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It was on the 1st day of December, in the year 1630, that Mr. Roger Williams, with his wife, embarked at Bristol for America, in the ship Lyon, Captain William Pierce.
Two years and a half before, a number of eminent and enthusiastic men had gone forth, animated by religious principles and purposes, to seek a home and a refuge from persecution on the wild and untenanted shores of Massachusetts Bay. Charles I. had announced his design of ruling the English people by arbitrary power, only a few days before a patent for the Company of Massachusetts Bay passed the seals. No provision was made in this document for the exercise of religious liberty. The emigrants were puritans, and although they had suffered long for conscience' sake, on this subject their views were as contracted as those of their brethren who in Elizabeth's reign sought the overthrow of England's hierarchy. The patent secured to them, however, to a great extent, a legislative independence of the mother country; but they soon employed that power to persecute differing consciences.
The emigrants landed at Salem at the end of June, 1629.
· Bancroft's Hist. of U. S. i. 342. Knowles' Life of R. Williams, p. 31. ? See Broadmead Records, Introd. p. xxii.
A few mud hovels alone marked the place of their future abode. On their passage they arranged the order of their government, and bound themselves by solemn covenant to each other and the Lord. As religion was the cause of their abandonment of their native land, so was its establishment their first care.
At their request a few of the settlers at Plymouth, where in 1620 a colony had been established by the members of Mr. John Robinson's church, came over to assist and advise on the arrangement of their church polity. After several conferences, the order determined on was the congregational, and measures were immediately taken for the choice of elders and deacons. A day of fasting and prayer was appointed, and thirty persons covenanted together to walk in the ways of God. Mr. Skelton was chosen pastor, Mr. Higginson teacher, both puritan clergymen of celebrity, and Mr. Houghton ruling elder. They agreed with the church at Plymouth, “That the children of the faithful are church members with their parents, and that their baptism is a seal of their being so.
The church was thus self-constituted. It owned no allegiance to bishop, priest, or king. It recognized but one authority—the King of saints: but one rule—the word of God. The new system did not, however, meet with the approbation of all this little company. Some still fondly clung to the episcopacy of their native land, and to the more imposing rites of their mother church. The main body of the emigrants did not altogether refuse to have communion with the church which had so unnaturally driven them away; but, as they said, they separated from her corruptions, and rejected the human inventions in worship which they discovered in her fold. Not so all. Liberty of worship they desired indeed, but not a new form of polity. Two brothers, John and Samuel Browne, the one a lawyer, the other a merchant, were the leaders of this little band. They wished the continuance of the Common Prayer, of the ceremonies
* Neal's Hist. of N. England, i. 141, 144. Baillie's Dissuasive, p. 66. Mather's Magnalia. i. 19.