On Religious Liberty

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Overview

Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his refusal to conform to Puritan religious and social standards, Roger Williams established a haven in Rhode Island for those persecuted in the name of the religious establishment. He conducted a lifelong debate over religious freedom with distinguished figures of the seventeenth century, including Puritan minister John Cotton, Massachusetts governor John Endicott, and the English Parliament.

James Calvin Davis gathers together important selections from Williams's public and private writings on religious liberty, illustrating how this renegade Puritan radically reinterpreted Christian moral theology and the events of his day in a powerful argument for freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state. For Williams, the enforcement of religious uniformity violated the basic values of Calvinist Christianity and presumed upon God's authority to speak to the individual conscience. He argued that state coercion was rarely effective, often causing more harm to the church and strife to the social order than did religious pluralism.

This is the first collection of Williams's writings in forty years reaching beyond his major work, The Bloody Tenent, to include other selections from his public and private writings. This carefully annotated book introduces Williams to a new generation of readers.

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Editorial Reviews

Charles T. Mathewes
A major contribution to our understanding of the history of religion in America, this book speaks to issues of church and state and freedom of conscience that still resonate today.
New Republic - Martha Nussbaum
Williams's writings have long been virtually unavailable to the general public. Now Harvard University Press has published On Religious Liberty: Selections From the Works of Roger Williams, edited by scholar James Calvin Davis. Davis provides around three hundred pages of Williams's writings...Davis has a keen eye for the telling passage, and he arranges the extracts helpfully, adding a lucid introduction. His fine volume will be especially useful for purposes of teaching, and it will sustain us while we await a more complete re-issue of the major works and letters.
New Republic

Williams's writings have long been virtually unavailable to the general public. Now Harvard University Press has published On Religious Liberty: Selections From the Works of Roger Williams, edited by scholar James Calvin Davis. Davis provides around three hundred pages of Williams's writings...Davis has a keen eye for the telling passage, and he arranges the extracts helpfully, adding a lucid introduction. His fine volume will be especially useful for purposes of teaching, and it will sustain us while we await a more complete re-issue of the major works and letters.
— Martha Nussbaum

New Republic
Williams's writings have long been virtually unavailable to the general public. Now Harvard University Press has published On Religious Liberty: Selections From the Works of Roger Williams, edited by scholar James Calvin Davis. Davis provides around three hundred pages of Williams's writings...Davis has a keen eye for the telling passage, and he arranges the extracts helpfully, adding a lucid introduction. His fine volume will be especially useful for purposes of teaching, and it will sustain us while we await a more complete re-issue of the major works and letters.
— Martha Nussbaum
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674026858
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2008
  • Series: John Harvard Library Series
  • Pages: 306
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

James Calvin Davis is Associate Professor of Religion, Middlebury College.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Editorial Method

Introduction: Roger Williams and the Birth of an American Ideal

1. Mr. Cotton's Letter Lately Printed, Examined, and Answered

2. Queries of Highest Consideration

3. The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience

4. Christenings Make Not Christians

5. The Bloody Tenent Yet More Bloody

6. The Fourth Paper Presented by Major Butler

7. The Examiner Defended in a Fair and Sober Answer

8. The Hireling Ministry None of Christ's

9. George Fox Digg'd out of His Burrowes

10. Selected Letters

Index

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