The Controversial Female Theologian: Anne Hutchinson 

Anne Hutchinson was known as the Colonial America’s ablest and most controversial female theologian (1591-1643). 

Anne Marbury was born in Lincolnshire (England), where her father was a clergyman. The Puritan vicar there, John Cotton, influenced her spiritual development. 

In 1634 she came with her husband, William Hutchinson, and their children to Massachusetts in order to maintain contact with Cotton, who had fled England the year before. Anne Hutchinson began a mid-week meeting to discuss Cotton’s sermons and other spiritual matters.

 

Brought Before the Council of the Church 

She was well respected until some ministers began accusing her of theological error. They claimed she taught antinomianism. The accusations created a fervor and soon sixty to eighty people were flocking to her lectures. 

She argued that a believer possessing the Holy Spirit was not bound by laws of conduct but was moved by inner spiritual compulsions. 

Massachusetts governor John Winthrop, feared Hutchinson’s opinions would corrupt New England Puritanism. The personal inspiration she attributed to all Christians undermined the theocratic structures of Puritan society. 

Eventually, Massachusetts leaders demanded a hearing for Hutchinson. During days of discussion she defended herself against the colony’s most powerful ministers and magistrates by careful biblical argument and penetrating logic. 

Although her skillful confutations silenced her opponents, her claim that the Holy Spirit communicated directly to her (apart from Scripture) was not tolerated. As a result of that rash assertion, she and her followers were banished from Massachusetts (1638).

Their reading of Scripture led them to champion believer’s baptism, direct promptings of the Spirit unmediated by the divines, and other departures from the “New England Way.” 

Some ministers (including Cotton) supported her views as being legitimate, even if they were a mystical interpretation of Puritan theology. She first moved to Rhode Island, then to Long Island, and finally to inland New York. There she and most of her family were killed by Indians.

Again, Anne Hutchinson was excommunicated and banished by the Puritans from Massachusetts. 

 

The Reasons for Being Expelled from the Colony 

Why? There fore primarily two main reason, for holding 2 dangerous errors: 

 

1. The Holy Spirit personally dwells in a justified person; 

2. No sanctification can evidence to us our justification.

Here the latter error almost destroyed the influence of the former truth. 

There is a little Antinomianism in the popular hymn: 

 

“Lay your deadly doings down, 

Down at Jesus’ feet; 

Doing is a deadly thing; 

Doing ends in death.” 

 

The colored preacher’s poetry only presented the doctrine in the concrete: 

 

“You may rip and te-yar, 

You may cuss and swe-yar, 

But you’re jess as sure of heaven, 

’S if you’d done gone de-yar.” 

 

Plain Andrew Fuller in England (1754–1815) did excellent service in overthrowing popular Antinomianism.

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