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Roger Williams (1603 – 1684)


Anglo-American clergyman, a pioneering advocate for freedom of conscience in religious matters, and the separation of church and state.
Roger Williams
A civil sword (as woeful experience in all ages has proved) is so far from bringing or helping forward an opposite in religion to repentance that magistrates sin grievously against the work of God and blood of souls by such proceedings... Religion cannot be true which needs such instruments of violence to uphold it so.
Williams quotes
All civil states with their officers of justice in their respective constitutions and administrations are proved essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the spiritual or Christian state and worship.
Williams
I observe the great and wonderful mistake, both our own and our fathers, as to the civil powers of this world, acting in spiritual matters. I have read ... the last will and testament of the Lord Jesus over many times, and yet I cannot find by one tittle of that testament that if He had been pleased to have accepted of a temporal crown and government that ever He would have put forth the least finger of temporal or civil power in the matters of His spiritual affairs and Kingdom.
Hence must it lamentably be against the testimony of Christ Jesus for the civil state to impose upon the souls of the people a religion, a worship, a ministry, oaths (in religious and civil affairs), tithes, times, days, marryings, and buryings in holy ground...




Williams Roger quotes
There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.
Williams Roger
Although the loose will be more loose (yet) possibly being at more liberty they may be put upon consideration and choice of ways of life and peace, yet, however, it is infinitely better that the profane and loose be unmasked than to be muffled up under the veil and hood of traditional hypocrisy, which turns and dulls the very edge of all conscience either toward God or man.
Roger Williams quotes
Such parents or children as aim at the gain and preferment of religion do often mistake gain and gold for godliness, godbelly for the true God, and some false for the true Lord Jesus.
Roger Williams
Men's consciences ought in no sort to be violated, urged, or constrained. And whenever men have attempted any thing by this violent course, whether openly or by secret means, the issue has been pernicious, and the cause of great and wonderful innovations in the principallest and mightiest kingdoms and countries...
Williams Roger quotes
The God of Peace, the God of Truth will shortly seal this truth, and confirm this witness, and make it evident to the whole world, that the doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience, is most evidently and lamentably contrary to the doctrine of Christ Jesus the Prince of Peace.
Amen.
Williams
Opinions offensive are of two sorts: some savoring of impiety, and some of incivility.
Against the first, Christ Jesus never called for the sword of steel to help the sword of the spirit, that two-edged sword that comes out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus...
The second sort, to wit, opinions of incivility, doubtless the opinions as well as practices are the proper object of the civil sword...
Williams Roger
Enforced uniformity confounds civil and religious liberty and denies the principles of Christianity and civility. No man shall be required to worship or maintain a worship against his will.
Roger Williams
Roger Williams... successfully vindicated the right of private judgement in matters of conscience, and effected a moral and political revolution in all governments of the civilized world.




Roger Williams quotes
Williams' life and major works the 1643 bestseller A Key Into the Language of America and the 1644 treatise The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution inspire nothing less than awe. Williams showed up in Massachusetts in 1631 and immediately mixed it up with the theocrats there, staking controversial positions on hotly debated questions such as the presence of a disturbingly papal cross on the flag of England.
Two of his arguments would earn him exile: He insisted that the colonists had robbed the local Indians of their property (he called it "an unjust usurpation upon others' possessions") and, even worse, that civil magistrates had no business enforcing religious laws (lest "the wilderness of the world" engulf "the garden of the church").
Roger Williams
The civil state is humbly to be implored to provide in their high wisdom for the security of all the respective consciences, in their respective meetings, assemblings, worshipings, preachings, disputings, etc., and that civil peace and the beauty of civility and humanity be maintained among the chief opposers and dissenters.
Williams quotes
I present you with a Key : I have not heard of the like yet framed, since it pleased God to bring that mighty continent of America to light. Others of my countrymen have often, and excellently, and lately, written of the country, and none that I know beyond the goodness and worth of it.
This Key respects the native language of it, and happily may unlock some rarities concerning the natives themselves, not yet discovered.
Williams Roger
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, released the same year as his friend John Milton's defense of the free press, Areopagitica, argued for "soul liberty" for all people, "paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-christian." Such ideas were far ahead of their time perhaps even our time... Williams' ideas infused the charters of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other colonies with protections for religious freedom. And his notions of a fully secular state found their way into the writings of John Locke, who would have a seminal influence on Jefferson, Madison, and other Founders. One wishes that America had taken even more from Williams and what Gaustad calls his "bequest...of liberty, responsibility, and civility."
Williams Roger quotes
'Tis true, those glorious first ministeriall gifts are ceased, and that's or should be the lamentation of all Saints... Yet I humbly conceive that without those gifts, it is no ground of imitation, and of going forth to Teach and Baptise the Nations, for, the Apostles themselves did not attempt that mighty enterprise, but waited at Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit descended on them, and inabled them for that mighty work
Roger Williams
The English... justified their grabbing of Indian land by claiming that these simple folk did not really believe in property rights. On the contrary, Williams observed, "the Natives are very exact and punctual in the bounds of their Lands, belonging to this or that Prince or People," even bargaining among themselves for a small piece of ground.
Roger Williams quotes
"The most fascinating figure of America's formative seventeenth century," Roger Williams has now gained general acceptance as a symbol of a critical turning point in American thought and institutions. He was the first American to advocate and activate complete freedom of conscience, dissociation of church and state, and genuine political democracy. From his first few weeks in America he openly raised the banner of "rigid Separatism." In one year in Salem he converted the town into a stronghold of radical Separatism and threw the entire Bay Colony into an uproar. Banished for his views, after being declared guilty of "a frontal assault on the foundations of the Bay system," he escaped just as he was to be deported to England.
He settled in Providence with thirteen other householders and in one year formed the first genuine democracy, as well as the first church-divorced and conscience-free community in modern history. Williams felt that government is the natural way provided by God to cope with the corrupt nature of man. But since government could not be trusted to know which religion is true, he considered the best hope for true religion the protection of the freedom of all religion, along with non-religion, from the state.
Roger Williams
The civil state is bound before God to take off that bond and yoke of soul oppression, and to proclaim free and impartial liberty to all the people of the three nations to choose and maintain what worship and ministry their souls and consciences are persuaded of; which act, as it will prove an act of mercy and righteousness to the enslaved nations, so is it of a binding force to engage the whole and every interest and conscience to preserve the common freedom and peace; however, an act most suiting with the piety and Christianity of the Holy Testament of Christ Jesus.
Williams Roger
I was persuaded and am, that God's way is first to turn a soul from its idols, both of heart, worship, and conversation, before it is capable of worship to the true and living God... the two first principles and foundations of true religion, or worship of the true God in Christ, are repentance from dead works, and faith towards God, before the doctrine of baptism or washing, and the laying on of hands, which contain the ordinances and practices of worship; the want of which I conceive is the bane of millions of souls in England and all other nations professing to be Christian nations, who are brought by public authority to baptism and fellowship with God in ordinances of worship, before the saving work of repentance and a true turning to God.


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