A LETTER TO THE TOWN OF PROVIDENCE
Loving Friends and Neighbors:
It pleasesth GOD, yet to continue this great Liberty of our Town-Meetings, for which, we ought to be humbly thankful, and to improve these Liberties to the Praise of the Giver, and to the Peace and Welfare of the Town and Colony, without our own private Ends. - I thought it my Duty, to present you with this my impartial Testimony, and Answer to a Paper sent you the other Day from my Brother, - That it is Blood-Guiltiness, and aginst the Rule of the Gospel, to execute Judgment upon Transgressors, against the private or public Weal. - That ever I should speak or write a Tittle that tends to such an infinite Liberty of Conscience is a Mistakes, I at present shall only propose this Case. - There goes many a Ship to Sea, with many a Hundred Souls in one Ship, whose Weal and Woe is common; and is true Picture of a Common-Wealth, or an human Combination, or Society. It hath fallen out sometimes, that both Papists and Protestants, Jews, and Turks, may be embarqued into one Ship. Upon which Supposal, I do affirm, that all the Liberty of Conscience that ever I pleaded for, turns upon these two Hinges, that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks, be forced to come to the Ships Prayers or Worship; nor, secondly, compelled from their own particular Prayers or Worship, if they practice any. I further add, that I never denied, that notwithstanding this Liberty, the Commander of this Ship ought to command the Ship's Course; yea, and also to command that Justice, Peace, and Sobriety, be kept and practised, both among the Seamen and all the Passengers. If any Seamen refuse to perform their Service, or Passengers to pay their Freight; - if any refuse to help in Person or Purse, towards the Common Charges, or Defense; - if any refuse to obey common Laws and Orders of the Ship, concerning their common Peace and Preservation; - if any shall mutiny and rise up against their Commanders, and Officers; - if any shall preach or write, that there ought to be no Commanders, nor Officers, because all are equal in CHRIST, therefore no Masters, nor Officers, no Laws, nor Orders, no Corrections nor Punishments - I say, I never denied, but in such Cases, whatever is pretended, the Commander or Commanders may judge, resist, compel, and punish such Trangressors, according to their Deserts and Merits. This, if seriously and honestly minded, may, if it so please the Father of Lights, let in some Light, to such as willingly shut not their Eyes.
I remain, studious of our common Peace and Liberty.
© Roger Williams