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desirous to gain for their side the aid of his abilities. Accordingly, Polyander, with several of the most eminent preachers in the city, invited him to take up their cause on the great points in question, in a public disputation against Episcopius. This he was at first unwilling to do, being comparatively young, and regarded as a foreigner or stranger in the city, though he had been known there now for three years. But at length he yielded to Polyander's importunity, as well as his own sense of the importance of the occasion, and prepared himself for the conflict.“ And when the time came,” says Governor Bradford, “the Lord did so help him to defend the truth and foil his adversary, as he put him to an apparent nonplus in this great and public audience. And the like he did two or three times upon such like occasions; the which, as it caused many to praise God that the truth bad so famous a victory, so it procured him much honor and respect from those learned men, and others which loved the truth."*
While he lived at Leyden, and both before and after the settlement of his flock in Plymouth, he published several works, one of the earliest of which was his Justification of separation from the Church of England, in 476 pages quarto, in the year 1610. Governor Bradford connects his notice of this work, and of the increase of Robinson's Church, in such a manner, that we might suppose the “ Justification” was in some measure the cause of the enlargement. He says that about this time, and the following years, many came to his . Church at Leyden from: diverse parts of England, so that they grew a great congregation. And Robinson grew in reputation and love among all men, and continued his labors with the pen,as well as in preaching, up to the season of his death, so that he left behind him a treatise which was published after his departure to his rest. Few individuals have ever so united the men of all classes in respect and admiration for his
* Prince, 38. Young's Chronicles, 41.
character. Mr. Prince inforins us, in a note to the record of his death, that as 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. Mr. Prince had often seen his son Isaac, who came over to the Plymouth Colony, and who lived to be above ninety years of age.
Robinson was smitten with his last illness on Saturday morning, February 22d, 1625. He nevertheless preached twice the next day, which was his last service of love to his Redeemer and the Church. His disease baffled the skill of the physicians, and seemed, indeed, to be unknown, being described as a continual inward ague, in which, with little or no pain, he grew weaker and weaker rapidly every day, till the next Saturday, the first day of March, when he died, sensible to the last. These particulars are found in a letter from Mr. White to Governor Bradford, dated at Leyden, April 28th, 1625. Nothing is given of his last conversations, though it is stated that his friends visited him freely throughout his illness.
In his researches in Leyden, of which he gives some account in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society," Mr. Sumner found a record of Robinson's burial in St. Peter's Church in that city, on the fourth of March, 1625: and he also discovered a receipt of payment of burial fees in the church receipt book as follows: The translation only is given. 1625, 10. March.-Open and hire for John Robens, English Preacher,
9 florins. Mr. Sumner says that at that time the plague was raging in Leyden, so that in one church there were buried, only three days before Robinson's death, twenty-five persons in
* Mass. Hist. Coll. Vol. ix., 30 Series, 55, 71.
one day. Whole families were buried at the same time. The hint in Mr. White's letter to Governor Bradford, giving the account of Robinson's illness, accords with this, where the writer says, “ he had a continual inward ague, but I thank the Lord was free of the plague, so that all hisfriends could come freely to him.” But this by no means invalidates the account of especial or public honors at his funeral. Indeed the fact that four days elapsed from his death to his burial would rather strengthen the credibility of that account.
The letters of Robinson to the Colony were very precious to the Pilgrims, as of an absent father to his flock, fraught with wise counsels, and with the feelings of an affectionate heart. He always looked upon them as his people, and they looked to him as their Pastor ; for to the day of his death neither he nor they had abandoned the hope of being again united. If either prayers, tears, or means would have saved his life,” said Roger White, in his letter to Governor Bradford,“ he had not gone hence. But he having faithfully finished 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.” Their leading men had gone over to Plymouth, and before many years almost the whole remaining portion of the church were gathered there through the great kindness of their brethren. Never was there a church, whose members manifested more truly one towards another the patience and brotherly love of the gospel. This was a great proof of the faithful, apostolic character of their beloved Pastor's ministry. “Whom the Lord,” said one of the remaining brethren in the church, Mr. Th. Blossom, in a letter preserved in Governor Bradford's letter-book, "took away even as fruit falleth before it is ripe. 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. Alas! you would fain have had him with you, and he would as fain have come to you."
His spirit was evidently saddened ever after the departure of the Pilgrims, whom he longed to follow. There is an expression of this sadness in his beautiful letter written to the Church in Plymouth, after their severe experience of the first winter, when death had been so busy among them. A tone of still deeper dejection marks his later correspondence, although he felt, after that first winter, that God had given them the victory.
Such a letter as the following, which we copy as it stands in the fragment preserved of Governor Bradford's letter-book, must have had a powerful and lasting effect upon the dear Christian friends to whom he was writing.
“ To the Church of God at Plymouth, in New England. 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 of 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 no 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 honor to give honor 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, which 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
grace, and all good men, 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.
Yours ever in the Lord.
JOHN RORINSON. Leyden, Holland, June 30, Anno 1621.”
The most interesting and valuable of all that remains in Plymouth, illustrative of the first generation of its pilgrim inhabitants, is the volume of Old Colony and Church Records, kept among the registries of the town and county. It is with singular interest that the visitor turns over these antique leaves, among which it is pleasant to meet the following poem on the Death of Robinson, found in a page of the Church Records as early as the date of the year 1626. The lines are at least as good as some of Roger Ascham's, and in the firm handwriting in the original MS. may remind one of the verses which John Bunyan used to write in his old copy of Fox's Book of the Martyrs. Governor Bradford was the only one of the Pilgrims, so far as we know, that ever made any attempts at versifica