Roger Williams (theologian)

November 9, 2013 by  

Roger Williams (theologian), Roger Williams (c. 1603 – between January and March 1683) was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the first Baptist church in America, the First Baptist Church of Providence. He was a student of Native American languages and an advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans. Williams was arguably the first abolitionist in North America, having organized the first attempt to prohibit slavery in any of the original thirteen colonies.

Roger Williams was born in London on December 21, 1603. The record of his birth was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666 when St. Sepulchre’s Church burned. At the age of 11, he had a spiritual-conversion experience of which his father disapproved. His father, James Williams (1562-1620), was a merchant tailor in Smithfield, England. His mother was Alice Pemberton (1564-1635).

As a boy Williams was apprenticed with Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), the famous jurist, and under Coke’s patronage, Williams was educated at Charterhouse and also at Pembroke College, Cambridge (B.A., 1627). He seemed to have a gift for languages, and early acquired familiarity with Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Dutch, and French. Years later he gave John Milton lessons in Dutch in exchange for refresher lessons in Hebrew.

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