Introduction
T
HE purpose of this volume is to bring together the essential
documents of the Antinomian Controversy that took place in
Massachusetts between 1636 and 1638. Antinomianism in its root
sense means "against or opposed to the law." In theology it is the
opinion that "the moral law is not binding upon Christians, who
are under the law of grace." In New England it denoted the oppo-
sition between man's obedience to the law, or his works, and the
saving grace communicated by the Holy Spirit. But the colonists
in Massachusetts who stood for "free grace" against the "legall"
preachers did not call themselves Antinomians since to them, as
to most seventeenth-century Protestants, the term implied licen-
tious behavior and religious heterodoxy. Together with those
other common terms of abuse, "Anabaptist" and "Familist," it
was used, rather, by the opponents of the "Antinomians" to dis-
credit them. A Short Story of the Rise, reign, and ruine of the An-
tinomians, Familists
&
Libertines, that infected the Churches of
New-England was John Winthrop's way of linking the propo-
nents of "free grace" in Massachusetts with these disreputable
movements. Such language suggests how deeply the interests and
feelings of the colonists were engaged in the Controversy. To
them its significance was plain. It was a struggle for control of
Massachusetts, and when control was assured the victors showed
little mercy to the vanquished. In truth, the Antinomian Contro-
versy is one of those events historians speak of as crises or turning
points. Coming at a time when the new society was still taking
shape, it had a decisive effect upon the future of New England.
Most of the documents of the Controversy were brought to-
gether in a single volume by the New England historian Charles
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