Protestantism in America: A Narrative History by Jerald C. Brauer
Jerald C. Brauer is Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor and Professor of History of Christianity, formerly Dean of the Divinity School, University of Chicago. He is also Editor of The Westminster Dictionary of Church History. Published by The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1965. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Chapter 2: Growing Pains
There was nothing spectacular or unusual in the arrival of Roger Williams and his wife at Boston in February, 1631. One more Puritan minister was warmly welcomed, and he was immediately offered the post of " teacher" in the Boston church. Within a short time Williams left Boston and in the span of a few years found himself in such complete disagreement with the Massachusetts colony that he was exiled. What happened that the colony founded as the holy experiment for the Puritan brethren soon became suspicious and intolerant of many of the brethren?
Roger Williams expressed his initial disagreement with the Massachusetts Bay Puritans over the point of recognizing the Anglican Church. He refused the position at Boston because that church recognized the Anglican as a true but corrupt Church and allowed its members while in England to commune in Anglican churches. Williams was a strict Separatist, desiring no relations whatsoever with what he considered the totally corrupt Church of England. An additional disagreement with the Massachusetts group was over the rights of the magistrates to punish those who broke the Sabbath. This was later to become the crucial point of debate between the leaders of the Bay system of Church-State relations and Williams, the forerunner of the American system of separation of Church and State.
Neither Williams nor Massachusetts was happy in the otherís company, so he proceeded to the Separatist Puritans in Plymouth, the Pilgrims, where he became assistant to the minister. There he argued the Separatist position with such zeal that even the Pilgrims were somewhat uneasy, since they wished to retain peaceful relations with their strong Massachusetts neighbors and with the homeland. Only a handful of followers and a number of Indians, whose languages and customs he learned, were appreciative of his work.
Within two years Williams returned to the Bay colony in an unofficial capacity in the Salem church. There he found a minister and congregation sympathetic to his views and determined to retain their independence over against the Massachusetts authorities and the other congregations. He also encountered the old suspicion of the officials and the ministers. Massachusetts was in no mood to tolerate critics of the holy experiment. They were in danger of losing their charter to the crown, and pressure was constant from opponents in England. In order to defend themselves against the impending threats, they armed their colonists and required a special oath of promised support from all residents. The holy experiment had to be protected at all costs.
Once more Williams protested against the acts of the magistrates and refused the oath on the grounds that it was sacrilegious, a taking of Godís name in vain by Christians and nonbelievers alike in order to keep the magistrates in power. This the officials could not tolerate. In 1635, Williams was summoned before the highest tribunal of the colony -- the General Court -- composed of the governor, the deputy governor, the assistants, the representative deputies of the freemen, and the Bay ministers who were invited to attend.
In addition to the above views, which supposedly attacked the authority of the magistrate, Williams, while at Plymouth, had also criticized the very charter itself. He maintained that the Indians alone owned the land and that the king had no right to grant it through a charter. If this were true, it was an attack on both the powers of the king and the rights of the colony, and it was criticism repeated at the very time when the colonists were trying to hold their charter.
Roger Williams was not silenced at this trial. He continued his attack on the colony until he was once again ordered before the magistrates in October of that year and sentenced to be banished from the colony. But the execution of the sentence was delayed because of his ill-health, until the authorities heard of his continued preaching. Then they determined to ship him back to England, and, learning about this, Williams fled from Salem in a violent snowstorm in January, 1636.
Not knowing where to go, he stumbled through the wilderness until he was saved by a band of Indians whose friendship he had won while in Plymouth. He had always been kind to the natives, and in this his greatest time of need they did not fail him. In the spring he settled in what is now Rhode Island and named his settlement "Providence." There he put into practice those beliefs he had taught in Salem.
Soon he came to doubt the validity of infant baptism on the ground that it was unscriptural, and that a child could not consciously accept in faith the baptismal covenant. Though he later repudiated this Baptist position, he became known as the founder of the first Baptist church in Rhode Island. Soon other Baptist churches developed in that state.
Roger Williams represented the first real break in the New England holy experiment. At a later date he engaged in a spirited controversy with John Cotton on the right of the magistrate to coerce a man into the truth. The Puritans argued that the object of their experiment was to establish a Scriptural form of government, both civil and churchly. This included the right of the magistrates to make and enforce such laws as would develop and uphold a Christian community.
The magistrates were called "nursing fathers" of the churches. They investigated the fitness of the clergy, gave advice on disputes between churches, determined where new ministers should be located, and upheld the moral law of the community. The ministers, on the other hand, preached election sermons each time new magistrates were to be selected. In the sermon they attempted to bring to bear the Word of God as it applied to current problems. Many times they gave advice to the magistrates. Thus, minister and magistrate served to check each other, both were responsible to the church members, and ultimately all were under Godís will as revealed in Scripture. Godís will was to be made to prevail in the public life of the nation as well as in the personal lives of the citizens.
Roger Williams had no argument with making Godís will supreme in public as well as in private life. He disputed the method used by the Puritans. You cannot force the conscience of any man. You cannot make laws of faith. John Cotton contended that they were not forcing any manís conscience. But when a man sees the truth, his conscience tells him to follow it, and if he refuses, then the State has the right to compel that man to listen to his conscience. The laws of Massachusetts were not intended to suppress the conscience but to aid it by making hardheaded men obey it.
All this was rejected by Williams. He argued that there are two areas in life, both ruled by God but in different ways. In one, the area of natural life, of society, and of government, man lives according to the laws and customs of that life. In the other, the area of grace, man lives only by the direct call from God. You cannot force the second area by laws in the first. But, also, you cannot leave God out of the first. The insights of the gospel are carried into all of life voluntarily, indirectly, never perfectly, but always under the judgment of God. The State cannot interfere with the Church, and the Church cannot make laws for the State.
Little wonder that Roger Williams was rejected by the Bay Puritans He undercut their whole program. If his criticisms were true, then the colony didnít even own its own land, and the crown of England was without power in America. What would the English critics say when they heard this? Furthermore, if the magistrates had no power to enforce forms of worship and to prevent insidious beliefs from arising, how then could a holy commonwealth, pleasing to God, be established? Roger Williamsí beliefs were felt to be dangerous to the welfare of the State both from the spiritual and from the temporal point of view. His view of the relations between the powers of the State and the religious beliefs of the citizens was the forerunner of the American ideal of the separation of Church and State; hence his great importance.
The exile of Roger Williams did not mark the end but the beginning of troubles in the holy commonwealth. Further unrest and dissatisfaction were seen in the reaction to Mistress Anne Hutchinson, one of the outstanding women in Boston. A gifted woman with powers of persuasion, she was convinced that all the ministers of the Bay, except her pastor, John Cotton, preached more on good works than on grace.
This the ministers and magistrates could not tolerate, and it became a point of contention when an entire group adopted that point of view. In November, 1637, after her friends had been defeated, several exiled, Mistress Hutchinson was brought to trial for disparaging the ministers and for holding meetings in her home in order to criticize the clergy. The court found it exceedingly difficult to trap her, and it was only in reply to the question of her theological certainty that she gave her opponents an opportunity.
She replied that she was certain in the same way that Abraham was positive he should not sacrifice his own son -- by an immediate revelation. To this the deputy governor replied, "Howl an immediate revelation."
Governor Winthrop summed up the feelings of the court when he said, "Now the mercy of God by a providence hath answered our desires and made her to lay open herself and the ground of all these disturbances to be by revelations, for we receive no such."
Anne Hutchinson was banished and fled to Rhode Island. The magistrates had to dispose of her because, from their point of view, she had denied the whole basis of Church and commonwealth. She had attacked the theology of the ministers, and by emphasizing the personal operation of the Holy Spirit in revealing the truth of Scripture, or truth apart from Scripture, she was denying the very foundation of the holy experiment -- that of Scripture as interpreted by the ministers in the midst of the congregations. This would destroy all obedience to law, both private and public, and replace it with individual fancy. So they argued.
Meanwhile the colony was giving other indications of growing pains. Some of the members were dissatisfied with the strict control of the magistrates, and they wished better land. So a large number of them moved to Connecticut with their minister, Thomas Hooker. Though they were willing for all good citizens to have a hand in electing those who were responsible for government, they too insisted that only church members could be in actual positions of authority. So, in spite of their dissatisfaction with the Massachusetts arrangements, their system of government was not radically different.
In the 1640ís internal difficulties of Massachusetts were further complicated by events in England. Parliament and King Charles I were at war. The Anglican Church was pulled down, and a coalition of Presbyterians and Congregationalists, the latter called Independents ruled supreme. Both groups looked suspiciously at Massachusetts.
The English Independents practiced toleration of all Christian groups except the Anglicans and Roman Catholics; thus, they were astonished at the intolerance of Massachusetts. The Presbyterians could not understand why the American Puritans would not admit good Presbyterians to full communion and to the privilege of voting. It is true that Presbyterians held a different idea concerning the right of synods or Church assemblies to legislate for local churches and to ordain or examine ministerial candidates. But the theology of the two groups was essentially the same.
In 1646 a remonstrance was presented to the magistrates at Boston by a group of dissatisfied men. Among them was Dr. Robert Child, a Presbyterian. It asked that all Englishmen be given their essential rights and freedom apart from any religious requirement. Furthermore, it asked that all members of the Church of England be allowed to commune in the Massachusetts churches. This was a bombshell exploded among the magistrates.
As Dr. Child prepared to sail for England, the authorities burst into his cabin and declared him under arrest. A careful search of his belongings revealed a petition addressed to the House of Commons. It asked for an investigation of the Massachusetts Government, the appointment of a royal governor to guarantee the freedom of Englishmen, and the legal recognition of Presbyterianism. Dr. Child was rushed from shipboard to jail and later, with his fellow petitioners, was heavily fined. He subsequently returned to England.
As a result of the repeated attacks on the holy experiment, an attempt was made to strengthen the government and to pacify the unrest of the dissatisfied. In 1648, Laws and Liberties, embodying the laws of the colony, was published. Now every man knew exactly his responsibilities and his rights. Some of the discontent was pacified by the extension of certain local privileges to non-Church members, but the central control of the colony remained unchanged.
Criticisms from England had to be met. In face of Presbyterian opposition, the magistrates invited the Puritansí churches to a meeting where theological issues were to be discussed. The final formulation of the consensus was known as the Cambridge Platform, 1648. This was American Puritanismís first confession of faith concerning doctrine and Church government.
They silenced English Presbyterian and Independent criticism by the adoption of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which was the product of a group of English Puritan divines called together by the House of Commons, 1643-1649. By its adoption, the American Puritans upheld the same beliefs as did their English brethren.
Both held that God, not man, decides who will be saved. He picks his elect. In his time before Christ, God gave man a set of Commandments to obey, and he gave certain men the grace to live in his laws. This was the old covenant, or the covenant of works.
But God did not forget his people. He sent his only Son, Jesus the Christ, who perfectly fulfilled and revealed Godís will and exhibited how he felt toward man. He created the Church, the sacraments, and preaching. Whoever received grace to repent his sins and to trust unreservedly in God as seen in Christ was saved. Through preaching, baptism, and the Lordís Supper, and through membership in the Church, he came under the new dispensation of God -- the new covenant or the covenant of grace.
Thus the Puritan believed that God was holy, mighty, fearful in wrath, but also loving and forgiving. He had graciously bound himself in his covenant. Men could depend upon this. Hence the importance of menís coming to church, hearing his Word, and reverently partaking of the sacraments.
There was one point which appeared on the surface as a basic difference between the English Presbyterians and the New England Puritans. The Cambridge Platform insisted that the Church existed in its fullness in each local congregation which selected its own ministers and officers for the church. In the hands of the congregation were the keys of discipline. In theory, no presbytery composed of elders and ministers from all the churches of a particular locality could exercise power over any local congregation as to the selection of a pastor, the formulation of doctrine, or the exercise of discipline.
Supposedly, then, no body such as a synod or presbytery had any power over congregations. Such meetings as the synod at Cambridge were only gatherings of congregational representatives to combine their wisdom on particular problems and to offer advice. Though no congregation had to accept this advice, they were to receive the synodical declarations with "reverence and submission."
The fact was that the synod did not produce merely advice; it produced a confession of faith which included even the form of Church government. The synod did not have to insist on the congregationsí accepting the declarations and confessions of the synod. Steps were sure to be taken by the civil magistrates against any individual, church, or minister that deviated from the synodís declarations or advocated something contrary to the generally accepted beliefs or practices.
The magistrates, after all, were the "nursing fathers" of the Church, and in the face of heresy or anything disruptive of the peace in Church or State, they punished and executed discipline. In practice the Government played the role of a presbytery or a synod in administering rebukes and discipline, which the clergy decided was necessary against such people as Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, or Robert Child.
Strongly fortified by the declaration of the Cambridge Platform, the Puritans turned to a strict control of all opposition within the holy commonwealth. In 1656 a "plague" descended on New England. At least, that was the way the Puritans received the Quakers. Mary Fisher and Ann Austin arrived to spread the teachings of George Fox. They were opposed to all externals in worship, to all sacraments, to all ministerial offices. The important thing was the divine light present in the breast of every human being. When, through the Spirit, one turned to the light within and followed it, he became a child of light, living in peace, fellowship, and unity. True worship then became silence, broken only by the inner witness of the Spirit who compelled the believer to testify to his presence.
Mary Fisher and Ann Austin were promptly put in jail and deported, but soon more Quakers poured in from the safe base of Rhode Island. A series of strict laws were passed by the magistrates. Finally, in 1658, the death penalty was decreed for all Quakers who returned after banishment. Some were beaten unmercifully with whips, others were branded, and three had the right ear cropped.
This was typical treatment for that day. Though the magistrates had no final excuse for such actions, they greatly feared the Quakers. One Sabbath service as the congregation in Newbury listened to the sermon of their pastor, the door burst open and in walked a young woman stark naked. She cried out: "Woe to those who hide from their sins. All are known unto God. All shall be thus revealed openly in the last days."
Other Quakers interrupted meetings and shocked the congregations which could see no symbol of the openness of sin in the lack of clothing. Some Quakers stood up during or after the service, and with their hats still on contradicted the preacher. Little wonder that the authorities feared and detested the Quakers.
In 1659 two men were hanged according to the new laws against the Quakers. The following year Mary Dyer, who had twice returned seeking martyrdom, was hanged until dead. In 1661 the last Puritan execution of a Quaker took place.
Though the Puritans tried to defend themselves by the plea that they were defending the public peace, they were roundly condemned in England and by the Rhode Island Baptists. By the mid-1670ís, Quakers were protected by the English law and could conduct non-religious business in New England.
Not only did the Quakers attack the colony and its holy experiment, but the Baptists did as well. Roger Williams marked only the beginning of Puritan troubles. By the year 1651 a sufficient number of Baptists were located in Massachusetts to merit a visit of fellow Rhode Island Baptists. Three were seized on such a visit to Lynn. Two were heavily fined, and one, refusing either to pay the fine or to let the others pay for him, was given the usual treatment of being whipped.
In 1654 the congregation of Cambridge Church was shocked by a statement from Henry Dunster, the highly respected president of Harvard College. While a baptismal service was in progress, he arose to dispute the practice of infant baptism as un-Biblical and proceeded to take each point from the pastorís sermon and to answer it with Baptist views. He was silenced, stripped of his Harvard presidency and publicly rebuked.
ĎThus the Quakers and Baptists joined the ranks of those dissatisfied with the Puritan holy experiment. Both stressed the conscience of the individual believer and the consequent inability of the magistrate to control the soul of man. The Puritan argued that if one wished a godly nation as well as godly individuals, one must be willing to keep men in line by laws. The Commonwealth was dedicated to God, and the aim was to make certain that it remained so committed.
While the Puritans were busily engaged in fighting off all open attacks on the holy experiment -- by England, by Roger Williams, by Anne Hutchinson, by dissatisfied planters, by Presbyterians, and by Quakers and Baptists -- a more subtle enemy was striking telling blows against it. Success brought prosperity, and prosperity brought indifference.
The second generation was gradually taking over the leadership of the colony. A new type of growing pain was revealed, and it had permanent destructive consequences. Would these children, who reaped the fruits of their parentsí labors, prove faithful to their parentsí beliefs? The settlements were showing definite signs of economic prosperity. Soon many became more interested in their financial advance than in their spiritual condition. They continued to be good, moral men and women, but somehow the old zeal was cooling; growing pains had dire effects on the heart.
One of the first signs was the small number of people presenting themselves for membership in the churches. Many had been baptized and taken into the Church as children of the saints. Did not God make his covenant between his elect and their children? They, in turn, were expected to make a public profession of their faith and to "own the covenant" when they grew up. But they did not!
This created a difficult problem. As children of the founders, they were in a position of responsibility and authority. But until they were full church members they could not have full rights of citizenship. In a sense, the holy experiment had broken down. There was no real principle of continuity from father to son which had within it both a religious and a political center. Who was to rule the colony if the saintsí children would not own the covenant?
After a good deal of discussion and argument a compromise was reached. It was known as the "Halfway Covenant." Those who were baptized into the Church as children of the saints could retain a halfway connection with the Church simply by promising to live a Christian life and to raise their children in the fear of the Lord and to bring them to baptism.
These halfway members could not have the Lordís Supper, but they were still under the control of the Church; so they could vote on some of its nonspiritual problems and could keep all their privileges as citizens. Many were not satisfied with this and rigorously opposed it, but the Halfway Covenant triumphed.
In a sense, it was the deathblow to the holy experiment. The early Puritans demanded public proof of deep faith in the Lord Jesus Christ before one could become a church member. Only on this basis could one select those who would be responsible for the government. Henceforth, the only requirement for a minimum connection with the Church and thus for the right of citizenship was a promise to live a moral life. Trust and faith in God were replaced by an effort to live a good life as the test of church membership and political responsibility.
Two questions were never seriously asked. Where does one find the source of strength to live the good life? What happens to a holy commonwealth that is no longer ruled by professing saints? It seems that these deeply religious questions had passed into the background. Membership in the Church appeared to be a political and social necessity. It no longer reached the center of manís life.
Then a long series of troubles hit New England, and men began to question the source of their difficulties. In 1673 the Pequot Indians went on a rampage. A three-year bloody war followed. Homes were burned, people were slaughtered, towns were destroyed, and hatred against the Indians was fanned anew. Even nature conspired against the Puritans. Terrible fires broke out in Boston and the plague was the worst in years.
In face of such events, the New England Puritans called a special synod in 1679. There, two questions were asked:
"What are the evils which have called the judgment of God upon us?"
"What is to be done to reform these evils?"
The synod agreed that the evils responsible for the recent catastrophes were such things as pride in heart and body, a spiritual falling away, excessive profanity, breakdown of family life, and failure to observe the Sabbath. They insisted that God would be pleased only when the people repented of these sins and turned to him. To aid in this, the synod suggested that congregations exercise closer discipline and that the magistrates also enforce public discipline.
But the synod did not halt the woes of New England, nor did it rejuvenate zeal. A terrible blow was struck in 1684, when Massachusetts lost its charter and was given a royal governor. This man was an Anglican! To make matters worse, he compelled the Puritans to allow him and his followers part-time use of one of their churches. Several times the Puritan service was prolonged while the governor was forced to wait outside before the church was ready for his use. But the Anglicans had gained an entrance into the very heart of Massachusetts. That from which the Puritans had fled was now introduced in Boston by the governor.
To check the loss of zeal in the churches and to assure a common point of view over against growing opposition, an attempt was made to furnish a careful check on the pastors and congregations. According to the Cambridge Platform, synods had no real jurisdiction or authority over local congregations or pastors, but now even the Government was no longer interested in enforcing discipline. Soon ministerial associations sprang up to fill in the gap. Increase Mather, greatest of the second-generation Puritan divines, took part in an English scheme of co-operation between Presbyterians and Congregationalists. This system he proposed on his return to America.
The Massachusetts Proposals, 1705, advocated by Increase Mather and his son Cotton, represented an attempt to exercise discipline on all pastors and churches at some point beyond the local congregation. In order to do this, ministerial associations were to be given power over pastorsí profession of beliefs and life, and a group from each association was to continue between association meetings with power to supervise certain questions within congregations.
John Wise fought these proposals as contrary to New England beliefs and advocated the rights of the local congregations. Though he verbally defended the old New England idea, it is interesting that he defended it more on the basis of reason and human rights than on the basis of Scripture, and this defense of congregational independence later provided arguments for advocates of the revolution against England. However, this theory appeared to overlook the actual power of discipline which was carried on by the civil magistrates in the earlier Congregational system.
Massachusetts churches refused to accept discipline and control over the local congregations. In 1708, however, the Connecticut churches adopted the Saybrook Platform, embodying the check on ministers and the association control over congregations. The churches in every county were formed in consociations. This marked a step closer to the Presbyterians, many of whom were among the New England Puritans. The children of the holy experiment found it impossible to maintain the faith without the recognition of a power beyond the local congregation.
Meanwhile, the Anglican churches in the South were having growing pains of their own. The vestries had grown in importance to such a degree that they were able to select their own successors and so become self-perpetuating. The clergymen were at the mercy either of the vestries or of the governor. There were no bishops and no ecclesiastical courts to regulate discipline. In one way this system left vastly more power in the hands of the local unit than did the New England Puritan congregational system. Parishes were usually of a huge size, often too large to handle, and there was a lack of ministers. How could the Church perform its task?
In 1689 steps were taken to improve the situation. The bishop of London was responsible for the clergy in the colonies. Since he could not be there to function, he determined to delegate his authority to commissaries. These were clergymen residing in the colony who would be commissioned to exercise certain functions of the bishop. The greatest of these commissaries were James Blair of Virginia and Thomas Bray of Maryland. Though both of them did a tremendous job, they could not ordain, confirm, or make final ecclesiastical decisions.
The best answer to the Anglican difficulties was found in the formation of two societies at the turn of the century, the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge founded in i688 (S.P.C.K.), and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) in 1701. Thomas Bray was instrumental in the founding of both. The former undertook to supply books and printed matter for the churches in the colonies, while the latter sent out missionaries to work with the kingís subjects and with the natives. All such ministers were directly under the supervision of the secretary who exercised a strict discipline over each of them. Even their salaries came from the S.P.G., and they were a closely knit, faithful, hard-working group of men.
Their greatest work was done in New England and in New York. They entered the Puritan stronghold and founded churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts. In 1722, all New England was shocked when six outstanding Puritans, including the president of Yale College, left the faith of their fathers to enter the Anglican Church. The S.P.G. was doubly feared and hated in New England because it continued to agitate for a bishop in America. The Puritans felt this would only reintroduce the prelacy from which they had fled.
The Anglican Church continued to spread. It naturally moved into the other Southern colonies as they were settled. As South and North Carolina drew more people, the Church of England moved in and became the official religion of these colonies, supported by public taxes. This was in spite of the fact that in neither colony were the Anglicans in the majority.
New Amsterdam fell to the English in 1684 and was renamed "New York." Though the English allowed the Dutch Reformed Church to receive public support by taxation, they sought the official establishment of Anglicanism as the religion of the colony. This was accomplished in the late seventeenth century.
Roman Catholicism was having trouble in Maryland. Settlers poured in from Virginia and from New England. An Act of Toleration was passed in 1649, the first in America, guaranteeing freedom of worship for all Christians who professed faith in the triune God. This was based not on principle but on necessity, but even it could not hold off the storm. Repeated attempts by Protestants to take over control of the colony finally succeeded in 1689.
Little wonder the Protestants would not rest. They feared Roman Catholics in their midst and were especially aroused at the presence of Jesuit priests. By 1702 the Anglican Church became the official religion of the colony, although its members were not in the majority.
Thus appeared the strange spectacle of the Anglican Church setting itself up, under the protection of the governors, as the official religion of five colonies. Was this the way to guarantee the Churchís success in carrying out its mission and message? Apparently not. Establishment did not bring the Church success in America. It did not produce a godly, disciplined, hard-working ministry. In fact, it discouraged better men from coming to America. It did not produce a consecrated, disciplined laity. It bred indifference, discontent, and even contempt. The Anglican Church did not do its best work because of its establishment in America but in spite of it!
Meanwhile another type of "holy experiment" was taking place in Roger Williamsí Rhode Island and in the Quaker William Pennís Pennsylvania. Both welcomed all Christians to their colonies and offered to all colonists complete toleration. Williams violently disagreed with the Quakers, charging them with replacing Godís revelation in Scripture with their own fancy spun out of the "light within." But he would not use the "sword of steel" against the Quakers or other religious groups. As a result, Rhode Island became first their refuge and then their stronghold.
After a visit from George Fox, 1672, the Quakers in America began to expand their work already under way in New England, in New York, and in the South. Their real opportunity came with the establishment of Pennsylvania by William Penn in 1682. Earlier, Penn and fellow Quakers had promoted a colony in what is now New Jersey, but that was only a prelude of what was to come.
Penn believed that the colony could be ruled by himself in conjunction with a free assembly. He deplored force, war, or any type of coercion. His colony was to be built on toleration, persuasion, and moral integrity. When Roman Catholics were persecuted in Maryland, they fled to Pennsylvania and made it their headquarters. The Indians found in Penn one of their most faithful white friends.
Come to Pennsylvania where you can have land, a home, a wife, a family! Come to where you can worship God freely according to your own conscience. There you will serve in no army. You have no money? Your way can be paid. In a short time you will be free to work for yourself!
These were thrilling words to thousands of war-weary Germans and dissatisfied Scotch-Irish. Soon immigrants were flowing into Pennsylvania in a mighty stream. Philadelphia rapidly became the largest city in the colonies. Englishmen, Quakers, Baptists, and Anglicans settled in and around Philadelphia. German Lutherans, Mennonites, and Reformed moved into the heart of the colony and settled on rich farm land. Large numbers of sturdy Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, weary of the contradictory policies of the crown, left Ulster, Ireland, for the frontier of Pennsylvania.
Thus the Protestant Church came with the Churches of all these peoples. The German and Scotch-Irish were barely beginning to arrive. They did not come in large numbers until after 1710. But at that time the Scotch-Irish came in large waves.
Francis Makemie, one of the great early leaders of Presbyterians, traveled widely in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He was in close contact with the New England Puritans and found fellowship with many Presbyterians who had come out of New England. In 1706 he and six other clergymen founded the Philadelphia Presbytery. The Scotch-Irish furnished ever-increasing numbers for the Presbyterian Church, but New England still furnished the leadership and the inspiration. The Presbyterians were to develop in strength until at the time of the Revolution they and the Congregationalists formed the two most important Church bodies in the colonies.
Philadelphia soon became a center for Baptists as well as for Quakers, Anglicans, and Presbyterians. A number of these Baptists came from Wales. They were strict followers of John Calvinís doctrine of Godís determining grace. About the same time that the Presbyterians were founding their first presbytery in Philadelphia d Baptists founded the Philadelphia Association, 1707.
Growing pains were evident in many ways. Instead of one great Church in America, every fresh wave of immigrants brought other Churches, each feeling that it had more light yet to exhibit. By 1700 almost all the major Churches found today in America had representatives in the colonies. In spite of the division into many Churches, the Church was truly at work in America. All groups professed allegiance to the God revealed by their Lord Jesus Christ and sought to express their faith in worship and daily activity. Naturally, that worship and activity varied from group to group, and from year to year.
One of the ways that faith expressed itself was in the continuation of Indian missions. The "heathen" were not to be forgotten. Great difficulties were encountered. Numbers died from white manís plagues. It was difficult to stay with any group as they wandered about. But most damaging of all was the poor example set by the colonists.
Perhaps the greatest of the Protestant missionaries to the Indians was Rev. John Eliot. Possessing great skill in languages, he mastered an Indian dialect and preached to the natives. In 1661, after fifteen yearsí work among them, he published a New Testament in their language. He also translated a number of Puritan tracts for them and gathered them into typical New England communities. In 1660 they formed their first covenanted church and became known as the "Praying Indians."
About the same time the Mayhew family started mission work on the famous island, Marthaís Vineyard. They too gathered Indians into typical Puritan communities, and devoted three generations of work to them.
In 1673 the terrible Indian war, King Philipís War, broke out and raged for three years. One tenth of the male population of the New England colonies was slain. In their hatred against all Indians, the colonists attacked the "Praying Indians" and others who had been converted. This war practically ended all work among the Indians. Once more the old theory prevailed -- "the only good Indian is a dead Indian."
The outgoing life of the Church was expressed in another important area of life -- education. The Puritans, in particular, were determined that their people should be able to read and write so as to understand the meaning of Godís Word. The Massachusetts Bay colony organized in individual towns grammar schools that were supported by subscription, though the town was to pay for the poor. The congregation within the town usually provided the officers for the school.
Puritans wanted a godly and learned ministry. A large number of the 65 pastors who came during the first decade were educated at Cambridge University. To insure the continuation of such a ministry, a college was opened in 1636. The following year it secured a legacy from John Harvard and so took his name. The college prospered and more than satisfied the desires of its founders. However, it became a bit too liberal for the Mather family and other leading Puritan clergymen. So, in 1701, another college was started in Connecticut. After a donation of books from a merchant, Mr. Elihu Yale, this became known as Yale College.
The Anglicans were not idle. They had wanted a school for the colony and the natives as early as 1620. Their plans never materialized. Under the leadership of James Blair, commissary for Virginia, funds were raised in England. A substantial gift from the sovereigns William and Mary resulted in the charter for the school, and it opened its doors in 1693. Needless to say, it took the names of its greatest benefactors.
Growing pains may have plagued the Church, but it did not forget its responsibility to the total life of its members. It attempted to discipline those who continued to ignore their obligation. It reached out in the field of education as it recognized that knowledge and Christianity are not to be separated but go hand in hand. It attempted to win the natives to Christ. All this was in the face of a lagging zeal and a growing interest in things of the world for their own sake.