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The Development of Religious Liberty in Connecticut by M. Louise Greene, Ph. D.

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of the Puritan churches in England. They continued to be refused
religious privileges because New England Congregationalism doubted the
scriptural validity of letters of dismissal from churches where the
discipline and church order varied from its own. Within the membership
of the New England churches themselves, there was great uncertainty
concerning several church privileges, as, for instance, how far infant
baptism carried with it participation in church sacraments, and
whether adults, baptized in infancy, who had failed to unite with the
church by signing the Covenant, could have their children baptized
into the church. Considerations of church-membership and baptism, for
which the Cambridge Synod of 1648 was summoned, were destined, because
of political events in England, to be thrust aside and to wait another
eight years for their solution in that conference which framed the
Half-Way Covenant as supplementary to the Cambridge Platform of faith
and discipline.

What has been termed the Anglo-colonial cause for summoning the
Cambridge Synod finds explanation in the frequent questions and
demands which English Independency put to the New England churches
concerning church usage and discipline, and in the intense interest
with which New England waited the outcome of the constitutional
struggle in England between King and Parliament.

When the great controversy broke out in England between Presbyterians
and Independents, the fortunes of Massachusetts (who felt every wave
of the struggle) and of New England were in the balance. Presbyterians
in England proclaimed the doctrine of church unity, and of coercion if
necessary, to procure it; the Independents, the doctrine of
toleration. Puritans, inclining to Presbyterianism, were disturbed
over reports from the colonies, and letters of inquiry were sent and
answers returned explaining that, while the internal polity of the New
England churches was not far removed from Presbyterianism, they
differed widely from the Presbyterian standard as to a national church
and as to the power of synods over churches, and that they also held
to a much larger liberty in the right of each church to appoint its
officers and control its own internal affairs. At the opening of the
Long Parliament (1640-1644), many emigrants had returned to England
from the colonies, and, under the leadership of the influential Hugh
Peters, had given such an impetus to English thought that the
Independent party rose to political importance and made popular the
"New England Way."[b] The success of the Independents brought relief
to Massachusetts, yet it was tinctured with apprehension lest
"toleration" should be imposed upon her. The signing of the "League
and Covenant" with England in 1643 by Scotland, the oath of the
Commons to support it, and the pledge "to bring the churches of God in
the three Kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in
religion, confession of faith, form of church government and
catechizing" (including punishment of malignants and opponents of
reformation in Church and State), carried menace to the colonies and
to Massachusetts in particular. The supremacy of Scotch or English
Nonconformity meant a severity toward any variation from its
Presbyterianism as great as Laud had exercised.[c]

In 1643 Parliament convened one hundred and fifty members[d] in the
Westminster Assembly to plan the reform of the Church of
England. Their business was to formulate a Confession which should
dictate to all Englishmen what they should believe and how express it,
and should also define a Church, which, preserving the inherent
English idea of its relation to the State, should bear a close
likeness to the Reformed churches of the Continent and yet approach as
nearly as possible both to the then Church of Scotland and to the
English Church of the time of Elizabeth. The work of this assembly,
known as the Westminster Confession, demonstrated to the New England
colonists the weakness of their church system and the need among them
of religious unity.[e]

Many among the colonists doubted the advisability of a church
platform, considering it permissible as a declaration of faith, but of
doubtful value if its articles were to be authoritative as a binding
rule of faith and practice without "adding, altering, or omitting."
Men of this mind waited for controversial writings,[f] to clear up
misconception and misrepresentation in England, but they waited in
vain. Moreover, the Puritan Board of Commissioners for Plantations of
1643 threatened as close an oversight and as rigid control of colonial
affairs from a Presbyterian Parliament as had been feared from the
King. Furthermore, a Presbyterian cabal in Plymouth and Massachusetts,
1644-1646, gathered to it the discontent of large numbers of
unfranchised residents within the latter colony, and under threat of
an appeal to Parliament boldly asked for the ballot and for church
privileges. In view of these developments, nearly all the colonial
churches, though with some hesitation, united in the Synod of
Cambridge, which was originally called for the year 1646.

In the calling of the synod Massachusetts took the lead. Several years
before, in 1643, the four colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, and New Haven had united in the New England Confederacy,
or "Confederacy of the United Colonies," for mutual advantage in
resisting the encroachments of the Dutch, French, and Indians, and for
"preserving and propagating the truth and liberties of the gospel." In
the confederacy, Massachusetts and Connecticut soon became the
leaders. Considering how much more strongly the former felt the
pulsations of English political life, and how active were the
Massachusetts divines as expositors of the "New England way of the
churches," the Bay Colony naturally took the initiative in calling the
Cambridge Synod. But mindful of the opposition to her previous
autocratic summons, her General Court framed its call as a "desire"
that ministerial, together with lay delegates, from all the churches
of New England should meet at Cambridge. There, representing the
churches, and in accordance with the earliest teachings of
Congregationalism, they were to meet in synod "for sisterly advice and
counsel." They were to formulate the practice of the churches in
regard to baptism and adult privileges, and to do so "for the
confirming of the weak among ourselves and the stopping of the mouths
of our adversaries abroad." During the two years of unavoidable delay
before the synod met in final session, these topics, which were
expected to be foremost in the conference, were constantly in the
public mind. Through this wide discussion, the long delay brought much
good. It brought also misfortune in the death of Thomas Hooker in
1647, and by it loss of one of the great lights and most liberal minds
in the proposed conference. Nearly all the colonial churches[g] were
represented in the synod. When, during its session, news was received
that Cromwell was supreme in England, its members turned from the
discussion of baptism and church-membership to a consideration of what
should be the constitution of the churches. The supremacy of Cromwell
and of the Independents who filled his armies cleared the political
background. All danger of enforced Presbyterianism was over. The
strength of the Presbyterian malcontents, who had sought to bring
Massachusetts and New England into disrepute in England, was
broken. Since the colonists were free to order their religious life as
they pleased, the Cambridge Synod turned aside from its purposed task
to formulate a larger platform of faith and polity.

When the Cambridge Synod adjourned, the orthodoxy of the New England
churches could not be impugned. In all matters of faith "for the
substance thereof" they accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith,
but from its measures of government and discipline they differed.[h]
This Cambridge Platform was more important as recognizing the
independence of the churches and the authority of custom among them
than as formulating a creed. It governed the New England churches for
sixty years, or until Massachusetts and Connecticut Congregationalism
came to the parting of the way, whence one was to develop its
associated system of church government, and the other its consociated
system as set forth in the Saybrook Platform, formulated at Saybrook,
Connecticut, in 1708. Meanwhile, the Cambridge Platform[i] gave all
the New England churches a standard by which to regulate their
practice and to resist change.[j]

A study of the Platform yields the following brief summary of its
cardinal points:--

(a) The Congregational church is not "National, Provincial or
Classical,"[k] but is a church of a covenanted brotherhood, wherein
each member makes public acknowledgment of spiritual regeneration and
declares his purpose to submit himself to the ordinances of God and of
his church.[l] A slight concession was made to the liberal church
party and to the popular demand for broader terms of membership in the
provision for those of "the weakest measure of faith," and in the
substitution of a written account of their Christian experience by
those who were ill or timid. This written "experimental account" was
to be read to the church by one of the elders. In the words of the
Platform, "Such charity and tenderness is to be used, as the weakest
Christian if sincere, may not be excluded or discouraged. Severity of
examination is to be avoided."[m]

(b) The officers of the church are elders and deacons, the former
including, as of old, pastors, teachers, and ruling elders. That the
authority within the church had passed from the unrestrained democracy
of the early Plymouth Separatists to a silent democracy before the
command of a speaking aristocracy[n] is witnessed to by the Platform's
declaration that "power of office" is proper to the elders, while
"power of privilege"[o] belongs to the brethren. In other words, the
brethren or membership have a "second" and "indirect power," according
to which they are privileged to elect their elders. Thereafter those
officers possess the "direct power," or authority, to govern the
church as they see fit.[p] In the matter of admission, dismission,
censure, excommunication, or re-admission of members, the brotherhood
of the church may express their opinion by vote.[q] In cases of
censure and excommunication, the Platform specifies that the offender
could be made to suffer only through deprivation of his church rights
and not through any loss of his civil ones.[r] In the discussion of
this point, the more liberal policy of Connecticut and Plymouth

(c) In regard to pastors and teachers, the Platform affirms that they
are such only by the right of election and remain such only so long as
they preside over the church by which they were elected.[s]

Their ordination after election, as well as that of the ruling elders
and deacons, is to be by the laying on of hands of the elders of the
church electing them. In default of elders, this ordination is to be
by the hands of brethren whom because of their exemplary lives the
church shall choose to perform the rite.[t]

A new provision was also made, one leaning toward Presbyterianism,
whereby elders of other churches could perform this ceremony, "when
there were no elders and the church so desired."

(d) Church maintenance, amounting to a church tax, was insisted upon
not only from church-members but from all, since "all that are taught
in the word, are to contribute unto him that teacheth." If necessary,
because corrupt men creep into the congregations and church
contributions cannot be collected, the magistrate is to see to it that
the church does not suffer.[u]

(e) The Platform defined the intercommunion of the churches[v] upon
such broad lines as to admit of sympathetic fellowship even when
slight differences existed in local customs. In so important a matter
as when an offending elder was to be removed, consultation with other
churches was commanded before action should be taken against him. The
intercommunion of churches was defined as of various kinds: as for
mutual welfare; for sisterly advice and consultation, in cases of
public offense, where the offending church was unconscious of fault;
for recommendation of members going from one church to another; for
need, relief, or succor of unfortunate churches; and "by way of
propagation," when over-populous churches were to be divided.

(f) Concerning synods,[w] the Platform asserts that they are
"necessary to the well-being of churches for the establishment of
truth and peace therein;" that they are to consist of elders, or
ministerial delegates, and also of lay delegates, or "messengers;"
that their function is to determine controversies over questions of
faith, to debate matters of general interest, to guide and to express
judgment upon churches, "rent by discord or lying under open scandal."
Synods could be called by the churches, and also by the magistrates
through an order to the churches to send their elders and messengers,
but they were not to be permanent bodies. On the contrary, unlike the
synods of the Presbyterian system, they were to be disbanded when the
work of the special session for which they were summoned was
finished. Moreover, they were not "to exercise church censure in the
way of discipline nor any other act of authority or jurisdiction;" yet
their judgments were to be received, "so far as consonant to the word
of God," since they were judged to be an ordinance of God appointed in
his Word.

(g) The Platform's section "Of the Civil Magistrate in matters
Ecclesiastical"[x] maintains that magistrates cannot compel subjects
to become church-members; that they ought not to meddle with the
proper work of officers of the churches, but that they ought to see to
it that godliness is upheld, and the decrees of the church obeyed. To
accomplish these ends, they should exert all the civil authority
intrusted to them, and their foremost duty was to put down blasphemy,
idolatry, and heresy. In any question as to what constituted the last,
the magistrates assisted by the elders were to decide and to determine
the measure of the crime. They were to punish the heretic, not as one
who errs in an intellectual judgment, but as a moral leper and for
whose evil influence the community was responsible to God. The civil
magistrates were also to punish all profaners of the Sabbath, all
contemners of the ministry, all disturbers of public worship, and to
proceed "against schismatic or obstinately corrupt churches."

These seven points summarize the important work of the Cambridge Synod
and the Platform wherein it embodied the church usage and fixed the
ecclesiastical customs of New England. Concerning its own work, the
Synod remarked in conclusion that it "hopes that this will be a proof
to the churches beyond the seas that the New England churches are free
from heresies and from the character of schism," and that "in the
doctrinal part of religion they have agreed entirely with the Reformed
churches of England." [36]

Let us in a few sentences review the whole story thus far of colonial
Congregationalism. With the exception of the churches of Plymouth and
Watertown, the colonists had come to America without any definite
religious organization. True, they had in their minds the example of
the Reformed churches on the Continent, and much of theory, and many
convictions as to what ought to be the rule of churches. These
theories and these convictions soon crystallized out. And the
transatlantic crystallization was found to yield results, some of
which were very similar to the modifications which time had wrought in
England upon the rough and embryonic forms of Congregationalism as set
forth by Robert Browne and Henry Barrowe. The characteristics of
Congregationalism during its first quarter of a century upon New
England soil were: the clearly defined independence or self-government
of the local churches; the fellowship of the churches; the development
of large and authoritative powers in the eldership; a more exact
definition of the functions of synods, a definite limitation of their
authority; and, finally, a recognition of the authority of the civil
magistrates in religious affairs generally, and of their control in
special cases arising within individual churches. In the growing power
of the eldership, and in the provision of the Platform which permits
ordination by the hands of elders of other churches, when a church had
no elders and its members so desired, there is a trend toward the
polity of the Presbyterian system. In the Platform's definition of the
power of the magistrates over the religious life of the community,
there is evident the colonists' conviction that, notwithstanding the
vaunted independence of the churches, there ought to be some strong
external authority to uphold them and their discipline; some power to
fall back upon, greater than the censure of a single church or the
combined strength and influence derived from advisory councils and
unauthoritative synods. In Connecticut, this control by the civil
power was to increase side by side with the tendency to rely upon
advisory councils. From this twofold development during a period of
sixty years, there arose the rigid autonomy of the later Saybrook
system of church-government, wherein the civil authority surrendered
to ecclesiastical courts its supreme control of the churches.

Turning from the text of the Cambridge Platform to its application, we
find among the earliest churches "rent by discord," schismatically
corrupt, and to be disciplined according to its provisions, that of
Hartford, Connecticut. From the earliest years of the Connecticut
colony there had been within it a large party, constantly increasing,
who, because they were unhappy and aggrieved at having themselves and
their children shut out of the churches, had advocated admitting all
of moral life to the communion table. The influence of Thomas Hooker
kept the discontent within bounds until his death in 1647, the year
before the Cambridge Synod met. Thereafter, the conservative and
liberal factions in many of the churches came quickly into open
conflict. The Hartford church in particular became rent by dissension
so great that neither the counsel of neighboring churches nor the
commands of the General Court, legislating in the manner prescribed by
the Cambridge instrument, could heal the schism. The trouble in the
Hartford church arose because of a difference between Mr. Stone, the
minister, and Elder Goodwin, who led the minority in their preference
for a candidate to assist their pastor. Before the discovery of
documents relating to the controversy, it was the custom of earlier
historians to refer the dispute to political motives. But this church
feud, and the discussion which it created throughout Connecticut, was
purely religious, and had to do with matters of church privileges and
eventually with rights of baptism.[y] The conflict originated through
Mr. Stone's conception of his ministerial authority, which belonged
rather to the period of his English training and which was concisely
set forth by his oft-quoted definition of the rule of the elders as "a
speaking aristocracy in the face of a silent democracy."[z] Mr. Stone
and Elder Goodwin, the two chief officers in the Hartford church, each
commanded an influential following. Personal and political
affiliations added to the bitterness of party bias in the dispute
which raged over the following three questions: (a) What were the
rights of the minority in the election of a minister whom they were
obliged to support? (b) What was the proper mode of ecclesiastical
redress if these rights were ignored? (c) What were those baptismal
rights and privileges which the Cambridge Platform had not definitely
settled? The discussion of the first two questions precipitated into
the foreground the still unanswered third. The turmoil in the Hartford
church continued for years and was provocative of disturbances
throughout the colony. Accordingly, in May, 1656, a petition was
presented to the General Court by persons unknown, asking for broader
baptismal privileges. Moved by the appeal, the Court appointed a
committee, consisting of the governor, lieutenant-governor and two
deputies, to consult with the elders of the churches and to draw up a
series of questions embodying the grievances which were complained of
throughout the colony as well as in the Hartford church. The Court
further commanded that a copy of these questions be sent to the
General Courts of the other three colonies, that they might consider
them and advise Connecticut as to some method of putting an end to
ecclesiastical disputes. As Connecticut was not the only colony having
trouble of this sort, Massachusetts promptly ordered thirteen of her
elders to meet at Boston during the following summer, and expressed a
desire for the cooperation of the churches of the confederated
colonies. Plymouth did not respond. New Haven rejected the proposed
conference. She feared that it would result in too great changes in
church discipline and, consequently, in her civil order,--changes
which she believed would endanger the peace and purity of her
churches;[aa] yet she sent an exposition, written by John Davenport,
of the questions to be discussed. The Connecticut General Court, glad
of Massachusetts' appreciative sympathy, appointed delegates, advising
them to first take counsel together concerning the questions to be
considered at Boston, and ordered them upon their return to report to
the Court.

The two questions which since the summoning of the Cambridge Synod had
been under discussion throughout all New England were the right of
non-covenanting parishioners in the choice of a minister, and the
rights of children of baptized parents, that had not been admitted to
full membership. These were the main topics of discussion in the
Synod, or, more properly, Ministerial Convention, of 1657, which
assembled in Boston, and which decreed the Half-Way Covenant. The
Assembly decided in regard to baptism that persons, who had been
baptized in their infancy, but who, upon arriving at maturity, had not
publicly professed their conversion and united in full membership with
the church, were not fit to receive the Lord's Supper:--

Yet in case they understood the Grounds of Religion and are not
scandalous, and solemnly own the Covenant in their own
persons,[ab] wherein they give themselves and their own children
unto the Lord, and desire baptism for them, we (with due reverence
to any Godly Learned that may dissent) see not sufficient cause to
deny Baptism unto their children. [37]

Church care and oversight were to be extended to such children. But in
order to go to communion, or to vote in church affairs, the old
personal, public profession that for so many years had been
indispensable to "signing the covenant" was retained [38] and must
still be given.

This Half-Way Covenant, as it came to be called, enlarged the terms of
baptism and of admission to church privileges as they had been set
forth in the Cambridge Platform. The new measure held within itself a
contradiction to the foundation principle of Congregationalism. A dual
membership was introduced by this attempt to harmonize the Old
Testament promise, that God's covenant was with Abraham and his seed
forever, with the Congregational type of church which the New
Testament was believed to set forth. The former theory must imply some
measure of true faith in the children of baptized parents, whether or
no they had fulfilled their duty by making public profession and by
uniting with the church. This duty was so much a matter of course with
the first colonists, and so deeply ingrained was their loyalty to the
faith and practice which one generation inherited from another, that
it never occurred to them that future descendants of theirs might view
differently these obligations of church membership. But a difficulty
arose later when the adult obligation implied by baptism in infancy
ceased to be met, and when the question had to be settled of how far
the parents' measure of faith carried grace with it. Did the
inheritance of faith, of which baptism was the sign and seal, stop
with the children, or with the grandchildren, or where? To push the
theory of inherited rights would result eventually in destroying the
covenant church, bringing in its stead a national church of mixed
membership; to press the original requirements of the covenant upon an
unwilling people would lessen the membership of the churches, expose
them to hostile attack, and to possible overthrow. The colonists
compromised upon this dual membership of the Half-Way Covenant. As its
full significance did not become apparent for years, the work of the
Synod of 1657 was generally acceptable to the ministry, but it met
with opposition among the older laity. It was welcomed in Connecticut,
where Henry Smith of Wethersfield as early as 1647, Samuel Stone of
Hartford, after 1650, and John Warham of Windsor, had been earnest
advocates of its enlarged terms. As early as in his draft of the
Cambridge Platform, Ralph Partridge of Duxbury in Plymouth colony had
incorporated similar changes, and even then they had been seconded by
Richard Mather.[ac] They had been omitted from the final draft of that
Platform because of the opposition of a small but influential group
led by the Rev. Charles Chauncey. As early as 1650, it had become
evident that public opinion was favorable to such a change, and that
some church would soon begin to put in practice a theory which was
held by so many leading divines. Though the Half-Way Covenant was
strenuously opposed by the New Haven colony as a whole, Peter Prudden,
its second ablest minister, had, as early as 1651, avowed his earnest
support of such a measure.

The Half-Way Covenant was presented to the Connecticut General Court,
August, 1657. Orders were at once given that copies of it should be
distributed to all the churches with a request for a statement of any
exceptions that any of them might have to it. None are known to have
been returned. This was not due to any great unanimity of sentiment
among the churches, for in Connecticut, as elsewhere, many of the
older church-members were not so liberally inclined as their
ministers, and were loth to follow their lead in this new
departure. But when controversy broke out again in the Hartford
church, in 1666, because of the baptism of some children, it was found
that in the interval of eleven years those who favored the Half-Way
covenant had increased in numbers in the church,[ad] and were rapidly
gaining throughout the colony, especially in its northern half. By the
absorption of the New Haven Colony, its southern boundary in 1664 had
become the shore of Long Island Sound.

Though public opinion favored the Half-Way Covenant, the practice of
the churches was controlled by their exclusive membership, and, unless
a majority thereof approved the new way, there was nothing to compel
the church to broaden its baptismal privileges.[ae] This difference
between public opinion and church practice, between the congregations
and the coterie of church members, was provocative of clashing
interests and of factional strife. For several years these factional
differences were held in check and made subordinate to the urgent
political situation which the restoration of the Stuarts had
precipitated, and which demanded harmonious action among the
colonists. A royal charter had to be obtained, and when obtained, it
gave Connecticut dominion over the New Haven colony. The lower colony
had to be reconciled to its loss of independence, in so much as the
governing party, with its influential following of conservatives,
objected to the consolidation. The liberals, a much larger party
numerically, preferred to come under the authority of Connecticut and
to enjoy her less restrictive church policy and her broader political
life. Matters were finally adjusted, and delegates from the old New
Haven colony first took their seats as members of the General Court of
Connecticut at the spring session of 1665. Thereafter, in Connecticut
history, especially its religious history, the strain of liberalism
most often follows the old lines of the Connecticut colony, while that
of conservatism is more often met with as reflecting the opinions of
those within the former boundaries of that of New Haven.

It was in the year following the union of the two colonies that the
quarrel in the Hartford church broke out afresh. The fall preceding
the consolidation of the colonies, an appeal was made to the
Connecticut General Court which helped to swell the dissatisfaction in
the Hartford church and to bring it to the bursting point. In
October, 1664, William Pitkin, by birth a member of the English
Established Church[af] and a man much esteemed in the colony, as
shown, politically, by his office of attorney,[39] and socially by his
marriage with Elder Goodwin's daughter, petitioned the General Court
in behalf of himself and six associates that it--

would take into serious consideration our present state in this
respect that wee are thus as sheep scattered haveing no shepheard,
and compare it with what wee conceive you can not but know both
God and our King would have it different from what it now is. And
take some speedy and effectual course of redress herein, And put
us in full and free capacity of injoying those forementioned
Advantages which to us as members of Christ's visible Church doe
of right belong. By establishing some wholesome Law in this
Corporation by vertue whereof wee may both clame and receive of
such officers as are, or shall be by Law set over us in the Church
or churches where wee have our abode or residence those
forementioned privileges and advantages.

Further wee humbly request that for the future no Law in this
corporation may be of any force to make us pay or contribute to
the maintenance of any Minister or officer in the Church that will
neglect or refuse to baptize our Children, and to take charge of
us as of such members of the Church as are under his or their
charge and care--

Admitted freeman
Oct. 9th, 1662, Hartford, Wm. Pitkin.

Admitted freeman
May 21, 1657, Windsor, Michael Humphrey.

Admitted freeman
May 18, 1654, Hartford, John Stedman.
Windsor, James Eno.

Admitted freeman
May 20, 1658, -- Robart Reeve.
Windsor, John Morse.

Admitted freeman
May 20, 1658, Windsor, Jonas Westover. [40]

Eno and Humphrey had been complained of because their insistence upon
what they considered their rights had caused disturbance in the
Windsor church. Now, with the other petitioners, they based their
appeal in part upon the King's Letter to the Bay Colony of June 26th,
1662, wherein Charles commanded that "all persons of good and honest
lives and conversation be admitted to the sacrament of the Lord's
supper, according to the said book of common prayer, and their
children to baptism."

This petition of Pitkin and his associates was the first notable
expression of dissatisfaction with the Congregationalism of
Connecticut. Several Episcopal writers have quoted it as the first
appeal of Churchmen in Connecticut. In itself, it forbids such
construction. The petitioners had come from England and from the
church of the Commonwealth. They were asking either for toleration in
the spirit of the Half-Way Covenant or for some special legislation in
their behalf. Further, they were demanding religious care and baptism
for their children from a clergy who, from the point of view of any
strict Episcopalian, had no right to officiate; and, again, it was
nearly ten years before the first Church-of-England men found their
way to Stratford.[41]

The Court made reply to Pitkin's petition by sending to all the
churches a request that they consider--

whither it be not their duty to entertaine all such persons, who
are of honest and godly conuersation, hauing a competency of
knowledge in the principles of religion, and shall desire to joyne
with them in church fellowship, by an explicitt couenant, and that
they haue their children baptized, and that all the children of
the church be accepted and acco'td reall members of the church and
that the church exercise a due Christian care and watch ouer them;
and that when they are grown up, being examined by the officer in
the presence of the church, it appeares in the judgment of
charity, they are duly qualified to participate in the great
ordinance of the Lord's Supper, by their being able to examine and
discerne the Lord's body, such persons be admitted to full

The Court desires y't the seuerall officers of y'e respectiue
churches, would be pleased to consider whither it be the duty of
the Court to order churches to practice according to the premises,
if they doe not practice without such an order.[42]

The issue was now fairly before the churches of the colony. The
delegates of the people had expressed the opinion of the majority. The
Court had invited the expression of any dissent that might exist, yet,
despite the invitation, it had issued almost an order to the churches
to practice the Half-Way Covenant, and with large interpretation,
applying it, not only to the baptism of children who had been born of
parents baptized in the colonial church, but also to those whose
parents had been baptized in the English communion, at least during
the Commonwealth.[ag] Pitkin at once proceeded in behalf of himself
and several of his companions to apply for "communion with the church
of Hartford in all the ordinances of Christ." [43] This the church
refused, and wrought its factions up to white heat over the baptism of
some child or children of non-communicants. The storm broke. Other
churches felt its effects. Windsor church was rent by faction,
Stratford was in turmoil over the Half-Way Covenant, and other
churches were divided.

Some means had to be found to put an end to the increasing
disorder. Accordingly the Court in October, 1666, commanded the
presence of all the preaching elders and ministers within the colony
at a synod to find "some way or means to bring those ecclesiastical
matters that are in difference in the severall Plantations to an
issue." The Court felt obliged to change the name of the appointed
meeting from "synod" to "assembly" to avoid the jealousy of the
churches. They were afraid that the civil power would overstep its
authority, and by calling a synod, composed of elders only, establish
a precedent for the exclusion of lay delegates from such bodies.
Before this "assembly" could meet, it was shorn of influence through
the politics of the conservative Hartford faction, who succeeded in
passing a bill at the session of the Commissioners of the United
Colonies, which read:--

That in matters of common concern of faith or order necessitating
a Synod, it should be a Synod composed of messengers from all the
colonies. [44]

Accordingly, Connecticut's next step was to invite Massachusetts to
join in a synod to debate seventeen questions of which several had
been submitted to the Synod of 1657, and had remained
unanswered. Among them were the questions of the right to vote in the
choice of minister; of minority rights; and where to appeal in cases
of censure believed to be unmerited.[ah]

Massachusetts courteously replied that the questions would be
considered if submitted in writing; but she was at heart so
indifferent that negotiations for a colonial synod lapsed, and
Connecticut was left to adjust the differences in her
churches. Consequently, in May, 1668, the Court,--

for promoting and establishing peace in the churches and
plantations because of various apprehensions in matters of
discipline respecting membership and baptism,--

appointed a committee of influential men in the colony to search out
the rules for discipline and see how far persons of "various
apprehensions" could walk together in church fellowship. This
committee reported at the October session, and the Court, after
accepting their decision, formally declared the Congregational church
established and its older customs approved, asserting that--

Whereas the Congregationall churches in these partes for the
generall of their profession and practice have hitherto been
approued, we can doe no less than still approue and countenance
the same to be without disturbance until a better light in an
orderly way doth appeare; but yet foreasmuch as sundry persons of
worth for prudence and piety amongst us are otherwise perswaded
(whose welfare and peaceable satisfaction we desire to
accommodate) This Court doth declare that all such persons being
also approued to lawe as orthodox and sound in the fundamentals of
Christian religion may haue allowance of their perswasion and
profession in church wayes or assemblies without disturbance.

The liberal church party had won the privileges for which they had
contended, but the conservatives were not beaten, for it was upon
their conception of church government that the Court set its seal of
approval. The Court had been tolerant, and the churches must be also.
Upon such terms, the old order was to continue "until a better light
should appear." The tolerance toward changing conditions, thus
expressed, was further emphasized by the Court's command to the
churches to accept into full membership certain worthy people who
could not bring themselves to agree fully with all the old order had
demanded. The second part of the enactment just quoted was, strictly
speaking, Connecticut's first toleration act; yet it must be realized
that now, as later, the degree of toleration admitted no release from
the support of an unacceptable ministry or from fines for neglect of
its ministrations. Tolerance was here extended not to dissenters, but
only to varying shades of opinions within a common faith and fold.

In the spirit of such legislation, the Court advised the Hartford
church to "walk apart." The advice was accepted, the church divided,
and the members who went out reorganized as the Second Church of
Hartford. Other discordant churches quickly followed this example. The
Second Church of Hartford immediately put forth a declaration,
asserting that its Congregationalism was that of the old original New
England type. The force of public opinion was so great, however, that
despite its declaration, the Second Church began at once to accept the
Half-Way Covenant. "The only result of their profession was to give a
momentary name to the struggle as between Congregationalist and
Presbyterian." [45] It was no effective opposition to the onward
development in Connecticut of the new order. When the churches found
that neither the old nor the new way was to be insisted upon, the
violence of faction ceased. The dual membership was accepted. For a
while, its line of cleavage away from the old system, with its local
church "as a covenanted brotherhood of souls renewed by the experience
of God's grace," was not realized, any more than that the new system
was merging the older type of church "into the parish where all
persons of good moral character, living within the parochial bounds,
were to have, as in England and Scotland, the privilege of baptism for
their households and of access to the Lord's table."[46] Another move
in this direction was taken when the splitting off of churches, and
the forming of more than one within the original parish bounds,
necessitated a further departure from the principles of
Congregationalism, and when the sequestration of lands for the benefit
of clergy became a feature of the new order.[47] In this formation of
new churches, the oldest parish was always the First Society.[ai]
Those formed later did not destroy it or affect its antecedent
agreements.[48] Only sixty-six years had passed (1603-1669) since the
publication of the "Points of Difference" between the Separatists, the
London-Amsterdam exiles, and the Church of England, wherein insistence
had been laid upon the principles of a covenanted church, of its
voluntary support, and of the unrighteousness of churches possessing
either lands or revenue. The pendulum had swung from the broad
democracy and large liberty of Brownism through Barrowism, past the
Cambridge Platform (almost the centre of its arc), and on through the
Half-Way Covenant to the beginning of a parish system. It had still
farther to swing before it reached the end of the arc, marked by the
Saybrook Platform, and before it began its slower return movement, to
rest at last in the Congregationalism of the past seventy years.


[a] Among the causes assigned for the removal of the Connecticut
colonists were the discontent at Watertown over the high-handed
silencing by the Boston authorities of Pastor Phillips and Teacher
Brown for daring to assert that the "churches of Rome were true
churches;" the early attempt of the authorities to impose a general
tax; the continued opposition to Ludlow; their desire to oppose the
Dutch seizure of the fertile valley of the Connecticut; their want of
space in the Bay Colony; and the "strong bent of their spirits to
remove thither," i.e. to Connecticut.

[b] The _New England Way_ discarded the liturgy; refused to
accept the sacrament or join in prayer after such an "anti-Christian
form;" limited communion to church members approved by New England
standards, or coming with credentials from churches similarly
approved; limited the ministerial office, outside the pastor's own
church, to prayer and conference, denying all authority; and assumed
as the right of each church the power of elections, admissions,
dismissals, censures, and excommunications. The result, in that day of
intense championship of religious polity and custom, was to create
disturbance and discord among the English Independent churches. The
correspondence between the divines of New England and old England was
in part to avoid the "breaking up of churches."

[c] J. R. Green, _Short Hist. of the English People_,
534-538. The great popular signing of the Covenant in Scotland was in

[d] The original intention, in 1642, in regard to the composition of
the Westminster Assembly was to have noted divines from abroad. It was
proposed to invite Rev. John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, and John Davenport
from New England. Rev. Thomas Hooker thought the subject was not one
of sufficient ecclesiastical importance for so long and difficult a
journey, while the Rev. John Davenport could not be spared because of
the absence of other church officers from New Haven.--H. M. Dexter,
_Congr. as seen_, etc., p. 653.

Congregationalists or Independents in the sittings of the Assembly
pleaded for liberty of conscience to all sects, "provided that they
did not trouble the public peace." (Later, Congregationalists
differentiated themselves from the Independents by adding to the
principle of the independence of the local church the principle of the
local sisterhood of the churches.) In the Assembly, averaging sixty or
eighty members, Congregationalism was represented by but five
influential divines and a few of lesser importance. There were also
among the members some thirty laymen. The Assembly held eleven hundred
and sixty-three sittings, continuing for a period of five years and
six months. During these years the Civil War was fought; the King
executed; the Commonwealth established with its modified state-church,
Presbyterian in character. Intolerance was held in check by the power
of Cromwell and of the army, for the Independents had made early and
successful efforts to win the soldiery to their standard.--Philip
Schaff, _Creeds of Christendom_, 727-820.

[e] W. Walker, _Creeds and Platforms_, p. 136, note 2.

[f] The _New England Way_ defended its changes from English
custom under three heads: (1) That things, inexpedient but not utterly
unlawful in England, became under changed conditions sinful in New
England. (2) Things tolerated in England, because unremovable, were
shameful in the new land where they were removable. (3) Many things,
upon mature deliberation and tried by Scripture, were found to be
sinful. But: "We profess unfeignedly we separate from the
corruptions, which we conceive to be left in your Churches, and from
such Ordinances administered therein as we feare are not of God but of
men; and for yourselves, we are so farre from separating as visible
Christians as that you are under God in our hearts (if the Lord would
suffer it) to live and die together; and we look at sundrie of you as
men of that eminent growth in Christianitie, that if there be any
visible Christians under heaven, amongst you are the men, which for
these many years have been written in your forehead ('Holiness to the
Lord'): and this is not to the disparagement of ourselves or our
practice, for we believe that the Church moves on from age to age, its
defects giving way to increasing purity from reformation to
reformation."--J. Davenport, _The Epistle Returned, or the Answer to
the Letter of Many Ministers_.

A number of treatises upon church government and usage were printed in
the memorable year 1643, several of which had previously circulated in
manuscript. In 1637 was received the _Letter of Many Ministers in
Old England, requesting the Judgment of their Reverend Brethren in New
England and concerning Nine Positions_. It was answered by John
Davenport in 1639. _A Reply and Answer_ was also a part of this
correspondence, which was first published in 1643, as was also Richard
Mather's _Church Government and Church Covenant Discussed_, the
latter being a reply to _Two and Thirty Questions_ sent from
England. By these, together with J. Cotton's _Keyes_ and other
writings, and by Thomas Hooker's great work _Survey of the Summe of
Church Discipline_ (approved by the Synod of 1643), every aspect of
church polity and usage was covered.

[g] Hingham church preferred the Presbyterian way. Concord was absent,
lacking a fit representative. Boston and Salem at first refused to
attend, questioning the General Court's right to summon a synod and
fearing lest such a summons should involve the obedience of all the
represented churches to the decisions of the conference. The
modification of the summons to the "desire" of the court, and the
entreaty of their leaders, finally overcame the opposition in these
churches. In fact, delegates to the Court, representing at least
thirty or forty churches, had hesitated to accept the original summons
of the Court when reported as a bill for calling the synod. Although
the Court "made no question of their lawful power by the word of God
to assemble the churches, or their messengers upon occasion of
counsell, or anything which may concern the practice of the churches,"
it decided to modify the phrasing of the order.--H. M. Dexter,
_Congr. as seen_, p. 436. _Magnalia_, ii,
209. _Mass. Col. Rec._ ii, 154-156, also iii, 70-73.

[h] "This Synod having perused with much gladness of heart the
confession of faith published by the late reverend assembly in
England, do judge it to be very holy, orthodox and judicious, in all
matters of faith, and do hereby freely and fully consent thereto for
the substance thereof. Only in those things which have respect to
church-government and discipline, we refer ourselves to the Platform
of Church-discipline, agreed upon by this present assembly."--Preface
to the Cambridge Platform, quoted in W. Walker, _Creeds and
Platforms_, p. 195.

[i] In many parts the wording of the Platform is almost identical with
passages from the foremost ecclesiastical treatises of the period,
and, naturally, since John Cotton, Richard Mather, and Ralph Partridge
were each requested to draft a "Scriptural Model of Church
Government." The Platform conformed most closely to that of Richard
Mather. The draft by Ralph Partridge of Plymouth still
exists. Obviously, the Separatist clergyman did not emphasize so
strongly the rule of the eldership which New England church life in
general had developed. Otherwise his plan did not differ essentially
from that of Mather.

[j] "Even now, after a lapse of more than two hundred years the
Platform (notwithstanding its errors here and there in the application
of proof texts, and its one great error in regard to the power of the
civil magistrate in matters of religion) is the most authentic
exposition of the Congregational church as given in the
scriptures."--Leonard Bacon, in _Contributions to the Ecclesiastical
History of Connecticut_, ed. of 1865, p. 15.

[k] Cambridge Platform, chap. ii.

[l] _Ibid._ chap. ii.

[m] Cambridge Platform, chap. iii.

[n] The definition of the rule of the elders, given by the Rev. Samuel
Stone of Hartford, was "A speaking aristocracy in the face of a silent

[o] Cambridge Platform, chaps, iv-x.

[p] "We do believe that Christ hath ordained that there should be a
Presbytery or Eldership and that in every Church, whose work is to
teach and rule the Church by the Word and laws of Christ and unto whom
so teaching and ruling, all the people ought to be obedient and submit
themselves. And therefore a Government merely Popular or
Democratieal... is far from the practice of these Churches and we
believe far from the mind of Christ." However, the brethren should not
be wholly excluded from its government or its liberty to choose its
officers, admit members and censure offenders.--R. Mather, _Church
Government and Church Covenant Discussed,_ pp. 47-50.

"The Gospel alloweth no Church authority or rule (properly so called)
to the Brethren but reserveth that wholly to the Elders; and yet
preventeth tyrannee, and oligarchy, and exorbitancy of the Elders by
the large and firm establishment of the liberties of the
Brethren."--J. Cotton, _The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,_
p. 12.

"In regard to Christ, the head, the government of the Church, is
sovereign and Monarchicall: In regard to the rule of the Presbytery,
it is stewardly and Aristocraticall: In regard to the people's power
in elections and censures, it is Democraticall."--_The Keys,_
p. 36; see also _Church-Government and Church Covenant,_
pp. 51-58.

[q] Cambridge Platform, chap, x.

[r] _Ibid._ chap. xiv.

[s] Cambridge Platform, chap. ix.

[t] _Ibid_. chap. ix.

[u] _Ibid_. chap. xi.

[v] _Ibid_. chap. xv.

[w] Cambridge Platform, chap. xvi.

[x] Cambridge Platform, chap. xvii.

According to Hooker's _Survey_ the magistrates had the right to
summon synods because they have the right to command the faculties of
their subjects to deliberate concerning the good of the
State.--_Survey_, pt. iv, p. 54 _et seq_.

[y] "However the controversy of the Connecticut River churches was
embittered by political interests, it was essentially nothing else
than the fermentation of that leaven of Presbyterianism which came
over with the later Puritan emigration, and which the Cambridge
Platform, with all its explicitness in asserting the rules given by
the Scriptures, had not effectually purged."--L. Bacon, in
_Contrib. to Eccl. Hist. of Conn_., p. 17.

See also H. M. Dexter, _Congr. as seen in Lit_., pp. 468-69.

Of the twenty-one contemporaneous documents, by various authors, none
mention baptism as in any way an issue in debate. "Dr. Trumbull
probably touches the real root of the affair when he speaks of the
controversy as one concerning the 'rights of the brotherhood,' and the
conviction, entertained by Mr. Goodwin, that these rights had been
disregarded." The question of baptism ran parallel with the question
under debate, incidentally mixed itself with and outlived it to be the
cause of a later quarrel that should split the church.--G. L. Walker,
_First Church in Hartford_, p. 154.

[z] Mr. Stone admitted: "(1) I acknowledge yt it is a liberty of ye
church to declare their apprehensions by vote about ye fitness of a
p'son for office upon his tryall.

(2) "I look at it as a received truth yt an officer may in some cases
lawfully hinder ye church from putting forth at this or yt time an act
of her liberty.

(3) "I acknowledge ye I hindered ye church fro declaring their
apprehensions by vote (upon ye day in question) concerning
Mr. Wigglesworth's fitness for office in ye church of
Hartford."--_Conn. Historical Society Papers_, ii. 51-125.

[aa] In the New Haven letter, she wrote, "We hear the petitioners, or
others closing with them, are very confident they shall obtain great
alterations both in civil government and church discipline, and that
some of them have procured and hired one as their agent, to maintain
in writing (as it is conceived) that parishes in England, consenting
to and continuing their meetings to worship God, are true churches,
and such persons coming over thither, (without holding forth any work
of faith) have all right to church privileges."--_New Haven
Col. Records_, iii, 186.

[ab] That is, they assent to the main truths of the Gospel and promise
obedience to the church they desire to join.

[ac] Among Massachusetts clergymen, Thomas Allen of Charlestown, 1642,
Thomas Shepherd, Cambridge, 1649, John Norton, Ipswich, 1653, held
that the baptismal privileges should be widened, and John Cotton
himself was slowly drifting toward this opinion.

The Windsor church was the first in Connecticut to practice the
Half-Way Covenant, January 31, 1657-58, to March 19, 1664-65, when the
pastor, having doubts as to its validity, discontinued the practice
until 1668, when it was again resumed.--Stiles, _Ancient
Windsor_, p. 172.

[ad] Stone held his party on the ground that over a matter of internal
discipline a synod had no control, and that he could exercise
Congregational discipline upon any seceders. The immediate result was
the removal of the discontented to Boston or to Hadley; where,
however, they could not be admitted to another church until Stone had
released them from his. This he refused to do. Thus, he showed the
power of a minister, when backed by a majority, to inflict virtual
excommunication. This could be done even though his authority was open
to question.--J. A. Doyle, _Puritan Colonies_, ii, p. 77.

[ae] Meanwhile the Massachusetts Synod (purely local) of 1662 stood
seven to one in favor of the Half-Way Covenant practice, and had
reaffirmed the fellowship of the churches according to the synodical
terms of the Cambridge Platform, as against a more authoritative
system of consociation, proposed by Thomas Shepherd of Cambridge.

[af] It must be remembered that the "Church of England meant the
aggregate of English Christians, whether in the upshot of the
movements which were going on (1630-1660), their polity should turn
out to be Episcopal or Presbyterian, or something different from
either."--Palfrey, _Comprehensive Hist. of New England_, i,
p. 111. J. R. Green, _Short Hist. of the Eng. People_, p. 544.

In England, Pitkin had been a member of the church of the
Commonwealth, and in all probability was not an Episcopalian or
Church-of-England man in the usual sense.

[ag] Such an order could only produce further disturbance. Stratford
and Norwalk protested. As a rule the order was most unwelcome in the
recently acquired New Haven colony. Mr. Pierson of Branford, with
some of the conservative church people of Guilford and New Haven, went
to New Jersey to escape its consequences.

[ah] Among the questions, still unanswered, which had been submitted
in 1657 were: (9) "Whether it doth belong to the body of a town,
collectively taken, jointly, to call him to be their minister whom the
church shall choose to be their officer." (13) "Whether the church,
her invitation and election of an officer, or preaching elder,
necessitates the whole congregation to sit down satisfied, as bound to
accept him as their minister though invited and settled without the
town's consent." (ll) "Unto whom shall such persons repair who are
grieved by any church process or censure, or whether they must
acquiesce in the churches under which they belong."--Trumbull,
_Hist. of Conn. i_, 302-3.

[ai] In New England Congregationalism, the church and the
ecclesiastical society were separate and distinct bodies. The church
kept the records of births, deaths, marriage, baptism, and membership,
and, outside these, confined itself to spiritual matters; the society
dealt with all temporal affairs such as the care and control of all
church property, the payment of ministers' salaries, and also their
calling, settlement, and dismissal.



Alas for piety, alas for the ancient faith!

Though Massachusetts had been indifferent and had left Connecticut to
work out, unaided, her religious problem, the two colonies were by no
means unfriendly, and in each there was a large conservative party
mutually sympathetic in their church interests. The drift of the
liberal party in each colony was apart. The homogeneity of the
Connecticut people put off for a long while the embroilments, civil
and religious, to which Massachusetts was frequently exposed through
her attempts to restrain, restrict, and force into an inflexible mould
her population, which was steadily becoming more numerous and
cosmopolite. The English government received frequent complaints about
the Bay Colony, and, as a result, Connecticut, by contrast of her
"dutiful conduct" with that of "unruly Massachusetts," gained greater
freedom to pursue her own domestic policy with its affairs of Church
and State. Many of its details were unknown, or ignored, by the
English government. The period when the four colonies had been united
upon all measures of common welfare, whether temporal or spiritual,
had passed. There were now three colonies. One of these, much weaker
than the others, was destined within comparatively few years to be
absorbed by Massachusetts as New Haven had been by
Connecticut. Meanwhile, Massachusetts and Connecticut were developing
along characteristic lines and had each its individual problems to
pursue. While in ecclesiastical affairs the conservative factions in
the two colonies had much in common and continued to have for a long
time, the Reforming Synod of 1679-80, held in Boston, was the last in
which all the New England churches had any vital interest, because a
period of transition was setting in. This period of transition was
marked by an expansion of settlements with its accompanying spirit of
land-grabbing, and by a lowering of tone in the community, as material
interests superseded the spiritual ones of the earlier generations,
and as the Indian and colonial wars spread abroad a spirit of
license. In the religious life of the colonists, this transition made
itself felt not alone in the character of its devotees, but in the
ecclesiastical system itself, as it changed from the polity and
practice embodied in the Cambridge Platform to that of a later day,
and to the almost Presbyterian government expressed in the Saybrook
Platform of 1708. The transition in Massachusetts, in both secular
and religious development, varied greatly from that in
Connecticut. Hence, from the time of the Keforming Synod, the history
of Connecticut is almost entirely the story of its own career,
touching only at points the historical development of the other New
England colonies. On the religious side, it is the story of the
evolution of Connecticut's peculiar Congregationalism. The Reforming
Synod of 1679-80 had been called by the Massachusetts General Court
because, in the words of that old historian, Thomas Prince:--

A little after 1660, there began to appear Decay, And this
increased to 1670, when it grew very visible and threatening, and
was generally complained of and bewailed bitterly by the pious
among them (the colonists): and yet more to 1680, when but few of
the first Generation remained. [49]

The reasons of this falling away from the standards of the first
generation were many. In the first place, the colonists had become
mere colonials. Upon the Stuart restoration, the strongest ties which
bound them to the pulsing life of the mother country, the religious
ones, were severed. The colonists ceased to be the vanguard of a great
religious movement, the possible haven of a new political
state. Though they received many refugees from Stuart conformity, the
religious ties which bound them to the English nonconformists were
weakened, and still more so when both the once powerful wings of the
Puritan party, Presbyterian and Independent, were alike in danger of
extinction. Shortly after the Revolution of 1688, when, under the
larger tolerance of William and Mary, the Presbyterians and
Independents strove to increase their strength by a union based upon
the "Heads of Agreement," English and colonial nonconformity moved for
a brief time nearer, and then still farther apart. The "Heads of
Agreement"[a] was a compromise so framed as to admit of acceptance by
the Presbyterian who recognized that he must, once for all, give up
his hope of a national church, and by the Independent anxiously
seeking some bond of authority to hold together his weak and scattered
churches. After this compromise, the religious life of the colonies
ceased to be of vital importance to any large section of the English
people. After the Restoration the colonial agents became preeminently
interested in secular affairs, in political privileges, and commercial
advantages. The reaction was felt in the colonies by generations who
lacked the heroic impulses of their fathers, their constant incentive,
and their high standards. Moreover, the education of the second and
third generation could not be like that of the first. The percentage
of university men was less. New Harvard could not supply the place of
old Cambridge. If life was easier, it was more material.

Against such conditions as these, the Reforming Synod made little
headway.[b] It set forth in thirteen questions the offenses of the day
and in the answer to each suggested remedies. To these questions and
answers the synod added a confession of faith. This last was a
reaffirmation of the Westminster Confession of Faith as amended and
approved by Parliament, or that found in the Savoy Declaration.[c] In
respect to church government, the Reforming Synod confirmed the
"substance of the Platform of Discipline agreed upon by the messengers
of these Churches at Cambridge, Anno Domini, 1648," [50] desiring the
churches to "continue steadfast in the _Order of the Gospel_
according to what is therein declared from the Word of God." Cotton
Mather in the "Magnalia," [5l] writing twenty years later, gives four
points of departure from the Cambridge polity by the Reforming
Synod. First, occasional officiations of ministers outside their own
churches were authorized; secondly, there was a movement to revive the
authority and office of ruling elder and other officers; thirdly,
"plebeian ordination," or lay ordination, ordination by the hands of
the brethren of the church in the absence of superior officers, was no
longer allowed;[d] and fourthly, there was a variation from the
"personal and public confession" in favor of a private examination by
the pastor of candidates for church-membership, though the earlier
custom was still regarded as "lawful, expedient and useful." With
reference to the office of ruling elder, it had been done away with in
many churches, partly because of lack of suitable men to fill the
office, partly because of the mistakes of incompetents, and partly
because of a growing doubt as to the Scriptural sanction for such an
office. In many churches the office of teacher had also been
abolished, the pastor inheriting all the authority formerly lodged in
the eldership, and as he retained his power of veto, it came about
that the churches were largely in the power of one man.

Plymouth and Connecticut colonies strongly approved the work of this
local Massachusetts synod. As a result of the interest excited by its
suggestions to increase church discipline, for laws to encourage
morality and Christian instruction, and for renewed zeal on the part
of individuals in godly living, a goodly number of converts were
immediately added to the churches throughout all the colonies. Of
these, the larger number were admitted on the Half-Way Covenant. But
times had changed, and the churches could not keep pace. The attempts
to enforce religion were fruitless,[e] and only go to show that
political interests, that wars,[f] with their accompanying excitement
and license, and that engrossing civil affairs had torn men's minds
from the old interests in religious controversies and in religious

The Church itself had deteriorated as the towns in their civil
capacity had undertaken the support of the minister and to collect his
rates. Even earlier began, also, the gradual change by which the
election of the minister passed from the small group of church
communicants, or full membership, to the larger body of the Society,
and finally to the town. This change was partly brought about through
the increasing acceptance of the Half-Way Covenant with its attendant
results. In some localities, "owning the Covenant" and presenting
one's children for baptism came to be considered not as a necessary
fulfilling of inherited duties (because of inherited baptismal
privileges) and the consequent recognition of moral obligations, but
as meritorious acts, having of themselves power to benefit the
participants. Further, the rite of baptism, confined at first to
children one at least of whose parents had been baptized, was later
permitted to any for whom a satisfactory person--any one not
flagrantly immoral--could be found to promise that the child should
have religious training. Still another factor in the lowering of
religious life was Stoddardeanism, or the teaching of the Rev. Solomon
Stoddard of Northampton, Massachusetts, a most powerful preacher and
for many years the most influential minister throughout the
Connecticut valley. As early as 1679, he began to teach that baptized
persons, who had owned the covenant, should be admitted to the Lord's
Supper, so that the rite itself might exercise in them a regenerating
grace. In its origin, this teaching was probably intended as a protest
against a morbid, introspective, and weakening self-examination on the
part of many who doubted their fitness to go to communion. But as a
result of the interworking of this teaching and of the practice of the
Half-Way Covenant, church membership came in time to include almost
any one not openly vicious, and willing to give intellectual, or
nominal, assent to church doctrines and also to a few church
regulations. With the change, the large body of townsmen became the
electors of the minister. Cotton Mather in the "Ratio Disciplina" [52]
illustrates these changing conditions when he tells us that the
communicants felt that the right to elect the minister was invested in
them as the real church of Christ, and that, in order to avoid strife
or the defeat of their candidate by the majority of the town, they
would customarily propose a choice between two nominees.

Carelessness of the churches in admitting members had had its
counterpart in the carelessness of the towns in admitting
inhabitants. Very early, as early as 1658, the Connecticut General
Court had been obliged to call them to order. The March session of
1658-59 had limited the franchise to all inhabitants of twenty-one
years of age or over who were householders (that is, married men), and
who had thirty pounds estate, or who had borne office. This was
shortly changed to "thirty pounds of proper _personal_ estate,"
or who had borne office. The ratable estate in the colony averaged
sixty pounds per inhabitant at this time. Up to March, 1658-59, the
towns had admitted inhabitants by a majority vote. These admitted
inhabitants, armed with a certificate of good character from their
town, presented themselves before the General Court as candidates for
the freeman's franchise, and were admitted or not as the Court saw
fit. Disfranchisement was the penalty for any scandalous behavior on
the part of the successful candidate. One reason for the new and
restrictive legislation was that from 1657 to 1660, from some cause
unknown, large numbers of undesirable colonists flocked into the
Connecticut towns, and thus it happened that, as the Church broadened
her idea of membership, the State had need to limit its conception of
democracy. Consequently, it narrowed the franchise by adding to the
original requirements a large property qualification, and continued to
demand the certificates of good character. Moreover, the candidates
were further required to present their credentials in October, and
they were not to be passed upon until the next session of the Court in
the following April. This two-fold change in the religious and
political life of the colony gave greater flexibility and greater
security, for "with church and state practically intertwined, the
theory of the one had been too narrow and of the other too broad."
[53] After the change in the franchise, records of the towns show that
there was less disorder in admitting inhabitants and more care taken
as to their personal character.

As the townsmen became the electors of the minister, and when the new
latitude in membership had been accepted by the churches, there soon
appeared a growing slackness of discipline and also an increase of
authority in the hands of the ministers and their subordinate
deaconry. This excess of authority in the hands of one man tended to
one-man rule and to frequent friction between the minister and his
people. As a result councils might be called against councils in the
attempt to settle questions or disputes between pastors and
people. Consequently, among conservatives, there came to be the
feeling that there ought to be some authoritative body to supervise
the churches,--one to which both pastor and people could appeal
disputed points.

In Massachusetts, the Connecticut colonists saw a strenuous attempt to
establish such an authority. Between 1690 and 1705, the Massachusetts
clergy had revived the early custom of fortnightly meetings of
neighboring ministers. The new associations were purely voluntary
ones for mutual assistance, for debate upon matters of common
interest, or for consultation over special difficulties, whether
pertaining to churches or to their individual members, which might be
brought before them. These associations grew in favor, and later
became a permanent feature of New England Congregationalism. Because
they were received with so much, favor at the time of their revival,
the conservative Massachusetts clergy attempted in the "Proposals of
1705" to increase the ministerial and synodical power within the
churches, and to bring about a reformation in manners and morals by
giving to these associations very large and authoritative powers. The
Proposals provided that all ministers should be joined in Associations
for mutual help and advice; for licensing candidates for the ministry;
for providing for pastorless churches; for a general oversight of
religion, and for the examination of charges brought against their own
members. Standing Councils, composed of delegates from the
Associations and also of a proper number of delegates (apparently
laymen) to represent the membership of the churches, were to be
established. These were to control all church matters throughout the
colony that were "proper for the consideration of an ecclesiastical
council," and obedience to their judgments was to be enforced under
penalty of forfeiture of church-fellowship. The Proposals were
approved by the majority of the Massachusetts clergy; but the liberal
party within the churches would not accede to their demands, and the
General Court would not sanction the Proposals in the face of such
opposition. Consequently, the essential feature of the Proposals, the
Standing Councils, was never adopted. But the attempt to establish
them invigorated the Associations, and the licensing of candidates was
arranged for.

Many people in Connecticut approved the tenor of the Proposals and
desired a similar system. Moreover, there never was a time when the
General Court was so ready to delegate to an ecclesiastical body the
control of the churches. The trustees of the young college, Yale, the
most representative gathering of clergymen in the colony, were anxious
to have the Court establish some system of ecclesiastical government
stronger than that existing among the churches, and to have it send
out some approved confession of faith and discipline. Consequently,
when, in 1708, Guerdon Saltonstall,[g] the popular ex-minister of New
London, was raised to the governor's chair, the time seemed ripe for a
move to satisfy the widespread demand. In response to it, the May
session of the General Court--

from their own observation and the complaints of many others,
being made sensible of the defects of the discipline of the
churches of this government, arising from want of a more explicit
asserting of the rules given for that in the holy scriptures [saw
fit] to order and require the ministers of the several churches in
the several counties of this government to meet together at their
respective countie towns, _with such messengers as the churches
to which they belong_ shall see cause to send with them on the
last day of June next, there to consider and agree upon those
methods and rules for the management of ecclesiastical discipline
which shall be judged agreable and conformable to the word of God,
and shall at the same meeting appoint two or more of their number
to meet together at Saybrook... where they shall compare the
results of the ministers of the several counties, and out of which
and from them to draw a form of ecclesiastical discipline, which
by two or more persons delegated by them shall be offered this
Court ... and be confirmed by them. [54]

The bill was passed by the Upper House of the legislature and sent to
a conference from the Lower, May 22, 1708. It became a law May 22. In
the interim the words in italics were inserted in order to eliminate
any possible loss of liberty to the churches and to protect them from
a system of government, planned by ministers only, and enforced by the
General Court. [55]

No records of the preliminary meeting have come down to us, but the
Preface of the Saybrook Platform reports such a meeting and that their
delegates met at Saybrook, September 9, 1708. At this second
convention, twelve ministers, of whom eight were trustees of Yale, and
four messengers were present. Their work, known as the Saybrook
Platform, declares in its Preface that--

we agree that the confession of faith owned & consented unto by
the Elders and messengers of the Chhs assembled at Boston in New
England, May 12, 1680 being the Second Session of that Synod be
Recommended to the Honbl. the Gen. Assembly of this Colony at the
next Session for their Publick testimony thereto as the faith of
the Chhs of this Colony.

We agree also that the Heads of Agreement assented to by the
vnited Ministers formerly Called Presbyterian & Congregationall be
observed by the Chhs throout this Colony.

The work of the synod, including also a series of authoritative
"Articles," was laid before the October session of the Court and
received its approval, the Court declaring its "great approbation of
such a happy agreement" and ordaining "that all churches within this
government that are or shall be thus united in doctrine, worship and
discipline, be and for the future shall be owned and acknowledged
established by law." [58]

The period of transition was over. Connecticut had passed from the
individual consecration and democratic organization of the Cambridge
Platform to the comprehensive membership of a parish system and to the
authoritative councils, or ecclesiastical courts, provided for by the
Saybrook Articles. A consideration of them as the main points of the
Platform is next in order.


[a] The "Heads of Agreement" was destined to have more influence in
America than in England.

[b] The order of the Massachusetts Court was "for the revisall of the
discipline agreed upon by the churches, 1647, and what else may
appeare necessary for the preventing schism, haeresies, prophaneness,
and the establishment of the churches in one faith and order of the
gospell." There was no questioning of the Court's right to
_summon_ this synod, as there had been in 1646-48.

[c] The Savoy Declaration of October, 1658, was put forth by the
English leaders of the Independent, or Congregational, churches as a
confession of faith, and in its thirty articles contained a
declaration of church order. The formulated principles of church order
were suggested by the Cambridge Platform but were neither so clear nor
so fully stated as in the New England document. The Westminster
Confession, the Savoy Declaration, and the later Heads of Agreement,
were destined to have more influence in New England than in England,
where the effect was transient. The Reforming Synod preferred the
Savoy Declaration to the Westminster Confession because the terms of
the former were more strictly Congregational, and also because they
wished to hold a confession in common with their trans-Atlantic
brethren. The Massachusetts synod changed here and there a word in
order to emphasize the church-membership of children as a right
derived through the Half-Way Covenant, and also to state explicitly
the right of the civil authority to interfere in questions of

[d] In 1660 the lay ordination of the Rev. Thomas Buckingham of
Saybrook, Conn., was strongly opposed by a council of churches, but it
was reluctantly yielded to the insistent church.--J. B. Felt,
_Eccl. History_, ii, 207.

[e] "Whereas this Court [the General Court of Connecticut] in the
calamitous times of '75 and '76 were moved to make some laws for the
suppression of some provoaking evils which were feared to be growing
up amongst us: viz.--prophanation of the Sabbath; neglect of
catechizing children and servants and famaly prayer; young persons
shaking off the government of parents or masters; boarders and inmates
neglecting the worship of God in famalyes where they reside; tipling &
drinkeing; uncleanness; oppression in workmen and traders; which laws
have little prevailed. It is therefore ordered by this Court that the
selectmen constables and grand-jury men in their several plantations
shall have a special care in their respective places to promote the
due and full attendance of these aforementioned orders of this Court."

[f] King Philip's War, 1675-76; the usurpation of Andros; King
William's War, 1689-97, with its expedition against Quebec; Queen
Anne's War, 1702-13.

[g] Governor Saltonstall "was more inclined to synods and formularies
than any other minister of that day in the New England colonies." His
influence over the clergy was almost absolute. "The Saybrook Platform
was stamped with his seal and was for the most part an embodiment of
his views."--Hollister, _Hist. of Conn._ vol. ii, p. 585.



A Government within a Government.

The Saybrook Platform subdivides into a Confession of Faith, the Heads
of Agreement, and the Fifteen Articles.

The Confession of Faith is merely a recommendation of the Savoy
Confession as reaffirmed by the Synod of Boston or the Reforming Synod
of 1680.

The Heads of Agreement are but a repetition of the articles that,
under the same title, were passed in London, in 1691, by fourteen
delegates from the Presbyterian and English Congregational
churches. Both parties to the Agreement had hoped thereby to establish
more firmly their churches and to give them the strength and dignity
of a strongly united body. The Heads of Agreement were drafted by
three men, Increase Mather, the Massachusetts colonial agent to
England, Matthew Mead, a Congregationalist, and John Hone, a
Presbyterian, who in his earlier years and by training was a
Congregationalist. Naturally, between the influence of the framers
and the necessity for including the two religious bodies, this
platform inclined towards Congregationalism, but equal necessity led
it away from the freedom of the Cambridge Platform, after which it was

In the Heads of Agreement, the composition of the church is defined
according to Congregational standards, as is also the election of its
officers. The definition of the powers of the church is not strictly
Congregational, because initiative action and governing powers are
intrusted to the eldership, while, to the brethren, there is given
only the privilege of assenting to such measures as the elders may
place before them. The membership in the church, as defined, is
semi-Congregational; i. e., in order to become members, persons must
be "grounded in the Fundamental Doctrines of religion" and lead moral
lives, but they are eligible to communion only after the declaration
of their desire "to walk together according to Gospel Rule."
Concerning this declaration the statement is made that "different
degrees of _Expliciteness_ shall in no way hinder such Churches
from owning each other as _Instituted Churches_." Furthermore,
no one should be pressed to declare the time and manner of his
conversion as proof of his fitness to be received as a communicant.
Such an account would, however, be welcome. With reference to
parochial bounds, introduced into the primitive Congregationalism of
New England, but always existing in the English Presbyterian system,
the Heads of Agreement declare them to be "not of Divine Right" but--

for common Edification that church members should live near one
another, nor ought they to forsake their church for another
without its consent and recommendation.

In respect to the ministry, the Heads of Agreement affirm that it
should be learned and competent and approved; that ordinarily, pastors
should be considered as ministers only while they continue in office
over the church that elected them to its ministry; that ordinarily, in
their choosing and calling, advice should be sought from neighboring
churches, and that they should be ordained with the aid of neighboring
pastors. In the matter of installation into a new office of an elder,
previously ordained, churches are to exercise the right of individual
judgment and of preference as to reordination. This same right of
preference is to be exercised in deciding whether or not a church
should support a ruling elder. The Heads of Agreement assert that in
the intercommunion of churches there is to be no subordination among
them, and that there ought to be frequent friendly consultations
between their "_Officers_." There are to be "Occasional Meetings
of Ministers" of several churches to consult and advise upon "weighty
and difficult cases," and to whose judgments, "particular Churches,
their respective _Elders_ and _Members_, ought to have a
reverential regard, and not dissent therefrom, without _apparent_
grounds from the word of God." The Heads of Agreement command churches
to yield obedience and support to the civil authority and to be ready
at all times to give the magistrates an account of their affairs.

The Heads of Agreement were the most liberal part of the Saybrook
Platform, and were not considered sufficiently
authoritative. Accordingly,--

for the Better Regulation of the Administration of Chh Discipline
in Relation to all Cases Ecclesiastical both in Particular Chhs
and In Councils to the full Determining and Executing of the Rules
in all such cases,[57]--

were added certain resolutions, known as the "Fifteen Articles." They
are in reality the Platform, for all that goes before them is but a
reaffirmation of principles already accepted, and the new thing in the
document, the advance in ecclesiasticism, is the increased authority
permitted and, later, enforced by these Fifteen Articles.

The Articles affirm that power and discipline in connection with all
cases of scandal that may arise within a church, ought, the brethren
consenting, to be lodged with the elder or elders; and that in all
difficult cases, the pastor should take advice of the elders of the
neighboring churches before proceeding to censure or pass judgment. In
order to facilitate both discipline and mutual oversight, the Articles
provide that elders and pastors are to be joined in Associations,
meeting at least twice a year, to consult together upon questions of
ministerial duty and upon matters of mutual benefit to their
churches. From these Associations, delegates were to be chosen
annually to meet in one General Association, holding its session in
the spring, at the time of the general elections. The Associations
were to look after pastorless churches and to recommend candidates for
the ministry. Up to this time a man's bachelor of arts degree had been
considered sufficient guarantee that he would make a capable
minister. Henceforth, there could no longer be complaint that "there
was no uniform method of introducing candidates to the ministry nor
sufficient opportunity for churches to confer together in order to
their seeing and acting harmoniously." [58] In order that there should
be no more confusion arising from calling councils against councils
with their often conflicting judgments, the Articles formed
Consociations, or unions of churches within certain limits, usually
those of a county. These Consociations were to assist upon all great
or important ecclesiastical occasions. They were to preside over all
ordinations or installations; they were to decide upon the dismissal
of members, and upon all difficulties arising within any church within
their district. If necessary, Consociations could be joined in
council. Their decisions were to have the force of a judgment or
sentence _only_ when they were "approved by the major part of the
elders present and by such a number of the messengers"--one or two
from each church--as should constitute a majority vote. A church could
call upon its Consociation for advice before sentencing an offender,
but the offender could not appeal to the Consociation without the
consent of his church. By these last provisions, authority and power
tended still more to concentrate in the hands of the elders. The
Fifteen Articles, though they did not make the judgments of the
Consociations decisive, urged upon individual churches a reverent
regard for them.

The attitude of the churches towards these Fifteen Articles varied,
and it was already known in the Synod that such would be the case.
Some churches would find them more palatable than others. Many were
already converts to the Rev. Solomon Stoddard's insistent teaching
that "a National Synod is the highest ecclesiastical authority upon
earth," [59] that every man must stand to the judgment of a National
Synod. Even five years before the convening of the Synod at Saybrook,
there had issued from a meeting of the Yale trustees,[a] "altogether
the most representative ecclesiastical gathering in the colony," a
circular letter which urged the Connecticut ministers to agree on some
unifying confession of creed, and that such be recommended by the
General Court to the consideration of the people. The immediate answer
to the letter, if any, is unknown. Trumbull says that--

the proposal was universally acceptable, and the churches and the
ministers of the several counties met in a consociated council and
gave their assent to the Westminster and Savoy Confessions of
Faith. [60]

It seems that they also "drew up certain rules of ecclesiastical
discipline as preparatory to a General Synod which they still had in
contemplation,"[61] but took no further step to obtain the approval of
the Court. This first definite move toward the Saybrook system bore
fruit when the Fifteen Articles were added to the Platform. Their
authoritative tone was to satisfy those within the churches who
preferred Presbyterian classes and synods, while their interpretation
could be modified to please the adherents of a purer Congregationalism
by reading them in the light of the Heads of Agreement which preceded
them. Of their possible purport two great authorities upon
Congregationalism speak as follows. Dr. Bacon writes:--

The "Articles" by whomsoever penned, were obviously a compromise
between the Presbyterian interest and the Congregational; and like
most compromises, they were (I do not say by design) of doubtful
interpretation. Interpreted by a Presbyterian, they might seem to
subject the Churches completely to the authoritative government of
classes or presbyteries under the name of consociations.
Interpreted by a Congregationalist, they might seem to provide for
nothing more than a stated Council, in which neighboring Churches,
voluntarily confederate, could consult together, and the proper
function of which should be not to speak imperatively, but, when
regularly called, to "hold forth light" in cases of difficulty or

Dr. Dexter sums them up in the following words:--

Taken by themselves, the fifteen articles were stringent enough to
satisfy the most ardent High Churchmen among the
Congregationalists of that day; taken, however, in connection with
the London document previously adopted, and by the spirit of
which--apparently--they were always to be construed, their
stringency became matter of differing judgment, so that what on
the whole was their intent has never been settled to this
day. [63]

In accordance with the system of government outlined in the Platform,
the churches of the colony were at once formed into five Associations
and five Consociations, one each in New Haven, New London, and
Fairfield counties, and two in Hartford. In later years, new bodies
were organized, as the other four Connecticut counties were set off
from these original ones. The churches of the New Haven county
Consociation, long cleaving to the purest Congregationalism, refused
to adopt the Platform until they had recorded their liberal
construction of it. Fairfield went to the other extreme, and put on
record their acceptance of the Consociations as church
courts. Hartford and New London accepted the Platform as a whole, as
it came from the synod, leaving to time the decision as to its loose
or strict construction.

A legislative act was necessary to make the Platform the legal
constitution of the Congregational Establishment. Such an act
immediately followed the presentation of the report by the committee,
whom the Saybrook convention, in accordance with the Court's previous
command, sent to the Assembly. Having examined the Platform, the
Legislature declared its strong approval of such a happy agreement,
and in October, 1708, enacted that--

all the Churches within this government that are, and shall be
thus united in doctrine, worship and discipline, be, and for the
future shall be, owned and acknowledged, established by law:

Provided always that nothing herein shall be intended or construed
to hinder or prevent any society or church that is or shall be
allowed by the laws of this government, who soberly differ or
dissent from the united churches hereby established, from
exercising worship and discipline in their own way, and according
to their conscience. [64]

The purport of this proviso was to safeguard churches which had been
approved according to the standards formerly set up by the Court, and
also to prevent the Act of Establishment from seeming to contradict a
"Toleration Act for sober dissenters" from the colony church that had
been passed at the preceding May session. Out of this proviso grew a
misunderstanding in the Norwich church, which happens also to furnish
a typical illustration of the difficulties sometimes encountered in
trying to collect a minister's salary.

When Mr. Woodward, pastor of the Norwich church, read the act
establishing the Saybrook Platform, he omitted the proviso. The
Norwich deputies, who had been present at the passage of the act,
immediately informed the people of the provision which the Court had
made for the continuance of those churches of which it had previously
approved and which might be reluctant to adopt the stricter terms of
the new system, at least until their value had been demonstrated. For
this behavior, the deputies were censured by the pastor and by the
majority of the church, who sided with him. Thereupon, the minority
withdrew and for three months worshiped apart. Then the breach was
healed, though seeds of discord remained. By 1714, six years later,
they had germinated and had attained such development that it was very
difficult to collect the minister's salary. In Norwich, as elsewhere,
there had formerly been a custom of collecting the ministerial rates
together with those of the county. This custom had arisen because of
difficulty in collecting the former, and in 1708 [65] this practice
was legalized, provided that in each case the minister made formal
application to have his rates thus collected. In the year 1714 and the
following year the General Court was obliged to issue a special order
commanding the town of Norwich to fulfill its agreement with their
minister and to pay his salary in full. The second year, the Court
added the injunction that the money should be collected by the
constables. But at the session following the order, the Norwich
deputies informed the Court that, owing to differences existing among
their townsmen, they had not seen fit to urge its commands upon their
people. Upon learning that Mr. Woodward's family were actually
suffering, the Court appointed a date, and ordered the Norwich
constables to produce at the time set a receipt, signed by Mr.
Woodward, and showing that his salary had been paid in full. If the
receipt was not forthcoming at the appointed time, the secretary of
the colony was empowered to issue, upon application, a warrant to
distrain all or any unpaid portion of the minister's salary from the
constables, and, also, any additional costs. This legislation seems to
have had due effect, though feeling ran so high that, in the following
year, it was decided to divide the church. When the two parishes were
formed, Mr. Woodward retired, and the life of the divided church was
continued under new ministers.

From the adoption of the Saybrook Platform, the Connecticut churches
were for many years preeminently Presbyterian in character. The terms
Congregational and Presbyterian were often used interchangeably. As
late as 1799, the Hartford North Association, speaking of the
Connecticut churches, declared them "to contain the essentials of the
Church of Scotland or Presbyterian Church in America." The General
Association in 1805 affirmed that "The Saybrook Platform is the
constitution of the Presbyterian Church in Connecticut."[b] Whether
called by the one name or the other, Presbyterianized
Congregationalism was the firmly established state religion, for under
the Saybrook system the local independence of the churches was largely
sacrificed. The system further exalted the eldership and the pastoral
power. It replaced the sympathetic help and advisory assistance of
neighboring churches by organized associations and by the authority of

In the new system the ecclesiastical machinery which, at first,
brought peace and order, soon developed into a barren autonomy and
gave rise to rigid formalism in religion, with its consequent baneful
results upon the spiritual and moral character of the people. The
Established Church had attained the height of its security and power,
with exclusive privileges conferred by the legislature. That body had
turned over to the "government within a government" the whole control
of the church and of the religious life of the colony, and had endowed
it with ecclesiastical councils which rapidly developed into
ecclesiastical courts.

"There was no formal coercive power; but the public provision for the
minister's support, and the withdrawal of it from recalcitrant members
formed a coercive power of no mean efficiency." [66]


[a] The charter for the college, together with an annual grant of
three hundred dollars, was granted in 1701. None but ministers were to
be trustees.

[b] The Hartford North Association in 1799 gave "information to all
whom it may concern that the Constitution of the Churches in the State
of Connecticut, founded on the common usage and confession of faith,
Heads of Agreement, Articles of discipline adopted at the earliest
period of the settlement of the State, is not Congregational, but
contains the essentials of the Church of Scotland, or Presbyterian
Church in America, particularly, as it gives a decisive power to
Ecclesiastical Councils and a Consociation consisting of Ministers and
Messengers, or lay representatives, from the churches, is possessed of
substantially the same authority as a Presbytery." The fifteen
ministers at this meeting of the Hartford North Association declared
that there were in the state not more than ten or twelve
Congregational churches, and that the majority were not, and never had
been, constituted according to the Cambridge Platform, though they
might, "loosely and vaguely, though improperly," be "termed
Congregational Churches."--See MS. Records. Also G. L. Walker,
_First Church in Hartford_, p. 358.



They keep the word of promise to our ear and break it to our
hope.--_Macbeth,_ Act V, Sc. viii.

The Connecticut General Court incorporated in the act establishing the
Saybrook Platform the proviso--

that nothing herein shall be intended or construed to hinder or
prevent any Society or Church that is or shall he allowed by the
laws of this government, who soberly differ or dissent from the
United Churches hereby established from exercising worship and
discipline in their own way, according to their conscience.

Here then was the measure of such religious toleration as could be
expected. It appears a liberal measure. It was liberal in that day and
generation, when men's minds were so firmly possessed by the belief
that civil order was closely dependent upon religious uniformity. The
exact purport of the proviso, however, can best be gauged by
considering it in connection with a legislative act that immediately
preceded it, and by studying the conditions which prompted or enforced
this earlier legislation, known as the Toleration Act of 1708.[a]

As conditions were at its passage, the proviso applied only to certain
Congregational churches that, preferring the polity of the Cambridge
Platform, were determined to adhere to it. In earlier years, these
churches, with their exacting test of regenerative experience, had
constituted the majority. In later years, the Half-Way Covenant
practice and Stoddardeanism had shifted the relative position of
church parties. Now, the proviso represented that liberal-minded
party within the church who would extend tolerance to the minority who
still clung to the outgrown convictions and principles of an earlier
age. This tolerance was extended from a two-fold motive: for the
reason just assigned, and because the government hoped, by permitting
a liberal interpretation of the Saybrook Articles, to win over these
tolerated Congregational churches. It trusted that the anticipated
benefits, proceeding from the new order of church government, would
further convince them of the superior advantages derivable from the
Presbyterian or more authoritative rendering of the Saybrook
instrument, and that through such a policy, the ready acceptance of
the Saybrook Platform by all the churches in the colony would be
secured. Furthermore, it would not do for the colony to make an
important law, following the great English precedent of 1689 which had
granted toleration to dissenters, and then, within six months, frame a
constitution for its Established Church, so rigid that no room could
be found in the colony for any fundamental differences in faith or
practice. Consequently, the proviso was made to include both tolerated
Congregationalists and any dissenters who might in the future be
permitted to organize their own churches, or, in the words of the
Court, "any Society or Church that is or shall be allowed by the laws
of this government." Thus the proviso was practically forced into the
October legislation of the General Court by the passing of the
Toleration Act at its spring session, notwithstanding the fact that
its inclusion was in accord with the sentiment of the liberal party.

Toleration Act and proviso notwithstanding, no rival church was
desired at this time in Connecticut. No rival creed was
recognized. True, there were a few handfuls of dissenters scattered
through the colony, but Congregationalism, with a strong tincture of
Presbyterianism, was almost the unanimous choice of the people. It was
largely outside pressure that had forced the passage of the Toleration
Act, even if it accounts for itself as a loyal following of the
English precedent of 1689. Although it had always been understood that
the colonies should make no laws repugnant to the organic or to the
common law of England, Connecticut was determined to protect as much
as possible her own approved church, to keep it free from the
contamination not only of infidels and heretics, but also from
Church-of-England dissenters and from all others. Accordingly she
placed side by side upon her statute book a Toleration Act with a
proviso in favor of her Established Church, and a Church platform with
a proviso for "sober dissenters" therefrom.

The circumstances which led up to and enforced the passage of the
Toleration Act were many and varied. The motives were complex.
Considerations religious, political, social, and economic entered into
the problem which met the Connecticut legislators when they found
their colony falling into disfavor with the King. This problem,
resolved into its simplest terms, consisted in securing continued
exemption from external interference. If Connecticut could retain the
King's approval, she could prevent the intrigues of her enemies at the
English court and could control the situation in the colony, whatever
its aspects, secular or religious. And with reference to the latter,
she would still be able to exalt her Establishment and to keep
dissenters, however they might increase in kinds or numbers, in a
properly subordinated position.

In order to obtain a grasp of the situation within the colony at the
time when its government concluded that the passing of the Toleration
Act would be politic, it is necessary to examine the status of the
dissenters there. Of these there were four classes, the Quakers or
Society of Friends, the Episcopalians, the Baptists, and the
Rogerines. Of these, the Quakers and the Episcopalians were the first
to make the Connecticut government forcibly realize that, if she
interfered with what they believed to be their rights, there would
probably have to be a settlement with the home government. But as the
efforts of these sects to interest the English government in their
behalf run parallel with and mix themselves up with other complaints
against Connecticut, it will make the history of the times clearer if
the early story of the Baptists and Rogerines is first told.

The Baptists early appeared in New England, but it was not until 1665
that Massachusetts permitted their organization into churches, and not
until 1700, only eight years before the Saybrook Platform, that Cotton
Mather wrote of them, "We are willing to acknowledge for our brethren
as many of them as are willing to be acknowledged." In her dislike of
them, Massachusetts had the full sympathy of Connecticut. And it was
with great dissatisfaction that the authorities of the latter colony
saw these dissenters, early in the eighteenth century, crossing the
Rhode Island boundary to settle within her territory. Accordingly, in
1704, the General Court of Connecticut refused them permission to
incorporate in church estate. When in the following year, in spite of
the legislature's refusal, they organized a church at Groton under
Valentine Wightman,[b] the Assembly proceeded to inflict the full
penalties of the law. While the Baptists had cheerfully paid all
secular taxes, they had made themselves liable to fines and
imprisonments by their refusal, on the ground of conscience, to pay
the ecclesiastical ones, and, as they continued to refuse, fines and
imprisonment and even flogging became their portion. Governor
Saltonstall, mild in his personal attitude toward the three other
groups of dissenters, thoroughly disapproved of the Baptists, seeming
to fear their growing influence in New England and their increasing
importance in the mother country. He believed in a policy of
restriction and oppression toward the mere handful of them that had
settled within his jurisdiction.

Apart from the main body of the Baptists, there were in Connecticut a
number of Seventh-day Baptists and Rogerine Baptists or Rogerine
Quakers. There were a very few of them,--not more than a dozen in
1680.[c] Setting aside the earliest persecution of the Quakers, these
Rogerines were the first dissenters to fall under the displeasure of
the Connecticut authorities. They were the first to be systematically
fined, whipped, and imprisoned for conducting themselves contrary to
the laws for the support and honor of the Connecticut
Establishment. For this reason, though they were weak in numbers and
often an exasperating set of fanatics, they deserve a hearing. Their
persecution began about 1677, while these people were chiefly resident
in New London and the Seventh-day men were mostly members of the
Rogers family. Later, the Rogerines spread to Norwich and Lebanon and
their immediate vicinity.

This sect of Rogerines arose from the intercourse through trade of two
brothers, John and James Rogers of New London, with the Sabbatarians
or Seventh-day Baptists of Rhode Island. These brothers were baptized
in 1674 and 1675, and their parents in the following year. All were
received as members of the Seventh-day church at Newport. This did not
trouble the Connecticut authorities, who appear not to have interfered
with the converts until they committed a flagrant offense and put
public dishonor upon the colony church; as in 1677, when elders of the
Rhode Island church arrived in New London to baptize the wife of
Joseph Rogers, another brother of the first two converts. The elders
selected for their baptismal ceremony a quiet spot about two miles
from the town. This did not suit John Rogers, who insisted that the
town was the only proper place, and led the little procession into
it. Mr. Hiscox, one of the elders, was seized while preaching and
carried before the magistrates, but was soon released. Deprived of
their leader, the Sabbatarians withdrew to another place, and John
Rogers, arrogating to himself the office of elder, performed the
baptismal service. From this time forth he began to draw disciples to
himself. When he pushed his personal opinions too far, the Newport
church attempted to discipline both him and his following, but, this
attempt failing, the Rogerines became henceforth a distinct sect.

The Rogerines, though strictly orthodox in the fundamental articles of
the Christian faith, were opposed by the Connecticut magistrates as
teachers of doctrines tending to undermine religion, as a persistently
rebellious sect, and as notorious breakers of the peace. In faith and
practice, these Rogerines bore some resemblance to the Baptists and
also to the Quakers. Hence, they were often called Rogerine-Baptists
or Rogerine-Quakers. Like the earlier Baptists and the Quakers, they
believed it wrong to take an oath. They differed from the
Congregationalists chiefly in their form of administering baptism and
the Lord's supper and in their opposition to any paid ministry. Rogers
also claimed that there were certain tests of personal regeneration
which the Congregationalists denied. John Bolles, one of the later
leaders of the sect, declared the Congregational Sunday to be "a great
Idol in this Country, and all the Religion built on the Holiness of
the pretended Sabbath is Hypocrisy and further that it is contrary to
Scripture, for Christians to exercise Authority over one another in
matters of Religion." [67] Rogers, with less dignity and more
pugnaciousness, called the authorities "the scarlet beast" and the
Establishment a "harlot," hurling scriptural texts with rankling,
exasperating abusiveness in his determination to prove her customs
evil and anti-Christian. Not content with such railing, the Rogerines
determined to show no respect to their adversaries' opinions and
worship. Thus, while maintaining that there should be no _public_
worship, Rogers, after his separation from the Seventh-day Baptists,
perversely chose Sunday as the day most convenient for the Rogerines
to hold their meetings. They not only exhorted and testified in the
streets, but forced their way into the churches, pestering the
ministers to argue disputed points. They offended in another way,
for, according to the colony law, they profaned the Sabbath by
working, claiming that, as all days were holy, all were alike good for
work. Fines and imprisonment began in 1677. They were continued in the
hope, held by the authorities, that they could suppress the Rogerines
by exactions which should melt away their estates. Sometimes these
penalties were unjust, as when John Rogers could rightly claim that he
was sentenced without benefit of jury, and, at another, that the
authorities had seized his son's cattle to settle the father's fines.
John Bolles pleaded against the injustice of forcing men "to pay Money
for his (the minister's) preaching when they did not hear him and
professed it was against their Consciences." [68] But such a plea was
many, many years in advance of his time. The Rogerines, important, in
their own estimate, as called of God, and angered by opposition,
seized upon every scriptural passage that bade them exhort and
testify, feeling it their duty to do so both in season and out. Had
they been willing to give up this practice in public, they would
probably have been left in comparative peace, for Governor Saltonstall
wrote to Rogers offering him protection for his followers if they
would consent to give up "testifying" and would hold their services
quietly and privately. Rogers refused upon the ground that he had a
right to use the colony churches for his preaching, since he and his
people were obliged to contribute to their maintenance. This was
logical, but not acceptable to the Connecticut magistrates, who
continued to cool the enthusiasm of the Rogerines by occasional heavy
penalties, and to look upon them as a set of fanatics, doomed to

The attitude of the Connecticut authorities at this time toward the
Quakers, or Society of Friends, was quite different from that assumed
toward the Baptists and Rogerines. A retrospect of their history in
the colony shows them to have been the earliest dissenters, and also
the ones to whom concessions, though only temporary, were first
made. Previous to the Restoration, the Quakers were the only
dissenters with whom Connecticut had to deal. They appeared in
Massachusetts in 1655, and in the following year New Haven colony
found no laws could be too severe for the "cursed sect of the
Quakers." The General Court of Connecticut seconded the efforts of
both New Haven and Massachusetts to exclude the obnoxious and
determined sect, but it soon decided that its fears had been greatly
exaggerated, and that mild laws and town legislation were
sufficient. Accordingly, town officers were instructed to prevent
Quakers settling in the colony, to forbid their books and writings,
and to break up their meetings. It was forbidden, however, to lay upon
them a fine of more than ten pounds or, under any circumstances, the
death penalty.

While New Haven whipped, branded, and transported Quakers,[d]
Connecticut mildly enforced her laws against them, [69] and how mildly
the following incidents will show. In 1658, John Rous and John
Copeland, traveling preachers, reached Hartford. They were allowed to
hold a discussion in the presence of the governor and magistrates upon
"God is a Spirit." At its close, they were courteously informed that
the laws of the colony forbade their remaining in it, and were
requested to continue without further delay their journey into Rhode
Island. This request was heeded, but while on their way, to quote
Rous, "The Lord gave us no small dominion." It would seem as if the
wise Quaker had taken the benefit of the law which forbade his
remaining "more than fifteen days in a town," and, also, of the
friendly curiosity of the people along his route. Rous further
testified in behalf of Connecticut that "Among all the colonies found
we not like moderation as this; most of the magistrates being more
noble than those of the others." [70] A short time after Rous's visit,
two Quakers, who persisted in holding services, were arrested and
banished.[e] Still later, two women who attempted to conduct services
in Hartford met with similar treatment, of whom their historian
records: "Except that some extra apparel which they took with them was
sold by the jaoler to pay his fee, no act of persecution befell them
at Hartford." [71] As late as 1676, when the Congregationalists and
the constables of New London, with great violence, broke up a Friends'
meeting, held by William Edmundson, he tells us that "the sober people
were offended at them," [72] and that on the following Sunday, at "New
Hartford" (Hartford), after the regular morning service, he was
allowed to speak unhindered. The same afternoon, when he attempted to
speak in another meeting-house, the officers, urged on by the
minister, "haled me," he writes, "out of the worship-house, and hurt
my arm so that it bled." When he asked them if they thought that was
the right treatment of a man faint from fasting all day, they, with
excuses for the conduct of the minister and the magistrates, hurried
him to an inn. There the people were allowed to listen to his
discourse, and, the next morning, he was bidden to go freely on his

Most of the Connecticut Quakers were in the border towns. Few, if any,
organized societies were formed in Connecticut until about the time of
the Revolution. Their scattered converts were ministered to by
traveling preachers, and, where possible, members would cross the
boundaries to attend the Quarterly or Monthly Meetings in neighboring
Rhode Island, or possibly Massachusetts, or on Long Island. These
dissenters had quickly perceived the strength of union, and as early
as 1661 the Rhode Island Yearly Meeting had been established, with its
system of subordinate Quarterly and Monthly Meetings. Soon after,
Yearly Meetings at Philadelphia brought reports from the southern and
middle colonies. Those at Flushing, Long Island, collected news of
converts from New York as far east as the Connecticut River, while the
Yearly Meeting at Newport, Rhode Island, heard from all members east
of that river. The custom of exchanging yearly letters, giving the
gist of these three annual meetings, was soon instituted. After the
establishment of the London Yearly Meeting, the frequent exchange of
letters with the colonial Quakers, begun in 1662, was reinforced by
the exchange of English and American preachers. By similar means, the
whole Society the world over was bound closely together. Their common
interests were guarded, and every infraction of their liberties
known. If in any of the colonies, as in Connecticut, they were
oppressed for their refusal to pay ecclesiastical taxes and to bear
arms, the facts were known in England. Secular taxes they cheerfully
met, but others were against their conscience. They were excellent
citizens, and they were everywhere friendly with the Indians. Because
of this friendship, and because the Connecticut colony desired the
good offices of the Rhode Island authorities during the dangerous King
Philip's War, the General Court had decided to show favor to the few
Quakers who were then within the colony. Accordingly, in 1675, a bill
was passed temporarily releasing the Quakers from fines for absence

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