Archive for Category: puritans

Anne Hutchinson – early American house churcher

NARRATOR: Hutchinson’s story electrified her listeners. They gathered at her house to hear about her revelation from God, just yards from where the governor lived.

JOHN WINTHROP: She keeps open house for all comers, three score, four score people. She comments upon the doctrines, interprets all passages at her pleasure and expounds dark passages of Scripture.

NARRATOR: As much as Winthrop disliked her talk of messages from God, Hutchinson was a good Puritan and had broken no law.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: This is what makes her so dangerous is because she is speaking the language of Puritanism itself- “The drama is happening inside each of us. God is speaking to each of us. We need to listen to that voice of God inside us.”

NARRATOR: And as Hutchinson’s popularity grew, Winthrop feared for the future of his colony.

JOHN WINTHROP: Her doctrine appeals to many profane people because it is a very easy and an acceptable way to Heaven, to see nothing, to have to do nothing but wait for Christ to do all.

NARRATOR: Hutchinson’s easy path to heaven undermined Winthrop’s orderly society. He needed his people to struggle with their salvation.

STEPHEN MARINI, Historian of Religion, Wellesley College: It is relentless, difficult, arduous on the individual level. But it is fantastic social glue if everyone is doing this. Everyone notices everything. Everyone has an opinion and a moral judgment on everybody else, on the criteria of what God’s law says. It will hold together church, family, state.

NARRATOR: Hutchinson’s challenge to official doctrine threatened to destroy Winthrop’s fledgling colony.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: What happens if you start to lose control of your society and you’re John Winthrop, right? You need to be able to say, “No, no no, that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says such and so. This is how we should run our society.”

NARRATOR: Anxious ministers visited Winthrop. John Eliot from Roxbury, and from Salem, Hugh Peters, reported that some members of their congregations preferred to listen to Hutchinson’s biblical interpretations to theirs.

STEPHEN PROTHERO: Why listen to the black-coated minister read a dry, boring sermon when you can go to Anne Hutchinson’s house and hear this heartfelt, real thing?

NARRATOR: And Hutchinson was gaining powerful allies who were attracted to her message- the minister John Wheelwright and Henry Vane, a fierce political adversary of John Winthrop’s.

JOHN WINTHROP: I observe first her success. She had in a short time insinuated herself into the hearts of much of the people, who grew into so reverent an esteem of her godliness and spiritual gifts, as look at her as a prophetess.

Hmmmm, most of the same issues concerning church dynamics and protocols then are still very much under discussion today.

And no, I don’t endorse everything in this fascinating PBS documentary.

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Poets, don’t try this at home.

Religion When advanc’d in pow’r,
Will make you Husband every hour.
‘Twill make Men strive with all their might,
And therein Find a sweet delight.
If there were Nought besides that pay
Christ gives To cheer us in our way;
Should we not Do the best we can?
For there’s No such reward from man.
Shall others Work, and not regard
Their strength To get a small reward?
Whilst we Turn slugs and loiter thus?
0 that Their zeal might quicken us.
Why are our Hands, and feet so slow,
When we Unto our business go?
How can we Then Christ’s pay expect,
And yet the Christians work reject,
If this, then Also that embrace
Them both; If not, we both disgrace.
Some if They could these two divide,
‘Twould Please them well, with Christ to side
But if they May not, then it were
As good Cease pleading, they’ll not hear:
Rouse up From sloth, my soul betake
Thee to thy Work, no cavils make.
O strive And try, saints say that even,
The pain they Take hath much of heaven.
But yet Their best wine’s kept till last,
Their rest and Ease comes all so fast.


John Flavel

(1628-1691) was the son of a Puritan minister who died in prison. He was educated at University College, Oxford, and labored in the ministry at Dartmouth, Devon. His writings are deeply spiritual and experiential. This poem is from his 6 volume collected works.



The word “religion” has fallen upon hard times, lately. It’s a biblical word and just means how life relates to God. It’s often mistakenly contrasted in our day with a relationship with God. Granted, one can have one without the other but they shouldn’t be viewed in contradistinction.

The final couplet, which is read downward (!) through the capitalized words in each line, is a needful antidode for those who believe that “being” in Jesus Christ excludes “doing.”

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOES the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:21

I don’t believe this poem has seen the light of day in a long time. It did not appear in the google index. Enjoy!

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