William Penn was arrested and imprisoned several times for sharing his politically incorrect views which were not in agreement with the government’s agenda. Once he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for eight months.
While in London’s notorious Newgate Prison, William Penn wrote 1670: “By Liberty of Conscience, we understand not only a mere Liberty of the Mind … but the exercise of ourselves in a visible way of worship, upon our believing it to be indispensably required at our hands, that if we neglect it for fear or favor of any mortal man, we sin, and incur divine wrath.”
Another dissenter in London’s Newgate Prison was an early Baptist leader Thomas Helwys, who wrote in 1612: “The King is a mortal man, and not God, therefore he hath no power over the mortal soul of his subjects to make laws and ordinances for them and to set spiritual Lords over them.”
Thomas Helwys who died in the Newgate Prison in 1616, had written “A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity”: “If the Kings people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all humane laws made by the King, our Lord the King can require no more: for men’s religion to God is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer for it, neither may the King be judge between God and man.”
Later, Baptist minister John Leland, who helped found Baptist churches in Connecticut, wrote in “Rights of Conscience Inalienable,” 1791: “Every man must give account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he can best reconcile to his conscience. If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment, let men be controlled by it in religious matters; otherwise, let men be free.”
William Penn’s father died in 1670. In 1682, King Charles II, in repayment of a debt owed to him, gave land to his son, William Penn – 45,000 square miles. This enormous amount of land, called Pennsylvania, made William Penn the largest non-royalty landowner in the world.
While most countries demanded that citizens believe as the government dictated, William Penn started a colony in the New World where persecuted Christians and Jews of Europe could join in a “Holy Experiment” of religious toleration.
Soon Quakers, Mennonites, Pietists, Amish, Anabaptists, Lutherans, Reformed, Moravians, Scotch-Irish resbyterians, Dunkers (German Baptist), Brethren, Schwenckfelders, French Huguenots and other Protestant Christians arrived in Pennsylvania.
William Penn died on July 30, 1718.
Penn named his capital city Philadelphia, which means “Brotherly Love.” Lutheran missionary Johannes Campanius translated the very first book published in the Algonquin Indian language, Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Campanius dedicated Philadelphia’s first church, Gloria Dei “Old Swede’s” Church in 1646. Penn’s religious tolerance allowed the church to grow and build their present church building in 1698. In 1695, the Merion Friends (Quaker) Meeting House was built. It is the oldest church building in Pennsylvania and second oldest Friends meeting house in the United States. In 1695, Philadelphia’s Christ Church was built. It is called “the Nation’s Church,” as George Washington, Betsy Ross, Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, and their daughter, Sarah Franklin Bache, worshiped there.
Others who worshiped at Christ Church included signers of the Declaration of Independence: John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Francis Hopkinson, Joseph Hewes, Robert Morris, James Wilson and George Ross.
In 1711, Old Trinity Episcopal Church was built in Philadelphia. In 1732, the Seventh Day Dunkers (German Baptist Brethern) built Ephrata Cloister near Philadelphia. They had the second German printing press in America. They published the largest book in the colonies, “Martyrs Mirror,” listing Christian martyrs from Christ until 1660.
In 1733, Philadelphia allowed the first English-speaking Catholic Church in the world after the Reformation – St. Joseph Church. It was the only place in the British Empire where a public Catholic church service took place legally. Marquis de Lafayette and Comte de Rochambeau worshiped there.
Mennonites and Quakers led Pennsylvania to be the first state to passed legislation to end slavery. America’s first abolition society, the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, was founded in Philadelphia in 1775. After the Revolutionary War, it was reorganized in 1784 with Benjamin Franklin as its first president.
On May 21, 1789, the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was held in Philadelphia. Signer of the Declaration John Witherspoon preached the first sermon at that assembly.
Philadelphia is the birthplace of the Methodist Episcopal churches in America, with St. George’s Church, built in 1769, being the denomination’s oldest church building in continuous service in the world. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, sent the church a communion chalice.
St. George’s pastor, Francis Asbury, was the first Methodist bishop. He traveled 270,000 miles on horseback and ordained more than 4,000 ministers, including Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, the first African-American Lay Preachers of Methodism in 1785.
In 1792, Absalom Jones started the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, being the oldest black Episcopal congregation in the United States. In 1794, Richard Allen started the African Methodist Episcopal Church, building “Mother Bethel,” the first A.M.E. Church in America. In 1796, also out of St. George’s, Rev. “Black Harry” Hosier started the African Zoar Church. St. George’s appointed Mary Thorne as the first woman class leader.
Philadelphia’s first synagogue, Mikveh Israel, was built in 1782 by Sephardic Jews from Spain, Portugal and the West Indies, many of whom fled from New York in 1776, when the British captured the city. Contributors to the building fund were Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris – signer of the Declaration, and Haym Solomon, Polish Jew financier of the American Revolution. Beginning in 1845, Rabbi Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel synagogue produced the first Jewish translation of the Bible into English to be published in the United States.
When Mikveh Israel synagogue burned in 1872, Philadelphia’s Christ Church contributed to rebuild it. The two congregations have a long custom of sharing a fellowship-dinner once a year which alternates between their two buildings.
In 1795, the first Ashkenazic Jewish synagogue in the Western Hemisphere was founded in Philadelphia, Congregation Rodeph Shalom.
Pennsylvania’s Charter, granted March 4, 1681, stated: “Whereas our trusty and well beloved subject, William Penn, esquire, son and heir of Sir William Penn, deceased, out of a commendable desire to enlarge our English Empire … and also to reduce the savage natives by gentle and just manners to the love of civil society and Christian religion, hath humbly besought leave of us to transport an ample colony unto … parts of America not yet cultivated and planted.”
William Penn wrote in his “Charter of Privileges for Pennsylvanians,” 1701: “… because no people can be truly happy though under the greatest enjoyments of civil liberties if abridged of the freedom of their consciences as to their religious profession and worship.”
William Penn’s “holy experiment” of “Brotherly Love” resulted in Philadelphia – a city which, providentially, birthed a nation, as it was there that the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the city served as the nation’s first Capital. Philadelphia was then where the Constitution of the United States was written.
Brought to you by AmericanMinute.com.