Trial of Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) -- for views of Antinomianism
a. Hutchinson was the second major challenge to the New England Way.
b. She arrived in Massachusetts Bay in 1634 with her husband and family.
c. Sir Henry Vane, elected Governor in May 1636 and a member of the Boston congregation, soon came under her influence, as well as two other ministers, John Cotton and John Wheelwright.
d. Her beliefs
(1) Her ideas derived from the theology of the respected John Cotton, yet Cotton insisted that true congregationalism required saints to be entirely free of religious or political control by anyone who had not undergone a conversion experience (born again).
(2) Cotton extended that to include even those in authority who led upright, blameless lives insisting that they had to be reborn spiritually.
(3) Hutchinson extended Cotton's argument to state that saints must be free from interference by the nonelect into an attack on the authority of the clergy.
(a) Because she was dissatisfied with her minister, she charged that he was not of the elect and that saints could ignore his views if they believed he lacked saving grace.
(b) She eventually declared that all the colony's ministers were not saved except John Cotton and her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright and so the ministers lacked any authority over those like herself, who were really saved.
e. Further problems with her beliefs
(1) She criticized the Puritan emphasis on the covenant of works , stressing the covenant of grace and magnified the idea of personal revelation which minimized the role of the orthodox clergy.
(a) She began to hold meetings in her home following Sunday church services in which the sermons of the pastor, John Cotton, were further discussed.
(b) She believed that because one could not earn salvation by good works, a holy life of good works were not a sign that one was elected, and the truly elect need not bother to obey the law, undercutting the moral endeavor of the community
(c) As long as these were private discussions in her home, little was said, but when men began to attend, a gender problem arose, because the Bible said that "women should not teach men."
(2) Hutchinson cast doubt on the spiritual state of all the colony's clergy and thus denied them the right to judge the saints.
(1) She undermined the clergy's moral authority to even interpret and teach Scripture.
(2) Her critics stated that her views would incite people to believe that they were accountable to no one but themselves.
(3) She and her followers were called Antinomians -- opponents of the rule of law .
(4) Because Hutchinson was a woman, she was seen as an especially dangerous foe.
f. By 1636, Massachusetts Bay split into two camps -- her critics and supporters
(1) Supporters included merchants like her husband who had come to dislike the government restrictions on their businesses.
(2) Young men also joined Hutchinson because they did not like the chafing they had to endure from the elders
(3) Many women protested their second class status in church affairs.
g. Banishment of Hutchinson
(1) When the Rev John Wheeler (1592-1679) denounced the doctrine of works in a sermon in Boston in Jan 1637, he was tried for sedition and contempt, and convicted.
(2) In the next election (May 1637), Winthrop defeated Vane, a Hutchinson supporter who returned to England but a third supporter, John Cotton , recanted.
(3) To define orthodox Puritan doctrine, a synod of 25 ministers convened in Aug at Newton Massachusetts, away from pro-Hutchinson Boston.
(4) The General Court in Nov banished Wheelwright and ordered Anne Hutchinson to stand trial for sedition and contempt for which she was convicted and sentenced to be banished.
(5) Governor Winthrop brought Hutchinson to trial for heresy but she held her own at court because of her excellent understanding of Scripture, making her superior to her interrogators.
(a) Winthrop described her as haughty and fierce, a nimble wit and active spirit.
(b) Since most Christians and orthodox Puritans believed God had ceased to speak to individuals through direct revelation since New Testament times, Hutchinson failed when she claimed to have communicated directly with the Holy Spirit.
i) One only knows on the basis of an inner vision or inner illumination from God.
ii) She claimed that not only was she saved but that she knew who was also saved.
iii) When she revealed that only three ministers were saved and fit to serve, she undermined the authority of the colony.
iv) This developed into a struggle between Boston and the outlying areas.
(6) Following her excommunication in Mar 1638, she and her family along with other antinomians went to Rhode Island but soon joined other Boston exiles in establishing Pocasset (Portsmouth) in Mar.
(7) After her husband died she moved to New Netherlands where in 1643 she was killed by local Indians
(8) She settled at Long Island after her husband died in 1642.
(9) After she with most of her family and many others were massacred in 1643 by Indians in the vicinity of Eastchester, Governor Winthrop wrote that her death was "a special manifestation of divine justice."
h. After the Antinomian defeat, new restrictions were placed on women independence and equality and women were now increasingly prohibited from assuming public religious roles.
Self Interest becomes the primary threat to Winthrop's city upon a hill
a. Some Puritans came to the New World dedicated to stability, self discipline, mutual obligation and social reciprocity but many came to find prosperity and social mobility
(1) This group consisted primarily of merchants who fueled the economy but their lifestyles did not conform to traditional New England values.
(2) Merchants were uneasy in a religious utopia that equated financial shrewdness with greed
(3) They resisted government church leaders trying to regulate prices to prevent chronic suffering
b. Puritan leaders feared a "market economy" would strangle the spirit of community and create harsh new world of frantic competition.

MORE OF ANNE HUTCHINSON

"As I understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway." Anne Hutchinson


 

Information for this page is drawn from: ENGLISH COLONIZATION

 

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