Hireling Ministry none of Christ's

Roger Williams

Originally Printed In 1652

Posted On September 18, 2019

The HIRELING MINISTRY none of CHRIST’S or, A Discourse Touching the Propagation of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Humbly presented to such pious and honourable hands whom the present debate thereof concerns.

Roger Williams, 1603-1683, the founder of Rhode Island, and one of the longest living of the early New England pioneers, was a Ultra-Separatist, Colonist and a Firm Advocate for the Cause of Religious Liberty, who was born into a well-connected, middle-class family, near Smithfield, {Smithfield was for centuries the site of many public executions, including some fifty Protestants during the reign of Mary I, and thus one wonders how his proximity to this infamous site may of shaped his subsequent views on persecution and liberty of conscience,} London, around 1603. Thanks to the generosity and friendship of eminent English barrister, judge and political jurist, Sir Edward Coke, Williams was educated at Charterhouse School and Pembroke College, Cambridge, from where he graduated in 1627. He himself informs us, that in his early years his heart was imbued with spiritual life. “From my childhood, the Father of lights and mercies touched my soul with a love to himself, to his only begotten, the true Lord Jesus, to his holy scriptures.” By 1629 he was serving as Chaplain to the Essex Household of Parliamentary Radical, Sir William Masham, {the Masham’s were distant cousins of Oliver Cromwell,} at whose home his own sentiments were being formulated, as several of those with whom he would eventually go into exile with, were introduced, including John Winthrop, John Cotton and Thomas Hooker, &c., all which would end up fleeing to New England in search of what they termed religious liberty, a liberty which was being denied them under the persecuting arm of Charles I, in the form of the King’s Enthusiastic Inquisitor by name of William Laud, {Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633, arrested in 1640, and executed in 1645,} who began shamefully oppressing and persecuting any that would dare to question the legitimacy of the Church of England.

Williams himself now, fortified with a renewed hope of being enabled to worship the LORD in spirit & truth, outside the shackles of the Established Church, soon joined the ‘Puritan’ migration to the New Land. Having recently married Mary Bernard, {a maid in the Masham household,} Williams embarked from Bristol on the ship ‘Lyon’ in December of 1630, arriving at the Massachusetts Bay Colony in February of 1631. Upon his arrival, Governor John Winthrop, considered him “very unsettled in judgment,” but “godly and zealous” in his manner of life. In his journal entitled, OF PLYMOUTH PLANTATION, he has this entry, “Mr. Roger Williams, a man godly and zealous, having many precious parts but very unsettled in judgment…he this year began to fall into some strange opinions, and from opinion to practice, which caused some controversy between the church and him. And in the end some discontent on his part, by occasion whereof he left them somewhat abruptly…but he is to be pitied and prayed for; and so I shall leave the matter and desire the Lord to show him his errors and reduce him into the way of truth and give him a settled judgment and constancy in the same, for I hope he belongs to the Lord, and that he will show him mercy.”

As a staunch Separatist, Williams regarded the Church of England irredeemably corrupt and false, seeking a comprehensive break with its forms, policies and practices, considering it “forced worship” if the State attempted to promote any particular religious idea or practice, declaring that, “forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.” He in fact considered Constantine to be a worse enemy to Christianity than Nero, because the subsequent state supported a corrupted ‘Christianity,’ leading to the demise of the ‘Christian’ Church, and of the eventual establishment of the Harlot Rome Church. He defined any attempt to compel belief as a “rape of the soul” and spoke of the “oceans of blood” shed as a result of trying to command conformity.

Once in Boston, he quickly became disillusioned to find that these ‘Puritans,’ {it would seem, having taken their name from the claim that they were indeed pure in religion; and of course considering it their obligation to ensure that everyone was as pure as themselves,} of Massachusetts were not so ‘like-minded,’ and so soon would find himself ‘outside the camp’ of that form of religion which they had established. For, whilst the ‘Puritans’ had their theology all intact by a simple adherence to their creed & confession, that is, interpreting the Scriptures through the looking-glass of their confessions, Williams, though not wavering or compromising in the least as to fundamental Gospel Truth, and wanting to test everything by the Scriptures of Truth, had little respect for their elevated regard to the traditions of men. Counseling an honoured and kind friend, {in the winter of 1652,} to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good, he writes, “that you admire the king’s book, {EIKON BASILIKE, Charles I,} and Bishop Andrewes, {Lancelot Andrewes,} his sermons, {ninety-six of his sermons were published in 1631 by command of Charles I,} and Hooker’s Polity, {LAWS OF ECCLESIASTICAL POLITY, Richard Hooker,} &c, and profess them to be your lights and guides, and desire them mine, and believe the new lights will prove dark lanterns, &c.,. I am far from wondering at it, for all this have I done myself, until the Father of spirits mercifully persuaded mine to swallow down no longer without chewing, to chew no longer without tasting; to taste no longer without begging the Holy Spirit of God to enlighten and enliven mine against the fear of men, tradition of fathers, or the favour or custom of any men or times.”

The ‘Puritan’ leaders of the Colony were emphatically endeavouring to fuse religion and politics, in their blind zeal, believing that God had given them the task of protecting and promoting their own form of religion, and thus determining to use the power of the State to enforce religious orthodoxy on every citizen. In fact, it would almost seem that when they spoke of religious liberty, they only meant the liberty to practice religion as they saw fit and to persecute anyone who disagreed with them. Many of these Puritans, being of a pharisaic disposition, {having set themselves up as dictators of the faith of all others,} like the Church of England which they had hoped to purify, had now begun to wield the sword of the same religious intolerance, which is sadly consistent with the whole bloody history of Christendom since the reign of Constantine, as such oppression and persecution revealed to Williams, “that such a religion cannot be true which needs such instruments of violence to uphold it.” Upon his arrival, Williams refused the office of a teacher in the church at Boston, holding the congregation in Boston to be an unseparated people, unrepentant for having communion with the Church of England. “I conscientiously refused their offer,” declared Williams, “and withdrew to Plymouth {relatively more tolerant} because, as I durst not officiate to an unseparated people, as upon examination and conference I found them to be.” {This was in a letter to John Cotton, who soon himself became pastor of the Boston Church and a life-long antagonist of Roger Williams.}

Williams left Boston over these differences, eventually accepting a position as a minister in Salem, where he made his most determined effort to enforce a rigid separation of its members, breaking off communion not only with the Church of England, but with the Bay Churches as well, and “neither admitted, nor permitted any church members but such as rejected all communion with the parish assemblies.” Williams even went so far as to urge the local magistrate, John Endicott, to remove the cross from the England flag on the grounds that it was a symbol of idolatry. In his effort to maintain that great scriptural principle that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual and not earthly, and that the alliance of Church and State is destructive to religious purity and liberty, he insisted that the civil authorities were not empowered to enforce religious injunctions, calling instead for a full separation of Church and State, desiring to construct an assembly of believers, where saints were embraced as saints, and not bound by denominational shackles, creedal intolerance or ecclesiastical priesthood.

Interestingly, there are some who credit Williams with founding the first Baptist church in America, and somehow make him the founder of the Baptists in America, which considered in the historical light of his seemingly brief adherence to Baptist Principles seems seemingly unfounded. Whilst it’s true that Williams, along with eleven others were baptized by immersion by Ezekiel Holliman, {who had followed Williams from the Salem Church where he had briefly taught several years before,} in the March of 1639, {Holliman baptized Williams, and then Mr. Williams immersed Mr. Holliman, and the rest of the group,} all confessing their faith in Christ, and embracing the Scriptural mandate for their actions; yet, it was Williams himself that began only a few months later to question the legitimacy of their proceedings, and in fact began to publish his sentiments that there were no true churches, ministry or church authority on the earth, and that Christ’s true church could not be known among men until Christ himself returned to establish it. Because of these, and other like sentiments, Williams broke ties with the Baptists, set up meetings in his own home, and it would seem, after a short period broke ties with all religious groups altogether. According to Cotton Mather, the Williams ‘society’ had ‘come to nothing’ by 1642, with the defection of its leader from the principles on which they began. One friend of Williams, {Richard Scott,} describes it this way, “I walked with him in the Baptists’ way about three or four months, in which time he brake from the society, and declared at large the ground and reasons of it; that their baptism could not be right because it was not administered by an apostle. After that he set upon a way of seeking {with two or three other men that had dissented with him} by way of preaching and praying; and there he continued a year or two, till two of the three had left him.” Regarding the ordinance of baptism itself, he writes in 1649, “at Seekonk a great many have lately concurred with Mr. John Clarke and our Providence men about the point of a new Baptism, and the manner by dipping, and Mr. John Clarke hath been there lately and hath dipped them. I believe their practice comes nearer the first practice of our great Founder Christ Jesus, than other practices of religion do, and yet I have not satisfaction neither in the authority by which it is done, nor in the manner; nor in the prophecies concerning the rising of Christ’s Kingdom after the desolations by Rome, &c.”

His views on observing a legal ‘sabbath’ would also bring him into conflict with the pharisaic spirit of the pilgrims, for he writes in a letter to Samuel Hubbard, {Hubbard came to Salem in 1633, removed to Springfield, and was one of the five founders of the Baptist Church there,} written around 1672, “after all that I have seen and read and compared about the seventh day, {and I have earnestly and carefully read and weighed all I could come at in God’s holy presence,} I cannot be removed from Calvin's mind, and indeed Paul's mind, Colossians chapter two, {“let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ,” Col.2:16-17,} that all those sabbaths of seven days were figures, types and shadows, and forerunners of the Son of God, and that the change is made from the remembrance of the first creation, and that figurative rest on the seventh day, to the remembrance of the second creation on the first, on which our Lord arose conqueror from the dead.”

According to Williams, the true church was built upon Apostolic Foundations, and because of the breakdown in the apostolic office it needed to be restored or reestablished; their office, he maintained, was violated through the nationalization of the churches, which moved the Holy Spirit to withdraw his authoritative sanction. This would align with his conclusion that all existing churches were hopelessly corrupt for “there were no churches since those founded by the apostles and the evangelists, nor could there be any, nor any pastors ordained, nor seals administered but by such.” The true church, he went on to say, would only be restored when “new apostles” in a new age “recover and restore all ordinances and the churches of Christ out of the ruins of the Anti-Christian apostacy.” The cause for withdrawal, then, was apostasy, and whilst Williams did confess to a continuing ministry, he would maintain that it was in fact devoid of apostolic authority. He says that, “in the poor small span of my life, I desired to have been a diligent and constant observer, and have been myself many ways engaged in city, in country, in court, in schools, in universities, in churches, in old and new England, and yet cannot in the holy presence of God bring in the result of a satisfying discovery, that either the begetting ministry of the apostles or messengers to the nations, or the feeding and nourishing ministry of pastors and teachers, according to the first institution of the Lord Jesus, are yet restored and extant.”

In regards to self-induced ‘conversions’ and forced confessions; in essence, those seeking to compel men to convert to their opinions, {in their effort to mass manufacture ‘saints,’} regardless of their ‘Calvinistic’ confessions, to Williams were guilty of the Arminian & Popish error of free will, as if it lay in the power of a man’s will to believe & embrace the Truth of the Gospel, simply because the Magistrate threatens him with punishment if he doesn’t. For him, such implications seemed contrary to what the Lord had taught him, in that he once castigated the “Arminian Popish doctrine of Freewill” as a “whorish” doctrine. In his pamphlet, THE BLOODY TENANT OF PERSECUTION, he states, “first, of an appearance of that Arminian, popish doctrine of freewill, as if it lay in their own power and ability to believe upon the magistrate’s command, since it is confessed that what is submitted to by any without faith is sin, be it never so true and holy. Rom.14:23. Secondly, since God only openeth the heart and worketh the will, Phil.2:13, it seems to be a high presumption to suppose, that together with a command restraining from or constraining to worship, that God is also to be forced or commanded to give faith, to open the heart, to incline the will, &c.”

Although his insistence upon an uncorrupted apostolic succession and separation from all evil church affiliations made it literally impossible for him to identify with any visible assembly, and his conviction that the true New Testament ministry had apostatized, he had few quarrels with the institution of the Church itself; admitting, even to the Quaker George Fox himself, {whom Williams believed was heretical,} “that if my soul could find rest in joining unto any of the Churches professing Christ Jesus now extant, I would readily and gladly do it.” Williams, writing to Governor Winthrop, asserted that he felt like, “Lot among the Sodomites” whilst at Salem for “that amongst all the people of God, wheresoever scattered about Babel’s banks, either in Rome or England, &c, your case {Massachusetts} is the worst by far, because while others of God’s Israel tenderly respect such as desire to fear the Lord, your very judgment and conscience leads you to smite and beat your fellow servants, expel them from your coasts, &c., and therefore, though I know the elect shall never finally be forsaken, yet Sodom’s, Egypt’s, Amalek’s, Babel’s judgments ought to drive us out, to make our calling out of this world to Christ, and our election sure in him.”

His life, his correspondence and the few writings which Williams left behind all shadow forth the fact that whilst he held in esteem those so-called reformations under Luther and Calvin, evidently setting forth that they indeed were great lights amidst such devastating spiritual darkness, yet a spirit of compromise and an unholy alliance did dull their endeavours. One old writer made this observation, “although I admit the reformation under Calvin and Luther, and that they were great lights in that dark time, yet their anti-Christian and wrong principle or spirit appears in their setting up and establishing their societies, for the church of Christ had still remained through all this dark and worst of times, suffered the rage and awful persecution of Satan’s kingdom. And now, Calvin and Luther, instead of uniting with the suffering church of Christ, which had ever lived and remained the light of the world, {though weak and contemptible,} they formed other societies, which were that moment the body of antichrist, or daughters of the old mother Rome, because they were anti or opposite to the church of Christ, and have remained the enemies of the church ever since. The same may be said of every sect which has sprung from them ever since. And although I admit there may be, and are, saints amongst all those various sects, yet they are guilty of fornication, and belong to the body of anti-Christ.” This statement could easily have been made by Williams himself, as it distinctly echoes the sentiments embraced throughout his writings.

Eventually, Williams was banished by the Puritan leaders from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for spreading “new and dangerous opinions,” including his teaching that the Civil Magistrates had no authority to enforce the “First Table” of the Ten Commandments, and his objections to the Commonwealth’s loyalty oath, because by forcing persons who by ‘puritan’ definition were unregenerate to take an oath, was for that person to “take the name of the Lord in vain.” Tried, condemned, and sentenced to banishment by the General Court in 1635, he was forced {due to his own illness, and his wife’s pregnancy, he was given an extension} to flee the Colony in the dead of winter to avoid likely detention and possible execution. The official sentence of the Court read as follows, “whereas Mr. Roger Williams, one of the elders of the church of Salem, hath broached and divulged diverse new and dangerous opinions against the authority of magistrates, has also written lies of defamation, both of the magistrates and churches here, and that before any conviction, and yet maintaineth the same without retraction, it is therefore ordered, that the said Mr. Williams shall depart out of this jurisdiction within six weeks now next ensuing, which if he neglect to perform, it shall be lawful for the Governor and two of the Magistrates to send him to some place out of this jurisdiction, not to return any more without license from the Court.”

With the help of friendly Indians, he escaped into the New England wilderness, finding refuge on the edge of Narraganset Bay where he, along with a few other refugees from Salem, established the Providence Plantations, {which became the Colony of Rhode Island, in essence the first beacon of real independence that ever waved over American soil, providing shelter for godly outcasts,} in 1636 as a refuge offering what he called “liberty of conscience” or a “shelter for persons distressed for conscience.” He blamed John Cotton for his banishment and stated that Cotton was the chief spokesman for the colony and the source of his problems. In his later writings, Williams recalls how he was “denied the common air to breathe...and almost without mercy and human compassion, exposed to winter miseries in a howling wilderness, {for fourteen weeks,} not knowing what bread or bed did mean.” Although the situation was grave, he would recognize the loving-kindness of the LORD in sustaining him throughout this period, along with a deep sense of gratitude to the Indians for their hospitality, which kindness he sought to repay throughout the rest of his life, learning their language and forming lasting friendships with their leaders.

In a letter he writes, “sir, I hope shortly to send you good news of great hopes the Lord hath sprung up in mine eye, of many a poor Indian soul enquiring after God. I have convinced hundreds at home and abroad that in point of religion they are all wandering, &c., I find what I could never hear before, that they have plenty of gods or divine powers, the sun, moon, fire, water, snow, earth, the deer, the bear, &c., are divine powers. I brought home lately from the Narragansetts the names of thirty-eight of their gods, all they could remember, and had I not with fear and caution withdrew, they would have fallen to worship, O God, {as they speak,} one day in seven, but I hope the time is not long that some shall truly bless the God of Heaven that ever they saw the face of English men.”

In 1644, whilst in England, {in the midst of the English Civil War,} attempting to negotiate a Charter for Rhode Island, {which he obtained through the offices of Sir Henry Vane, a leading Parliamentarian, who worked closely with Oliver Cromwell - charged for treason and beheaded in 1662,} despite strenuous opposition from Massachusetts’ agents. During this period, Williams began a pamphlet war with John Cotton, starting with the publication of his pamphlet, {considered by some to be one of the best defenses of liberty of conscience,} THE BLOODY TENANT OF PERSECUTION, during which, they both published many replies and debated their ideas at length. Throughout his pamphlet, all forms of religious persecution are vigorously condemned, since persecution liquidated both erroneous and true consciences and only God was able to separate the one from the other. The believer in Christ was not to mount the judgment seat of Pilate, for the follower of Christ was promised only a “cross” and not a sceptre and the grace of God was not evidenced when the persecuted became the persecutors. The book was emphatically denounced by the Westminster Assembly, and was ordered by Parliament to be burnt on the 9th of August, but by this time Williams himself was already on his way back to New England. This fanatical practice of book burning was adopted by the pilgrims as well, for in writing to John Winthrop the Younger, in 1654, he says, “we also hear that two of Mr. Dell’s books were lately burnt in Massachusetts, {possibly,} containing some sharp things against the Presbyterians and Academians, of which I brought over one called THE TRIAL OF SPIRITS.” {“The trial of spirits, both in teachers and hearers; wherein is held forth the clear discovery and certain downfall of the carnal and anti-Christian clergy of these nations. Testified from the word of God, to the University congregation in Cambridge, by William Dell.}

The brief pamphlet entitled, CHRISTENINGS MAKE NOT CHRISTIANS, was also published at about this time, {1645,} in which Williams critizes the extensive efforts to ‘evangelize’ the Native Indians, his primary objection being his persuasion that most of so-called Christendom, be they Protestants or Papists, exibit no more faithfulness to the true message of the Gospel, essentially Christ crucified, I Cor.2:2, than any other heathinish religion, and thus by introducing them to this mongrel form of the christian faith, one would essentially convert them from one damnable religion to another, rejecting entirelly any form of sacramental coercion as a tool for molding religion and conscience.

In that work he asserts, “if now the bodies of Protestant Nations remain in an unrepentant, unregenerate, natural estate, and so consequently far from hearing the admonitions of the Lord Jesus, Matthew 18, I say that they must sadly consider and know {least their profession of the name of Jesus prove at last but an aggravation of condemnation} that Christ Jesus hath said, they are but as Heathens and Publicans, verse 17; how might I therefore humbly beseech my country men to consider what deep cause they have to search their conversions from that Beast and his image? And whether having no more of Christ than the name, {beside the invented ways of worship, derived from, or drawn after the pattern of Rome,} their hearts and conversations will not evince them unconverted and unchristian christians, and not yet knowing what it is to come by true Regeneration within, to the true spiritual Jew from without, amongst the Nations, that are Heathen or Gentiles.”

Returning from England with a Patent from Parliament for, “the Providence Plantations in Narragansett Bay,” which incorporated Providence, Newport, and Portsmouth into a single English Colony, he found himself as a sort of commissioner of peace, averting potential bloodshed between rival Indian tribes, and the ever looming dread of the Colonists being themselves mascaraed by hostile tribes. Through his peaceable negotiations he became instrumental in keeping a settled peace between the Colonists and Indians for nearly 40 years.

Another trip to England between 1652 and 1654, upon which return he was immediately elected as President of Rhode Island, {from 1654 to 1658,} and subsequently served in many offices in town and colonial governments. During the later years of his life, he saw almost all of Providence burned during King Philip’s War, 1675-1676, which pitted the Colonists against the Indians with whom Williams had good relations in the past. In the space of little more than a year, twelve of the region’s towns were destroyed and many more were damaged, the economy of Plymouth and Rhode Island Colonies was all but ruined and their population was decimated, as more than half of New England’s towns were attacked by Indians. Williams, although in his seventies, was elected captain of the Providence Militia. That war proved to be one of the most bitter events in his life, for although his efforts helped keep Providence from almost being completely burnt, his own house was destroyed in the uprising. He lived to see Providence rebuilt, continued to preach, and interest himself in the affairs of the Colony in spite of failing health.

Williams died sometime between January and March in 1683 and was buried on his own property. Fifty years later, his house collapsed into the cellar and the location of his grave was forgotten. A good summation of his life may be gathered from his own writings, “what are all the contentions and wars of this world about but for greater dishes and bowls of porridge? But here all over this colony a great number of weak and distressed souls, scattered, are flying hither. The Most High and Only Wise hath provided this country and this corner as a shelter for the poor and persecuted according to their several persuasions. And as to myself in endeavouring after your temporal and spiritual peace, I humbly desire to say, if I perish, I perish. It is but a shadow vanished, a bubble broke, a dream finished. Eternity will pay for all.”