Would the Puritans Have Executed John Adams For His Religious Heresy?

I dunno. But they said they would.

This article by Joseph Farah commits a common error among “Christian Americanists” confusing the “Founding” of America — the Declaration of Independence — with the “Planting” — the Mayflower Compact and establishment of Puritan Massachusetts.

The Mayflower Compact was done under the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, something the American Founding repudiated.

Read the link and see the MC begins:

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith,…

And ends:

In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.

Exactly what America rebelled against in 1776.

The 1641 Massachusetts Body of Liberties [arguably SIC] details the Christian content of their “Shining City on a Hill.” Whatever the validity of the modern analogies between Christian conservatism and the Taliban, this code reads like a true American Taliban.

94. Capitall Laws.

1.

(Deut. 13. 6, 10. Deut. 17. 2, 6. Ex. 22.20)
If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.

2.

(Ex. 22. 18. Lev. 20. 27. Dut. 18. 10.)
If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to death.

3.

(Lev. 24. 15,16.)
If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

[Page 274]

In particular it’s the third under which the Puritans would have executed or at least threatened to execute John Adams, arguably the majority of the drafting board of the Declaration of Independence (Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams were all theological unitarians).

As Adams blasphemed:

“The Trinity was carried in a general council by one vote against a quaternity; the Virgin Mary lost an equality with the Father, Son, and Spirit only by a single suffrage.”

— John Adams to Benjamin Rush, June 12, 1812.

“If I understand the Doctrine, it is, that if God the first second or third or all three together are united with or in a Man, the whole Animal becomes a God and his Mother is the Mother of God.

“It grieves me: it shocks me to write in this stile upon a subject the most adorable that any finite Intelligence can contemplate or embrace: but if ever Mankind are to be superior to the Brutes, sacerdotal Impostures must be exposed.”

— John Adams to Francis van der Kemp, October 23, 1816.

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32 Responses to Would the Puritans Have Executed John Adams For His Religious Heresy?

  1. OFT says:

    Actually, I am fully convinced the Mayflower Compact, as well all the other Christian documents (DOI, and Constitution) are founded not on the Divine Right of Kings, but Consent of the governed, through a covenant with God:

    Haveing undertaken, for ye Glorie of God, and advancements of ye Christian faith, and the honour of our King & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northern parts of Virginia; Doe by these presents, solemnly & mutualy, in ye presence of God, and one of another; covenant & combine ourselves together into a Civill body politick; for our better ordering, & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just & equal Lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for ye generall good of ye Colonie; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. [bold face mine]

    -Original version as recorded by William Bradford

  2. Jon Rowe says:

    OFT,

    If this isn’t the doctrine of Divine Right of Kings —

    “In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith,…”

    then nothing is and the concept never existed.

  3. Jon Rowe says:

    I’d also love to see the covenants in the DOI and Constitution. I can’t find them. But I’m sure that someone who specializes in “imaginative” readings of texts may be able to “see” them in there.

  4. James K says:

    “dread sovereign lord” huh? They don’t make titles like they used to.

  5. James Hanley says:

    dread Sovereign Lord

    Damn, I wish people would address me like that.

  6. D.A. Ridgely says:

    dread Sovereign Lord

    Damn, I wish people would address me like that.

    Pfffft! I can’t even get people to say Mr. or Ms.

  7. Heidegger says:

    Consider yourself lucky, Baron von Ridgely—doubt you’d appreciate being addressed as Ms. Ridgely!

  8. Heidegger says:

    DAR says,

    dread Sovereign Lord

    “Damn, I wish people would address me like that.

    Pfffft! I can’t even get people to say Mr. or Ms.”

    Consider yourself lucky, Baron von Ridgely—doubt you’d appreciate being addressed as Ms. Ridgely!

  9. OFT says:

    “In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith,…”

    I will double check, but these Puritans were Republicans, who left England, then Holland, to cast off Divine Right of Kings, and replace it with a Covenant as Exodus 18 says.

    That’s the way they wrote documents, just like dating “in the year of our Lord”

    The text is clear; it was a covenant.

  10. OFT says:

    The Puritan Covenants of Government in Switzerland, Holland, and America is quite different than that of Divine Right of Kings. DROK, was a doctrine where the King could do anything and not be de-throned. Our Puritan forefathers believed if our sovereign broke Divine Law, he abdicated.

    The O.T. is clear; if the King, the people’s representative, broke Divine Law, he was overthrown, or the nation could be judged.

    Thomas Jefferson, the least Puritan of all the FF’s, believed in this type of covenant where God would judge a nation for its sins. TJ’s covenant, in the DOI, and thus, in the Constitution, is no different from his Puritan forefathers:

    “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . . .”

    – Notes on the State of Virginia.

  11. Heidegger says:

    “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

    “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

    “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” — Milton Friedman

    This president will be the closest this nation has ever come to experiencing life under tyranny—just wait, police state awaits all in the sacrosanct mantle of “progressivism.”

    “When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and nobody has a direct interest in maintaining or improving its condition. That is why buildings in the Soviet Union — like public housing in the United States — look decrepit within a year or two if their construction…” — Milton Friedman

    Check this out: http://www.good.is/post/chicago-housing-project-s-demolition-in-stop-motion/

  12. Heidegger says:

    Sorry–forgot to attribute first two quotes to the greatest American ever to have lived, Thomas Jefferson

  13. Jon Rowe says:

    Yes it’s a covenant — done under the doctrine of DIVINE RIGHT OF KINGS!

  14. James Hanley says:

    Heidegger,

    Can you please refrain from posting wholly off-topic comments unless they have the virtue of being humorous?

  15. Matty says:

    Personally I find Heidegger’s stream of consciousness posts hysterical. You just never know where his mind is going next or how he’ll get there. Except of course that Mozart will probably be dragged in somewhere along the line.

  16. Heidegger says:

    Ah, Matty, you’ve made my day! I just knew, somewhere, somehow, amongst the musical philistines, a true blue Mozartophile would surface on One Best Way! Did I ever tell you the story of how Mozart (metaphorically speaking-sort of) was almost burnt at the stake? He utterly freaked-out/creeped-out the Catholic Vatican hierarchy–great story. Will have to tell you later—time for this peasant to toil in the fields…

    Jon–do you have any idea how The Edge creates that effect in the beginning of “Where the streets have no name”? Uh-oh—just realized I’m dangerously off target. So yes, there can be no doubt that Mullah Cotton Mather would have issued a fatwa against James Adams and had him beheaded. And for that matter, would have had had all the Buddhist shrines that were carved into the Catskill mountains blown to bits.

  17. Heidegger says:

    Make that John Adams/James Madison…and Thomas Washington and George Jefferson….

  18. Seamus says:

    If this isn’t the doctrine of Divine Right of Kings –

    “In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith,…”

    then nothing is and the concept never existed.

    No it “isn’t the doctrine of Divine Right of Kings.” It isn’t even evidence that the Compacters were believers in the Divine Right of Kings. The Pilgrim Fathers may have believed that God had put James on his throne (which is what it means to say that James was king “by the grace of God”), but they didn’t believe that James could do whatever he wanted with that throne, being answerable only to God. James himself may have believed that, but the fact that the Pilgrims used a conventional formula referring to the king (one which, by the way, was in use long before the absolutist theory constituting the “doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings” arose, and which continued to be used after that theory had ceased to have any currency) is no evidence that they shared James’s views.

  19. OFT says:

    Seamus,

    You’re absolutely right. To say these hard-core Republicans believed in the Divine Right of Kings when they specifically wanted a covenant relationship with God, is pure revisionism.

  20. Jon Rowe says:

    Divine Right of Kings is not inconsistent with notion of a biblical covenant. In fact, the idea of a biblical covenant with God goes perfectly with Divine Right of Kings, which is exactly what we see in the Mayflower Compact.

  21. OFT says:

    Divine Right of Kings has nothing to do with the Puritan understanding of the biblical covenant. A King was limited by Divine Law.

    Because DROK is not enumerated specifically in the N.T. appearing contrary to reason, the Puritans, and FF’s used the O.T. where it appears to grant authority to overthrow a King.

  22. Matty says:

    I don’t see how any hardcore republican could call themselves a loyal subject of any king however they saw his power. To be a republican (in the historic sense not the US partisan one) is by definiton to deny the authority of royalty. If they had wanted to proclaim a republic they surely knew how, especially having lived in the Dutch Republic, which whatever the role of the stadtholder was not a monarchy on the English model. They chose instead to declare their loyalty to the crown and that fact alone buries any concept of a republic.

  23. OFT says:

    Matty wrote: To be a republican (in the historic sense not the US partisan one) is by definiton to deny the authority of royalty..They chose instead to declare their loyalty to the crown and that fact alone buries any concept of a republic.

    As long as the King obeyed the Covenant, everything was fine with the Puritans. The Purtian concept of Republic is based on Scripture, where Divine Law rules. Republics at that time, including in the O.T. were Monarchies.

  24. Jon Rowe says:

    OFT is so far behind he won’t even admit the truth that the concept of “republic” traces to Western Civ.’s noble pagan Greco-Roman heritage. It’s not found in the Bible. Folks back in the day who argued it was — that the Hebrews had a “republic” when in reality they had a theocracy — wrote things into the Bible’s text that aren’t there.

    If their biblical fundamentalist God is real, they will certainly get in trouble for messing with His Word in the end.

  25. Matty says:

    I think Jon is right about the origin of republican ideas. Certainly the word is Latin and at this distance in history it is hard to look for general principles in the Roman republic without also looking to Athens. And yes none of this has anything to do with the Bible which belonged to a very different culture, one only united to the classical tradition by centuries of philosophising.

  26. OFT says:

    Jon wrote: OFT is so far behind he won’t even admit the truth that the concept of “republic” traces to Western Civ.’s noble pagan Greco-Roman heritage. It’s not found in the Bible. Folks back in the day who argued it was — that the Hebrews had a “republic” when in reality they had a theocracy — wrote things into the Bible’s text that aren’t there.

    Then why did John Calvin, Luther, Thomas Aquinas, all the Reformers, and the FF’s, believe ancient Israel was a Republic, exhibited by the fact, the most heterodox Thomas Paine knew this is what the Colonists understood?:

    Near three thousand years passed away from the Mosaic account of the creation, till the Jews under a national delusion requested a king. Till then their form of government (except in extraordinary cases, where the Almighty interposed) was a kind of republic administered by a judge and the elders of the tribes. Kings they had none, and it was held sinful to acknowledge any being under that title but the Lords of Hosts</i..

    -Common Sense

    Not every Republic is identical, but a government ruled by Representatives, under Law, is a Republic, which is why Paine used Israel. A Republic is clearly enumerated in Exodus 18:

    "25And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26And they judged the people at all seasons."

  27. OFT says:

    Even John Adams believed Israel had a Republic based on his definition:

    No good government but what is republican…the very definition of a republic is ‘an empire of laws, and not of men.”

    -John Adams, “Thoughts on Government” January, 1776

  28. tom van dyke says:

    The internet sez the Mayflower folks never secured a charter from the king. The Mayflower Compact pledged their allegiance to him, but there actually was no deal with him, then.

    From what I gather, the Mayflower Compact was indeed a “covenant” with each other; a “covenant” calls God as a witness. I do not think that any [or many, at least] of the state constitutions at the time of the Founding were “covenants” in the religious sense. But that’s the place to start looking. The Mayflower colony merged into the Massachusetts Bay colony in the late 1600s, so I’d think that spelled the end of the Mayflower “covenant.”

    The Pilgrim-Puritan trip is not an area of great interest or familiarity to me, so I look forward to further edification. For the record, Paine does claim pre-monarchy Israel was a “republic”; however, if you look through the great Calvinist thinkers like Beza and Peter Martyr, you’ll see they gave deep study to the ancients, especially Rome and Roman law. In fact, I don’t quite recall them playing the Israel-as-a-republic card, although I haven’t made a life’s study of their work. But I’d think that’s the proper place to look for that riff in Christian thought, not Paine, who grabbed any Biblical argument he could find, believing none of them himself.

  29. OFT says:

    TVD,

    A covenant has to be implied if the framers implied it. I will look for it. Although Thomas Paine didn’t believe most of what he wrote in Common Sense, he knew the people did, which is the most important.

  30. Jon Rowe says:

    No OFT. You need to understand the difference between social contract and biblical covenant.

  31. OFT says:

    TVD,

    This is an interesting sermon preached to the Mass. Bay Legislature. It implies judgment from God, but the latter part seems to support Frazer’s position, or the theory in the N.T. That evil rulers are left in God’s hands whether they were to be over-thrown.

    Just and zealous rulers are men that Stand in the Gap, and keep off judgments from a sinning people; God sought for one such, Ezek. 22:30. They turn away wrath, when it has made an inroad; so it is recorded of Phinehas that he did, Ps. 106:30., and God is wont to bless such a people, as He did Israel and Judah in the days of David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah–whereas when these fall into such sins as God is provoked at, the people are like to smart for it. There is such an influence with the prevarications of these men, that, in the righteous judgment of God, those under them suffer grieveously by it. This the heathen observed in the course of Providence, and made that remark upon it, [….] Thus David numbers the people, and seventy thousand of the men of Israel die for it, 2 Sa. 24. Yes, such may be the influence of the mal-administration of rulers, though done without malice, and in an heat of misguided zeal for the people of GOD–as Saul’s act in slaying the Gibeonites is recorded to have been, 2 Sam. 21:2, that the guilt may lie long upon a land, and break out in terrible judgments a great while after, and not be expiated till the sin be openly confessed, and the Atonement sought unto. [bold face mine]

    3. With reference to rulers themselves.

    It is, as we before observed, a dignity put upon them, to be preferred to government over their brethren–to have the oversight, not of beasts, but of men. But as there is a great trust devolved on them, so there is an answerable reckoning which they must be called unto: And however they are […] [placed] in authority by men, yet GOD, who rules over all, has put them in only durante bene placito: they are upon their good behavior; they are stewards, and whensoever GOD pleases, He will call for a reckoning, and put them out. GOD sets up, and he pulls down, and He has a respect to men’s carriages in His dealings with them. [* * * * *]

    In a word, let us beware lest we provoke a holy and jealous God to anger so as to give us men of another spirit to rule over us, or to withdraw His Spirit from them that do, and leave them to do things inconvenient.

    Evil doers, and the mal-administrations of good ones, are punishments which GOD does inflict on a people that have provoked Him to anger against them. God gave Saul to Israel in His wrath, and he left David to number the people because His anger was kindled against Israel.

    But if we be a people fearing GOD and keeping of His Commandments, He will delight in us to bless us, and to do us good–and to give us rulers after His own prescription, Just Men, and Ruling in the Fear of God.

    -(Samuel Willard, The Character of a Good Ruler (1694)) As it was Recommended in a Sermon Preached before his Excellency the Governor, and the Honorable Counselors, and Assembly of the Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England. On May 30, 1694. Which was the Day for Election of Counselors for that Province. (Boston: Benjamin Harris, 1694).] Samuel Willard (1640-1707) was Vice-President of Harvard College (1701).
    http://www.belcherfoundation.org/character_of_good_ruler.htm

  32. OFT says:

    Talk about living in a potential great place. The Covenant with God is in all facets of life:

    They all relinquish their delightful seats and their dearest friends, they put off their fair estates, they cast themselves and their children on the tumultuous ocean; and nothing can move them, so they may come into a wilderness, rude and hideous, to hear the voice of their teachers, become a covenant people of GOD, observe His laws, set up His tabernacle, behold His glory, and leave these things to their offspring forever.

    And the LORD preserves them, He makes the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over: He brings them in thousands to these peaceful shores: And here, they that knew not each other before, salute and embrace with joy: He unites them in the most lovely agreement to profess and serve him: They publicly and solemnly enter into covenant with Him, to love and obey Him, to make His doctrines the only rule of faith, and His institutions the only rule of worship: And with united joy they sing to the LORD–“Thou in thy Mercy hast led forth the People which Thou hast redeemed: Thou hast guided them in thy Strength to thy Holy Habitation: Thou hast brought them in and Planted them in the Mountain of thine Inheritance, in the Place O LORD which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary which thy Hands have established: and the LORD shall Reign for ever and ever.”

    -Thomas Prince (1687-1758), The People of New England Put in mind of the Righteous Acts of the Lord to Them and their Fathers, and Reasoned with concerning them. A Sermon Delivered at Cambridge Before the Great and General Assembly of the Province of the Massachusetts, May 27th 1730. Being the Anniversary for the Election of His Majesty’s Council for the Province. By Thomas Prince, M.A. And one of the Pastors of the South Church in Boston.
    http://www.belcherfoundation.org/people_of_new_england.htm

    Prince’s Sermon is consistent with the Founders of New England: Note Prince’s historical note about the founding of Boston in 1630. (One of the Puritans who traveled with Governor John Winthrop in the Great Migration was Edward Belcher of Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, England, cousin of future Governor Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757). Edward was thus one of the Puritan founders of New England.)
    http://www.belcherfoundation.org/people_of_new_england.htm

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