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CHAPTER XX.

THE FIRST IMPOSITION OF A MINISTER, AND THE CHARACTER

AND END OF THE MAN AND THE EFFORT.-CONSPIRACY OF

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The colony of Pilgrims were evidently well supplied with an orderly and devout ministration of the Gospel, in the case of Mr. Brewster. There were some, however, in England, who insisted on their having an ordained minister, though doubtless mainly because they hoped thereby the more effectually to prevent Mr. Robinson from joining the colony, with the rest of the church in Leyden. There was, even at a very early period, a strong faction among the Merchant Adventurers, opposed to the Pilgrims, and to the influence of Robinson over them, and to his intention of joining them. In a letter in 1623, Robinson speaks in a saddened and desponding tone, both as to the state of the Church in Leyden, and the prospect of their ever getting to Plymouth. Doubtless the church suffered by the drawing away of so great a portion of its vitality, the Pilgrims being evidently amongst the most energetic and faithful of its members. And the faithful Pastor began to find himself in a trying position. He speaks of the good news they hear from the Pilgrims, “which makes us with the more patience bear our languishing state, and the deferring

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of our desired transportation, which I call desired rather than hoped for, whatsoever you are borne in hand with by others." He then speaks of five or six of their bitter professed adversaries among the Adventurers, and of certain forward preachers of great influence, who of all others are unwilling that Robinson should join the Colony, having an eye themselves that way, and thinking, if he should go, “their market would be marred in many regards. for these adversaries, if they have but half their will to their malice, they will stop my course when they see it intended.” “ Your God and ours and the God of all his, bring us together, if it be his will, and keep us in the mean while and always to his glory, and make us serviceable to his majesty, and faithful to the end. Amen."

But Robinson's work on earth was now nearly done; and

SO, in little more than two years after this, Gód called him home to his rest, away from the evil to come. Meanwhile, let us see how fully his predictions were fulfilled, and his discernment sustained in regard to the plottings against himself and the colony. His enemies in England were resolved, if possible, to break up the independent government of the colony, both civil and religious, and to establish an Episcopacy upon its ruins. For this purpose a plan was laid, and a fit instrument being found, the faction of Adventurers began to put it in execution. Mr. Winslow and Mr. Cushman were at this time in England on the business of the Pilgrims, but it is evident were not aware of the plot formed, nor of the character and designs of the agent employed, under the garb and profession of a preacher for the Colony.

The first rather quaint and curious notice of this affair we have in Gov. Bradford's notice of Mr. Cushman's letter to the Colony at the close of 1623," wherein he writes that they (the Adventurers with Mr. Cushman) send a carpenter to build two ketches, a lighter, and six or seven shallops; a saltman, to make salt; and a preacher, though not the

most eminent, for whose going (says Cushman)Mr. Winslow and I gave way to give content to some at London."*

This is the only instance we can discover of the colonists giving way to expediency before principle in any of their religious interests, and in this instance it was done perhaps to avoid an open quarrel with the Adventurers. But assuredly Mr. Winslow and Mr. Cushman should have paused before giving their consent to the sending of a questionable minister in the place of Robinson as the preacher to the Colony. It is evident they had no great opinion of his qualifications, and yielded only to necessity.

Let us now follow the result of this hazardous experiment, a most instructive one to the Pilgrims, but which would have proved of irreparable mischief, had it not been for the kind care of God, through the great wisdom and energy of Governor Bradford. We will take the curious record of the manner in which the three supplies turned out; carpenter, salt-man, and minister. It is to be found in Prince's New England Chronology under the year 1624, from Gov. Bradford's manuscript.

The ship-carpenter sent us is an honest and very industrious man, quickly builds us two very good and strong shallops, with a great and strong lighter, and had hewn timber for two ketches; but this is spoilt ; for in the hot season of the year he falls into a fever and dies, to our great loss and sorrow.

“But the salt-mañ is an ignorant, foolish, and self-willed man, who chooses a spot for his salt-works, will have eight or ten men to help him, is confident the ground is good, makes a carpenter rear a great frame of a house for the salt and other like uses, but finds himself deceived in the bottom: will then have a lighter to carry clay, and so forth, yet all in vain. He could do nothing but boil salt in pans. The next year is sent to Cape Ann, and then the pans are set up by the fishery; but before the summer is out he burns the house and spoils the pans, and there is an end of this chargeable business.

* Bradford in Prince, 146.

“The minister is Mr. John Lyford, whom a faction of the Adventurers send to hinder Mr. Robinson. At his arrival he appears exceeding complaisant and humble, sheds many tears, blesses God that had brought him to see our faces, and so forth. We give him the best entertainment we can; at his desire we receive him into our church, when he blesses God for this opportunity and freedom to enjoy his ordinances in purity among his people. We make him larger allowance than any other [for his support]; and as the Governor used in weighty matters to consult with Elder Brewster, with the Assistants, so now he calls Mr. Lyford to council also. But Mr. Lyford soon joins with Mr. John Oldham, a private instrument of the factious part of the Adventurers in England, whom we had also called to council in our chief affairs without distrust. Yet they fall a-plotting both against our church and government, and endeavor to overthrow them."*

We will now change into the historic form the record which Mr. Prince thus faithfully presents from Governor Bradford. The uncovering and proof of this conspiracy, fraught with such unmingled evil to the colony, was brought about by admirable wisdom and energy on the part of the Governor. The movements and intentions of Lyford and Oldham having become manifest, he watched their proceedings very closely, and judging them to be in communication with that inimical faction among the Adventurers, of which already the brethren Winslow, Cushman, and Mr. Robinson himself had given account in their letters, and Mr. Winslow by his presence, he determined to intercept their measures. It is very likely that he already judged Lyford to be one of those “forward preachers,” of whom Robinson had spoken so quaintly, as having a hank upon the professors, and as being deter

Prince, from Bradford, pp. 148, 149.

mined with all malice to use that hank, or influence, against himself. His forward extreme professions and demonstrations of tears, complaisances, and blessings at the outset, were not likely to commend him to a man of Governor Bradford's openness, sincerity, and quiet simplicity of character, but would rather, if anything, render him an object of suspicion to the Pilgrims, who had nothing of this hypocritical spirit or demeanor among them ; so that they must have received him somewhat as Christian and Hopeful regarded Talkative, when he presented himself so plausibly and glibly to join them.

The master of the ship in which Lyford came was a thorough friend to Governor Bradford and the colony, and saw how things were going. They kept quiet till the ship was to return, and the letters from Lyford and Oldham to the conspirators in England had been prepared and put on board. Then, when the ship set sail towards evening, the Governor manned a shallop, went out in company with the ship three or four miles to sea, and there taking the correspondence of Lyford and Oldham, with the full consent of Captain Pierce the commander, who was aware of their actions, discovered, on examination, their whole treachery.

Amongst other letters, one was found directed to John Pemberton, a minister, and a violent enemy to the colony; in this letter copies of a letter were found inclosed, which had been written by a gentleman in England to Mr. Brewster, and also of another letter which Winslow had written to Mr. Robinson. These letters had been lying in the cabin of the ship in which Lyford embarked for America, and while she was anchored at Gravesend he opened and copied them.*

The Governor knew his man, and dealt with the fool according to his folly. It had been observed before the ship sailed that Lyford was much engaged in writing, and indeed he had been so careless and confident as to disclose

* Baylies' Hist. Mem. of Plymouth, p. 128.

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