Home  »  Colonial Prose and Poetry  »  Roger Williams

Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.

Vol. I. The Transplanting of Culture: 1607–1650

Roger Williams

ROGER WILLIAMS, the founder of Rhode Island, was born in Wales in 1599, and died in the colony he had founded in 1683, one of the longest lived of the New England pioneers. Of his family and early life we know little; but he had an influential patron in the great lawyer Coke, who got him admission to the famous Charterhouse School in 1621, and also to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he was graduated. He took orders in the English Church, but being intimately associated with Cotton and Hooker joined the advanced Puritans, and leaving England in 1630 reached Boston early the next year. Though esteemed both as a preacher and a scholar he soon fell under suspicion of heresy. A few months after his installation as assistant at Salem he was constrained to seek shelter in the relatively tolerant Plymouth, where also he was made assistant pastor and formed friendly connections with Indian chiefs, whose language he quickly acquired. But Plymouth, too, proved narrow for independent thought, and after two years he returned to Salem with some devoted adherents. Soon after began his memorable struggle for liberty of conscience, complicated by an unpopular assertion of the rights of the Indians to their land. He was charged with heresy, and ordered to quit the colony. It was even proposed to arrest him and send him to England, but he escaped this by a flight through the wilderness. He obtained a grant of land from the Narragansett chiefs, Canonicus and Miantonomoh, on the present site of Providence, where, with friends from Salem, he settled in June, 1636. His influence over the Indians was of immense value to all the New England colonies in the Pequot War. He went to England in 1643, and obtained a charter for Rhode Island the following year, publishing while abroad a Key into the Language of America, a linguistic work of much value, and his famous Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience. This was speedily answered by John Cotton in The Bloody Tenent Washed and Made White in the Blood of the Lamb (1647), to which Williams replied effectively in The Bloody Tenent Made yet More Bloody by Mr. Cotton’s Endeavor to Wash it White (1652). The controversy was, however, conducted with rare urbanity on both sides. Williams also wrote, while on his first visit to England, an admirable reply to the reasons given for his banishment, in Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered. On his return to the colonies he secured a treaty with the Narragansetts, and took an active part in the government of his colony in whose interest he again visited England (1651–1654). The charter that he secured was so liberal that the Revolution could leave it unaltered. His last years were occupied largely by a zealous controversy with Quakers, whom, however, he steadfastly refused to persecute. For three days the old man of seventy-three wrestled with them in the Quaker meeting-house at Newport, whither he had rowed himself from Providence for the occasion. His record of this is an unreadable quarto with the genial title George Fox Digged out of his Burrowes (1676). Williams combined, in singular degree, gentleness and strength, mobility and permanence, a controversial and a tolerant spirit. As a writer he is unequal, as most of his contemporaries were, but many passages of great beauty and eloquence may be culled from his works. Some of his letters are especially noteworthy for the dignity and nobility of the thought expressed. His writings are republished by the Narragansett Club.

Of PERSECUTION, for cause of
CONSCIENCE, discussed, in
A Conference betweene
In all tender Affection, present to the High Court of Parliament, (as the Result of their Discourse) these, (amongst other Passages of highest consideration.
Printed in the Year 1644.

To Every Courteous Reader.
[From the Above.]

WHILE I plead the cause of truth and innocence against the bloody doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience, I judge it not unfit to give alarm to myself, and all men to prepare to be persecuted or hunted for cause of conscience.

Whether thou standest charged with ten or but two talents, if thou huntest any for cause of conscience, how canst thou say thou followest the Lamb of God who so abhorred that practice?

If Paul, if Jesus Christ were present here at London, and the question were proposed what religion would they approve of: the Papists, Prelatists, Presbyterians, Independents, &c. would each say, Of mine, of mine.

But put the second question, if one of the several sorts should by major vote attain the sword of steel: what weapons doth Christ Jesus authorize them to fight with in his cause? Do not all men hate the persecutor, and every conscience true or false complain of cruelty, tyranny? &c.

Two mountains of crying guilt lie heavy upon the backs of all that name the name of Christ in the eyes of Jews, Turks, and Pagans.

First, the blasphemies of their idolatrous inventions, superstitions, and most unchristian conversations.

Secondly, the bloody irreligious and inhuman oppressions, and destructions under the mask or veil of the name of Christ, &c.

O how like is the jealous Jehovah, the consuming fire, to end these present slaughters in a greater slaughter of the holy witnesses? Rev. 11.

Six years preaching of so much truth of Christ (as that time afforded in King Edward’s days) kindles the flames of Queen Mary’s bloody persecutions.

Who can now but expect that after so many scores of years preaching and professing of more truth, and amongst so many great contentions amongst the very best of Protestants, a fiery furnace should be heat, and who sees not now the fires kindling?

I confess I have little hopes till those flames are over, that this discourse against the doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience should pass current (I say not amongst the wolves and lions, but even amongst the sheep of Christ themselves) yet liberavi animam meam, I have not hid within my breast my soul’s belief: and although sleeping on the bed either of the pleasures or profits of sin thou thinkest thy conscience bound to smite at him that dares to waken thee? Yet in the midst of all these civil and spiritual wars (I hope we shall agree in these particulars.)

First, however the proud (upon the advantage of an higher earth or ground) o’erlook the poor and cry out schismatics, heretics, &c. shall blasphemers and seducers ’scape unpunished? &c. Yet there is a sorer punishment in the Gospel for despising of Christ than Moses, even when the despiser of Moses was put to death without mercy, Heb. 10. 28, 29. He that believeth not shall be damned, Mark 16. 16.

Secondly, whatever worship, ministry, ministration, the best and purest are practiced without faith and true persuasion that they are the true institutions of God, they are sin, sinful worships, ministries, &c. And however in civil things we may be servants unto men, yet in divine and spiritual things the poorest peasant must disdain the service of the highest prince. Be ye not the servants of men, 1 Cor. 14. (vii: 23.)

Thirdly, without search and trial no man attains this faith and right persuasion, 1 Thes. 5: Try all things.

In vain have English Parliaments permitted English Bibles in the poorest English houses, and the simplest man or woman to search the Scriptures, if yet against their souls’ persuasion from the Scripture, they should be forced (as if they lived in Spain or Rome itself without the sight of a Bible) to believe as the Church believes.

Fourthly, having tried, we must hold fast, 1. Thessal. 5. upon the loss of a crown, Revel. 13 (iii: 11.) we must not let go for all the flea bitings of the present afflictions, &c. having bought truth dear, we must not sell it cheap, not the least grain of it for the whole world, no not for the saving of souls, though our own most precious; least of all for the bitter sweetening of a little vanishing pleasure.

For a little puff of credit and reputation from the changeable breath of uncertain sons of men.

For the broken bags of riches on eagles’ wings: for a dream of these, any or all of these which on our death-bed vanish and leave tormenting stings behind them: Oh, how much better is it from the love of truth, from the love of the Father of lights, from whence it comes, from the love of the Son of God, who is the way and truth, to say as he, John 18. 37: For this end was I born, and for this end came I into the world that I might bear witness to the truth.

[From the Same. Chapter I.]

Truth.—In what dark corner of the world (sweet Peace) are we two met? How hath this present evil world banished me from all the coasts and quarters of it? And how hath the righteous God in judgment taken thee from the earth? Rev. 6. 4.

Peace.—’Tis lamentably true (blessed Truth) the foundations of the world have long been out of course: the gates of earth and hell have conspired together to intercept our joyful meeting and our holy kisses. With what a wearied, tired wing have I flown over nations, kingdoms, cities, towns to find out precious Truth?

Truth.—The like inquiries in my flights and travels have I made for Peace, and still am told, she hath left the earth, and fled to heaven.

Peace.—Dear Truth, what is the earth but a dungeon of darkness, where Truth is not?

Truth.—And what’s the Peace thereof but a fleeting dream, thine ape and counterfeit?

[From the Same. Chapter II.]

Truth.—Sweet Peace, what hast thou there?

Peace.—Arguments against persecution for cause of conscience.

Truth.—And what there?

Peace.—An answer to such arguments, contrarily maintaining such persecution for cause of conscience.

Truth.—These arguments against such persecution, and the answer pleading for it, written (as love hopes) from godly intentions, hearts, and hands, yet in a marvellous different style and manner. The arguments against persecution in milk, the answer for it (as I may say) in blood.

The author of these arguments (against persecution) (as I have been informed) being committed by some then in power, close prisoner to Newgate, for the witness of some truths of Jesus, and having not the use of pen and ink, wrote these arguments in milk, in sheets of paper, brought to him by the woman his keeper, from a friend in London, as the stopples of his milk bottle.

In such paper written with milk nothing will appear, but the way of reading it by fire being known to this friend who received the papers, he transcribed and kept together the papers, although the author himself could not correct, nor view what himself had written.

It was in milk, tending to soul nourishment, even for babes and sucklings in Christ.

It was in milk, spiritually white, pure and innocent, like those white horses of the word of truth and meekness, and the white linen or armor of righteousness, in the army of Jesus. Rev. 6. & 19.

It was in milk, soft, meek, peaceable and gentle, tending both to the peace of souls, and the peace of States and Kingdoms.

Peace.—The answer (though I hope out of milky pure intentions) is returned in blood: bloody and slaughterous conclusions; bloody to the souls of all men, forced to the religion and worship which every civil state or common-weal agrees on, and compels all subjects to in a dissembled uniformity.

Bloody to the bodies, first of the holy witnesses of Christ Jesus, who testify against such invented worships.

Secondly, of the nation and peoples slaughtering each other for their several respective religions and consciences.

To Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts.
Providence, the 24th of the 8th [1636?]
SIR, WORTHY AND WELL BELOVED,—I was abroad about the Pequot business when your letter arrived, and since messengers have not fitted, &c.

I therefore now thankfully acknowledge your wisdom and gentleness in receiving so lovingly my late rude and foolish lines: you bear with fools gladly because you are wise.

I still wait upon your love and faithfulness for those poor papers, and cannot but believe that your heart, tongue, and pen should be one, if I were Turk or Jew, &c.

Your six queries I welcome, my love forbidding me to surmise that a Pharisee, a Sadducee, an Herodian, &c., wrote them; but rather that your love and pity framed them as a physician to the sick, &c.

He that made us these souls and searcheth them, that made the ear and eye, and therefore sees and hears I lie not, but in his presence have sadly sequestered myself to his holy tribunal, and your interrogatories, begging from his throne those seven fiery lamps and eyes, his holy Spirit, to help the scrutiny, desirous to suspect myself above the old serpent himself, and remembering that he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. Prov. 28.

While I answer let me importune from your loving breast that good opinion that you deal with one (however so and so, in your judgment yet) serious, and desirous in the matters of God’s Sanctuary to use (as the double weights of the Sanctuary teach us) double diligence.

Your first query then is this.

What have you gained by your new-found practices? &c.

I confess my gains cast up in man’s exchange are loss of friends, esteem, maintenance, &c., but what was gain in that respect I desire to count loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: &c. To His all glorious Name I know I have gained the honor of one of his poor witnesses, though in sackcloth.

To your beloved selves and others of God’s people yet asleep, this witness in the Lord’s season at your waking shall be prosperous, and the seed sown shall arise to the greater purity of the kingdom and ordinances of the Prince of the kings of the earth.

To myself (through his rich grace) my tribulation hath brought some consolation and more evidence of his love, singing Moses his song and the Lamb’s, in that weak victory which (through His help) I have gotten over the beast, his picture, his mark, and number of his name, Revel. 15. 2. 3.

If you ask for numbers, the witnesses are but two: Revel, 11., and how many millions of Christians in name, and thousands of Christians in heart, do call the truths (wherein yourself and I agree in witnessing) new found practices?

Gideon’s army was thirty-two thousand; but cowardice returned twenty-two thousand back, and nine thousand seven hundred worldlings sent but three hundred to the battle.

I will not by prophecy exasperate, but wish (in the black and stormy day) your company be not less than Gideon’s to fight (I mean with the Blood of the Lamb and Word of Witness) for what you profess to see.

To your second, viz.: Is your spirit as even as it was seven years since?

I will not follow the fashion either in commending or condemning of myself. You and I stand at one dreadful, dreadful tribunal: yet what is past I desire to forget, and to press forward towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ.

And for the evenness of my spirit.

Toward the Lord, I hope I more long to know and do His holy pleasure only, and to be ready not only to be banished, but to die in New England for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Towards yourselves, I have hitherto begged of the Lord an even spirit, and I hope ever shall, as

First, reverently to esteem of, and tenderly to respect the persons of many hundreds of you, &c.

Secondly, To rejoice to spend and be spent in any service, (according to my conscience) for your welfares.

Thirdly, To rejoice to find out the least swerving in judgment or practice from the help of any, even the least of you.

Lastly, to mourn daily, heavily, uncessantly, till the Lord look down from Heaven, and bring all his precious living stones into one New Jerusalem.

To your third, viz.: Are you not grieved that you have grieved so many?

I say with Paul, I vehemently sorrow for the sorrow of any of Zion’s daughters, who should ever rejoice in her King, &c., yet I must (and O that I had not cause) grieve because so many of Zion’s daughters see not and grieve not for their souls’ defilements, and that so few bear John company in weeping after the unfolding of the seals, which only weepers are acquainted with.

You thereupon propound a fourth, Do you think the Lord hath utterly forsaken us?

I answer Jehovah will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake 1. Sam. 12. That is, the fire of His love towards those whom once He loves is eternal, like Himself: and thus far be it from me to question His eternal love towards you, &c. Yet if you grant that ever you were as Abraham among the Chaldees, Lot among the Sodomites, the Kenites among the Amalekites, as Israel in Egypt or Babel, and that under pain of their plagues and judgments you were bound to leave them, depart, fly out, (not from the places as in the type,) but from the filthiness, of their sins, &c., and if it prove, as I know assuredly it shall, that though you have come far, yet you never came out of the wilderness to this day: then, I beseech you, remember that yourselves, and so also many thousands of God’s people, must yet mournfully read the 74, 79, 80, and 89 Psalms, the Lamentations, Daniel 11th, and Revel. 11th, 12th, 13th, and this, Sir, I beseech you do more seriously then ever, and abstract yourself with a holy violence from the dung heap of this earth, the credit and comfort of it, and cry to Heaven to remove the stumbling blocks, such idols, after which sometimes the Lord will give His own Israel an answer.

Sir, You request me to be free with you, and therefore blame me not if I answer your request, desiring the like payment from your own dear hand, at any time, in any thing.

And let me add, that amongst all the people of God, wheresoever scattered about Babel’s banks, either in Rome or England, &c., your case is the worst by far, because while others of God’s Israel tenderly respect such as desire to fear the Lord, your very judgment and conscience leads you to smite and beat your fellow servants, expel them your coasts, &c., and therefore, though I know the elect shall never finally be forsaken, yet Sodom’s, Egypt’s, Amalek’s, Babel’s judgments ought to drive us out, to make our calling out of this world to Christ, and our election sure in him.

Sir, Your fifth is, From what spirit, and to what end do you drive?

Concerning my spirit, as I said before, I could declaim against it, but whether the spirit of Christ Jesus, for whose visible kingdom and ordinances I witness, &c, or the spirit of Antichrist (1 John 4) against whom only I contest, do drive me, let the Father of Spirits be pleased to search, and (worthy Sir) be you also pleased by the word to search: and I hope you will find that as you say you do, I also seek Jesus who was nailed to the gallows, I ask the way to lost Zion, I witness what I believe I see patiently (the Lord assisting) in sackcloth, I long for the bright appearance of the Lord Jesus to consume the man of sin: I long for the appearance of the Lamb’s wife also, New Jerusalem: I wish heartily prosperity to you all, Governor and people, in your civil way, and mourn that you see not your poverty, nakedness, &c., in spirituals, and yet I rejoice in the hopes that as the way of the Lord to Apollo, so within a few years (through, I fear though, many tribulations) the way of the Lord Jesus, the first and most ancient path, shall be more plainly discovered to you and me.

Lastly, You ask whether my former condition would not have stood with a gracious heart, &c.?

At this query, Sir, I wonder much, because you know what sins, yea all manner of sins, (the sin unto death excepted,) a child of God may lie in, instance I need not.

Secondly, When it comes to matter of conscience that the stroke lies upon the very judgment, that the thing practiced is lawful, &c., as the polygamy of the Saints, the building of the Temple, (if David had gone on,) the many false ministries and ministrations (like the ark upon the new cart) which from Luther’s times to this day, God’s children have conscientiously practiced. Who then can wonder (and yet indeed who can not but wonder) how a gracious heart, before the Lord’s awakening, and calling, and drawing out, may lie in many abominations?

Two instances I shall be bold to present you with. First, do you not hope Bishop Usher hath a gracious heart; and secondly, Do you not judge that your own heart was gracious even when (with the poisoned shirt on your back) you, &c.?

But while another judgeth the condition fair, the soul that fears, doubts, and feels a guilt hath broken bones, &c. Now, worthy Sir, I must call up your wisdom, your love, your patience, your promise and faithfulness, candid ingenuity, &c. My heart’s desire is abundant, and exceeds my pen. My head and actions willing to live (as the Apostle Paul) [Greek]. Where I err, Christ be pleased to restore me, where I stand, to establish. If you please I have also a few queries to yourself, without your leave I will not: but will ever mourn, (the Lord assisting,) that I am no more (though I hope ever) yours,


Sir, Concerning natives: the Pequots and Nayantaquits resolve to live and die together, and not to yield up one. Last night tidings came that the Mohawks, (the cannibals,) have slain some of our countrymen at Connecticut. I hope it is not true.

To John Winthrop, Governor, &c.

[For his Much Honored Mr. Governor, John Winthrop.]
Providence, [June, 1638.]
SIR,—I sometimes fear that my lines are as thick and over busy as the musketoes, &c., but your wisdom will connive, and your love will cover, &c.

Two things at present for information.

First in the affairs of the Most High; his late dreadful voice and hand: that audible and sensible voice, the Earthquake.

All these parts felt it, (whether beyond the Narragansett I yet learn not), for myself I scarce perceived ought but a kind of thunder and a gentle moving, &c., and yet it was no more this way to many of our own and the natives’ apprehensions, and but one sudden short motion.

The younger natives are ignorant of the like: but the elder inform me that this is the fifth within these four score years in the land: the first about three score and ten years since: the second some three score and four years since, the third some fifty-four years since, the fourth some forty-six since: and they always observed either plague or pox or some other epidemical disease followed; three, four or five years after the Earthquake, (or Naunaumemoauke, as they speak).

He be mercifully pleased himself to interpret and open his own riddles, (and grant if it be pleasing in his eyes) it may not be for destruction, and but (as the Earthquake before the Jailor’s conversion) a means of shaking and turning of all hearts, (which are his,) English or Indian, to him. To further this (if the Lord please) the Earthquake sensibly took about a thousand of the natives in a most solemn meeting for play, &c.

Secondly, a word in mine own particular, only for information. I owe between 50 and 60li to Mr. Cradock for commodities received from Mr. Mayhew. Mr. Mayhew will testify that (being Mr. Cradock’s agent) he was content to take payment, what (and when) my house at Salem yielded: accordingly I long since put it into his hand, and he into Mr. Jollies’, who beside my voluntary act and his attachment since, sues as I hear for damages, which I question: since I have not failed against contract and content of the first agent, but the holy pleasure of the Lord be done: unto whose merciful arms (with all due respects) I leave you, wishing heartily that mercy and goodness may ever follow you and yours.


Sir, to your dear companion, Mr. Deputy, Mr. Bellingham, and theirs, all respective salutes, &c.

To the Town of Providence.

August 31, 1648.
WORTHY FRIENDS, that ourselves and all men are apt and prone to differ, it is no new thing. In all former ages, in all parts of the world, in these parts, and in our dear native country and mournful state of England, that either part or party is most right in his own eyes, his cause right, his carriage right, his arguments right, his answers right, is as woefully and constantly true as the former. And experience tells us, that when the God of peace have taken peace from the earth, one spark of action, word or carriage is too powerful to kindle such a fire as burns up towns, cities, armies, navies, nations, and kingdoms. And since, dear friends, it is an honor for men to cease from strife; since the life of love is sweet, and union is as strong as sweet; and since you have been lately pleased to call me to some public service and my soul hath been long musing how I might bring water to quench, and not oil or fluid to the flame, I am now humbly bold to beseech you, by all those comforts of earth and heaven which a placable and peaceable spirit will bring to you, and by all those dreadful alarms and warnings, either amongst ourselves, in deaths and sicknesses, or abroad in the raging calamities of the sword, death and pestilence; I say, I humbly and earnestly beseech you to be willing to be pacifiable, willing to be reconcilable, willing to be sociable, and to listen to the (I hope not unreasonable) motion following:—

To try out matters by disputes and writings is sometimes endless; to try out arguments by arms and swords is cruel and merciless; to trouble the state and Lords of England is most unreasonable, most chargeable; to trouble our neighbors of other colonies seems neither safe nor honorable. Methinks, dear friends, the colony now looks with the torn face of two parties, and that the greater number of Portsmouth, with other loving friends adhering to them, appear as one grieved party; the other three towns, or greater part of them, appear to be another: Let each party choose and nominate three: Portsmouth and friends adhering three, the other party three, one out of each town; let authority be given to them to examine every public difference, grievance, and obstruction of justice, peace, and common safety; let them, by one final sentence of all, or the greater part of them, end all, and set the whole into an unanimous posture and order, and let them set a censure upon any that shall oppose their sentence. One log, without your gentle help, I cannot stir; it is this: How shall the minds of the towns be known? How shall the persons chosen be called? Time and place appointed in any expedition? For myself, I can thankfully embrace the help of Mr. Coddington or Mr. Clarke, joined or apart, but how many are there who will attend, (as our distempers are) to neither? It is, gentlemen, in the power of the body to require the help of any of her members, and both King and Parliament plead, that in extraordinary cases they have been forced to extraordinary ways for common safety. Let me be friendly construed, if (for expedition) I am bold to be too forward in this service, and to say that if within twenty days of the date thereof, you please to send to my house, at Providence, the name of him whom you please to nominate, at your desire I will acquaint all the persons chosen with place and time, unto which in your name I shall desire their meeting within ten days, or thereabouts, after the receipt of your letter. I am your mournful and unworthy


Extracts from the Famous Letter to Governor Endicott.
[Published in “The Bloody Tenent yet More Bloody.” 1651.]

August, 1651.
THE Maker and Searcher of our hearts knows with what bitterness I write, as with bitterness of soul I have heard such language as to proceed from yourself and others, who formerly have fled from (with crying out against) persecutors! [You will say this is your conscience: You will say you are persecuted, and you are persecuted for your conscience. No; you are Conventiclers, heretics, blasphemers, seducers. You deserve to be hanged; rather than one shall be wanting to hang him I will hang him myself. I am resolved not to leave an heretic in the country; I had rather so many whores and whoremongers and thieves came amongst us]. Oh, sir, you cannot forget what language and dialect this is, whether not the same unsavory and ungodly, blasphemous and bloody, which the Gardiners and Bonners, both former and latter used to all that bowed not to the state golden image of what conscience soever they were. And indeed, sir, if the Most High be pleased to awaken you to render unto his holy Majesty his due praises, in your truly broken-hearted confessions and supplications, you will then proclaim to all the world, that what professions soever you made of the Lamb, yet these expressions could not proceed from the dragon’s mouth.

Oh remember, and the most holy Lord bring it to your remembrance, that you have now a great price in your hand, to bring great glory to his holy name, great rejoicing to so gracious a Redeemer (in whom you profess is all your healing and salvation), great rejoicing to the holy Spirit of all true consolation, whom yet so long you who have grieved and sadded, great rejoicing to those blessed spirits (attending upon the Lamb, and all his, and terrible to his persecutors), great rejoicing and instruction to all that love the true Lord Jesus (notwithstanding their wanderings among so many false Christs), mourning and lamenting after him in all parts of the world where his name is sounded. Your talents are great, your fall hath been so; your eminency is great, the glory of the Most High in mercy or justice toward you will be great also.

Oh remember it is a dangerous combat for the potsherds of the earth to fight with their dreadful Potter. It is a dismal battle for poor naked feet to kick against the pricks; it is a dreadful voice from the King of kings, and Lord of lords, “Endicott, Endicott, why huntest thou me? why imprisonest thou me? why finest, why so bloodily whippest, why wouldest thou (did not I hold thy bloody hands) hang and burn me?” Yea, sir, I beseech you remember that it is a dangerous thing to put this to the may be, to the venture or hazard, to the possibility. Is it possible (may you well say) that since I hunt, I hunt not the life of my Saviour, and the blood of the Lamb of God? I have fought against many several sorts of consciences, is it beyond all possibility and hazard, that I have not fought against God, that I have not persecuted Jesus in some of them?

Sir, I must be humbly bold to say, that ’tis impossible for any man or men to maintain their Christ by their sword, and to worship a true Christ! to fight against all consciences opposite to theirs, and not to fight against God in some of them, and to hunt after the precious life of the true Lord Jesus Christ. Oh remember whither your principles and consciences must in time and opportunity force you. ’Tis but worldly policy and compliance with men and times (God’s mercy overruling) that holds your hands from murdering of thousands and ten thousands were your power and command as great as once the bloody Roman Emperors’ was….

Oh remember once again (as I began), and I humbly desire to remember with you, that every gray hair now on both our heads is a Boanerges, a son of thunder, and a warning piece to prepare us for the weighing of our last anchors, and to be gone from hence, as if we had never been.

’Twas mercy infinite, that stopped provoked justice from blowing out our candle’s in our youths, but now the feeding substance of the candle’s gone, and ’tis impossible without repentance to recall our actions! nay, with repentance to recall our minutes past us.

To My Honor’d, Kind Friend, Mr. John Winthrop, Governor, at Hartford, on Connecticut.

Providence, 6, 12, 59–60.
SIR,—Loving respects to yourself and Mrs. Winthrop, &c. Your loving lines in this cold dead season were as a cup of your Connecticut cider, which we are glad to hear abounds with you, or of that western metheglin, which you and I have drunk at Bristol together, &c. Indeed, it is the wonderful power and goodness of God, that we are preserved in our dispersions among these wild, barbarous wretches. I hear not of their excursions this winter, and should rejoice if, as you hint, Uncas and his brother were removed to Long Island, or any where, or else, as I have sometimes motioned, a truce for some good term of years might be obtained amongst them. But how should we expect that the streams of blood should stop among the dregs of mankind when the bloody issues flow so fresh and fearfully among the finest and most refined sons of men and sons of God. We have not only heard of the four northern nations, Dania, Swedia, Anglia, and Belgium, all Protestants, (heretics and dogs, with the Pope &c.) last year tearing and devouring one another, in the narrow straits and eminent high passages and turns of the sea and world: but we also have a sound of the Presbyterians’ rage new burst out into flames of war from Scotland, and the independent and sectarian army provoked again to new appeals to God, and engagements against them.

Thus, while this last Pope hath plied with sails and oars, and brought all his popish sons to peace, except Portugal, and brought in his grand engineers, the Jesuits, again to Venice, after their long just banishment, we Protestants are woefully disposed to row backward, and bring our sails aback-stays, and provoke the holy, jealous Lord, who is a consuming fire, to kindle again those fires from Rome and hell, which formerly consumed (in Protestant countries) so many precious servants of God. The late renowned Oliver, confessed to me, in close discourse about the Protestants’ affairs, &c. that he yet feared great persecutions to the Protestants from the Romanists, before the downfall of the Papacy. The histories of our fathers before us tell us what huge bowls of the blood of the saints that great whore hath been drunk with, in (now) Protestant dominions. Sure her judgment will ring through the world, and it is hoped it is not far from the door. Sir, you were, not long since, the son of two noble fathers, Mr. John Winthrop and Mr. H. Peters. It is said they are both extinguished. Surely, I did ever, from my soul, honor and love them even when their judgments led them to afflict me. Yet the Father of Spirits spares us breath, and I rejoice, Sir, that your name (amongst the New England magistrates printed, to the Parliament and army by H. Nort. Rous, &c.,) is not blurred, but rather honored, for your prudent and moderate hand in the late Quakers’ trials amongst us. And it is said that in the late Parliament yourself were one of the three in nomination for General Governor over New England, which however that design ripened not, yet your name keeps up a high esteem, &c. I have seen your hand to a letter to this colony, as to your late purchase of some land at Narragansett. The fight of your hand hath quieted some jealousies amongst us, that the Bay, by this purchase, designed some prejudice to the liberty of conscience amongst us. We are in consultation how to answer that letter, and my endeavor shall be, with God’s help, to welcome, with both our hands and arms, your interest in these parts, though we have no hope to enjoy your personal residence amongst us. I rejoice to hear that you gain, by new plantations, upon this wilderness. I fear that many precious souls will be glad to hide their heads, shortly, in these parts. Your candle and mine draws towards its end. The Lord graciously help us to shine in light and love universally, to all that fear his name, without that monopoly of affection to such of our own persuasion only; for the common enemy, the Romish wolf, is very high in resolution, and hope, and advantage to make a prey on all, of all sorts that desire to fear God. Divers of our neighbors thankfully re-salute you. We have buried, this winter, Mr. Olney’s son, whom, formerly, you heard to be afflicted with a lethargy. He lay two or three days wholly senseless, until his last groans. My youngest son, Joseph, was troubled with a spice of epilepsy. We used some remedies, but it hath pleased God, by his taking of tobacco, perfectly, as we hope, to cure him. Good Mr. Parker, of Boston, passing from Prudence Island, at his coming on shore, on Seekonk land, trod awry upon a stone or stick, and fell down, and broke the small bone of his leg. He hath lain by of it all this winter, and the last week was carried to Boston in a horse litter. Some fears there was of a gangrene. But, Sir, I use too much boldness and prolixity. I shall now only subscribe myself

Your unworthy friend,

Sir, my loving respects to Mr. Stone, Mr. Lord, Mr. Allen, Mr. Webster, and other loving friends.

Extracts from a Letter Concerning an Intercolonial Dispute.

Providence, 22 June, 1670, (Ut. Vulgo.)
MAJOR MASON,—My honored dear and ancient friend. My due respects and earnest desires to God for your eternal peace, etc.

I crave your leave and patience to present you with some few considerations occasioned by the late transactions between your colony and ours. The last year you were pleased, in one of your lines to me, to tell me that you longed to see my face once more before you died: I embrace your love, though I feared my old lame bones, and yours, had arrested travelling in this world, and therefore I was and am ready to lay hold on all occasions of writing as I do at present….

Sir, I am not out of hopes but that while your aged eyes and mine are yet in their orbs, and not yet sunk down into their holes of rottenness, we shall leave our friends and countrymen, our children and relations and this land in peace behind us. To this end, Sir, please you with a calm and steady and a christian hand, to hold the balance and to weigh these few considerations, in much love and due respect presented.

First, when I was unkindly and unchristianly, as I believe, driven from my house and land and wife and children (in the midst of a New-England winter, now about thirty-five years past) at Salem, that ever honored Governor Mr. Winthrop privately wrote to me to steer my course to Narragansett-Bay and Indians for many high and heavenly and public ends, encouraging me from the freeness of the place from any English claims or patents. I took his prudent motion as an hint and voice from God and waiving all other thoughts and motions, I steered my course from Salem (though in winter snow which I feel yet) unto these parts, wherein I may say Peniel, that is, I have seen the face of God.

Second, I first pitch’t, and began to build and plant at Seekonk, now Rehoboth, but I received a letter from my ancient friend, Mr. Winslow, then Governor of Plymouth, professing his own and others’ love and respect to me, yet lovingly advising me, since I was fallen into the edge of their bounds and they were loth to displease the Bay, to remove but to the other side of the water and then he said I had the country free before me and might be as free as themselves and we should be loving neighbors together. These were the joint understandings of these two eminently wise and christian Governors and others, in their day, together with their counsel and advice as to the freedom and vacancy of this place, which in this respect and many other providences of the most holy and only wise, I called Providence.***

5. Considering (upon frequent exceptions against Providence men) that we had no authority for civil government, I went purposely to England and upon my report and petition, the Parliament granted us a charter of government for these parts, so judged vacant on all hands. And upon this the country about us was more friendly, and wrote to us and treated us as an authorised colony; only the differences of our consciences much obstructed. The bounds of this our first charter I (having ocular knowledge of persons, places and transactions) did honestly and conscientiously, as in the holy presence of God, draw up from Pawcatuck river, which I then believed and still do, is free from all English claims and conquests;***

10. Alas, Sir, in calm midnight thoughts, what are these leaves and flowers, and smoke and shadows, and dreams of earthly nothings, about which we poor fools and children, as David saith, disquiet ourselves in vain? Alas, what is all the scuffling of this world for but, come will you smoke it? What are all the contentions and wars of this world about, generally, but for greater dishes and bowls of porridge, of which, if we believe God’s spirit in Scripture, Esau and Jacob were types?…

… I know you are both of you hot, I fear myself also. If both desire, in a loving and calm spirit, to enjoy your rights I promise you, with God’s help, to help you to them in a fair and sweet and easy way.—My receipt will not please you all. If it should so please God to frown upon us that you should not like it, I can but humbly mourn and say with the Prophet that which must perish, must perish. And as to myself in endeavouring after your temporal and spiritual peace, I humbly desire to say, if I perish, I perish—It is but a shadow vanished, a bubble broke, a dream finish’t—eternity will pay for all.

Sir, I am your old and true friend and servant,


[From “A Key into the Language of America.” 1643.]

  • IF birds that neither sow nor reap
  • Nor store up any food,
  • Constantly find to them and theirs
  • A maker kind and good!
  • If man provide eke for his birds,
  • In yard, in coops, in cage,
  • And each bird spends in songs and tunes
  • His little time and age!
  • What care will man, what care will God,
  • For ’s wife and children take?
  • Millions of birds and worlds will God
  • Sooner than his forsake.
  • ————
  • YEARS thousands since God gave command,
  • As we in Scripture find,
  • That earth and trees and shrubs should bring
  • Forth fruits each in his kind.
  • The wilderness remembers this;
  • The wild and howling land
  • Answers the toiling labor of
  • The wildest Indian’s hand.
  • But man forgets his maker, who
  • Framed him in righteousness,
  • A Paradise in Paradise now worse
  • Than Indian wilderness.
  • ————
  • WHEN sun doth rise the stars do set,
  • Yet there ’s no need of light,
  • God shines a sun most glorious,
  • When creatures all are night.
  • The very Indian boys can give
  • To many stars their name,
  • And know their course, and therein do
  • Excel the English tame.
  • English and Indians none inquire,
  • Whose hand these candles hold,
  • Who gives these stars their names, himself
  • More bright ten thousand-fold.