John Winthrop

Section 9: Antinomianism

Summary Section 9: Antinomianism

In August, all of the ministers in Massachusetts–including Wheelwright and Cotton–and joined by a small delegation from Rhode Island, met in a synod to hash out the issues raised by Hutchinson. For twenty-four days they debated, discussed, and argued, eventually reaching a near unanimous conclusion on all counts. One by one, the synod explained almost a hundred instances of heresy and false proposals and explained in methodical detail why each was wrong. Wheelwright now stood alone against the entire assembled ministry of the new colony. Hutchinson and her ever shrinking band of followers continued to agitate for their beliefs but to no avail.

In November, the General Court banished Wheelwright and put Hutchinson on trial–which could hardly be considered a trial given that her jurors had already decided months or years before the outcome. She argued her case passionately, and the court found little with which to charge her since she so craftily phrased her sentences to avoid heresy. However, the conclusion was foregone. In a stunning conclusion, she challenged that God would punish the colony if it punished her–a view exactly counter to that held by Winthrop who believed the court and the colony stood in danger of God's wrath if they did not punish Hutchinson. The court banished her and disarmed or disenfranchised her followers. Even her church, badly split over the incident, abandoned her and voted to excommunicate her in March of 1637. She and her followers left the colony soon after. For the second time, the governor had rid itself of someone who threatened to upset the balance of the pure experiment.

John Winthrop: Popular pages