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journey into the wilderness, to sacrifice freely unto their God. They do not seem to have dreamed, while in England, of the great conception of founding a colony for God in the New World. But this was what God had for them to do, and in due time he told them of it, made them sensible of their mission, woke up in their hearts a desire for it, broke up their encampment in Etham, and caused them to stand upon the verge of the sea, ready for its crossing.
, Now when we add to this the extract from that beautiful letter of Robinson and Brewster to Sir Edwin Sandys, thanking him for his kindness, and detailing to him the reasons for encouragement and perseverance, we shall have a perfect picture of their thoughts and motives, as if there were a window in their hearts.
1st, they say, “ We verily believe and trust the Lord is with us; to 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. Second, we are well weaned from the delicate milk of our mother country, and inured to the difficulties of a strange land. Third, 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. Fourth, we are knit together as a body, in the most strict and sacred bond and covenant of the Lord; of the violation whereof we make great conscience, and by virtue whereof we hold ourselves straitly tied to all care of each other's good, and of the whole. Fifth, and lastly, it is not with us as with other men, whom small things can discourage, or small discontentments cause to wish ourselves at home again. We know our entertainment in England and Holland. We shall much prejudice both our acts 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
Prince, 51. Young's Chronicles, 61.
look ever to attain the like in any other place, during our lives, which are now drawing towards their period."
In this calm and steadfast spirit, relying upon God, did these noble soldiers of Christ reason of their undertaking. They knew it was a forlorn hope, yet glorious in its very forlornness, since it cut them off from all thought but that of success, trusting in the Almighty.
Such was the spirit of John Robinson of Norfolk; and the same was manifested in the character of his friend and brother, William Brewster ; quieter, perhaps, in him, but not less enduring and steadfast. Theirs was the animating spirit of the whole colony, in its commencement, as Governor Bradford's seems to have been afterwards in its guidance. Such were the feelings with which they looked towards New England; and Robinson's heart, though he never reached this country, was as much fixed upon
the enterprise as that of any who engaged in it. He foresaw something of the glory of the Church of Christ in its new development, and he was certainly a most remarkable instrument in preparing God's agents and instrumentalities for so great a work.
Born in the year 1576, he was but thirty-two years of age when he commenced the pastoral care of the flock in Holland; but he soon gained there an enviable reputation for united-learning and piety, and a vast influence by means of it. Even those who were his enemies, because of his separation from the church of England, and the simplicity and independence of his ecclesiastical platform, called him “the most learned, polished, and modest spirit that ever separated from the church of England.” His character was briefly but beautifully drawn by Governor Bradford. “ 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 socia
ble 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 till 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. In a word, he was much esteemed and reverenced of all that knew him, and that were acquainted with his abilities, both of friends and strangers."*
He was a man of rare foresight and prudence ; qualities developed in his guidance of the Church at Amsterdam, and his counsel to remove to Leyden, leaving off strife before it be meddled with ; for he saw plainly what would come to pass out of the contention which was growing in the Church that was at Amsterdam before him. But though a man of peace, he knew when to speak, and on what side, and was ready to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, though not without thorough understanding of the matter and persons in controversy. “Besides his singular abilities in divine things,” says Gov. Bradford, “ 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
Young's Chronicles, 452.
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."
It was not wonderful that this Pilgrim church, composed of such materials, and under the guidance of such a Pastor, should flourish in Leyden during the years of its settlement there ; years in which they enjoyed “much sweet and delightful society and spiritual comfort together in the ways of God, under the able ministry and prudent government of Mr. John Robinson and Mr. William Brewster, who was an assistant unto him in the place of an elder, unto which he was now called and chosen by the church; so as they grew in knowledge and other gifts and graces of the spirit of God, and lived together in peace and love and holiness. And many came unto them from divers parts of England, so as they grew a great congregation. And if at any time any differences did arise, or offences broke out (as it cannot be but that sometimes there will, even among the best of men), they were ever so met with and nipped in the head betimes, or otherwise so well composed, as still love, peace, and communion was continued, or else the church purged of those that were incurable and incorrigible, when, after much patience used, no other means would serve ; which seldom comes to pass.
The church of the Pilgrims, indeed, under Robinson's care, was so remarkable for peace, brotherly love, and quiet industry, that it was publicly noted by the magistrates of the City as a model in those respects. “These English,” said they, by way of reproof to the French Church of the Walloons in Leyden,“ have lived amongst us now these twelve years, and yet we never had any suit or accusation
* Bradford in Young's Chronicles, 36.
come against any of them. But your strifes and quarrels are continual.”
Now this love of peace in Robinson was so combined with a keen discernment and ardent love of the truth, that though always more disposed to settle contentions by the meekness and gentleness of heavenly wisdom, than to decide them by taking a part; yet whenever he conceived the truth to be at stake, there was neither indifference nor hesitation as to his side and course of duty. Disputes about indifferent things, or preferences, he never would meddle with; but whatever he saw wounding the vital interests of the truth and of Christ's Church, that he made a matter of personal anxiety, and if need were, of controversy. So it was that he became engaged in the argument against the doctrine of the Arminians in Leyden. Arminius had died in 1609. The two divinity professors elected in the university in 1612, were at opposite sides in this conflict, Episcopius being the champion of the Arminians, and Polyander of the Calvinists. The contention had grown so sharp between them that it was the matter of their daily lectures, and their disciples themselves were separated, hearing each only their own side, as is wont in such cases.
But Robinson, amidst all his labors, discerning the importance of this juncture, and being determined, according to his custom, to examine candidly and thoroughly, went constantly to hear the lectures of both ; whereby he became thoroughly grounded in the merits of the controversy, knew the force of all arguments used, and the shifts of the adversary, “and being himself very able, none was fitter to buckle with them, as appeared by sundry disputes ; so as he began to be terrible to the Arminians."*
From his known interest in the controversy, and acquaintance with its merits, as well as the decided stand which he took in regard to it, and his ardent love of the truth, the defenders of the Calvinistic system were very
* Bradford in Prince, 36. Young's Chronicles, 41.