Anne Hutchinson Trial (1637)

Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in hopes of creating a model of Christian unity and order. However, in the 1630s, the Puritans confronted fundamental disagreements over theology. Anne Hutchinson arrived in Boston in 1634 and was a follower of John Cotton, who preached that salvation was achieved by faith alone, not by good works. Such ideas threatened the authority of Massachusetts’ ministers and magistrates. When Hutchinson began to hold meetings to discuss her theological views with other women and with men, Puritan magistrates charged her with heresy. This document is part the transcript of her 1637 trial.

Gov. John Winthrop: We proceeded… as far as we could… There were divers things laid to her charge: her ordinary meetings about religious exercises, her speeches in derogation of the ministers among us, and the weakening of the hands and hearts of the people towards them. Here was sufficient proof made of that which she was accused of, in that point concerning the ministers and their ministry, as that they did preach a covenant of works when others did preach a covenant of grace, and that they were not able ministers of the New Testament, and that they had not the seal of the spirit, and this was spoken not as was pretended out of private conference, but out of conscience and warrant from scripture alleged the fear of man is a snare and seeing God had given her a calling to it she would freely speak. Some other speeches she used, as that the letter of the scripture held forth a covenant of works, and this is offered to be proved by probable grounds….

[Discussion of whether the witnesses should be recalled and made swear an oath, as Mrs. Hutchinson desired, is resolved against doing so]

Gov. John Winthrop: I see no necessity of an oath in this thing seeing it is true and the substance of the matter confirmed by divers, yet that all may be satisfied, if the elders will take an oath they shall have it given them….

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: After that they have taken an oath I will make good what I say.

Gov. John Winthrop: Let us state the case, and then we may know what to do. That which is laid to Mrs. Hutchinson charge is that, that she hath traduced the magistrates and ministers of this jurisdiction, that she hath said the ministers preached a covenant of works and Mr. Cotton a covenant of grace, and that they were not able ministers of the gospel, and she excuses it that she made it a private conference and with a promise of secrecy, &c. Now this is charged upon her, and they therefore sent for her seeing she made it her table talk, and then she said the fear of man was a snare and therefore she would not be affeared of them….

Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: Let her witnesses be called.

Gov. John Winthrop: Who be they?

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Mr. Leverett and our teacher and Mr. Coggeshall.

Gov. John Winthrop: Mr. Coggeshall was not present.

Mr. Coggeshall: Yes, but I was. Only I desired to be silent till I should be called.

Gov. John Winthrop: Will you, Mr. Coggeshall, say that she did not say so?

Mr. Coggeshall: Yes, I dare say that she did not say all that which they lay against her.

Mr. Peters: How dare you look into the court to say such a word?

Mr. Coggeshall: Mr. Peters takes upon him to forbid me. I shall be silent.

Mr. Stoughton (assistant of the Court): Ey, but she intended this that they say.

Gov. John Winthrop: Well, Mr. Leverett, what were the words? I pray, speak.

Mr. Leverett: To my best remembrance when the elders did send for her, Mr. Peters did with much vehemency and intreaty urge her to tell what difference there was between Mr. Cotton and them, and upon his urging of her she said “The fear of man is a snare, but they that trust upon the Lord shall be safe.” And being asked wherein the difference was, she answered that they did not preach a covenant of grace so clearly as Mr. Cotton did, and she gave this reason of it: because that as the apostles were for a time without the spirit so until they had received the witness of the spirit they could not preach a covenant of grace so clearly.

Gov. John Winthrop: Don’t you remember that she said they were not able ministers of the New Testament?

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Mr. Weld and I had an hour’s discourse at the window and then I spake that, if I spake it…

Gov. John Winthrop: Mr. Cotton, the court desires that you declare what you do remember of the conference which was at the time and is now in question.

Mr. Cotton: I did not think I should be called to bear witness in this cause and therefore did not labor to call to remembrance what was done; but the greatest passage that took impression upon me was to this purpose. The elders spake that they had heard that she had spoken some condemning words of their ministry, and among other things they did first pray her to answer wherein she thought their ministry did differ from mine. How the comparison sprang I am ignorant, but sorry I was that any comparison should be between me and my brethren and uncomfortable it was. She told them to this purpose that they did not hold forth a covenant of grace as I did. But wherein did we differ? Why she said that they did not hold forth the seal of the spirit as he doth. Where is the difference there? Say they, why saith she, speaking to one or other of them, I know not to whom.

You preach of the seal of the spirit upon a work and he upon free grace without a work or without respect to a work; he preaches the seal of the spirit upon free grace and you upon a work. I told her I was very sorry that she put comparisons between my ministry and theirs, for she had said more than I could myself, and rather I had that she had put us in fellowship with them and not have made that discrepancy. She said, she found the difference.

This was the sum of the difference, nor did it seem to be so ill taken as it is and our brethren did say also that they would not so easily believe reports as they had done and withal mentioned that they would speak no more of it, some of them did; and afterwards some of them did say they were less satisfied than before. And I must say that I did not find her saying that they were under a covenant of works, nor that she said they did preach a covenant of works.

[Discussion between Rev. John Cotton, trying to defend Mrs. Hutchinson, and Mr. Peters, about exactly what Mrs. Hutchinson said]

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: If you please to give me leave I shall give you the ground of what I know to be true. Being much troubled to see the falseness of the constitution of the Church of England, I had like to have turned Separatist. Whereupon I kept a day of solemn humiliation and pondering of the thing; this scripture was brought unto me—he that denies Jesus Christ to be come in the flesh is antichrist. This I considered of and in considering found that the papists did not deny him to be come in the flesh, nor we did not deny him—who then was antichrist? Was the Turk antichrist only? The Lord knows that I could not open scripture; he must by his prophetical office open it unto me. So after that being unsatisfied in the thing, the Lord was pleased to bring this scripture out of the Hebrews. He that denies the testament denies the testator, and in this did open unto me and give me to see that those which did not teach the new covenant had the spirit of antichrist, and upon this he did discover the ministry unto me; and ever since, I bless the Lord, he hath let me see which was the clear ministry and which the wrong.

Since that time I confess I have been more choice and he hath left me to distinguish between the voice of my beloved and the voice of Moses, the voice of John the Baptist and the voice of antichrist, for all those voices are spoken of in scripture. Now if you do condemn me for speaking what in my conscience I know to be truth I must commit myself unto the Lord.

Mr. Nowel (assistant to the Court): How do you know that was the spirit?

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: How did Abraham know that it was God that bid him offer his son, being a breach of the sixth commandment?

Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: By an immediate voice.

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: So to me by an immediate revelation.

Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: How! an immediate revelation.

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: By the voice of his own spirit to my soul. I will give you another scripture, Jeremiah 46: 27-28—out of which the Lord showed me what he would do for me and the rest of his servants. But after he was pleased to reveal himself to me I did presently, like Abraham, run to Hagar. And after that he did let me see the atheism of my own heart, for which I begged of the Lord that it might not remain in my heart, and being thus, he did show me this (a twelvemonth after) which I told you of before….

Therefore, I desire you to look to it, for you see this scripture fulfilled this day and therefore I desire you as you tender the Lord and the church and commonwealth to consider and look what you do.

You have power over my body but the Lord Jesus hath power over my body and soul; and assure yourselves thus much, you do as much as in you lies to put the Lord Jesus Christ from you, and if you go on in this course you begin, you will bring a curse upon you and your posterity, and the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: What is the scripture she brings?

Mr. Stoughton (assistant to the Court): Behold I turn away from you.

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: But now having seen him which is invisible I fear not what man can do unto me.

Gov. John Winthrop: Daniel was delivered by miracle; do you think to be deliver’d so too?

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I do here speak it before the court. I look that the Lord should deliver me by his providence…………………………… (because God had said to her) though I should meet with affliction, yet I am the same God that delivered Daniel out of the lion’s den, I will also deliver thee.

Mr. Harlakenden (assistant to the Court): I may read scripture and the most glorious hypocrite may read them and yet go down to hell.

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: It may be so….

Gov. John Winthrop: I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion. [Trial transcript reads:] All the court but some two or three ministers cry out, we all believe it—we all believe it.

Gov. John Winthrop: The court hath already declared themselves satisfied concerning the things you hear, and concerning the troublesomeness of her spirit and the danger of her course amongst us, which is not to be suffered. Therefore if it be the mind of the court that Mrs. Hutchinson for these things that appear before us is unfit for our society, and if it be the mind of the court that she shall be banished out of our liberties and imprisoned till she be sent away, let them hold up their hands.

(All but three did so.)

Gov. John Winthrop: Mrs. Hutchinson, the sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court shall send you away.

Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I desire to know wherefore I am banished?

Gov. John Winthrop: Say no more. The court knows wherefore and is satisfied.