Church History

Research Article

On Toleration in Massachusetts

E. Brooks Holifielda1

a1 Department of Religious Studies, Yale University

On a December day in 1676, Thomas Shepard, minister of the Church of Christ in Charlestown, passionately “discoursed of Reformation,” bemoaning the inability of the ministers and magistrates to unite against the disorderly mob of Quakers and Anabaptists. If the Quakers were suppressed, he argued, maybe the recalcitrant magistrates would “see reason to handle” the troublesome Anabaptists. His sympathic audience, Mr. Rowlandson, the Lancaster minister, Mr. Willard, pastor of the Old South Church, and Mr. Sewall, their host, listened quietly. It had not always been like this. Magistrates had once been reliable champions of the “Congregational Way.”