The Puritans based their lifestyles heavily on religious beliefs. Calvinism served as their primary religion. This religion encompassed beliefs that held on the idea that their lives have been planned out by God from birth and any disruption to that plan should be eradicated. During the 17th century, witch hunts occurred due in part to Puritan’s stringent religious way of life. The controversy between John Winthrop and Anne Hutchinson rose up out of sexism, pose of threat and flawed theory in the form of a trial against Hutchinson.
Winthrop and Hutchinson’s personalities clashed immediately. They were neighbors in Boston and disliked each other from the start. Winthrop was an intransigent Calvinist Puritan. Predestination is at the heart of his religion. Winthrop’s understanding was that God had a plan for everyone and had already selected whether a person would be a member of the elect, the invisible church. God’s selection of saints was not based on human criteria. Puritans wanted to keep away from people who committed wrong actions. Any stray from the predestined life was a result of sin. He also believed that every church should expel the wicked. On the other hand, Hutchinson held a differed opinion on the Puritan religion. She came to America in hopes of breaking away from the Church of England. She wanted to be free to express her views. However, the community she entered into was not very welcoming of her ways.
The acknowledgement of a Covenant of Grace and a Covenant of Works came from John Wheelwright. He expressed that through a Covenant of Grace, people are predestined to be saved or be damned and there is nothing a person can do to change the outcome. However, through a Covenant of Works, a person can be saved through good deeds. This was a very dangerous distinction to be preached. The foundation of Puritan religion was on predestination; therefore, that was the accepted belief. Puritans believed that justification could not be reached alone. Sanctification was necessary in order to be saved. On the other hand, Hutchinson claimed herself to be a prophet. She testified that God proclaimed to her that she was saved. She held meetings in her home with other women to discuss her views. Winthrop was outraged by Hutchinson’s claim of self-sanctification. This led him to believe that she was a witch. So, she was taken to trial.
The General Court tried Hutchinson in November, 1637. She was tried on charges of “countenancing” with Antinomians’ protests, weekly meetings, attacks upon ministers for preaching “works,” and her statement of divine revelations she received. When witch trials were conducted, the woman being accused was faced with a losing situation. She can choose to hold her tongue to uphold her role as a woman in society or refute the evidence presented against her and be viewed as acting as a non-woman. Either way she would be viewed as an outcast from that point on. Winthrop had to have known the predicament this...