The Puritans in Massachusetts
The Colony grows, 1630-61
The Colony of Massachusetts Bay was set up
as a Puritan ‘plantation of the religious’ Colony, which eventually,
as a partner with other Colonies, played a prominent role in the
“revolt” of the 13 Colonies and the emergence of the United States of
To the Puritans who founded it in 1630, the Massachusetts Bay
Colony represented a great ideal and a godly objective, an attempt to
set up a biblical commonwealth with church and state intertwined. In
this, there could be no freedom of religious thought; dissenters and
non-conformists had freedom – the freedom to stay away, the freedom to
have the sense not to enter to propagate their views.
The Pilgrim Fathers, who had landed nine years earlier at nearby
New Plimouth, had no record of troubles over religious difference even
when their community totalled thousands.
But in a curious, unique period, in the early 1630’s, before the
‘Quaker invasion’, Salem had banished clergyman Roger Williams and
Boston one of its clergymen, John Wheelwright.
While Williams outraged the Salem Church with proposed “complete
separation of civil and ecclesiastical authority”, the views of
Boston’s Wheelwright supported “violation of the civil peace” and
threatened “ruin to the whole”.
Dissent “that was disruptive” rumbled on, throughout the
mid-1630’s. It came to a head with the trial of the remarkable Anne
Hutchinson. She promoted Antinomian beliefs: the precedence of The
Lord’s Grace over the Puritan’s Covenant of (Good) Works.
In all about 60 settler families were punished by expulsion from
Boston by the ‘intervention of the State’ and ‘temporal power’. When
Hutchinson was banished in 1638, Mary Dyer stood up, in church, for
her friend and she and her family too were forced out of Boston.
Underlying religious theories, pressuring towards liberty of
conscience, and the struggle over the primacy of dissenters ‘first
hand’ religious experience over the Puritan ‘second hand’ knowledge,
had emerged, and could not be locked away quietly.
(There is faint record that these beliefs, and others held by the
early Quakers, had arisen in 1640 in Rhode Island, as the Quaker
movement formed in Old England Regular small gatherings, meeting to
worship in silence, are said to have been held)
The antinomian outbursts convulsed and caused disruption in the
young, growing Colony, yet occurred nearly two decades before the
troublesome Quakers started arriving in Boston harbour, and then from
the even younger and more tolerant Rhode Island settlements.
What doth it
profit, though a man say he hath faith, and hath not works?
Can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead,
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works -
Show me thy faith without thy works and I will show thee my faith by
Epistle of James 14, 17-18