NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

March 27, 2014

Powow preacher spats with Puritans

During preparations for a visit to the Macy-Colby house in Amesbury next month, research led to some intriguing court documents that divulge the spiritual squabbles surrounding Thomas Macy, the first to occupy the dwelling in 1649.

Although listed in early deeds as a “merchant” and “Clothier,” Macy’s “great energy and determined will” earned him multiple positions of rank including that of town clerk, deputy to the General Court, and overseer of highways and schools. Macy also received a grant for a sawmill on “the west side of the Powow, with the privilege of using all the timber on the common.”

By all accounts, Macy appeared to be a golden boy with the Puritan power heads, except on matters of prayer. In fact, he openly defied them by preaching with Joseph Peaslee in separate assembly from the authorized Sabbath. This did not go over well with Puritan officials, who deemed it “unfit preaching” and charged the two provocateurs with “exhorting the people on the Sabbath in the absence of an ordained minister.” The General Court had passed a law in prohibiting preaching “except by leave of the authorities.”

Since Master Macy was not the sort of fellow to be trifled with, he made it very clear that his faith would not be dictated to him and “Brother Peaslee, brave confessor” was not about to rob followers of “gifted” sermons. This surge of passion animated another pet of the Puritan fold, Robert Pike, who held high public offices.

Pike spoke out against “restraining unfit persons from constant preaching” and engaged on a crusade against the civil tribunal, asserting they “had violated their oaths as freeman; that their act was against the liberty of the country, both civil and ecclesiastical, and that he stood ready to make his declaration good.”

The provoked court arraigned the “culprit who thus dared to insult their majesty.” A series of petitions were filed to release Pike from his charges. Notables from several towns signed, and the court ordered commissioners to gather “incorrigibles” to give reason on why they were “induced to subscribe” to such a defiance. Pike waged on, accusing the leaders of “assailing magisterial authority and dignity.”

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