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desire to promote, and so to converse, as we may avoid the very appearance of evil.
We do hereby promise to carry ourselves in all lawful obedience to those that are over us in Church or Commonwealth, knowing how well-pleasing it will be to the Lord, that they should have encouragement in their places by our not grieving their spirits, through our irregularities.
We resolve to approve ourselves to the Lord in our particular calling, shunning idleness as the bane of any state, nor will we deal hardly or oppressingly with any, wherein we are the Lord's stewards.
Promising also to our best ability to teach our children and servants the knowledge of God and of his will, that they may serve him also; and all this, not by any strength of our own, but by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood we desire may sprinkle this our Covenant, made in his name."
It will be noted that a special guard is introduced into this admirable Christian agreement, against that forwardness in the showing of gifts and parts, whether in speaking or scrupling, in regard to which there was a spice of anxiety and jealousy in reference to the Plymouth Church, lest the brethren there had gone to an unwarrantable extent of liberty. The truth is, that the Plymouth Church, having been for many years entirely separated from the Establishment, were entirely emancipated from its bondage. The Salem Church and ministers had been Nonconformists in England, but had not, till now, separated from the Establishment, and they were still trembling at the largeness of their liberty in Christ. Until they came to New England, and beheld the Plymouth Church in its simple New Testament freedom and purity, they do not seem to have been acquainted with the system of Congregationalism. But now the prediction of Robinson was fulfilled; they saw the beauty and Scriptural order and freedom of that system, although at first with a little fear ; and here, on this common ground of deliverance from the
laws and persecutions of the Established Hierarchy, and of freedom to worship God under the sole rule of His Word, the Separatists and the Nonconformists became one ; or rather, not so much became one, as found themselves to be already one, with really no points of difference between them.
Dr. Bacon has finely remarked upon this agreement as a proof of the clear Christian discernment of Robinson ;* and Mr. Cotton declared, in reference to the accusation of having imitated the Plymouth model, that “there was no such thing as an agreement by any solemn or common consultation ; but that it was true they did, as if they had agreed, by the same spirit of truth and unity, set up, by the help of Christ, the same model of Churches, one like to another; and so if they of Plymouth had helped any of the first comers in their theory, by hearing and discussing their practices, therein the Scripture was fulfilled that the Kingdom of Heaven was like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." +
Mr. Winslow was at pains still more fully to show the falsehood of the charge that the successive Colonists “ took Plymouth for their precedent as fast as they came;" for this was not bestowing honor where it was due, and the credit of the establishment of those successive flourishing churches on that New Testament plan belonged to the Word of God only; "our practice being, for aught we know, wholly grounded on the written Word, without any addition or human invention known to us, taking our pattern from the primitive churches, as they were regulated by the blessed Apostles in their own days, who were taught and instructed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and had the unerring and all knowing Spirit of God to bring to their remembrance the things they had heard.” “ 'Tis true," says Mr. Winslow, “ some of them coming over to be freed from the burthensome ceremonies then imposed in England, some of the chief of them advised with us how they should do to fall upon a right platform of worship, and desired to that end, since God had honored us to lay the foundation of a Commonwealth, and to settle a Church in it, to show them whereupon our practice was grounded ; and if they found upon due search it was built upon the Word, they should be willing to take up what was of God. We accordingly showed them the primitive practice for our warrant, taken out of the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles written to the several Churches by the said A postles, together with the commandments of Christ the Lord in the Gospel, and other our warrants for every particular we did from the Book of God. Which being by them well weighed and considered, they also entered into covenant with God and one another to walk in all his ways, revealed, or as they should be made known unto them, and to worship Him according to His will revealed in his written Word only, so that here also thou mayest see they set not the Church at Plymouth before them for example, but the primitive churches were and are their and our mutual patterns and examples, which are only worthy to be followed, having the blessed Apostles amongst them, who were sent immediately by Christ himself, and enabled and guided by the unerring Spirit of God. And truly this is a pattern fit to be followed of all that fear God, and no man or men to be followed further than they followed Christ and them."*
* Bacon's Historical Discourses, 14. Governor Bradford's Dialogue, in Young's Chron. 426.
It is truly remarkable how exactly these sentiments and declarations accorded with those of the earliest Puritan in England, Bishop Hooper, and how the complete reformation which he, at the cost of martyrdom, projected and proclaimed, in the Old World, had here sprung up, two hundred years afterwards, well nigh perfected, in the New.
* Winslow's Brief Narration, Young's Chron. 386.
It is no reproach of the dead man, said he (alluding to the authority of the Fathers, which he was boldly casting aside), “but mine opinion unto all the world, that the SCRIPTURE SOLELY, AND THE APOSTLES' Church IS TO BE FOLLOWED, AND NO MAN'S AUTHORITY, BE HE AUGUSTINE, TERTULLIAN, OR EVEN CHERUBIM OR SERAPHIM.' Mine opinion unto all the world! There is great grandeur in that declaration, from amidst the lighted torches and piled fagots of Rome.
And the spirit of Hooper had fallen upon John Robinson, and the Plymouth Church. This was his parting legacy on the
of the sea. Brethren, we are now quickly to part from one another; and whether I may ever live to see your faces on earth any more, the God of Heaven only knows. But whether the Lord have appointed that or no, I charge you before God, and before His blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Hooper on the Authority of the Word, in his Declaration of Christ and his Office.
THE FIRST ATTEMPT AT SCHISM.- RECALCITRATION
It was not likely that such a covenant as this, the principles of which it was clearly foreseen would govern the infant colony, could be entered into, among a body of adventurers of various views, and some of them of irreligious habits, without a jealous opposition. It was the future world predominating over the present, and it brought down the maxims and realities of that world into a practical conflict with, and mastery over, the god, the habits, and the forms of this. Moreover it was a complete release of men's consciences from the church-and-state law and power of England; it was the practice, under charter, of that religious freedom, which the Plymouth Pilgrims had settled without one.
Now then there was at once an attempt on the part of the old hierarchy to resume its power. It was found that here into this covenanted church of Christ in the New World men were not to be admitted merely on the ground of National Church membership, and a sacramental oath in the Old World. It was found, to the amazement of some, that this new church of Christ had put itself on such a