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CONGREGATION OF JOHN ROBINSON.
cated in Scotland, principally under Presbyterian influ- CHAP. ence. They had reason to believe he would protect them in the exercise of their form of worship. They were grossly 1603. deceived, and cruelly disappointed. When it was for his interest, James professed to be very favorable to the Reformation, and more especially to the Puritan form. Upon one occasion, standing with his hands lifted up to heaven, he “praised God that he was king of such a kirk—the purest kirk in all the world;" adding, “ As for the kirk of England, its service is an evil said mass.” Such was the language of James just before he became king. The moment he ascended the throne he threw off the mask, and openly proclaimed his famous maxim, “No bishop, no king.” The Puritans humbly petitioned him for a redress of grievances ; he treated them with the greatest contempt. Said he to his bishops : "I will make them conform, or I will harry them out of the land, or else worse : only hang them—that's all.”
During all these years they hoped for better times, and were unwilling to separate from the church of their fathers; but suffering and persecution at length brought that hour. Hitherto individuals and families had gone into exile ; but now, in the north of England, a pastor, with all his congregation, determined to leave their homes and flee to Holland, where there was already a church of English exiles. This was the congregation of John Robinson. These poor people were harassed by the minions of the king and clergy, and subjected to the petty annoyances dictated by religious intolerance. Preparations were made for them to leave. As they were about to sail, the officers of the government, with the connivance of the captain of 1608. the ship, came on board the vessel, and arrested the whole company; searched their persons, took possession of their effects, and carried them to prison; men, women, and children. In a short time most of them were released ; only seven persons were brought to trial. They also
CHAP. were liberated. The court could not convict them of X.
crime. 1608. The members of the congregation persevered ; and soon
they engaged a Dutch captain to take them from an unfrequented common. The women and children were to be taken to the place of embarkation in a small boat, the men to go by land. The latter reached the ship, and were taken on board. The boat containing the women and children was stranded, and before it could be got off they were seized by a party of their enemies. The captain, lest he should become involved in difficulties with the English authorities, sailed immediately, taking with him the men, overwhelmed with grief for their defenceless wives and children in the hands of their cruel oppressors. The poor women and helpless children were dragged, suffering from cold, hunger, and fear, before a magistrate, as if they had been guilty of crime. They were treated very harshly, but were finally permitted to join their husbands and fathers in Holland.
Now they were Pilgrims indeed, strangers in a strange land ; “but they lifted up their eyes to heaven, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.” They remained about a year at Amsterdam ; not satisfied, however, they removed to Leyden. Their integrity and industry, their piety and self-denial, in what they believed to be the cause of truth, elicited the respect of the Dutch. The government officers would have treated them with marked favor, but they feared to offend King James. From year to year they received accessions from their brethren in England. They were still surrounded by evils, which made it necessary for them again to change their homes. Their labors were severe ; though frugal and industrious, they obtained a support with great difficulty. The desecration of the Sabbath, the dissolute morals of the disbanded soldiers and sailors among whom they were thrown, caused them to fear for
THEY APPLY TO THE LONDON COMPANY.
their children. Holland could not be their permanent CHAP. home. It dawned upon the minds of the more intelligent, that it was their duty to seek some other land. Their 1616. thoughts were directed to the wilderness of the New World. They express not a wish in regard to worldly comfort, but a desire to consecrate all to the great cause of promoting Christianity.
Though they had been so harshly treated by England, they loved her still, and were not willing to accept the offers made them, to colonize under the protection of the Dutch. They had heard of the fine climate and the settlement of Virginia, and resolved to apply to the London 1617. Company for permission to emigrate to their territory. For this purpose they sent two of their number, John Carver and Robert Cushman, to confer with the company. Their proposition was favorably received by the excellent Sir Edwin Sandys, the secretary. Their request, signed by the greater part of the congregation, was afterward sent to the company. In it they made a summary of their principles, and a statement of their motives of action. They said, “We verily believe that God is with us, and will prosper us in our endeavors; we are weaned from our mother country, and have learned patience in a hard and strange land. We are industrious and frugal; we are bound together by a sacred bond of the Lord, whereof we make great con- 1619. science, holding ourselves to each other's good. We do not wish ourselves home again ; we have nothing to hope from England or Holland ; we are men who will not be easily discouraged."
They were to emigrate under the sanction of the company; but owing to dissensions in the company itself, the plan was not carried out. At this time the king was oppressing their brethren in England more and more; the only favor the Pilgrims could obtain from him was a half promise that he would not molest them in the wilds of America In truth, James wished to be freed from those
CHAP. of his subjects who had any just notions of human rights
Said he, “I would rather live like a hermit in the forest, 1619. than be a king over such people as the pack of Puritans
that overrule the House of Commons !"
There was yet another difficulty. The Pilgrims were poor-poor indeed ; in their persecution and exile they had lost their ali. Upon very hard conditions they secured the means to emigrate ; yet they were willing to make any sacrifice could they but worship God in peace, and protect the morals of their children.
A company was now formed of London merchants, whe agreed to furnish the money, while the emigrant was to give his entire services for seven years; these services were to constitute his stock in the company. The profits were to be reserved to the end of that time, then a valuation of
all the property held by the company was to be made, and 1620. the amount distributed to each in proportion to his in
vestment. By contract, the merchant who invested ten pounds received as much as the colonist who gave seven years of labor. This throwing of all their labor and capital into a common stock, was the result of necessity, not of choice.
They purchased one ship, the Speedwell, and hired another, the May-Flower, a ship of one hundred and eighty tons. As these vessels could carry only a part of the congregation, they determined to send the younger and more vigorous, while the pastor, Robinson, and the aged and infirm, were to remain at Leyden. Their ruling Elder, William Brewster, who had suffered much in the cause, and was respected and loved for his integrity, was to conduct the emigrants. Before they left, they observed a day of fasting and prayer. They “sought of God a right way for themselves and their little ones."
The parting address of the venerable Robinson gives us a glimpse of the principles in which, from year to year, he had instructed them. As he addressed them for the
last time, he said : “I charge you before God and his holy CHAP. angels, that you follow me no farther than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveal any thing 1620. to you, be ready to receive it; for I am verily persuaded the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of his Holy Word. I beseech you remember it is an article of your church covenant, that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written Word of God. Take heed what you receive as truth; examine it, consider it, and compare it with other scriptures of truth before you receive it; the Christian world has not yet come to the perfection of knowledge.”
A number of their brethren came from Leyden to Delft-Haven, where they were to embark. The night before their departure was passed in religious intercourse and prayer : as the morning dawned, they prepared to go on board the ship. On the shore they all knelt, and the venerable Robinson led them in prayer—they heard his voice for the last time. They sailed first to Southampton ; in a fortnight they left that place for their distant home. It is soon discovered that the Speedwell needs repairs, and they must return. After the lapse of Aug. eight days of precious time, again they make the attempt, and still again the captain of the Speedwell asserts that his ship cannot cross the Atlantic. They put back to Plymouth: they there leave the Speedwell, and those whose courage failed them, and to the number of one hundred and one once more commit themselves to the winds and waves, trusting to the good providence of God.
Sept. Let us glance for a moment at the circumstances and characteristics of this company. They were bound together by the strong bond of religious sympathy—united in interest and purpose, they expected to endure, to suffer, to rejoice together for many years, even to the end of life.
Prominent among them was William Brewster, the ruling elder and lay preacher, already mentioned, who was