Excerpt from the Trial of Anne Hutchinson

Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) whom Governor John Winthrop called “a woman of ready wit and bold spirit,” was put on trial for heresy in 1637. She insisted that salvation was not earned, but a gift of god. The signs of God’s grace were inward, not necessarily the outward signs of good works. To those who charged her, this teaching undermined the moral order.  Further, she insisted that the Holy Spirit directly inspired her understanding of scripture, and she taught gatherings of women in her home, as well as gatherings of women and men.

The Examination of Anne Hutchinson

John Winthrop, Governor (JW): Mrs. Hutchinson (AH), you are called here as one of those that have troubled the peace of the commonwealth and the churches here; you are known to be a woman that hath had a great share in promoting and divulging of those opinions that are causes of this trouble, and to be nearly joined not only in affinity and affection with some of those the court had taken notice of and passed censure upon, but you have spoken diverse things (as we have been informed) very prejudicial to the honour of the churches and ministers thereof[.] [A]nd you have maintained a meeting and an assembly in your house that hath been condemned by the general assembly as a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex. . . .

AH: I am called here to answer before you, but I hear no things laid to my charge.

JW: I have told you some already and more I can tell you.

AH: Name one, Sir.

JW: Have I not named some already?

AH: What have I said or done?

JW: Why for your doings, this you did harbour and countenance those that are parties in this faction that you have heard of.

AH: That’s matter of conscience, Sir.

JW: Your conscience you must keep, or it must be kept for you. . .

AH: 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[.] [W]hereupon I kept a day of solemn humiliation and pondering, this scripture was brought unto me–he that denies Jesus Christ is the 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 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.

Second Officer of the Court: How do you know that that was the spirit?

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

Third Officer: By an immediate voice.

AH: So to me by an immediate revelation.

Third Officer: How! an immediate revelation.

AH: By the voice of his own spirit to my soul. I will give you another scripture, Jer. 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 that 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.

[From Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936), 366, 383-84.]