The Puritans And The Colonial Baptists -- By: Dell G. Johnson

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 022:3 (Fall 1979)
Article: The Puritans And The Colonial Baptists
Author: Dell G. Johnson

The Puritans And The Colonial Baptists

Dell G. Johnson

Pillsbury Baptist Bible College

Owatonna, Minnesota

The Puritans’ Attitude Toward Roger Williams: 1630-1640

When John Winthrop and others formed their first church on July 30, 1630, they entered into a covenant that became a standard for New England Puritans. In part it read:

we… do humbly, solemnly, and religiously, as in his most holy presence, promise and bind ourselves to walk in all our ways according to the rule of the Gospel, and in all sincere conformity to his holy ordinances, and in mutual love and respect to each other, so near as God. shall give us grace.1

Little did Governor Winthrop and the host of Puritan followers realize how difficult that “walk” in the “rule of the Gospel” and the “sincere conformity” to God’s commands would really be in that very decade. The Puritans in their first ten years in the wilderness needed all the “love” “respect” and God’s “grace” that they could discover.

The harmony that initially united the Puritans was soon broken by the dissonant chords of Roger Williams. From the time of Williams’ arrival in Massachussetts in February of 1631 until his death in 1683, he was in the middle of controversy. Conflict, of course, was nothing new for a Puritan who had to accept it as a way of life, and especially to Williams. But nevertheless, the question lingered even in Williams’ own

mind as to why there was such a problem between himself and other Puritans.

Roger Williams in writing a letter to Major John Mason in 1670 reflecting upon the events of the mid-1630’s stated, “It lies upon the Massachusetts and me, yea, and other colonies joining with them, to examine with fear and trembling, before the eyes of flaming fire, the true case of all my sorrows and sufferings.”2 It is the purpose of this study to investigate the Puritans’ attitude toward Roger Williams, noting the theological themes of ecclesiastical separation, hermeneutics, and eschatology; and the ethical themes of religious and political fear; individualism, liberty of conscience, personal separation, and separation of church and state.

Immediately upon his arrival, Williams was given the respect of a leader. Having taken his degree at the University of Cambridge, his erudition was acknowledged. Governor John Winthrop described him as “a godly minister”3 and Governor William Bradford of Plymouth referred t...

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