It was largely the weight and current of such reaction against arbitrary interference with the religious convictions and free conscience of man that furnished the impulse to the original peopling of our State and country, and gave shape to the constitution and laws of this commonwealth for the last two hundred years. Nor will our inquiries and showings with regard to the founding of Pennsylvania be complete without something more respecting the leading principles which governed in that fortunate movement.
OUR STATE THE PRODUCT OF FAITH.
I. It is a matter of indisputable fact that the founding of our commonwealth was one of the direct fruits of the revived Gospel of Christ. But a little searching into the influences most active in the history is required to show that it was religious conviction and faith, more than anything else, that had to do with the case.
Changes had come. Luther had found the Bible chained, and set it free. Apostolic Christianity had reappeared, and was re-uttering itself with great power among the nations. Its quickening truths and growing victories were undermining the gigantic usurpations and falsehoods which for ages had been oppressing our world. Conscience, illuminated and revived by the Word of God, had risen up to assert its rights of free judgment and free worship, and resentful power had drawn the sword to put it down. Continental Europe was being deluged with blood and devastated by relentless religious wars to crush out the evangelic faith, whose confessors held up the Bible over all popes and secular powers, and would not consent to part with their inalienable charter from the throne of Heaven to worship God according to his Word. And amid these woeful struggles the good providence of the Almighty opened up to the attention of the nations the vast new territories of this Western World.
From various motives, indeed, were the several original colonies of America founded. Some of the colonists came from a spirit of adventure. Some came for territorial aggrandizement and national enrichment. Some came as mercantile speculators. And each of these considerations may have entered somewhat into the most of these colonization schemes. But it was mainly flight from oppression on account of religious convictions which influenced the first colony of New England, and a still freer religious motive induced the colonization of Pennsylvania.
All the men most concerned in the matter were profoundly religious men and thorough and active believers in revived Christianity; and it was most of all from these religious feelings and impulses that they acted in the case.