up their residence. Several of these were eminent in that country, as preachers of the gospel; and most of them were persecuted and ejected from their churches under Charles II., in 1662, and subsequently.

The population of the colony could not have been less, at this period, than forty thousand. In 1641, it was estimated at twenty thousand and upwards. The natural increase, with the emigrations, though these were not so great as at a former period, would probably make the numbers double in fifteen years. The greater portion of the inhabitants were farmers. Fifteen thousand acres were then under cultivation, in the colony, for tillage and pasturage, and one thousand acres appropriated to orchards. Grain was now exported, as well as lumber, spars, and fish. Hence a profitable trade was supported to foreign ports; and the merchants became very opulent. And their enterprise and success could not fail to give employment to various mechanics and artisans, whose individual and united labors served to increase the general prosperity.

CHAPTER IV.

Dudley Governor--His Death-Endicot, and Bellingham-Liberty in the

Colony in danger, on the restoration of Charles II. - Policy of Massachusetts—The Regicides—Charges against the Colony-Agents sent to England-King's Letter and Requirements, Ecclesiastical Affairs, Baptism, Independence of Churches-Baptists oppressed-Chauncy President of College-His Opinion on Baptism-Schools in Plymouth-Commissioners from England, with great powers—Their Reception in Massachusetts-Letter to the King, and contend for Charter Rights-Dispute with Commissioners--Treatment of Commissioners in Plymouth-Religious Liberties-Commissioners in Maine-King dissatisfied, and orders Agents to appear before him—Bellingham, and WilloughbyTroubles in England-Trade and Navigation-Disputes in the Churches in Boston.

AFTER the decease of the very worthy and honorable Governor Winthrop, in 1649, Mr. Dudley, and Mr. Endicot, were, alternately, the first and second magistrates for some years;

but in 1653, Governor Dudley died, at an advanced age; and Mr. Bellingham, and Mr. Endicot, filled these high offices, for nearly twenty years; Endicot, the greater number of years, during the first part of that period; but, on his death, Bellingham was governor for eight successive years, till Mr. Leverett was elected, in 1673. The education of Bellingham was superior to that of Endicot; but the latter was equally the favorite of the people, though very rigid in his religious views. He was well fitted for bold enterprise, and was, probably, more of a practical man than Bellingham. The character of the latter for stern integrity was his highest praise.

On the restoration of Charles II. to the throne of his fathers in 1660, the colonies of New England were exposed to new dangers. They had reason to apprehend, from his political advisers, the exercise of arbitrary power, which would interfere with the rights secured to them by their charter, as they construed it, and with that degree of self government, which they had hitherto, generally, enjoyed. Attempts had been often made, indeed, before that period, to deprive them of the political power derived from that instrument. But, from various causes, these designs had proved, in a great measure, ineffectual.

They had been exposed to the intrigues of personal and political enemies; but by the vigilance of the government and the ability and fidelity of their agents in England, aided by some able friends in that country, they had maintained, with some occasional interruptions, their civil and religious rights, to the fullest extent. They had even exercised a higher political authority, on some occasions, than the royal charter intended, or clearly granted : and yet they always referred to this instrument, in connexion with their rights as British subjects, in justification of their proceedings. Thus there was almost a constant effort, by the parent government, to keep the colony of Massachusetts in due subjection; and by the rulers of the colony to extend their civil powers, under the sanction of the royal charter.

The disputes in England, for several years, between political parties there, prevented that degree of attention and legislation over the colonies, which, no doubt, would otherwise have been extended to them. Neither the political sentiments of the king and his ministers, nor the interested designs of parliament, the chief object of which were the strength and wealth of the whole kingdom, permit the supposition, that Massachusetts and the other colonies in New England would have been allowed the exercise of the powers they claimed and assumed, but that affairs of state in England demanded constant attention. For the latter part of the reign of Charles I. from 1645 to 1650, the parent government was engaged in maintaining its own immediate powers, against the efforts of those who would limit and restrain them. The protector possessed great energy of character; and it was his object to raise both the glory and the terror of the commonwealth. For this purpose, he was disposed to keep the colonies in due subjection, and to preserve the unity and strength of the whole nation. On some occasions, he manifested a disposition to legislate for the colonies, as much as Charles had done. But from motives of policy and reasons of state, he did not proceed to recall their charters, or to limit their former powers. When the government reverted to the Stuart dynasty, the people of Massachusetts, and of the neighboring colonies who had similar views of their charter rights, had too much discernment not to fear the exercise of power in the government of England over them, which might be highly injurious to their liberties. They understood the doctrines of legitimacy and the claims of unlimited power by the friends of the Stuart family too well, to expect the continuance of their charter rights and privileges, to their full extent, without a struggle. In this critical situation, they took counsel of prudence and of their better judgment; resolving, however, if possible, to maintain their freedom to the last. Whatever were their private wishes and feelings, they had

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »