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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The obscure book's margins are virtually filled with clusters of curious foreign characters - a mysterious shorthand used by 17th century religious dissident Roger Williams.
For centuries the scribbles went undeciphered. But a team of Brown University students has finally cracked the code.
Historians call the now-readable writings the most significant addition to Williams scholarship in a generation or more. Williams is Rhode Island's founder and best known as the first figure to argue for the principle of the separation of church and state that would later be enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
From there, Mason-Brown was able to translate scattered fragments, and the students determined there were three separate sections of notes. Two are Williams' writings on other books, a 17th century historical geography and a medical text. The third - and most intriguing - is 20 pages of Williams' original thoughts on one of the major theological issues of the day: infant baptism.
Williams also weighed in on the conversion of Native Americans, implying it was being achieved through treachery and coercion, said Linford Fisher, a history professor at Brown who has been working with Mason-Brown.
Roger Williams (c. 1603 – between January and March 1683) was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the first Baptist church in America, the First Baptist Church of Providence. He was a student of Native American languages and an advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans. Williams was arguably the very first abolitionist in North America, having organized the first attempt to prohibit slavery in any of the original thirteen colonies.
When Roger and Mary Williams arrived at Boston on February 5, 1631, he was welcomed and almost immediately invited to become the Teacher minister in the Boston church to officiate while Rev. John Wilson returned to England to fetch his wife. He shocked them by declining the position, saying that he found that it was "an unseparated church". In addition he asserted that the civil magistrates may not punish any sort of "breach of the first table [of the Ten Commandments]", such as idolatry, Sabbath-breaking, false worship, and blasphemy, and that every individual should be free to follow his own convictions in religious matters. Right from the beginning, he sounded three principles which were central to his subsequent career: Separatism, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.
As a Separatist he had concluded that the Church of England was irredeemably corrupt and that one must completely separate from it to establish a new church for the true and pure worship of God. His search for the true church eventually carried him out of Congregationalism, the Baptists, and any visible church. From 1639 forward, he waited for Christ to send a new apostle to reestablish the church, and he saw himself as a "witness" to Christianity until that time came. He believed that soul liberty freedom of conscience, was a gift from God, and that everyone had the natural right to freedom of religion. Religious freedom demanded that church and state be separated. Williams was the first to use the phrase "wall of separation" to describe the relationship of the church and state. He called for a high wall of separation between the "Garden of Christ" and the "Wilderness of the World". This idea might have been one of the foundations of the religion clauses in the United States Constitution, and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, although the language used by the founders is quite different. Years later, in 1802 Thomas Jefferson, writing of the "wall of separation" echoed Roger Williams in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.
The Salem church was much more inclined to Separatism, so they invited Williams to become their Teacher. When the leaders in Boston learned of this, they vigorously protested, and the offer was withdrawn. By the end of the summer of 1631, Williams had moved to Plymouth colony where he was welcomed, and informally assisted the minister there. He regularly preached and according to Governor Bradford, "his teachings were well approved."
in January 1636 the sheriff came to pick him up only to discover that Williams had slipped away three days before during a blizzard. He walked through the deep snow of a hard winter the 105 miles from Salem to the head of Narragansett Bay where the local Wampanoags offered him shelter and took him to the winter camp of their chief sachem, Massasoit, where he resided for 3 and a half months.
Originally posted by Upthepunx
this is very cool being a native rhode islander!!!! williams from what i know being taught in school also was the one if not olny person who came to the new world who had a fair and peacefull relationship with native americans(untill the british took notice of the nice sea ports RIs coast had) im proud to be from the land that of the free and weird.
this is what i like to see on ats thanks for the aritcle!!!!!!!
Originally posted by Upthepunx
reply to post by Night Star
good to know there are others of my land on here. how is the little state? im currently living in the midwest and i dearly miss the ocean.