Roger Williams, The Bloody Tenet of Persecution, 1644

THE BLOODY TENET OF PERSECUTION

Roger Williams

1644

Roger Williams, born in London in 1604 and educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, emigrated as a Puritan to Massachusetts in 1630. In 1635, he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony due to his Baptist views and advocacy of the rights of Indians. He moved south, where he purchased land from the Indians and founded the town of Providence. He was president of Rhode Island from 1654 to 1658. Williams’s belief in religious tolerance led Rhode Island to become the first colony to offer religious freedom. Understanding that religious “persecution for the cause of conscience” was counterproductive, Williams called for liberty not only for Christians but also for Jews, Turks, “anti-Christians,” and pagans.

Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Religious Institutions Group

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

Secondly, pregnant scriptures and arguments are throughout the work proposed against the doctrine of persecution for causes of conscience.

Thirdly, satisfactory answers are given to scriptures, and objections produced by Mr. Calvin, Beza, Mr. Cotton, and the ministers of the New English churches and others former and later, tending to prove the doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience.

Fourthly, the doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience is proved guilty of all the blood of the souls crying for vengeance under the altar.

Fifthly, all civil states with their officers of justice in their respective constitutions and administrations are proved essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the spiritual or Christian state and worship.

Sixthly, it is the will and command of God that (since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus) a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or antichristian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all nations and countries and they are only to be fought against with that sword which is only (in soul matters) able to conquer, to wit the sword of God s Spirit the Word of God.

Seventhly, the state of the Land of Israel, the kings and people thereof in peace and war, is proved figurative and ceremonial, and no pattern nor president for any kingdom or civil state in the world to follow.

Eighthly, God requireth not a uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state; which enforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls.

Ninthly, in holding an enforced uniformity of religion in a civil state, we must necessarily disclaim our desires and hopes of the Jew’s conversion to Christ.

Tenthly, an enforced uniformity of religion throughout a nation or civil state, confounds the civil and religious, denies the principles of Christianity and civility, and that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.

Eleventhly, the permission of other consciences and worships than a state professeth only can (according to God) procure a firm and lasting peace (good assurance being taken according to the wisdom of the civil state for uniformity of civil obedience from all sorts).

Twelfthly, lastly, true civility and Christianity may both flourish in a state or kingdom, notwithstanding the permission of divers and contrary consciences, either of Jew or Gentile.

Source: Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New-York (E.B. O’Callaghan ed., 1853-57).