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as the very bane or gangrene of a vital, vigorous, comprehensive piety
In that church of God at Amsterdam, there were some unreasonable, if not wicked men, given to oppositions of self-will and vain janglings about mint, anise, and cummin, how many ribbons a woman should wear upon her bonnet, and other like things; and among these self-opinionated men were the father and brother of the Pastor himself, Mr, Johnson, arrayed against his own wife, for what they judged to be her pride in apparel. These men carried their opposition and bitterness to such unreasonable and endless length, with such evil accompaniments as would naturally grow out of such a spirit of incessant strife, that the church, after long patience towards them, and much pains taken with them, proceeded at last to excommuninate them ; probably as the only possible means of getting rid of the evil, and avoiding utter ruin ; for Governor Bradford says that such was the justice of the excommunication, that the Pastor himself could not but consent thereto, although for that he was much blamed, as having excommunicated his own father and brother. And indeed it was a case of difficulty that would have put Paul himself in a perplexity: although, from the manifest indignation of the Apostle against such a spirit of Diotrephesianism in the church, and of meddling and busybodiness in other men's matters, and obstinacy and strife, and insolent judgment of others' opinions, we may be quite clear how he would have acted. But this flame of strife, together with the subtilty of one of the elders of the church, produced most painful and injurious consequences.
And yet Governor Bradford says that the wife of the Pastor, against whom all this wrath of censoriousness and self-opinion was directed, was a most excellent and grave matron, and very modest both in her apparel and all her demeanor, ready to any good works in her place, and helpful to many, especially the poor, and an ornament to the
Pastor's calling. She was a young widow when he married her, having been the wife of a merchant, so that he received by her a good estate, besides that she was truly a godly woman ; but because she continued to wear such apparel as she had ever been used to, these meddlers and men of strife broke out against her. And yet Mr. Bradford tells us that her apparel was neither excessive nor immodest, and that their chiefest exceptions were against her wearing corked shoes for her feet, and whalebone in the bodice and sleeves of her gown, and other such like things as the citizens of her rank then used to wear. But not only so, but both the Pastor and his wife were willing, for the sake of avoiding offence, to reform the fashions of their garments, so far as they could without spoiling of them; yet all would not content the offended and opposing ones, “ except they came full up to their size.” Such was the excessive rigidness of some in those times; of which Robinson and his church seem to have taken good caution, by seeing the dreadful evils resulting from such a course in the church of God.
The violence of some men's tempers, says Mr. Hubbard quaintly and truly, in his History of New England, while dwelling on some such occasion,—the violence of some men's tempers makes them raise debates, when debates do not justly offer themselves, and like mill-stones they grind one another, when they want other grist. In some of the churches of the New England colonies there were from time to time such men, as also there were here and there very needless causes of disputation and legislation on things indifferent, as concerning the duty of women to wear veils; but the church at Plymouth was remarkably free from this disputatious and uncharitable spirit ; they had a disposition and character of forbearance and freedom to be attributed to God's peculiar discipline with them, and to the experience and instruction of their beloved Pastor. Take, however, all the instances of sectarian or oppressive legislation or
usage in the whole history of the New England churches from their foundation, and there can be found nothing to compare with the inquisitorial minuteness and tyrannical severity with which the Church of England legislated on men's garments, sports, and manners, enforcing her rubrics on pain of imprisonment and death. All the fabled Blue Laws of Connecticut, though their falsehoods were larged into volumes, would be nothing in absurdity and cruelty compared with the actual laws which filled the statute books of the Establishment, and set an example to the Pilgrims of Plymouth, and the other colonists, which it is wonderful they had the wisdom and the piety so wholly to avoid. The examples before them were all of intolerance and oppression ; the model, which was original with them, which they themselves struck out and gradually brought to perfection, that of freedom, forbearance, kindness, and good sense. They put the weightier matters of the law uppermost, love, mercy, and faith, and gave to the mint, anise, and cummin a subordinate and just position.
THE LIFE, CHARACTER, AND ADMINISTRATION
GOVERNOR BRADFORD deserves, as he possesses, a memorial of the deepest veneration and love, in the hearts of all who know his character. The colony at Plymouth, perhaps, owed more of its prosperity to him, under God, than to any other one man or many friends, either there or in England. His character was not unlike that of Washington; nay, there is a very striking resemblance. He was placed in emergencies and perils, as the leader of the colony, very similar in kind, though different in form and circumstance, to some of those through which Washington passed with such consummate prudence; with equal self-possession and prudence, with a piety relying solely upon God, did Bradford guide the ship of the infant colony through the breakers. He was a man whose natural stamp of character was very much like Franklin's ; but in him a calm and noble nature was early renewed and enriched by grace, and brought under its supreme dominion; not left to attach itself to earth only, or to exhibit the qualities of a sage in the wisdom of mere mortal humanity.
He was born, according to Cotton Mather, in an obscure village called Austerfield, in England, in the year 1588 ; a place where the people were ignorant, licentious, and quite unacquainted with the Bible, as any man will see reason to believe, who reads John Foster's description of popular ignorance in England under the reign of Elizabeth. He inherited a comfortable patrimony, but his parents died in his childhood, and left him to be educated by his grand parents and uncles, simply in the affairs of husbandry. In after years he regarded it as a blessing of God's Providence that early and long continued sickness preserved him from the vanities, and perhaps excesses of the period of youthful temptation, amidst so many vicious and depraved examples.
It was probably the confinement of his illness that led him to the perusal of the Scriptures, for at the age of twelve years his mind began to be much impressed with the reading of them, and prepared for the rich evangelical instructions he was afterwards to enjoy. In the neighborhood of his native inheritance, or not far from it, a man of true piety and acquaintance with God's word exercised his ministry, an illuminating ministry, as it is called by Cotton Mather, with much fruit of his labors in the conversion of many to God. We are not told whether he had a curacy or preferment of any kind in the Church of England, but as Yorkshire was one of the counties in which the Churches of the Puritans began earliest to be gathered, and in which the persecution against them under Queen Elizabeth raged most fiercely, we suppose, from the character given of his ministry, that he must have been, at the time of Bradford's first acquaintance with him, one of the non-conforming ministers scourged out of office. He was one of the earliest members of the Pilgrim Church at its gathering in 1602, and at the time of their exile into Holland, Mr. Bradford describes him as a grave, fatherly, reverend old man and faithful preacher, with a great white beard.
It was about 1600 that Bradford, with his youthful heart fresh under the simple and deep impressions received from God's Word, came to the enjoyment of Mr. Clifton's