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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

How the Heresies Came to an End

By Thomas Weld (1590?–1662)

[From “A Short Story of the Rise, Reign, and Ruin of the Antinomiams.” 1644.]

THE LAST stroke that slew the opinions, was the falling away of their leaders into more hideous and soul-destroying delusions, which ruin, indeed, all religion; as, that the souls of men are mortal like the beasts.

That there is no such thing as inherent righteousness.

That these bodies of ours shall not rise again.

That their own revelations of particular events were as infallible as the Scripture, etc.

They also grew, many of them, very loose and degenerate in their practices (for these opinions will certainly produce a filthy life by degrees), as no prayer in their families, no Sabbath, insufferable pride, frequent and hideous lying; divers of them being proved guilty, some of five, others of ten gross lies; another falling into a lie, God smote him in the very act, that he sunk down into a deep swoon, and being by hot waters recovered, and coming to himself, said: “Oh God! Thou mightst have struck me dead, as Ananias and Sapphira, for I have maintained a lie!”…

These things exceedingly amazed their followers (especially such as were led after them in the simplicity of their hearts, as many were), and now they began to see that they were deluded by them.

A great while they did not believe that Mistress Hutchinson and some others did hold such things as they were taxed for, but when themselves heard her defending her twenty-nine cursed opinions in Boston church, and there falling into fearful lying, with an impudent forehead in the open assembly, then they believed what before they could not, and were ashamed before God and men that ever they were so led aside from the Lord and his truth, and the godly counsel of their faithful ministers, by such an impostor as she was.

Now no man could lay more upon them, than they would upon themselves in their acknowledgments.

Many after this came unto us, who before flew from us, with such desires as those in Acts ii.: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” and did willingly take shame to themselves in the open assemblies by confessing (some of them with many tears) how they had given offence to the Lord and his people by departing from the truth and being led by a spirit of error, their alienation from their brethren in their affections, and their crooked and perverse walking in contempt of authority, slighting the churches and despising the counsel of their godly teachers.

Now they would freely discover the sleights the adversaries had used to undermine them by, and steal away their eyes from the truth and their brethren, which before (whiles their hearts were sealed) they could not see. And the fruit of this was, great praise to the Lord, who had thus wonderfully wrought matters about, gladness in all our hearts and faces, and expressions of our renewed affections by receiving them again into our bosoms, and from that time until now have walked, according to their renewed covenants, humbly and lovingly amongst us, holding forth truth and peace with power.

But for the rest, which (notwithstanding all these means of conviction from heaven and earth, and the example of their seduced brethren’s return) yet stood obdurate, yea, more hardened (as we had cause to fear) than before; we convented those of them that were members before the churches, and yet labored once and again to convince them, not only of their errors, but also of sundry exorbitant practices which they had fallen into; as manifest pride, contempt of authority, neglecting to fear the church, and lying, etc., but after no means prevailed we were driven with sad hearts to give them up to Satan. Yet not simply for their opinions, for which I find we have been slanderously traduced, but the chiefest cause of their censure was their miscarriages, as has been said, persisted in with great obstinacy.

The persons cast out of the churches were about nine or ten, as far as I can remember; who for a space continued very hard and impenitent, but afterward some of them were received into fellowship again, upon their repentance.

These persons cast out, and the rest of the ring-leaders that had received sentence of banishment, with many others infected by them, that were neither censured in court nor in churches, went all together out of our jurisdiction and precinct into an island, called Rhode Island (surnamed by some, the Island of Errors), and there they live to this day, most of them; but in great strife and contention in the civil estate and otherwise; hatching and multiplying new opinions, and cannot agree, but are miserably divided into sundry sects and factions.

But Mistress Hutchinson, being weary of the Island, or rather, the Island weary of her, departed from thence with all her family, her daughter, and her children, to live under the Dutch, near a place called by seamen and in the map, Hell-gate. (And now I am come to the last act of her tragedy, a most heavy stroke upon herself and hers, as I received it very lately from a godly hand in New-England.) There the Indians set upon them and slew her and all her family, and her daughter’s husband and all their children, save one that escaped (her own husband being dead before), a dreadful blow. Some write that the Indians did burn her to death with fire, her house and all the rest named that belonged to her; but I am not able to affirm by what kind of death they slew her, but slain it seems she is, according to all reports. I never heard that the Indians in those parts did ever before this commit the like outrage upon any one family, or families; and therefore God’s hand is the more apparently seen herein, to pick out this woful woman, to make her and those belonging to her an unheard of heavy example of their cruelty above others.

Thus the Lord heard our groans to heaven and freed us from this great and sore affliction, which first was small, like Elias’ cloud, but after spread the heavens; and hath (through great mercy) given the churches rest from this disturbance ever since; that we know none that lifts up his head to disturb our sweet peace, in any of the churches of Christ among us. Blessed forever be his Name.

I bow my knees to the God of truth and peace, to grant these churches as full a riddance from the same or like opinions, which do destroy his truth and disturb their peace.