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Anne Hutchinson
by [?]

The entire and sole offense of Anne Hutchinson was her emphasis of a Covenant of Grace. She had first gotten the idea from the Reverend John Cotton; but it had enlarged in her mind until it took possession of her nature, perhaps to the exclusion of some other good things. All of her exhortations to the women on shipboard were: Don’t be anxious; don’t be fearful; don’t worry about the cares of your household or the conduct of your husband or children. Don’t be anxious about your own conduct. Just dedicate your lives to God, and in consideration of the dedication His grace or spirit will fill your hearts, so that all of your actions will be right and proper and without sin.

Of course, this plea was met with specific questions, such as, if works are immaterial and grace is all, then what shall I do in this case, also that and the other? And how about teaching the catechism and memorizing the Ten Commandments? Must not we say prayers, and attend divine worship, and pay tithes, and obey magistrates?

Little minds always find endless food for argument and disputation, right here. To leave the question to Nature and let actions adjust themselves, they will never do. They want direct orders covering all the exigencies of life. To meet this demand the Torah of the Jews was devised, telling how to kill chickens, how to remove the feathers, how to pass a stranger in an alley, how to cook, eat, pray, sleep, sing, and cut one’s hair.

Thus we get such peculiar laws as that it is a sin for a Jew to make a fire at certain hours, to trim his beard, or for a Chinaman to clip his cue. All barbaric people devise codes covering the minutiae of conduct. With the Hopi Indians the maidens dress their hair in one way and the married women in another, and if a married woman clothes herself like a maiden, she is regarded as past redemption, and is killed. One of the Ten Commandments, that against making graven images, was founded on the fallacy that sculpture and idolatry were one and the same thing. The Puritans believed that the arts of sculpture and painting were both idolatrous. Some believed also that instrumental music was the work of the devil. While a few believed that wind-instruments, like the organ, were proper and right, yet stringed instruments were harmful and tended to lascivious pleasings. Now there are churches that use the pipe-organ, but allow the use of a piano only in the lecture-room, or guildhouse. The United Presbyterians disunited from the main body by abjuring all music but that of the human voice, and then they split as to the propriety of using a tuning-fork.

The Baptists have always played the organ, but the cornet as an instrument to be used in leading congregational singing has caused much dispute and contention. And while the cornet is allowed by many, the violin is still tabu absolutely in certain districts. All this is “Covenant of Works”: be careful concerning what you do–have a sleepless and vigilant eye for conduct–look to your deeds!

Anne Hutchinson cut the Gordian knot of law at a stroke, by saying, “Get the grace of God in your hearts, and it is really no difference what you do, or do not do.” Now this is a very old idea. The elect few who get their heads into a certain mental stratum have always come to a belief in the truth of the Covenant of Grace.

When Jesus plucked the ears of corn on the Sabbath day he violated Jewish law, and showed them then and at various other times that he had small respect for laws governing conduct.

Persons who take this view are regarded as anarchists. They are looked upon as enemies of the State; consequently they are dangerous persons, and must be gotten rid of. Their guilt is always founded on an inference: they do not believe in this, hence surely they are guilty of that.