Edited and with an Introduction by JAMES CALVIN DAVIS
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his refusal to conform to Puritan religious and social standards, Roger Williams established a haven in Rhode Island for those persecuted in the name of the religious establishment. Davis gathers together important selections from Williams's public and private writings on religious liberty, illustrating how this renegade Puritan radically reinterpreted Christian moral theology and the events of his day in a powerful argument for freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-03024-4
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. Editorial Method
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Roger Williams and the Birth of an American Ideal
    (pp. 1-45)

    Roger Williams was America’s earliest pioneer for religious liberty, but although he retains his place in cultural lore as the founder of Rhode Island and a curious voice in the Puritan wilderness, he is largely overshadowed in contemporary discussions of religious freedom by the legacy of enlightened patriots from the eighteenth century. One hundred fifty years before one of those patriots, Thomas Jefferson, penned a similar phrase, Williams was advocating a “wall of separation between the Garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.” Generations ahead of James Madison, Williams commended freedom of conscience as being in the...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Mr. Cotton’s Letter Lately Printed, Examined, and Answered
    (pp. 46-72)

    This letter¹ I acknowledge to have received from Mr. Cotton, whom for his personal excellencies I truly honor and love, yet at such a time of my distressed wanderings amongst the Barbarians, being destitute of food, of clothes, [and] of time, I reserved it … and afterward prepared an answer to be returned. In the interim, some friends being much grieved that one publicly acknowledged to be godly and dearly beloved should yet be so exposed to the mercy of a howling wilderness in frost and snow, Mr. Cotton, to take off the edge of censure from himself, professed in...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Queries of Highest Consideration
    (pp. 73-84)

    Right Honorable:

    It is a woeful privilege attending all great states and personages that they seldom hear any other music but what is known will please them. Though our music sounds not sweet but harsh, yet please you first to know it is not fitted to your ears, but to your hearts, and the bleeding heart of this afflicted nation. It is true [that] we have been humbly bold to presume, as Esther into Ahaserus’s presence, against your Order, for who can pass the many locks and bars of any the several licensers appointed by you with such a message?¹...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience
    (pp. 85-156)

    First, that the blood of so many hundred thousand souls of Protestants and Papists, spilled in the wars of present and former ages for their respective consciences, is not required nor accepted by Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

    Second, pregnant Scriptures and arguments are throughout the work proposed against the doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience.

    Third, satisfactory answers are given to Scriptures and objections produced by Mr. Calvin, Mr. Beza, Mr. Cotton, and the ministers of the New England Churches and others former and later, tending to prove the doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience.


  9. CHAPTER FOUR Christenings Make Not Christians
    (pp. 157-166)

    I shall first be humbly bold to inquire into the name “heathen,” which the English give them and the Dutch approve and practice in their nameheydenen, signifying “heathen” or “nations.” How oft have I heard both the English and Dutch (not only the civil, but the most debauched and profane) say, “These heathen dogs, better [to] kill a thousand of them than that we Christians should be endangered or troubled with them. They have spilt our Christian blood; the best way [is] to make riddance of them, cut them all off, and so make way for Christians.”

    I shall...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Bloody Tenent Yet More Bloody
    (pp. 167-226)

    Most Noble Senators,

    One of the greatest spirits and as active [a leader] as later times have yielded, Charles V, tired out with affairs of state, resigns up all, and sits down to end his days in quiet contemplation. I doubt not but many of your honorable heads have felt the thorny crown of these late years’ troubles [to be] so sharp, so weighty, that your tired spirits would joyfully embrace, if not … a total cessation, yet like some faithful tired judge after so long and troublesome a term, at least some breathing short vacation.

    Although I dare not,...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Fourth Paper Presented by Major Butler
    (pp. 227-236)

    The Humble Proposals of the Ministers who presented the petition to the Parliament [on] February 11 … for the furtherance and propagation of the Gospel in this nation, wherein they, having had equal respect for all persons fearing God, though of differing judgments, do hope also that they will tend to union and peace:

    1. That persons of godliness and gifts in the universities and elsewhere, though not ordained, may be admitted to preach the Gospel, being approved when they are called thereunto.

    2. That no person shall be admitted to trial and approbation¹ unless he bring a testimonial of his piety...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The Examiner Defended in a Fair and Sober Answer
    (pp. 237-248)

    … This ship of the commonwealth (like that gallant ship now going forth and so called) must share her weals and woes in common.¹ As the one, so the other has its dangers of rocks and sands, storms and tempests, want of provisions, sickness and diseases, treacherous and professed enemies, fires, leaks, and mutinies. I humbly beg of God and wish to both their fair winds and weathers, plentiful provisions, unanimity and peace, preservations, victories, bon-voyages, and joyful anchoring in their desired ports and harbors. Such woes and weals are common to all that fail in either.

    Now in a...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT The Hireling Ministry None of Christ’s
    (pp. 249-260)

    In this Discourse are briefly touched these Particulars:

    1. The national and parishional constitution of churches is found to be the grand idol of the nation.

    2. The enforcing of the nation to such a constitution is the greatest soul oppression in this nation.

    3. The hireling ministry attending upon such assemblies or others is none of the ministry of Christ Jesus.

    4. The universities of the nation, as subordinate and subservient to such ministries and churches, are none of the institutions of Christ Jesus.

    5. It is the absolute duty of the civil state to set free the souls of all men from that...

  14. CHAPTER NINE George Fox Digg’d out of His Burrowes
    (pp. 261-269)

    … I knew our aged governor, Mr. Nicholas Easton, and other magistrates (of [the Quakers’] judgment) would be there,¹ and so civil peace maintained, and I had a strange assurance given to my spirit from God in answer to my poor requests … that by moderation and patience I should conquer their immoderations and impatience. I therefore thought it in vain to spend time about a moderator. It is true they gave me no answer either by speech or writing concerning their coming on me at once, but to their seeming great advantage they constantly fell on me all at...

  15. CHAPTER TEN Selected Letters
    (pp. 270-284)

    Worthy friends,

    That ourselves and all men are apt and prone to differ is no new thing, in all former ages, in all parts of this 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 eye—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 has taken peace from the earth, one spark of action, word, or carriage is … powerful...

  16. Index
    (pp. 285-288)