Presbyterian minister

A communication in the _New London Day_ of December 9, 1886, speaks of
John Rogers and his followers, the Rogerenes, whose distinctive
existence spread over a period of more than a century in the history of
New London. The writer of the article referred to followed the example
of his predecessors who have spoken derisively of this “sect,” either in
not knowing whereof he affirmed or in purposely misrepresenting these
dissenters. We prefer to ascribe the former, rather than the latter,
reason.

Trumbull, in his “History of Connecticut,” charged John Rogers with
crimes from which the grand jury fully exonerated him, as by its printed
records may be seen. These false and scandalous charges have been
reiterated, again and again, and have found a place in Barber’s
“Historical Collections of Connecticut” against the clearest testimony.
His withdrawal from the standing religious order of the day aroused such
hatred that many false accusations were made against him, which, like
dragon’s teeth sown over the land, have been springing up again and
again.

The article which called forth these remarks doubtlessly derived its
errors from those sources. I will point out a few of its inaccuracies.

The author says, “The Rogerenes are a sect founded by John Rogers in
1720.” John Rogers died in 1721, after a most active dissemination of
his principles for a period of about fifty years, gathering many
adherents during that time.

Again, he says, “They entered the churches half naked.” He must have
confounded the Boston Quakers with the Rogerenes, as nothing of the kind
was ever known of the latter. It is true that Trumbull makes an
assertion of this sort; but even Dr. Trumbull cannot be regarded by
close students as an example of accuracy—certainly not as regards
Rogerene history.

The inhabitants of New London plantation were not sinners above other
men. At the time James Rogers, senior, his wife, sons and daughters were
thrust into prison in New London, John Bunyan was held in jail in
England and said he would stay there till the moss grew over his
eyebrows, before he would deny his convictions or cease to promulgate
them. In the light of to-day, neither of these committed any offense
whatever. Hundreds of the best of men suffered in like manner in
England, and for a long period of time; and some were given over to
death. The reverend father of Archbishop Leighton was, for conscience’s
sake, held imprisoned for more than twelve years, and not released until
his faculties, both of body and mind, were seriously impaired. Rev. John
Cotton, one of Boston’s earliest preachers, came out of prison to this
country. Religious thought was drenched, so to speak, with false
notions, and many, even of those who had escaped from persecution in the
Old World, became persecutors in the New.

Great praise is due to such men as Roger Williams, who fled from Salem
to the wilderness to escape banishment for his principles, hibernating
among Indians “without bed or board,” as he expressed it, and whose
ultimate settlement in Rhode Island made that State the field of
religious liberty. Equal praise is due to John Rogers and his
associates, at a later day, for boldly enunciating the same principles,
and bravely suffering in their defense, ploughing the rough soil of
Connecticut and sowing the good seed there.

Nor was the treatment of the Rogerenes comparable for cruelty with that
of the Quakers at Boston, a few years prior to the Rogers movement. We
hear nothing of the cutting off of ears, boring the tongue with a
red-hot iron, banishment, selling into slavery or punishment by death,
which disgraced the civilization of the Massachusetts colony and which
was Puritanism with a vengeance, almost leading us to sympathize with
their persecutors in England. New London plantation was disgraced by no
such heathenism as this.

St. Paul boasted that he was a citizen of no mean city. We shall find
that the Rogerenes are of no mean descent, sneered at and held in
derision though they have been, by men of superficial thought.

James Rogers, senior, a prosperous and esteemed business man of Milford,
Conn., had dealings in New London as early as 1656, and soon after
became a resident. Says Miss Caulkins:—

He soon acquired property and influence and was much employed, both in
civil and ecclesiastical affairs. He was six times representative to
the General Court. Mr. Winthrop had encouraged his settlement in the
plantation and had accommodated him with a portion of his own house
lot next the mill, on which Rogers built a dwelling house of stone. He
was a baker on a large scale, often furnishing biscuit for seamen and
for colonial troops, and between 1660 and 1670 had a greater interest
in the trade of the port than any other person in the place. His
landed possessions were very extensive, consisting of several hundred
acres on the Great Neck, the fine tract of land at Mohegan, called the
Pamechaug Farm, several house lots in town and 2,400 acres east of the
river, which he held in partnership with Col. Pyncheon of
Springfield.[2] Perhaps no one of the early settlers of New London
numbers at the present day so great a throng of descendants. His five
sons are the progenitors of as many distinct lines. His daughters were
women of great energy of character. John Rogers, the third son of
James, having become conspicuous as the founder of a sect, which
though small in point of number has been of considerable local
notoriety, requires a more extended notice. No man in New London
County was at one time more noted than he; no one suffered so heavily
from the arm of the law, the tongue of rumor and the pens of
contemporary writers.

John and James Rogers, Jr., in the course of trade, visited Newport,
R.I., and there first embraced Sabbatarian principles and were
baptized in 1674; Jonathan in 1675; James Rogers, senior, with his
wife and daughter Bathsheba, in 1676, and these were received as
members of the Seventh Day Church at Newport.[3]

—–

Footnote 2:

Although New London, at that time, included all that is now known as
Groton, Ledyard, Stonington, Montville, Waterford and East Lyme, we
find, by the proportion which James Rogers paid for the support of the
minister, that his property amounted to about one-tenth of that of the
entire plantation. The minister’s salary was £80 a year. Says Miss
Caulkins: “Rate lists for the minister’s tax are extant for the years
1664, 1666 and 1667. In this list the amount of each man’s taxable
property is given and the rate levied upon it is carried out. The
assessment of James Rogers is nearly double that of any other
inhabitant.” His rate was £7 19s. 10d., nearly three times that of
Governor Winthrop, which was £2 14s.

Footnote 3:

The first Baptist church of Newport was formed before May, 1639, by
some excommunicated members of the church at Boston and others. From
its organization, it rejected the supervision of civil magistrates.
Dr. John Clarke was its founder and first pastor. In 1671, several
member of Mr. Clarke’s church organized themselves into the
Sabbatarian or Seventh Day Baptist Church of Newport (then Aquedneck)
which James Rogers and his family joined, as above stated.

—–

As James Rogers, senior, against whom even the tongue of slander has
been silent, was among the first to feel the ecclesiastical lash, a few
words more concerning him from the pen of Miss Caulkins are here given:—

The elder James Rogers was an upright, circumspect man. His death
occurred in February, 1688. The will is on file in the probate office
in New London in the handwriting of his son John, from the preamble of
which we quote.

“What I have of this world I leave among you, desiring you not to fall
out about it; but let your love one to another appear more than to the
estate I leave with you, which is but of this world; and for your
comfort I signify to you that I have a perfect assurance of an
interest in Jesus Christ and an eternal happy estate in the world to
come, and do know and see that my name is written in the book of life,
and therefore mourn not for me as they that are without hope.”

Hollister, in his “History of Connecticut,” speaks of James Rogers in
high terms; although, in an evidently faithful following of historical
errors, he gives the common estimate of John Rogers and his followers.
Says Miss Caulkins:—

In 1676 the fines and imprisonments of James Rogers and his sons, for
profanation of the Sabbath,[4] commenced. For this and for neglect of
the established worship, they and some of their followers were usually
arraigned at every session of the court, for a long course of years.
The fine was at first five shillings, then ten shillings, then fifteen
shillings. At the June court,1677, the following persons were
arraigned and each fined £5:–James Rogers, senior, for high-handed,
presumptuous profanation of the Sabbath, by attending to his work;
Elizabeth Rogers, his wife, and James and Jonathan, for the same. John
Rogers, on examination, said he had been hard at work making shoes on
the first day of the week, and he would have done the same had the
shop stood under the window of Mr. Wetherell’s house; yea, under the
window of the meeting house. Bathsheba Smith, for fixing a scandalous
paper on the meeting house. Mary, wife of James Rogers, junior, for
absence from public worship.

Again, in September, 1677, the court ordered that John Rogers should
be called to account once a month and fined £5 each time; others of
the family were amerced to the same amount, for blasphemy against the
Sabbath, calling it an idol, and for stigmatizing the reverend
ministers as hirelings. After this, sitting in the stocks and whipping
were added.

—–

Footnote 4:

It will be understood that while “profaning” the first day Sabbath,
they were strictly keeping the scriptural seventh day Sabbath.

—–

This correspondent says, “The Rogerenes despised the authority of law.”
But only that which infringed upon their natural rights and honest
convictions of duty. To all other laws they were obedient. Says Miss
Caulkins:—

John Rogers maintained obedience to the civil government, except in
matters of conscience and religion. A town or county rate the
Rogerenes always considered themselves bound to pay; but the
minister’s rate they abhorred, denouncing as unscriptural all
interference of the civil power in the worship of God.

The Rogerenes were the first in this State to denounce the doctrine of
taxation without representation, the injustice of which is now
universally acknowledged. All their offences may be traced to a
determination to withstand and oppose ecclesiastical tyranny. Pioneers
in every great enterprise are sufferers, and pioneers in thought are no
exception to this rule. Other men have labored, and we have entered into
their labors. That principle for which these heroes and heroines so
valiantly and faithfully contended, in the grim face of suffering and
hate, the total divorcement of Church and State, is now established. Has
it not become the boast and glory of the nation, the torch of liberty
held aloft in the face of the world? And does it not show the march of
civilization that the right of all to equal religious freedom, then so
obnoxious, is now fully confessed and sweet to the ear as chime of
silver bells?

The venerable James Rogers, senior, with his wife, three sons and two
daughters, were, as we have seen, arraigned and fined £5 each at one
session of the court, within two years from the time of their alliance
with the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Newport. Other arraignments
followed, and in the case of John Rogers, the court ordered that he
should be called to account every month and fined £5 each time. Draco’s
laws were said to have been written in blood; Caligula set his on poles
so high they could not be read; but it was reserved for a New England
court, in the perilous times of which we are speaking, to pass sentence
before the offense was committed or trial had!

Nor have we but just entered into the vestibule of that temple of
ignorance, tyranny, and crime, which, even in the New London plantation,
reared its front and trailed its long shadow down a century. But on the
ashes of oppression thrives the tree of liberty. Religious freedom was
then emerging from the incrustation of ages, as the bird picks its way
through the shell to light and beauty. Whippings and sittings in the
stocks afterwards took place, yet we hear of but a single attempt on the
part of the Rogerenes to interrupt the public worship of their enemies,
until nearly eight years of persecution had elapsed, and it should be
remembered that such interruption was not uncommon in those days;
Quakers doing the same in Boston, under like treatment.

We quote from the records of the court, 1685:—

John Rogers, James Rogers, Jr., Samuel Beebe, Jr., and Joanna Way are
complained of for profaning God’s holy day with servile work, and are
grown to that height of impiety as to come at several times into the
town to rebaptise several persons; and, when God’s people were met
together on the Lord’s Day to worship God, several of them came and
made great disturbance, behaving themselves in such a frantic manner
as if possessed with a diabolical spirit, so affrighting and amazing
that several women swooned and fainted away.[5] John Rogers to be
whipped fifteen lashes and for unlawfully re-baptising, to pay £5. The
others to be whipped.

—–

Footnote 5:

For particular account of this and a previous countermove, see Part
II, Chap. 2.

—–

The Quakers at Boston had been charged with having a similar spirit,
and, almost simultaneously with this complaint, witches, so-called, were
hung at Salem. Mr. Burroughs, a preacher, being a small man, was charged
with holding out a long-barrelled gun straight with one hand. He
defended himself by saying that an Indian did the same thing. “Ah!
that’s the black man!” said the judge, meaning the devil helped him do
the deed. Burroughs was hung! It was said of Jesus of Nazareth, “He hath
a devil.”

There was no printing-press at that time in New London, and had there
been it would have served the will of the dominant power, not that of
the persecuted few. Bathsheba Smith had been previously fined £5 for
attaching a paper to the side of the meeting-house, setting forth their
grievances. If John Rogers had undertaken to harangue an audience in the
street, it might have been regarded as a still greater offense. It may
be said to be an unlawful act to present their case and assert their
rights in this manner; but an unlawful act is sometimes justified by
circumstances. It would be an unlawful act to go to your neighbor’s
house in the night, knock loudly at his door, disturb the inmates and
call out to them while quietly sleeping in their beds; but, if the house
were on fire, it would be a right and merciful act. Great exigencies
justify extraordinary conduct. What would be wrong under certain
conditions would be right under others.

It may be said that this course would not be tolerated at the present
day. Neither, we add, would the acts that led to it. The prophet was at
one time commanded to speak unto the people, whether they would hear or
whether they would forbear. With our imperfect knowledge of the
circumstances of the case, it may be impossible, at this date, to judge
rightly of its merits. Elizabeth Rogers was charged with stigmatizing
the reverend clergy as hirelings, and with calling the Sabbath an idol.
She was fined five pounds. There was not much freedom of speech in those
days. As to calling the Sabbath an idol, that was no more than saying it
was unduly reverenced. It was so among the Jews, at the time our Saviour
endeavored to disabuse them of the fallacy and to teach them that “the
Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” The brazen
serpent ordained of God for the healing of the people, when it became an
object of idolatrous worship, was ordered to be taken to pieces.

Miss Caulkins says:—

One of the most notorious instances of contempt exhibited by Rogers
against the religious worship of his fellow-townsmen was the sending
of a wig to a contribution made in aid of the ministry.

This was in derision of the full-bottomed wigs then worn by the
Congregational clergy.

We sympathize with him in his contempt of the ornament, if such it may
be called, of which the portraits of the Rev. Mr. Saltonstall present a
rich specimen. An ancient bishop refused to administer the rite of
baptism to one thus garnitured, saying, “Take that thing away; I will
not bless the head of a dead man.” John Rogers made an apologetic
confession of this offense, which may be seen upon the town records
to-day, viz.:—

Whereas I, John Rogers of New London, did rashly and unadvisedly send
a periwigg to the contribution of New London, which did reflect
dishonor upon that which my neighbors, ye inhabitants of New London,
account the ways and ordinances of God and ministry of the Word, to
the greate offense of them, I doe herebye declare that I am sorry for
the sayde action and doe desire all those whom I have offended to
accept this my publique acknowledgment as full satisfaction.

JOHN ROGERS.

A young man, sensible that his life had not been what it ought to have
been, and resolving upon amendment, sought his father and made frank
acknowledgment of his faults. Having done so, he said, “Now, father,
don’t you think you ought to confess a little to me?” We think some
confessions were also due from the other side.

The nest in which is hatched the bird of Jove is built of rough sticks
and set in craggy places. Again, it is stirred up that the young eaglet
may spread its wings and seek the sun. The victor’s laurels are not
cheaply gained; conflict and struggle are the price. Sparks flash from
collision. Lightnings cleanse the air. The geode is broken to free the
gem that lies within. Diamonds are cut and polished ere they shed forth
their splendor. Great good is usually ushered in by great labor and
sacrifice. It is so with liberty. Let us tread about its altars with
reverence, with unshod feet; altars from which have ascended flames so
bright as to illumine earth, and offerings so sweet as to propitiate
heaven. The unjust and tyrannical laws by which the early battlers for
religious freedom in this section were assailed have long since been
erased from the statutes of the State. The tide of public sentiment had
swollen to such height, in which all denominations except the standing
order were a unit, that they were wiped out, and their existence was
made impossible in the future. That the Rogerene movement largely
contributed to bring about this result will be shown. Of the hardships,
loss of liberty, loss of property, etc., which the Rogerenes endured for
conscience’s sake, Miss Caulkins speaks thus:—

Attempts were made to weary them out and break them up by a series of
fines, imposed upon presentments of the grand jury. These fines were
many times repeated, and the estates of the offenders melted under the
seizures of the constable as snow melts before the sun. The course was
a cruel one and by no means popular. At length, the magistrates could
scarcely find an officer willing to perform the irksome task of
distraining.

The demands of collectors, the brief of the constable, were ever
molesting their habitations. It was now a cow, then a few sheep, the
oxen at the plow, the standing corn, the stack of hay, the threshed
wheat, and, anon, piece after piece of land, all taken from them to
uphold a system which they denounced.

Further details of their sufferings will be omitted in this place; but
the famous suit of Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall against John Rogers demands
and shall receive dose attention.

It was while Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall was minister of the church of New
London, and through his influence, that John Rogers was expatriated, so
to speak, and mercilessly confined three years and eight months in the
jail at Hartford, “as guilty of blasphemy.” Shortly after his release,
Rev. Mr. Saltonstall brought a suit against John Rogers for defaming his
character. The following is the record of the court:—

At a session of the County Court, held at New London, September 20th,
1698, members of the court, Capt. Daniel Wetherell, esq., Justices
William Ely and Nathaniel Lynde, Mr. Gurdon Saltonstall, minister of
the gospel, plf. pr. contra John Rogers, Sr., def’t, in an action of
the case for defamation.

Whereas you, the said John Rogers, did some time in the month of June
last, raise a lying, false and scandalous report against him, the said
Mr. Gurdon Saltonstall, and did publish the same in the hearing of
diverse persons, that is to say, did, in their hearing, openly declare
that the said Saltonstall, having promised to dispute with you
publicly on the holy Scriptures, did, contrary to his said engagement,
shift or wave the said dispute which he promised you, which said false
report he, the said Saltonstall, complaineth of as to his great
scandal and to his damage unto such value as shall to the said court
be made to appear. In this action the jury finds for the plaintiff
£600 and costs of court £1 10s.

The £600 damages, equal perhaps to $10,000 at the present day, was not
more remarkable than the suit itself, which had no legal foundation.
Lorenzo Dow tells “how to lie, cheat and kill according to law.” But
here is a deed—ought we not to call it a robbery?—done under cover,
without the authority, of law. For the words alleged to have been
spoken, action of slander was not legal. That this may be made clear to
the general reader, we quote the language of the law from Selwyn’s
“Digest”:—

An action on the case lies against any person for falsely and
maliciously speaking and publishing of another, words which directly
charge him with any crime for which the offender is punishable by law.
In order to sustain this action it is essentially necessary that the
words should contain an express imputation of some crime liable to
punishment, some capital offense or other infamous crime or
misdemeanor. An imputation of the mere defect or want of moral
virtues, moral duties, or obligations is not sufficient.

To call a man a liar is not actionable; but the offensive words charged
upon Rogers do not necessarily impute as much as this. There might have
been a mistake or a misunderstanding on both sides, or Mr. Saltonstall
may, for good reason, have changed his purpose. No crime was charged
upon him, which we have seen is necessary to support the action. “Where
the words are not actionable in themselves and the only ground of action
is the special damage, such damage must be proved as alleged.” In this
case no special damage, is alleged and of course none proved. The causes
of the suit were too trifling for further discussion. Falsehood need not
rest upon either. Duplicity was no part of Roger’s character, and, since
we have spoken a word for him, we will let the Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall
speak for himself, as quoted by Mr. McEwen in his “Bi-Centennial
Discourse”:—

“There never was,” said Gov. Saltonstall in a letter to Sir Henry
Ashurst, “for this twenty years that I have resided in this
government, any one, Quaker or other person, that suffered on account
of his different persuasion in religious matters from the body of this
people.”

We may suppose that Mr. Saltonstall thought he had done a brilliant act,
to recover from John Rogers a sum equal to about six year’s salary. But
there are scales that never grow rusty and dials that do not tire. Time,
the great adjuster of all things, will have its avenges.

While the least peccadilloes of the Rogerenes have been searched out as
with candles and published from pulpit and from press, no one of their
enemies has ever found it convenient to name this high-handed act of
oppression, as shown in the suit referred to. Perhaps they have viewed
it in the light that the Scotchman did his text, when he said,
“Brethren, this is a very difficult text; let us look it square in the
face and pass on.” They may not even have looked it in the face.

Last, if not least, of the unauthenticated anecdotes narrated by Mr.
McEwen of the Rogerenes, in his half-century sermon, which we would not
care to unearth, but which has recently been republished in _The
Outlook_, is here given:—

One of this sect, who was employed to pave the gutters of the streets,
prepared himself with piles of small stones, by the wayside, that when
Mr. Adams was passing to church, he might dash them into the slough,
to soil the minister’s black dress. But, getting no attention from the
object of his rudeness, who simply turned to avoid the splash, the
nonplussed persecutor cried out, “Woe unto thee, Theophilus,
Theophilus, when all men speak well of thee!”

When we remember that Mr. Adam’s name was not Theophilus, and that, if
it was on Sunday that the preacher was going to church, the gutters
would not have been in process of paving, a shadow of doubt falls upon
this story.

But Mr. McEwen throws heavier stones at the Rogerenes, which we are
compelled to notice, and shall see what virtue there is in them.

Why, in speaking of the Rogerenes, in his half-century sermon, does he
say: “To pay taxes of any sort grieved their souls”? when they were so
exact to render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and unto God the
things that are God’s? Miss Caulkins fully exonerates them from this
charge. We repeat her words:—

He (John Rogers) maintained also obedience to the civil government,
except in matters of conscience and religion. A town or county rate
the Rogerenes always considered themselves bound to pay; but the
minister’s rate they abhorred.

Why should they not? Would not the Congregational church at that time
have abhorred such a tax imposed upon them to support the Baptist
ministry? Until we are willing to concede to others the rights that we
claim for ourselves, we are not the followers of Him who speaketh from
heaven. But the most glaring wrong done to these dissenters by the
standing order, outvying perhaps Gov. Saltonstall’s groundless suit for
damages, is found in the course taken by the magistrates, unrebuked,
who, however small was the fine or however large the value of the
property distrained, returned nothing to the victims of their injustice.

Says John Rogers, Jr.:—

For a fine of ten shillings, the officer first took ten sheep, and
then complained that they were not sufficient to answer the fine and
charges, whereupon, he came a second time and took a milch cow out of
the pasture, and so we heard no more about it, by which I suppose the
cow and the ten sheep satisfied the fine and charges.

As showing the absurd and unjust treatment that John Rogers endured at
the hands of the civil and ecclesiastical power, we quote from Miss
Caulkins. Clearly he was right with regard to the jurisdiction of the
court:—

In 1711, he was fined and imprisoned for misdemeanor in court,
contempt of its authority and vituperation of the judges. He himself
states that his offense consisted in charging the court with injustice
for trying a case of life and death without a jury. This was in the
case of one John Jackson, for whom Rogers took up the battle axe.
Instead of retracting his words, he defends them and reiterates the
charge. Refusing to give bonds for his good behavior until the next
term of court, he was imprisoned in New London jail. This was in the
winter season and he thus describes his condition:—

“My son was wont in cold nights to come to the grates of the window to
see how I did, and contrived privately to help me to some fire, etc.
But he, coming in a very cold night, called to me, and perceiving that
I was not in my right senses, was in a fright, and ran along the
street, crying, ‘The authority hath killed my father’; upon which the
town was raised, and forthwith the prison doors were opened and fire
brought in, and hot stones wrapt in cloth and laid at my feet and
about me, and the minister Adams sent me a bottle of spirits, and his
wife a cordial, whose kindness I must acknowledge.

“But when those of you in authority saw that I recovered, you had up
my son and fined him for making a riot in the night, and took, for the
fine and charge, three of the best cows I had.”

John Bolles, born in 1677, a disciple of John Rogers, in his book
entitled “True Liberty of Conscience is in Bondage to No Flesh,” makes
this statement, on page 98:—

To my knowledge, was taken from a man, only for the costs of a
justice’s court and court charge of whipping him for breach of the
Sabbath (so-called) a mare worth a hundred pounds, and nothing
returned, and this is known by us yet living, to have been the general
practice in Connecticut.

His biographer adds, “Mr. Bolles was doubtless that man.”

We quote further from John Bolles:—

And as he (John Rogers) saith hitherto, so may we say now, fathers
taken from their wives and children, without any regard to distance of
place, or length of time. Sometimes fathers and mothers both taken and
kept in prison, leaving their fatherless and motherless children to go
mourning about the streets.

When a poor man hath had but one milch cow for his family’s comfort,
it hath been taken away; or when he hath had only a small beast to
kill for his family, it hath been taken from him, to answer a fine for
going to a meeting of our own society, or to defray the charges of a
cruel whipping for going to such a meeting, or things of this nature.
Yea, £12 or £14 worth of estate hath been taken to defray the charges
of one such whipping, without making any return as the law directs.
And this latter clause in the law is seldom attended.

Yea, fourscore and odd sheep have been taken from a man, being all his
flock; a team taken from the plough, with all its furniture, and led
away. But I am not now about giving a particular account; for it would
contain a book of a large volume to relate all that hath been taken
from us, and as unreasonable and boundless as these.

Mr. McEwen says derisively:—

Their goods were distrained; their cattle were sold at the post, and
some of their people were imprisoned. But, emulating the example of
the apostles, they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods; yea,
they gloried in bonds and imprisonment.

It was not the apostles, but the Hebrews, to whom the apostle wrote, who
took joyfully the spoiling of their goods. A small matter, it may seem,
to correct; but accuracy of Scripture quotation may be a Rogerene trait,
and the writer will be proud if it be said, “Surely, thou art also one
of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee.”

The subject on which we have entered opens and broadens and deepens
before us, blending with all history and all truth. It is not
exceptional, it is not isolated. It may not be blotted from memory, as
it cannot be blotted from existence, painfully interwoven as it is with
the mottled fabric of time. The world’s greatest benefactors have often
been its greatest sufferers. Socrates was made to drink the fatal
hemlock, for not believing in the gods acknowledged by the state.
Seneca, the moralist, was put to death by his ungrateful pupil, Nero.
The first followers of Christ were persecuted, tortured and slain by the
heathen world. Attaining to civil power, Christians treated in like
manner their fellow Christians. Ecclesiastical history, wherever there
has been an alliance of church and state, is blackened with crimes and
cruelties too foul to be named. Recall the nameless horrors of the
Inquisition, perpetrated under such rule. Think of Smithfield and the
bloody queen.

Is it to be wondered at that the Rogerenes, meeting persecution at every
turn, should have been aroused to a sublimity of courage, perhaps of
defiance, against the tide of intolerance which had swept over the ages
and was now wildly dashing its unspent waves across their path? Not
until more than a century later did the potent word of Christian
enlightenment go forth, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and
here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”

Passing a period of fifty years, darkened with wrongs and cruelties, the
following notice of whipping is here given. It is necessary to present
facts, that we may form a true judgment of the character and mission of
this sect, which had at least the honor, like that of the early
Christians, of being “everywhere spoken against.”

From the “Life of John Bolles” we take the following:—

I have before me a copy of the record of proceedings, in July, 1725,
before Joseph Backus, Esq., a magistrate of Norwich, Conn., against
Andrew Davis, John Bolles, and his son Joseph Bolles (a young man of
twenty-four years), John Rogers (the younger), Sarah Culver and
others, charged with Sabbath breaking, by which it appears that for
going on Sunday, from Groton and New London, to attend Baptist worship
in Lebanon, they were arrested on Sunday, imprisoned till the next day
and then heavily fined, the sentence being that if fine and costs were
not paid they should be flogged on the bare back for non-payment of
fine, and then lie in jail till payment of costs. As none of them
would pay, they were all flogged, the women as well as the men, John
Bolles receiving fifteen stripes and each of the others ten.

According to the statement of one of the sufferers, Mary Mann of
Lebanon wished to be immersed, and applied to John Rogers (the
younger) and his society for baptism. Notice was publicly posted some
weeks beforehand that on Monday, July 26th, 1725, she would be
baptised and that a religious meeting would be held in Lebanon on
Sunday, July 25th, “the day,” says Rogers, “on which we usually meet,
as well as the rest of our neighbors.”[6] When the Sunday came, a
company of Baptists, men and women, from Groton and New London, set
out for Lebanon, by the county road that led through Norwich. The
passage through Norwich was so timed as not to interfere with the
hours of public worship. After they had passed through the village,
they were pursued and stopped, brought back to Norwich, imprisoned
until Monday, and then tried, convicted and sentenced for Sabbath
breaking. It must be added that a woman who was thus stripped and
flogged was pregnant at the time, and that the magistrate who ordered
the whipping stood by and witnessed the execution of the sentence.
This outrage was much talked of throughout New England, and led to the
publication of divers proclamations and pamphlets.

Deputy Governor Jenks, of Rhode Island, the following January, having
obtained a copy of the proceedings against Davis and the others,
ordered it to be publicly posted in Providence, to show the people of
Rhode Island “what may be expected from a Presbyterian government,”
and appended to it an indignant official proclamation.

—–

Footnote 6:

About 1705, the Rogerene Society came to the conclusion that the
Jewish Sabbath and ordinances were, according to the teachings of the
New Testament, done away with by the new dispensation, and they began
to hold their meetings on Sunday as the more convenient day. See Part
II, Chap. VI.

—–

GOVERNOR JENK’S PROCLAMATION.

I order this to be set up in open view, in some public place, in the
town of Providence, that the inhabitants may see and be sensible of
what may be expected from a Presbyterian government, in case they
should once get the rule over us. Their ministers are creeping in
amongst us with adulatious pretense, and declare their great
abhorrence to their forefather’s sanguinary proceedings with the
Quakers, Baptists and others. I am unwilling to apply Prov. xxvi, 25,
to any of them; but we have a specimen of what has lately been acted
in a Presbyterian government, which I think may suppose it sits a
queen and shall see no sorrow. I may fairly say of some of the
Presbyterian rulers and Papists, as Jacob once said of his two sons,
Gen. xlix, 5 and 6 verses, “They are brethren, instruments of cruelty
are in their habitations! O, my soul, come not thou into their secret!
Unto their assembly, mine honor, be thou not united!” Amos v, 7, “They
who turn judgment into wormwood and leave off righteousness in the
earth.” Chapter vi, 12, “For they have turned judgment into gall, and
the fruit of righteousness into hemlock!” And I think in whomsoever
the spirit of persecution restest there cannot be much of the spirit
of God. And I must observe that, notwithstanding the Presbyterian
pretended zeal to a strict observance of a first day Sabbath was such
that those poor people might not be suffered to travel from Groton to
Lebanon on that day, on a religious occasion, as hath been minded, but
must be apprehended as gross malefactors and unmercifully punished;
yet, when a Presbyterian minister, which hath a great fame for
abilities, hath been to preach in the town of Providence, why truly
then the Presbyterians have come flocking in, upon the first day of
the week, to hear him, from Rehoboth, and the furthest parts of
Attleborough, and from Killingly, which is much further than John
Rogers and his friends were travelling; and this may pass for a Godly
zeal; but the other must be punished for a sinful action. Oh! the
partiality of such nominal Christians!

JOSEPH JENKS, _Dep. Gov._

In the contemplation of noble deeds, we become more noble, and by the
just anathematizing of error our love of truth is made stronger. As the
bee derives honey from nauseous substances, so we would extract good
even from wrongdoing. It is with no spirit of animosity towards any one
that we pursue this subject.

No word of palliation for the acts of the Rogerenes, no admission of
wrong done to them by their opponents, is heard from the ecclesiastical
side. Perhaps even the severity of the statements made against them may
be an evidence in their favor.

The Rev. Mr. Saltonstall began his ministry in New London in 1688, at
the age of twenty-two. This was about twelve years after the
prosecutions against the Rogers family, for non-conformity, had
commenced. In 1691, he was ordained, and continued to preach until 1708,
when he was chosen governor of the State and abandoned the ministry
altogether. Bred in the narrow school of ecclesiasticism, and of a proud
and dominant spirit, the day-star of religious liberty seems not even to
have dawned upon his mind.

He was virulent in his enmity to John Rogers from the beginning. The
Furies have been said to relent; his rancor showed no abatement.

In 1694, he presented charges of blasphemy against John Rogers, without
the knowledge of the latter, and while he was confined in New London
jail. We copy the following extract, from a statement made by John
Rogers, Jr., writing in defence of his father, which shows how closely
he was watched by his adversaries, that they might find grounds of
accusation against him.

Peter Pratt, of whom we shall say more hereafter, an author mainly
quoted by historians on the subject we are discussing, in a pamphlet
traducing the character of John Rogers, and written after his death, had
said of his treatment in Hartford: “His whippings there were for most
audacious contempt of authority; his sitting on the gallows was for
blasphemous words.”

To which John Rogers, Jr., thus replies:—

First, he asserts that his whippings there—viz., at Hartford—“were for
most audacious contempt of Authority”; but doth not inform the reader
what the contempt was; making himself the judge, as well as the
witness, whereas it was only his business to have proved what the
contempt was, and to have left the judgment to the reader.

And forasmuch as his assertion is altogether unintelligible, so may it
reasonably be expected that my answer must be by supposition, and is
as follows:—

“I suppose he intends that barbarous cruelty which was acted on John
Rogers, while he was a prisoner at Hartford, in the time of his long
imprisonment above mentioned, which was so contrary to the laws of God
and kingdom of England, that I never could find that they made a
record of that matter, according to Christ’s words, John iii, 20, ‘For
every one that doeth evil hateth the light,’ etc.

“But John Rogers has given a large relation about it, as may be seen
in his book entitled, ‘A Midnight Cry.’ From pages 12-15, where he
asserts that he was taken out of Prison, he knew not for what, and
tied to the Carriage of a great gun, where he had seventy-six stripes
on his naked body, with a whip much larger than the lines of a drum,
with knots at the end as big as a walnut, and in that maimed condition
was returned to prison again; and his bed, which he had hired at a
dear rate, taken from him, and not so much as straw allowed him to lie
on, it being on the eighteenth day of the eighth month, called
October, and very cold weather.”

And although myself, with a multitude of spectators, who were present
at Hartford and saw this cruel act, can testify to the truth of the
account which he gives of it, yet I cannot inform the reader on what
account it was that he suffered it, or what he was charged with; for,
as I said before, I never could find a record of that matter.

But if it was for contempt of Authority, as Peter Pratt asserts, then
I think those that inflicted such a punishment were more guilty of
contempt against God than John Rogers was of contempt against the
Authority; for God in his holy law has strictly commanded Judges not
to exceed forty stripes on any account, as may be seen, Deut. xxv, 3,
“So that for Judges to exceed forty stripes is high contempt against
God.”

In the next place, he adds that “his sitting on the gallows was for
blasphemous words.”

Reply:—

Here again he ought to have informed the reader what the words were,
which doubtless would have been more satisfaction to the reader than
for Peter Pratt to make himself both witness and judge, and so leave
nothing for the reader to do but to remain as ignorant as before they
saw his book.

And he might as well have said of the Martyr Stephen that his
suffering was for blasphemous words, as what he says of John Rogers,
for it was but the judgment of John Roger’s persecutors that the words
were blasphemous, and so it was the judgment of the Martyr Stephen’s
persecutors that he was guilty of speaking blasphemous words, as may
be seen, Acts vi, 13, “This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous
words,” etc. Whereupon they put him to death.

In the next place, I shall give the reader an account of what these
words were for which John Rogers was charged with blasphemy; the
account of which here follows:—

He being at a house in New London where there were many persons
present, was giving a description of the state of an unregenerate
person, and also of the state of a sanctified person; wherein he
alleged that the body of an unregenerate person was a body of sin, and
that Satan had his habitation there. And, on the contrary, that the
body of a sanctified person was Christ’s body, and that Christ dwelt
in such a body.

Whereupon, one of the company asked him whether he intended the humane
body, to which he replied that he did intend the humane body.
Whereupon, the person replied again, “Will you say that your humane
body is Christ’s body?” to which he replied, clapping his hand on his
breast, “Yes, I do affirm that this humane body is Christ’s body; for
Christ has purchased it with His precious blood; and I am not my own,
for I am bought with a price.”

Whereupon, two of the persons present gave their testimony as follows:
“We being present, saw John Rogers clap his hand on his breast and
say, ‘This is Christ’s humane body.’” But they omitted the other words
which John Rogers joined with it.

And because I was very desirous to have given those testimonies out of
the Secretary’s Office, I took a journey to Hartford on purpose but
the Secretary could not find them; yet, forasmuch as myself was
present, both when the words were spoken, and also at the trial at
Hartford, I am very confident that I have given them verbatim. And
whether or no this was blasphemy, I desire not to be the judge, but am
willing to leave the judgment to every unprejudiced reader.

The words of John Rogers were perfectly scriptural, as will be
understood by every intelligent reader of the Bible.

The Apostle speaks of the church as the body of Christ. Again, “Know ye
not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” And other passages to
the same effect.

The cry of blasphemy has been a favorite device with murderers and
persecutors in all ages.

When Naboth was set on high by Ahab to be slain, proclamation was made,
“This man hath blasphemed God and the King.”

“For a good work we stone you not,” said the Jews to Christ, “but for
_blasphemy_.” And the high priest said of Christ himself, “What need we
any further witness? Have we not heard his blasphemy from his own
mouth?”

Miss Caulkins, in her “History of New London,” although inclined to
favor the ecclesiastical side, says: “The offences of the Rogerenes were
multiplied and exaggerated, both by prejudice and rumor. Doubtless a
sober mind would not now give so harsh a name to expressions which our
ancestors deemed blasphemous.”

It will be remembered that in 1677, “the court ordered that John Rogers
should be called to account once a month and fined £5 each time,”
irrespective of his innocence or guilt, and without trial of either.
This unrighteous order would seem to have been in force fifteen years
later, viz., in November, 1692. “At that time,” says Miss Caulkins,
“besides his customary fines for working on the Sabbath and for
baptizing, he was amerced £4 for entertaining Banks and Case (itinerant
exhorters) for a month or more at his house.”—“Customary fines!”

In the spring of 1694, Rogers was transferred from the New London to the
Hartford Prison. Why was this transfer made? Perhaps that the charges of
blasphemy brought against him might with more certainty be sustained
where he was not known. Perhaps that the sympathies of the people would
not be as likely to find expression there as they sometimes did at his
outrageous treatment in New London; as will be seen. Or, by a more
rigorous treatment he might be made to submit.

In Hartford he was placed in charge of a cruel and unprincipled jailer,
who was entirely subservient to the will of his enemies, and who told
John Rogers _he_ would make him comply with their worship, if the
authorities could not.

What prompted, we might ask, the unusual and merciless treatment that he
received during this imprisonment at Hartford? He had not offended the
authorities nor the people there; he was a stranger in their midst. The
same remorseless spirit that had delivered him up to them as guilty of
blasphemy was doubtless the moving, animating cause of such savage
conduct. Scarcely four months had elapsed after his release from the
Hartford prison where he had been confined nearly four years, before the
Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall brought a suit of defamation against him, for
the most trivial reasons, as we have seen (Chapter I), and upon no legal
grounds whatever; yet a parasitical jury awarded the august complainant
damages in the unconscionable sum of £600. Of this proceeding, Miss
Caulkins, in her “History of New London,” says: “Rogers had not been
long released from prison, before he threw himself into the very jaws of
the lion, as it were, by provoking a personal collision with Mr.
Saltonstall, the minister of the town.”

“Jaws of the lion!” Perhaps Miss Caulkins builded wiser than she knew.
We had not ourselves presumed to characterize Mr. Saltonstall as the
king of beasts; but, since John Rogers, so far as we know, was never
charged with deviation from the truth, except in the above mentioned
suit, while the Rev. Mr. Saltonstall was not above suspicion, as will
appear by the false charge of blasphemy he brought against Rogers, and
by other acts of which we shall speak hereafter, we will leave the
reader to judge on which side the truth lay in this case.

It should be remembered that years had elapsed after the fines,
imprisonments, etc., of Rogers had commenced—for non-attendance at the
meetings of the standing order, for baptizing, breach of the Sabbath,
etc.—before he was charged with entering the meeting-house in time of
public worship and remonstrating there with the people. It was not in
self-defence alone, it was in defence of justice that he spoke. Who were
the first aggressors? Who disturbed him in the performance of the
baptismal rites? Who interfered with his meetings? Who entered them as
spies, to lay the foundation for suits against him? These things have
not been referred to; they have not been confessed; they have not been
apologized for, on the part of the standing order. If John Rogers was
such a terrible sinner for what he did to them, how much greater
accountability will they have to meet who, without any just cause, made
their attack upon him!

There are fires burning in the heart of every good man that cannot be
quenched. As well undertake to smother the rays of the sun or to confine
ignited dynamite. We would not justify breach of courtesy, or any other
law not contrary to the law of God; but there are times when to be
silent would be treason to truth.

John Roger’s father was the largest taxpayer in the colony, and had
himself alone been subjected to the payment of one-tenth part of the
cost of building the meeting-house, while John Rogers and his adherents,
who were industrious, frugal, and thrifty people—or they never could
have sustained the immense fines imposed upon them without being brought
to abject poverty—had probably paid as much more; so we may suppose that
at least one-fifth of the meeting-house, strictly speaking, belonged to
them, while they were constantly being taxed for the support of this
church of their persecutors.

The meeting-house was, in those times, quite often used for public
purposes; in fact, the courts were frequently held there. How, upon a
week day, could he have found an audience of his persecutors, or
permission to address them? If he had published a circular it would have
been deemed a scandalous paper, for which he might have been fined and
imprisoned. He could scarcely get at the ear of the people in any other
way than by the course he took, and he could in no other way put as
forcible a check upon the church party persecutions of his own sect.

There are volcanoes in nature; may there not be such in the moral world?
Who knows but they are safety valves to the whole system. It cannot be
denied that the church gave ample and repeated occasion to call from
these reformers something more than the sound of the lute. These moral
upheavings must tend to a sublime end, and like adversity have their
sweet uses. We are now breathing the fragrance of the flower planted in
the dark soil of those turbulent times. Of the Puritanism of New
England, we must say it is bespattered with many a blot, which ought not
to be passed over with zephyrs of praise. “Fair weather cometh out of
the north. Men see not the bright light in the cloud. The wind passeth
over and cleanseth them.” Let us revere the names of all who, in the
face of suffering and loss, have dared to stand up boldly in truth’s
defence.

To impress men to haul an apostle of liberty from jail to jail, break
into the sanctity of family relations, imprison fathers and mothers,
purloin their property, for no just cause whatever, leaving their
children to cry in the streets for bread, and this under the cloak of
religion, is an offence incomparably greater than to make one’s voice
heard in vindication of truth, even in a meeting-house.

The offences of John Rogers, whatever they may have been, encountering
opposition with opposition, in which facts were the only swords, and
words the only lash, are as insignificant as the fly on the elephant’s
back compared with the treatment that he and his followers received from
those who had fled from persecution in the Old World to stain their own
hands with like atrocities in the New.

Of the almost unprecedented suffering and cruelties which John Rogers
endured for conscience’s sake, and in the cause of religious freedom,
for many years, and particularly of his confinement in the Hartford
prison, he here tells the story, written by himself about twelve years
after his release from that prison. See “Midnight Cry,” pages 4-16:—

_Friends and Brethren_:—

I have found it no small matter to enter in at the straight gate and
to keep the narrow way that leads unto life; for it hath led me to
forsake a dear wife and children, yea, my house and land and all my
worldly enjoyment, and not only so, but to lose all the friendships of
the world, yea, to bury all my honor and glory in the dust, and to be
counted the off-scouring and filth of all things; yea, the straight
and narrow way hath led me into prisons, into stocks and to cruel
scourgings, mockings and derision, and I could not keep in it without
perfect patience under all these things; for through much tribulation
must we enter into the kingdom of God.

I have been a listed soldier under His banner now about thirty-two
years, under Him whose name is called the Word of God, who is my
Captain and Leader, that warreth against the devil and his angels,
against whom I have fought many a sore battle, within this thirty-two
years, for refusing to be subject to the said devil’s or dragon’s
laws, ordinances, institutions and worship; and for disregarding his
ministers, for which transgressions I have been sentenced to pay
hundreds of pounds, laid in iron chains, cruelly scourged, endured
long imprisonments, set in the stocks many hours together, out of the
bounds of all human law, and in a cruel manner.

Considering who was my Captain and Leader, and how well He had armed
me for the battle, I thought it my wisdom to make open proclamation of
war against the dragon, accordingly I did, in writing, and hung it out
on a board at the prison window, but kept no copy of it, but strangely
met with a copy of it many years after, and here followeth a copy of
it. (See Part II, Chapter IV.) This proclamation of War was in the
first month, and in the year 1694. It did not hang long at the Prison
window before a Captain, who also was a Magistrate, came to the prison
window and told me he was a Commission Officer and that proclamations
belonged to him to publish; and so he took it away with him, and I
never heard anything more about it from the Authority themselves; but
I heard from others, who told me they were present and heard it read
among the Authority, with great laughter and sport at the fancy of it.

But the Dragon which deceiveth the whole world, pitted all his forces
against me in a great fury; for one of his ministers, a preacher of
his doctrine, not many days after this proclamation, made complaint to
the Authority against me, as I was informed, and after understood it
to be so by the Authority, and that he had given evidence of Blasphemy
against me; though nothing relating to my proclamation; and this
following Warrant and Mittimus was issued against me, while I was in
New London prison, which I took no copy of also; but the Mittimus
itself came to my hands as strangely as the copy of the Proclamation
did; of which here followeth a copy:—

MITTIMUS.

“Whereas John Rogers of New London hath of late set himself in a
furious way, in direct opposition to the true worship and pure
ordinances and holy institution of God; as also on the Lord’s Day
passing out of prison in the time of public worship, running into the
meeting-house in a railing and raging manner, as being guilty of
Blasphemy.

“To the Constable of New London, or County Marshal, these are
therefore in their Majestie’s name to require you to impress two
sufficient men, to take unto their custody the body of John Rogers and
him safely to convey unto Hartford and deliver unto the prison-keeper,
who is hereby required him the said John Rogers to receive into
custody and safely to secure in close prison until next Court of
Assistants held in Hartford. Fail not: this dated in New London, March
28th, 1694.”

By this Warrant and Mittimus I was taken out of New London Prison, by
two armed men, and carried to the head jail of the Government, where I
was kept till the next Court of Assistants, and there fined £5 for
reproaching their ministry, and to sit on the gallows a quarter of an
hour with a halter about my neck; and from thence to the prison again,
and there to continue till I paid the said £5 and gave in a bond of
£50 not to disturb their churches; where I continued three years and
eight months from my first commitment. This was the sentence. And upon
a training day the Marshall came with eight Musqueteers, and a man to
put the halter on, and as I passed by the Train Band, I held up the
halter and told them my Lord was crowned with thorns for my sake and
should I be ashamed to go with a halter about my neck for His sake?
Whereupon, the Authority gave order forthwith that no person should go
with me to the gallows, save but the guard; the gallows was out of the
town. When I came to it, I saw that both gallows and ladder were newly
made. I stepped up the ladder and walked on the gallows, it being a
great square piece of timber and very high. I stamped on it with my
feet, and told them I came there to stamp it under my feet; for my
Lord had suffered on the gallows for me, that I might escape it.

From thence, I was guarded with the said eight Musqueteers to the
prison again. Being come there, the Officers read to me the Court’s
sentence and demanded of me whether I would give in a bond of £50 not
to disturb their churches for time to come, and pay the £5 fine. I
told them I owed them nothing and would not bind myself.

About five or six months after, there was a malefactor taken out of
the prison where I was and put to death, by reason of which there was
a very great concourse of people to behold it; and, when they had
executed him, they stopped in the street near to the prison where I
was, and I was taken out (I know not for what) and tied to the
carriage of a great gun, where I saw the County whip, which I knew
well, for it was kept in the prison where I was, and I had it
oftentimes in my hand, and had viewed it, it being one single line
opened at the end, and three knots tied at the end, on each strand a
knot, being not so big as a cod-line; I suppose they were wont, when
not upon the Dragon’s service, not to exceed forty stripes, according
to the law of Moses, every lash being a stripe.

I also saw another whip lie by it with two lines, the ends of the
lines tied with twine that they might not open, the two knots seemed
to me about as big as a walnut; some told me they had compared the
lines of the whip to the lines on the drum and the lines of the whip
were much bigger. The man that did the execution did not only strike
with the strength of his arm, but with a swing of his body also; my
senses seemed to be quicker, in feeling, hearing, discerning, or
comprehending anything at that time than at any other time.

The spectators told me they gave me three score stripes, and then they
let me loose and asked me if I did not desire mercy of them. I told
them, “No, they were cruel wretches.” Forthwith, they sentenced me to
be whipped a second time. I was told by the spectators that they gave
me sixteen stripes; and from thence I was carried to the prison again;
and one leg chained to the cell. A bed which I had hired to this time,
at a dear rate, was now taken from me by the jailer, and not so much
as straw to lie on, nor any covering. The floor was hollow from the
ground, and the planks had wide and open joints. It was upon the 18th
day of the 8th month that I was thus chained, and kept thus chained
six weeks, the weather cold. When the jailer first chained me, he
brought some dry crusts on a dish and put them to my mouth, and told
me he that was executed that day had left them, and that he would make
me thankful for them before he had done with me, and would make me
comply with their worship before he had done with me though the
Authority could not do it; and then went out from me and came no more
at me for three days and three nights; nor sent me one mouthful of
meat, nor one drop of drink to me; and then he brought a pottinger of
warm broth and offered it to me. I replied, “Stand away with thy
broth, I have no need of it.”

“Ay! ay!” said he, “have you so much life yet in you?” and went his
way. Thus I lay chained at this cell six weeks. My back felt like a
dry stick without sense of feeling, being puffed up like a bladder, so
that I was fain to lie upon my face. In which prison I continued three
years after this, under cruel sufferings.

But I must desist; for it would contain a book of a large volume to
relate particularly what I suffered in the time of this imprisonment.
But I trod upon the Lion and Adder, the young lion and the dragon I
trampled under my feet, and came forth a conqueror, through faith in
Him who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and hath overcome
death itself for us, and him that hath the power of it also, who is
the devil. But this long war hath kept me waking and watching and
looking for the coming of the bridegroom and earnestly desiring that
his bride may be prepared and in readiness to meet Him in her
beautiful garments, being arrayed in fine linen, clean and white,
which is the righteousness of the saints.

We are glad to set before the gaze of the world an example of moral
heroism, courage and endurance, strongly in contrast with the spirit of
this pleasure-loving, gain-seeking age. A light shining in a dark place,
which the storms of persecution could not extinguish nor its waves
overwhelm.

Mr. McEwen says, in his Half-Century Sermon:—

During the ministry of Mr. Saltonstall, and reaching down through the
long ministry of Mr. Adams, and the shorter one of Mr. Byles, a
religious sect prevailed here whose acts were vexatious to this church
and congregation. I have no wish to give their history except so far
as their fanaticism operated as a persecution of our predecessors in
this place of worship.

On the side of the oppressor there was power, said Solomon. These people
were powerless from the beginning, so far as the secular or
ecclesiastical arm was concerned. The power lay in the church and state,
and was freely exercised by both, in a cruel and most tyrannical manner,
as undisputed history attests.

Mr. McEwen admits that the Rogerenes held the doctrine of non-resistance
to violence from men. Referring to this sect in the time of Mr.
Byles,[7] he says:—

“They were careful to make no resistance, showing their faith by their
works,” and relates an anecdote which reflects no credit upon the
officers of the law at that day. He says:—

One constable displayed his genius in putting the strength of this
principle of non-resistance to a test. He took a bold assailant of
public worship down to the harbor, placed him in a boat that was
moored to a stake in deep water, perforated the bottom of the boat
with an auger, gave the man a dish and left him to live by faith or
die in the faith.

—–

Footnote 7:

During the countermove, 1764-1766. See Part II, Chapter XII.

—–

Quoting the words of Satan, Mr. McEwen adds, “Skin for skin, all that a
man hath will he give for his life.” The faith of the man was strong,
yet he was saved not by faith, but by bailing water.

Mr. McEwen is quick to condemn the infringement of the law when charged
upon the Rogerenes, but makes no objections to the constable’s outrage
upon law, and no reference to the hundred years of oppression, in fines,
whippings, imprisonments, etc., which the Rogerenes had then endured;
fines which, with, interest, would have amounted to millions of dollars
at the time Mr. McEwen was speaking.

But, notwithstanding the principles of non-resistance so publicly
professed by the Rogerenes, from whom the weakest had nothing to fear,
Mr. McEwen dwells strongly upon the terrors which they inspired. He
says:—

Mr. Saltonstall and Mr. Adams were brave men. Mr. Byles was a man of
less nerve and he suffered not a little from their annoyances. He was
actually afraid to go without an escort, lest he should suffer
indignities from them.

We have shown (Chapter I) the transparent groundlessness of another
statement made of their rudeness by Mr. McEwen, which we need not
repeat; but the trials into which Mr. Byles was thrown and the escort
deemed necessary present such a comical aspect that the following lines
from Mother Goose seem appropriate to the case:—

Four and twenty tailors
Went to kill a snail,
The best man among them
Durst not touch its tail;
It stuck up its horns,
Like a little Kyloe cow;
Run! tailors, run! or it
Will kill you all just now.

Mr. Byles, who was ordained in 1757, seems to have been as much
displeased with the church as with the Rogerenes themselves; for in 1768
he left New London, renounced the Congregational church and abandoned
its ministry altogether. (See Part II, Chapter XII.)

Herod and Pilate were men of note in their day. What are they thought of
now? The records of history show many examples of this sort. Quakers
were once persecuted and slain. Men are now proud of such ancestry. Let
the calumniated wait their hour. The progress of truth adown the ages is
slow, but its chariot is golden and its coming sure.

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