Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. III: Colonial Literature, 16071764
The Bloody Tenent of Persecution
By Roger Williams (1604?1683)
[Died at Providence, R. I., 1683. The Bloody Tenent yet more Bloody. 1652.]
TRUTH. Dear Peace, our golden sand is out, we now must part with an holy kiss of heavenly peace and love; Mr. Cotton speaks and writes his conscience; yet the Father of Lights may please to show him that what he highly esteems as a tenent washed white in the Lambs blood, is yet more black and abominable, in the most pure and jealous eye of God.
TRUTH. Christ Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, hath broke forth, and daily will, to a brighter and brighter discovery of this deformed Ethiopian. And for myself I must proclaim, before the most holy God, angels, and men, that (whatever other white and heavenly tenents Mr. Cotton holds) yet this is a foul, a black, and a bloody tenent.
A tenent of high blasphemy against the God of Peace, the God of Order, who hath of one blood made all mankind, to dwell upon the face of the earth, now all confounded and destroyed in their civil beings and subsistences by mutual flames of war from their several respective religions and consciences.
A tenent fighting against the sweet end of his coming, which was not to destroy mens lives, for their religions, but to save them by the meek and peaceable invitations and persuasions of his peaceable wisdoms maidens.
A tenent foully charging his wisdom, faithfulness, and love, in so poorly providing such magistrates and civil powers all the world over, as might effect so great a charge pretended to be committed to them.
A tenent lamentably guilty of his most precious blood, shed in the blood of so many hundred thousands of his poor servants by the civil powers of the world, pretending to suppress blasphemies, heresies, idolatries, superstition, etc.
A tenent fighting with those mighty angels who stand up for the peace of the saints, against Persia, Grecia, etc., and so consequently, all other nations, who fighting for their several religions, and against the truth, leave no room for such as fear and love the Lord on the earth.
A tenent, against which the blessed souls under the altar cry loud for vengeance, this tenent having cut their throats, torn out their hearts, and poured forth their blood in all ages, as the only heretics and blasphemers in the world .
A tenent loathsome and ugly (in the eyes of the God of heaven, and serious sons of men) I say, loathsome with the palpable filths of gross dissimulation and hypocrisy. Thousands of peoples and whole nations compelled by this tenent to put on the foul vizard of religious hypocrisy, for fear of laws, losses, and punishments, and for the keeping and hoping for of favor, liberty, worldly commodity, etc.
A tenent wofully guilty of hardening all false and deluded consciences (of whatsoever sect, faction, heresy, or idolatry, though never so horrid and blasphemous) by cruelties and violences practised against them; all false teachers and their followers (ordinarily; contracting a brawny and steely hardness from their sufferings for their consciences.
A tenent that shuts and bars out the gracious prophecies and promises and discoveries of the most glorious Sun of Righteousness, Christ Jesus, that burns up the holy Scriptures, and forbids them (upon the point) to be read in English, or that any trial or search, or (truly) free disquisition be made by them; when the most able, diligent, and conscionable readers must pluck forth their own eyes, and be forced to read by the (whichsoever predominant) clergys spectacles.
A tenent that seals up the spiritual graves of all men, Jews and Gentiles (and consequently stands guilty of the damnation of all men), since no preachers, nor trumpets of Christ himself may call them out, but such as the several and respective nations of the world themselves allow of.
A tenent that fights against the common principles of all civility, and the very civil being and combinations of men in nations, cities, etc., by commixing (explicitly or implicitly) a spiritual and civil state together, and so confounding and overthrowing the purity and strength of both .
A tenent that stunts the growth and flourishing of the most likely and hopefulest commonweals and countries, while consciences, the best, and the best deserving subjects are forced to fly (by enforced or voluntary banishment) from their native countries; the lamentable proof whereof England hath felt in the flight of so many worthy English into the Low Countries and New-England, and from New-England into old again and other foreign parts.
A tenent whose gross partiality denies the principles of common justice, while men weigh out to the consciences of all others that which they judge not fit nor right to be weighed out to their own. Since the persecutors rule is, to take and persecute all consciences, only himself must not be touched.
In the sad consideration of all which (dear Peace) let heaven and earth judge of the washing and color of this tenent. For thee, sweet heavenly guest, go lodge thee in the breasts of the peaceable and humble witnesses of Jesus, that love the truth in peace! Hide thee from the worlds tumults and combustions in the breasts of thy truly noble children, who profess and endeavor to break the irony and insupportable yokes upon the souls and consciences of any of the sons of men.
PEACE. Methinks (dear Truth) if any of the least of these deep charges be found against this tenent, you do not wrong it when you style it bloody. But since, in the woful proof of all ages past, since Nimrod (the hunter or persecutor before the Lord) these and more are lamentably evident and undeniable. It gives me wonder that so many and so excellent eyes of Gods servants should not espy so foul a monster, especially considering the universal opposition this tenent makes against Gods glory, and the good of all mankind.
TRUTH. There hath been many foul opinions, with which the old serpent hath infected and bewitched the sons of men (touching God, Christ, the Spirit, the Church, against holiness, against peace, against civil obedience, against chastity), insomuch that even sodomy itself hath been a tenent maintained in print by some of the very pillars of the Church of Rome. But this tenent is so universally opposite to God and man, so pernicious and destructive to both (as hath been declared) that like the powder-plot, it threatens to blow up all religion, all civility, all humanity, yea, the very being of the world, and the nations thereof at once.
TRUTH. Yea the bloodiness and inhumanity of it is such, that not only Mr. Cottons more tender and holy breast, but even the most bloody Bonners and Gardiners have been forced to arm themselves with the fair shows and glorious pretences of the glory of God, and zeal for that glory, the love of his truth, the gospel of Christ Jesus, love and pity to mens souls, the peace of the Church, uniformity, order, the peace of the commonweal, the wisdom of the state, the Kings, Queens, and Parliaments proceedings, the odiousness of sects, heresies, blasphemies, novelties, seducers, and their infections, the obstinacy of heretics, after all means, disputations, examinations, synods, yea, and after conviction in the poor heretics own conscience. Add to these the flattering sound of those glossing titles, the godly magistrate, the Christian magistrate, the nursing fathers and mothers of the Church, Christian kings and queens. But all other kings and magistrates (even all the nations of the world over, as Mr. Cotton pleads) must suspend and hold their hands, and not meddle in matters of religion until they be informed, etc.
TRUTH. But see (my heavenly sister and true stranger in this sea-like, restless, raging world), see here what fires and swords are come to part us! Well; our meetings in the heavens shall not thus be interrupted, our kisses thus distracted, and our eyes and cheeks thus wet, unwiped. For me, though censured, threatened, persecuted, I must profess, while heaven and earth lasts, that no one tenent that either London, England, or the world doth harbor, is so heretical, blasphemous, seditious, and dangerous to the corporal, to the spiritual, to the present, to the eternal good of all men, as the bloody tenent (however washed and whited) I say, as is the bloody tenent of persecution for cause of conscience.