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the privilege of engaging in business and otherwise exercising the rights of a citizen. He came through the ordeal easily enough but, in consequence of the reports already spread concerning her extravagant opinions, his wife was subjected to a most searching examination. Finally, however, she, too, was pronounced a “ member in good standing” of the congregation over which her beloved John Cotton served as associate pastor. And now she was ready to enter upon the career which soon divided Boston into two violently opposed factions and which ended by the withdrawal to England of the brilliant young Governor Vane and by the banishment from the colony of her with whom he had sympathized.
Even so far back as 1635 Boston seems to have been capable of great enthusiasm over a woman who could persuasively present some new thing." The doctrine advanced by this woman was certainly an arresting one for that day. For, cleverly interwoven with what was ostensibly only a recapitulation of the sermon preached the Sunday before, ran constantly the astonishing proclamation that there are in this world certain “ elect” who may or may not be ordained clergy and that to them are given direct revelations of the will of God. Now the ministers of New England were formalists to the core and the society which they dominated was organized upon the basis that if a man had a sad countenance, wore sombre garb, lived an austere life, quoted the Bible freely, attended worship regularly and took off his hat to the clergy he was a good man. Such a man alone might be a citizen. To admit, therefore, that, in place of these convenient signs of grace, “ works " as they were called, - one must rest salvation upon the intimate and so necessarily elusive relation between man and his God was to preach political as well as spiritual revolution. The logical result of accepting Mrs. Hutchinson's doctrines would have meant nothing less than the annihilation of those convenient earmarks by which the “good” and the “bad ” in the community could be readily distinguished, — the “ good” marked for civic advancement and the “bad ” for the stocks and banishment.
At first the far-reaching import of the lady's views seems not to have struck her hearers. All the leading and influential people of the town flocked to her“ parlour talks” and, for a time, she was that very remarkable thing a prophet honoured in her own community. For the matter of her “ lectures ” was always
pithy and bright, the leader's wit always ready and “ everybody was there," — which counted then for righteousness just as it does now. Hawthorne's genius has conjured up for us the scene at one of these Hutchinson gatherings so that we, too, may attend and be among
crowd of hooded women and men in steeple hats and close-cropped hair ... assembled at the door and open windows of a house newlybuilt. An earnest expression glows in every face ... and some pressed inward as if the bread of life were to be dealt forth, and they feared to lose their share."
Unfortunately Mrs. Hutchinson found the transition between the abstract and the concrete as easy as every other descensus Averni. From preaching against doctrine of “ works” she soon dropped into sly digs at the pastors who defended this belief. company of legall professors," quoth she, “ lie poring on the law which Christ hath abolished." No wonder it began to be noised abroad that the seer was casting “reproach upon the ministers, saying that none of them did preach the covenant of free grace but Master Cotton, and that they have not the seale of the Spirit and so were not able ministers of the New Testament."
It was, however, in Cotton's house and not in her own that Mrs. Hutchinson made the fatal admission for which she had afterward to pay so dear. The elders had come to Boston in a body to see how far Cotton “stood for " the things his gifted parishioner was preaching and, in the hope of clearing the whole matter up, the clergyman had suggested a friendly conference with Mrs. Hutchinson at his house. The interview took place, the lady cleverly parrying all attempts to make her say indiscreet things. But finally, the Reverend Hugh Peters having besought her to deal frankly and openly with them, she admitted that she saw a wide difference between Mr. Cotton's ministry and theirs and that it was because they had not the seal of the Spirit that this difference arose. If Mrs. Hutchinson had not thought herself in confidential intercourse with those who were men of honour as well as clergymen, she would never have put the thing thus bluntly. But the event proved that her confession was treasured up to be used against her, - and that there were many in the colony who chafed as she did, under the power of those preaching this “ covenant of works." For promptly the liberals, whose mouthpiece she had unconsciously become, blossomed out
into a sturdy political party led by the enthusiastic Vane. The part which he played in the controversy has already been touched upon in the previous chapter and the brave way in which he fought against the decree which would banish the incoming friends of Wheelwright there described.
But it all availed nothing. The theocracy had been attacked and the clergy sprang like one man to its defence. Even Cotton, after a little, ranged himself on the side of his order as against the woman who lauded him above his brethren. The “ trial,” in the course of which Mrs. Hutchinson was condemned, is one of the ghastliest things in the history of the colony. The prisoner, who was about to become a mother, was made to stand until she was exhausted, the while those in whom she had confided as friends plied her with endless questions about her theological beliefs. Through two long weary days of hunger and cold she defended herself as well as she could before these “men of God," but her able words availed nothing; she had “ disparaged the ministers ” and they were resolved to be revenged. Though Coddington pointed out that“ no law of God or man " had been broken by the woman before them, she was none the