Henry Dunster ranks along with Roger Williams and John Clarke as one of the three foremost seventeenth-century anti-pedobaptists of America. Born in Lancashire, England, somewhere about 1610, he was early brought to an experimental knowledge of the truth. In giving an account of his early religious experience he said: "The Lord gave me an attentive ear and heart to understand preaching. . . . The Lord showed me my sins and reconciliation by Christ, . . . and this word was more sweet to me than anything else in the world." His highly sensitive conscience detected grave faults in his early manhood experience. After he had become a highly developed Christian, and one of the ablest theologians of his time, in reviewing his experience as a young man he pronounced this judgment: "The greatest thing which separated my soul from God was an inordinate desire of human learning." His course at the University of Cambridge brought him into contact with some of the best religious life in England, and when he was graduated B.A. in 1630 and M.A. in 1634, his Christian character seems to have been quite as marked as his learning. Referring to his university course he said: "After this I went to Cambridge, when, growing more careless, I lost my comfort. But I
1 Cf. Chaplin, Backus, Mather, Winthrop, Quincy ("History Harvard University."), Ellis, Hubbard, Palfrey.
came to Trinity to hear Dr. Preston, by whom I was quickened and revived." Preston was one of the leading Puritan churchmen of the time. Dunster regarded the teachings of Thomas Goodwin, "in many respects the greatest divine among them all," as one of the formative influences in his life. The years intervening between the date of his first degree and that of his second were probably spent chiefly in theological studies. His well-known proficiency in oriental languages was one of the acquisitions of this time. Among his contemporaries were a number of men who were to attain to world-wide distinction. It will suffice to mention the names of Cudworth, Milton, Henry More, Jeremy Taylor, and John Harvard. He probably received ordination as a minister of the Church of England. His Confession of Faith gives some intimations of the exercises of mind that led him to abandon the ministry of the Established Church and to seek a greater measure of soul freedom in New England: "The Lord hath made me bid adieu to all worldly treasures; and as corruptions in the Church came, first I began to suspect them, then to hate them." "So, after ten years' trouble, I came hither [to New England]; and the Lord gives me peace to see the order of his people." His thoroughgoing separatism finds expression in a letter written to a friend in England: " It's a glorious church, say you? Whence, I pray you, was it gathered, out of the Church of Rome, or else yet it stands in it? If it stand yet in it, then it is one of the daughters of the great whore. . . . No, the Church of England is gathered out of Rome. Come out of her, my people.... But why should we gather a church out of the English Church? I pray you, Sir, where hath Christ constituted a church of that form? Where's the national ministry, temple, etc.? If you will find this, you have the verity, we the vanity. If congregations be the visible churches of Christ, we have
the day in that respect." Equally decided was his antagonism to Scottish Presbyterianism. "A reformation of the Scottish edition," he thought, would leave the English people "in great distress, inward and outward." This was written when the Scotch were struggling with might and main for the civil and religious mastery of Britain, and were proposing to force Presbyterianism on the entire population. "National and provincial churches are nullities in rerum natura [in the nature of things] since the dissolution of that of the Jews." That he was a somewhat advanced republican is evident from the following: "If the people and nation be free from monarchy, the question is, what form they should set up? And what, I pray you, but that which is most suitable to the matter? I say, the form which is most suitable to the matter; which the nation itself, by their faithful representatives, being pious and prudent men, can best judge of."
Dunster reached New England toward the latter end of summer, 1640. He soon purchased a property in Boston, "then rather a village than a town," yet full of enterprise and growing rapidly. The entire population of New England at this time probably did not reach twenty thousand. More than two thirds of these were in Massachusetts, and something over two thousand each in Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. In 1643 all the British colonies, except Rhode Island and Providence, formed a sort of federation "for mutual help and strength," under the style of "The United Colonies of New England." Thus Dunster arrived at a time when colonial affairs were already well advanced, and when, owing to the troubles that were about to overwhelm England, New England would be sure to receive a large influx of population, and, what was possibly of even greater importance in the eyes of the colonists, immunity from interference on the part of the
home government. One of the most noteworthy features of early colonial life was the almost entire absence of lawyers. The irregularity of court procedures, and the tendency to follow the Mosaic code rather than the English statutes, may be attributed in part to this fact; though it must be said, on the other hand, that the deficiency of lawyers was due to lack of encouragement, and that this was due in turn to the theocratic sentiments of the colonists.
A very large proportion of the early New England colonists were university graduates. By 1640 it is estimated that there were forty to fifty Cambridge men, and "the sons of Oxford were not few." There must have been something highly congenial to the intellectual and devout Dunster in his New England environment. Scarcely had he settled in his new home in Boston when he,received an enthusiastic call to the presidency of the college at Cambridge (August, 1640). His qualifications for the position were recognized as extraordinary, and his coming just when needed was regarded by his contemporaries as providential. "Mr. Henry Dunster is now President of this College," wrote Captain Johnson in his "Wonder-Working Providence," "fitted from the Lord for the work, and, by those that have skill that way, reported to be an able Proficient in both Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages, an Orthodox Preacher of the truths of Christ, very powerful through his blessing to move the affections. But seeing the Lord hath been pleased to raise up so worthy an instrument for their good, he shall not want for encouragement to go on with the work, so far as a rustical rhyme shall reach." We will not quote his rhyme, which repeats the recognition of providential dealing in the matter, and intimates that already young men were coming from England to enjoy the advantages of the new college, so that
New England was repaying England for the borrowed Dunster. In "New England's First Fruits," published in London in an early year of Dunster's presidency (1643), it is said: "Over the College is Master Henry Dunster placed as President; a learned, considerable, and industrious man, who hath so trained up his pupils in the tongues and arts, and so seasoned them with the principles of Divinity and Christianity, that we have, to our great comfort, and in truth beyond our hopes, beheld their progress in learning and godliness also."
The college was only a school when Dunster assumed the headship in 1640, and for two years past it had been in charge of an incapable man, who had been dismissed for unworthy conduct. Dunster was really the first president of the college, properly so called, and the fourteen years of consecrated toil that he gave it brought it into a position exceeding the hopes of its best friends. Its resources were, as may be supposed, exceedingly scanty, its staff was small, its buildings inadequate, its library meager; but with an enthusiastic head like Dunster, ready to sacrifice means and health for the furtherance of its interests, its students had advantages such as are sometimes wanting in the most amply endowed and equipped universities. "He united in himself," says Quincy, a president and historian of the college, "the character of both patron and President; for, poor as he was, he contributed, at a time of its utmost need, one hundred acres of land toward its support; besides rendering to it, for a succession of years, a series of official services, well directed, unwearied, and altogether inestimable."
He united with the Cambridge church, of which Mr. Shepard was pastor. In giving an account of his religious experience and doctrinal views he differed in one point only from his New England brethren, namely, in his preference
for immersion as the act of baptism; yet, as "there is something for sprinkling in the Scriptures, he should not be offended when it was used."
He married, in 1641, the widow of a minister who had died on his way from England. He was a true father to her five children, who proved to be possessed of more than average gifts and graces. Two of the daughters married sons of Governor Winthrop, and it is to this circumstance that we owe the preservation of important documentary material on Dunster's life that would otherwise, in all probability, have been lost. Left a widower in 1643, he was married again in 1644. Of this marriage five children were born. Representatives of the family still remain.
Early in his New England career, Dunster began to manifest a profound interest in the Indians. John Eliot had his heartiest cooperation. Lechford, Boston's one lawyer (in his "Plain Dealing," etc.), gives us an early account of Dunster's views of Indian evangelization: "Master Henry Dunster, schoolmaster at Cambridge, deserves commendations above many; he hath the platform and the way of conversion of the natives indifferent right, and much studies the same, wherein yet he wants not opposition, as some others also have met with. He will without doubt prove an instrument of much good in the country, being a good scholar, and having skill in the tongues. He will make it good that the way to instruct the Indians must be in their own language, not English, and that their language may be perfected." It was probably at his suggestion that the commissioners of the colonies made provision for the education at Cambridge of young men "to be helpful in teaching such Indian children as should be taken into the College for that end." It was on his recommendation that the second charter of the
college (1650) stated the object of the college to be "the education of the English and Indian youth of this country in knowledge and godliness." The building called the "Indian College," though not erected until years after the close of his presidency, may have been in part a result of Dunster's profound interest in the spiritual welfare of the aborigines.
The following sentences from a letter to Ravius, a distinguished European orientalist of the time, will illustrate Dunster's enthusiasm for oriental studies and his success in imparting his enthusiasm to his students: "If God's providence put an opportunity into your hand that you help us with books of those languages from some able hands and willing hearts, . . . then should we be very glad and evermore thankful to you and them who shall procure us Buxtorf's Concordances and Bible (for the King of Spain's we have, and the King of France's Bible is more than we dare hope for) and whatsoever Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, or Arabic authors God's providence shall enlarge their hands and hearts to procure us. A wonderful impulse unto these studies lies on the spirits of our students, some of whom can with ease dexterously translate Hebrew and Chaldee into Greek."
It is not in accordance with the purpose of this chapter to give a detailed account of the labors of President Dunster in and for Harvard College, or the personal sacrifices that he made in order that the work might go prosperously on. His multifarious duties, as teacher of many subjects, as the executive head of the institution, as financial agent, etc., were familiar to most college presidents a generation ago, and are the portion of many a noble worker to-day. But he loved his work and bore his hardships with rare cheerfulness, and thereby commended himself and his college to all who had the interests of
the institution and of the cause of Christian education at heart.
But the time was coming when for conscience' sake he must lay down the work to which he had given the strength of his manhood and which was dearer to him than life itself, and when those who had gloried in his successful work could see no other course open to them than to dispense with his invaluable services. Some time between 1648 and 1653 President Dunster had reached the settled conviction that "visible believers only should be baptized." It is probable that for some years he had entertained doubts as to the propriety of infant baptism before the conviction of its unscriptural and antiscriptural character so mastered him that he could no longer keep silent. The responsibility that attached to the high and honorable position that he occupied, and the foreseen consequences to himself (which he said was the least important consideration) and to his family, which he could not but shrink from, must have availed with a man of his discretion to prevent him from rashly committing himself to views which his brethren were sure to look upon with amazement and horror. The determination of anything like the exact date of his change of view is rendered impossible by what seem to be conflicting data. Cotton Mather places the defection of Dunster "presently" after the settlement of Mitchell as pastor of the Cambridge church. The occasion of his declaration of his views was the birth of a child which he withheld from baptism. As Mitchell became pastor in 1650, and as a child was born to the Dunsters during that year, it would seem to follow that Dunster's change of view with reference to the subjects of baptism occurred some time before. But a letter of Dunster's has been brought to light which bears internal evidence of having been written about December,
1651. In answer to the question of an English correspondent: "What do you do with them that are baptized, but give no satisfactory testimony of piety when they come to age?" he answered: "None of their children are baptized until one of the parents at least do approve themselves faithful and be joined to the church. I have herewith sent you Mr. Davenport's catechism, where the question is handled, and answered according to practice." This statement has been supposed (Chaplin, 109) to prove that Dunster held to infant baptism as late as December, 1651. But as he was professedly giving information as to the New England practice rather than communicating his own individual views, there is no apparent reason why he should not, though at the time an anti-pedobaptist, have expressed himself as he did. But it is, on the whole, more probable that Mather was somewhat inaccurate in dating Dunster's protest against infant baptism "presently" after the beginning of Mitchell's pastorate, and that the infant withheld from baptism was one born in 1653. In that case it is probable that the infant born in 1650 was duly baptized, and it would follow that Dunster's convictions had not at that time become over mastering.
It is highly probable that the persecution of Clarke, Holmes, and Crandall, in the summer of 1651, had the effect of awakening Dunster's conscience on the matter of infant baptism. He may have become intellectually convinced some time before that the practice is without Scriptural warrant. The suffering of these men for what he recognized as the truth may have so impressed the matter upon his heart and conscience that he could no longer as an honest man withhold the expression of his views, or when occasion should arise refrain from acting upon them. Cotton Mather's account of the declaration of Dunster
against infant baptism, and of the efforts made to win him from the error of his ways, is so graphic and full, and so well illustrates the personal power of Dunster and the high consideration in which he was held, as well as the consternation into which his pastor and other leading ministers and laymen were thrown by Dunster's adoption of "Anabaptist" views, that it seems advisable to quote a portion of it: "Our Mitchell, presently upon his becoming pastor of Cambridge, met with a more than ordinary trial, in that the good man who was then President of the College was unaccountably fallen into the briars of Anti-pedobaptism; and being briar'd in the scruples of that persuasion, he not only forbore to present an infant of his own unto the Baptism of our Lord, but also thought himself under some obligation to bear his testimony in some sermons against the administration of baptism to any infant whatsoever. The brethren of the Church were somewhat vehement and violent in their signifying of their dissatisfaction at the obstruction, which the renitencies of that gentleman threatened with the peaceable practice of infant baptism, wherein they had hitherto walked; and judged it necessary for the vindication of 'the Church's name abroad in the country, and for the safety of the Congregation at home, to desire him that he would cease preaching as formerly, until he had better satisfied himself in the point now doubted by him. At these things extreme was the uneasiness of our Mitchell, who told the brethren that more light and less heat would do better; but yet saw the zeal of some against this good man's error, to push the matter on so far, that being but a young man, he was likely now to be embarrassed in a controversy with so considerable a person, and with one who had been his tutor, and a worthy and godly man. He could give this account of it: 'Through the Church's
being apt to hurry on too fast and too impatiently, I found myself much oppressed; especially considering my own weakness to grapple with these difficulties; this business did lie down and rise up, sleep and wake with me. It was a dismal thing to me, that I should live to see truth or peace dying or decaying in poor Cambridge.' But while he was, with a prudence incomparably beyond what might have been expected from a young man, managing this thorny business, he saw cause to record a passage which perhaps will be judged worthy of some remembrance. 'That day,' writes he, (Decemb. 24, 1653,) 'after I came from him, I had a strange experience; I found hurrying and pressing suggestions against Pedobaptism, and injected scruples and thoughts whether the other way might not be right, and infant baptism an invention of men; and whether I might with a good conscience baptise children, and the like. And these thoughts were darted in with some impression, and left a strange confusion and sickliness upon my spirit. Yet, methought, it was not hard to discern, that they were from the EVIL ONE. First, Because they were rather injected hurrying suggestions, than any deliberate thoughts, or bringing any light with them. Secondly, Because they were unseasonable; interrupting me in my study for the Sabbath, and putting my spirit into a confusion, so as I had much ado to do aught in my sermon. It was not now a time to study that matter; but when, in the former part of the week, I had given myself to that study, the more I studied it, the more clear and rational light I saw for Pedobaptism. But now these suggestions hurried me into scruples. But they made me cry out to God for his help; and he did afterward calm and clear up my spirit. I thought the end of them was, First, to show me the corruption of my mind; how apt that was to take in error, even as my heart is to take in
lust. Secondly, to make me walk in fear and take hold on Jesus Christ to keep me in the truth; and it was a check to my former self-confidence, and it made me fearful to go needlessly to Mr. D., for me thought I found a venom and poison in his insinuations and discourses against Pedobaptism. Thirdly, that I might be mindful of the aptness in others to be soon shaken in mind, and that I might warn others thereof, and might know how to speak to them from experience. And indeed my former experience of irreligious injection was some help to me to discover the nature of these. I resolved also on Mr. Hooker's principle, that I would have an argument able to remove a mountain, before I would recede from, or appear against, a truth or practice, received among the faithful. After the Sabbath was over, and I had time to reflect upon the thoughts of those things, those thoughts of doubt departed, and I returned unto my former frame.' The troubles thus impending over the Church of Cambridge, did Mr. Mitchell happily wade through; partly by much prayer with fasting, in secret, before God, for the good issue of these things; partly by getting as much help as he could from the Neighboring Ministers, to b'e interposed in these difficulties; and partly by using much meekness and wisdom towards the erroneous gentleman; for whom our Mr. Mitchell continued such an esteem, that although his removal from the government of the College, and from his dwelling-place in Cambridge, had been procured by these differences, yet when he died, he honored him with an elegy."
The elegiac stanzas, which Mather quotes, though not meritorious from an artistic point of view, were doubtless well intended; but Mitchell's tribute to Dunster's holiness seems slightly inconsistent with the grounds on which he persuaded himself that his conscientious scruples against
infant baptism were injections of the Evil One, and that there was a venom and poison in Dunster's antipedobaptist teachings. Mather was of the opinion "that there was a special design of Heaven in ordering these trials to befall our Mitchell, thus in the beginning of his ministry. He was hereby put upon studying and maintaining the doctrine of infant baptism.... In the defense of this comfortable truth, he not only preached more than half a score ungainsayable sermons, while his own Church was in some danger by the hydrophobia of anabaptism, which was come upon the mind of an eminent person in it; but also when afterwards the rest of the Churches were troubled by a strong attempt upon them from the spirit of anabaptism, there was a public disputation appointed at Boston two days together, for the clearing of the faith in this article, this worthy man was he who did most service in this disputation." No right-thinking person can fail to sympathize with the brilliant and amiable young pastor in his trying situation; and his determination "to have an argument able to remove a mountain" before he should "recede from, or appear against, a truth or practice, received among the faithful," represents the spirit of conservatism in all ages and in all denominations.
As might have been expected, the magistrates (assistants) could not long avoid taking cognizance of the fact that the president of the college had turned antipedobaptist. About January, 1654 (N. S.), they addressed a letter to the ministers, stating that they had been informed "that Mr. Dunster, President of the College, hath by his practice and opinions against infant baptism rendered himself offensive to this government," and requesting their cooperation in measures "for the preventing or removing of that which may tend to the prejudice of the College and scandal to the country." The ministers are requested "so to
deal in this business that we may, at our next meeting, be thoroughly informed how the matter stands with him in respect of his opinions, and be thereby enabled to understand what may be expected of us." On February 2d and 3d a conference was held between President Dunster and nine of the leading ministers of the vicinity, besides two ruling elders. The president proposed his thesis in regular scholastic form in Latin: Soli visibiliter fideles sunt baptizendi (visible believers alone should be baptized). John Norton, one of the chief disputants, somewhat indiscretly admitted the truth of the proposition. "We grant it, but say infants of believing parents in church state are visible believers." His proof of this statement was based upon the supposed parallelism between the Jewish church and the Christian, which Dunster of course repudiated. After the argument based on the Abrahamic covenant and the grounding of infant baptism on the rite of circumcision had been threshed out, the president assumed an aggressive attitude and advanced the following argument: "All instituted gospel worship hath some express word of Scripture. But pedobaptism hath none. Ergo." Norton insisted that "it hath a word by manifest consequence." Dunster demanded to have the word pointed out. It must be either in the Old Testament or the New. If in the New, it must be either "in John's baptism, or Christ's, or his disciples'." - "John only baptized penitent believers confessing their sins. Then not infants. Ergo." When Norton denied the major premise, Dunster rejoined: "They that cannot speak are not penitent believers confessing their sins." Norton insisted that "they speak virtually. . . . We all in Adam did virtually speak a word in the covenant of works." Danforth added: "So may we be baptized in our parents." Dunster insisted on personal faith. Norton conceded this point, but held that "an infant
makes his covenant in a public person." Dunster claimed that "there is now no public person but Christ for us to stand in." The argument from I Corinthians vii. 14 was adduced by Dunster's opponents and explained in a Baptist way by Dunster. The report of the discussion is evidently a very abbreviated one, little more than the heads of the arguments being given; but nothing said by the representatives of the standing order was calculated to produce the slightest impression on one who had come to see the significance and value of believers' baptism and to realize the evils of infant baptism.
In a letter written at about the time of the conference, President Dunster thus sets forth his view of the evil of infant baptism: "That way of worship which forcibly deprives the spiritual babes and converts of the church of the due consolation from Christ and dutiful obligation to Christ -- that is justly suspicious. But the baptism of unregenerate infants forcibly deprives the spiritual babes and converts of the church of their due consolation from Christ, viz., the remission of sin, etc., and dutiful obligation to Christ, viz., to believe on him, die with him to sin, and rise to newness of life."
Three months after the conference, on the basis of the ministers' report, no doubt, the General Court issued the following order: "Forasmuch as it greatly concerns the welfare of this country that the youth thereof be educated not only in good literature, but sound doctrine, this Court doth therefore commend it to the serious consideration and special care of the Overseers of the College, and the selectmen of the several towns, not to admit or suffer any such to be continued in the office or place of teaching, educating, or instruction of youth or child, in the college or school, that have manifested themselves unsound in the faith, or scandalous in their lives, and not giving due satisfaction
according to the rules of Christ." A few weeks later (June 10, 1654) Dunster offered his resignation in the following form: "I here resign up the place wherein hitherto I have labored with all my heart (blessed be the Lord who gave it), serving you and yours. And hence-forth (that you in the interim may be provided) I shall be willing to do the best I can for some weeks or months to continue the work, if the Society in the interim fall not to pieces in our hands; and what advice for the present or for the future I can give for the public good, in this behalf, with all readiness of mind I shall do it, and daily, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, pray the Lord to help and counsel us all, in whom I rest." The resignation was not accepted at once by the court, but it was left with the overseers of the college to " make provision, in case he persist in his resolution more than one month (and inform the Overseers), for some meet person to carry on and end that work for the present." There was no precipitancy on the part of the authorities, who were evidently reluctant to lose Dunster's services, and who no doubt hoped that he might at least consent to refrain from pressing his antipedobaptist views.
It is probable that Dunster might have retained his position indefinitely, even after he had fully set forth his views in the conference with the ministers, if he could have made up his mind to hold them in silence. But he was too completely mastered by his conception of the evils of infant baptism to be able, with a good conscience, to refrain from protesting against it when occasion offered. About a month after the action of the court referred to, the rite of infant baptism was being administered in the church, and he was moved in his spirit to protest against it as not according to the institution of Christ, and to answer the arguments that had just been used by the pastor
in its favor. This action of his was construed by the authorities as a violation of a law that had been enacted against disturbances of public worship. He must have known that this action would result in the severance of his relations to the college. He was soon informed that his services were no longer required, and on October 24th he offered a second and final resignation. The position was immediately offered to Charles Chauncy, who had raised considerable commotion by insisting on immersion as the act of baptism and the celebration of the Supper in the evening. In the invitation it was signified to him that it was expected and desired that he would forbear to disseminate or publish these views. His conscience was not of so firm a fiber as that of the retiring president. He was evidently eager for the presidency, and he accepted it with the conditions imposed. Dunster's petition to the court, after his final resignation, for an allowance for extraordinary services in order that he might be in a position to pay his debts, for the privilege of remaining in the house which he had "with singular industry through great difficulties erected," "until all accounts due to him from the Corporation be orderly and valuably to him your humble petitioner satisfied and paid," and for freedom "according to his education and abilities, without all impeachment, molestation, or discountenance from the authority of this colony," while "walking piously and peaceably," to "seek further and vigorously prosecute the spiritual or temporal weal of the inhabitants thereof in preaching the Gospel of Christ, teaching or training up of youth, or in any other laudable or liberal calling as God shall chalk out his way, and when, and where, and in what manner he shall find acceptance," did not receive favorable consideration.
To have allowed extraordinary compensation to a man who, by his own act, had thrown the college affairs into a
state of confusion and greatly embarrassed the authorities, especially when funds were represented by a negative rather than by a positive quantity, would have been an almost, unexampled act of generosity. These extraordinary services had been fully recognized by the overseers, and had things gone on prosperously this recognition would doubtless have assumed some tangible form; but circumstances had completely changed. To grant the privilege of remaining in the house for an indefinite period would make it to his interest to delay a final settlement of the college accounts, and besides would be embarrassing to his successor. That he should be allowed to preach or teach in the colony would have been contrary to the recognized principles of the theocracy which occasioned his removal from the position that he had so ably filled. "What other laudable or liberal calling, besides preaching and education of youth, is intended, Mr. Dunster is to explain himself."
The hardship involved in Dunster's position it is difficult for us to realize. Without the sanction of the authorities there was nothing to which he could turn his hand for the maintenance of his family, except, perhaps, farming or merchandise, for neither of which he had taste or training. It is probable that his wife did not fully sympathize with him in the position he had taken. This may be inferred from the fact that his descendants in the generation following seem all to Have been associated with pedobaptist churches. So reluctant was he to leave Cambridge at once that, six days after the unfavorable reply of the court to his petition, he addressed to the same body a series of considerations, wherein he pointed out the extreme inconvenience and hardship of changing his residence at that time of year and on so short notice, and the importance of his remaining to settle up the accounts of the college and to give to
his successor the information necessary for the successful performance of some of his duties. This time the court yielded, and he was permitted to remain till the following March (1655).
His trial for the disturbing of public worship did not take place till April. There is no doubt but that he had rendered himself liable to prosecution for persisting in disturbing the service; but that this matter should have been pressed at such a time, after he had suffered so greatly in being deprived of his position in the college, savors of petty persecution. Considering what the theocracy was, the relation of the college to the theocracy, and the profound dread of Anabaptism, the authorities could hardly have been expected to retain the services of a man who had assumed a hostile attitude towards what was looked upon as a fundamental doctrine. In fact, it must be admitted that the court showed considerable forbearance in not dismissing him summarily when his views had been fully ascertained; but that he should have been subjected to the indignity of a criminal process, and especially at such a time, is less excusable.
Discreditable, also, were the failure of the court to provide for the prompt payment of the forty pounds which the overseers found to be strictly due him on account, and its entire ignoring of their recommendation that one hundred pounds be allowed him for extraordinary services.
Before leaving the vicinity of Boston we find Dunster intimately, associated with Thomas Gould, of Charlestown, whom we shall meet again as one of the founders of the First Baptist Church, Boston, and one of the principal sufferers for the faith in connection with this cause.
Dunster removed to Scituate, in the Plymouth colony, whence Chauncy had been called to be his successor at Cambridge. Whether Chauncy is to be credited with such
a degree of generosity as would have led him to run the risk of compromising himself with the Massachusetts authorities by using his influence in behalf of Dunster's settlement at Scituate, we do not know. The Plymouth colony, as we have seen, was far in advance of the Massachusetts Bay colony in the matter of toleration. Scituate probably excelled any other township of Plymouth in this respect. John Lathrop, who had been pastor of the Southwark (London) church founded by Henry Jacob when the first division occurred (1633), that resulted in the formation, under John Spilsbury's leadership, of the first Particular Baptist church in England, had come to New England the following year with a portion of his Independent congregation, and had settled at Scituate. These were already familiar with Baptist doctrine and were not likely to be shocked by the presentation of anti-pedobaptist views. Probably few other churches in New England would have so far yielded to Chauncy in the matter of immersion and the evening celebration of the Supper. It is altogether likely that Dunster found in the Scituate church a number of believers who thoroughly sympathized with his anti-pedobaptist views. Our information with respect to his life and labors at Scituate during the four remaining years of his career is exceedingly meager. Deane (in his "History of Scituate") finds "notices of him the same autumn employed in the ministry, in which he continued nearly five years." The probability seems to be against the supposition that he was regularly installed as pastor of the church. He had here the active sympathy and support of such noble men as Captain (afterward General) James Cudworth, who, because he dared to entertain some Quakers and to opppose their persecution, lost his position (1657) as a member of the court. Cudworth's sentiments in respect to this matter are worth quoting: "The antichristian
persecuting spirit is very active, and that in the powers of this world. He that will not lash, persecute, and punish men that differ in matters of religion, must not sit on the bench, nor sustain any office in the Commonwealth. Last election, Mr. Hatherly and myself were left off the bench, and myself discharged of my captainship, because I had entertained some of the Quakers at my house, thereby that I might be the better acquainted with their principles. I thought it better to do so than with the blind world to censure, condemn, rail at, and revile them, when they neither saw their persons nor knew any of their principles. But the Quakers and I cannot close in divers things, and so I signified to the Court; but told them withal, that as I was no Quaker, so I would be no persecutor."
In a letter written about a year before Dunster's death, Cudworth bears this testimony to his work and worth: "Through mercy we have yet among us the worthy Mr. Dunster, whom the Lord hath made boldly to bear testimony against the spirit of persecution." According to Morton ("Memorials," p. 283), Dunster "was useful to oppose their ['the Quakers'] abominable opinions, and in defending the truth against them." In strongly opposing the opinions of the Quakers he was at one with Roger Williams, but we may be sure that neither of these great and good men countenanced the persecution of these religious zealots.
An incident m Dunster's later career should not be omitted. In 1656, the year after his settlement at Scituate, he received the following letter from Edward Roberts, a Welsh Baptist in government employ at Dublin: "Honored Friend: I am wholly a stranger to you further than as to report which hath spread itself to the rejoicing of many that fear the Lord, and hearing that your portion hath been to suffer in some measure for the Cross of
Christ, myself and some other that truly love you on the ground aforesaid made it our request to the truly virtuous Lord Deputy [Henry Cromwell, son of Oliver] to provide for you in this land, who readily embraced the same, and ordered fifty pounds for the bringing over yourself and family, as you may see by a copy of his Lordship's and the Council's enclosed, with directions for me to send to you, which moneys I have sent. . . . You need not fear accommodations here, though I hope that will not be your chief motive, but rather honor of the Lord and his great name. You may through mercy have free liberty of your conscience; and opportunity of associating with saints and free publishing the Gospel of Truth, which [is] greatly wanted amongst us, there being but few able and painful men who make the service of God-their sake."
An earnest entreaty to confer not with flesh and blood, but "to be guided by the call of God," follows. The invitation was not accepted. For better or for worse he seems to have joined himself to New England. Doubtless he had business interests of his own and of his step-children that would have made it difficult for him to leave the country of his adoption. He may also have-foreseen that the government Avith whose cooperation he was invited to Ireland was lacking in stability. It may be that his declining health made him reluctant to enter upon an undertaking in which much would be expected of him. Again, it may be that his wife withheld the encouragement that would have been necessary to make the change a happy one.
On the same grounds we may perhaps account for the fact that he was content to be to the end of his life a pronounced antipedobaptist in a pedobaptist church. Outside of Providence and Rhode Island there was no Baptist church in America. It is probable that up to the time of his death it would have been impossible to carry on Baptist
work even in the Plymouth colony. No doubt he made up his mind that, having borne his testimony and suffered his martyrdom on behalf of believers' baptism and regenerate church membership, and finding the door absolutely closed in the colony that he had chosen as his home against the carrying on of distinctively Baptist work, his duty in respect to these doctrines would be fulfilled by a continuance of his protest and by engaging in such Christian work as was open to him. He was sowing the seed. The harvest would appear by and by.
His death occurred at Scituate, February 27, 1659. In his will, drawn up the year before, when disease had already warned him that the end was near, he made provision for his burial at Cambridge. His heart had been there during his years of absence; there he wished his mortal remains to abide. President Chauncy and Mr. Mitchell, "his reverend and trusty friends and brethren," he appointed to appraise his library, and to each he left a number of volumes. Doubtless at his funeral his brethren who had felt obliged, in the interests of the theocracy, to cooperate in securing his removal from the work in which his heart was so deeply enlisted, recalled with sadness the pathetic words contained in his statement of considerations why he should be allowed to remain in the president's residence during the winter after his resignation: "The whole transaction of this business is such which in process of time, when all things come to mature consideration, may very probably create grief on all sides; yours subsequent, as mine antecedent. I am not the man you take me to be."
Mitchell's elegiac stanzas have been already referred to Harvard University, though she has departed greatly from the position of the Puritans and from that of Dunster, regards his memory as one of her chiefest treasures, and her historians have vied with each other in doing him honor.
=========[From Albert H. Newman, A History of the Baptist Churches in the United States, 1894, pp. 139-161. The title is added. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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