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On the other hand, another body of men, strong in intellect and of deep religious feeling, advocated the entire separation of Church and State. They had seen and felt the corruption and tyranny of Papacy, and they were deeply grieved to see the Church, which they had venerated and loved, taking any of the forms or symbols of "the old dragon of Rome."
Protestants in religion, they were also deeply tinctured with republican views of government; and thus, while opposing the established Church, they imbibed hatred to the crown which sustained that Church.
Such was the state of things generally during the reign of Elizabeth, one of the ablest and wisest of the English sovereigns. In the early part of the sixteenth century, the dread of a common enemy, the Papal Church, kept these two parties of Protestants from any open rupture. But during the latter part of that century, the breach between them was widened. There was no external force to keep them together. A separation A separation very natural and inevitable was the consequence; and persecution on the part of the civil government and the hierarchy confirmed them more fully in their opinions, and made them more determined in their acts. Says Macaulay, "It found them a sect— it made them a faction."
As the controversy increased, the persecutions became more violent. Stripes, fines, imprisonment, death even, were often suffered by these men for the faith that was in them. At first they were called seceders, non-conformists, dissenters, and afterwards Brownists and Puritans. And it is a singular and quite a suggestive fact that the name of Puritan, which in later periods became so popular and renowned, was first given them as a term of reproach and disrespect.2
1 "The settlement of New England was a result of the Reformation: not of the contest between the new opinions and the authority of Rome, but of impla cable differences between Protestant dissenters and the established Anglican Church."-Bancroft's History of U. S.
2 "And to cast contempt the more on the sincere servants of God, they opprobriously and most injuriously gave unto and imposed upon them that name of PURITANS." Bradford.
"In the year 1564, their lorships began to show their authority, by urging the clergy of their several dioceses to subscribe the liturgy, ceremonies and discipline of the Church, when those that refused were first called Puritans, name of reproach, derived from the Cathari or Puritani of the third century after Christ. A Puritan was, therefore, a man of severe morals, a Calvinist in
Towards the close of the sixteenth and the early part of the seventeenth centuries, the persecution of those who dissented from the established Church of England was carried to the greatest extent. They were treated as criminals, and were subjected to all sorts of indignities and punishment. "I will have one doctrine and one discipline, one religion in substance and ceremony," said King James in 1604.1
In order to show the manifest injustice of the course pursued by the English government and the Anglican Church towards the Puritans, we insert here a concise statement of the doctrines maintained and the principles held by these men. The Puritan doctrines were:
"1st, That private judgment ought to be formed upon examination, and that religion is a free and unforced thing.
2d, They hold and maintain the absolute perfection of the Holy Scriptures, both as to faith and worship.
3d, That every congregation or assembly of men, ordinarily joining together in the worship of God, is a true, visible worship of Christ.
4th, That all such churches are equal and independent.”2
"But the severities against the Puritans, instead of reconciling them to the Church, drove them further from it; for men do not come to be beat from their principles by the artillery of canons, injunctions and penal laws, nor can they be in love with a Church that uses such methods of conversion."
As a natural result, therefore, of the persecutions of the Crown, Church and Government of England, these men became more thoroughly convinced of the errors of the established Church and of the truth, soundness and importance of their own religious
doctrine, and a non-conformist to the doctrines and ceremonies of the Church, though they did not totally separate from it."-Neal's History of the Puritans.
"The era of the English Puritans, properly begins in 1550, when Hooper for a time refused to be consecrated in the ecclesiastical habits. An old writer quoted by Prince, says, 'They are called Puritans who would have the Church radically reformed: that is, purged from all those inventions which have been brought into it since the age of the Apostles, and reduced entirely to the scripture purity? .""-Young's Chronicles.
1 "For some were taken and clapped up in prisons, others had their houses watched night and day, and hardly escaped their hands; and the most were fain to fly and leave their houses and habitations and the means of their livelihood." Bradford in Young.
'Neale's History of the Puritans.
views and worship. They were men such as have been found in all ages of the world, of radical minds and deep religious feelings, who place the will of God as they understand it, before every thing else in the world, and who will sacrifice office, property and the dearest relations of life, and will even suffer death in the most cruel forms, rather than disobey the "higher law" of conscience and of God. Such men are seldom found among courtiers, officers of government, or men of great wealth or power, but in the middling walks of life. The main body of them came from the small freeholders in the country and the shopkeepers and mechanics in the towns.1
In the north of England, in the rural districts, and particularly in the' counties of Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, men of such organizations were more generally found. A common sympathy made them acquaintances and associates, and suffering in a common cause, united their hearts and hands in a common organization for the purpose of religious worship. They manfully resolved, "whatever it should cost them, to enjoy liberty of conscience."
Two churches were therefore formed in the north-eastern part of England, composed of members, we may suppose, widely separated, uniting at some central point for religious worship, in such a manner as they thought was right. Of one of these churches, Mr. John Smith, "a man of able gifts, and a good preacher," became pastor. The members of this church emigrated to Holland; but "adopting some errors in the low countries," they finally disbanded and it became extinct.
Of the other church, the Rev. Richard Clifton, "a man of grave deportment and a successful preacher," had the pastoral care. To this church belonged the Rev. John Robinson, afterwards its pastor, Elder Brewster, Gov. Carver, Gov. Bradford, Mr. Robert Cushman, Isaac Allerton and others, who made the first settlement at Plymouth. This church commenced holding its meetings at the house of Elder Brewster, in the town of Scroiby, about the year 1602; and as a consequence, the power of the hierarchy, that controlled the government, was brought more directly and severely upon them.
1 Macaulay's History of England.
At this day of perfect religious freedom, it seems most astonishing that men should have been fined, imprisoned, whipped, almost starved, and even burned at the stake, merely for their religious belief, and that but a little more than two centuries ago. In truth it may be said of the church, as well as of civil governments, that
"Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn.'
The men who formed Mr. Robinson's church, were, many of them, persons of good education and of superior minds and judgments. It is a source of much regret that the early history of these men is, comparatively, unknown. Recent investigations have brought to light something in that particular; and it is most ardently hoped that further examinations will give us more knowledge of the origin of the men, who with great truth it may be said, were the founders of our Republic.
To such an extent were the persecutions of the Puritans carried, increasing with every passing year, that during the years 1607 and 1608, they resolved" with joint consent, to remove to Holland, where they heard was freedom of religion for all men."
"Hard was their lot to leave their dwellings, their lands and relations, to go, they knew not where, to obtain a living, they knew not how." But though persecuted, they were not dismayed; though distressed, their courage did not forsake them. Resolved to go, they were not even allowed to depart in peace. The strong arm of the law bared every harbor and vessel against them. Yet with a perseverance that would overcome all obstacles, they finally succeeded, and left forever their native land, actuated by the highest of human motives, "the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences."
"1609. This spring more of Mr. Robinson's church, through great difficulties from the pursuers, got over to Holland, and afterwards the rest, with Mr. Robinson and Mr. Brewster, who are of the last, having tarried to help the weakest over before them."1
They first settled at Amsterdam, but seeing the evils and contentions of Rev. Mr. Smith's church, after remaining there about
'Bradford, in Prince's New England Chronology.
a year, they removed to Leyden, and there made a permanent settlement. "There they grew in gifts and grace; they lived in peace and love and holiness. Numbers came to them from England; they had a great congregation, at one time numbering three hundred communicants."
"1610. This year comes out a justification of separation from the Church of England, by John Robinson, — 476 quarto, and about this time and the following year, many come to this Church at Leyden, from divers parts of England, so as they grew a great congregation."1
Having remained at Leyden eight or nine years, they began to examine their situation and to think of emigrating to America. They foresaw the obvious fact, that in course of time they must become merged with the Dutch, by whom they were surrounded. With the most lofty notions of religious liberty, with a deep conviction of the value and importance of religion to the souls of men, and its influence in moulding the character as well as the institutions of the age, and with an anxious desire "to spread the Gospel among the Heathen," they began to think of emigrating in a body to this, then, uncultivated and uncivilized land. But how could it be done? was the great question.2
A company had been formed in England under the Royal sanction, called the Virginia Company, whose authority extended over a considerable portion of the North American Continent.
After a long consultation and much consideration, "after their humble prayers unto God for his direction and assistance," it was finally resolved to make an application to that Company at London for liberty to settle in the Company's territory in North America, and "to see if the King would give them liberty of conscience there." For that purpose Mr. Robert Cushman and Deacon John Carver,3 two of the most active, reliable and judicious members of their community, were selected to go to London in the year 1617 and open negotiations for that purpose.
2 "After the Puritans at Leyden had resolved on their terminus quo, the next and not less difficult question was the terminus ad quere."
3 "Mr. Carver, one of the deacons, and Mr. Cushman, one of the members of the Church, were dispatched to England as agents of the exiled Company, to seek permission of the King to settle in some parts of Virginia."—Ashton's Memoir of Rev. John Robinson.