Thomas Williams.

A sermon, on the conclusion of the second century from the settlement of the state of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations online

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Online LibraryThomas WilliamsA sermon, on the conclusion of the second century from the settlement of the state of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations → online text (page 1 of 3)
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JUMIS, 1836.






'the settlement of the state





Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things which are Cesar's ;
and unto God the things that are God's."






Respecting Ecclesiastical policy, whatever does not accord with the
absolute Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfection of the Holy
Scriptures, the independence of Christian Churches, the official parity
of Christian Ministers and the inviolable Sanctity of every person's
Conscience, is not of Jesus Christ, but is Anti-Christian.

In every Political community, the several departments and professions
and employments should so know their places and do their duties,
that, being separated by proper distinctions and yet united by proper
ligaments, they may become, as the perfect, honored and happy members
of a living, healthy, vigorous and beautiful body.





And I will settle you after your old estates ; and will do better unto
you than at your beginnings.

The ancient people of God, on account of their pecuhar
institutions, were exposed to the hatred and contempt of
other nations. Yet, so far as they feared and served
God, they were honored and blessed by his presence and
favor. But when they departed from him, he was obliged,
by his holiness and sovereignty, to reprove and condemn
their conduct. From the evils, which they brought on
themselves by their disobedience, their enemies took
occasion to reproach that people and their God; as if
these evils were to be charged against him and his laws.
Besides, God often permitted their enemies, for a time,
to prosper and prevail, that he might instruct and humble
his people. For this reason, their enemies boasted and
triumphed, as if they had gained their designs and should
possess the high places of Israel, by the establishment of
their delusions and abominations. Under such affecting
circumstances, God addressed to Ezekiel the instructions
of the chapter which contains our text. This chapter is
entitled, "Israel revenged and comforted."

The instructions and consolations, in this precious
portion of divine truth, rightly understood and wisely
applied, it is believed, may be accommodated to the past,
the present and future condition of the State of Rhode

Island and Providence Plantations. And it is my present
object and purpose, instructed and assisted, as I hope, by
the word, the Spirit and providence of God, to adapt the
instructions of the text and context, so far as I am able,
to the conclusion of the two hundred years, since this
State began to be settled and possessed by Protestant
Reformers and Puritan Christians. For it was in the
month of June, 1636, according to the statement of James
D. Knowles, in his Memoir of Roger Williams, that the
founder of the State commenced his permanent residence
within its bounds, and called the name of the town, in
which there was given him a home for liberty with order
and for piety with humanity. Providence, In agreement
with the occasion and the design of the present discourse,
it is proposed,

I. To consider the character of the Rhode Island
Protestants, as it appears from the early settlement and
the original institutions of this christian commonwealth j

II. To inquire what is necessary to the permanent
settlement and advancement of the commonwealth upon
its original foundations ; and,

III. To show the great and happy eflects of proper
conduct respecting the civil and religious interests of the
people in this State.

I. It is proposed to consider the character of the Rhode
Island Protestants, as it appears from the early settlement
and original institutions of this christian commonwealth.

If we would understand and appreciate the character of
the christian Reformers, who founded the early settlement
and established the original institutions of this State, we
must consider their objects, their prmciples and practices
m respect to religion and government, with their real and
proper effects.

1. It was their great and special object to establish and
maintain true christian liberty. Callender says, " Mr.
Roger Williams and Mr. John Clarke, two fathers of this
colony, appear among the first, who publicly avowed, that
Jesus Christ is king in his own kingdom ; and that no
others had authority over his subjects in the affairs of
conscience and eternal salvation." Knowles says, " The
cause of Mr. Williams's banishment is to be found in the
great principle, which has immortalized his name, that
the civil power has no jurisdiction over the conscience.
The great doctrine of liberty of conscience was then a
portentous novelty ; and it was the glory of Roger
Williams, that he, in such an age, practiced it, defended
it, suifered for it and triumphantly established it." George
Bancroft, in his history of the United States, says of
Roger Williams, " In the unwavering assertion of his
views, he never changed liis position ; the sanctity of
conscience was the great tenet, which with all its conse-
quences he defended, as he first trod the shores of New
England ; and, in his extreme old age, it was the last
pulsation of his heart." To use the words of Williams
himself, " The removal of the yoke of soul-oppression, as
it will prove an act of mercy and righteousness to the
enslaved nations, so it is of binding force to engage the
whole and every interest and conscience to preserve the
common liberty and peace." In the charter, which was
obtained by John Clarke, the Sth July, 1G63, of king
Charles, the Second, it is declared to be the object of the
founders of this State, " To hold forth a lively experiment,
that a most flourishing civil State may stand and best be
maintained and that among our English subjects, with a
full liberty in religious concernments ; and that true piety,
rightly grounded on gospel principles, will give the best
and greatest security to sovereignty and will lay in the
hearts of men the strongest obligations to true loyalty."
According to this object, they were expressly andespecially


allowed to practice non-conformity to the church of
England. In the charter, it was published, granted,
ordained and declared by the king, " That our royal will
and pleasure is, that no person within the said colony, at
any time hereafter, shall be any wise molested, punished,
disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in
opinion in matters of religion and do not actually disturb
the civil peace of our said colony ; but that all and every
person and persons may, from time to time and at all
times hereafter, freely and fully, have and enjoy his and
their own judgments in matters of religious concernments,
throughout the tract of land hereafter mentioned, they
behaving themselves peaceably and quietly and not using
this liberty to licentiousness and profaneness, nor to the
civil injury, or outward disturbance of others." It was
also meant to guard the people against every civil and
worldly motive, in respect to religion ; and to maintain
the difference and distinction between ecclesiastical and
political privileges, obligations and interests. Callender
says, " This colony was a settlement and plantation for
religion and conscience." He also says, " The very
instrument of our original incorporation obliges us to
serve God and Jesus Christ and obey all his holy laws."
Such are the fundamental principles of civil and religious
liberty, which it was the great and special object of the
Rhode Island Protestants to establish and maintain, by
the early settlement and original institutions of this
christian commonwealth.

2. It was also their object to establish and maintain
christian and civil order and government, upon rational
and scriptural principles. On these subjects, it is the
first and great point of truth and duty to "render unto
Caesar the things that are Caesar's ; and unto God the
things that are God's." The sentiments and actions of
human beings cannot be right towards God and yet be

wrong towards men j nor right towards men and wrong
towards God. The law of God and the gospel of his
grace reach and bind all persons in all things. Our reason
and conscience, as well as the law and gospel of God,
teach and require us to regard and practice truth, justice and
holiness, in our temporal and civil, as well as our eternal
and sacred interests. The principles and professions of
Roger Williams, on all subjects of civil government, as well
as christian order and liberty, agreed with the decisions
of conscience and the instructions of the Scriptures. The
charter, which is the foundation of our ecclesiastical and
political administrations unto this day, sanctions and
ordains the righteous and regular establishment of gov-
ernment and order, no less than religious liberty and
christian practice. The act of this State, in the bill of
rights, is one of the noblest specimens of truth, justice
and righteousness, that was ever received by any political
community, or published by uninspired legislators. Nor
less noble, rational and scriptural is the act of the State
" relative to religious freedom and the maintenance of
ministers." The people of this State, so far as they have
conformed to their fundamental principles and original
institutions, have esteemed it their right and duty to
maintain truth, justice, order and liberty ; and therefore
to support religion and government, humanity and sobriety.
And they have guarded and secured the persons, the
property and reputation of their fellow citizens and fellow
men, by the regular process of the laws and tbe mighty
power of justice and truth, from injury and abuse, from
falsehood and violence. They have not sought, nor
allowed other persons to seek a redress of pretended, or
real wrongs, by mobs, or riots, by violence, or craftiness.
They have been as watchful, faithful and bold to maintain
justice and order, as they have been to maintain civil and
religious liberty. For what liberty can there be, in the
church, or in the State, without trnth and justice, without


law and order? Nor has it been thought a reproach, or
an offense, in any citizen, christian, or man, to procure
safety against violence and lies, or a redress of injury and
abuse, by a regular and official recourse to law and justice.
Nor have Rhode Island Protestants renounced the recti-
tude, the importance, the necessity and obligation of
military discipline and power, in subjection to civil'
government and authority, for the preservation of peace
and order, safety and property, against injustice, violence
and fraud. Immorality, infidelity and impiety have no
sanction, nor allowance, from the laws, the customs, or
even the liberties of this commonwealth. In the church
and in the State, liberty, but not lawlessness, justice, but
not cruelty, order, but not stubbornness, decency, but not
deceitfulness, tenderness, but not cowardice, are the
objects of Rhode Island piety and Rhode Island policy.
It is now proposed,

3. To consider the principles of the Rhode Island
Protestants. Their fundamental principles were right-
eousness and benevolence, reverence towards God and
affection towards men. They meant to think, feel,
speak and act right in their conduct towards their Creator,
their fellow creatures and themselves. Such are the
sentiments, that were loved and believed, professed and
practiced by Roger Williams. Such are the principles of
our charter. Such is the character of the people, according
to the acts, which form the foundation and sustain the
superstructure of their political and ecclesiastical economy.
But their principles and professions acknowledge their
obligations to benevolence, as well as righteousness. In
their institutions and performances, they have been
influenced by benevolence towards christians and citi-
zens ; and also towards strangers, foreigners, enemies and
persecutors. The truth of this statement is evident from
their conduct towards the Indians. Benevolence has


miirked their cluiracler towards the injured and tho
oppressed in other communities. Tlie people in tliis
State have generously distinguished themselves, by their
atlections and exertions in favor of the enslaved and
abused Africans and their American descendants, in
former and later years. Towards their slanderers and
despisers in other States, they have maintained a benev-
olent, dignified and unre vengeful behavior. While they
know, that they have been rejected and opposed by sister
States and sister chiuches, they have remembered the
example of their God and the prayers of their Savior
towards his persecutors and murderers. Amidst the
variety of differences and denominations, which exist
within the narrow limits of the State, in respect to
religious subjects, had not the principles and affections of
righteousness and benevolence been deeply laid in the
foundations of the commonwealth, such love and peace,
such order and friendship, such communion and happi-
ness, as generally prevail in our families, neighborhoods,
villages, churches and towns, could have had no existence.
The fundamental and professed principles of Rhode
Island, on the great subjects of religion and government,
of piety, of humanity and sobriety, are righteousness and
benevolence. They are the principles of the Bible and
of the gosix;! of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

4. We will now notice the practices of the people in
this State. In respect to their civil and rchgious, their
literary and scientific, their mercantile and mechanical,
their agricultural and military, their domestic and social
character and conduct, they have no reason to be afraid,
or ashamed of an enlightened and impartial comparison
with any other community. The christian ministers and
civil magistrates of the State, her farmers and merchants,
her mechanics and manufacturers, her physicians and
attorneys, her statesmen and warriors, her poets and


orators, stand beibrc the world, without concealment and
without deceit. The founders and the people of the
State have now stood and acted before the world two
hundred years. Until the conclusion of the second
century from the commencement of her existence, they
have stood as firmly, in the truth and order, in the spirit
and power of the gospel, as any portion of Christendom.
The people of the State did not fall from their integrity
during the conflicts and trials which they had to encounter
before the revolution. In the fearful war that gave
liberty and sovereignty to the United States of America,
under the supreme and holy government and agency of
Jehovah, in the council and in the camp, on the sea and
on the land, they were " first in the fight, though last at
the feast." And when has Rhode Island fallen, or failed,
in the State, or in the union, before she had finished her
two hundred years of faith, hope and love ? The time
would fail me, should I attempt to name the large number
of worthy citizens and faithful servants, whom God has
employed in private duties and public stations, during the
earlier and later periods of this State, for the promotion of
her various interests ; yet a numerous company, who are
worthy of the most respectful and grateful remembrance,
present themselves before my mind. But neither ,the
dead, nor the living servants of the State, nor the State
which they have truly loved and ably served, need any
other elogium than a candid and judicious acknowledge-
ment of their real and practical character.

5. Let us now attend to the result of the experiment,
which has been made by the Puritan Protestants and
Christian Reformers of Rhode Island and Providence
Plantations. And the elfects of their most adventurous
and original, independent and disinterested experiment
have completely demonstrated the truth of their principles
jmd illustrated the wisdom of their institutions. Rhode


Island has not only succeeded and prospered within her
own bounds, but slie has, under the marvellous dispensa-
tions of divine providence and by the word and Spirit of
our God and Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, for the
glory of his holy and fearful name, been a great means of
salvation to NeAV England and the United States : and
she may yet be a great means, through the exceeding
riches of divine mercy and by the exceeding greatness of
the mighty power of God, of liberty and salvation, not
only to these States, but to the nations of the earth.
For '• God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to
confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak
things of the world to confound the things which are
mighty ; and base things of the world and things v/hich
are despised hath God chosen ; yea, and things which are
not, to bring to nought things that are ; that no flesh
should glory in his presence." Rhode Island and Provi-
dence Plantations have maintained, possessed and enjoyed,
for two hundred years, liberty with order, peace \vith
truth, piety without prelacy and prosperity, in all her
concerns and interests, without presumption and without
ingratitude. And she has endured reproach without
resentment and sutfered adversity without impatience, or
despondence. " And now abideth faith, hope and love ;
these three ; but the greatest of these is love."' And il
these three sister graces and virtues, beauties and blessings
abide with us, through the presence and favor of God, he
will settle us after our old estates ; and he will do better
unto us than at our beginnings. It is now proposed,

II. To inquire what is necessary to the permanent
settlement and advancement of this commonwealth upon
its original foundations.

All things in this world are subject to great and constant
changes. Yet knowledge, goodness and wisdom, with


their happy and lovely effects, will he pennaueiit and
triumphant on earth and in heaven. Though the political
and ecclesiastical estahlishments and every sentiment and
interest and party and name, which are not of Jesus
Christ will be overthrown and destroyed ; yet whatever
is of Jesus Christ will remain and prosper and prevail.
While we review the wonderful movements of divine
Providence from the morning of the creation until the
present period, it is certain and evident, that God has
pursued the greatest and wisest and best ends, by the
most wise and proper methods, through the past scenes of
earth and time. And such ends he will pursue, by such
means, through the future scenes of earth and time, until
the judgment of the great day. Such ends by such
means he pursued in the early settlement and original
institutions of this christian republic. With such senti-
ments and impressions respecting our beloved and happy
State, we ought to review the two hundred years Vvdiich
have past since its commencement and which have so
soon flowed into the boundless ocean of eternity. And
we ought to consider, that the next two hundred years,
with no less haste, will produce events and movements of
greater wonder and more affecting interest in this State,
in this land and throughout the earth. With such a
fearful, yet joyful prospect, we are bound by every solemn
and tender motive, as men, as christians, as citizens and
philanthropists, to inquire what God and man would have
us to do, that our civil and sacred interests may be settled
after our old estates and be better than at our beginnings.

And for these important purposes, it is necessary,

1. That the people become intimately acquainted with
the history of the State. The object, the principle and
experiment of the Rhode Island Protestants were simple,
definite and peculiar. They have been tried five times


forty years : and the world have looked and wondered ;
objected, complained and blamed : but they now begin
to approve and applaud. And they will be obliged to
conform to the fundamental principles and to imitate the
original institutions of this evangelical and republican
commonwealth. The latest of American historians has
recorded the verdict of truth and justice in favor of Rhode
Island ; and all nations will pronounce the sentence, not
of innocence merely, but of commendation and eulogy.
Yea, it is believed, that the Supreme Judge and Sovereign
of heaven and earth approves, by his word and spirit and
providence, of her " work of faith and labor of love and
patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." And shall
we impeach, or pervert the testimony of two hundred
years in our favor, renounce our birthright for a mess of
potage and deprive our children of the possessions and
enjoyments, which our fathers won for us, in tlieir
warfare for truth and peace against earth and hell ? If
we would not commit such wickedness against God and
man and be guilty of such folly, v/e ought to obtain and
publish an accurate and faithfal account of our early
Settlement and of the foundations and experiments of our
ecclesiastical and political institutions. If we would
estabhsh and advance the interests of this State in the
doctrines, duties and blessings of the Gospel and of the
Rhode Island Protestants and Puritans, we must become
intimately acquainted with their most instructive and
atFecting history and the great and happy eflccts of their
living and lively experiment. Scraps and fragments of
our history, a narrow and selfish account of parties and
sects, will not show unto us, nor to our children the
power and glory of God. as they have shone in this State ;
nor will they teach us our duty and safety. 0, for that
spirit of grace and wisdom, which was so mighty in the
founder of this State, that " he was not afraid to stand
alone for truth against the world." Let the people of


this State arise and stand for the truth of their own
history and act according to their fundamental principles
and their original institutions ; and they shall find, before
two hundred years, from this day, shall close their hasty
flight, that the earth shall embrace the same holy princi-
ples and be blessed with the same righteous and benevolent
institutions with their powerful and practical influence
and effects.

2. It is no less important and necessary to maintain
correct sentiments, respecting our civil and religious
interests. Such sentiments were avowed and maintained
against the Avorld, by the founder of this State. And
uoto this day, it is the public sentiment and the solemn
profession of this v/hole people, " that truth is great and
will prevail, if left to herself; that she is the proper and
sufficient antagonist to error and has nothing to fear from
the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of
her natural weapons, free argument and debate ; errors
ceasing to be dangerous, when it is permitted freely to
contradict them." These sentiments are scriptural and
rational : they are glorious and beautiful. And they will
arise and shhie upon all nations and fill the earth with
light and love, with faith and hope, with peace and joy,
Av'itli order and liberty, with purity and happiness, with
glory, beauty and praise. Shall such doctrines, then,
after they have been tried in this State two hundred
years, now be disregarded, disobeyed, opposed and hated ?
Sljall we for strange nonsense and foolish novelties, turn
from the old estates of our beloved and happy heritage
and renounce the principles and the privileges, which
have, for two centuries, distinguished the commonwealth
of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in important
respects, from every other portion of Christendom .-' It
should be our study and prayer before God and our
constant labor before man, that the people in this State may


never renounce, nor despise their heavenly inheritance ;

but maintain and transmit to successive generations, until

the world shall end, the principles of civil and christian

liberty, order, truth and peace, by which they have been

so long and so highly blessed. But we are warranted to

seek for our children, not only the liberties, the honors

and blessings, which our fathers acquired for us ; but

higher and nobler possessions and enjoyments. There is

a precious word, on which God causes us to hope : " I

will settle you after your old estates ,• and will do better

unto you, than at your beginnings." But such an hope,

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Online LibraryThomas WilliamsA sermon, on the conclusion of the second century from the settlement of the state of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations → online text (page 1 of 3)