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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 alive, said he, they would be as ready to embrace further light as that they had received. Here also he put us in mind of our Church Covenant, whereby we engaged with God and one another to receive whatever light or truth should be made known to us from his written word. But withal he exhorted us to take heed what we receive for truth, and well to examine, compare, and weigh it with other Scriptures, before we receive it. For, said he, it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such Anti-Christian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once."
Robinson also told the church that he would be glad if some goodly minister would go over with them before he himself came; and he prophesied that there would be no difference between the Nonconformists and themselves, when once they came together out of the kingdom of England. He begged them likewise to put aside their unwillingness to appoint another pastor or teacher; but they waited long for him, and as God would have it, were without a settled minister till after his death. Mr. Prince has well noted Robinson's endeavor to take them off from their attachment to himself, that they might be more entirely free to search and follow the Scriptures.
There was great meaning in the Providence which kept the. pastor from embarking with the flock. They might have leaned too much upon him, trusting in an arm of flesh. And had he come to this country, what between the love of faithful souls, the strength of a great mind, a sacred superiority of trial and suffering, and the weakness of his flock, his own power might have been too great, too suddenly accumulate, and in danger of breeding worms, as is often the case with the manna of reputation, influence, and power, when not received from God and Providence, ac
cording to occasions of want. There was a wonderful guardianship from God against this evil (an evil which lay in Man's nature, and not in mere circumstances) not only in the case of Robinson, but of some other dear and necessary men, dangerous by their very dearness. He would gladly have gone with them ; but never again this side the grave was he to meet that Pilgrim part of his flock over which he had watched for more than twelve years, with such apostolic assiduity and tenderness.
Here then was a Church without a Bishop. New England was to be colonized by such a church. It was such a church that God was pleased to choose, for " a restorer of paths to dwell in, to raise up the foundations of many generations.” It was a wonderful Providence which sent this Vine to take root in New England, under no head but Christ. The church was to be thrown, in its simplest original elements as a band of Christians, independent of any earthly power, and in entire dependence upon Christ, into a state of isolation, unrivalled, unequalled, since the formation of the first church at Antioch. There was in all this an evident return of Christ's Church to those original sources of power which it possessed, disconnected from any earthly organization in existence, at the day of Pentecost. There was in this kind of original plantation in New England, one of the most remarkable manifestations of God's superintending wisdom visible in the history of mortals.
It seemed as if man was to do nothing, God everything, in this new reformation and creation of the church. Its foundations were sunk deep down in an abyss of trial, in faith, in self-denial, in love, in God. There was hardly ever in the world a more complete cutting off from all human dependence, not even when the Israelites, just escaped from Egypt, with the chariots of Pharaoh rattling behind them, stood at the Red Sea. And indeed, the miracle in such a case is a lower kind of training of the soul to faith, than the deliverance by the pressure of God's gradual providence, when the sense can see nothing but what is natural, and the soul must be armed with grace, must see God by faith, or not see him at all. The miracle is but the bud of greater dealings, of a more renned and exquisite spiritual training; the miracle is good for babes; the great things of God's ordinary providence for men ; the discipline of the soul for a life of faith, and for the daily sight of God in daily trials, is the most costly and the greatest thing. The old miraculous dispensation was comparatively crude, but this is more perfect; that was of sense, but this is of the spirit.
In man's sense it was a church without a Bishop. And yet, perhaps, in the three kingdoms out of which God sifted the Pilgrim wheat, there could not have been found as their Bishop, a man better fitted to lead them in green pastures and beside still waters, than plain Elder Brewster. The church at Leyden gave up their elder and retained their pastor; the church at Plymouth followed their elder as their pastor, and such he really was. Between him and Robinson there had long existed a very intimate confidence and communion. They were “true yokefellows," and they seem to have led the flock rather as co-pastors, than as officers in any respect of a different grade. Their names are together in the correspondence with England relative to all the arrangements for the Pilgrim colony; they were together the overseers of the flock. Robinson was the only pastor, Brewster the only elder; but they were both by turns pastor and elder, as necessity required. Brewster was about twelve years the eldest, being sixty when the Pilgrims embarked for New England, probably the oldest of them all. In the providence of God they had really no need of a better minister than he was, and for some years God gave them none other. His spirit belonged to Robinson, and Robinson's to him.
There seems to have been but one difficulty in regard to his really filling the office of the ministry in Robinson's
stead, and that lay in the opinion of Robinson himself in regard to the distinction between a ruling and a teaching elder. A letter from Robinson to Brewster, copied from the Records of the Plymouth church, and printed in Dr. Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrims, contains the following passage :
“ Now touching the question propounded by you, I judge it not lawful for you, being a ruling elder, as in Rom. xii. 7, 8, and in Tim. v. 17, opposed to the elders that teach and exhort and labor in the word and doctrine, to which the sacraments are annexed, to administer them, nor convenient if it were lawful."
As this was written in answer to questions propounded by Mr. Brewster, and as late as the close of the year 1623, it is not improbable that, as the elder of the church in the absence of the pastor, he had occasionally presided at the celebration of the Lord's Supper ; for it is not to be supposed that the Church would continue to deny themselves the comfort and joy of that sacrament, because their beloved pastor did not come over to them. If they did, and conceived the Lord's Supper to be of such a nature, that his followers could never celebrate it as a church, without the presence and sanction of an ordained minister, and if that was also Mr. Robinson's opinion, then there was indeed more light needed to be disclosed from God's word both to pastor and people. But although Governor Bradford, in his memoir of Elder Brewster, says nothing particularly on this point, yet the description of his whole character and services in the church is of such a tenor, as would lead us to suppose that the church did not, under him, neglect the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
Mr. Hubbard, in his General History of New England, intimates that the people wished to ordain Mr. Brewster as their pastor, but that he always refused to be anything more than elder. The
in which this statement is
made is as follows:* “In many years they could not prevail with any to come over to them, and to undertake the office of a pastor amongst them, at least none in whom they could with full satisfaction acquiesce; and therefore in the meanwhile they were peaceably and prudently managed by the wisdom of Mr. Brewster, a grave and serious person, that only could be persuaded to keep his place of ruling elder amongst them ; having acquired by his long experience and study no small degree of knowledge in the mysteries of faith and matters of religion, yet wisely considering the weightiness of the ministerial work (and therein he was also advised by Mr. Robinson) according to that of the Apostle ‘ who is sufficient for these things ?' he could never be prevailed with to accept the ministerial office, which many less able in so long a time could have been easily drawn into."
Again Mr. Hubbard says, on occasion of the death of Robinson, concerning the delay of the Pilgrims in getting a minister : “ The small hopes these had of their pastor's coming over to them being heretofore revived by the new approach of the shipping every spring, possibly made them more slow in seeking out for another supply, as also more difficult in their choice of
“ They were constrained to live without the supply of that office, making good use of the abilities of their ruling elder, Mr. Brewster, who was qualified both to rule well, and also to labor in the word and doctrine, although he could never be persuaded to take upon him the pastoral office, for the administration of the sacraments and so forth. In this way they continued till the year 1629.”+
It seems probable that Mr. Brewster's question propounded to Robinson arose out of the desire and request of the church that he would consent to assume the office of their Pastor. We deem it not unlikely that before writing
* Hubbard's History, in Mass. Hist. Coll.,