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From the beginning of mans very existence, he has desired to have a relationship with God. The Bible tells us in Genesis that God ceated man because he wanted someone to love Him because he could, not because he had to. Gods word also tells us that God s wish is for all believers to love one another rather than fight amongst themselves. Dispite What Gods wishes are, throughout history we find that many different battles and persecutions have taken place over religion. In the next few pages we will look at some of these different religions that were around at the time of the birth of our country. The great United States. The early 16th century is where we shall start. The religions that we will be looking at are the Puritans, Quakers, Catholics and the Jews. First lets look at the Puritans. The early settlers came to the new world in search of a home where they could worship God in a manner that they wanted. without the persecutions that they faced in their home lands.

The Puritans were just like any other religious group. They wanted to create a new existence in America, different from what they had known in England. In England, the puritans faced persecution, oppression and torment simply because they believed differently from the Anglican Church and English society and government. Their goal was to find a land where they were free to practice their beliefs without the constant torment, and America was just the place for which they were searching. The puritans looked at America in much the same way that the Israelites looked at the promised land. They simply had to posses it. However, when they arrived, they turned into the very element of persecution from which they escaped; not only did they segregate their religion, but they also refused to allow other groups attain the same religious freedom they, too, had so badly sought. The puritans placed a high emphasis upon community along with their belief that they were Gods chosen people. They believed that their government should strictly enforce public morality by prohibiting vices like drunkenness, gambling, ostentatious dress, swearing, and Sabbath-breaking. The desire to achieve an Old Testament community by using covenants help to establish their social morality. The puritans New England Congregational churches were self-governing bodies they answered to no higher authority. The puritans worship services were simple, even austere, and dominated by long, learned sermons in which their clergy expounded passages from the Bible. In order to be a member of the church one must be “visibly godly,” meaning those men and women who lead sober and upright lives and one must also must testify publicly to his or her experience of “conversion.” Conversion means to change or convert. Most evangelicals believe it to be as a new birth. Conversion is simply accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior and the repenting of your sins. The puritans also embraced the five points of Calvinism. John Calvin, a French lawyer, believed and lived by these five points. First, total depravity meaning that there is nothing good in the human heart. secondly, unconditional election or predestination meaning that God decided who would be saved or damned before the beginning of time and that this decision would not be affected by how human beings behaved during their lives. Some may observe that the Puritans’ God was a distinctly undemocratic sort of deity, an unfeeling tyrant rather than that of a loving parent. Many more may notice that the Puritans’ God offered no incentive for upright moral behavior. How good a person was in his life-time had no effect on his future after death. The third point was limited atonement. Next we have irresistible grace which is grace given by God and we have no control over. Finally, Perseverance of the saints or what many Baptist believe today as once saved always saved. The puritans in the Massachusetts Bay colony where led by John Winthrop. Mr. Winthrop, as well as most other puritans, believed it was of utmost importance to rid their community of subsequent dissenters. The most notable would be Mrs. Anne Hutchinson. Mrs. Hutchinson,, or Anne, was placed on trial in November of 1637 for what the leaders called sowing dissension within the colony. Ann was having meetings with other women in her own home. The topics of discussion is what got the attention of the leaders. Ann was discussing the theory of Covenant of Grace vs. Covenant of Works . The first was nothing more than a gracious gift only from God. The latter placing importance on worthy and pious deeds ironically this is what separated the Protestants and the Catholics. At the trial of Mrs. Hutchinson, she was accused of giving refuge and encouraging dissenters whose views compromised the beliefs of the colony. I guess Mr. Winthrop and the other leaders had never read Matthew 25:35-40 where Jesus tells us that we should be kind to all who come to us. Even the ones who may not believe exactly the way we do. When the trial was finished Mrs. Hutchinson was imprisoned and banished from the colony to a more tolerant colony at Narragansett Bay also known today as Rhode Island. Annie died in 1643 in New Netherland from an Indian attack along with most of her children. The puritans came to America in search of freedom to worship the way they wanted without persecution, oppression or torment. However, they had become the very element they were trying to escape. The Quakers, also known as the Society of Friends, were with out a doubt the most brutally persecuted of all the Protestant groups. The Quakers were treated very harshly in New England. In the case of the village of Flushing, L.I. Even though the Quakers worshipped and believed differently, the flushing people had a tremendous respect and even admired the Quakers. The people wrote a letter to the government about a prohibition or a command given to them. The law, if you will, stated that the town should not receive or entertain any Quaker. The towns people stated in their letter that they could not abide by this law because of Gods word. The Bible says in Matt 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Soon after receiving the letter from the people of Flushing, Tobias Freake, a leader in the community, was brought to trial before the New England government. Tobias was given the choice of being banished from New Netherland or pay a fine of 200 florins. All this for simply tolerating the Quakers. The Catholics found refuge with many other religions in Maryland, at least for a short time. On April 21, 1649 passed an Act of Religious toleration. This act made Maryland a safe haven for all religions that believed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. If anyone were to persecute another they would be fined for each offense. However, this toleration was short lived for the Catholics. On October 20, 1654, just five short years since the Toleration Act, the Catholics were disfranchised from Maryland. Nearly all possessions of the Catholics fell prey to robbers and thieves. The Catholics, with little or no possessions were taken to Virginia as quietly as possible. Jews first began to arrive in the new world around 1654. They came as refugees from the colony of Pernambuco which is now known as Brazil. The Jews were brought to New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company. One would think coming to the land of religious toleration would be an enjoyable adventure. However, The Jewish religion would face yet another land of persecution. From the trials of Anne Hutchinson in 1637 until the time of French-born writer Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, approximately one hundred and forty five years passed. Hector describes America as a land of religious toleration. A much different America than the one early settlers such as Mrs. Hutchinson encountered. Why the change? Arguments between men are common, even in today s society. However, When two young people fall in love, the feuding is not between them but between their parents. Knowing very well they can not live in the same community, they elope. What one thing can melt the hardest of hearts? Grandchildren, when grandchildren are brought into the world, man will re-evaluate his position when he s at risk of losing those precious grandchildren.

Year after year, time helps us to compromise. Whether it be good or bad each one of us examines our priorities, values and life style over the course of our life time. In their attempt to find freedom from their persecutors, the early settlers placed themselves in bondage. In their crusade of freedom, they became the oppressor. What went wrong? As we stated in the first paragraph, man has always had the desire to have a relationship with God. This relationship is a personal one. God created man because He wanted someone to love Him freely. Because man wanted to. Ironically it s man that puts the limitations on ourselves. God gave us the greatest gift possible, but man places laws on how we are to receive it.

America the land of religious toleration? Is freedom what the settlers truly sought? Ask yourself and answer in your heart.


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