America’s Christian Leaders: Anne Hutchinson

n 1636, Anne Hutchinson, the wife of one of Boston’s leading citizens, was charged with heresy and banished from Massachusetts Colony. A woman of learning and great religious conviction, Hutchinson challenged the Puritan clergy and asserted her view of the “Covenant of Grace” – that moral conduct and piety should not be the primary qualifications for “visible sanctification.”

Her preachings were unjustly labeled “antinomianism” by the Puritans – a heresy – since the Christian leaders of that day held to a strong “Covenant of Works” teaching which dictated the need for outward signs of God’s grace. The question of “works versus grace” is a very old one; it goes on forever in a certain type of mind. Both are true doctrines, however, the “Covenant of Grace” is true in a higher sense.

Anne Hutchinson’s teaching can be summed up in a simple phrase which she taught the women who met in her home: “As I do understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway. He who has God’s grace in his heart cannot go astray.”

Actually, what Anne Hutchinson was preaching was not antithetical to what the Puritans believed at all. What began as quibbling over fine points of Christian doctrine ended as a confrontation over the role of authority in the colony. Threatened by meetings she held in her Boston home, the clergy charged Hutchinson with blasphemy. An outspoken female in a male hierarchy, Hutchinson had little hope that many would speak in her defense, and she was being tried by the General Court.

After being sentenced, she went with her family to what is now Rhode Island. Several years later she moved to New York where she and some of her family were massacred by Indians. One of her descendants, Thomas Hutchinson, later became governor of Massachusetts.

Anne Hutchinson pioneered the principles of civil liberty and religious freedom which were written into the Constitution of the United States. The spirit of Anne Hutchinson, the first woman preacher and fearless defender of freedom in New England, survived her persecution and death and it survives even until this day.

See also: The Boston Awakening

4 Comments

A point of disagreement with your article is that the arguement is “grace vs. works”; both are necessary, works must flow out of faith and give evidence of it. In that sense Anne H. was incorrect and antithetical to the church. “Faith without works is dead.” Works are governed by God’s laws as outlined in scripture, that makes them a requirement. Without that it leaves every man to do what is right in his own sight antithetical to God’s sight. This leads to the disasters written of in the book of Judges.

Incidentally, FYI and not to be snooty, please spell check the “YOU COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!” bar above this comment window.
Thanks much for the interesting article.

Gov.Winthrop is alive and well! (re the posting by“William,“11-06-08.) Before he charges Anne Hutchinson with “incorrectness,” he might review the horrors of this bigotry through the ages, and remember that the ‘Judges“of the Old Testament had their own struggles with hatred and violence. (Also, and as a postscript to his “FYI”) I find his concern for a missing letter of the alphabet, not “snooty” as he puts it, but rather a somewhat amusing example of what was facing Ms.Hutchinson. especially in light of the sweeping dictates within his preceding comments.

I am so proud of my G-Grandmothers, Anne Marbury and Mary DYER
Both were strong women
and indeed gave there self for religious freedom.

Although I don’t know all the Ann’s Hutchinson’s theology she is entirely correct to denounce the Puritan’s Covenant of Works as heretical. Faith WILL bring forth good works by the Holy Spirit, not by keeping the laws of Scripture otherwise as Ann says, those who are sanctified by the works of the law are also cursed by them and not saved by grace yet.
In Christ,
Gilda Thury
P.S. The modern day church still suffers from the same false doctrines, namely that they think that by the works of the law shall man be justified.
Either justified by the Law or sanctified by the law.

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