Roger Williams, New England Firebrand

By James Ernst | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
WINDS OF DOCTRINE

IN THE Narragansett country, winds of doctrine tossed to and fro the children of men thirsting for the milk of faith and truth, and crying in their bewildered search, "Whither should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Many mouths were full of Light and Life, Truth and Righteousness, Liberty and Conscience, Law and Gospel, Free Grace and Jesus Christ; thereby religion was much mangled and well-meaning minds not a little distracted which way to take. One extremity begat another. The floodgates of profaneness and prophecy were opened. And one Roger Williams -- "a man of thirty-four, of bold and stout jaws, but with the richest and softest eyes, gazing out over the Bay of his dwelling, a spiritual Crusoe, the excommunicated even of Hugh Peters, and the most extreme and outcast soul in all America"1 -- was teaching, "Ye are all the children of God."

Though without a formal dismissal from the Bay and Plymouth churches, the first settlers at Providence held religious services, usually at Williams' house, regularly on the Sabbath and week days. Among the first thirteen settlers were two ordained ministers, Roger Williams and Thomas James; a few miles up the Pawtucket River on Study Hill lived the recluse and mystic, Reverend William Blackstone. These three men preached to the associates

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1
Masson, Life of Milton, Vol. II, p. 563.

-206-

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