Roger Williams

Louis Berkhof

The different colonies in Massachusetts and later also in Connecticut formed in reality a theocratic state. They restricted the right of voting to church members, so that nearly three-fourths of the people were excluded from the rights of free men. This naturally implied also that church members only were eligible to office.

Taxes were levied for the support of the Gospel, and attendance on public worship was enforced by law. The laws of Moses were provisionally adopted as their civil code.

Though the government was democratic, there was as yet no separation of church and state, nor religious toleration.

While the colonies of the New England Puritans formed a theocracy, Roger Williams declared that a church merged with a state was impossible and demanded a complete separation of the two.

He maintained that the civil magistrate has no right to interfere in church affairs, not even to stop a church from apostasy and heresy, and that his power extends only to the bodies, the goods and the outward estate of men.

He claimed equal rights for believers and unbelievers in the state and opposed the citizen's oath that was required by the magistrate. All these things were subversive of the theocracy.

Roger Williams was in advance of his own time. His theory of the separation of Church and State was in the main correct and is justified by history.

The colonists denied him the right which they claimed for themselves, namely, the right to serve God according to the dictates of his own conscience. Williams stood for the fullest religious toleration.