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Source: The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 1.
MEMOIR OF REV. JOHN ROBINSON.
mr. Robinson, a puritan in norfolk.
No complete Life of Mr. Robinson was written by any of his contemporaries. Numerous references are made to his history and character in the writings both of friends and foes. To collect, compare, and harmonize these scattered statements and allusions have occasioned his modern biographers no little difficulty. The means of furnishing a perfect Life are not extant. The present Memoir contains all that can be learned respecting Mr. Robinson: it elucidates some points hitherto left in obscurity, and supplies some additional information inaccessible to former historians.
The parentage, education, youthful predilections, and exploits of a distinguished man, are important to be known. They give an interest and specificness to his biography, and take it out of the mere generalizations of an every-day Memoir. Unhappily none of these things can be learned respecting Mr. Robinson. He was born in 1575. He first appears to our view as a youth of seventeen, having finished his home-studies, and about to matriculate at Cambridge. He came hither out of the Midland Counties: whether from Lincolnshire or Nottinghamshire is undetermined; the preponderance of evidence is in favour of the former. Joseph Hall, afterwards Bishop of Norwich, who appears to have known him intimately, having teen his contemporary at college, and who became the antagonist of Robinson, states that “Lincolnshire was his county.” He graduated at Cambridge. Two colleges in the University present nearly equal claims to have been his alma mater.
Emanuel College is generally considered to have been the home of his student life. The following entry occurs in the register of the college:—
“John Robinson, entered as sizar, March 2nd, 1592; took his M.A. 1600, and B.D. 1607.”
This latter date renders his connexion with Emanuel College more than doubtful. He had become a Separatist before 1607, and was then the pastor of the mother Church of the Pilgrims in Nottinghamshire. Having renounced the Established Church, he disclaimed her honours as well as her emoluments; and it is not probable that he would seek literary distinction at her hands, even if it were possible to obtain it under such circumstances.
The CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE register exhibits a record which appears to identify Mr. Robinson, of Leyden, with her alumni:—
”John Robinson, F. Lincsh., admitted 1592. Fell. 1598.”
The Rev. Richard Masters published in 1749, a history of this college, and gives a list of all its members from its foundation, in which a similar entry to the above also occurs, and to which he appends a note, intimating his belief that this was the Robiiison who had been beneficed near Yarmouth, but on being prosecuted by the Ecclesiastical Courts, had fled to Leyden and set up a congregation upon the model of the Brownists.
Entering the University at the early age of seventeen, his religious opinions could scarcely have been formed, nor could he have had very definite views respecting the work of the ministry. The time he was at Cambridge was one of considerable religious excitement. Several zealous Puritan clergymen preached at St. Mary's and other churches. Their evangelical preaching gave great offence to the authorities of the University. But the most distinguished Puritan there was the Rev. William Perkins, who was public catechist of Corpus Christi, and whose duty it was “to read a lecture every Thursday in the term, on some useful subject of Divinity; “he preached also at St. Andrew's Church, and attracted multitudes of persons from the town, the University, and surrounding neighbourhood, by his faithful, earnest, and spirit-stirring discourses. As Mr. Robinson states that his “personal conversion” was effected in the Church of England, it is no improbable supposition that the faithful and zealous labours of Mr. Perkins, the catechist of his College, and under whose ministry he sat, were the means of his spiritual illumination and conversion. His subsequent writings testify that he held Mr. Perkins in the highest esteem; he used his tutor's “Catechism on the Foundation of Religion,” in the instruction of the youth of his own congregation: he moreover published another catechism on Church. Principles, as an appendix to that of his venerable friend.
Having completed his terms at the University, Mr. Robinson proceeded to Norfolk, and in the neighbourhood of Norwich began his ministerial labours. He was at first a Puritan only, and hence officiated awhile in the Nàtional Church. His scruples respecting the ceremonies and the vestments were strong and lasting; and, omitting or modifying them in his services, he was subject to annoyances and persecution from the Ecclesiastical authorities, and was temporarily suspended from his clerical functions. The parish in which he laboured has not been ascertained.
It is doubtful, from Joseph Hall's testimony, in his “Common Apology for the Church of England,” whether Mr. Kohinson was ever fully inducted into a “living;” his conscientious scruples preventing his submission to the regulations necessary for “full orders.” On being suspended by the Bishop, he retired to Norwich, where he collected a congregation of Puritan worshippers in that city and from the surrounding neighbourhood, many of whom were subject to fines and imprisonment for attending his faithful and affectionate instructions.
His attachment to his Norwich friends remained unabated through life. After the lapse of twenty years, when residing at Leyden. on learning that the Rev. Mr. Yates of that city, a good man, but Puritan Conformist, had circulated a tract, denouncing lay-preaching, he wrote a treatise in refutation, for their special benefit, entitled “The People's Plea for the Exercise of Prophecy,” the preface to which evinces his undiminished regard for his former charge, and his deep solicitude for their spiritual benefit.
During his residence at Norwich, his mind was still agitated and perplexed respecting his duty in relation to the church. A passage in his reply to Mr. Bernard, exhibits the mental struggles through which he passed at this eventful period of his history.
“I do indeed confess, to the glory of God and my own shame, that a long time before I entered this way [of separation,] I took some taste of the truth in it by some treatises published in justification of it, which, the Lord knoweth, were sweet as honey to my mouth; and the very principal thing which, for the time, quenched all further appetite in me, was the over-valuation which I made of the learning and holiness of these and the like persons, [the Evangelical Puritans], blushing in myself to have a thought of pressing one hair-breadth before them in this thing, behind whom I knew myself to come so many miles in all other things. Yea, and even of late times, when I had entered into a more serious consideration of these things, and, according to the measure of the grace received, searched the Scriptures whether they were so or not, and by searching found much light of truth, yet was the same so dimmed and overclouded with the contradictions of these men, and others of the like note, that, had not the truth been in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, Jeremiah xx. 9,I had never broken those bonds of flesh and blood, wherein I was so straitly tied, but had suffered the light of God to have been put out in mine own unthankful heart by other men's darkness.”
Though suspended, he still wished to retain his position in connexion with the Establishment. He trusted that some modification of the rigours of conformity might be adopted, and that, in some chaplainship to a public institution, or in some private chapel duly licensed, he might conduct public worship according to his own views of Christian simplicity. For this purpose he applied to the corporation of Norwich for the Mastership of the Great Hospital, then generally held by a clergyman, or for a building to be secured to him by lease, in which he might officiate. In both objects he failed. Hopeless with respect to further ecclesiastical reformation, and convinced that all attempts at harmonizing his scriptural views with canonical law, and subject to the suspicions, informations, and oppressions by the dominant party, he solemnly resolved and “on most sound and unresistible convictions,” to carry out his puritanical principles to their just consequences, and to separate himself altogether from the church of his youth and his affections.
The circumstances now detailed throw light on his ecclesiastical position and struggles, and furnish a satisfactory answer to JosephHall's ungenerous insinuation, that he was the victim of disappointment and chagrin, and hence suddenly abandoned his clerical profession and resolved on becoming a Separatist.
mr. robinson a separatist at scroobt.
Mr. Robinson left Norwich, virtually if not nominally a Separatist. Cambridge being the direct road to the northern part of England, he probably visited his alma mater, resigned his fellowship of the college, and bid adieu to his Puritan friends and brethren in that town. The resignation of the fellowship being in 1604, this may be regarded as the year of his formal connexion with the Separatists, and as the commencement of a new era in his eventful life.
It required no ordinary faith and moral courage to abandon the Church at this juncture. Persecution awaited him at every step. The determination of the king and the bishops was to imprison, fine or banish all dissidents from the dominant Church. He had counted the cost; and in proportion to the difficulties he felt in coming to the final decision, such was the strength of his present convictions. Like Abraham he went out, not knowing whither he went: like him, too, he trusted in the wisdom and faithfulness of God, who was his “shield and exceeding great reward.”
He proceeded to “Lincolnshire, his county,” and the parts adjacent, where he found a considerable number of Separatist brethren, who met for worship as often as they could escape the Argus eyes of their persecutors. They had previously constituted themselves into a church, by solemn covenant with the Lord and with each other, in the fellowship of the gospel, “to walk in all his ways made known, or to be made known unto them, according to their best endeavours, whatever it should cost them.”
This solemn and memorable transaction took place, it is generally believed, in 1602, when Mr. Smyth and Mr. Clyfton were associated in the oversight of the church.
Mr. Robinson arrived in 1604; their numbers had so increased as to render it expedient that they should form two distinct bodies, and worship in different localities; Mr. Smyth and Mr. Clyfto'n were chosen pastors of the respective churches, both of whom subsequently became exiles for conscience' sake, and settled at Amsterdam. Mr. Robinson remained with Mr. Clyfton's portion of the church, and was shortly afterwards chosen his assistant in ministerial labours, and on the removal of Mr. Clyfton to Holland, succeeded to his office.
This devoted band ordinarily met at Mr. Brewster's mansion “on the Lord's-day, which was a manor of the bishop's, and with great love he entertained them when they came, making provision for them, to his great charge, and continued to do so while they could stay in England.”
Mr. Brewster was a gentleman of fortune; he was educated at Cambridge, and was now living on his manorial estate at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire.
The location of this first Separatist church has long been an object of investigation and doubt. The difficulty appears to be solved by Joseph Hunter, Esq., in his valuable “Collections,” concerning the first colonists of New England. The following is a summary of Mr. Hunter's proofs, identifying Serooby, Notts, as the village, and Mr. Brewster's house as the manor, in which, when practicable, they worshipped. Governor Bradford, who was originally one of the church, and whose birthplace and residence were at Austerfield in the vicinity, states distinctly, that Mr. Brew-ster's house was a “manor of the bishop's.” This description of the house furnished the key to the difficulty. Scrooby is about one mile and a half south of Bawtry in Yorkshire, and from which Austerfield is about the same distance north-east, and both not far distant from the adjacent county of Lincoln. Mr. Hunter says, “I can speak with confidence to the fact, that there is no other episcopal manor but this, which at all satisfies the condition of being near the borders of the three counties.” The Brewsters were residents at Scrooby: the manor place which they occupied originally belonged to the Archbishops of York, and had been leased to Sir Samuel Sandys, son of Dr. Sandys the Archbishop, in 1586. The Brewster family were now tenants of Sir Samuel, and were occupants of the mansion of the Sandys. This fact serves both as an identification of the place, and as an explanation of the circumstance, that the Sandys took great interest, at a subsequent period, in promoting the settlement of the pilgrims, under the direction of Mr. Brewster, on the shores of the Atlantic.
Scrooby must henceforward be regarded as the cradle of Massachusetts. Here the choice and noble spirits, at the head of whom were Brewster and Bradford, first learned the lessons of truth and freedom. Here, under the faithful ministration of the pastors, they were nourished and strengthened to that vigorous and manly fortitude which braved all dangers, and here too they acquired that moral and spiritual'courage which enabled them to sacrifice their homes, property and friends, and expatriate themselves to distant lands, rather than abandon their principles and yield to the attempted usurpations on the liberty of their consciences.
The spirit of the times, however, required that they should obtrude themselves as seldom as possible on public notice. They were objects of suspicion and distrust, and liable, if detected, to imprisonment and fine. Persecution was partially suspended during the early part of the reign of James I., but the proceedings of the monarch at the Hampton Court Conference, in 1604, unmasked his character and designs, and spread alarm and consternation through the puritanical ranks in all parts of the kingdom. His determination was to suppress the Nonconformists of every name, and especially the Separatists, who had become extremely obnoxious to the ecclesiastical authorities.
Unable to conceal themselves from the inquisitions of the spy, or to enjoy the liberty of worship they so earnestly desired, Mr. Smyth and his church resolved to flee into Holland and seek an asylum at Amsterdam. They arrived, after encountering many difficulties, in the year 1606. In the course of a few months Mr. Clyfton and several of his church adopted the same course and settled in the same city, uniting themselves with their former companions, in the church under the care of Mr. Francis Johnson and Mr. Henry Ainsworth.
Mr. Robinson was now left with the remnant of the flock. Month after month rolled away, and no abatement of the fury of the dominant party was visible. His church, with himself, resolved on following their companions to the United Provinces, where toleration, at least, if not perfect freedom, was allowed to all natives and foreigners.
Thrice was the attempt made at expatriation before they could succeed. They first resolved to sail from Boston. They formed a common fund, and hired a vessel. To avoid suspicion they embarked at night, and at the moment when they expected the vessel to be loosed from her moorings, they were betrayed by the captain and seized by the officers of the town. They were plundered of their goods and money, arraigned before the magistrates, and committed to prison till the pleasure of the lords in council should be known. They were dismissed at the expiration of a month, seven of the leading persons being bound over to appear at the assizes.
The following spring a second attempt was made. They hired a small Dutch vessel, and agreed to meet the captain at a given spot on the banks of the Humber near Grimsby, Lincolnshire. After a delay of some hours, a part of the company, chiefly men, were conveyed to the vessel in a boat. When the sailors were about to return for another portion of the passengers, the captain saw “a great company of horse and foot, with bills and guns,” in full pursuit of the fugitives on shore. He immediately hoisted sail and departed with the men he had on board, leaving their wives and children, and the remainder of the pilgrim company with Mr. Robinson, to the tender mercies of their pursuers. A few of the party escaped, the others were seized and hurried from one magistrate to another, till the officers, not knowing what to do with so large a company, and ashamed of their occupation in seizing helpless, homeless, and innocent persons, they suffered them to depart and go whither they pleased.
Other attempts at expatriation were subsequently and successfully made. The persecuted Separatists at length reached the hospitable shores of Holland, and rejoined their families and friends in the land of strangers, thankful to their Almighty Father that they had escaped in safety from the “fury of the oppressor,” and the perils of the deep.
Bradford thus concludes his simple and touching narrative of these adventures: “Yet I may not omit the fruit that came hereby. For by these so public troubles in so many eminent places, (Boston, Hull, Grimsby, where they were seized or imprisoned,) their cause became famous, and occasioned many to look into the same; and their godly carriage and Christian behaviour was such as left a deep impression in the minds of many. And though some few shrunk at those first conflicts and sharp beginnings, (as it was no marvel,) yet many more came on with fresh courage, and greatly animated others; and in the end, notwithstanding all these storms of opposition, they all got over at length, some at one time and some at another, and met together again, according to their desire, with no small rejoicing.”
mr. robinson an exile at amsterdam.
The year of our Lord 1608 is memorable in the history of the Separatists. It was the year of Mr. Robinson's arrival in Holland with the remainder of the Scrooby church. Neither allowed to remain peacefully in England, nor suffered quietly to depart, they escaped to a strange land, acting on the direction of the Saviour—” When they persecute you in one city, flee to another.” The removal of this church was happily not the extinction of the cause in Great Britain. Other Puritan communities, if not avowedly Separatist, existed in the northern and western parts of the kingdom. They maintained and suffered for the truth; they earnestly prayed for its diffusion and success; and many of their adherents lived to witness its triumphs, and to share in the victories it achieved. Few of the exiles returned to England: they had a vocation to discharge. The great Head of the church designed their perplexities and afflictions as a means of preparing them for better service. Truth travels with the exiles; and as they are “scattered abroad” by the providence of God, the gospel spreads, and hence they become blessings to the nations amongst whom they are driven. These wanderers doubtless proved blessings in the land of their sojourn, but more eminently so, in the far distant regions whither they ultimately went.
Desirous of spiritual instruction and communion, Mr. Robinson and his church united themselves with their former companions now in Amsterdam, and together they became one with the original members of the English church in that city, under the pastoral care of Johnson and Ainsworth.
Spiritual life was not all they needed. Their bodies must be fed and their families supported. How these were to be accomplished became a source of deep solicitude. The temporal circumstances of these new settlers, ‘these pioneers of truth and freedom in distant lands, were sufficiently discouraging. They were poor and in distress. Two only had possessed property, and they had sacrificed all for Christ. They were for the most part hard-working weavers, artisans, and husbandmen. The latter were the most numerous class. Scrooby was an agricultural district, and the majority of the members had come thence to the Netherlands. “They were not,” says Bradford, “acquainted with the trades and traffic by which the country doth subsist, but had been used to a plain country life, and the innocent trade of husbandry. But these things did not dismay them, although they did sometimes trouble them, for their desires were set on the ways of God and to enjoy his ordinances.” They, however, cheerfully submitted to the will of God, and began to seek such occupation as the city and neighbourhood would supply. Some learned new trades. Brewster, Bradford, and others, accustomed to less laborious pursuits than their companions, learned the arts of printing, dyeing, and weaving for their support. The difficulty of procuring situations and employment may be judged of, by the fact, that even Ainsworth had been, if he was not at the time, only a porter in a bookseller's shop. Their industry and peaceableness as neighbours secured the good opinion of the residents of their adopted country. Measures were taken by the archbishop and other ecclesiastical functionaries in England, to excite the suspicions and jealousies of the Dutch against the exiles, both while in Amsterdam and when at Leyden. British agents were employed in this nefarious work, but in vain. They remained undisturbed, and pursued their daily labours with satisfaction and success.
Doubtless Mr. Robinson, having no pastoral charge, was obliged to betake himself to some secular occupation for support; and even after he became pastor at Leyden, it is not improbable that he did the same. However undesirable it may be, that ministers should engage in secular pursuits, it can be no disgrace, while the fact remains that Paul was a tent-maker, and, while discharging his apostolic duties, wrought at his trade “with his own hands,” and thus secured an honest livelihood.
The church at Amsterdam was much disturbed and distracted by the proceedings of Mr. Smyth and a few partisans. The society was in a perpetual broil. Mr. Robinson's tender and loving spirit could not endure the angry recriminations of the brethren. He was a man of peace and a lover of concord. The members of his own church were like-minded, and resolved, after a residence of about a year, to remove from the tumultuous scene, and seek a quiet home at Leyden, though it might not prove so advantageous to their worldly interests.
mr. robinson a pastor at leyden.
MR. Robinson and his friends took their departure from Amsterdam in 1609, and settled, by permission of the authorities, at “Leyden, a fair and heautiful city, and of a sweet situation, but made more famous by the university wherewith it was adorned. It was a town of great resort, in consequence of the celebrity of its university. Genteel families from various parts of the continent, and from England, settled there for the superior advantages of education it afforded.
Mr. Robinson's first object, when settled at Leyden, was to secure a suitable place in which to conduct the public worship of God. No record of any public building devoted to this purpose has been found. For a time, at least, it is probable that he conducted worship in his own house, and subsequently in some hired hall. Not connected with any merchant company, not patronized by the British authorities at home, nor disposed to make suit to the municipal council for assistance, no public edifice would be allotted to the use of his congregation. It is a singular coincidence, that the Scottish church should have been established in Leyden the very same year, under the ministry of the Rev. Robert Durie. To this party of English subjects a subsidy was granted, and the chapel of St. Catharine's Almshouse was assigned, which chapel they occupied till 1622, when “another was granted to them, attached to the Jerusalems Hof;” and in 1644 this also was exchanged for a still larger “room in the Kerk of the Bagyn Hof,” which became the “Church of the English Reformed Community.” This coincidence of time in the settlement of Mr. Robinson and of Mr. Durie, and in the commencement of English worship by their respective communities at Leyden, has given rise to some mistakes with respect to Robinson's place of worship.
As soon as arrangements for worship were completed, and the church was re-organized, Mr. Robinson received a call from the members to become their pastor, and was ordained to the office at their united and urgent request, having Mr. Brewster as his ruling elder. Under the trying circumstances in which the church was placed at Scroohy, it is probable that the formal call to the pastorship had not been given to Mr. Robinson, though he officiated as their minister.
It has been suggested previously, that Mr. Eobinson did not receive “full orders” when connected with the Established church; and this might be a reason for being ordained at the present time. But even apart from this consideration, and had he been fully ordained in the national church, he would wish to be re-ordained by his own church at Leyden, and thus carry out the principle fpr which he so earnestly contended in his controversy with Murton and Bernard. He regarded the ministry of the Church of England as “a false ministry,” derived as it was from the Church of Rome, and therefore to be repudiated by all who, acknowledging Christ as the Supreme Head of the Church, separated from her communion; and consequently, re-ordination would be indispensable.
The ordination was evidently performed by the church itself. Mr. Robinson says, “I was ordained publicly, upon the solemn call of the church in which I serve, both in respect of the ordainers and the ordained.” He constantly insists, in his reference to the subject, that ordination is a church act, and for a specific church, and cannot be performed scripturally by any other parties called in to officiate on the occasion. He makes exception only in the case of the apostles, and the extraordinary officers of the apostolic churches, as Timothy and Titus, who were specially called “to ordain elders in every city.”
Settled over his flock, he zealously devoted himself to study and to labour on their behalf. He addicted himself especially to theological studies, and frequently attended the lectures of the most distinguished and learned professors in the university. He became eventually one of its members. This privilege was not obtained till six years after his settlement at Leyden. The reason of this delay does not appear; but, as Mr. Sumner suggests, it is probable that objections were raised against him, as being an exile, and that the council were indisposed to confer the peculiar privileges of the university on a person so obnoxious to the English hierarchy at home.
The following is a copy of his admission, taken from the MS. register of members:—
Stud. Theol. alit Familiam.
This incorporation with the university placed Mr. Robinson beyond the control of the town magistrates, and in addition to other privileges, entitled him to receive, free of town and state duties, half a tun of beer every month, and about ten gallons of wine every three months.
The Calvinistic and Arminian controversies were rife at this period. -The “Five Points” were daily battled for in the arena of the university, as they were the subjects of eager contest at a subsequent period in the Synod of Dort. Polyander and Episcopius were the leading antagonists at Leyden. Mr. Robinson constantly attended their lectures, with the view of becoming thoroughly acquainted with the mysterious themes involved in these discussions. He took the Calvinistic view of inspired truth, and became an earnest advocate of the doctrines now generally held by “Modern Calvinists.” His “Defence of the Synod of Dort,” and his animadversions on “Mr. Smyth's Confession,” contain expositions of his views of doctrinal truth. He plunged deeper into the profundities of the Divine decrees than modern theologians are disposed to venture; and conceded a more direct agency in the permission of evil than would be allowed by Calvinistic divines of the present day. But strenuous as he was for the doctrines, he was not less so for the duties of Christianity. He regarded them as inseparable: the one supplying the motive power to the performance of the other; the duties illustrating the doctrines; and belief and practice being together necessary to constitute the perfect Christian.
Mr. Robinson was solicited by Polyander, Festus Hom-mius, and other professors, about this time, (1612,) to enter the lists against Episcopius, and conduct a public discussion on the great doctrinal questions of the day, with that distinguished man. He modestly declined the overture, alleging his incompetency, but, probably, because anticipating little good from such an exhibition. Still, pressed by his friends, he at length yielded; and for three days the discussion was carried on between himself and his learned antagonist, and terminated, as they declared, in the perfect triumph of their advocate and champion.
The Arminian doctrines becoming extensively adopted by the national clergy, the States-General of Holland—the patrons and conservators of the national church!—summoned the celebrated “Synod of Dort,” in 1618-19, to adjudicate on these controverted points.
The “Synod” pronounced its decision in favour of Calvinism. Politicians and divines judged this would be a death-blow to Arminianism; the followers of Arminius were to be silenced for ever; and Episcopius, the distinguished Professor at Leyden, must bow in the dust before the “Acta” of the conclave. Alas, for the decrees of councils! Episcopius and his adherents stood firm and erect, notwithstanding the solemn deliverances and angry menaces of the orthodox divines. Another power must therefore be invoked to enforce compliance with the decrees of the Synod, or punish the recusants for their obstinacy!
“The States-General soon confirmed this decree of the Synod. This being done, every preacher was called upon for subscription to the creed which the Synod had prescribed; and such as refused were at once deposed from office. Episcopius and his colleagues, who had been present at the Synod of Dort, were detained, by order of the government, at Dort, until the meeting of the commissaries of the States-General. They were then called upon, to know whether they would suspend their ministerial functions, cease writing or publishing their opinions, &c. This they declined to do. On the 27th June, 1619, they were summoned to the Hague by the States-General, and called upon to know whether they were ready to subscribe an agreement to abide by the terms which the commissioners had prescribed. This all but one (H. Leo) refused to do. Sentence of banishment was then pronounced upon them. They asked leave to return under escort to their homes, so as to put in order their family affairs, collect their dues, and discharge their debts. This was refused; and they were sent the next day, under the charge of an armed guard, to their respective places of banishment.
”In regard to the remonstrant preachers generally of Holland, they were not only forbidden to perform the duties of their office, but their flocks were forbidden to assemble for the purposes of worship. Violent contests of course ensued all over the land. In some places blood was spilled, and life sacrificed. About two hundred remonstrant preachers were deposed; among the rest, John Gerard Vossius, regent of the Theological College at Leyden, lost his place. Caspar Barlaeus, a famous Latin poet of those times, and Peter Bertius, a celebrated geographer, both of Leyden, also lost their places. The storm swept away even civilians also, who manifested any favouritism for the party of the remonstrants.”
Mr. Sumner, in page 20, reflects on Mr. Eobinson for the part he took in these controversies:—” It is to be lamented that in these discussions Robinson is found taking the part of the bigots. But principles, in a certain sense, change with times, and it would be unjust to judge his conduct by the standard of other days than his own. There are few, I think, among the sons of the Pilgrims, who would not wish to find him ranged with the friends, rather than with the persecutors and final butchers of the wise, the just, the generous Barneveldt.”
It is to be regretted that Mr. Sumner could find no softer term than “bigots,” by which to characterize the associates of Mr. Robinson; or should have attempted to implicate him in the unrighteous and cruel proceedings of the “States,” in the banishment of the Arminian professors and ministers on account of their religious tenets; and in the execution of that distinguished patriot, advocate, and statesman, Barneveldt,—the friend, indeed, of the remonstrants, but the alleged plotter against the authority of his prince, and in which character, however unjustly, he was beheaded, May 13th, 1619.
There is no evidence to prove that Mr. Robinson ever countenanced or justified these proceedings. Indeed, his sentiments, spirit, and character would shield him from all suspicion on this ground. The accidental circumstance, therefore, that he held disputations with Episcopius in the presence of the Leyden Professors, should not subject him to the slightest suspicion, however qualifiedly expressed, of having taken the part of the “bigots; “or of sympathizing in the slightest degree with the “persecutors and final butchers of Barneveldt.” Indeed, the imputation is an anachronism, as this sad, unjust, and tragical event did not take place till seven years after Mr, Robinson's public adrocacy of the doctrines in question.
Amidst these national controversies and contests, Mr. Robinson pursued “the even tenor of his way.” His time was fully occupied in his ministerial, pastoral, and literary labours. His pen was in constant requisition. Scarcely had he settled at Leyden before he commenced authorship. The first known production of his pen was his “Answer to the Censorious Epistle “of Joseph (Bishop) Hall. This was followed by his elaborate defence of the “Separation,” in reply to Bernard. Other Treatises, Letters, Essays, &c., followed in due succession, proving that their author was a man of application and perseverance, of extensive reading, and diligent research. His writings are varied in their character, and adapted specially to the controversies of the day. Many of the questions he debated are still undetermined. The doctrinal, ecclesiastical, and ritual difficulties, which perplexed our ancestors more than two centuries since, remain unsolved; but considerable assistance may be obtained from some of Mr. Robinson's works towards their solution. He wrote earnestly, and expressed himself sometimes rather warmly. The controversialists of those times were not over soft and bland in their language towards each other; but Mr. Robinson has fewer of these lingual asperities than most of his contemporaries. The existence of these,—thorns on roses,—must be regretted. He was a man of a large and catholic soul, of a warm and loving heart; and if terms are employed by him, occasionally indicating the contrary, they must be attributed rather to the ardour of composition than the uncharitableness of his spirit. His affectionate disposition and amenity of manners, secured the respect and esteem, not only of his flock, but of the pastors and members of other churches; and conciliated the regards of many others, who from national partialities, were disposed, at first, to look rather suspiciously on him and his fellow-exiles.
Mr. Robinson's public labours were necessarily restricted to the people of his charge. Little room or licence was allowed for attempts to proselyte the natives. Difference of language was a barrier to progress. The Dutch functionaries, liberal to the last degree in allowing the full exercise of his office among his own people, would not be disposed to tolerate any efforts to gain over others to the cause of the exiles.
This limitation of labour formed one of the strongest inducements for a removal to other lands. Both Mr. Robinson, and his ruling elder, Mr. Brewster, together with the more active spirits in their church, felt a strong and intense desire to diffuse their principles and to enlarge the kingdom of Christ. It was a source of deep regret that their efforts were circumscribed both by their position and their language. Convinced that the cause they espoused was the cause of truth and righteousness, and that its extension would promote the well-being and happiness of mankind, they were desirous of proceeding where scope could be found for their zeal and energies. Bradford expresses himself with sweet simplicity on this point:—” They had a great hope and inward zeal of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in these remote parts of the world, though they should be but as stepping-stones unto others for performing of so great a work.”
Thankful for the toleration they enjoyed in Holland, yet as British subjects, though exiled, they cherished a strong and loyal attachment to the British crown, and we're ready to make any sacrifice, except that of conscience, to live under the protection of the British laws. The new settlements, or plantations, on the American coast, which had been formed under British auspices, appeared to present favourable openings for the purpose contemplated, as well as to enable them to secure a better livelihood than Leyden could afford. Frequent consultations were held between Mr. Robinson, and his elder and deacons, on the subject; and when it had assumed a definite shape, they convened the church for its consideration and discussion. The question of emigration was fully and fairly debated, the difficulties and advantages were thoroughly canvassed, and the resolution was at length prayerfully and deliberately adopted, that they would be prepared to emigrate when and whithersoever the providence of God might direct.
The reasons alleged for removal were not exclusively of a religious character. Secular motives are allowable and proper. Here was a small community, in a strange land, depending for their liberty and support on the forbearance and kindness of strangers. Their numbers were now gradually diminishing; they gained few accessions either from other British residents, or their Dutch friends. The expatriations from England were fewer than in former years. Persecution was losing its terrors in the mother country, and hopeful indications that better days were coming, induced many, who sympathized with the exiles, still to remain in their native land. The young men at Leyden, finding little occupation, were enlisting into the army, or becoming sailors, and thus leaving their homes and friends. Other young persons were intermarrying with Dutch families, and, becoming naturalized, were relinquishing their English associates and were fast losing their native tongue and manners; while the entire society, composed of persons who, having no property, or having sacrificed it all for conscience' sake, and therefore obliged to labour for a livelihood, found extreme difficulty to obtain employment sufficient for the maintenance of themselves and their families. In addition, the general desecration of the Sabbath, and licentiousness of manners, in Holland, weighed powerfully on the minds of the more serious part of the people, and awakened a strong desire to remove where these causes of moral deterioration might not exist to so fearful an extent.
The Dutch authorities, learning the English exiles intended to emigrate, anxious to retain them as subjects and friends, offered to locate them in any other part of the United Provinces, or in any of their distant colonies, and moreover to furnish them with a free passage, and with a merely nominal freightage for their live stock and goods. This offer they respectfully declined, their patriotic feelings inducing them to prefer being British colonists, whatever the difficulties or hardships they might have to encounter.
Various places were proposed as desirable settlements. Guiana, the West Indies, Virginia, were severally considered. The last was judged the preferable situation, if they might be allowed to originate a new colony by themselves, and establish it on their own peculiar principles. Mr. Robinson, as the devoted pastor, now preached on their special duties at that crisis, and arranged special seasons for fasting and prayer. Mr. Carver, one of the deacons, and Mr. Cushman, one of the members of the church, were despatched to England as agents of the exiled company, to seek permission of the king to settle in some part of Virginia, to colonize which, patents had already been issued and a chartered company formed. Various delays took place, and the negotiations were at times frustrated through the disinclination of the Sovereign and his ecclesiastical advisers, to encourage settlers adverse to the English Church. The influence of the Sandys family, under whom Mr. Brewster was formerly a tenant at Scrooby, was of eminent service at this juncture. An interesting letter is preserved, written by Mr, Robinson and Mr. Brewster to Sir Edwin Sandys, in answer to one sent by him for some further explanations respecting the intending emigrants, of which the following is a copy:—
“To Sir Edwin Sandys.
” Right Worshipful,
“Our humble duties remembered, in our own, our messenger's, and our church's name, with all thankful acknowledgment of your singular love, expressing itself, as otherwise, so more especially in your great care and earnest endeavour of our good in this weighty business about Virginia, which the less able we are to requite, we shall think ourselves the more bound to commend in our prayers unto God for recompense, whom as for the present you rightly behold in our endeavours, so shall we not be wanting on our parts, (the same God assisting us,) to return all answerable fruit and respect unto the labour of your love bestowed upon us. We have, with the best speed and consideration withal that we could, set down our requests in writing, subscribed, as you willed, with the hands of the greatest part of our congregation, and have sent the same unto the council by our agent, a deacon of our church, John Carver, unto whom we have also requested a gentleman of our company to adjoin himself; to the care and discretion of which two we do refer the prosecuting of the business. Now we persuade ourselves, right worshipful, that we need not to provoke your godly and loving mind to any further or more tender care of us, since you have pleased so far to interest us in yourself, that, under God, ahove all persons and things in the world we rely upon you, expecting the care of your love, the counsel of your wisdom, and the help and countenance of your authority. Notwithstanding, for your encouragement in the work so far as probabilities may lead, we will not forbear to mention these instances of inducement:—
- “1. We verily believe and trust the Lord is with us, unto whom and whose service we have given ourselves in. many' trials, and that he will graciously prosper our endeavours according to the simplicity of our hearts therein.
- “2. We are well weaned from the delicate milk of our mother country, and inured to the difficulties of a strange and hard land, which yet, in great part, we have by patience overcome.
- “3. The people are, for the body of them, industrious and frugal, we think we may safely say, as any company of people in the world.
- “4. We are knit together as a body in a more strict and sacred bond and covenant of the Lord, of the violation whereof we make great conscience; and by virtue whereof we do hold ourselves straitly tied to all care of each other's good, and of the whole by every, and so mutual.
- “5. And lastly, it is not with us as with other men, whom small things can discourage, or small discontentments cause to wish themselves at home again. We know our entertainment in England and Holland. We shall much prejudice both our arts and means by removal; where, if we should be driven to return, we should not hope to recover our present helps and comforts, neither indeed look ever to attain the like in any other place during our lives, which are now drawing towards their periods.
“These motives we have been bold to tender unto you, which you in your wisdom may also impart to any other our worshipful friends of the council with you, of all whose godly dispositions and loving towards our despised persons we are most glad, and shall not fail by all good means to continue and increase the same. We shall not be further troublesome, but do, with the renewed remembrance of our humble duties to your worship, and (so far as in modesty we may be bold,) to any other of our well-wishers of the council with you, we take our leaves, committing your persons and counsels to the guidance and protection of the Almighty.
“Your's, much bounden in all duty,
15th December, 1617.”
Other letters, illustrative of the religious principles and practices of the pilgrims, are given in vol. iii., Appendix ii. pages 487, 489.
By the good providence of God, and in answer to fervent and importunate prayer, permission to settle in Virginia, North America, was at last obtained; with an assurance, that though no formal or official document was issued, they should not be disturbed or injured on account of their peculiar religious opinions and practices. The agents returned, and reported to the brethren the progress they had made. A day of humiliation, thanksgiving, and prayer, was agreed on to seek Divine direction in the present position of their affairs. The day was devoutly kept, and Mr. Robinson preached on 1 Sam. xxiii. 3, 4; “And David's men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines ? Then David inquired of the Lord yet again. And the Lord answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.”
At the close of the devotional exercises, the church and congregation entered on a discussion respecting the parties that should go first to the new settlement, and prepare for the reception of the others; it was, at length, resolved— “that it was best for one part of the church to go at first, and the other to stay, viz., the youngest and strongest part to go. Secondly, they that went should freely offer themselves. Thirdly, if the major part went, the pastor to go with them; if not, the elder only. Fourthly, if the Lord should frown upon our proceedings, then those that went to return, and the brethren that remained still there, to assist and be helpful to them; hut if God should be pleased to favour them that went, then they also should endeavour to help over such as were poor and ancient, and willing to come.”
The volunteers for the first adventure were in the minority, and in consequence, Mr. Brewster, the ruling elder, and assistant to the pastor, was appointed to take the ministerial oversight of the emigrants, both during the passage and in the colony, till either Mr. Robinson or some pastor from England should arrive.
The property and effects of such as were about to embark, were now sold, and the produce, with the contributions of those who remained, was thrown into a common stock, out of which the expenses of the ship, the outfit, and the .voyage, were to be defrayed. A vessel of sixty tons, called the Speedwell, was purchased in Holland, in which Mr. Cushman and Mr. Carver, who had negotiated the affairs of the society with the Virginia Company, with Mr. Weston, an English merchant, sailed for London, to make the final arrangements with the company and with the merchant adventurers, who had offered the settlers a loan, on sufficiently hard terms, for seven years, and also to hire another ship for freight, to accompany the Speedwell across the Atlantic.
The conditions having been mutually agreed on betwixt the company, the merchants and the Leyden agents returned with the two vessels to Delft Haven, the port of Leyden. On their arrival, all needful preparations were speedily made; and on the twenty-first day of July, 1620, the whole congregation met for humiliation and prayer, when Mr Robinson preached, with deep emotion, from Ezra viii. 21, 22:—” Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen, to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken to the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him, but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.”
He closed his discourse with appropriate and judicious counsels to the following effect:—
” We are now ere long to part asunder, and the Lord knoweth whether ever he should live to see our faces again. But whether the Lord had appointed it or not, he charged us before God and his blessed angels, to follow him no further than he followed Christ; and if God should reveal anything to us by any other instrument of his, to be as ready to receive it as ever we were to receive any truth by his ministry; for he was very confident the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of his holy Word. He took occasion also miserably to bewail the state and condition of the reformed churches, who were come to a period in religion, and would go no further than the instruments of their reformation. As, for example, the Lutherans, they could not be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; for whatever part of God's will he had further imparted and revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it. And so also, saith he, you see the Calvinists, they stick where he left them; a misery much to be lamented; for though they were precious shining lights in their times, yet God had not revealed his whole will to them; and were they now living, saith he, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as that they had received. Here also he put us in mind of our church covenant, at least that part of it whereby we promise and covenant with God and one with another, to receive whatsoever light or truth shall be made known to us from his written Word; but withal exhorted us to take heed what we received for truth, and well to examine and compare it and weigh it with other scriptures of truth before we received it. |For, saith he, it is not possible the .Christian world should come so lately out of such thick antichristian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once._J
”Another thing he commended to us was, that we should use all means to avoid and shake off the name of Brownist, heing a mere nick-name and hrand, to make religion odious, and the professors of it, to the Christian world. And to that end, said he, I should be glad if some godly minister would go over with you before my coming; for, said he, there will be no difference between the unconformable ministers and you, when they come to the praectice of the ordinances out of the kingdom. And so advised us, by all means, to endeavour to close with the godly party of the kingdom of England, and rather to study union than division, viz., how near we might, possibly without sin, close with them, than in the least measure to affect division or separation from them. And be not loth to take another pastor or teacher, saith he: for that flock that hath two shepherds, is not endangered, but secured by it.”
After the solemnities of the day were closed, the members of the church who were to remain at Leyden “feasted us that were to go,” observes Mr. Winslow, “at our pastor's house, being large: where we refreshed ourselves, after tears, with singing of psalms, making joyful melody in our hearts, as well as with the voice, there being many of the congregation very expert in music: and indeed it was the sweetest melody that ever mine ears heard. After this they accompanied us to Delft's Haven, where we were to embark, and there feasted us again; and after prayer performed, by our pastor, where a flood of tears was poured out, they accompanied us to the ship, but were not able to speak one to another, for the abundance of sorrow to part. Jut we only going aboard (the ship lying to the quay and ready to set sail, the wind being fair), we gave them a volley of small shot and three pieces of ordnance, and so, lifting up our hands to each other, and hearts for each other to the Lord our God, we departed, and found his presence with us in the midst of our manifold straits he carried us through,”
Among the spectators on this memorable morning of July 22nd, 1620, were many Christian friends from Amsterdam and neighbouring towns. They hastened to mingle their prayers and tears with those of the pilgrim fathers on their departure. It was an affecting scene, and, as the vessel was lessening in the distance, the hearts of the spectators, both from Leyden and Amsterdam, were uplifted in fervent prayers for the pilgrim voyagers. They retired to their respective homes, filled with the “joy of grief,” and blessing God that their companions and friends had found grace to embark in so good and righteous a cause as that of founding a Christian colony in the remote wildernesses of the Atlantic.
The pilgrims had a prosperous voyage to Southampton, where the Mayflower was awaiting them. While completing their preparations, the affectionate and devoted pastor despatched a letter of counsel and advice to his beloved friends, on their conduct towards each other, and the course they should pursue in a foreign land.
“Loving Christian Friends,—
”I do heartily and in the Lord salute you, as being those with whom I am present in my best affections, and most earnest longings after you, though I be constrained for a while to be bodily absent from you. I say constrained, God knowing how willingly, and much rather than otherwise, I would have borne my part with you in this first brunt, were I not by strong necessity held back for the present. Make account of me, in the meanwhile, as of a man divided in myself with great pain, and as (natural bonds set aside) having my better part with you. And though I doubt not but in your godly wisdom you both foresee, and resolve upon that which concerneth your present state and condition, both severally and jointly, yet have I thought it but my duty to add some further spur of provocation to them that run well already; if not because you need it, yet because I owe it in love and duty.
“And first, as we are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for our sins known, and generally for our unknown sins and trespasses, so doth the Lord call us in a singular manner, upon occasions of such difficulty and danger as lieth upon you, to a both more narrow search, and careful reformation of our ways in his sight; lest he, calling to remembrance our sins forgotten by us, or unrepented of, take advantage against us, and in judgment leave us for the same to be swallowed up in one danger or other. Whereas, on the contrary, sin being taken away by earnest repentance, and the pardon thereof from the Lord sealed up unto a man's conscience by his Spirit, great shall be his security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses, with happy deliverance from all evil, whether in life or in death.
“Now next after this heavenly peace with God and our own consciences, we are carefully to provide for peace with all men, what in us lieth, especially with our associates; and for that end, watchfulness must be had, that we neither at all in ourselves do give, no, nor easily take offence, being given by others. Woe be unto the world for offences; for although it be necessary (considering the malice of Satan and man's corruption) that offences come, yet woe unto that man, or woman either, by whom the offence cometh, saith Christ, Matt, xviii. 7. And if offences in the unseasonable use of things in themselves indifferent be more to be feared than death itself, as the apostle teacheth, 1 Cor. ix. 15, how much more in things simply evil, in which neither honour of God, nor love of man, is thought worthy to be regarded! Neither yet is it sufficient that we keep ourselves by the grace of God, from giving offence, except withal we be armed against the taking of them, when they be given by others. For how unperfect and lame is the work of grace in that person who wants charity to cover a multitude of offences, as the Scripture speaks ! Neither are you to be exhorted to this grace only upon the common grounds of Christianity, which are, that persons ready to take offence, either want charity to cover offences, or wisdom duly to weigh human frailties, or, lastly, are gross, though close hypocrites, as Christ our Lord teacheth, Matt, vii. 1—5; as indeed, in my own experience, few or none have been found which sooner give offence, than such as easily take it; neither have they ever proved sound and profitable members in society, which have nourished this touchy humour. But, besides these, there are divers motives provoking you, above others, to great care and conscience this way. As first, you are many of you strangers, as to the persons, so to the infirmities one of another, and so stand in need of more watchfulness this way; lest, when such things fall out in men and women as you suspected not, you be inordinately affected with them; which doth require at your hands much wisdom and charity, for the covering and preventing of incident offences that way. And lastly, your intended course of civil community will minister continual occasion of offence, and will be as fuel for that fire, except you diligently quench it with brotherly forbearance. And if taking of offence causelessly or easily at men's doings be so carefully to be avoided, how much more heed is to be taken, that we take not offence at God himself: which yet we certainly do, so oft as we do murmur at his providence in our crosses, or bearing patiently such afflictions as wherewith he pleaseth to visit us. Store we up therefore patience against the evil day; without which we take offence at the Lord himself in His holy and just works.
”A fourth thing there is carefully to be provided for, to wit, that with your common employments you join common affections, truly bent upon the general good; avoiding, as a deadly plague of your both common and special comfort, all retiredness of mind for proper advantage, and all singularly affected any manner of way. Let every man repress in himself, and the whole body in each person, as so many rebels against the common good, all private respects of men's selves not sorting with the general con-veniency. And as men are careful not to have a new house shaken with any violence, before it be well settled, and the parts firmly knit, so be you, I beseech you, brethren, much more careful that the house of God, which you are, and are to be, be not shaken with unnecessary novelties, or other oppositions at the first settling thereof.
“Lastly, whereas you are to become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons of special eminency above the rest to be chosen by you into office of government, let your wisdom and godliness appear not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love, and will diligently promote the common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honour and obedience in their lawful administrations, not beholding in them the ordinariness of their persons, but God's ordinance for your good; nor being like the foolish multitude, who more honour the gay coat than either the virtuous mind of the man, or glorious ordinance of the Lord. But you know better things, and that the image of the Lord's power and authority, which the magistrate beareth, is honourable, in how mean persons soever. And this duty you both may the more willingly and ought the more conscionably to perform, because you are, at least for the present, to have only them for your ordinary governors, which yourselves shall make choice of for that work.
“Sundry other things of importance I could put you in mind of, and of those before mentioned in more words. But I. will not so far wrong your godly minds as to think you heedless of these things; there being also divers among you so well able to admonish both themselves and others of what concerneth them. These few things, therefore, and the same in few words, I do earnestly commend unto your care and conscience, joining therewith my daily incessant prayers unto the Lord, that He who hath made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all rivers of waters, and whose providence is over all His works, especially over all His dear children for good, would so guide and guard you in your ways, as inwardly by His Spirit, so outwardly by the hand of His power, as that both you and we also, for and with you, may have after matter of praising His name all the days of your and our lives. Fare you well, in Him in whom you trust, and in whom I rest.
“An unfeigned well-wisher of your
“happy success in this hopeful voyage,
This letter is without date, but internal evidence testifies to its having been written between the period of their embarkation at Delft Haven and their sailing from Southampton; and is further proved to have been written between July 22nd and 27th, by the following letter to Mr. Carver, bearing date July 27th, 1620, in which he refers to the letter addressed to the whole company.
“My Dear Brother,—
“I received, inclosed, your last letter and note of information, which I shall carefully keep and make use of, as there shall be occasion. I have a true feeling of your perplexity of mind, and toil of body; bat I hope that you, having always been able so plentifully to administer cotmfort unto others in their trials, are so well furnished for yourself, as that far greater difficulties than you have yet undergone (though I conceive them to be great enough) cannot oppress you, though they press you, as the apostle speaketh. “The spirit of a man (sustained by the Spirit of God) will sustain his infirmities,” Prov. xviii. 14. I doubt not, so will yours; and the better much, when you shall enjoy the presence and help of so many godly and wise brethren, for the hearing of part of your burden; who also will not admit into their hearts the least thought of suspicion of any, the least negligence, at least, presumption, to have been in you, whatsoever they think of others. Now, what shall I say, or write unto you, and your good wife, my loving sister ? Even only this I desire, and always shall, mercy and blessing unto you from the Lord, as unto my own soul; and assure yourself that my heart is with you, and that I will not foreslow my bodily coming at the first opportunity. I have written a large letter to the whole, and am sorry I shall not rather speak than write to them; and the more, considering the want of a preacher, which I shall also make some spur to my hastening towards you. I do ever commend my best affection unto you, which if I thought you made any doubt of, I would express in more, and the same more ample and full words. And the Lord, in whom you trust, and whom you serve, ever in this business and journey, guide you with His hand, protect you with His wing, and show you and us His salvation in the end, and bring us in the meanwhile together in the place desired (if such be His good will), for His Christ's sake. Amen.
“July 27th, 1620.
The two vessels sailed in company from Southampton, on August 5th, 1620, and proceeded as far as Dartmouth, where, on account of the leaky condition of the Speedwell, they were obliged to put in for repairs. The ship having been refitted, they again put out to sea, when, after a few days, the captain reported that the vessel could not proceed. They ran into Plymouth Harbour. The vessel was again examined, and found neither suitably rigged, nor fitted for such a voyage as was contemplated; it was therefore resolved that the Speedwell should be sold, and that the Mayflower should proceed alone, with as many passengers as she could carry. One hundred and one embarked, leaving nineteen to follow at a future opportunity.
The gallant Mayflower, with her precious cargo, left Plymouth Harbour on September 6th, 1620. She encountered severe gales, but weathered them all; but did not reach the American continent till November 9th, 1620. Her destination was the Hudson River; but the wintry blasts, and the perilous shoals, rendered it expedient that they should change their course, and land at Cape Cod. Here they dropped anchor. A party was sent ashore to examine the nature of the coast and the country, and on their return, this Christian band resolved on instant debarkation. Before they left the vessel, however, they entered into mutual engagements with each other, adopted a code of regulations for their colony, and chose one of their number—Mr. Carver—as their governor; and on the memorable eleventh day of November, in the year of grace, 1620, the pilgrims landed on the spot which they designated Plymouth Rock, in remembrance of the last town in England they visited, and where they had been received with so much hospitality and kindness by Christian friends.
On this inhospitable and dreary spot, with the prospect of winter before them, without food but such as was left of their ship's provisions, or they might casually procure on the beach or in the bush, this company of pilgrim exiles, trusting to that gracious Providence which had hitherto been their guide, established themselves both as a colony and a church; and thus has there sprung, from the Separatist Church at Leyden, that mighty commonwealth which now extends over the immeasurable regions of Northern and Central America, and which is destined to exert a power and influence over the older nations of Europe and the world, the results of which no human sagacity can foresee or predict.
”Hail to thee, poor little ship Mayflower of Delft Haven —poor common-looking ship, hired by common charter-party for coined dollars—caulked with mere oakum and tar—provisioned with vulgarest biscuit and bacon,—yet what ship Argo, or miraculous epic ship, built by the sea gods, was other than a foolish bumbarge in comparison! Golden fleeces, or the like, these sailed for, with or without effect. Thou, little Mayflower, hadst in thee a veritable Promethean spark—the life-spark of the largest nation on our earth,—so we may already name the Transatlantic Saxon nation. They went seeking leave to hear sermon in their own method, these Mayflower Puritans— a most indispensable search; and yet, like Saul, the son of Kish, seeking a small thing, they found this unexpected great thing. Honour to the brave and true ! they verily, we say, carry fire from heaven, and have a power that themselves dream not of. Let all men honour Puritanism, since God has so honoured it!”
On the return of the Mayflower to England, tidings of the safe arrival and settlement of the pilgrim fathers were conveyed to Mr. Robinson, and were received by him with the liveliest gratitude and joy. He still cherished towards his expatriated flock the warmest affection. The pastoral relation continuing unbroken, though oceans rolled between, he was solicitous alike for their temporal and spiritual welfare. He sympathized with their difficulties, and rejoiced in their success. Learning that, in consequence of the rigours of the climate and the hardships incident to their situation, many of the devoted band had fallen by the hand of death during the winter, he immediately addressed to them the following affectionate and sympathizing letter:—
To the Church of God in Plymouth,
“Much beloved Brethren,—
“Neither the distance of place, nor distinction of body, can at all either dissolve or weaken that bond of true Christian affection in which the Lord by his Spirit hath tied us together. My continual prayers are to the Lord for you; my most earnest desire is unto you; from whom I will not longer keep (if God will) than means can be procured to bring with me the wives and children of divers of you and the rest of your brethren, whom I could not leave behind me without great injury both to you and them, and offence to God, and all men. The death of so many, our dear friends and brethren, oh! how grievous hath it been to you to bear, and to us to take knowledge of; which, if it could be mended with lamenting, could not sufficiently be bewailed; but we must go unto them, and they shall not return unto us. And how many, even of us, God hath taken away here, and in England, since your departure, you may elsewhere take knowledge. But the same God has tempered judgment with mercy, as otherwise, so in sparing the rest, especially those by whose godly and wise government you may be, and (I know) are so much helped. In a battle it is not looked for but that divers should die; it is thought well for a side if it get the victory, though with the loss of divers, if not too many, or too great. God, I hope, hath given you the victory, after many difficulties, for yourselves and others; though I doubt not but many do and will remain for you and us all to strive with.
“Brethren, I hope I need not exhort you to obedience unto those whom God hath set over you in church and commonwealth, and to the Lord in them. It is a Christian's honour to give honour according to men's places; and his liberty, to serve God in faith, and his brethren in love, orderly, and with a willing and free heart. God forbid ! I should need to exhort you to peace, which is the bond of perfection, and by which, all good is tied together, and without which it is scattered. Have peace with God first, by faith in his promises, good conscience kept in all things, and oft renewed by repentance; and so, one with another, for his sake, who is, though three, one; and for Christ's sake, who is one, and as you are called by one Spirit to one hope. And the God of peace and grace and all goodness be with you, in all the fruits thereof plenteously upon your heads now, and for ever. All your brethren here remember you with great love; a general token whereof they have sent you.
“Your's ever in the Lord,
June 30, Anno 1021.”
Mr. Robinson remained contentedly with the remnant of his church at Leyden. He cherished the hope that he with his family, and others, might be speedily summoned by the heroic band, to the shores of the Atlantic. He resolved, however, not to leave, till the wives and children of the brethren who had gone already could accompany him. In the same spirit of benevolence and self-denial which prompted him to remain on the banks of the Humber with the wives and children of the fugitives, he continued at Leyden to support and watch over the more helpless and dependent part of his Christian family.
A letter was sent by Mr. Robinson to his beloved friend, Mr. Brewster, two years after the pilgrims had left Europe, which expresses his earnest desire to embark, but shows the difficulties of his position, and the improbability of a speedy settlement in Plymouth.
“Loving and dear Friend and Brother,—
“That which I most desire of God in regard of you, namely, the continuance of your life and health, and the safe coming of those sent unto you, that I most gladly hear of, and praise God for the same. And I hope Mrs. Brewster's weak and decayed state of body will have some repairing by the coming of her daughters, and the provisions in this and other ships sent, which I hear are made for you; which makes us with the more patience bear our languishing state, and the deferring of our desired transportation, (which I call desired, rather than hoped for,) whatsoever you are borne in hand with by others. For first, there is no hope at all that I know, nor can conceive of, of any new stock to be raised for that end, so that all must depend upon returns from you, in which are so many uncertainties, as that nothing with any certainty can thence be concluded. Besides, howsoever, for the present, the “adventurers “allege nothing but want of money, which is an invincible difficulty; yet if that be taken away by you, others, without doubt, will be found. For the better clearing of this, we must dispose the adventurers into three parts; and of them some five or six (as I conceive) are absolutely bent for us above others. Other five or six are our bitter, professed adversaries. The rest, being the body, I conceive to be honestly minded, and lovingly also towards us; yet such as have others, namely, the forward preachers, nearer unto them than us, and whose course, so far as there is any difference, they would advance, rather than ours. Now what a hank these men have over the professors you know, and I persuade myself that for me, they, of all others, are unwilling I should be transported; especially such as have an eye that way themselves, as thinking, if I come there, their market will be marred in many regards. And for these adversaries, if they have but half their will to their malice, they will stop my course when they see it intended, for which this delaying serveth them very opportunely; and as one rusty jade can hinder by hanging back, more than two or three can or will, (at least if they be not very free,) draw forward, so will it be in this case. A notable experiment of this they gave in your messenger's presence, constraining the company to promise that none of the money now gathered should he expended or employed to the help of any of us towards you.
“Now touching the question propounded by you, I judge it not lawful for you, being a ruling elder, as Rom. xii. 7, 8, and 1 Tim. v. 17, opposed to the elders that teach, and exhort, and labour in the word and doctrine, to which the sacraments are annexed, to administer them, nor convenient, if it were lawful.
“Be you heartily saluted, and your wife with you, both from me and mine. Your God and our's, and the God of all His, bring us together, if it be His will, and keep us in the meanwhile and always, to His glory, and make us serviceable to His majesty, and faithful to the end. Amen.
“Your very loving brother,
Dec. 20, 1623.”
The latter part of this letter evinces the tenacity with which Mr. Robinson held his opinion respecting church order: not consenting that the Lord's Supper should be administered even by his elder, Mr. Brewster, though the church had no pastor with them, nor was likely to obtain one till some distant period. Contending as he does in his work for the right of the church to select and ordain its ministers, it is surprising that he should have objected, in such a case as this, to the appointment of Mr. Brewster to this duty, at least till he could himself come over and preside amongst them. The principle on which only he could consistently justify such advice as he gave, was the idea that the two churches, in Leyden and in New Plymouth, were but one, and that no change in its organization or officers was at present desirable. This surely is consistency carried to an extreme. The ordinance was of more importance than the office. It was instituted before the office; and, being a social institution, the church surely was competent to its administration, when a pastor could not be obtained.
“Hoping against hope,” he earnestly desired to exercise his pastoral function for a few years, among his Transatlantic friends. But the Great Head of the Church was pleased to arrange otherwise, and to call him away from the scenes of toil and suffering on earth, to the repose and blessedness of heaven. He laboured in his spiritual and ministerial vocation during five years after the colonization of part of his church. He sickened on Saturday, February 22nd, 1625, but preached twice on the following day. An “inward ague” consumed him. His strength gradually failed, and in eight days he was numbered with the dead. The first day of March, 1625, witnessed his departure to brighter regions—a day of deep lamentation to his church at Leyden and in America, and of poignant regret to the friends of the Redeemer, both in Holland and in England, by whom he was known and his character appreciated. He died in the prime and vigour of his days, and in the full maturity of his powers, being only fifty years of age. No record of his dying experience or sayings is preserved. He retained the full possession of his faculties. He was visited constantly by members of his church. They were importunate in their prayers that he might be spared. But his testimony was concluded, his work was done. The foundations of a growing church and empire were deeply laid on distant shores by those “spiritual heroes” whom he had trained in intelligence and piety. He was no longer needed. The pilgrims must cease from man, and look only to Him whose pillar of cloud and of fire had hitherto conducted them, and by whose presence and blessing alone they could advance and prosper.
Mr. Robinson was conveyed to his long home amidst the tears and regrets of his family and friends. Mr. Winslow states, that such was the respect in which Mr. Robinson was held by the citizens, that “when God took him away from them and us by death, the University and ministers of the city accompanied him to his grave with all their accustomed solemnities, bewailing the great loss, that not only that particular church had, whereof he was pastor, but some of the chief of them sadly affirmed that all the churches of Christ sustained a loss by the death of that worthy instrument of the Gospel.” Mr. Prince also states that he was informed, when at Leyden, “that he was had in high esteem both by the city and University, for his learning, piety, moderation and excellent accomplishments; the magistrates, ministers, scholars and most of the gentry mourned his death as a public loss, and followed him to the grave,” and moreover, that he was buried in the “chancel” of one of the churches of the city which had been appropriated to the use of his congregation.
The tombs of martyrs and the graves of the illustrious dead have ever been held in veneration. Visits to these hallowed spots are constantly made by those who imbibe their sentiments and seek to walk in their steps. It is not surprising, therefore, that the burial-place of Mr. Robinson should have been eagerly sought after by the descendants of the pilgrim fathers. Mr. Prince states it to have been in “the chancel” of the church, given by the magistrates of the city, and occupied by the exiles. But that church has not been discovered, and the result of Mr. Sumner's researches seems to render it improbable that any building of the kind was ever appropriated to their use.
“It was not without some difficulty that I found at Leyden the place of Robinson's grave, being misled at first by the statement of Prince, that he was buried in a church which had been granted to his congregation. Having sought at the Stadt-House and at other places for some record, without success, I, at last, in a small closet attached to the cathedral church of St. Peter, full of old dust-covered volumes, fell upon one which contained a record of the receipts of the different churches in Leyden, from 1619 to 1629. Most of these receipts were for burial fees; and on looking over the lists of each church for the year 1625, the year of Robinson's death, I found the receipt for his interment, at the Peter's Kerk, the church in which I then was. The title of this manuscript volume is “Blaffaarden van de Hoofd-kerken, Ad. I619 tot 1629;” and the receipt for Robinson's burial is in the following words:—
Openenen en huer van Jan Robens,
J Engels predekant—9 florins.
Or, in English, “Open and hire for John Robens, English preacher—nine florins.” This sum of nine florins is the lowest paid for any person whose burial is recorded. Mr. De Pecker, who, under the Director-General at the Hague, is the administrator of the affairs of the churches in Leyden, and who is well acquainted with the mode of interment at different periods, informed me that this, sum was paid only for the hire, for a few years, of a place immediately under the pavement, in one of a large number of square pits, containing space sufficient for four coffins. At the end of seven years, these bodies were all removed. For tombs which were walled up, the prices paid were much higher. The profession of each person buried is named in the register; and those against whose names the receipt of nine florins is put, were, I found, invariably persons in the humblest walks of life, journeymen weavers, &c., while others, who are noted as mechanics or artisans, were buried in places of fifteen and eighteen florins.”
Mr. Robinson died March 1st, 1625; he was buried on the 4th of March. In the Gravenboeck, or Book of Interments, which was deposited in She Stadt Huis, in 1812, the following record appears of Robinson's interment:—
4 Maart.—Jan Roelends, Predicant van de Engelsche Gemeente, by het Klockhuijs—begraven in de Pieter's Kerk.
Translation.—John Roelends, Preacher of the English sect, by the Belfry—buried in the Peter's Church.
“The church of St. Peter is the oldest in Leyden, and the date of the first building is now quite unknown. In September, 1121, Godebald, twenty-fourth bishop of Utrecht, consecrated it by the name of St. Peter and St. Paul, and in 1339 it was much enlarged.”
The following letters or extracts announce and deplore the departure of Mr. Robinson to his last home. They are taken, as Dr. Young states, “from Governor Bradford's Letter-book, which was recovered about fifty years since, from a grocer's shop in Halifax, Nova Scotia.” A considerable portion of the volume had been destroyed before it was discovered to be so valuable a document. The fragment is now preserved with the utmost care, as a precious relic of the devoted man by whom the letters had been collected.
“To his loving Friend, Mr. William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth, in New England, these be, etc.
“Loving and kind Friends, etc.,
“I know not whether ever this will come to your hands, or miscarry, as other of my letters have done; yet in regard of the Lord's dealings with us here, I have had a great desire to write unto you, knowing your desire to bear a part with us, both in our joys and sorrows, as we do with you.
“These, therefore, are to give you to understand that it hath pleased the Lord to take out of this vale of tears, your and our loving and faithful pastor, and my dear and reverend brother, Mr. John Robinson, who was sick some eight days, beginning first to be sick on a Saturday morning; yet the next day, being the Lord's day, he taught us twice, and the week after, grew every day weaker than other, yet felt no pain, but weakness, all the time of his sickness. The physic he took wrought kindly, in man's judgment, yet he grew every day weaker than other, feeling little or no pain, yet sensible to the very last. He fell sick the twenty-second of February, and departed this life on the first of March. He had a continual inward ague, but I thank the Lord, was free of the plague, so that all his friends could come freely to him; and if either prayers, tears, or means would have saved his life, he had not gone hence. But he having faithfully finished his course, and performed his work, which the Lord had appointed him here to perform, he now rests with the Lord in eternal happiness; we wanting him, and all church governors, not having one at present, that is a governing officer among us. Now for ourselves, here left, (I mean the whole church,) we still, by the mercy of God, continue and hold close together in peace and quietness, and so I hope we shall do, though we be very weak; wishing (if such were the will of God) that you and we were again together in one, either there or here; but seeing it is the will of the Lord, thus to dispose of things, we must labour with patience to rest contented, till it please the Lord otherwise to dispose of things. * * * * *
“Your assured loving friend,
April 28th, Anno 1625.
The Leyden people to Bradford and Brewster.
”To our most dear and entirely beloved Brethren, Mr. William Bradford, and Mr. William Brewster, grace, mercy, and true peace be multiplied from God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. “Most dear Christian Friends and Brethren, “As it is no small grief unto you, so is it no less unto us, that we are constrained to live thus disunited each from other, especially considering our affections each unto other, for the mutual edifying and comfort of both, in these evil days wherein we live, if it pleased the Lord to bring us again together; than which, as no outward thing could be more comfortable unto us, or is more desired of us, if the Lord see it good, so see we no hope of means of accomplishing the same, except it come from you; and therefore must with patience rest in the work and will of God, performing our duties to him and you asunder; whom we are not any way able to help, but by our continual prayers to him for you, and sympathy of affections with you, for the troubles which befall you; till it please the Lord to reunite us again. But, our dearly beloved brethren, concerning your kind and respective letter, howsoever written by one of you, yet as we continue with the consent (at least in affection) of you both, although we cannot answer your desire and expectation, by reason it hath pleased the Lord to take to himself out of this miserable world our dearly beloved pastor, yet for ourselves we are minded, as formerly, to come unto you, when, and as, the Lord affordeth means; though we see little hope thereof at present, as being unable of ourselves, and that our friends will help us, we see little hope. And now, brethren, what shall we say further unto you ? Our desire and prayer to God is (if such were his good will and pleasure), we might be re-united for the edifying and mutual comfort of both, which, when he sees fit, he will accomplish. In the mean time, we commit you unto him, and to the word of his grace; whom we beseech to guide, and direct, both you and us, in all his ways, according to that his Word, and to bless all our lawful endeavours for the glory of his name, and the good of his people. Salute, we pray you, all the church and brethren with you, to whom we would have sent this letter, if we knew it could not be prejudicial unto you, as we hope it cannot; yet fearing the worst, we thought fit either to direct it to you, our two beloved brethren, leaving it to your goodly wisdom and discretion, to manifest our mind to the rest of our loving friends and brethren, as you see most convenient. And thus entreating you to remember us in your prayers, as we also do you, we for this time commend you, and all your affairs, to the direction, and protection of the Almighty, and rest,
“Your assured loving friends,
“And brethren in the Lord,
Nov. 30th, A.D. 1625.”
The following letter was written by Mr. Blossom, one of the members of the church, who had returned in the Speedwell to London, and thence proceeded to Leyden again; but who, in a few years after Mr. Eobinson's death, found means of emigrating to New Plymouth, and became a deacon of the church.
Thomas Blossom to Governor Bradford. “
“Kind salutations, &c. I have thought good to write to you, concerning the cause as it standeth both with you and us. We see, alas, what frustrations and disappointments it pleaseth the Lord to send in this our course, good in itself, and according to godliness taken in hand, and for good and lawful ends, who yet pleaseth not to prosper as we are, for reasons best known to himself; and which also nearly concerns us to consider of, whether we have sought the Lord in it as we see, or not. That the Lord hath singularly preserved life in the business to great admiration, giveth me good hope that he will, (if our sins hinder not,) in his appointed time, give a happy end unto it. On the contrary, when I consider how it pleaseth the Lord to cross those means that should bring us together, being now so far off, or farther than ever, in our apprehension; as also to take that means away which would have been so comfortable unto us, in that course, both for wisdom of counsel, as also for our singular help in our course of godliness- whom the Lord (as it were) took away even as fruit falleth before it was ripe, when neither length of days, nor infirmity of body, did seem to call for his end. The Lord even then took him away, as it were in his anger: whom, if tears would have held, he had remained to this day. The loss of his ministry was very great unto me, for I ever counted myself happy in the enjoyment of it, notwithstanding all the crosses and losses otherwise I sustained. Yet indeed the manner of his taking away hath more troubled me, as fearing the Lord's anger in it, that, as I said, in the ordinary course of things, might still have remained, as also the singular service he might have yet done in the church of God. Alas ! dear friends, our state and cause in religion by his death, being wholly destitute of any that may defend our cause as it should against our adversaries; that we may take up that doleful complaint in the Psalm, that there is “no prophet left among us,” nor any that knoweth how long. Alas! you would fain have had him with you, and he would as fain have come to you. Many letters and much speech hath been about his coming to you, but never any solid course propounded for his going; if the course propounded the last year had appeared to have been certain, he would have gone, though with two or three families. I know no man amongst us knew his mind better than I did, about those things; he was loth to leave the church, yet I know also, that he would have accepted the worst conditions, which in the largest extent of a good conscience could be taken, to have come to you. For myself, and all such others as have formerly minded corning, it is much-what the same, if the Lord afford means, * * * * * * *
“Yours to his power,
December 15, Anno 1625.”
Mr. Robinson left a widow to deplore the loss of so beloved and devoted an husband, and it is believed also that two sons, John and Isaac, survived their father. They continued to reside at Leyden for a few years; and, as Hoornbeck the Leyden professor states, in consequence of contentions that arose among the surviving members of the church respecting hearing of the Word, united themselves to the Reformed Church in Holland.
Dr. Allen's paper on the descendants of Mr. Robinson is appended to this Memoir, and gives an ample and interesting account of their history and dispersion.
MR. Robinson, his character and whitings.
No records of Mr. Robinson's private history or religious experience are extant. His character and attainments must, therefore, be judged of by his writings, and the few testimonies that were borne respecting them by his friends and his foes. Those who knew him intimately speak of his character in terms of admiration. His deep piety and extensive erudition, his amiable, affectionate, and catholic spirit, his exemplary conduct and his unspotted reputation, are themes of their eulogy and praise.
He was “a man not easily to be paralleled for all things, whose singular virtues we shall not take upon us here to describe. Neither need we, for they so well are known both by friends and enemies. As he was a man learned and of solid judgment, and of a quick and sharp wit, so was he also of a tender conscience and very sincere in all his ways; a hater of hypocrisy and dissimulation, and would be very plain with his best friends. He was very courteous, affable, and sociable in his conversation, and towards his own people especially. He was an acute and expert disputant, very quick and ready, and had much bickering with the Arminians, who stood more in fear of him than of any in the university. He was never satisfied in himself until he had searched any cause or argument he had to deal in, thoroughly and to the bottom; and we have heard him sometimes say to his familiars ‘ that many times both in writing and disputation, he knew he had sufficiently answered others, but many times not himself:’ and was ever desirous of any light, and the more able, learned, and holy the persons were, the more he desired to confer and reason with them. He was very profitable in his ministry and comfortable to his people. He was much beloved of them, and as loving was he unto them, and entirely sought their good for soul and body.”
“Yea, such was the mutual love and reciprocal respect that this worthy man had to his flock and his flock to him, that it might be said of them, as it was once said of that famous emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and the people of Rome, that it was hard to judge whether he delighted more in having such a people, or they in having such a pastor. His love was great towards them, and his care was always bent for their best good, both for soul and body. For, besides his singular abilities in divine things, wherein he excelled, he was able also to give direction in civil affairs, and to foresee dangers and inconveniences; by which means he was very helpful to their outward estates; and so was every way, as a common father unto them. And none did more offend him than those that were close and cleaving to themselves, and retired from the common good: as also such as would be stiff and rigid in matters of outward order, and inveigh against the evils of others, and yet be remiss in themselves, and not so careful to express a virtuous conversation. They, in like manner, had ever a reverent regard unto him, and had him in precious estimation as his worth and wisdom did deserve; and although they esteemed him highly whilst he lived and laboured among them, yet much more after his death, when they came to feel the want of his help, and saw by woful experience, what a treasure they had lost, to the grief of their hearts and wounding of their souls; yea, such a loss as they saw could not be repaired.”
Hoornbeck, in his “Summa Controversarium,” already referred to, says, “John Robinson was most dear to us while he lived, was on familiar terms with the Leyden theologians, and was greatly esteemed by them. He wrote, moreover, in a variety of ways against the Arminians; and was the frequent opponent and bold antagonist of Episcopius himself in the university.”
Even Baylie, the opponent of the Independents, while denouncing in no measured terms the whole denomination in his “Dissuasives against the Errors of the Times,” acknowledges that “Robinson was a man of excellent parts, and the most learned, polished, and modest spirit that ever separated from the Church of England.”
Similar incidental testimonies might be collected and transcribed; but these may suffice to prove the great respect in which he was held, as a man, a scholar, and a Christian.
His writings demonstrate that he was pre-eminently a man of God, and a most conscientious and devoted minister of Jesus Christ.
His love to the Divine Word was supreme, and conformity to it was his intense desire. Only the “most sound and unresistible convictions of conscience by the Word of God,” could satisfy him as to the course he should pursue either as a Christian or a pastor. “It is unto me a matter of great scruple and conscience, to depart one hair-breadth (extraordinary accidents ever excepted,) from their (the Apostles') practice and institution, in anything truly ecclesiastical, though never so small in itself, whatsoever, by whomsoever, and with what colour soever is invented and imposed, touching the government of the church, which is the house and tabernacle of the living God. And a partner in this faith I do hope to live and die; and to appear before Jesus Christ with boldness in that great and fearful day of his coming.”
Mr. Robinson's docility and candour are transparent. He was ever ready to receive instruction from friends or foes. Though decided in his convictions, he did not deem himself infallible. Hence the advice he gave, both in his Farewell Address, and in his Letter of Instructions to his Church, when about to proceed on their voyage, “to receive whatsoever light or truth should be made known to them from the written Word.” The same sentiment repeatedly occurs in his various treatises, as particularly in the close of his preface to his “Religious Communion.” “Had my persuasion in it (the truth) been fuller than ever it was, I profess myself always one of them, who still desire to learn further or better what the good will of God is.”
Though a firm believer in the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, he was not a believer in the finality of human interpretations of the Bible. Hence his lamentation, that many Protestants had come to “a period in religion,” and would proceed no farther than their respective masters, Luther or Calvin, had led them. He was persuaded that a fuller development of the truth would be made, as men proceeded in the prayerful investigation of the Holy Oracles.
He became a Puritan, a Separatist, and an Exile, on purely conscientious grounds. His dissent he always represents as his necessity and his cross. “Whereupon we (the weakest of all others) have been persuaded of this truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, though in great and manifold afflictions, and to hold out his testimony as we do, though without approbation of our sovereign, knowing that, as his approbation in such points of God's worship, as his Word warranteth not, cannot make them lawful: so neither can his disallowance make unlawful such duties of religion as the Word of God approveth, nor can he give dispensation to any person to forbear the same. Dan. iii. 18; Acts v. 29.
Accounting it a cross that I am in any particular compelled to dissent from them (his Christian countrymen) to whom God hath tied me in so many inviolable bonds, but a benefit and a matter of rejoicing, when I can in any thing, with good conscience, unite with them in matter, if not in manner, or where it may be, in both. And this affection, the Lord and my conscience are my witnesses, I have always nourished in my breast, even when I seemed furthest drawn from them, and have opposed in others and repressed in mine own (to my power) all sour zeal against, and peremptory rejection of such, as whose holy graces challenged better use and respect from all Christians.
There are some shades of difference between the opinions and practices of Mr. Robinson respecting church government and ordinances, and those of the modern congregationalists.
He maintained the spirituality and self-government of the church of Christ, but allowed the interference of the magistrate to compel attendance on public worship, though not to dictate opinion. More light has certainly been revealed to his descendants on this subject: and doubtless, had he lived much longer, he would have renounced his notions respecting magisterial interference in religious affairs. He was not singular in his opinion. His immediate contemporaries, Johnson, Jacob, and Ainsworth, sympathized with his views. Robert Browne was greatly in advance of him and these eminent men. They pleaded for “toleration and liberty,” Mr. Browne for liberty entire, Mr. Robinson's Baptist contemporaries, but whose publications were subsequent to Browne's, had more clear and definite views on liberty of conscience than Mr. Robinson's. Some of their tracts have been recently published, and contain both vigorous and earnest appeals on behalf of unqualified and perfect liberty of conscience and worship. The celebrated Roger Williams was originally an Independent, and studied and wrote his elaborate treatise on the “Bloudy Tenent of Persecution” while an Independent, but did not publish it till a few years afterwards. In the meanwhile he had joined the Baptist community, but had now changed his opinion respecting the ordinances altogether.
Mr. Robinson's opinions on all points respecting church officers, and government, and worship, are briefly stated in his Catechism, in the third volume of this work, but are amplified and detailed in various parts of his writings. Convinced of the truth of his principles, he desired their extension through the world, and uttered his belief of their ultimate triumph, in these remarkable words: “Religion is not always sown and reaped in one age. One soweth and another reapeth. The many that are already gathered, by the mercy of God, unto the kingdom of his Son Jesus, and the nearness of many more through the whole land, for the regions are ‘ white unto harvest,’ do promise, .within less than a hundred years, if our sins and theirs make not us and them unworthy of his mercy, a very plenteous harvest.”
The prediction was verified. One hundred years passed, and the great principles Mr. Robinson contended for had spread throughout England, and a considerable portion of America. A second century has gone, exhibiting the power and triumph of the truth; and the third is fraught with still more hopeful indications of the universal spread of the gospel, and of the establishment of spiritual and voluntary churches of Christ throughout the world.
DESCENDANTS OF THE FEV. JOHN ROBINSON
REV. WILLIAM ALLEN, D.D.,
fellow of the amer. acad. of arts and sciences, and member of the
amer. antiq. soc., and of the hist. soc. of maine, new hampshire,
and new york; and formerly congregational minister,
pittsfield, and president of boudoin college,
“Many a man,” says Milton, “lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, imbalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”
As Mr. Robinson did not live a burden to the earth, but a benefactor of the world; so it is a great satisfaction to witness now a reviviscence of his valuable but long forgotten writings, and to perceive, that they are to be accessible to a great multitude of his Puritan followers.
It is but the truth to say, that many tens of thousands of Christian men hold his name in honourable remembrance. He yet lives by his example, and by the influence of his sacrifices and toils; and in the third century after his death, he enjoys the singular distinction of being equally honoured in the east and the west,—in two countries separated by a mighty ocean.
Doubtless the natural inquiry will now spring up in many minds—Has Robinson “a life beyond life” in a different sense from being the author of “a good book ?” Does his “life-blood” still flow in the veins of descendants who are the imitators of his virtues ?
In answer to such inquiries I am happy to be able to say, that I have recently conversed with several of his descendants, who bear his name, ministers of the gospel, who receive and love the same truths which commended themselves to his intellect and heart, and who, by reason of their descent from him, feel an incitement to preach faithfully the same pure, uncrrupted gospel of salvation, which he announced to his fellow-men, and in the maintenance of which he was constrained to flee from his beloved native land, finding, as an exile, his grave among strangers. Useful and distinguished men, now deceased, have been also among his descendants, of whom the following is a brief account.
It was four or five years after the death of Mr. Robinson, before provision could be made for the removal of his wife and children to Plymouth. In 1629, thirty-five families were transported from Leyden to New England, at the heavy expense of five hundred pounds, paid by the brethren in the colony: another company came over the next year at a still greater expense—” a rare example of brotherly love and Christian care in performing their promises to their brethren, even beyond their power.” In one of these companies were the wife and children of Mr. Robinson.
We have the names of but two of his children, John and Isaac. John settled at or near Cape Ann, and had a son Abraham, who died at the age of one hundred and two years. Of others in this line nothing is known.
Isaac settled near Plymouth, at Scituate, where he was a freeman in 1633: probably he was born about 1610. He removed in 1639 to Barnstable. Such was his reputation in the colony, that in the years 1646 and 1651, he was chosen one of the assistants to the Governor: Two explanations have been given of the fact that he failed to be re-elected, and was dismissed from civil employment: the first is, that during the disturbance occasioned by the Quakers, being appointed by the court, with J. Smith, J. Chipman, and J. Cooke, to attend their meetings, “to endeavour to reduce them from the error of their ways,” he himself became infected with the poison of their doctrines, and therefore was obnoxious to the people. The other account of the matter is more likely to be true— that he opposed the severe laws against the Quakers and the persecuting spirit of the times, and therefore was left out of office and disfranchised, as was also J, Cudworth, the assistant from Scituate; but that to both were restored their rights, as freemen, by Governor Winslow, in 1673. He died at Barnstable, more than ninety years of age; “a venerable man,” says Prince, in his Annals, “whom I have often seen.” As Prince was born in the adjoining town of Sandwich, in 1687, he might, while a boy, have often seen Mr. Robinson, supposing that he died about the year 1700.
Rev. John Robinson, of Duxbury, was the son of James, and the grandson of William Robinson, of Dorchester, near Boston. William was a member of the church in 1636, and died in July, 1668. While many of his descendants maintain that he was the son of John Robinson, of Leyden, there are others who have doubts on this point. It is remarkable, that there are no historical records to settle the question absolutely. As his name does not appear among the' first settlers of Dorchester, he might have emigrated to that town in early life, from Scituate, only a few miles distant, where Isaac Robinson lived, the undoubted son of Rev. John Robinson. Two of William's grandsons were named John, which may be a circumstance of some value.
Rev. John Robinson, the son of James, was born in Dorchester, April 17, 1675, and was graduated at Harvard College, in Cambridge, in 1695. As early as September 2, 1700, he was invited to settle in Duxbury, but was not ordained until June 15, 1702, or soon afterwards. He married, January 31, 1705, Hannah Wiswall, the daughter of his predecessor in the ministry. He was dismissed in 1739, and soon removed to Lebanon, in Connecticut, where several of his children lived, and where he died, November 14, 1745, in the seventy-first year of his age. His daughter Mary, aged sixteen, and his wife, were drowned in a passage to Boston, September 22, 1722. His other children were as follows:—
Hannah, who married Nathaniel Thomas, of Kingston, and died in 1731.
Alethia, who married Rev. Abel Stiles, of Woodstock, Connecticut.
Betsey, or Elizabeth, who married Rev, Jacob Elliott, of the parish of Goshen, in the town of Lebanon, Connecticut, and who died in 1758.
John, the son of Rev. John Robinson, of Duxbury, was born April 16, 1715, and married a Miss Hinckley, of Lebanon, Jan. 17, 1743. He removed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he was a teacher. He died at his son Samuel's, in New Concord parish, in the town of Norwich, August 21, 1784.
Samuel, the son of John Robinson, jun., was born June 7, 1753, and died at Oxford, State of New York, March 2, 1815.
John W. Robinson, the son of Samuel, was born April 5 1779, and died at Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, about 1840: his brother Andrew now lives at Norwich, Connecticut, and two brothers at Oxford, New York.
Ichabod, born December 13, 1720. His son William, born at Lebanon, August 15, 1754, graduated at Yale College, in 1773, was ordained as the minister of Southington, in Connecticut, in 1780, and died on his birthday, August IB, 1825, aged 71 years. He was the father of a distinguished son, now living, Rev. Edward Robinson, D.D., Professor of Sacred Literature in the Union Theological Seminary, New York City, author of Biblical Researches in Palestine, 3 vols., Taylor's Calmet revised, Grammars, Lexicons, &c.
It may be added, that Catharine Holbrook, the wife of Dr. T. W. Harris, the librarian of Harvard College, is a descendant of Samuel, the brother of Rev. John Robinson, of Duxbury; and that Dr. Harris is persuaded, from the investigations he has made, that she is descended from Rev. John Robinson, of Leyden.
Faith, the daughter of Rev. John Robinson, was born 1718, married, in 1735, Jonathan Trumbull, for many years the distinguished Governor of Connecticut, the friend and coadjutor of Washington during the revolutionary struggle, who died in 1785. Mrs. Trumbull died in 1780. Their son Jonathan was afterwards the Governor of Connecticut for eleven years, and died in 1809.
Faith Trumbull's daughter, Faith, married General Jedidiah Huntington, of Norwich, a distinguished officer in the army of the revolution, whose grand-daughter was the late Mrs. Sarah Lanman Huntington Smith, wife of the learned and faithful missionary, Rev. Dr. Eli Smith, of Syria. Thus the pure gospel, which Robinson was the means of sending to America, this admirable woman, a descendant of Robinson, assisted her husband to convey to the shores of Asia. She died near Smyrna, September 30, 1836. Her memoir was written by Rev. Dr. E. W. Hooker.
Another daughter of Faith Trumbull, Hope, married General William Williams, of Lebanon, a patriot and soldier of the Revolution, who died in 1811, aged eighty. Her son, David Trumbull, of Lebanon, who died in 1822, was the father of Abigail Trumbull, who married Peter Lanman, of Norwich; of Joseph Trumbull, of Hartford; of John Trumbull, of Colchester; and of Jonathan George W. Trumbull, of Norwich, who has in his possession a silver cup, with a handsome handle, bearing engraved on it the initials of his ancestor, John Robinson. As, probably, having been his, and brought from Leyden by his widow, it is deemed a treasure. Thus it is seen that the distinguished families of Huntington, Trumbull, and Williams, in Connecticut, are descended from the pastor of the Plymouth pilgrims.
Peter Robinson was also the son of Isaac; perhaps his eldest son. His descendants are very numerous. He was one of the original members of the church in Scotland parish, in the town of Windham, Connecticut, in 1735, as was also his son Peter. His children (the great grandchildren of John Robinson), were nine in number—Peter, Israel, Thomas, Simeon, Isaac, Benjamin, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Martha.
Elizabeth married Josiah Smith, and Martha married Barnabas Allen, of Canterbury.
The children of Peter Robinson, the second, were twelve in number, born from 1726 to 1748,—Samuel, Experience, Peter, Elizabeth (who married John French), Jacob, Nathan, Abner, Ruth (who married William Cushman, of Brooklyn, Connecticut), Eliab, Rachel (who married Cornelius Coburn), Bathsheba, and Joshua.
The children of Samuel, the eldest son of Peter the second, were eleven,—Dorcas, Jemima, Asher, Claghorn, Sybil, Samuel, Ephraim, Abel, Richard, Oliver, and Sarah; Ephraim, Abel, and Richard removed to Pawlet, Vermont.
Peter Robinson, the third, died at Windham, of the small pox, July 17, 1778: his son Arad, of the same disease, July 16. His other children were Rosamond, who married Nathaniel Wales, and died at Windham, March, 1849, aged ninety-two; Rhoda, Peter, Patrick, and Abigail.
Peter Robinson, the fourth, died in 1830, and had children—Arad, Olive, Polly, Lucy, Betsey, and Abigail. Arad lives in Franklin, Connecticut.
Jacob Robinson, the son of Peter the second, had nine children, among whom were Vine, late judge of Windham county, and Solon, who was living in 1850, at Crown Point, Lake county, Indiana.
Nathan, the son of Peter the second, had children— Salome, Vienna, Newell, Rowena, Adrian, Nathan, Rufus, and Roswell.
Abner, the son of Peter the second, had children— Philena, Lois, Mehetabel, Abner, Mary, Elizabeth, Septimius, Polly.
Eliab, the son of Peter the second, died in Pittsford, Vermont, in April, 1836, aged ninety-three. His children were Lucy Williams, who married Joshua Kingsley of Pittsford; Rev. Ralph Robinson, living, in 1850, in New-Haven, near Oswego, New York; John Williams; Albigence Waldo Robinson, M.D., also of New Haven, and Rev. Septimius Robinson, of Morrisville, Vermont.
The children of Rev. Ralph Robinson, who is of the sixth generation, reckoning John Robinson as the first, are—Rev. Ebenezer Weeks Robinson, of Lisbon, New London County, Connecticut; Jonathan Edwards Robinson, of Richland, New York; and Rev. Samuel Newell Robinson, of Truxton, New York.
The children of the Rev. Septimius Robinson are Betsey Ann; Henry Wright Robinson, of Johnson, Vermont; Leroy Holmes Robinson, Editor of the Stanstead Journal, Stanstead, Canada East; James Caswell Robinson, of Hartford; Septimius Dwight Robinson of West Springfield; and William Allent Robinson.
The children of Joshua, son of Peter the second, were Erastus, Betsey, Ruth, Gurdon, and Dolly.
The children of Experience, son of Peter the second, were James, Tryphena, Elias, Alethia, Lydia, and Andrew, who died at Windham in 1849, aged eighty-six.
The children of James, the son of Experience, were James Robinson, of Boston, and Deacon Gurdon Robinson, late of Lebanon; Lucy, who married James Smith; Bela, Sophia, Fanny, and Marcus Tullius.
The children of Gurdon Robinson, who are of the eighth generation, are—Luther Robinson, teacher, Boston, and Asa Aspinnall Robinson.
From this very imperfect and incomplete account of the descendants of Robinson, it will be concluded that they are very numerous, scattered over New England and other States of the Union: it will be seen that they are in various respectable and useful stations in life.
The pride of ancestry is not a very commendable emotion; but the consciousness of being descended from the excellent of the earth—the servants and friends of God— whose example lives in faithful history, and the benefit of whose prayers, long since uttered, may descend even to us, should be an incitement to the imitation of their virtues, and to strenuous efforts in the cause to which they were devoted.
After surveying the life of the illustrious Robinson, in respect to whom we are assured, that he has passed away from the toils of the earth to the paradise of God, how can the words of the great Head of the Church fail to come with new force upon our heart—” Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life !”