Liberty & Responsibility: The Life, Theology, and Legacy of Roger Williams

Introduction

Roger Williams Statue

Roger Williams could be described as a chronological example of Jesus statement that “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”[1] For a man who has been credited with such a large contribution to American thought, very little is known about the details of his life.[2] The dates of both his birth and his death are unknown, his sermons have not survived, and he did not receive any great honor during his life or immediately after his death.[3] The legacy that has since been traced back to him, especially in regards to religious liberty and civility, would not have been expected by his contemporaries, especially those with whom he sparred over theological, philosophical, and political issues. The lack of appreciation in his own time was surely at least in part due to his progressive nonconformity (he counted himself among the Anglicans, Puritans, Separatists, and Baptists within the span of a few short years before finally shunning all established churches). However, it was his ability to balance two seemingly conflicting views (the universal and inalienable right of religious liberty and a corresponding need for civic responsibility) that made him unique, both in his own time and beyond, and has earned him honor from both sides of political and theological arguments ever since.

From Birth to Banishment

Even though little information about Roger Williams’ life has survived to the present day,[4] it is possible to reconstruct some of the more important periods of his life, especially the major turning points in his ministry and thought. His writings also contain some information that shed light on his thinking and motivation if not his biographical data.

Roger Williams was the third of four children born to James and Alice Pemberton Williams at the turn of the seventeenth century.[5] While even the year of his birth is lost to history, it is possible, if not probable, that it coincided with the English royal house changing from Tudor to Stuart when James I assumed the throne in 1603.[6] Williams’ childhood was spent in the London suburb of Smithfield, where his family was registered at St. Sepulchre’s parish.[7] Thanks to the patronage of Sir Edward Coke, he was educated at Charterhouse Grammar School before enrolling at Cambridge, where he studied at Pembroke College to be a minister in the Church of England.[8] While a student, Williams joined a group of Puritans,[9] showing the first signs of the nonconformity that would eventually characterize his adult life.[10] Puritans, once enthusiastic and hopeful at the ascension of James I, a son of Calvinist Scotland, had since become disillusioned as James and his son and successor, Charles I, required even stricter adherence to the Church of England instead of pressing for the reform that Puritans desired.[11] For Puritans to remain in Anglican churches during the first half of the seventeenth century was awkward at best[12] and dangerous at worst.[13] Since remaining in England meant choosing between persecution and hypocrisy, Puritans began leaving for the New World, where they could worship according to their consciences without interference or pressure.[14]

Despite his Puritan leanings, Williams initially held out hope that reformation of the Church of England was still possible.[15] Upon completion of his studies in 1627, he swore “the customary allegiance to the monarch’s favorite three articles: the scriptural authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles, the supremacy of the monarch in ecclesiastical as well as civil matters, and the legitimacy of using the Book of Common Prayer.”[16] However, in the spring of 1629, he accepted a position as a family chaplain for Sir William Masham[17] rather than violate his conscience by serving in an Anglican church.[18] In December 1629, Williams married one of Masham’s maids, Mary Barnard. By this time, his views were becoming more and more conspicuous, and he was feeling stifled by the lack of responsibility[19] in his position so he and Mary traveled to Bristol and set sail for New England on the Lyon.[20] The couple arrived in Boston on February 5, 1631 and were welcomed by John Winthrop, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who noted that Williams was a “godly minister.”[21] A minister of Williams’ education and reputation was a welcome and needed addition to the nascent colony.[22]

These good feelings, however, would not last. At some point, unbeknownst to the people around him, Williams had progressed from Puritan to Separatist. As such, he no longer believed that the Anglican Church was a tainted church in need of purification, but a false church from which one needed to separate.[23] Thus, when he was offered a position as teacher at the church in Boston, he sacrificed a promising career and turned it down because the church had not explicitly separated from the Church of England.[24] Seeking a congregation whose views were more in line with his own, Williams took his wife and moved to Salem, approximately 15 miles north of the city, where the church was much more Separatist in nature.[25] However, when the church leaders in Boston heard that Salem had offered Williams the teacher post there, they used their influence to persuade the church there to reconsider.[26] Having rejected one position and been denied a second, he spent the next two years serving at the church in Plymouth, occasionally preaching, but not officially ordained.[27]

Yet even among a more like-minded people, Williams was still unsatisfied, and his nonconformity continued to progress. A major point of contention between him and his congregation was that Plymouth residents would worship in Anglican churches when they visited England without any repercussions upon their return to the colonies.[28] Finally, late in 1633, having apparently fallen into beliefs and practice that even Plymouth found strange, Williams left the settlement and returned to Salem.[29]

Upon his arrival, Williams immediately joined in arguments that once again pitted him against the leadership in Boston. The first controversy regarded whether it was appropriate for a woman to pray unveiled. Williams interpreted the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:13 to be binding, while Boston’s newly arrived minister, John Cotton, viewed the command as specific to the culture to which Paul wrote and not normative for all believers of all times.[30] A second controversy into which Williams must have surely injected himself was a debate over the English flag, which included a red papal cross. Believing that a symbol of the papacy had no place on the flag of a Puritan people, the Separatist-leaning residents of Salem, led by John Endicott, had taken to cutting the cross out of the flag. The more temperate members of the town feared that this desecration of the national flag bordered on treason.[31]

In addition to fanning the flames of pre-existing arguments, Williams also created his own controversies while in Salem. He had taken the time to learn the language and culture of the neighboring tribes of Native Americans and had come to the conclusion that they deserved the same rights as Englishmen. His first published work, A Key into the Language of America (1643), was an anthropological work that laid the foundation for his future fight for religious liberty.[32] Rather than portraying the Native Americans as savages, Williams pointed out ways in which they are similar, and at times superior, to their European contemporaries. His conclusion in 1633 was that the charter that Charles I had given to the Massachusetts Bay Colony was invalid because the King of England had no right to give away the Native American’s land without their permission and without compensation.[33] This assertion earned Williams rebukes from Winthrop and Cotton and a hearing before the General Court to investigate whether it constituted treason. While no formal charges were brought, the attention of the entire colony was now on this provocative preacher. [34]

To the consternation of the colonial leaders, Williams was not done yet. Instead, he began teaching that it was a violation of conscience to force an unbeliever to swear by God and that civil magistrates had the authority to enforce the Second Table of the Law (i.e., the final six commandments) only.[35] By doing so, Williams had become more than just an irritant. He was directly challenging the Calvinist theology of his day as it regarded the relationship between Church and State, taking instead a position much more reminiscent of an Anabaptist than a typical Puritan, or even Separatist, would have been comfortable taking.[36] Williams had now questioned the king’s authority both in the colonies and in religious matters. Since his role as pastor in Salem gave his nonconformist views greater weight than they had had in the past, leaders in Boston decided they could no longer ignore him.[37] When Salem applied for an additional land grant in 1635, the General Court refused to rule on their application until the question of Roger Williams had been settled. If they were hoping for an easy resolution, they were sorely mistaken.

After being warned that his views were erroneous and dangerous, Williams wrote to the Boston church and accused its leaders of dealing with the church at Salem in an uncharitable and unchristian manner, insisting that Salem was suffering a civil punishment for a perceived religious error. According to Williams, the church at Salem had sought compassion and understanding, but the Boston church had responded more like the General Court than a sister church.[38] Rather than seeking compromise, both sides became entrenched in their positions. As more and more of his defenders deserted him, Williams was summoned to the General Court again on October 8, 1635. The following day, after Williams had rejected one final chance to recant, the court ordered that he be banished from the colony within six weeks. In less than four years, Roger Williams had gone from a respected minister, eagerly welcomed by the church at Boston, to a social outcast banished from the land to which he had fled in search of religious freedom, with the irony being that the sentence was carried out as a result of his desire to see that religious liberty extended to all men.

The Founding of Rhode Island

Roger Williams had been exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but as the six-week period set for Williams’ exile dragged on, the practicality of this sentence came into question. He had complied with the command not to spread his views through preaching, but he unashamedly continued to hold them and share them with visitors while under house arrest.[39] This refusal to accept his accuser’s jurisdiction to bring him to trial and sentence him in a civil court over religious matters (albeit while obeying the letter of the law, if not the spirit) foreshadowed his eventual use of this incident as a pulpit from which to expound his views.[40] Eventually, however, the court decided that Williams needed to be expedited out of the colony and resolved to send him back to England. Having heard of this plot from friends, and knowing that England would be even less receptive to his views than Boston had been, Williams escaped from house arrest.[41] Despite their adversarial relationship, even John Winthrop advised Williams to leave the colony as quickly as possible.

Knowing he was better off among the Native Americans than his own countrymen, Williams fled into the wilderness and spent 14 weeks wandering in the snow before establishing a settlement at the headwaters of the Narragansett Bay, outside the borders of the English colonies. Built on land dutifully purchased from the Native Americans, Providence, as the village was named, would be a settlement dedicated to religious liberty and the separation of the church and state.[42] In the spring of 1637, Williams sent for his wife and two small children, and they were soon joined by former neighbors and friends from Salem. The families set about planting seeds to sustain themselves, and Williams borrowed against his house in Salem for money with which to purchase food and tools from the Indians. By 1640 the community was large enough (perhaps 40 families) to require some form of a civil government, and they gathered together to declare, “We agree … to hold forth Liberty of Conscience.”[43] Roger Williams’ grand experiment[44] had begun.

Before he could dedicate himself to the success of his newly established colony, however, Williams would be called upon to assist his former one. As one of the few colonists who took the time to learn the culture and languages of the neighboring Indian tribes, Williams was in high demand when conflict broke out between the tribes and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637. Williams was also trusted by the Native Americans due to his fair dealings with them when purchasing land for Providence. Often travelling great distances by himself through hazardous terrain, Williams successfully negotiated with the Narragansett tribe to keep them from allying with the Pequots against the Massachusetts Bay Colony. While Massachusetts took the opportunity to virtually annihilate the Pequots as a tribe (with the help of Plymouth and Connecticut), Williams found himself back in favor due to his diplomacy on the colony’s behalf. Some even advocated for the General Court to lift the banishment and allow Williams to return home. However, the court refrained from overturning its previous decision and Williams continued building up Providence.

A second threat to the early success of Providence came through Anne Hutchinson, who would be the first to test Williams’ belief in religious liberty. Once a faithful follower of John Cotton, Hutchinson was condemned and banished for teaching antinomianism, the idea that the “bond between religion and morality was accidental, not essential.”[45] In other words, there was no moral imperative for Christians to avoid sin because God is generous with his grace. To make matters worse, Hutchinson claimed to have been given new revelation and preached with an authority not given to women in Puritan Massachusetts. After being found guilty at her trial, she was sentenced to the same fate as Williams: banishment from the colony. However, whereas Williams had nowhere to turn when he fled from Massachusetts, there was someplace where Hutchinson could go: Providence. In 1638, Hutchinson and more than eighty households established (with Williams’ help) the cities of Portsmouth and Newport on Rhode Island, the largest island in Narragansett Bay.[46] Shortly thereafter, another religious dissident, Samuel Gorton, settled the town of Warwick after his radical views caused him to break both from Massachusetts and from Hutchinson’s group. Suddenly, Williams’ colony had four towns and three different religious dissenter groups.

While Anne Hutchinson had been labeled an antinomian and Gorton’s teachings were similar to those espoused by the Quakers,[47] Roger Williams by this point had essentially come to an Anabaptist position. While he had long held political views in line with those taught by the Anabaptists (i.e., complete separation of church and state and the liberty of conscience), Williams had now become convinced that the New Testament called for credobaptism (or believer’s baptism) rather than paedobaptism (infant baptism). Never one to hedge his bets, Williams set about obeying his conscience by joining together with twenty others to found the first Baptist church in the New World and choosing one of the twenty to baptize him and all the others.[48] While Williams soon left this group of Baptists due to the progression of his own beliefs on baptism and the apostolic church, his sympathies continued to lie with the church he helped found and others like it (as evidenced by his friendship and partnership with John Clarke, who pastored a Baptist church in Newport).[49]

While he was struggling to define his own religious beliefs, Williams continued to fight for the survival of his family and his colony. No longer employed in his chosen profession, and with his family growing to eight (six children in addition to Roger and Mary), Williams fell back on his father’s occupation and established trading posts, where he dealt primarily with Indian tribes, but also with English and Dutch settlers. However, in 1643, he determined it was time to leave the communities that he led and journey to England to secure a royal charter to legitimize the colony’s right to exist (previously, Boston authorities had blatantly crossed into Warwick to seize Samuel Groton and bring him back to face charges there). Since Boston printers refused to print anything written by him, Williams also hoped to secure a printer who would help him clarify his misunderstood positions.[50]

Williams could not have chosen a better time to request a charter for his colony. With England embroiled in a civil war between the Puritan Roundheads and loyalist Cavaliers, the nation was more open to religious diversity than in years past. The power shift had also enabled friends and sympathizers of Williams to rise to positions of authority. After several months of making his case to the right people, and thanks in no small part to the success of A Key into the Language of America, which was printed within his first few months in London, Williams secured a charter for the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He would no longer have to worry about Massachusetts or Connecticut attempting to annex the land and thus end his experiment in liberty.[51]

Liberty & Responsibility in Williams’ Writings

While it may have been difficult for Roger Williams’ contemporaries to understand the thought process behind his actions, his published works give insight into the motivations and principles that drove him. While his advocacy for religious liberty was obviously an overriding factor in these early days (and what he is most well-known for), he was equally concerned with civic responsibility and civil discourse. Williams had no concept of freedom without responsibility, of individualism at the expense of society. His written works display a belief that individual liberty was ultimately good for society, but he also believed that one’s conscience could be violated under dire circumstances in which society’s good must be put ahead of the individual’s good.

Williams had spent his months at sea preparing A Key into the Language of America for publication. By publishing it in 1643, Williams unwittingly played into the English fascination with Native Americans that had existed since Pocahontas had visited several decades earlier. Williams intended the work not only to explain Native American culture and language to Englishmen, but also as a commentary on both Indian and English society. He repeatedly pointed out areas in which the “savage” is actually more moral and civilized than the colonists. It is also in this first work that Williams laid the foundation for his later assertions that religious liberty is an inalienable right of all men by demonstrating that Native Americans are in fact moral agents who hold many of the same values as Europeans.[52] In a later essay, Christenings Make Not Christians, Williams drove this point home by declaring that the term heathen applies to all those “in opposition to this People of God …. all people, civilized as well as uncivilized, even the most famous states, cities, and kingdoms of the world.”[53] In other words, there is no difference between the unbelieving Indian and the unbelieving Englishmen; they are both heathens. By putting unbelieving members of Christendom on the same level as the savage Indians, Williams both emphasized the hypocrisy in looking down on the natives and denied that unbelieving members of Puritan society were somehow part of a covenant relationship with God similar to that of Old Testament Israel. However, despite the fact that Williams definition meant that heathens were pervasive in society, he still resisted the urge to compel them to faith in violation of their conscience: “The will in worship, if true, is like a free vote …  Jesus Christ compels by the mighty persuasions of his messengers to come in, but otherwise with earthly weapons he never did compel nor can be compelled.”[54]

Soon after Williams was banished from Massachusetts, he began a correspondence with John Cotton in which they debated the circumstances that led to his exile. While Williams was in London in 1644, one of Cotton’s letters was published through an unknown source. In Mr. Cotton’s Letter Lately Printed, Examined, and Answered, Williams defended himself publicly by asserting that it was Cotton’s theological error, not his own Separatist views, that led to his exile. In doing so, Williams had two primary emphases. The first was the need for complete separation of church and state. Against Cotton’s declaration that the church and state were in fact separate in Massachusetts, Williams asked, “…why was I not permitted to live in the world or commonwealth, except for this reason: that the commonwealth and church is yet one, and he that is banished from the one must necessarily be banished from the other also.”[55] If one were punished by the state for issues related to conscience, then there was not really separation, nor was there really a church. Williams’ second emphasis, therefore, was that true churches were marked by separation, both from the state and from false churches: “I said and still affirm that godly and regenerate persons … are not fitted to constitute the true Christian church until it has pleased God to convince their souls of the evil of the false church, ministry, [and] worship.”[56]

Also published during Williams’ time in London was Queries of Highest Consideration, an anonymous challenge to the Independents and Presbyterians who were bickering over church polity in the Westminster Assembly. Rather than choose sides, Williams opposed both groups for trying to impose the dictates of their conscience on the nation as a whole. To show the seriousness of forcing one to violate his own conscience, Williams draws a comparison to perhaps the most heinous of crimes: “… since the commonwealth cannot without a spiritual rape force the consciences of all to one worship, oh, that it may never commit that rape, in forcing the consciences of all men to one worship, which a stronger arm and sword may soon (as formerly) arise to alter.…”[57] Williams knew that the history of England proved his point as the sixteenth century was marked by rulers forcing the nation as a whole to convert back and forth between Catholicism and Anglicanism. He went on to ask whether “it be not a true mark and character of a false church to persecute,”[58] implying that the established churches (including the Puritans in Massachusetts) are betrayed as false churches by their persecution of true believers.

Roger Williams’ most thorough and famous defense of religious liberty is found in The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, published in 1644, and the follow up (a rebuttal of John Cotton’s rebuttal), The Bloudy Tenent Yet More Bloudy (1652). As the titles imply, these two works set out to show that “there is no doctrine, no tenant so directly tending to break the cities’ peace as this doctrine of persecuting or punishing each other for cause of conscience or religion.”[59] Perhaps justifying his own behavior and refusal to submit to or compromise with the Massachusetts authorities, Williams wrote that “God’s people were and ought to be nonconformists, not daring either to be restrained from the true or constrained to false worship.”[60] His primary example of this was Jesus himself, who refused to use the state or the established religion to institute his kingdom or his agenda, choosing instead to delegate his kingly power “to messengers which he sent forth to preach and baptize, and to such as believed that word they preached.”[61] The intention was always for the kingdom to expand by people voluntarily responding to the preaching of the gospel. Compelling them to faith was never an option.

One of the main passages of Scripture that Williams used to defend his view is the parable of the wheat and tares. While the magisterial interpretation of this parable held that believers and unbelievers could both be part of the church, Williams interpreted it as saying that unbelievers and believers would live together in this world, and that at times it might be difficult to tell the difference between the two, but that it was not incumbent on the church to make the tares look or act like wheat.[62] Williams also used the analogy of the two tables of the law. Just as the first table deals with religious matters and the second table with civil ones, Williams believed that there were religious punishments for the first table and civil ones for the second. Neither the church nor the state were to use the second table’s sword to punish violations of the first table.[63] Williams portrayed the early church as the ideal, tracing the problems he was facing to the marriage of church and state under Emperor Constantine: “… Christianity fell asleep in Constantine’s bosom. The unknowing zeal of Constantine and other emperors did more hurt to Christ Jesus [and] his crown and kingdom than the raging fury of the most bloody Neros.”[64] He went on to write, “When Christianity began to be choked, it was not when Christians lodged in cold prisons, but down beds of ease, and persecuted others.” For Williams, being persecuted for one’s conscience was a sign of true faith, while persecuting others for the same was a sign of false faith.

Finally, The Bloudy Tenent reinforced two key components of Williams’ view of church-state relations. First is the idea that Israel’s civil enforcement of religion is not a pattern for the Church to follow. While Israel is an Old Testament “type” for the Church, the Church is not Israel.[65] Whereas Israel was one people and one nation, the Church is comprised of people from every nation. Whereas Israel was a nation-state invested with civil authority, the Church is a spiritual group invested only with spiritual authority.[66] Secondly, Williams believed that the Church and State were two separate spheres and that Christ is honored when each governs within their own spheres.[67]

Liberty & Responsibility in Action

Having secured Rhode Island’s charter, Williams returned home in the fall of 1644 and was elected to lead the newly formed colony. As the chief officer of such a young government, Williams was responsible for a variety of tasks ranging from menial to weighty in importance. Almost immediately, he began to express concern for the less fortunate members of his society and set about establishing means to help widows, orphans, and other needy citizens. While a proponent of individual liberty, Williams believed that when no other option existed, the civil government was obligated to protect and provide for its needy citizens.[68] This was consistent with his belief that government’s role was provide a peaceful and stable society, a common moral code, and an arena where individuals were free to act morally according to their conscience.[69]

This balance between liberty and civility is also seen in the way in which Roger Williams interacted with those groups with whom he disagreed, most notably the Quakers. Due to their deviant beliefs and behaviors, Rhode Island was one of the few colonies where Quakers could live and worship freely. However, while Williams undoubtedly defended their religious liberties within his colonies, he vehemently disagreed with them publicly, with the most famous instance being the one described in George Fox Digged from His Bourroughs. While some have seen his attacks on Quaker doctrine as evidence that he was not as tolerant as he appeared, it is better to take them as evidence of how deeply he held his own convictions.[70] Although he disagreed with them, he never tried to coerce them into abandoning their faith, force them to leave the colony, or speak to them harshly or inappropriately. In fact, one of his biggest complaints about the Quakers with whom he debated was their lack of civility in dealing with others.[71] It was important to Williams that people not use their liberty as an excuse to live in a manner that is harmful to society as a whole.

In 1651, Williams had another opportunity to model the balance of liberty with responsibility that he expected from others. Seven years after returning from his initial journey to London to acquire the colony’s charter, Williams still had not been repaid for his expenses. Additionally, he now had business ventures throughout the area in an attempt to provide for his wife and six children. However, with the future of the colony at stake due to an attempt by William Coddington of Portsmouth to secede and usurp Williams’ authority, he sold some of his trading posts and property to fund a second trip to London, where he could secure Rhode Island’s future through a permanent charter. The trip ended up lasting several years, during which time he was forced to spend his own money due to the colony’s inability to raise the necessary funds. When he finally returned home (having to leave John Clarke behind to continue working on the charter), he arrived to bickering and complaining, leaving him sounding much like Moses dealing with the obstinate Israelites.[72] When Clarke also was not recompensed promptly, Williams was forced to write a letter to the citizens of Warwick, reminding them of their civic responsibility to repay a public servant who had labored on their behalf.[73] When the permanent charter was finally granted by King Charles II, it not only granted everything Williams and Clarke had asked for, but additionally declared that “a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained … with a full liberty in religious concernments.”[74]

Even as his health failed him, Roger Williams continued to put his civic responsibility ahead of his personal liberty by offering to help wherever his countrymen could use him. He even extended the offer to Massachusetts and Connecticut, who once again were warring with the local Indian tribes in 1675-1676. In 1682, having already lost his wife and one of his daughters, Williams was still pleading with the people of Providence to submit to their government and live up to their civic duties.[75] By the following year, Roger Williams was dead. The exact date of his death, like that of his birth, is unknown

Conclusion

The ignominy and relative anonymity that characterized Roger Williams’ life on this earth belies the impact he had, and continues to have, on how Christians, and especially free church Christians, view the role of the Church in society and its relationship to the State. He not only wrote that “God’s people were and ought to be nonconformists,”[76] he lived it. Ever the prisoner of his conscience, he did everything with a purpose in mind and a determination that he would not fail in the task God had set before him. However, the thing that made him unique was his absolute assertion that all men, regardless of faith or background, have both an inalienable right to liberty of conscience and an undeniable responsibility to work for the common good. Liberty, civility, and responsibility formed the basis of Williams’ politics, polity, and theology and of the legacy that he left for Rhode Island, the United States, and the Christian faith.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Byrd, James P., Jr. The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution and the Bible. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2002.

Davis, James Calvin. The Moral Theology of Roger Williams: Christian Conviction and Public Ethics. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

Freeman, Curtis W. “Roger Williams, American Democracy, and the Baptists.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 34, no. 3 (September 1, 2007): 267-286.

Gaustad, Edwin S. Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1999.

———. Roger Williams. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

———. “Roger Williams: Beyond Puritanism.” Baptist History and Heritage 24, no. 4 (October 1, 1989): 11-19.

Goodman, Nan. “Banishment, Jurisdiction, and Identity in Seventeenth-Century New England: The Case of Roger Williams.” Early American Studies, An Interdisciplinary Journal 7, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 109-139.

Hall, Timothy L. Separating Church and State: Roger Williams and Religious Liberty. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998.

Miller, Perry. Roger Williams: His Contribution to the American Tradition. New York: Atheneum Books, 1965.

Morgan, Edmund S. Roger Williams: The Church and State. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006.

Neff, Jimmy D. “Roger Williams: Pious Puritan and Strict Separationist.” Journal of Church and State 38, no. 3 (June 1, 1996): 529-546.

Phillips, Stephen. “Roger Williams and the Two Tables of the Law.” Journal of Church and State 38, no. 3 (June 1, 1996): 547-568.

Stern, Jessica R. “A Key into The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution: Roger Williams, the Pequot War, and the Origins of Toleration in America.” Early American Studies, An Interdisciplinary Journal 9, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 576-616.

Williams, Roger. On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams. Edited by James Calvin Davis. Cambridge, MA: The John Harvard Library, 2008.


[1]Matthew 13:57 (NASB)

[2]Edwin S. Gaustad, Roger Williams (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), ix.

[3]Ibid.

[4]Edwin S. Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1999), 5.

[5]Ibid.

[6]Ibid., 2; Perry Miller, Roger Williams: His Contribution to the American Tradition (New York: Atheneum Books, 1965), 19.

[7]Jimmy D. Neff, “Roger Williams: Pious Puritan and Strict Separationist.” Journal of Church and State 38, no. 3 (June 1, 1996): 532; Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 5.

[8]Miller, 19; Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 5; Timothy L. Hall, Separating Church and State: Roger Williams and Religious Liberty (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 17.

[9]Edwin S. Gaustad, “Roger Williams: Beyond Puritanism.” Baptist History and Heritage 24, no. 4 (October 1, 1989): 11; Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 11-12.

[10]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 3; Miller, 19; Edmund S. Morgan, Roger Williams: The Church and State (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006), 13.

[11]Hall, 17.

[12]Morgan, 16-17.

[13]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 4; Hall, 17.

[14]Ibid.

[15]Ibid.

[16]Neff, 532.

[17]Miller, 19.

[18]Hall, 17; Neff, 532.

[19]Ibid.; Miller, 19.

[20]Ibid; Miller, 19.

[21]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 5; Hall, 17; Neff, 533; Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 23.

[22]Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 25.

[23]Hall, 19; Morgan, 25.

[24]Neff, 533; Miller, 19; Gaustad, Roger Williams, 6;

[25]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 7; Hall, 21.

[26]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 7; Hall, 21.

[27]Miller, 19; Gaustad, Roger Williams, 7.

[28]Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 28.

[29]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 7.

[30]Ibid., 8.

[31]Ibid.

[32]Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 28ff.

[33]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 9; Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 32ff; Miller, 19.

[34]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 10-11.

[35]Stephen Phillips, “Roger Williams and the Two Tables of the Law,” Journal of Church and State 38, no. 3 (June 1, 1996): 557.

[36]Ibid., 558; Gaustad, Roger Williams, 11.

[37]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 11.

[38]Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 37.

[39]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 13-14; Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 45.

[40]Nan Goodman, “Banishment, Jurisdiction, and Identity in Seventeenth-Century New England: The Case of Roger Williams,” Early American Studies, An Interdisciplinary Journal 7, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 133ff.

[41]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 14.

[42]Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 46.

[43]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 16.

[44]Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 193.

[45]Ibid., 53.

[46]Ibid., 54.

[47]Ibid., 55.

[48]Ibid., 56.

[49]Ibid., 56-57.

[50]Ibid., 57-58.

[51]Ibid., 61-63; Gaustad, Roger Williams, 29.

[52]James Calvin Davis, The Moral Theology of Roger Williams: Christian Conviction and Public Ethics (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 50.

[53]Roger Williams, On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams, Edited by James Calvin Davis (Cambridge, MA: The John Harvard Library, 2008), 158.

[54]Ibid., 164.

[55]Ibid., 49-50.

[56]Ibid., 58.

[57]Ibid., 78.

[58]Ibid., 83. (emphasis his)

[59]Ibid., 183.

[60]Ibid, 98.

[61]Ibid., 100.

[62]James P. Byrd, Jr., The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2002), 87ff.

[63]Ibid., 116ff.

[64]Ibid., 121.

[65]Gaustad, “Roger Williams: Beyond Puritanism,” 13.

[66]Byrd, 53ff.

[67]Williams, 154.

[68]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 62.

[69]Davis, 95.

[70]Ibid., 15.

[71]Ibid., 102; Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 176ff.

[72]Gaustad, Roger Williams, 69.

[73]Ibid., 71ff.

[74]Ibid., 70.

[75]Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, 191.

[76]Williams, 98.

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